Top-Ten Thunderbirds episodes

It’s a few months since the new reboot launched and the original series is due to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. This is why in celebration, I have decided, after listing my top ten episodes of Stingray, to list what I regard as my personal top ten episodes of Thunderbirds.

As some of you know from one of my previous blogs (25 Best UK Kid’s Programmes Ever To Be Broadcast), Thunderbirds has led a huge impact on me since childhood and is one such show I shall never erase from my memory. So I thought it would make sense that I’d contribute to the 50th Anniversary. So if we get through this list, we shall be go!

10. The Impostors

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This one pictures International Rescue in an extremely difficult situation. Two men disguise themselves as members of the organisation in order to steal top-secret files from a military organisation. Due to the ‘uniforms’, International Rescue get the blame and are forced to remain scarce until Lady Penelope tracks down the frauds, therefore clearing their names. But a spaceman who is attempting to repair his satellite finds himself trapped in space, which requires the help of the Thunderbirds.

The Impostors contains so much conflict that you kinda worry both for the organisation and those they are not allowed to save as a result of the scandal. But of course, they do have a hard think about keeping a low profile. Sure they do keep a low profile, because they’re a secret organisation. I mean, think of Batman and Spiderman and those guys out of the film Kingsmen: The Secret Service. They keep their identities a secret to avoid stuff like pressure, public scrutiny, to allow themselves to live a normal life under normal aliases and to prevent themselves from exposure to their enemies. In short, to avoid public gossip. But what I meant was, International Rescue’s primary purpose is to save people, which is what creates the drama and questions them; should they just let the spaceman die or should they risk exposing themselves to danger.

Another awesome thing about The Impostors is that we get to know a few more IR agents around the globe. While Lady Penelope and Parker are on the case, they team up with Jeremiah, an American hill-billy and Jeff’s old friend, and his mother. At one point, Jeremiah calls the base, which Alan picks up and passes the message onto Jeff, addressing Jeremiah as a ‘hill-billy’, which Jeff humorously explains their brief backstory. We also briefly get to know a bit more about International Rescue and their networks with the various agents worldwide.

Another highlight; Penelope and Parker trudging through the trenches. Hilarious moment, but you’d certainly feel for poor Penny. After all, she is a woman.

9. Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday

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An episode from the rather short second and final series. In this one, Penelope and Parker are on vacation in Monte Bianco, the first fully solar powered town. However, once they arrive, a storm erupts and lightning strikes the satellite, causing the dish to be-tumble and point directly towards the town. This may look harmless, but worse to come is that the dish acts like a huge magnifying glass, meaning that when the sun reflects on the dish by dawn, the heat will strike the town, thus killing the residents.

We all know Brains is a pure smart ass. He knows a lot of things in full detail. For instance, in Sun Probe when Jeff mentioned that a rocket was going into orbit in five minutes, Brains corrected him “four and one quarter minute to be precise Mr Tracy”. Hell, he even makes a solid estimation on the satellite dish’s weight (“It must weight a few tons”). Well sometimes, as a result, high intelligence leads to what you could call ‘know-it-all-ism’. First, he and Alan harshly debate who should go down to the dish for inspection. When Virgil sends Brains down to inspect the dish, he warns him not to take too many chances, to which Brains responds “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.” I remember when me and the family watched this episode and my mom thought “how rude!” The next moment, Brains is like “why didn’t I think of it before!”, as soon as Virgil informs that the hotel is smoking, so comes with the solution; Scott to use Thunderbird 1 to cover the sun’s relection, and right at the last minute! Ya know, a bit like having Professor Frink working for International Rescue, lol.

Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday is one of the most amusing episodes of Thunderbirds. If you don’t believe me, check out the scene where Parker has to ensure the hotel’s guests are kept occupied, by waking them so early in the morning for a bingo game. Strange I know, but we can’t really blame Parker for this bizarreness, because things do literally hot up in there! Oh and there’s a bit where Brains plays dead! Even fooling International Rescue! No more detail will be given away.

8. Trapped In The Sky

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Why do I always love the pilot episodes? Well, this one I think is an extraordinary opening to the show itself. We witness International Rescue’s first rescue mission and first session in operation.

For those who don’t know, this episode sees The Hood waiting for International Rescue to commence operation. Through voodoo interrogation with Kyrano, he finds out that the organisation is all loaded and ready, therefore providing him the chance to expose their secrets. In order to do that, The Hood plants a bomb in an aircraft known as Fireflash and warns the airport crew that the landing will trigger the bomb, thus luring International Rescue into a trap; a trap which involves secret exposure.

Trapped In The Sky demonstrates a mission which goes to show that one is likely to witness certain technical faults when attempting something for the first time. In this case, Virgil uses a set of elevator cars to ensure the Fireflash aircraft lands safely, but one of them goes berserk, forcing Virgil to order the pilots to remain in air for a few moments and bring a spare car. This occurs when the plane is due to face radiation explosion if they don’t land soon. Being that it’s the first episode, the Fireflash crew are unaware of IR’s existence, not even knowing that John the space monitor of Thunderbird 5 has listened in, and try contacting some other organisations for help, each of them failing. That’s before IR step in.

