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from Cult Times #61

The Premise: It is the mid 21st Century, and in a spirit of optimism, mankind is pushing forward the frontiers of science and technology. Advanced aircraft, towering buildings, revolutionary railways are the modern marvels, but new technology brings risk and when lives of ordinary folk are endangered, a greater technology is required to save them. Onto the scene come the Thunderbirds, the fabulous machines of International Rescue, an unorthodox organization funded Jeff Tracy – billionaire and ex-astronaut. Operating from a remote Pacific island the Thunderbirds are piloted by his five sons, who also run the amazing array of rescue gear dreamt up by their resident genius, Brains.

Background: After the American success of Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray, creator Gerry Anderson expanded the half-hour children’s series format to a full hour for Thunderbirds when financier Lew Grade saw its cinematic production values. Two movies followed the hugely successful series.

First Run: 30th September 1965.

Number of Episodes: Amazingly, only 32 episodes were made of Thunderbirds. A series of 26 was produced from 1964-1965. A further six were commissioned in 1966 after Thunderbirds Are Go! using the more refined puppets manufactured for that feature film. A second film, Thunderbird Six, was produced in 1968 during production of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Agents and Astronauts: With the oriental Tin Tin the only woman on Tracy Island, any frustrations arising among Jeff’s five sons, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John were probably deflected by blasting off in huge rocket-powered aircraft. Brains, naturally, found science more sexy than sex. There was a hint of a romance between Alan Tracy and Tin Tin with presumably only her father Kyrano’s constant presence cooling Alan’s ardour…

Meanwhile, in England, high-society gossip stopped short of suggesting that the relationship between Lady Penelope Creighton Ward – IR’s London agent – and her ex-con butler/chauffeur, ‘Nosey’ Parker was not entirely professional.

Villains: Only one foe, the Hood – master of disguise and crack hypnotist – plagued the Tracy clan. He was in truth the half brother of Jeff’s valet, Kyrano, with whom the Hood had a psychic connection. After fruitlessly probing Kyrano’s mind and setting trap after trap for International Rescue so that he might learn their secrets, one wonders why the Hood didn’t just pop over to Tracy Island on the pretext of a family visit and have the guided tour.

And Isn’t That... Gerry’s ex-wife Sylvia Anderson was the voice and face of Lady Penelope.

Fashion Statements: Apart from the myriad explosive situations dealt with by IR, their uniform was something of a disaster. Powder blue flight suits with pastel sashes probably gave the Tracy boys an identity crisis.

  Thunderbirds are Go! Again

Trapped in the Sky
The riveting pilot episode about a stricken supersonic airliner. Very topical.

Vault of Death
The comedy partnership of Parker and Penelope break into the the Bank of England with a hairpin.

Attack of the Alligators
A growth serum leaked into swamp around a jungle laboratory turns the local crocs into monsters…

Path of Destruction
It’s deforestation gone mad with the unstoppable Crablogger.


Give or Take a Million, full of petty crooks and orphaned kiddies, is just sickly Christmas cheer.


On BBC2 during October 2000 – Times vary, see magazine for details.

Also available on DVD and video from Carlton Video
at Blackstar


Mike Fillis

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Photo © Anderson Productions

Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction.