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…

Stingray – 15. Secret of the Giant Oyster

Over the course of these reviews, I have often been able to conduct research into the real life industrial, scientific, and cultural phenomena which influenced a great number of Stingray episodes. It’s been a lot of fun and incredibly interesting to research the history of things like weather ships and oil platforms and even our friend the Loch Ness Monster. So this week I did my homework on the topic of choice: oysters and pearls. I was rubbish at Biology at school so was hoping to redeem myself by seving up some hard hitting facts which demonstrated the science behind these fascinating specimens. I hope you will therefore appreciate how disappointed I was when I discovered that this episode is full of absolute nonsense on the subject. Now I’m not saying that makes the episode less enjoyable. In fact, it’s rather entertaining. But I’m just going to put it out there right now that it’s rather entertaining nonsense. So suspend your disbelief for a while as we uncover the secrets of Secret of the Giant Oyster.

Stingray – 14. The Invaders

I’ve always liked The Invaders in the past. I think the sheer ambition of the aliens’ plot and their successful attempt to capture Marineville (briefly) really fired up my imagination as a youngster. But, after the absolute cavalcade of excellence that the last few episodes have brought us, I found myself feeling a little underwhelmed when I watched The Invaders this time around. Maybe my enjoyment of this episode can be recovered, or maybe we can drill down deeper into why it didn’t quite float my boat today. Join me, won’t you?

Stingray – 13. Loch Ness Monster

“Find the Loch Ness Monster? What a crazy mission!” Troy pretty much sums up the entire premise of this episode in that one line, and how I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when that idea was originally pitched in the production office. It’s certainly one of the more “out there” concepts for the series so far but, like so many of the Stingray episodes we’ve explored, it was inspired by real-life areas of interest in the 1960s. There is a lot of history to cover when it comes to the legend of “Nessie”, but for the purposes of this review, all you really need to know is that sightings and excitement around the phenomena kicked off in the 1930s and culminated in the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1962, right around the time Stingray entered production. It’s all just the kind of thing an imaginative writer like Dennis Spooner could weave into a story and play for comedy, while trying to provide some kind of a satisfying explanation for the mystery…

Stingray – 12. Subterranean Sea

You know how it goes – you book a lovely holiday with your mates full of sun, sea, and surf, only for your boss to cancel it and send you on a mission to the centre of the Earth. Oh, what’s that? You’re not familiar with that issue? Well, this is Stingray, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing happening. Subterranean Sea is one of those points in the series when the production team have just had to throw up their hands and declare, “Who cares if it makes sense? Let’s just have fun with it and hopefully the people watching at home enjoy it too.” And, d’you know what? That sounds like just the right attitude to me.

Stingray – 11. Emergency Marineville

Emergency Marineville was chosen as the second episode of Stingray to be broadcast. The episode also formed part of the Aquanaut of the Year clip show at the end of the series, and the linking material which later became The Reunion Party broadcast in 2008. It was weaved into the compilation film Invaders From The Deep released in 1981. It was also among the first episodes to receive a home media release of sorts in the 1960s with a silent 8mm home movie reel from Walton Films. Clearly, from the very beginning, Emergency Marineville was considered something special and it’s been wheeled out time and again to be the flagship of the entire series. So, what makes it so darn popular? Well let’s get on with it and try to figure that out…