Another plus point; not only those residing at International Rescue’s headquarters i.e. Tracy Island, but all the other main characters are introduced; Lady Penelope, Parker and of course The Hood, and into one cleanly scripted episode as well, in which the plot points link so well together. The Hood drags the organisation into the mess, therefore attempting to expose the identity by photographing Thunderbird 1, triggering the photo alert, leading to Scott to call Penny for assistance, which she does in James Bond-style-ish. And I can’t conclude this position without discussing her badass quote; “We’re going for a little drive!”

7. The Perils Of Penelope

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This is one suspenseful, frantic and dramatic episode of Thunderbirds.

In this one, Lady Penelope joins Sir Jeremy Hodge, fellow member of International Rescue, to investigate the disappearance of Professor Borender, creator of a new rocket fuel made from sea water and Hodge’s personal friend, who was last seen travelling on a monorail train from Paris to Anderbad. During the case, they come across Dr. Godber, who wants to know about the fuel conversion formula, in order to boost his wealth. The pursuit leads to the Anderbad tunnel where they find Borender held hostage by Godber, and leading to a final and heart-pounding showdown in the Anderbad tunnel.

The title of the episode says it all. Sure, Lady Penelope occasionally takes on the role of James Bond, firing guns, owning a car filled with explosive gadgets, though mostly driven by Parker and she’s a resourceful character. But she is an occasional damsel in distress. The Perils Of Penelope demonstrates the best scene in which she acts as one. First, Penelope and Hodge are enjoying a drink, but luckily, Parker shoots the glasses, because the drink is drugged, thus saving them. Then he saves them from a locked room full of tear gas. Then as Penny and Hodge arrive at the tunnel, Godber ties Penny to a ladder in the path of the next train to arrive, giving Hodge and Borender a choice; give info of the chemical formula or Penelope dies. Geez how harsh can this jerk get? And I seem to wonder what he would do with his money. No doubt do what Mr. Burns does and purchase a whole company of snow ploughs to use for games of soccer.

The best thing about this episode is the finale. Soundtrack-wise, it starts off quiet with just the ambience of the mono-train in the background, with Virgil and Gordon struggling to figure out whereabouts in the tunnel Penelope is and Godber interrogating the men without receiving an answer. Then as Godber’s assistant informs him that two minutes till the train’s destination remains, music! Fast-paced, energetic, the sort of score to pound your heart and you’re like “c’mon Virgil/Gordon, quick before Penelope gets splattered!” As they do come across Penny, you’d think Penny would state “About time! Where the hell have you been?” To add to the tension, Hodge orders the train controller to stop the vehicle, but the dude is killed by Godber, who then shoots the control panel. As Borender puts it; “That means we can’t stop the train!” A few more breaths and it’s like “Oh my god, Penelope’s gonna die! Aaaargh!”, etc.

Have a look and see for yourself.

6. Atlantic Inferno

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Atlantic Inferno was a fantastic start to the second series of Thunderbirds, although alas, it was the last series and a very short one. But the episode made up for it.

This episode centres mainly on the organisation itself. It begins with Penelope about to set for her vacation on her Australian sheep farm. She invites Jeff to join her, considering he ain’t had a vacation for a while. At first, Jeff is reluctant in case any further operations are needed, but his sons agree with Penelope, so Jeff gives in. Scott takes charge as the mission controller, but his leadership skills are tested when an incident in the Atlantic Ocean involving a drilling rig and fire jets occurs.

We all know that Jeff Tracy is the guy in charge of International Rescue, so we can understand his scepticism and his worries on such public events, therefore lacking relaxation. When I first watched this episode, I knew Scott would be the obvious choice for second-in-command, a) because he’s the oldest brother and b) due to his turbo thinking. Being that he is temporarily in charge while his dad is away, we can really feel for this guy. At times, he’s stressed. He also debates whether the event is in need for a rescue operation. If his dad worries about people’s lives, surely he has the right to do the same, hence on the first rescue mission, despite Jeff reckoning that it ain’t too serious, Scott dispatches Virgil, Gordon and Alan to extinguish the fire jet in case anything else happens.

Of course, a second rescue is required when the pressure of the underwater-bed fire proves too much and creates more jets, putting Seascape’s lives in peril. Scott has been reprimanded by his dad for the dispatch despite the low risk of the human life, so decides against it at first. But the emergency gets more serious, so IR once again come to the rescue. Jeff also hears it and decides the organisation need his help.

One other thing I admire about this episode is Scott’s social calls to John, which is not like the contacts you see in every other episode, which are mainly focused on emergencies. Scott demonstrates an interest in how John’s getting on. Quite dramatic, and I sometimes feel sorry for John, considering he’s stuck in Thunderbird 5 by himself and with a limited social life. His responses to Scott are that “it’s a bit quiet up there”. Mind you, this episode was made years before Facebook was invented.

Another high point is how relaxed Penelope is compared to Jeff and her high trustworthy persona. During the final few moments of the second rescue mission, Jeff is about to land on Tracy Island, “Permission to land”, and Scott is like “Permission rejected. Still waiting for the other vehicles”, Jeff is surprised by that response, but Penny calmly reminds him that Scott is handling the situation well.

The message; give your children a chance to experience something.

5. Terror In New York

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Well I can’t talk about this episode without mentioning what happens to Thunderbird 2. Seriously, how many of you was traumatised when the navy attacked the iconic vehicle? Answer, I was one of them guys. And by the shot of Tin-Tin’s emotional face, my emotions raised.

