Thunderbirds 1965: The Abominable Snowman

“In the frozen Himalayas, in the land of mountaineers,
Where the local folk are frightened, by the strangest kind of fears,
Though it may be just a rumour, its been talked about for years!
THE ABOMINABLE SNOOOOWMAN!”

Good, well now that’s out of the way we can get on with taking a look at the second episode from the Thunderbirds 1965 mini-series, The Abominable Snowman, based on the Century 21 mini-album entitled F.A.B. released in April 1966. Just a reminder, these episodes are available exclusively to Kickstarter backers and aren’t commercially available for the moment. Now that I’ve mentioned that, let’s go!

The Abominable Snowman
Written by David Graham and Desmond Saunders
Directed by Stephen La Rivière

Following the less conventional Introducing Thunderbirds story which focuses primarily on exposition, The Abominable Snowman is an opportunity for viewers to enjoy a typical Thunderbirds adventure full of rescues, explosions and intrigue. The teaser montage from the opening titles confirms this by expertly revealing glimpses of the episode without giving too much away.

It’s often difficult to pin down and define exactly what makes Thunderbirds so enjoyable, and I think that’s because there are so many different aspects and types of story that are told depending on the episode. That level of variety is something that the three Thunderbirds 1965 episodes capture very well, with each episode representing a different type of Thunderbirds episode, and where possible the team have made changes to the mini-albums to accomodate for further aspects of the series which weren’t originally present.

The best example: the uranium plant sequence which opens this episode. Big disasters are naturally a visual element of Thunderbirds so they don’t really form a part of the mini-albums, but they are of course an integral part of the television series. So this new sequence has been shot to provide the viewer with some big bangs. The Meddings Uranium Plant, named after the series’ special effects director famous for his explosions, has been sabotaged and International Rescue have to put out the fire before the plant overloads. It’s a classic Thunderbirds crisis. The episode opens with a fire truck whizzing past camera, akin to the opening of Terror in New York City. The eagle-eyed viewer can immediately spot that the various structures of the plant are constructed from model kit parts which is how so much detailing was often achieved on models in the original series.

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A wonderful tribute to Derek Meddings. Not the first time his name has cropped up in a Thunderbirds episode – 5 Security Hazard points to the person that comments below to tell me when the first time was.

Two famous faces appearing from the National Television Broadcasting System – is that Troy Tempest of Stingray fame operating the wonderfully oversized camera here? And of course a lovely new Ned Cook puppet is in front of the camera, albeit with a slightly different voice. Every so often newly recorded bits of voice acting creep in to the action where absolutely necessary but they still retain that classic style of acting and don’t distract from the pre-existing dialogue. The new voice of Ned Cook passes perfectly for a young Shane Rimmer.

The fire and explosions look spectacular. Everything detonates as willingly as it does in the original series without holding back. Receiving credit for his work on the pyrotechnics is Malcolm Smith who has managed to create some incredible fireballs, bangs and flashes by carefully analysing the explosions seen in the original shows. He then had to source the right materials and chemicals to make sure they looked the same, whilst having to overcome the hurdle that certain elements used for the effects back in 1965 are now banned in the name of health and safety. An excellent job has been done to ensure that the effects have the same mass and energy on screen despite using safer materials. A full interview with Malcolm Smith all about his pyrotechnics work is coming soon to the Security Hazard blog!

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Thunderbird 1 arrives on the scene and doesn’t she look amazing? The model was built by Mamas Pitsillis, complete with working wing motion which we get to see in action later.It’s a struggle to find two shots of Thunderbird 1 in the original series where the model looks the same, so the design for this model appears to be an amalgamation of markings and colours to provide an overall classic Thunderbird 1 look that viewers recognise.

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The mighty Thunderbird 2 arrives carrying some fire extinguishing capsules. This model is huge and when you look at behind the scenes photos which show just how big the model is, the crew must have had a challenging time getting her to move on screen. After all, when making the original series Thunderbird 2 was a constant problem for the special effects team as she would often fall off her wires and need repairing!

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The flames continue to roar as Barry Gray’s exciting music reaches its peak and Thunderbird 2 drops its capsules to extinguish the blaze. Brian Johnson who directed many of the special effects for Thunderbirds, visited the Thunderbirds 1965 studio during production and sent a letter to team saying that ‘seeing the footage made [him] do a Quantum Leap back to the Sixties and the Century Twenty One studio.’ Johnson also offered his original camera crane to the production which was used multiple times when shooting the episodes.

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Following the exciting opening, John receives a mysterious distress call on Thunderbird 5 with someone claiming to encounter the abominable snowman. Then we get into the story as it appears on the mini-album with only a few cuts and additions made to enchance the drama.

Viewers are treated to another lovely panning shot of the Tracy Lounge, specially constructed for the production. It’s a typical scene of the Tracys at leisure with a few characters dotted around reading and enjoying the view.

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John calls in to report the distress call. Rather than creating a new puppet of John and filming him on a reconstructed Thunderbird 5 set, footage from the series is cleverly recycled and manipulated to make the character appear to be speaking the dialogue from the mini-album. Nothing is lost from doing this for such a short scene and it’s a technique used throughout this episode. It means the production team were able to concentrate their efforts on the heavy workload that the rest of the episode demanded. Such are the marvels of editing on a computer and having characters that only speak by moving their lower lip open or closed.

