Stingray – Tales From Marineville

Stingray’s magnificent run of original episodes may have ended with Aquanaut of the Year, but that doesn’t mean I get to retire. Not yet anyway. I reckon I’ve got just one more article in me about this show before I collapse in a haze of fishy, submarine-based hallucinations. You see, there are these miscellaneous bits and pieces that came off the back of Stingray and they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have a long and complicated history, while others are relatively straightforward pieces of spin-off merchandise. But for some of you they might just be integral to the way you experienced Stingray for the first time, and who am I to dismiss my readers’ nostalgia? Plus, the good folks at Network were good enough to include this material on their blu-ray release of the series, so I might as well get my money’s worth – since they ain’t paying me squat to talk about how wonderful their HD restoration of the series is.

Stingray – 39. Aquanaut of the Year

We’re going to do things a little differently for this week’s review. Unless you’ve been living on another planet that never transmitted Stingray (also known as hell), you’ll know that Aquanaut of the Year is a clip show, comprised of classic moments from earlier episodes from the series. There’s only a few minutes of new material for us to dissect. Ordinarily, I’d take the opportunity to put my feet up and enjoy only having to write a short review this week. Heck, you’d probably appreciate that too. Imagine a blissful week not having to endure my load of old waffle… well, tough because that’s not what you’re getting. Aquanaut of the Year is Stingray’s final episode so it felt remiss of me to just end this 39-week odyssey of articles with a dramatically shorter piece than usual. Instead, once we’ve taken a look at Aquanaut of the Year in the usual manner, we’re going to hold our own award ceremony. Since the episode is all about prizes and trophies, I have a few of my own to hand out as a way of celebrating the series as a whole. Then, at the very end of the article, I’ll be revealing something special that I have in store to round off our Stingray adventures on the Security Hazard blog. So dress up, prepare your acceptance speeches, and get ready to party like it’s 1965!

Stingray – 38. The Lighthouse Dwellers

I have a casual fondness for lighthouses. Not in a, “I can name all the components of the whatchamacallit 7800 Fresnel lens” sort of a way, or even in a “I can probably name a few lighthouses” sort of a way. I just think they’re pretty neat. I enjoy the romanticised version of lighthouse-keeping, where a lone group of vaguely Victorian-type people are stuck out at sea on a stormy night, living and working in cosy conditions to guide ships home with their beacon of hope. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m not actually sure what any of that has to do with The Lighthouse Dwellers and my opinion of it because, to be honest, I don’t think I’m particularly swayed one way or the other when it comes to initial opinions of this episode. As one of the last “new” episodes I ever saw, I don’t have particularly strong childhood nostalgia for it or anything like that. Right now, I would say my level of enthusiasm for The Lighthouse Dwellers is about the same as my enthusiasm for lighthouses in general – I’ll take a good long look at it if I come across it, but I won’t go out of my way to seek it out. So there’s a fairly banal observation for you. Not all my introductions to these reviews can be gold I’m afraid.

Stingray – 37. A Christmas To Remember

Compliments of the season to you! Yes, the season is mid-February at the time of writing but c’mon, you need to get better at accepting compliments. Now what could be more festive than a Stingray Christmas special?! I love Christmas telly and more specifically, sci-fi Christmas telly. I get an extraordinary amount of pleasure thinking about the poor writers slaving away to try and find an excuse to whack a Christmas tree in the middle of the super serious futuristic life and death business. Some downright strange things start to happen to our most-respected characters around the festive season. Need I remind you of Jeff Tracy insisting that a young boy call him Santa when the man was clearly intensely hungover from the night before? Festive specials can come off as lazy, tacky, and ill-fitting attempts to rely on the tropes of the season to fill the required time slot in a manner vaguely satisfying to the turkey-gorged viewership. But there are other production teams which see it as an opportunity to really push the boat out by celebrating and producing a spectacle of magic and excitement, successfully combining familiar elements of the show with some Christmassy goodness in an original way which remains faithful to the series’ format. Could A Christmas To Remember be one of those fortunate examples? Probably… otherwise what has this lengthy introduction been building up to?