But I’ll get to that later, what’s the story? International Rescue have just finished some rescue mission in New York City and are about to set off, only for Thunderbird 1 to briefly hold back and sort out local anchorman Ned Cook who is attempting to expose the organisation’s secrets for a big news report. On the way home, Thunderbird 2 is ambushed by the navy who mistake the vehicle for an alien spaceship, leaving Virgil injured and the vehicle out of action for some time. Worse to come, another rescue in New York is required when the Empire State Building collapses and traps Ned and his assistant Joe underground. Scott manages to get there in Thunderbird 1, but with Thunderbird 2 under major repairs, Thunderbird 4 will require travelling assistance.

Terror In New York is one of the most dramatic episodes of this series. I’ve already mentioned TB 2’s attack, Virgil surveying the damaged parts whilst steadying the vehicle and about to make an incredibly violent landing. And as his lands, various explosions, Virgil emotionally fearing he’ll crash. And I’ve mentioned Tin-Tin. It’s very traumatising to witness. It goes to show that it can sometimes be dangerous to keep a secret identity. We understand that the navy doesn’t realise at first that the vehicle belongs to International Rescue and thinks it’s a UFO, though I have to admit the chief is a bit of a paranoid red-neck. We as the viewers do feel thankful that Jeff informs the navy and the navy eventually ceases the attack. I guess it also makes sense that they help Gordon and TB 4 across the ocean to the danger zone, considering after all, they’re making amends.

Speaking of drama, to add to the topic, things do indeed get emotional when Gordon informs Scott on the time and distance he and the navy are travelling. Time is in fact running out and it makes us, the viewers, pray to god they’ll arrive on time to save Ned and Joe, before they drown. Sure, Ned is a big jerk, having attempted to exposed IR’s secrets and made rude confrontations with Scott. But he’s still a human, as Batman would certainly point out, and it’s IR’s job to save a human life after all. They would be too late to stop a suicide or a murder or a hit-and-run event, but if people are trapped somewhere which endangers their lives, that’s the signal for IR to operate.

Many people were traumatised when the Twin Towers fell during the 9/11 attacks. Some of those people may feel the same way about seeing the Empire State Building fall. I’d feel quite sad if it really happened. But keeping in mind that this episode was produced way before the 9/11 attacks and in this episode, the building does not get attacked by terrorists. It tumbles by accident, due to something that couldn’t be helped. It’s a sad sight to see a landmark building fall, but it pounds our hearts more when Ned and Joe end up trapped underneath and close to drowning. It does show that a human life comes first.

4. Desperate Intruder

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Desperate Intruder is probably The Hood’s most prominent role in the series.

What’s the story?; through what I regard as his most torturous magical interrogation with Kyrano, The Hood learns that International Rescue are taking part in an archaeological expedition at Lake Anasta in the Middle East, when in fact, only Brains and Tin-Tin are involved. He also learns there may be hidden treasure in the lake and wants the treasure for himself. As Brains and Tin-Tin meet up with Professor Blakely, The Hood arrives at the location and sees this as an opportunity to terrorise the threesome and lure IR into another trap, not just by revealing secrets, but through colder blood.

And would you believe what The Hood does to Brains? Yes folks, and I don’t think Gerry was referencing Rocky & Bullwinkle at that point, he buries Brains in the sand, some feet away from his caravan and the lake and nowhere near a shaded area. This is like the most painful thing The Hood has ever done in the series. This scene may look peculiar, but it is the most powerfully dramatic scene of the episode. Imagine if you was buried in the sand, far away from shade and water. Adding to the emotions, Brains looks like he’s increasing sun-stroke and is begging The Hood for a bit of water and The Hood is refusing, unless Brains tells him the location of the treasure. Geez, what a nasty guy! This is why The Hood is such a definitive villain. Speaking of torture, I’d say the first scene is the scariest of all the various interrogations The Hood makes to Kyrano, by the way The Hood is really forcing his questions and Kyrano is screaming the loudest he’s done.

I suppose I should talk about the second rescue IR must make. This is when Brains blames himself for causing trouble for IR after discovering that a trap was made for IR, so to make amends goes back to the underwater temple to track down The Hood, thus leading to an awesome and heart-pounding climax. He get’s trapped by rubble from the collapsed temple, Gordon goes down to save him in TB 4, but is distracted through an epic battle with The Hood, who tries to destroy him. Even the torpedoes The Hood fires sounds painful. This is without a doubt one of the greatest scenes in Thunderbirds history! There’s Gordon attempting to save a colleague who’s trapped and has very little time of oxygen left and The Hood distracts him, causing Gordon to fight back and cut valuable time. After the brief battle though, the awesomeness does not end yet. Scott joins Gordon by using a balloon-device to life the heavy stuff off Brains and what really gets us hyped up is when the rope holding the rubble comes close to snapping before Brains can be saved.

Heart-thumping and dramatic, you name it!

3. Ricochet

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Imagine being forced to rescue a celebrity who annoys you so much you want to strangle him/her. Because this is the episode where Alan experiences the ‘torture’. Plus, like on Terror In New York, Ricochet demonstrates another dangerous side of identity secrecy.

