Lavender Castle

‘Lavender Castle: A place of legend, fabled right across the universe.’

This Gerry Anderson series seems to live up to its tag line of being a bit of a lost legend. For a long time I knew nothing about Lavender Castle beyond its title until I bought the DVD a few years ago. I had guessed from the title that it might not be like other Gerry Anderson shows whose titles immediately suggest a focus on futuristic machines or organisations. Lavender Castle seemed like something in the realm of magic and fantasy, not the usual Gerry Anderson formula. But when I watched it for the first time I realised that this series wasn’t so different from other Gerry Anderson shows, but also had something very special and unique about it.

PDVD_036Being born in the mid 1990s, Lavender Castle should have been my first exposure to a new Gerry Anderson show when it aired in 1999 and 2000 on CITV. I would have been the perfect age for it and watched CITV pretty regularly and yet have absolutely no recollection of seeing the series at all.

It turns out that not many Gerry Anderson fans have seen or tend to discuss this relatively recent series. Why? Well there are all sorts of reasons for this, and none have them have anything to do with the quality of this beautifully made show. It mostly comes down to the show being a ten minute part of a whole afternoon of television shows for children on ITV and could have easily been missed. It’s an off-putting slot for older fans. It suggests a show that is exclusively for young children when most Anderson series are aimed at a family audience of all ages. Sadly, ITV failed to learn from this and multiplied the problem considerably when scheduling Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet (2005), and even now, CITV’s Thunderbirds Are Go (2015) hardly seems entirely suited to its early morning timeslot.

PDVD_037The result of this unfortunate scheduling, and a title that doesn’t suggest that this follows the traditional Gerry Anderson formula, is a show which seems to have been forgotten by fans despite being very strong in a number of areas. In this article I hope to make the case for Lavender Castle and encourage others to give it a try.

The Story

Lavender Castle follows the adventures of the diverse crew of a spaceship called the Paradox. They are searching for an illusive place of peace and harmony at the centre of the universe called Lavender Castle, the greatest source of power ever known. The villain of the series, Dr. Agon is also searching for Lavender Castle but with the intention of destroying it and plunging the universe into darkness. Each episode sees the crew of The Paradox face off adversaries in their continuing quest to find Lavender Castle and defend it from Dr. Agon and his forces of evil.

PDVD_001The basic premise of the series is a simple battle of good vs. evil mixed in with an incredible quest. It’s pure fantasy and perhaps this is where the series differs from previous Gerry Anderson series which had always tried in some way to ground themselves in reality. As much as fantastical things happen in shows like Thunderbirds or Space: 1999, one always pictured them as an alternative view of the world we live in. Lavender Castle diverts from that idea and puts us into a completely different universe to our own, but retains the good vs. evil and advanced technology themes that Gerry Anderson shows are famous for.

This different approach comes from the fact that the concept and characters for Lavender Castle were pitched to Gerry Anderson in the late 1980s by fantasy artist Rodney Matthews. They developed the idea together for many years with Matthews contributing all of the design work. Following rejections from the BBC and Carlton Television, the series was eventually picked up in 1996 by Carrington Productions International who financed the project which was produced at the world famous Cosgrove Hall Films.

PDVD_003The series was produced using a combination of outstanding stop-motion animation and CGI animation. Mackinnon and Saunders, who have since built the puppets for the upcoming Anderson Entertainment pilot Firestorm, constructed fully articulated puppets closely based on Rodney Matthews’ sketches. The stop-motion work is immaculate, bringing the characters to life with precision and artistry while retaining the charm of earlier Anderson shows.

The Characters

Captain Thrice

PDVD_030Thrice is the captain of the Paradox. He’s an older creature with three eyes and a warm heart. He’s a caring and wise father figure with a special knowledge of Lavender Castle.

Walking Stick

PDVD_010Captain Thrice is assisted in his mobility and decision-making by a walking stick that can talk. It was carved from laplon wood by Thrice and mysteriously given life by Lavender Castle.


