Stingray – 25. An Echo of Danger

Let’s talk about Phones. He’s been right at the heart of the action with the heroic Captain Troy Tempest on so many occasions. Dependable and good-humoured, Phones could be seen by many as the series’ second lead. But outside of a few amusing moments, and some broad character traits which could apply to most of the regular characters, we actually know very little about Phones. We don’t even know his real name. “It’s George Lee Sheridan,” I hear you cry! But no such name is ever mentioned on screen, only in spin-off material. Over the course of the series, characters in need of richer development have received spotlight episodes – Marina had Plant of Doom to establish her home at Pacifica; The Ghost of the Sea and Marineville Traitor offered an insight into Commander Shore’s career and some more personal moments; Loch Ness Monster gave Atlanta the opportunity to step out of the control room and voyage to her ancestral homeland, plus she’s had ample opportunity in several episodes to wear her heart on her sleeve and show her devotion to friends and family. Phones has yet to receive the same treatment. There are moments in episodes like Treasure Down Below or Loch Ness Monster which offer a glimpse of his personality – he’s shown to be somewhat naive and a bit of a dreamer. For the most part though, his role is to go along with Troy’s latest dangerous plan, and save his friends when they get themselves into trouble. So, does An Echo of Danger finally give Phones the spotlight episode he deserves, and shed any light on Stingray’s trusty hydrophone operator?

Stingray – 24. Star of the East

I can’t skirt around the fact that I’ve been looking forward to writing about this particular episode since the start of this series of reviews. Star of the East is an episode I remember fondly from my childhood, and have continued to enjoy again and again up until the present day. It is a firm favourite of mine, and there is a very simple reason for that. I think El Hudat is one of the greatest guest characters that Supermarionation has ever brought to the screen. He is a force of nature, driving the plot of not just this episode, but an unprecedented follow-up episode in Eastern Eclipse. El Hudat, egotistical maniac that he is, makes this episode all about him. It’s almost difficult to talk about any other aspect of Star of the East because the character just dominates so much, coming into Marineville and turning the lives of our heroes upside down by doing what he does best – looking after number one.

Stingray – 23. The Master Plan

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen episodes of Stingray which have stretched and explored the format of the show in a variety of new ways. From wild dream sequences, to serious character pieces, to world-changing disasters, it’s been an opportunity to look at the show and its heroes in a different light. Staying fresh and experimenting with new types of story to tell can be vital to keeping a television series popular. But, it’s just as important to remember a show’s core values and the foundation upon which all the characters and familiar scenarios have been built – rewarding long-time viewers with a development in the ideas established during the early days of the series. The Master Plan takes us right back to the thing which kicked off the many adventures of Stingray, and the WASPs’ battle with the villainous undersea aliens – it’s about Titan and gaining revenge on the team which dared to challenge his reputation as ruler of the ocean. A classic battle of good versus evil, Troy versus Titan, and Marina’s position in the centre of it all. This episode is Stingray getting back to its roots and raising the stakes surrounding the conflict which has hooked loyal viewers from the beginning…

Stingray – 22. Pink Ice

Let’s have a very quick lesson about a panic that was going on in a small section of the scientific (and not so scientific) community in the mid-20th century – its name was global cooling. Yes, instead of climate change causing the planet to heat up, there were those who believed the Earth was dangerously close to heading for its next ice age. Most of the reporting and investigation into global cooling did not emerge until the 1970s, but in the decades prior there were already rumblings that temperatures were dropping year after year, and everything from aerosols in the atmosphere to Cold War concerns of a nuclear winter were going to trigger a big freeze. Of course, most of us acknowledge that global warming is the reality we are now facing. Nevertheless, the concept of global cooling was obviously a theme on Alan Fennell’s mind when he was writing both Pink Ice, and the earlier Fireball XL5 episode, The Day The Earth Froze. Whether he actually believed the global cooling theories is neither here nor there, but the predicted doom of another ice age was probably the perfect influence for a science fiction tale of global catastrophe, with more than a little room for some alien interference to trigger the disaster.

