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.

Stingray – 30. Set Sail For Adventure

“I’ve just been looking at the accounts,” Gerry announced with a sullen look on his face. A mood of gloom and apprehension struck the writers room. “Bob Bell spent far too much money on that galleon set for The Ghost Ship a few months back.” Alan Fennell avoided eye contact with Mr Anderson, feeling ever so slightly guilty for writing such an extravagant set into his script for only a single installment. “So, who has ideas for a cheap script for the next episode to make up the difference?”

Stingray – 29. Titan Goes Pop

We begin with a mystery! An original script for Titan Goes Pop is known to survive and it credits Dennis Spooner as the episode’s author, contradicting the on-screen credit which suggests Alan Fennell was the writer. It’s not unheard of for the on-screen credits on Anderson shows to be inaccurate, but I suppose it’s also plausible that Spooner’s name was printed on the script in error. My gut feeling is that this is a Dennis Spooner tale, as it’s laced with his trademark satire and humour. But this mistake in the on-screen credits begs the question – were there other Stingray scripts erroneously credited to the wrong writer? Come to that, I’m almost certain that there were scripts for which the primary authorship is unclear – I can sense the hands of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in their capacity as script supervisors getting stuck in to some episodes more than others. Of course, this is all speculation because there aren’t many Stingray scripts that are known to still exist… unless someone awfully naughty out there has all that documentation stacked in the back of their wardrobe along with the mythical three hour director’s cut of Trapped In the Sky… you didn’t hear that from me…

Stingray – 28. In Search of the Tajmanon

I wouldn’t call myself a particularly scholarly author. I’m more suited to sniggering when a puppet goes cross-eyed or pointing out when a prop gets reused for the eight-billionth time. But, this week, in addition to my usual nonsense, I am going to put some modest effort into contextualising the decolonisation of Africa and its impacts on popular culture in the 1960s, because I think In Search of the Tajmanon provides some fascinating insights on the subject. I’m not an expert, but it goes without saying that the world was watching when 17 African nations gained their independence from European power in the year 1960, with many others following suit across the decade. The news in the mid-20th Century would have been chock full of Africa’s progress towards liberation from imperialist power. So, it’s not surpsing that western media reacted in a couple of different ways. They might have romanticised or gently glossed over imperialism (1951’s The African Queen, for example), or go the other way and start to celebrate African culture and heritage which was coming to prominence for the first time. It’s also worth noting that the epic British war film, Zulu, premiered in January 1964, depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and the Zulus in 1879. Around the same time, in early 1964, In Search of the Tajmanon was set to go before the cameras at the AP Films studio in Slough.

Stingray – 27. Deep Heat

Location, location, location – that’s the golden rule of real estate isn’t it? So who the heck thought it was a good idea to build a city underneath a volcano? Deep Heat is a real back-to-basics kind of Stingray episode. It’s got subterranean aliens. It’s got an unusual location. It’s got Troy, Phones, and Marina facing grave danger while Commander Shore and Atlanta sit at home and worry about them. Everything you might expect from a classic Stingray episode. So without any delay, lets get comfortable, tune in and bring on that lava!

Stingray – 26. Invisible Enemy

For a series often praised for its warmth and humour, Stingray also does spooky and unsettling very well. Stories like The Ghost Ship and The Ghost of the Sea aren’t afraid to ditch the cosy and colourful family atmosphere for a short while and take on a more mysterious and eerie feeling. Invisible Enemy cranks that all up to eleven and isn’t afraid to alienate the audience with an entirely new type of threat. The villain this week isn’t another shiny-faced green bloke from under the sea – but an ordinary man badly in need of a shave and a new watch. Yet he proves to be quite a match for the gang at Marineville…