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Jeff’s fashion taste has calmed down a bit since Introducing Thunderbirds. Now that International Rescue has started operations his desire to wear flamingo-based clothing has diminished in favour of a similarly tasteless white cardigan and black jumper.

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Scott has some wonderful 60’s style clothing in this scene which is also in-keeping with his casual costumes in the original series. The head of the puppet is slightly different to what we’ve seen before, particularly when compared to stock footage of Scott from the series. But this is nothing new. Scott’s face changes ever so slightly multiple times across the Thunderbirds series, as do all the characters, most noticeably in between series 1 and 2 when the puppets were cleaned up for their big screen appearance in Thunderbirds Are Go. As the characters are sculpted by hand, producing exactly the same result twice is near impossible. Spot the difference between these three pictures of Scott Tracy – all of them with slightly different faces.

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Fifty years later, this version of Scott and all the other characters is an excellent composite of all the different variations that appear in the series.

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Jeff contacts Lady Penelope and Parker, who happen to be in Delhi so that they can investigate the mysterious claims that the abominable snowman is prowling the Himalayas.

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Back projection is used to show passing scenery  while inside FAB 1. The temptation form modern film-makers would have been to use a green screen and add the background in post production, thus saving time and effort during shooting. It probably would have made for a more realistic effect too. But back projection was a technique used for driving scenes not just in Thunderbirds but in countless films and television series of the period. It may not stand up well when viewed today, but it gave the essence of driving and that’s often all a series like Thunderbirds requires. No-one would believe that the puppet characters are driving down a real road, so in a way the use of back projection fits in with this artificial world that the Andersons created. With great expertise, the back projection technique was therefore revived for Thunderbirds 1965.

We now get our first glimpse at the snowy Himalayas as the abominable snowman comes in to attack an innocent bystander (who looks remarkably like Jeff Tracy!). The P.O.V. shot of the snowman approaching the hut may not seem all that Thunderbirds-ey, but every so often shots just like it do appear in the series. Types of shots usually reserved for live-action photography were utilised regularly on the original series by directors who wanted to give the puppet stars some integrity. Filming the puppets and models as if they were real actors or vehicles is what gives Thunderbirds and the other Supermarionation shows such credibility and was Gerry Anderson’s way of making his puppet films stand above what had gone before. Using P.O.V. shots like those in The Abominable Snowman is just one way of going about doing this.

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Spot the monotrain in the background of this shot – a really nice little easter egg for Thunderbirds fans.

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One of the marvellous things about the miniature world of Thunderbirds is that everything had to be made, and that includes the rear end of the horse that viewers are treated to here. The horse and carriage which carries Parker, Penelope and International Rescue agent Gallup Din to the Ski-Copter airfield is also beautifully made with rich fabrics and materials.

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Lady Penelope’s sari is a wonderfully elegant costume by Liz Comstock-Smith which respects the philosophy of the original series of not merely dressing her up like a child’s doll but giving her a real wardrobe that a fashionable, well-travelled agent would have. Gallup Din gave the production team an opportunity to create an entirely new character in the same way that characters were often designed for the Supermarionation series. Actor Sanjeev Bhaskar was the basis of the new sculpt made by Stephen Mansfield, in the same way that famous faces of the day were the inspiration for the puppet sculptors in the Sixties. It’s a great sculpt, making Gallup Din one of the most memorable Thunderbirds guest characters to date.

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Penelope, Parker and Din arrive at the Ski-Copter airfield and we’re treated to this lovely shot making great use of forced perspective. I mentioned this in my last article but I love the little plasticine figures in the foreground, just like the ones used in the original series. The hangars, the Ski-Copters themselves and even the control tower in the background are well-detailed miniatures which could have been made by the AP Films model makers. This shot looks like one of the typical airfield shots that you see in Thunderbirds where the model workshop would have been raided and anything that fitted in found a place in the scene to make it look busy. The Thunderbirds 1965 crew appear to have had a similiar repertory of models and scenery that were used to fill the set.

The Ski-Copter carrying Penelope and Parker to the mountains is an inventive design which does what many a popular aircraft does in Thunderbirds – roughly taking the rules of aerodynamics to create an aircraft that looks like it could fly, and then adding lots of interesting and distinctive features to make it a vehicle of fantasy. The crash sequence shows off some lovely, detailed control panels made using gadgets and instruments sourced from some very 60’s piece of technology.

The Hood, disguised as Penelope and Parker’s guide, jettisons the fuel of the Ski-Copter. It’s the first use of a human hand! I do love this quirk of Supermarionation and I’m glad that despite the fact it always sticks out, no matter how well the set and costume is up-sized, these insert shots have been put to full use in this episode. A shot from the episode Martian Invasion has been re-coloured to show the fuel splattering all over the hull.

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BANG! The Ski-Copter goes up in a massive explosion as it crashes into a mountain. Fortunately, Penelope and Parker are safe as the passenger pod floats to the ground on an emergency parachute. Unfortunately, the disguised Hood has led them into a trap…

Live action close-ups, as performed by Géraldine Donaldson, demonstrate that Penelope has twisted her ankle. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure this is the first time a bare human foot is seen in Thunderbirds – the Security Hazard blog is your number 1 source for useless Gerry Anderson related trivia. It is remarkable, however, that not only have the puppets themselves been shot in exactly the same way on screen as they were in the original, but so have the live-action inserts which must have been a challenge to achieve in themselves.