In this episode, a disc jockey, known as Rick O’Shea (get it, Rick O’Shea?), hosts a pirate radio station, called KLA, in a small two-manned satellite spaceship. Meanwhile International Space Control launches a rocket via computer, but due to a technical fault, it explodes in the station’s vicinity. As a result, the station is knocked out of orbit. Loman, the engineer susses out the damage, but finds that the explosion has broken the satellite, the inner door is too damaged to re-open and the men are on collision cause with the Earth. Meanwhile, International Rescue have problems of their own; Thunderbird 5 is out of reception and until John and Gordon can fix the panels, the organisation will have to rely on emergency calls through TV or radio, i.e. KLA. With luck, O’Shea raises the alarm through his station and Thunderbirds 2 & 3 take off, despite Alan’s reluctance.

Thunderbirds was produced during the time when pirate radio stations were so common. Ricochet debates the use of pirate stations, as Jeff points out. Of course, presenting a pirate station can easily put one in jail, and we can understand why Rick O’Shea presents his station in an isolated spaceship. And yet the Space Control knows nothing of KLA’s whereabouts, so we can assume their damage to KLA was an accident and they didn’t know they was nearby during the rocket’s explosion. Speaking of radio, I’m also very fond of how Brains discusses chart music and states how repetitive it is nowadays. Personally I tend to agree with him and see not much difference with today’s chart singles, but that’s a personal nitpick.

Another thing great about Ricochet is the conflict and how IR’s communication is limited due to Thunderbird 5’s damaged reception device. This means that Alan and Scott, who are on board TB 3 cannot update Virgil and Brains in TB 2 on the rescues and Virgil cannot contact the base when they hear O’Shea’s voice and spot the falling satellite, during the finale, which means he and Brains assume O’Shea’s still on board and must make their own decision before the ship falls onto the refinery. The way they handle the situation is awesome! They use TB 2 as a bumper car to tilt the ship off course, which is exciting, but also cringe-worthy, each time TB 2 scrapes itself against the ship.

Somehow, I think Gerry Anderson and Matt Groening have some things in common; one of them being that their fictional celebrities behave like jerks (hence Matt Groening’s characterisation of Krusty The Clown in The Simpsons). Rick O’Shea is without a doubt no exception. He moans about Loman’s breakfast cooking, he’s addicted to his shows and demonstrates little interest in science. Plus he even argues with Alan, refusing to leave the satellite, due to his fear of heights. For that, we can’t blame Alan for his frustration on him. He openly expresses his cynicism amongst O’Shea’s shows and thus feels punished when he discovers O’Shea and Loman need rescuing. This is an important theme to bear in mind through this episode, because the ending, without giving anything away will stick a smile on your face, but also question the rights and wrongs of International Rescue.

2. Brink Of Disaster

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I have yet to know whether Gerry Anderson demonstrated any political views, but Brink Of Disaster seems like the most political episode of Thunderbirds I have ever seen in my life. And I shall tell you why through a brief overview of the synopsis;

Warren Grafton is a businessman seeking an investment of $40 million (geez!) to extend the building of his cross-country monorail. He enquires Lady Penelope, who turns the offer down and offers the position to Jeff. Jeff, along with Brains and Tin-Tin, join Grafton aboard the train to observe the technology, but they are suspicious that Grafton is a trickster, who has the hots for money. Elsewhere, heli-jets are observing the track; one gets struck by lightening and crashes into the track. As a result, the track is on the verge of crumbling and the brake pipe snaps deactivating the automatic signals, thus putting Jeff, Brains, Tin-Tin and Grafton into danger.

What I was getting at when I discussed politics; Grafton is someone we can easily describe as a capitalist. At one point, Brains expresses his doubts in regards to the ‘too many loopholes’, with Jeff agreeing; “Grafton is more interested in money than people’s lives”. Jeff is of course interested in how the monorail works and whether the signals may go wrong, but Grafton does not provide enough information to convince him and claims that his company’s spent millions on safety devices. Er, is he sure? The next moment, the four discover they’re heading for trouble. Grafton is like “how do we stop this thing?” and as a lefty, I can relate to Jeff’s bemusement (“you should’ve thought about that before”). Message to all entrepreneurs ; if you start a business, ensure it’s 100% operational and not fully prone to risks and hazards. If Grafton was on Dragon’s Den, all the Dragons would declare themselves out without a doubt.

We can most certainly tell Grafton is a fat cat, and also a crook. Earlier in this episode, we see Grafton negotiating with his two criminal colleagues, Malloy and Selsden, who are assigned to burgle Penelope’s mansion. This is one of Penelope’s great scenes in the whole series. As we observe the thieves hijacking FAB1, Parker worries about shooting the car, leading to Penelope giving one of her greatest lines “for one thing you might not succeed, and for another there’s no need”. She’s resourceful, and smart and relaxed. It’s like she’s a female version of Tom Cruise and/or Pierce Brosnan. Earlier on, we see her getting rid of a couple of assassins through a car chase using her gadgets. This episode really defines her character!