Stingray – 36. Eastern Eclipse

Eastern Eclipse serves as a sequel to Star of the East, which was the first episode to feature the tyrannical El Hudat. Most Supermarionation stories are standalone installments and it’s unusual for them to draw upon a previous episode for inspiration. So what was so special about Star of the East that it was deemed worthy of a follow-up? Well, since that particular episode was absolutely dominated by one character, I think the answer is pretty obvious – El Hudat. And how better to celebrate such a standout character than to introduce his identical twin brother who looks and sounds and behaves exactly like him? What could be more entertaining than one El Hudat? Two El Hudats. This idea happens to come with the added bonus for the production team that no new guest characters were required and the back story for the writer, Alan Fennell, was already in place. What could be better than a script which was destined to be a hit from its very conception and wouldn’t require too many new ideas?

Stingray – 35. Trapped In The Depths

Did anybody else have a VHS tape from Polygram video which combined this episode with the Captain Scarlet episode, Place of Angels? I couldn’t tell you why those two particular installments were put together for a release because they don’t exactly have a lot in common. Presumably it was an experiment to see if random combinations of Anderson shows could be sold on one tape to serve as tasters, and cross-sell the rest of the series. Not a bad idea, at a time when folks had to invest quite a lot of time and money into collecting VHS tapes of a full series. Of course, I was never thinking about Polygram’s business choices when I was a child collecting second-hand VHS tapes from car boot sales on a sunny Saturday morning in a Kentish field. I just saw a stall with a VHS tape containing an episode of Stingray I hadn’t seen before with an episode of Captain Scarlet I hadn’t seen before, and handed over my pocket money. Simpler times. Anyway, none of that has anything to do with this review of the episode, I just thought I’d share that experience for anybody else who, like me, is fresh out of their quarter-life crisis and already planning their full-blown mid-life crisis. I wonder if I can get a cheap VCR from somewhere…

Stingray – 34. A Nut For Marineville

A Nut For Marineville is another one of those cases where, on paper at least, we should be set up for a solid gold episode: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson themselves have made an unprecedented return to scripting the show themselves for the first time since the pilot episode; the story is a race against time to defend Marineville from the most formiddable threat it’s ever faced; and a new guest star in the vein of fabulous boffin characters such as Supercar’s Doctor Beaker, or Professor Mattic from Fireball XL5. A return to the ingredients which launched Stingray and Supermarionation’s overarching pedigree for action and memorable characters… surely? Or, despite supervising the scripts for the entire series, have the show’s creators gotten a little rusty on the basics of putting a story like this together?

Stingray – 33. The Cool Cave Man

Directed by Alan Pattillo Teleplay by Alan Fennell First UK Broadcast – 31st January 1965 The Cool Cave Man – not The Cool Caveman or The Cool Cave Men or The Cool Cavemen but The Cool Cave Man. And certainly not The Fancy Dress Party which was the title on the original script for thisContinue reading “Stingray – 33. The Cool Cave Man”

Stingray – 32. Rescue From The Skies

Troy Tempest thunders down the snowy Alps at 80 mph. At the bottom of the mountain, his beloved super-submarine, Stingray, has inadvertantly caused a major disaster in the middle of an icy lake. The collision with a tourist yacht full of executives from the Swiss flooring industry had come as a result of Phones enjoying a particularly indulgent liquid lunch. Marina had put out a distress call over the radio through a combination of frantic tapping and holding the microphone out the window to pick up the cries of drowning middle managers clutching the latest in luxury vinyl plank technology which wasn’t as waterproof as they had claimed. Troy was approaching the scene fast, navigating the difficult slalom using all his rusty but surprisingly useful WASP winter sports training. But there was one challenge left for Captain Tempest – the unthinkable 200 metre jump from a 30 degree ramp which would launch him clear of the mountain, over the water, and towards his stricken crew… hang on a minute…

Stingray – 31. Tune of Danger

A jazz band and a forest fire… I think it’s fair to say those are not your typical ingredients for a Stingray story. Yet, here we are. There’s a real sense that, at this point in the series’ production, anything is possible. The writers have such a strong grasp on the characters, and the directors and producers are running such a well-oiled machine that no challenge seems beyond the AP Films team. Why not have some fun and push the boat (or submarine) out? We had our pop parody a couple of weeks back with Titan Goes Pop, it’s time to counter that with some jazz. Of course a show about a super submarine needs TWO musical episodes! And, as commented upon in last week’s review, while the flames were hotting up on Tune of Danger’s shooting stage, David Elliott was next door chucking water around to create the epic storm scenes of Set Sail For Adventure. This is going to sound unbearably corny, but never has it been more true to say… anything can happen in the next half hour. There, I’ve said it. If I say it again I give you my full permission to ram a sting missile up my ocean door.