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The beard, moustache, eyebrows and wig form a typical disguise for The Hood here. Note how his hand is slightly larger than those seen on the other puppets. The same technique of giving The Hood larger hands was used 50 years ago on the original series in order to make him look stronger and more powerful. Also note the left-over kit parts attached to the door of the Ski-Copter.

The Hood and Parker enter the ice cave. Similar cutting techniques have been used to those often seen in the Supermarionation series in order to give the impression that Parker has walked closer to the steel door without actually showing him walking. The ice cave walls, much like the mountains in exterior scenes, have been carved out of polystyrene.

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We don’t get to see their faces, but it appears that The Hood’s slaves are being played by puppets such as Jeff, Alan and Troy Tempest who appeared earlier. During the original series, the production team relied on their large repertory of puppets to populate crowd scenes, many of whom were recognisable for playing popular characters or even for playing a different character in the same episode. So if you happen to recognise any of the puppets you see in the background of certain shots in these episodes, it’s certainly nothing new.

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With Parker captured in the ice cave and Penelope marooned in the Ski-Copter pod, it’s time for International Rescue to act. Director Stephen La Rivière certainly takes great advantage of having a full set of the Tracy Lounge to use with this lovely shot of Jeff and Scott standing on the balcony while the eyes of Penelope’s portrait flash in the background.

Some more great shots here. Eagle-eyed viewers might spot the fact that Penelope’s portrait has vanished while Jeff is talking to her – a classic Thunderbirds-style blooper! At least none of the portraits swap between uniform and casual wear in the same scene as we see in Trapped in the Sky!

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Thunderbirds 1 and 2 prepare for launch and we have another first for the series. This is the only episode in which Thunderbird 2 is actually seen loading Pod 2! Could it be some never before seen footage of the original launch sequence, or could it be some clever editing? You decide…

Now you may be wondering why I’ve chosen to feature this short P.O.V. shot in the article. It’s because this is the only shot I was actually fortunate enough to watch being filmed when I visited the Thunderbirds 1965 studio for a day. And I can tell you that it took a real team effort to pull off even a short scene like this. Director Stephen La Rivière took a starring role as The Hood, walking towards the Ski-Copter door carrying the heavy camera used for filming. Justin T. Lee kept an eye on the monitor to ensure that the shot looked just right. David Tremont crouched down uncomfortably behind the set, trying to remain out of sight as he opened the pod doors. Lindsay Holung operated the Penelope puppet from the bridge above, just in case she was spotted through the window of the pod. Andrew T. Smith positioned himself next to the set with a box of polystyrene shavings doubling as snow which he poured into a fan held by Géraldine Donaldson on the floor. Several takes were made to get this very short and seemingly simple scene. Even though there were no complex effects or puppetry involved, the team worked to their limits to put this shot together with polystyrene flying everywhere, a heavy camera proving difficult to walk around with and everyone desperately trying to keep out of shot, making for really tough work. But the results speak for themselves: a great piece of film-making produced with everyone working their hardest using the modest techniques inspired by a pioneering group of film makers in the 1960s.

The Hood enters the Ski-Copter, Ray Barrett giving a charmingly melodramatic performance as he attempts to convince Penelope of Parker’s demise. Lady P isn’t convinced and comes out with the spectacular put down of, ‘You sir, are a blaggard.’ The Hood takes desperate action, knocking her unconscious with his mysterious powers. When I was a kid The Hood’s glowing eyes used to terrify me. Not in a traumatising way, but I would literally hide behind the sofa whenever his eyes glowed. I just about managed to contain myself this time round, but it still gives me chills.

The specially made mask which The Hood removes was incredibly thin and made this a very difficult shot to achieve under the hot studio lights. You can just about see a floor puppeteer’s fingers holding The Hood’s arm, reminiscent of the countless appearances the floor puppeteers made in the original series to make the characters move convincingly. This most famously extends to a shot in The Uninvited when Tin-Tin needs a helping hand getting out of her seat! Also, take a look at The Hood’s furious eyebrows. What a fantastic expression for a diabolical mastermind.

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After the commercial break, Thunderbird 1 arrives on the scene in this lovely overhead shot as the wings open up. The ground whizzes past as the supersonic craft thunders towards the danger zone. It’s very similar to the overhead shot of Thunderbird 2 arriving on the scene in Attack of the Alligators, among many other examples.

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Meanwhile, The Hood is threatening Lady Penelope who is tied to a steel girder. The Hood’s dominance is simply communicated with the camera positioned looking up at him – one of the most basic techniques of film-making but one which you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with the filming of puppetry.

I love shots like these in Thunderbirds when a laser cuts through metal and leaves a distinct burn mark. It doesn’t happen in the series so often that it becomes particularly noteworthy, but it’s certainly a recognisable element of the series which is always achieved on screen in a certain way. It would have stood out quite a bit if this shot hadn’t been done properly here, so I’m sure the people involved in making it happen would have looked closely at the original episodes to work out how the effect was done, and tried to replicate it as best as possible.