Back to the monorail bit. Another great thing about Brink Of Disaster is the climax leading to the finale (I know, I know). We start to worry whether Jeff, Brains, Tin-Tin and Grafton will survive as they’re clinging onto each other, while Brains is attempting to apply the brakes. As it finally starts slowing down, the brakes become pretty violent and harshly vibrate the vehicle. I mean listen to them scrapes! Even the music marks a thrilling contribution! Of course after the stop, they end up dangling from the broken bit of rail. Do I need to mention how emotional Tin-Tin feels? To add to the thrills, following Scott’s instructions to leave the train and use the platform, it collapses before they can do so – a bit of exasperation added there, even Scott must be feeling it!

There’s a similar-ish episode of The Simpsons called Marge Vs. The Monorail, except that it’s of course a comedy and no international organisation is required to rescue the monorail’s passengers. Not to say that Thunderbirds steers too much away from comedy, but elements are more occasional. Both episodes do share the same politics against capitalism leading to death, if you get what I mean.

Brink Of Disaster is a thrilling edition which is well-worth watching!

1. Attack Of The Alligators

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And we are go! Now I know what you readers are thinking. A lot of Thunderbirds fans have expressed their positive impression that the production of Attack Of The Alligators involved real alligators (well, youth reptiles, but the team were trying to ensure that their sizes contrasted with the sizes of the puppets). This was like nine or ten years before Jaws came out and I’m sure we all know that the shark is in fact a robot. But we’re talking REAL animals on set. It’s no surprise that the RSPCA was involved in production.

Okay, what’s the story; Blackmer, a businessmen, and Dr. Orchard, a scientist residing in a remote house near Ambro River in South America, discuss business on a new food additive called Theremine, which is decide to enlarge the sizes of animals. Blackmer’s boatman, Culp, listens in and decides to leave with the drug to sell in in order to become rich (geez,what’s it with these jerks and wealth?). But due to his clumsiness, he spills the drug in the sink. As a result, it strikes the river, infecting the residing alligators. This leads to the alligators to wreck havoc. And this is why we understand how strict the RSPCA were about this; the Thunderbirds must fight off the reptiles in order to save the scientists in the house.

We all know International Rescue wouldn’t dare kill anybody and that anybody I’m sure includes animals, because they are after all living things as well as people and, as I keep saying, they save, not kill. While I observe this episode, I understand that the Thunderbirds are not trying to kill the alligators, but are making sure they don’t kill the humans. This episode logically thinks out of the box on this one; TB 1 to use its smoke, diverting the alligators away from the house, and TB 2 to use tranquilliser guns, manned by Gordon and Alan, to put them to sleep. One scene I’m particularly fond of is when the third alligator avoids the tranquilliser darts and heads to the house, Alan comes up with a solution to distract it with his hover-bike, despite Virgil and Gordon’s objections; “Alan, come back!”, (sighs) I love that line. Speaking of; the acting is so great. For instance, when John picks up the emergency call, he’s like “giant alligators?”, a second after that, Scott repeats that line, epic!

Back to the alligator-fight scene, after mentioning TB 1’s bit, the tranquilliser bit and Alan’s bit, I should also mention Culp. He gets in the way of things, limits the communication between Scott and Virgil. Virgil worries about the fact that Scott ain’t responding, but there’s a reason; Culp’s holding Scott at gun point. There’s so much conflict through the alligator crisis. Next thing, we see Culp dropping the vial containing the drug in the water, which means that Gordon, using TB 4, must retrieve it. Next thing, he and us lot freak out when we see a conscious alligator in the river and the music really helps! I should also point out the scene where he washes the drug down the sink, which does indeed cause an environmental problem, and for the animals as well. This is a really important scene to all viewers and especially asks those who throw their garbage in rivers, spill oil without cleaning it up and/or don’t bother to recycle to really think about their consequences.

Attack Of The Alligators is an episode which not only was very well produced, but also indicates incredible scripting, so much thinking about the box, scientific elements and brings forward environmental issues and viewers of any age can enjoy the epic fight between the Thunderbirds and the alligators.

So that was my personal top ten list of Thunderbirds episodes. One important thing to note; for those who ain’t familiar with the series, I would encourage you to try and get hold of the original extended episodes (the ones that run for 50 minutes each). I have also come across the Fox Kids version and the episodes are disastrously shortened to 30 minutes; the soundtrack is altered and some of the most important scenes are cut out, each episode is too rushed for us to appreciate the drama and thrills, even the voices are dubbed and you don’t want that. If you look at the extended episodes, they’re much less rushed, you can easily follow through them, the sound is so in sync and you won’t be like “wait a minute, what have I just scene?”. So go for the original longer episodes. That’s my advice.

Thank you for reading and before I end this post, here are some honourable mentions;

Cry Wolf

Pit Of Peril

The Duchess Assignment

The Man From MI5

Martian Invasion

A post based on my personal top ten episodes of Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons will arrive soon.

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Top-Ten Stingray episodes

Gerry Anderson may be gone, but there is no excuse why I can’t write this blog. For the next few blogs, I intend to state what I personally regard as my favourite episodes from certain of his programmes.

I will explore three of what are regarded as his most popular TV shows; Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons. I will start with the earliest one, Stingray. We’re about to launch my personal top-ten episodes of Stingray.

10. A Christmas To Remember (12)

Keeping in mind it ain’t Christmas yet. But out of every festive episode of a UK show I’ve ever seen, A Christmas To Remember is without a doubt one of the best. So what’s the story? Troy Tempest is helping this orphan named Barry, the son of a deceased WASP aquanaut. Meanwhile, Phones is kidnapped and, through blackmail, forced to betray the crew. The whole synopsis is depicted through the story Troy is telling Barry.

