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.