How the hell can one sum up such as show as Thunderbirds? Well, you can’t, other than saying that it’s a show that pioneered children’s television, made models a legitimate form of entertainment in TV and film, and is loved by millions of people (young and old) all across the globe.
Thunderbirds told the adventures of International Rescue, a secret organisation set up to save those in peril who can’t be saved by conventional rescue means. Armed with the most incredible fleet of rescue vehicles ever shown on screen, it was all in a day’s work for the Tracy family to go round saving lives in any part of the world. And it was all done with models and puppets.
It’s set to get a CGI remake, to be broadcast in time for its 50th anniversary next year. But if this is the first you’ve heard of it, don’t tear your hair out in despair immediately. The cast has been announced, Peter Jackson (or at least his company, Weta Workshop) is handling the CGI, and for the most part, it looks as if it’s being produced by those who actually watched the series beforehand (unlike the 2004 film… curse you Jonathan Frakes, curse you).
So in the run-up to the new series, here’s a fan’s take on the top 5 rescues performed by the Tracy family.
5. Thunderbird 3 rescues the Sun Probe from flying into the sun, then Thunderbird 2 attempts to rescue Thunderbird 3 for the same reason
This is cheating somewhat, as its two rescues in one, but they flow into each other rather well. In “Sun Probe”, the titular rocket is on a mission to collect solar flares, but becomes stuck on a collision course with the sun.
Thunderbirds 2 and 3 are launched to handle the situation, but it’s Thunderbird 3 who saves the day, pulling Sun Probe off course via its radio beam. Sun Probe heads for home, and all seems well with the world, until Scott, Tin-Tin and Alan realize the same fate has befallen Thunderbird 3!
Their only hope is Virgil and Brains, armed with Thunderbird 2’s Transmitter Truck and a mobile computer, which together can be used to drag Thunderbird 3 away from the sun.
At least, that’s what Brains thinks he packed along with them, and on opening the box is understandably vexed when he discovers he’s packed his unfinished prototype robot, Braman, instead. With the crew of Thunderbird 3 dropping like flies from the heat of the sun, it’s up to Braman to save the day!
“Sun Probe” provides the first and best outing for Thunderbird 3, and also shows the lovely little Tin-Tin actually taking part in a rescue, instead of being stuck behind a typewriter or serving coffee.
4. Thunderbird 4 has to save two drowning men from a collapsed Empire State Building
Best known as the episode in which Thunderbird 2 gets shot down by the World Navy, the rescue in “Terror in New York City” relies heavily on the waiting for International Rescue to reach the danger zone. Without Thunderbird 2 as transport, Thunderbird 4 must race to save two television men trapped underneath the debris of a collapsed Empire State Building; all the while an underground river slowly opens its jaw wider and wider towards them.
The tension cranks up a notch when Thunderbird 4 struggles to locate the men, whose oxygen tanks are running out rapidly, while another building above threatens to collapse, all adding up to a rescue that truly encapsulates the whole race-against-time ethos of the programme. The near-final shot of Thunderbird 4 lurching backwards and being engulfed by rubble is particularly nail-biting.