PDVD_034The key pilot of the Paradox is Australian-accented Roger. He was formerly a decorated starfighter pilot. After being captured he was rescued by Captain Thrice and joined the crew.


PDVD_028The ship’s Scottish engineer. He has a passion for inventing and caring for the Paradox. Roger and Issy are good comrades.


PDVD_031Lyca is a beautiful creature with butterfly wings allowing her to fly. She is a Floran biologist and medical specialist who serves as a doctor on the Paradox. Alongside Roger she was rescued from capture by Thrice.

Sir Squeakalot

PDVD_014A robot fitted with an Outel processor and housekeeping technology, knighted by Queen Zarla. ‘Squeaky’ as he’s affectionately known takes care of all housekeeping duties onboard the Paradox.


Sproggle is an orphan with child-like innocence who struggles as the navigator of the Paradox. He has trouble telling left from right which oftens causes the ship to go off course into all sorts of unexpected adventures.

Dr. Cedric Agon

Dr. Agon is an evil mastermind who commands the Dark Station. He will stop at nothing to destroy Lavender Castle.

Short Fred Ledd

Fred is a one-legged pirate sailing the Galak Sea in an anicent galleon called the Cutting Snark. He answers to Dr. Agon and often attempts to thwart the Paradox crew.

As you can see, the characters are fantastic pieces of design by Rodney Matthews. Much like the characters of earlier Anderson classics, it’s pretty clear cut which side they’re on. The heroes are dependable, intelligent and brave. The villains are nasty, ruthless and misguided. Good always triumphs over evil. The Paradox crew are a good team and, like many other Gerry Anderson shows, a family-like unit. They’re mismatched and some members of the team are stronger than others, but when combining their efforts they are more than a match for Dr. Agon.

The technology in the series is wonderfully inventive. The Paradox is essentially a cottage with engines strapped to the back. A great machine to inspire a child’s imagination. Dr. Agon’s Dark Station is an enormous black fortress which could not look more evil. The station’s shuttle craft is known as the Mammoth Machine which releases huge black clouds of smoke as it chugs through space. They are machines of absolute fantasy which don’t resemble any vehicles of the real world. Determining how they work is an act of pure imagination which may be less satisfying for those inclined towards pure science in their Anderson shows, but if you love Thunderbird 2 and don’t care how it takes flight, then Lavender Castle‘s fanciful approach to space travel might just be your cup of tea.

Gerry Anderson often re-used voice artists on multiple series, but in this case all four cast members (David Holt, Kate Harbour, Jimmy Hibbert and Rob Rackstraw) only worked for Anderson on Lavender Castle. They are, however, recognisable in many other children’s television series of the time and are incredibly versatile, sharing the main roles around seamlessly. They voice the characters with great integrity and humour. The same qualities exist in Crispin Merrell’s music which is an enjoyable highlight of the series – a full release of the soundtrack would be a wonderful thing.

Ultimately, Lavender Castle may not be instantly recognisable as a Gerry Anderson series with it’s use of stop-motion animation, an all new voice cast and pure fantasy universe. At its heart, however, the show has a lot of the same themes and elements commonly associated with the Supermarionation series. The episodes are produced to an incredibly high standard with stunning design and loveable characters from Rodney Matthews, exciting adventures, and a simple battle of good versus evil. I urge any Gerry Anderson and/or fantasy fans to give this series a try. It is a worthy addition to the Anderson canon which has its own unique charm and continues the producer’s desire to push the boundaries of high quality film-making.


















Thunderbirds 1965: The Stately Homes Robberies

Have you ever listened to The Stately Homes Robberies mini-album? It’s pretty awful. The dialogue couldn’t be clunkier, the action is absolutely minimal, and to have a Thunderbirds adventure witout any Thunderbirds in is rather bland. Fortunately, when shooting this episode for the Thunderbirds 1965 project, Stephen La Rivière and his team had the common sense to almost entirely tear apart the original audio and put it back together again with as much action and intrigue squeezed in as possible with the addition of dialogue from the television series. Any scenes in the original mini-album that didn’t work have been cut down or cut out and it makes for a much improved and much more genuine Thunderbirds episode.

