With the schedule incredibly tight and the budget limited, the decision was taken to make the final episode of Thunderbirds’ first series a clip show recycling footage from four previous episodes. As a result, Security Hazard often gets a bad rap for rounding of series one with a fairly uneventful story. I won’t be able to blow your mind and convince you that Security Hazard is the best episode ever, but as clip shows go it’s a good bit of fun and has enough extra goodies in it that you should definitely still include this story in your Thunderbirds marathon regardless.
By this point in the production of Thunderbirds, in the final months of 1965, the team were on a roll. They were racing towards the finish line on the first 26 episode commission from Lew Grade. The series had been on air for several weeks now and the public were loving every minute of it. The pressure was on to keep the format fresh and the focus of the series was definitely changing based on the demands of the public, and the wishes of the producers. Those changes would become more evident in the next series but they’re certainly starting to creep at this point too. The Cham-Cham continues the trend of pushing the talents of the puppet department to the limit. The nature of the story makes it very clear that the puppet stars were basically expected to behave like human beings now. The Andersons and their team were truly attempting to compete with the likes of James Bond and the ITC live action adventure series with a movement towards more mature storytelling, lavish locations, and character-driven adventures.
Picture the meeting that would have taken place at the AP Films studio before this episode went into production, or possibly before it was even written. Alan Pattillo wants to write a story about International Rescue fighting giant alligators. The team decide they’re going to go for it. One can only assume that from a very early stage it was the intention to use real animals on the set. The stories of the production team working with these beasts are legendary. But of course, the alligators are only a part of what makes this episode stand out as an incredible piece of film making, so let’s explore Attack of the Alligators! in as much depth as possible to appreciate the hard work of the AP Films crew.
If I was to tell you there was a Thunderbirds episode all about an old woman with a gambling addiction who decides to rent out a portrait to a New York businessman, and ends up being kidnapped and trapped under a burning building – you probably wouldn’t believe me. If I was to then tell you that in my opinion, it’s one of the best episodes of the entire series you would probably never listen to anything I said ever again. Well you can do that if you like, because The Duchess Assignment is a real episode of Thunderbirds and it is certainly up there as one of my favourites. In my opinion there is just so much that The Duchess Assignment does right to pull off this unconventional story. It has the right amount of comedy, a great rescue, and just about every aspect of the production is extremely well done.
There is much that is unsaid or downright odd about Danger At Ocean Deep. Firstly, it has nothing to do with the Cliff Richard song, Ocean Deep, from 1983. That much is clear. Secondly, nothing actually takes place deep in the ocean as the title suggests. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, most of the plot is held together by the thinnest of threads that don’t make any sense. The thing is though, the story carries on with such conviction that you may struggle to notice what it is about the episode that doesn’t make any sense. My mind was somewhat blown when I sat down to watch this one again and I realised that I had been fooled for all these years into thinking this was a pretty solid episode with some interesting features. Maybe it still is, so let’s dive in…
On the surface, Cry Wolf doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s fundamentally a lighter story about teaching a couple of children a lesson which ends up going a bit wrong. There’s not much impressive machinery or seriously large scale disasters going on. The premise is a little more warm and fluffy in comparison to other episodes, at least to start with anyway. But is there more to this episode than just being ‘that one with the kids’?
The Man From MI.5 attempts to break the usual Thunderbirds mold by providing us with a story of spies and subterfuge rather than flat out rescuing. Comparing this episode to a James Bond movie is nothing new, but while there are obvious links in the form of the Bondson character, he’s very much pushed off to the side and Penelope is at the centre of this story. This week, she’s the bold, cool, and slightly eccentric version of the character that we all prefer to remember rather than the whiny and a bit useless Penelope we saw last week. So is this her greatest adventure yet?
The fundamental premise of The Impostors is a work of sheer original brilliance. It takes the world of Thunderbirds and turns it upside down in a way that remains true to the original formula of the show. The episode is packed full of action, intrigue, and memorable guest characters to tell the story of International Rescue’s fall from grace as their global reputation is called into question. The Impostors turns away from the optimistic and heroic attitude of the series which simply marvels at incredible engineering and bravery, instead showing us the skeptics and the criminals who try to turn any situation to their advantage.
30 Minutes After Noon is quite an oddity. It distinctly features two very different rescue missions, an awful lot of live action hand inserts and unusual camera angles, and some robots which… well we’ll come to those later. It couldn’t be clearer that this script originally started life as a half hour story but needed to be extended before production started. Yet despite being linked by the bracelet plot, the two halves of the episode feel like two completely separate stories that have been glued together afterwards. David Elliott directs the episode (or at least the second half of it) with flare and quirkiness, inspired as he was by the film The Ipcress File.
‘Tis the season to put on your favourite festive Gerry Anderson shows! Our gift to you this year is a Christmas quiz to sink your teeth into with a hot mince pie and a glass of whatever takes your fancy. Good luck and let us know how you did. There’s some tricky ones in there!