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Having tracked down The Hood’s second Ski-Copter, Thunderbird 1 comes in to land, its jet blasting away the snow below. A slow and dramatic landing like this would only take a few seconds to actually film. When the jet was fired, the operator would basically pop the model down on the set pretty quickly. But when shooting the scene at high-speed, the motion is slowed down and makes the whole thing look much more grand and impressive as Thunderbird 1 settles down gracefully in the snow.

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Thunderbird 2 enters the area, beautifully dirtied down with a sprinkling of snow to give the impression that the craft has been flying through the blizzard for some time. This was a practice championed by Derek Meddings and his team to make all the vehicles look well-used and less like models.

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Meanwhile, Scott Tracy enters the ice cave, ready to face The Hood. Introduced here for the first time is the International Rescue cold weather uniform. Many may argue that because no such version of the uniform is seen in the series it shouldn’t be used here. However, similar to what I said in my Introducing Thunderbirds article, if nothing original was invented in these new episodes like new costumes, vehicles, characters, sets or props and everything was an exact replica of something from episodes 1-32, they wouldn’t have been made in the spirit of the original series. The 60s production team were constantly making changes or additions to what was seen on screen based on what the episodes needed. These episodes can stand up as episodes of Thunderbirds in their own right because they do something that every good episode of the original tried to do, and that was to bring something new and exciting to the screen and keep pushing and pulling the format of the show to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Yes, Thunderbirds 1965 attempts to re-create aspects of the original series, but these are new adventures which have their own set of demands and requirements. Making changes to things like costumes was a necessary element to keeping everything fresh. And let’s be honest, the cold weather uniform does look pretty cool… or do I mean warm?

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Penelope’s struggle while tied to the girder is a particularly fine piece of puppeteering which demonstrates a great deal of control over the marionette. Even though she is standing still, her small and subtle movements bring the character to life. Combined with some well used live action hand inserts and the fast-paced editing, this scene captures the race-against-time drama of Thunderbirds superbly.

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Scott enters the scene and aims his gun at The Hood. A hysterical outtake for this shot can be seen by clicking on the image above. Using a combination of live action and puppets in the same shot was ocassionally used in the original series with some rather surreal results.

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With carefully timed pyrotechnics in Scott’s gun and the control panel, Scott is seen to shut off the laser beam by opening fire at the controls. The shot only lasts for a few seconds but if you watch closely you can see that the explosions are perfectly timed one after the other.The Hood has been shot by Scott’s tranquiliser and Penelope appears to be safe.

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Parker arrives just a little bit too late to be of much help, but I love his little hat and his pickaxe all covered in just the right amount of snow.

While Scott, Penelope and Parker are distracted, The Hood jumps up and has just enough time to set off the destruction of the control panel and the entire ice cave before escaping.

Thunderbird 2 finally arrives on the scene but sadly doesn’t get to do too much before Scott orders Virgil to keep away from the impending detonation of the mountain. It seems unusual that, with the exception of Introducing Thunderbirds, Thunderbird 2 and Virgil don’t appear in the original mini-album recordings used for Thunderbirds 1965. These new episodes do a good job of adding them in where possible but it is unfortunate that they don’t have a true opportunity to shine – if only the mini-albums had been a little more geared towards providing some epic Thunderbird 2 action!

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Thunderbird 1 takes off just in time before…

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BANG! The whole mountain goes up in a ball of smoke and fire! True Thunderbirds style!

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A lovely little shot of the snow covering up the footprints of the abominable snowman… but does that mean The Hood had special shoes when he was stamping around pretending to be the snowman? An important question…

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Thunderbirds 1 and 2 rendezvous and fly back to base to mark the end of the episode. Barry Gray’s magnificent music swells to a triumphant climax as it rightly should. I’m sure the crew were glad to be finished with blowing polystyrene snow around!

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Considering this was the first episode to go into production, Stephen La Rivière and his team utilised and improved upon their experience from their documentary, Filmed in Supermarionation, to produce a fantastic episode of Thunderbirds with so many classic elements faithfully brought back to the screen after a long absence.

Next time – David Elliot is back in the director’s chair, and the homes of the English aristocracy are being robbed, with Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward next on the list! It’s The Stately Homes Robberies.

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Thunderbirds 1965: Introducing Thunderbirds

For those of you who aren’t aware there are now 35 episodes of Classic Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds 1965 project was funded by Kickstarter backers and produced by Stephen La Rivière and the Pod 4 Films team. They attempted to bring three Thunderbirds audio adventures to the screen using classic Supermarionation techniques. The finished results are superb pieces of work which recreate the Thunderbirds formula, warts and all. After all, no episode of Thunderbirds is perfect in terms of continuity or sophistication. The Thunderbirds 1965 team have worked tirelessly to artistically capture the essence of those slight imperfections which are still incredibly enchanting to watch. This resulted in 3 episodes that truly feel like episodes of Thunderbirds made in 1965, something which only a dedicated team of Supermarionation experts could have achieved.

In this series of articles I intend to take a close look at each of the three new episodes, often looking at individual shots, and analysing what makes them so much of an authentic Thunderbirds experience. Today I’ll be taking a look at Introducing Thunderbirds, based on the Century 21 mini album of the same name released in October 1965. This is a prequel to the series which sees Lady Penelope and Parker travel to Tracy Island and meeting Jeff Tracy for a tour of the International Rescue headquarters.