Yeah I know, cliched storytelling to kids and flashback-based episodes, which is common for Gerry Anderson programmes. But this episode does not contain clips from previous episodes, thank God. It’s a more original story-line. Not many British festive editions are great, but this one has plenty to do with Christmas. If you don’t believe me, check out the sequence where Marina and Atlanta are ice-skating. It’s one of the most beautiful moments Gerry has ever brought out to us. I may sound like a girly saying this, but it’s just beautiful. Yet do you have to be a girly to love this ep? There’s plenty of action, keeping in mind it’s a Stingray episode. Sub fighting of Aquaphibians, etc. Also there’s quite an amusing scene with Phones dressed as Santa Claus.

9. The Golden Sea (36)

In this episode, Titan overhears that a group of scientists are converting sea minerals to gold. Knowing that the goods belong to him, he attempts to sabotage their plans by using a radio controlled sword fish, which is programmed to ram into obstacles each time the beacon is inserted. This obviously leads to WASP to stop him.

A bit like terrorism, isn’t it. We can understand that Titan needs the sea minerals for survival. But the humans are unaware of that. They don’t even know of Titan or any of the Aquaphibians’ existences, hence why they go for the mineral/gold conversion. So in a way, there is a sense of innocence within them. Titan cannot tolerate this for the sake of their power source, so comes with his dastardly plan to kill the scientists.

What especially stands out about The Golden Sea is the finale where the Stingray crew are helping the scientists out and Troy discovers Titan who realises the crew’s involvement and so, in an extremely frantic move, rushes to de-plant the beacon from Stingray and position it in a place where the swordfish can’t strike at their submarine. It’s very fast-paced and heart-pounding and the music awesomely fits the atmosphere. We’re aware of Titan’s long-planned mission to destroy Stingray for ‘kidnapping’ his slave Marina and we’re meant to feel that because she was her slave, we often side with the Stingray crew. He’s the main villain, so what do you expect? And without giving the ending away, the heart-pounds turn to a few laughs, helped by Titan’s cursing to his… business partner.

Speaking of humour, the quirkiness is another strong point about the show in general. For instance, there is one scene in The Golden Sea which still makes me cackle; when Oink the seal plays about with the globe and vandalises it. Lolololololololol!

8. Plant Of Doom (34)

This is the episode where we get to know a bit about Marina’s relatives and how they communicate without the use of voice-boxes.

It’s ironic that Plant Of Doom was the thirty-forth episode to be broadcast, because this is an obvious follow-up to the pilot episode. It begins with Titan swearing vengeance on Marina’s ‘kidnap’, then with Marina wishing to see her family again. As WASP take Marina to visit her home, Titan’s hatches a plan to kill her relatives by delivering a venomous plant, thus to make her his slave again. However, Marina gives the plant to Atlanta as a gift, leading to the rest of the crew to question their friendship.

Gee, Titan would do anything to get Marina back to harsh labour, even if it means destroying lives, wouldn’t he? But I’ll explain a bit of that later. So we see Marina reunite with her family and I actually find her’s and her relatives’ form of communication quite unique, the way they nod their heads without speaking. It’s like they was all born without a voice-box. Of course then she starts thinking about the crew. Notice how the camera pans back from the family as the crew prepare to leave and how Marina and her father stare at each other. This demonstrates that although she loves her family, she does have a soft spot for the crew.

This brings me neatly onto the venomous plant. Neither are aware that the plant Titan sends is dynamite. We see Marina smiling and delivering it to Atlanta as a gift. Atlanta adores it and thus places it on her piano. This is when the protagonists notice how dangerous the plant is and yet, Troy wonders if Marina intended to kill Atlanta. We’re used to seeing Troy romanticising with both women and are aware of the jealously between them as a result. However, we’re proved wrong when Marina wonders how Atlanta passed out and so plays a rather bad tune on the piano and due to the flower’s fumes, she passes out herself. This goes to show that although the jealously between both women remains through the series, it doesn’t necessarily mean their enemies. Friends can get jealous of each other in reality, but would you really expect them to send each other death threats or attempt to incinerate one another? This is an extremely valid point Plant Of Doom attempts to make. Family values, communication, revenge, friendship, all these themes add up to this episode.

7. Raptures Of The Deep (9)

It’s many kids’ dream to be rich, isn’t it. I sometimes imagine it myself. Yet this episode demonstrates that theme. And it’s one that I sometimes wonder “shouldn’t this have been the last episode for broadcast?”, but we’ll get to that later.

During the usual sea exploration, Troy Tempest falls into a large hole in the ground. His oxygen tank is low, but for some strange reason discovers that he no longer needs it and is able to survive without it, even taking off his mask. Of course I personally find it impossible to keep my eyes wide open underwater, but then again, some people don’t. Anyway, he finds he’s able to breathe underwater and as he carries on with his exploration, he discovers some treasure and immediately becomes mega-rich. This leads to the foundation of his new kingdom.

As I said earlier on, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be rich. Of course, every kid seems to dream the same thing. The same is said about obtaining the ability to breathe in water. We’re of course aware that this is a hallucination Troy experiences when he worries about his oxygen running out. But these are among the reasons why I placed Raptures Of The Deep on this list. Hell, Troy also gets rather political when old Commander Shore orders him back to Marineville which Troy refuses, because he has started a new life.