One of the great treats that this episode has to offer is not what’s in front of the camera but who’s behind it. David Elliott returns to direct his first Thunderbirds episode in almost 50 years. His work on the original series produced a number of highly regarded episodes. Here’s a complete list of his directorial credits on Thunderbirds.

  • City of Fire
  • Vault of Death
  • Martian Invasion
  • Terror in New York City
  • Day of Disaster
  • 30 Minutes After Noon
  • Cry Wolf
  • The Duchess Assignment
  • Path of Destruction

A great variety of episodes, all of them full of tension and suspense building up to some very dramatic rescues. Many of them feel like big-budget disaster movies but some episodes like Vault of Death or The Duchess Assignment are charming character pieces driven by Penelope and Parker’s involvement in the plot – The Stately Homes Robberies is very much closer to this particular style of episode.

David Elliot and Mary Turner back on the set.

Also returning to the puppet bridge is original series puppetry supervisor, Mary Turner. Alongside Christine Glanville, she was responsible for ensuring that the puppetry on the original series was of a high standard. Mary and the other puppeteers performed the marionettes in such a way that they were captivating to watch without steering away from Gerry Anderson’s quest for human-like behaviour. Mary was a great pioneer in making the puppets feel like real people, while also making them into fun characters, and her work on The Stately Homes Robberies reflects that superbly.

Let’s take a close look at what makes The Stately Homes Robberies an adventure which concludes the Thunderbirds 1965 project in style.

The Stately Homes Robberies
Based on the mini-album written by Alan Fennell
Directed by David Elliott

Another exciting opening teaser montage shows us immediately that we’re getting a far more action-packed episode than the original mini-album had to offer.

The episode opens with the camera panning across the lawn of a magnificent house built by model-maker David Tremont. The detail is superb, even with a little garden shed in front of the house.

The tree in the foreground looks wonderfully mossy. My theory is that, in-keeping with the original production team’s style of set-dressing, this is a real piece of a tree. If it isn’t, then they’ve done a very good job of making a prop that looks like a real tree.

PDVD_014A helijet, very similar in design to the helijets seen in Brink of Disaster, has landed in the overgrown garden, littered with rubbish – details which make the scene look all the more real. Barry Gray’s suspenseful music gives the viewer the feeling that the helijet isn’t supposed to be there and that misdeeds are afoot.

The camera moves through the doors in the hallway of the stately home in a style which echoes the introduction of the castle in David Elliott’s 30 Minutes After Noon. The next few shots are a great treat for eagle-eyed Gerry Anderson fans. The piano seen here is in fact believed to be the earliest surviving Supermarionation prop. Christine Glanville passed it on to Richard Gregory who recently restored it to it’s former glory. It was first seen in the saloon back in Four Feather Falls but even went on to appear in Joe 90. Little piece of trivia – I was actually lucky enough to carry this prop in and out of the second Andercon convention in 2015. It was very fragile and beaten up at the time so it looks like the restoration has worked a treat!

PDVD_018We continue to move through the seemingly deserted house. Note the Supermarionation head sculpt sitting on a pedestal. There are probably lots of other treats hidden in this sequence so if you spot any that I don’t point out, let me know in the comments below.

PDVD_020Portrait of a Gazelle as seen in The Duchess Assignment. Is this the Duchess of Royston’s place? Nice little mystery to solve there…

PDVD_022A very dramatic swing of the camera reveals a shady looking character robbing the safe! And another head sculpt!

PDVD_024What happens next will shock anyone that might be familiar with the tedium of the original mini-album. This statue says it all.