Introducing Thunderbirds
Written by Alan Fennell
Directed by Justin T. Lee

Forget Trapped in the Sky, this is the first episode of Thunderbirds. From the outset, the minutest details line up to convince the viewer that they are watching an episode produced in the aftermath of Stingray and Trapped in the Sky was in pre-production.

Following the original 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown from the glorious high definition prints of the series yet to see a full release in the UK, the attentive viewer is met by the familiar Thunderbirds theme. Well, sort of. You see, Trapped in the Sky features a unique version of the opening theme which was changed on future episodes. It is also the only episode to feature sound effects during the teaser montage following the countdown. Introducing Thunderbirds utilises this same version of the theme and also includes sound effects in order to give the impression that it was produced around the same time as Trapped in the Sky before changes were made to the series on episode 2, Pit of Peril.

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When I first heard this version of the theme at the premiere screening on January 4th 2016 I knew that dedicated Thunderbirds fans were in for a treat. A great level of care had clearly been taken by the production team to satisfy those who knew the series inside out. It was a brave move to not include the “proper” version of the Thunderbirds theme on the first episode but it illustrates that Thunderbirds is full of inconsistencies and in order to recreate the series truly, those inconsistencies and imperfections had to be carefully included in the new episodes. They don’t cause distraction or ruin the experience but enhance it and make the viewer believe that they are watching Thunderbirds as it would have been produced by the original AP Films team.

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The episode opens with stock footage of Tracy Island, as seen in Trapped in the Sky, set to music from Stingray. Music from the previous Supermarionation series makes up the majority of the soundtrack for Introducing Thunderbirds which maintains the illusion that this episode was produced immediately after shooting had finished on Stingray. This is solidified further by the shots of Lady Penelope’s yacht which follow. Imagine if this episode were produced in 1964, and Gerry and Sylvia Anderson themselves had said “Well, we’ve just filmed 39 episodes of Stingray which had a lot of water shots. Derek Meddings and his team must be good at them by now, so maybe we’ll start our next show with some water shots too, that way we know they’ll be decent.”

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Of course the special effects shots directed by Stephen La Rivière and Justin T. Lee here are beyond just being decent. A birdseye view shows FAB 2, Lady Penelope’s yacht, cruising across the screen from left to right. The way craft appear to move on screen in all the Thunderbirds 1965 episodes is very reminiscient of the original series. They move in the direction they’re going either by remaining stationary with the background moving behind them, or they enter screen one way and exit the other way. It’s a basic cinematic language which reflects the punishing schedule of filming in the sixties, and how miniatures were shot as a whole back then. The Thunderbird 1965 could have filmed their models in a more complex and dynamic way, but by retaining these simpler shots, the result is much more authentic. The way the boat moves, combined with the very blue and, rippling water, the lighting, and the quality of the model itself all add up to a shot that could easily have appeared in the original series.

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Above we have the deck of FAB 2 and our first glimpse at the marrionettes. The camera pans up as Parker walks towards Penelope. The way the puppet walks certainly doesn’t convince anyone that the characters are anything other than puppets, but the walking in the original series never convinced the viewer of that either. In fact I have to say that this walking shot is one of the best I’ve ever seen in Supermarionation, immediately indicating the care that went into shooting the puppets for these episodes. The Penelope and Parker puppets that star in all three episodes are absolutely stunning. The marrionettes crafted by Barry Davies for this mini-series are excellent recreations and Penelope in particular is a triumph. As one of the less-caricatured faces in Thunderbirds, recapturing her features must have been difficult, but Davies has really succeeded here.

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When the characters speak, the dialogue isn’t new. The adventure was originally recorded for release on LP in 1965. The recording has been cleaned up by Mark Ayres and in the case of Introducing Thunderbirds, the story has been changed little in this screen adaptation. Cuts have been made to the more descriptive dialogue now that the audience can see what’s going on, but beyond that the episode is a straightforward visual interpreation of the original recording with a few bits and pieces added or taken away.

As they approach Tracy Island, Penelope and Parker take to the water in FAB 1. A beautiful model of FAB 1 is combined with a fantastic recreation of the puppet scale FAB 1 set. Behind is a set of FAB 2’s cargo hold. The sets were built by Hilton Fitzsimmons against a tough schedule and when combined with similar lighting to the original series, they look like they could have been designed and built by Bob Bell. The sets feature the same props, instruments, patterns and fonts that were used to detail the sets back in the sixties, with Fitzsimmons often sourcing the same materials.

FAB 1 sails through the water with little splashes appearing on the windscreen and drives up the ramp onto Tracy Island. Jeff Tracy awaits them. There are lots of things I love about this shot.

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1. The palm trees swing back to make way for FAB 1 because of course they do.
2. The miniature of Jeff standing on the runway is just like the poorly detailed little figures that the special effects team on the original series always used.
3. The flat angle that this shot is filmed from is very remeniscient of shots of FAB 1 from the original series.
4. FAB 1 is completely dry after its dip in the ocean. I doubt any of the directors on the original series would have remembered to make the model or set vaguely damp either. A classic bit of Thunderbirds discontinuity.