Stingray – 21. Tom Thumb Tempest

Directed by Alan Pattillo Teleplay by Alan Fennell First UK Broadcast – 28th February 1965 My first ever professional writing gig was an article on the Official Gerry Anderson website all about the ways in which the theme of miniaturisation is used in the Andersons’ Supermarionation work. Even back in 2014 I was banging onContinue reading “Stingray – 21. Tom Thumb Tempest”

Stingray – 20. Marineville Traitor

Marineville Traitor is certainly an unusual episode. No Stingray. No underwater aliens. No big, explosive action set pieces. It’s an episode about espionage, betrayal, and duty, and you really have to concentrate to actually grasp what’s going on. This is not the stuff of frivolous Saturday morning cartoons, but of suspenseful drama for an adult audience. This is Stingray at its most grown-up, and you might even believe that there’s nothing to appeal to kids in this episode at all. Of course, I say that’s cobblers because kids are far more intelligent and attentive that folks give them credit for. But can Stingray successfully make that stretch to storytelling which is geared moreso towards an adult audience? Well, as is so often the case, that question can’t really be answered with a simple yes or no…

Stingray – 19. The Man From The Navy

I love a good soap opera. That’s not to say I love soap operas in general. To be honest I think there are too many of them and a lot of the material is subpar. But when a soap opera is good, by thunder is there something magical about it. When you get the right combination of characters into a very messy situation, pour some petrol on the bonfire and light a match (and in the best cases, that’s literally what happens), it all makes for some absolutely outstanding television. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson have a particularly good talent for generating these messy but delicious situations between characters. Many of the best moments in Anderson series come about by matching one character with another, posing them with a tense situation, and letting the sparks fly. So, needless to say, the match up of Troy Tempest and Jacques Jordan with a whopping great missile and a love rivalry is a recipe for some delectable and disastrous interplay you just can’t look away from…

Stingray – 18. The Disappearing Ships

At the end of each of these reviews, I give a short summary teasing the next episode in the series. I can usually come up with these summaries from memory, having watched Stingray all the way through so many times over the years. But I have to admit, last week, I had to quickly look up the plot for The Disappearing Ships before I couldn’t confidently write anything about it from memory. The episode has, sadly, never left much of an impression on me, but I don’t necessarily understand why. The setup for the plot is a glorious recipe for tension – Russian roulette with exploding freighter ships – what’s not to love? Yet I’ve always found it to be rather forgettable. So let’s see if The Disappearing Ships is actually a hidden gem, or maintains it’s rather low position in my overall ranking of episodes…

Stingray – 17. Stand By For Action

Stand By For Action is like a gift, specially prepared by AP Films for this blog. As well as being absolutely jam-packed with behind the scenes easter eggs for me to wax lyrical about, the episode also serves as a glorious and happy satire of the film industry and popular culture. And it’s all done from a place of love. I’m so excited to share this one with you. Strap in, because it’s a roller coaster.

Stingray – 16. Raptures of the Deep

Dream sequences are a staple of Supermarionation storytelling. They allow us to see adventures which couldn’t possibly take place in the reality of the series, and to gain a deeper and more visual insight into a character’s ambitions, desires, or anxieties than would normally be exposed in regular dialogue or action. Take a look at the episodes like Flight of Fancy from Supercar, or A Day In The Life Of A Space General from Fireball XL5, or even Alan’s bizarre encounter with Cliff Richard Jr. from Thunderbirds Are Go, and you’ll find that similar dreamy or nightmarish elements and tropes can also be found right here, in Raptures of the Deep. Perhaps what makes so many of the heroes of Supermarionation such interesting characters is the fact we get these extraordinary glimpses into how their mind’s work. And believe me, Troy Tempest’s oxygen-starved subconscious doesn’t disappoint…