An almighty explosion. The beautifully crafted model is torn apart by huge fireballs. A great piece of work by Malcolm Smith whose pyrotechnics look stunning when shot at high-speed. Just the right amount of smoke and fire makes for some wonderfully gratuitous destruction. As with so many models on Thunderbirds the house was built to be destroyed in a spectacular fashion. This moment sets the tone of the episode perfectly – the original mini-album story has been injected with some genuine danger and tension. Whatever International Rescue are about to get involved with, they’re in for some deadly trouble.

PDVD_033This is just a small thing but it’s easy to take for granted. The font and layout used for all the captions across the three episodes is absolutely spot on. Imagine if people who didn’t know Thunderbirds had been given the job of making the episode title captions and used a font that was close to the original but wasn’t quite right. Its the sort of thing that one may not think particularly matters provided there are puppets and Thunderbird craft on the screen. But to truly re-create Thunderbirds little details like getting the font right and spacing out the lines of text correctly are also very important to immersing the viewer in the experience that these are episodes from the 1960s.

Stock footage of newspapers being printed is used in a couple of episodes of Thunderbirds and its almost like a code for: something big and dramatic is about to be announced or exposed which will probably put International Rescue into action. It may look like random stock footage of newspapers being printed, but it’s also a small device that builds tension for a big reveal.

Grandiose headlines are spread across the newspapers. Notice the Thunderbirds supplement from the Television Mail in the background with Lady P on the cover.

The newspaper seller and television reporter are brand new puppets made especially for this episode. They only make brief appearances but its great to see the world populated by new characters. The fog of London whips up around them in a way that echoes the opening of Vault of Death. It may look a tad melodramatic in both cases, but it produces a moody atmosphere which looks great on camera and gives the puppet performances more integrity.

PDVD_042News has spread to Tracy Island, with Jeff spotting the headline in his own newspaper. It’s a nice little scene and I like the idea that sometimes Brains and Jeff need to get away from it all by taking their chairs down to the beach for a private moment.

PDVD_043Jeff doesn’t quite seem to have managed to get out of his pyjamas in this episode. This is in-keeping with a number of ocassions in the original series where he dresses just a little too casually for a man hurtling towards 60 years of age. Liz Comstock-Smith cannot receive enough credit for not only perfectly capturing the beautiful costumes of Penelope from the series, but also some of Jeff’s uglier outfits. She could have made all of the costumes look fashionable, but instead fully took on the brief of making new costumes that were actually true to the characters wearing them. As a result, she’s skillfully managed to make Jeff’s choice in clothing as tasteless as it was in the original. That was supposed to be a compliment to her great talent although I realise it may not have sounded that way. I honestly love every single costume in this mini-series.

Aside from the Tracy Lounge, the only other set from the original series that needed to be rebuilt with meticulous detail was the interior of Lady Penelope’s mansion. It’s another triumph for the set building team who even had to paint the detailing on the wallpaper by hand. The set is dressed with furniture, curtains and a lovely carpet which could have come straight off of the original. Penelope and Parker discuss the recent robberies in a scene drastically cut down from the mini-album.

PDVD_049They are being overheard by means of this great looking listening device which uses lots of kit parts and everyday items to create a classic looking piece of Thunderbirds technology.

From their helijet, the villainous Mr Charles and Dawkins are listening in. These new puppets were sculpted by Stephen Mansfield and combined with the voices of Peter Dyneley and Ray Barrett make for two fantastic characters with a lot of personality. It’s comforting to know that there are artists out there who can look at the original Thunderbirds puppets and know exactly the right way to craft new characters in the same style after so many years.

Penelope and Parker drive off to the Wickfens store, leaving the way clear for the robbers to strike at her home. Fortunately the discussion from the mini-album between Elaine Wickfens and her model Cynthia  has been cut here – anyone who has listened to it will know why that’s a good thing. The passage of time is marked by a simple clock wipe transition – I love classic editing techniques like this. They pop up every so often in the early Supermarionation series and they add to the almost comic book style and fast-paced action of the shows.

PDVD_060Mr Charles and Dawkins overfly the Creighton-Ward manor. This section of roof only appears once and yet has been beautifully made in a style that replicates what we see of the roof in Thunderbird 6.

PDVD_064Penelope’s servants are knocked out by gas capsules dropped down the chimney. Of course we never actually saw any such servants in the original series aside from Parker and Lil the cook. Nevertheless, much like the new areas of Tracy Island seen in Introducing Thunderbirds, the opportunity has been taken to briefly add something new to the canon of Thunderbirds.

The scene inside the Wickfens store is nicely decked out with a clothes rack full of other costumes seen in the Thunderbirds 1965 episodes.

PDVD_079Meanwhile Parker puts his feet up because apparently he doesn’t like “hanging around ladies’ shops.”

PDVD_080Charles and Dawkins have gained access to the house. The lighting in this shot, and indeed for the entire episode, is superb. Small amounts of light creeping in through windows create long, menacing shadows that make the atmosphere of the episode moody, mysterious, and a little bit scary, echoing episodes like Vault of Death and the climax of The Duchess AssignmentThunderbirds does night scenes in a very particular way which, once again, the Thunderbirds 1965 team have captured just right in this episode.

PDVD_083Penelope and Parker are alerted to the break-in at Creighton-Ward manor and rush back there. While on the road they pass one of the Superon tankers seen in the episode Path of Destruction. Another lovely detail that closely ties in these new episodes with the original series. It also continues the practice of utilising whichever models are available from the workshop to populate the world.

PDVD_091Penelope and Parker watch as Charles’ helijet flees the scene. Such a great looking shot. The helijet has been made to look really far away and cloaked in darkness. Foliage overhangs the road in an almost gothic manner when combined with the large iron gates.

From FAB 1, a listening device is fired and attaches to the helijet with a satisfying clamp, allowing Penelope and Parker to see and hear Mr Charles plotting with Dawkins. Even though more modern editing techniques have been used, the video screen effect has been made to look exactly the same as it did in the original series. Shock horror, Mr Charles is planning to steal the crown jewels!

PDVD_097And now, just to annoy and divide fans of the series, here’s a calendar. Nothing gets Thunderbirds fans more riled up than a calendar. I’ll remain impartial here and just say well done to the production team for coming to an agreement with each other on this one at least. I wonder if a vote had to be taken before shooting this.

Stock footage of Big Ben also used in Vault of Death sets the scene as Charles and Dawkins land outside the Tower of London, ready to steal the crown jewels. The trees blow around in the wind as the helijet touches down. Lovely to watch.

Mr Charles and Dawkins are shown walking into the Tower of London. They bob up and down in a slightly more exaggerated way than a lot of characters do. It’s a very charming moment because it gives them even more personality and actually uses their limitations as puppets to give the impression that they are bumbling crooks. They’re not supposed to be taken seriously so they’re allowed to move in a more exaggerated and puppety way. It’s certainly not the way a more serious character like Jeff or Scott would walk into a room.

In contrast to this, Penelope and Parker are shown walking in using live action inserts. As our heroes they need to be taken more seriously so are shown walking in a much more realistic way.

PDVD_115Dawkins encounters a Beefeater and proceeds to knock him out with gas, and look who it is! That’s right, Ned Cook has retired from his career as a news reporter and taken up a post guarding the Tower of London. Such good fun to see characters reused in this way!

Parker and Penelope soon catch Mr Charles and Dawkins stealing the crown jewels. The jewels look superb and have clearly been made with great care. They don’t look like little plastic toys but a scaled down version of the real thing. That’s also true of a lot of the props and miniatures in Thunderbirds.

They spot the bomb on the ground and the camera rushes in dramatically on Parker as the music strikes up definite cause for concern. At this point the episode diverts even further from the mini-album as Lady Penelope sends International Rescue an emergency signal.

The Tracys receive news that there is a bomb in the Tower of London. Having departed from the mini-album, the Thunderbirds 1965 team have patched together pieces of dialogue where possible from the television series. It’s pretty seamless, and particularly when dialogue from different episodes has been combined together, viewers wouldn’t really notice unless they were listening out for it. In any case, it’s a small price to pay in the name of putting the International Rescue team into an otherwise Thunderbirds-less episode.