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Jeff Tracy meets Lady Penelope and Parker for the first time on screen. He’s sporting his best flamingo shirt for the ocassion. Jeff had some questionable fashion choices in the original series, and Liz Comstock-Smith has brilliantly captured this and the distinct look of all the characters’ costumes perfectly. It was an excellent choice to create all new designs for the characters rather than borrowing all of them from previous episodes. New additions like these costumes are an exciting treat. It wouldn’t be as much fun if every single element was an exact copy of something from episodes 1-32.

However, there was one aspect of the series that did have to be an exact copy. The Tracy Lounge.

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The huge Tracy Lounge set was beautifully recreated for the Thunderbirds 1965 project using measurements taken from 3D computer renderings of shots from the original series to ensure that everything was exactly the right size. The details are superb, with paintings, plants, furniture, books and other props made to look exactly like they did on the set as it appeared in the first 26 episodes of Thunderbirds with one exception. In place of Penelope’s portrait, a painting called ‘Mexican Plain’ from the Supercar episode, A Little Art. We’ll get to why that is later.

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Parker brings in Penelope’s suitcases, providing a great deal of light humour which is what makes Thunderbirds so enjoyable to watch. Meanwhile, Jeff begins to explain the details of the International Rescue organisation to Penelope. First he talks through all of the portaits on the wall as the camera pans across the five Tracy Brothers.

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The original images used for the portraits in the first series of Thunderbirds no longer exist, so the team carefully captured the images from the episodes themselves and included them in the set. It simply would not have looked right to see the later portraits used in the series 1 version of the set.

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After falling over several times, Parker’s shins become bruised. Though not specified in the dialogue, the team decided to dirty Parker’s trousers to suggest his many falls. Wonderful detail. Then Jeff begins to describe the function of the space station Thunderbird 5, a sequence which is opened by what is possibly my most favourite shot from the entire Thunderbirds 1965 project.

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What a great shot. The camera gazes up at Jeff with his sharp eyes looking up into space as if he can see all the way into orbit. His flamingo shirt really is absolutely fabulous. This composition really reflects Thunderbirds’ striking comic strip style and brings the character to life. This is a shot that sums up the incredible excitement of Thunderbirds. I’m so glad that this pose made it onto the cover of the DVD and Blu-ray. Absolutely love it.

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Jeff, Penelope and Parker leave to make their tour around the island. Parker is charged with the burden of carrying Jeff’s mobile control console. It’s a heavy, clunky, bright red piece of Thunderbirds technology. It has that typical 60s view of future technology that the series is well known for with lights, bright colours, and lots of buttons to press. Note the kit part under the side handle.

We get to our first commerical break with the screen fading to black in a way that looks exactly like it was shot and edited on film.

Jeff, Penelope and Parker stop FAB 1 at a point on the island which Thunderbirds fans have never seen before, a vantage point overlooking the swimming pool. That’s another treat that comes from this project, getting to see locations or shots that didn’t appear in the series.

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Jeff turns on his control unit to watch the launching of Thunderbird 1. The high definition stock footage has been treated very skillfully to look like the slightly flickering and blurry images that appear on screens in Thunderbirds owing to the way the effect was originally achieved.

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The launch sequences are the same as those originally shot for Trapped in the Sky and reused throughout the rest of the series. The use of stock footage in Thunderbirds 1965 has two purposes. It allows the production team to show things on screen as they appeared originally without having to go to the enormous expense of shooting a very similar sequence again – a technique used well, and not so well, in the series. The second purpose, as I’ve just touched upon, is the fact that stock footage is reused constantly in the original series anyway so it’s something of a staple of Thunderbirds. Sometimes it matches up with specially shot sequences, sometimes it really doesn’t. The reuse of footage is the thing that contributes a huge number of continuity errors. That footage is, however, an important part of what makes Thunderbirds, Thunderbirds. So quite rightly, the TB65 team have used shots from the original series whenever necessary in their episodes in order to expand on certain elements and achieve things that their limited budget couldn’t accomodate.

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Once Thunderbird 1 has blasted off, the trio drive to the other side of the island to watch the launching of Thunderbird 2. Parker admires the “photo” in the lounge which Virgil uses to access the launch slide. Penelope corrects him, stating that “Parker always calls paintings, photos.” Her voice oozes with condescension which is brilliantly reflected in the way the puppet’s eyes shift, Jeff gives a little look and Parker furiously drops the control unit. A great example of the marionettes being used to show very human emotions.

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The brilliant Thunderbird 2 launch sequence begins. Doesn’t she look beautiful?

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With the aid of modern editing, I assume it would have been easy, or at least possible, for the editors to fix the continuity error pictured below from the original stock footage. Despite selecting Pod 4, Pod 2 is seen on the left of Thunderbird 2 before it leaves the hangar when it should be Pod 3. Due to the constant reuse of this shot, the same error occurs multiple times in the original series. Therefore, to allow for the authentic Thunderbirds experience, the error has been retained here. It just wouldn’t have been Thunderbirds if it had been fixed so that the ‘2’ became a ‘3’. Instead, they kept the original stock footage as any director or editor on the original series would have done. As I’ve said before and will continue to say again, Thunderbirds is by no means perfect so to go back and fix those errors wouldn’t produce the same result as the episodes made in the 60s.

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Now I could be wrong, but is this a new shot of TB2 on the runway?