My favourite part of Raptures Of The Deep though is when Troy states to Marina that he wishes she could speak and sings a rendition of that lovely closing theme Aqua Marina. Then Marina does speak (again another part of Troy’s fantasy dream). She doesn’t open her mouth. We just hear her voice. Kind of like a frog.

And yet, Troy’s new kingdom, the song and the fact that this is the only time Marina speaks are the reasons why I think this episode should’ve been broadcast last.But oh no, they had to broadcast some lousy clip-based episode last. With that said, Raptures Of The Deep is an awesome episode. One I would truly recommend.

6. The Ghost Ship (3)

Some people have a fear of ghosts. And The Ghost Ship may spook you a bit. I mean, check out the way the ship floats upwards slowly during the opening for starters.

What’s the story? Well, I’ve just explained the opening. The Stingray crew pick up the reports of an ancient and long abandoned galleon, so they investigate, and ironically are accompanied by Commander Shore. How interesting. Normally when he dispatches Troy and Phones, he would remain at his base and drive around on his… maglev chair. But there’s always the first time.

And this is one of the reasons why I rate this episode high. It’s probably the only time Shore has gone on a mission. Most dispatchers would sit around on their arses back at base. I mean Shore ain’t exactly M, is he. As we progress through the episode though, we learn that Shore has regrets when he and Phones board the ship and are sentenced to death. And what follows is the best part; Shore orders Troy to destroy the ship, which Troy rightly questions. Although Shore is insane for a traditional dispatcher to accompany his employees on a dangerous mission, the other codes and conventions do remain. Shore, like many bosses, does behave in a rather conservative manner, hence wanting Troy to destroy the ship, even if it means eliminating him and Phones. Geez! What a jerk. Troy on the other hand and like most heroes is the democratic one, who refuses to kill Phones and Shore, because he knows that if he does so, human rights are violated. Atlanta is against this too. She would be, because her dad is on board. So Troy disobeys Shore’s orders and boards the ship to rightfully rescue the crew.

And speaking of spookiness, have you checked out the ghost designs? The man who attempts to kill Phones and Shore is literally a ghost; grey and with an outer skeletal system. Ya know, for kids?

Aside from that, it does get political through the middle and Shore does appreciate Troy for his efforts.

5. The Big Gun (17)

UFO and Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons have been known to tackle terrorism. But I sometimes wonder if this episode does the same. I mean there’s mass destruction involved, yet it could be a metaphor.

What’s the story? A group of underwater aliens, known as Solarstars, use some kind of vessel mounted with a gun powerful enough to destroy an island. The lead attacker is Mauritimus. After destroying an island of San May, he is given instructions for his next target; the West Coast of the United States. Yes folks, that includes Marineville. Stingray is a target. And it’s up to the crew to stop the Solarstars.

And this is why I was debating myself whether the Solarstars count as terrorists. I mean they ain’t exactly like, “give us the money/dignity/good/whatever or we’ll blow up your city”. In fact, they seem relaxed and patient for this sort of act. Each time they set themselves to blow up an island, they begin a calm countdown and then BOOM! However, they still pose as a threat to the world and are symbols of mass destruction, hence the destruction of the islands and the reports WASP receive, being that they’re an international organisation. What they don’t know, because the Solarstars don’t go round telling people about it, is that their country is set for destruction.

And here’s what I especially love about this episode; the climax, leading to the finale. Stingray tracks down the Solarstars’ vessel. Mauritimus notices them and drives the festival back to base in order to lure Stingray into a trap. And some trap. With Maritimus’ ‘help’, Stingray also tracks down the enemy base, which produces so much heat that all the crew on-board Stingray, except Marina, pass out. Geez. Of course, Marina is an Amphibious woman and the heat doesn’t affect her one bit. And this episode demonstrates one thing I love about Marina; even with no voice, she is so damn competent. And without giving anything away, even Troy and Phones know she comes in so useful.

4. Secret Of The Giant Oyster (28)

This is the episode where the crew attempt to recover a beautiful pearl from the seabed. Secret Of The Giant Oyster contains such beautiful visuals. The scene where Troy, Phones and Marina find the large stone in the oyster. That’s awesome. This was made sometime before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made the Indiana Jones films. Whilst at it, they come across two guys who work with them and later turn out to be criminals. But one of the best moments is when them brown dots, which I have no idea what they’re called, hover over Stingray and clamp themselves to the sub, making it extremely difficult for the crew to operate it.

And I have to admit, this episode really defines Marina’s character. Those who have seen Wallace & Gromit will probably understand what I’m on about. I know I keep pointing out that Marina can’t talk. When Stingray gets the glue, Troy and Phones are near the surface at that point. Marina dives down without letting Troy know and because of her lack of voice which Troy obviously knows about, he still gets a tad paranoid and is like “Marina? Where’s Marina?”. Then after Marina notices the condition Stingray is in, she returns to the surface and Troy is like “Where have you been Marina?” and all Marina can do is point downwards and all Troy can soon suggest is that he and Phones follow her, so she can show them. Marina is resourceful, but also voiceless, which Troy and Phones both understand, but she easily gets people worried without giving notice. Though after all, we can’t really blame her. With that said, this is what I call smart script writing.

