One of the more timeless elements of Thunderbirds is International Rescue’s London agent Lady Penelope, one of the few female regulars on Thunderbirds. Voiced by co-creator Sylvia Anderson, her character now retains a greater sense of reverence due to Sylvia’s unfortunate passing on the 15th of March.
Now being hailed as “The First Lady of Sci-Fi”, Sylvia’s contributions to those classic Supermarionation shows, such as Stingray, Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, and of course Thunderbirds, ranged from the creation of the characters to writing each series’ pilot scripts with her then-husband Gerry.
In the male-dominated world of the 1960s, Sylvia rightly earned her title of “First Lady…”, and her death resulted in many not only paying her respects, but recognising that her achievements in the television industry went far further than being remembered as a voice artist. Nevertheless, it’s her most famous character that she’s most associated with, so let’s look at six of Lady Penelope’s greatest moments in Thunderbirds.
6. “Don’t move, Mr. Lucas.” (“Path of Destruction”)
One of the few episodes that fully utilizes Penelope’s role as a spy, “Path of Destruction” showed her darker side, forcing Jim Lucas, inventor of the forest-munching monster the Crablogger, to spell out the shut-down code for its reactor before the runaway machine can cause havoc in its path. It may be questionable why Penelope would feel the need to threaten Lucas at gunpoint, but it’s still entertaining to see her malevolent streak shine through.
5. That Dangerous Game (“The Cham-Cham”)
International Rescue’s rocket-powered explosions take a back-seat for this James Bond-esque spy adventure, in which Lady Penelope is sent to the Paradise Peaks hotel in the Alps to investigate the connection between several air transporters being shot down and a seemingly cryptic song played by the hotel’s in-house band. Whilst “The Cham-Cham” doesn’t quite have any individual moments as strong as those listed below for Penelope, the whole episode makes good use of her character, and remains one of Thunderbirds‘ more diverse episodes in its scope.
It’s also nice to see Penelope teaming up with Tin-Tin, Thunderbirds other female regular, to crack the case. The duo excel in tricking the various suspects in revealing key information, highlighted by Penelope’s smoky rendition of “Dangerous Game”.
4. “Down the hatch” (“The Perils of Penelope”)
Another Lady Penelope-focused adventure takes a different direction from the snowy, high-class escapades of “The Cham-Cham”. “The Perils of Penelope” send our heroine into antique death-traps, Murder on the Orient Express-styled midnight train mysteries and underground prisons.
“The Perils of Penelope” is stuffed with ingenious little moments of solid adventure, but it’s her poisoned drink, shot to pieces by Parker before it can touch her lips, that sets her off on what is arguably her darkest adventure.