I don’t recognise it but it looks so much like an original part of the launch sequence that I’m torn between saying whether it was shot by Pod 4 Films, or AP Films. Now that’s how talented the people behind these episodes are. The Thunderbird 2 model used on this project which features more prominently in The Abominable Snowman is a stunning replica of the first Thunderbird 2 model used in the original series.

Parker looks out across the ocean as Thunderbird 2 takes off with the sun in his eyes. Such a clever detail which makes the whole world seem so believable and makes the puppets seem like real people.

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Pod 4 is dropped in the ocean and Parker watches the launch of Thunderbird 4 through some binoculars which is a really lovely prop. The classic ‘looking through binoculars’ effect which is used so much in Thunderbirds is put to use here over the stock footage of Thunderbird 4 hurtling down the launch ramp into the water.

Next, the characters head up to the Round House to watch the launch of Thunderbird 3. The camera moves down from looking out at the ocean to Jeff, Penelope and Parker standing at a railing. It’s a charming shot for many reasons. The viewer gets a good look at the ocean backdrop which looks exactly the same as what can always be seen out of the windows of the Tracy Villa in the original series. The effect is achieved by simply sticking pieces of tinsel to a dark blue backdrop and allowing them to shimmer in the light. With the talent of people like Anderson stalwart Richard Gregory on the team, they could easily have come up with a more sophisticated effect that looked more convincing on screen. But in order to make it look more like Thunderbirds, they had to go with this more primitive approach which looks superb.

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Now take a look at those strings. Yes, we can all see them. And we can all see them in the original episodes. The AP Films and Century 21 team tried so hard in all of the Supermarionation shows to hide them. Sometimes, even under the scrutiny of high definition blu-ray players, they appear to have succeeded. But sometimes they didn’t. The Thunderbirds 1965 team sourced the same type of wire to string their puppets and as a result, the visibility of the strings is on par with the standard set by the original series. They don’t distract the viewer or reduce the integrity of the puppet performances, in fact you barely notice them. If Gerry Anderson could have had the option of digitally removing the strings back in the 60s I’m certain he would have done. Unfortunately for him, that technology wasn’t available and as a result the puppet control wires are visible to those who seek them, and therefore in order to remain faithful, they’re also just about visible in these new episodes.

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I know it sounds obvious, but with Thunderbird 1 having already been launched, Scott isn’t around to co-pilot Thunderbird 3 with Alan. This makes for a bit of a problem with stock footage because most of the time when Thunderbird 3 is launched, Scott is sat right next to Alan. Fortunately, in Danger at Ocean Deep, Alan is accompanied by Brains when going up to Thunderbird 5 and the launch sequence was reshot accordingly. Therefore that is the sequence used here. Once again this shows some great expertise of the original series for the editors to know that this was the only version of the launch sequence that they could use. Thank goodness AP Films went to the effort of reshooting the launch sequence for Danger at Ocean Deep or this sequence wouldn’t have made as much sense. 

Unfortunately in between getting off the sofa in Thunderbird 3 and getting in the elevator up to the control room, Alan suddenly changes into his outfit from Sun Probe, reusing shots from that episode. This is a problem with the sequence from Danger at Ocean Deep and there’s no way the makers of Introducing Thunderbirds could have gotten around this aside from building a replica of the Thunderbird 3 control room, specially creating a replica of Alan’s Danger and Ocean Deep costume, and shot for shot remaking this short scene with their own Alan puppet. Not only would this have been somewhat jarring anyway, but seeing as they didn’t bother to do it in Danger at Ocean Deep, it makes sense that they wouldn’t do it for Introducing Thunderbirds either. Again, it all helps to make this feel like a Thunderbirds episode made in the 60s with the same restrictions that they had back then.

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With the tour concluded, evening falls on Tracy Island, and Penelope and Jeff are in the library. They have changed outfits – something which happens often in the Thunderbirds 1965 episodes and demonstrates the great versatility of the costume designer.

Jeff goes to open the safe where secret documentation about International Rescue is stored only to discover it’s completely empty. Penelope immediately suspects Parker who appears from around a corner, a hilarious moment which got a lot of laughs at the premiere screening.

PDVD_038.jpgJeff is surprisingly chilled about Parker breaking into his safe and stealing the top secret plans of the entire organisation and remarks that with Lady Penelope and Parker on the team, ‘Thunderbirds are definitely go’. The episode concludes with an incredibly stirring montage of all five Tracy brothers in control of their respective craft set to the standard end title music. And remember that mysterious painting in place of Penelope’s portrait that I mentioned earlier? In a wonderful touch, her portrait is now revealed in its rightful place, signifying that she now has full membership to the organisation and the series is now ready to begin. Its a fantastic sequence which serves as a great tribute to a team of heroes that have been thrilling and entertaining generations of viewers for over 50 years.

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The end credits utilise the Trapped in the Sky edition of the closing theme, in-keeping with the style set in the opening titles. Even the Mole is absent from the end credits as it wasn’t included as standard until Pit of Peril.

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Congratulations to Justin T. Lee for directing a very fun episode of Thunderbirds. Originally, Introducing Thunderbirds was designed purely to serve as an extended piece of exposition to explain the format of Thunderbirds to those that were unfamiliar with it at the time. Turning the fairly bland script into a full episode that could stand up with the others must have been a daunting task. The team succeed in making an exciting adventure which has several treats for hardcore fans of the series, and is the perfect introduction or re-introduction to Thunderbirds for casual viewers.