The ending is also another highlight. And without giving anything away, Marina worries Troy once more and pays a final visit to the oyster and the rest, oh I can just about visualise the beauty of it.

3. Stingray (1)

I of course am referring to the self-titled pilot episode which marked the beginning of the whole series. This is the episode that introduces the WASP crew, the signature submarine, Marina and of course Titan.

In short, Stingray is the back-story to the series. We’re not introduced to WASP or the signature sub straight away. Instead, we see a ship which is attacked by a strange organisation, which we later believe to be Titan and his fellow Aquaphibians. WASP are notified and so Troy and Phones set out in Stingray to investigate, but they too are attacked. This is where Troy meets Marina. He wonders why she ain’t speaking and gets a little paranoid. Then in steps the mighty Titan. who introduces Marina as his slave and of course himself and states that Troy is in fact in an underwater city, that is Titanica. And this is what puts us in a suspenseful position. He sentences Troy to imprisonment. And this is where we’re praying to God that Titan ain’t going to execute Troy. Not bad for a pilot, eh.

Meanwhile, Commander Shore wonders what the hell happened to the crew and arranges a sea strike against the area where Stingray was last relocated. Geez, what a conservative maniac! Luckily that doesn’t happen, but another awesome plot point is when Marina unties Troy and Phones and sets off with them. This goes to show the negatives of slavery and Marina therefore achieves her freedom and dignity, thus beginning Titan’s recurring aim to get her back.

Stingray is without a doubt one of the greatest pilot episodes to any TV show of all time. It’s like watching a short version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or an underwater version of Star Trek. It does get political half-way through and suspenseful and the scripting is badass. Definitely another one to check out.

2. Pink Ice (26)

We’re all familiar with global warming, right? But could it be possible that in the future, there could be a similar disaster, only the slight opposite, known as global freezing? By that, I mean freezing entire oceans. And in this episode, it happens to be via a strange chemical liquid, hence Pink Ice.

Only the disaster happens not to be a natural one. It is actually deliberately caused by an unidentified vessel. And the slush expands, hardening so much that even Stingray becomes trapped, even attempting to use its missiles to clear its way.

Pink Ice is one such environmental episode. I, myself, demonstrate my concerns for the world’s environment; how much oil is polluting the water, global warming, the fact that people ignorantly trash public areas and don’t bother to dispose of their garbage in the cans around them. With that said, I do wonder what environment/danger-related disasters could occur next. And this is why I thought about global freezing. The pink slush that the unknown vessel produces clearly  contains cold chemicals. Sometimes, very high temperatures can kill people, but surely that’s the same with ridiculously low temperatures. Those who have seen Frozen (I’m sure most people have) may be aware that we all do need a bit of warmth as well. And those who know a lot about sea life in general probably know that certain sea creatures would certainly need an opening for them to breathe out of the water, i.e. dolphins. There are a number of reasons why something like producing such thick ice and covering the whole surface poses a threat to the world and good job Stingray investigates in this episode.

It is also very atmospheric. If you don’t believe me, take a good listen to the beautiful music played when we first see that vessel produce the ice!

1. The Master Plan (35)

I have yet to find out whether anybody else agrees with me on the topic of citing The Mater Plan as the number one episode. There have been certain moments in Family Guy which have sparked tears and scenes in EastEnders which are upsetting. Exactly, this is one of the main reasons why I ranked this episode number one. The Master Plan really shattered me when I was a kid and it still does. This is one of the most dramatic and emotional episodes I’ve ever seen in my life.

In this episode, Troy gets poisoned by the Aquaphibians and the doctor struggles to find a way to cure him, which I have to say gets me real hyped up, leading to both Atlanta and Marina crying over the body. Of course, he doesn’t die (spoiler), but it really does hype up the crew, and the viewers. We then discover that it’s an antidote sent by Titan who is blackmailing WASP to give Marina back to him. Marina does go back, in an attempt to save Troy’s life. This of course lures the crew into another trap.

Seriously, imagine if somebody you truly love gets poisoned as a form of blackmail and yet you don’t know whether that person’s going to survive. Not nice, is it. And Titan most certainly ain’t a very nice guy. This is why I personally rank him as one of the greatest TV villains of all time. The Master Plan really defines his character! His plots are so evil that you’re glad you ain’t living in the same nation as him. Yet, this is without a doubt, the most evil thing he has done in the entire series; victimising the protagonist. And with Troy in a coma, you really feel this could be the end of an era for the series. Well the beginning of the end for Troy. And seeing Atlanta sobbing over the body is an incredibly powerful scene. Even I burst into tears thinking about it.

For an episode of Stingray, or for a show in general, The Master Plan is a masterpiece! Kids, before your parents drug you with CBeebies nonsense, check this episode out. And the nine others as well.

So that was my personal ranking of what I consider the ten best episodes of Stingray. Which episodes do you think should’ve been included. Feel free to comment. Here are some honourable mentions;

Subterranean Sea (4)

Titan Goes Pop (10)

Deep Heat (19)

Loch Ness Monster (5)

Set Sail For Adventure (6)

The Disappearing Ships (27)

The next blog will be based on what I regard as the top ten episodes of Thunderbirds.