Thunderbirds 1 and 2 blast off and head for England. Only the minimum amount of the launch sequence is shown here, maximising the speed and urgency of the situation and indicating that we’re heading for a great, fast-paced climax to the episode.

PDVD_135Meanwhile, Penelope apprehends Mr Charles and delivers a wonderful line of dialogue: “I don’t like using guns, the bangs give me a headache.” Somehow Sylvia Anderson delivers that line in such a way that it sounds incredibly threatening.

PDVD_139Penelope and Parker are knocked out by one of Dawkins’ gas capsules and the bomb is set to explode in 5 minutes. The race against time has begun. This bomb prop is another instance where the production team have managed to capture the way the prop makers in the 60s thought future technology would look. Hence why it is bright blue and covered in little grilles and flashing lights. For dramatic effect, each bulb represents another minute of time running out.

Virgil and Gordon arrive on the scene and launch Thunderbird 4, making use of footage from the episode The Man From MI.5. As with the shot of Alan and Brains boarding Thunderbird 3 in Introducing Thunderbirds, the production team have had the common sense to use the only existing shot of Thunderbird 4 launching at night. It may sound like an obvious thing to include, but if they didn’t instinctively know these episodes inside out, they probably wouldn’t know that such a shot existed.

PDVD_147Here’s a great new model shot of Thunderbird 4 arriving at the Tower of London via Traitors’ Gate. It’s a lovely model of the submarine which, like the other Thunderbird machines, went through a great variation of markings and colours in the series. The version seen here is an amalgamation of those varations to create an instantly recognisable version of Thunderbrid 4 which closely matches all of the stock footage. Like many other models, the Traitors’ Gate is only seen once, made especially for this sequence.

From Thunderbird 1, Scott manages to scan the area and track down the bomb. The graphics that appear on the scanning screen are very in-keeping with the type of thing seen in the series. They are often simplistic designs which clearly illustrate something to the viewer. This is particularly important in the case of this sequence because there is so little dialogue available for the characters to explain the situation. Nevertheless, director David Elliott and the team that adapted the script still effectively communicate the drama and the situation to the viewer with carefully chosen stock dialogue and great visuals. It’s interesting to think that in amongst a project created to put visuals to audio recordings, the challenge of this climactic sequence would have been to put audio to the visuals.

The floor plan of the Tower is transmitted to Gordon’s video watch, a quick nod to another classic aspect of Thunderbirds. It’s a piece of fantastical technology that now exists in the 21st Century.

Without hesitation, Gordon begins work on deactivating the bomb. Connecting wires solves a lot of problems in Thunderbirds. It repaired the EPU of the Fireflash in Operation Crash-Dive and the escape unit of Zero-X in Thunderbirds Are Go (1966). Echoing his moment of heroism in Operation Crash-Dive, the cables spark and flare as Gordon tries to shut off the bomb. He remains silent in concentration while Scott desperately requests an update over the radio. Great tension builds up as the bomb starts to smoke, ready to blow. The picture fades to black for a commerical break.

PDVD_184With the bomb deactivated, Penelope and Parker wake up and immediately set off to pursue Mr Charles in an exciting chase sequence which expertly uses Barry Gray’s music. Once again, back projection is utilised for the interior shots of FAB 1 as the roadside whizzes past.

PDVD_187They detonate the listening device still attached to the hull of the helijet and the craft heads for a crash-landing.

Down it comes and up she goes in a nice big fireball. I’ve talked before about models being filmed in a fairly simplistic way in Thunderbirds compared to the way vehicles and aircraft are shown on screen in modern cinema. The helijet flies down from the top right hand corner of the screen and explodes in the bottom left corner. In terms of movement it’s a very simple shot and no more complex than any of the other flying shots seen in the series. They’re easy shots and movements for children to imitate in play, and it’s a part of what gives the series a ‘toys come to life’ quality which producer Stephen La Rivière often says accounts for part of the success of Thunderbirds.

PDVD_202Of course, as a family show, Thunderbirds doesn’t usually show characters getting seriously injured or killed, despite the number of highly combustable machines in the world of the future. If you think too hard about it of course there are a lot of people who die but it isn’t shown explicitly. Mr Charles and Dawkins sit in the wrecked cockpit, Dawkins still amusingly operating the controls. It’s a great source for light Thunderbirds humour, something that always remains charming and simple in amongst the enormous drama and visual spectacle. These moments of comedy often have a lovely little fanfare from Barry Gray to go with them and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Without his monacle and covered in dirt, Mr Charles looks a bit like a petulant child being told off by Lady Penelope. We learn a little about family history as Charles’ motivations for committing the robberies are revealed. Penelope plays it cool as always.

PDVD_211Parker and Penelope go back to the Tower of London and return the crown jewels. We’re treated to one more addition to the story from the Thunderbirds 1965 team.

PDVD_215Parker fantasises about being decked out in the crown jewels in a wonderfully surreal moment. It echoes Phones’ rather bizarre fantasy in the Stingray episode Loch Ness Monster when he dreams of being a true highlander. This moment is one last bit of fun thrown in by the production team who you can tell had a lot of fun in amongst the hard work making these episodes. Parker’s snobbishness is allowed to shine through magnificently. After all, we’ve had Lord Parker… why not King Parker?

PDVD_218The episode wraps up the adventure with a lovely scene back in Penelope’s house as she reads about the incident from The Foxley Heath Times, her local newspaper. It says of Lady Penelope that “no gentler or more charming person ever graced the earth.” At the end of these three episodes which heavily focus on the character of Penelope, it seems more than appropriate to end in this way. Prior to the release of the episodes, Sylvia Anderson, the creator and voice of Lady Penelope, sadly passed away. Her achievements as the co-creator of Thunderbirds were endless, but Lady Penelope is the role she was most famous for and incredibly proud of. This is the final scene to feature Sylvia playing the role, and she could not have given a gentler or more charming performance.

PDVD_221The Stately Homes Robberies surpasses all expectations and expertly uses extracts of the original mini-album and dialogue from the series to create an action-packed, suspenseful episode of Thunderbirds. It takes a very abnormal and unusual story and elevates it to stand alongside many Penelope-led adventures from the television series. David Elliott and the team do a superb job of capturing the style of specific episodes, many of which were also directed by Elliott. My hope is that he enjoyed the experience of going back to Stirling Road to make Thunderbirds again, as well as Mary Turner and all the other former crew who visited the studio during production. If it weren’t for their hard work back in the 60s, Thunderbirds wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is today.

Some of the talented team behind the scenes on The Stately Homes Robberies.

This concludes my series of articles about the three Thunderbirds 1965 episodes. My thanks have to go out to the members of the Pod 4 Films team who have supported me in writing these in-depth posts. They have been working tirelessly on this project even before the Kickstarter campaign launched back in July 2015 and haven’t stopped for breath for almost an entire year. They have lived and breathed this project and it shows in the outstanding work they have done on the episodes themselves and the high standard of the reward items they produced for Kickstarter backers. Ultimately, a hugely ambitious dream for most Thunderbirds enthusiasts has been achieved through this project – three new episodes have been produced using the original voice artists and the original Supermarionation techniques. It’s a dream come true, and I sincerely hope that fans can appreciate just how lucky it is that this project has been completed to the incredible standard that it has. The people behind it have worked extremely hard and if you ever have the opportunity to thank them, please do.

Four words to sum up the achievements of the Thunderbirds 1965 project? Oh alright then…

“Thunderbirds Are DEFINITELY Go!”






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!

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.



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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!


Thunderbird 1 takes off just in time before…


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


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…


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!


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.



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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

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

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

    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 ( 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!