Stay tuned for the next Thunderbirds 1965 article where we take a journey to the Himalayas for an encounter with the abominable snowman!

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Terrahawks: HD Preview Clip!

Take a look at this beautifully restored clip from the Terrahawks episode Gunfight at Oaky’s Corral. This clip comes from the upcoming HD release of Terrahawks on blu-ray. This summer, Network will be releasing the first 13 episodes which make up series 1.

Click on the image below to see the clip:

Terrahawks HD Gunfight at Oaky's Corral

As you can see, the quality is so much crisper and cleaner than the DVD release which utilised video tape copies as their source. The source for this blu-ray release are recently rediscovered original film prints.

Looking forward to more clips like this from the Gerry Anderson YouTube channel and the release of the first series!

The AnderTag

Welcome to my first post here on Security Hazard! Here’s one to share with your fellow Gerry Anderson fans. A series of questions all about what you love about the Gerry Anderson universe – and some things you’re not so keen on. More in-depth articles are coming soon with reviews, reports and general musings, but this is just a chance for you to get to know me, and perhaps have a guess at what you can expect to see on this blog. These are my favourites or least favourites rather than what I consider best or worst as they’re not always the same thing.

  1. Favourite Thunderbird?
    Thunderbird 4
    tb41
  2. Favourite Spectrum Agent?
    Captain Magenta
    codename_europa_39
  3. ‘I Wish I Was A Spaceman’ or ‘Aqua Marina’?
    ‘I Wish I Was A Spaceman’
    steve-zodiac
  4. Space: 1999 Year 1 or Year 2?
    Year 1

    s1
    Artwork by Eric Chu
  5. Your first encounter with a Gerry Anderson series/film/project?
    Thunderbirds In Outer Space VHS compilation tape.
    thunderbirdsinouterspaceposter
  6. Favourite merchandise item(s) you own?
    Thunderbirds 1965 Kickstarter rewards
    13138874_10208570766164064_6191710727005624482_n
  7. Money no object – one merchandise item you’d love to own?
    Aoshima Zero-X Diecast Model
    d6a460bab5198faa4dc9754d47b85049
  8. Space Police or Space Precinct?
    Space Police
    sig-space-police-cover-cropped-web
  9. Mars Invaders – The Mysterons (Captain Scarlet) or Zelda (Terrahawks)?
    Zelda
    8ccf3385070f4db787851dfaf5baa9c8
  10. Favourite Thunderbirds episode?
    Operation Crash-Dive
    ocd14a
  11. Least favourite Thunderbirds episode?
    Give Or Take A Million
    00010m2ts_snapshot_0306_20101119_171214
  12. Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) or Thunderbird 6 (1968)?
    Thunderbird 6
    shot2_large
  13. Two words to describe the live action Thunderbirds movie (2004)?
    Seen worse
    21950914
  14. Two words to describe the new Thunderbirds Are Go (2015) series?
    Good fun
    tag
  15. Favourite Gerry Anderson vehicle?
    Fireflash
    trapped-in-the-sky-fireflash
  16. Favourite quote?
    ‘Mary, you’re a day at the beach.’ – Dr. Tiger Ninestein, Terrahawks
    tiger-and-mary
  17. Gerry Anderson guilty pleasure?
    The Investigator

    investigator_final
    Artwork by Eric Chu
  18. Least favourite Gerry Anderson series/film/project?
    Crossroads to Crime
    c2c03
  19. Favourite Gerry Anderson character?
    X20, Stingray
    agent-x20
  20. Favourite Gerry Anderson series/film/project?
    Thunderbirds

    tb50-2000-px
    Artwork by Eric Chu

That’s it! What did you make of my answers? Copy and paste the questions (included below in easy copy-and-paste-able form) into the comments on this page or on social media and answer them yourself. Don’t forget to tag your friends to pass it along!


The Security Hazard (http://www.securityhazard.wordpress.com) AnderTag!

  1. Favourite Thunderbird?
  2. Favourite Spectrum Agent?
  3. ‘I Wish I Was A Spaceman’ or ‘Aqua Marina’?
  4. Space: 1999 Year 1 or Year 2?
  5. Your first encounter with a Gerry Anderson series/film/project?
  6. Favourite merchandise item(s) you own?
  7. Money no object – one merchandise item you’d love to own?
  8. Space Police or Space Precinct?
  9. Mars Invaders – The Mysterons (Captain Scarlet) or Zelda (Terrahawks)?
  10. Favourite Thunderbirds episode?
  11. Least favourite Thunderbirds episode?
  12. Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) or Thunderbird 6 (1968)?
  13. Two words to describe the live action Thunderbirds movie (2004)?
  14. Two words to describe the new Thunderbirds Are Go (2015) series?
  15. Favourite Gerry Anderson vehicle?
  16. Favourite quote?
  17. Gerry Anderson guilty pleasure?
  18. Least favourite Gerry Anderson series/film/project?
  19. Favourite Gerry Anderson character?
  20. Favourite Gerry Anderson series/film/project?

I tag Andrew Clements to do the AnderTag and pass it along!