Thunderbirds – 30. Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday

Directed by Brian Burgess

Teleplay by Tony Barwick

First Broadcast – 23rd October 1966

Two new names are brought to the credits of this episode, with a script written by Tony Barwick, and direction from Brian Burgess. Neither of them were new to the world of Thunderbirds. Barwick was hired during the first series to write additional material for the episodes originally created as half hour stories. He continued to work with Gerry Anderson on a number of projects until his death in 1993. Barwick had essentially taken over script editing duties from Alan Pattillo who had turned away from his full time role at the studio by this point. This episode appears to have been Brian Burgess’ first job as a director. He is also credited as production coordinator on Thunderbirds Are Go, and went on to direct five episodes of Captain Scarlet as well as working as visual effects production manager on the series. Burgess then worked as production manager on the live action Anderson feature film, Doppelgänger. Burgess was presumably filling in the gap left by David Elliott and Alan Pattillo after their departures as directors for the series. Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday, and the following Barwick/Burgess episode, Ricochet, perhaps give us a taste of what the series would have been like had it continued past Give Or Take A Million, with new talent rising up through the ranks of the studio to provide their interpretation of the format.

Hard to determine exactly what the danger is in this week’s episode. I’m sure all that will become clear later… or not…

The episode opens with music first heard in the Supercar episode, Amazonian Adventure as the sun rises on the sleepy village of Monte Bianco. It’s rather lovely. The hotel, which will feature more prominently later, makes a subsequent appearance in the Joe 90 episode, Big Fish. Something shiny can be spotted on the side of the mountain overlooking the town.

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It’s a solar generator which utilises a large dish to capture thermal energy from the sun and generates electricity. It’s certainly got a different look to our modern day solar panels. Generating power from sunlight has been in the works since the 1860’s, but it was only towards the 1970’s that the full potential for solar energy was being realised with the decline in availability of non-renewable fuel sources. Tony Barwick’s concept for a solar generator station powering a small town must have felt a little like science fiction at the time, but there might have been some consideration that the technology would become widespread in the near future. Incidentally, an image of this generator station can be spotted in the poster for Thunderbirds Are Go… it doesn’t feature in the movie so who knows how that came about!

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Inside the building, someone has been hoarding Timelord technology… It surely can’t be by accident that the control console looks so much like the TARDIS console from Doctor Who. The bank of computers on the wall can also be spotted in both Path of Destruction and Atlantic Inferno.

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Professor Lundgren and his assistant Mitchell watch the sun rise in the valley. Mitchell is instantly recognisable as Captain Ashton from last week’s episode, Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Professor Lundgren looks like Professor Borendor from The Perils of Penelope but with a bit of a makeover. Lundgren is very ambitious, claiming that once they’ve lit up Monte Bianco, they could light up the whole valley, and then he makes a big step up to assuming the whole world will then be solar powered. There might be a few steps in between that but sure, dream big Professor.

Some very scientific sounding stuff happens, but we’re all too distracted by the pink spinny thing in the centre of the console. Can somebody explain to me how that thing keeps turning? Essentially Mitchell points the dish at the sun to start collecting energy for the day, as indicated by the flashing light. Heat waves are visible in front of the dish which is a nice touch.

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Over at Lady Penelope’s mansion, the title declares that Parker is going on holiday… and that he’ll become a lord somehow.

The bed and the basis of the set are the same, but much of Penelope’s bedroom has changed since it last appeared in Brink of Disaster. The window nearest the bed has been replaced with a large painting among other changes to the layout of the furniture. Parker arrives to take Penelope’s cases down to the car. We manage to avoid a direct reference to Penelope’s habit of over-packing which is something of a step forward. There’s something a bit off about Penny’s hair this week. It just looks much more like a wig than it usually does. So Penelope and Parker are taking a holiday together because she just can’t bear to be without him for a few days. Parker has been ordered to discard his uniform… what kind of weekend is Penny planning here?

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The English weather strikes again!

Penny’s wearing her Penelon fishing jacket from the fashion show in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Parker, however, is ready for the sun in Monte Bianco. The grandfather clock which last appeared in Penelope’s ranch in Australia in Atlantic Inferno can be spotted behind Parker.

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Over at the unnamed hotel in Monte Bianco, Faccini the manager is preparing to host celebrations for the switch over to solar energy. He is joined by Bruno, an elderly employee at the hotel. He is masterfully portrayed by Charles Tingwell, who also provides the voice of Mitchell in this episode. Tingwell joined the cast of Thunderbirds Are Go in a number of supporting roles which presumably led to him working uncredited on the television series in the remaining episodes. His deep, distinctive voice was also utilised in Captain Scarlet for guest roles. For my money he actually would have made a great replacement for David Holliday in the role of Virgil Tracy. Anyway, Bruno is quite the pessimist, or some kind of wizard, predicting that the use of solar energy is against nature and “it will be a great disaster.” All electricity is against nature really so he must really struggle with living in the 21st Century…

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Lundgren and Mitchell are keeping a sharp eye on things to ensure everything goes off without a hitch… either that or they’re preparing to travel in time…

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Penelope and Parker are on their way to the hotel. Penelope has been flicking through a copy of Spotlight magazine. The entire scene is basically dedicated to demonstrating how bad the radio interference is in the mountains. We get to briefly hear ‘Blues Pacifica’ from the Stingray episode, Tune of Danger.

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The new model of Tracy Island made for Thunderbirds Are Go appears only in this episode of the television series. It’s the same basic shape as the original but actually appears to be lacking detail by comparison – in fact it could potentially just be a painting.

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Brains and Jeff are enjoying a quiet morning coffee together in the library adjacent to the lounge, discussing the solar generator project. Brains is really excited about it but couldn’t quite be bothered to go over and spend the weekend with Penelope. He acknowledges that the idea is nothing new but Professor Lundgren has, “licked the technological problems.” He’s been licking batteries or something?

Over in Monte Bianco, the sun is setting. The generator is going to be able to put out 150,000 kilowatts for about 20 hours. That’ll do nicely. It looks like clouds are building up for a storm.

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The hotel is bathed in a lovely orange glow as FAB 1 pulls up outside.

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Faccini comes out to greet Penelope, apologising profusely for the rain.

Penelope claims to be perfectly ready for the rain and the camera pans down to her shoes… which look absolutely soaked through… because she’s so well prepared and everything. Parker, however, is definitely not prepared. His socks and sandals combination is not only a fashion nightmare, but a recipe for some very wet feet. Parker is far from happy, ordering Bruno to take the luggage inside.

Penelope is informed about the fancy dress party taking place tonight… I’m sure she’ll manage to throw something together. Bruno is delightfully blunt with Parker. “You’d better change signor, before you flood the hotel…” Tony Barwick is always sharp with his one-liners.

With a whirlwind of trumpeting goodness, a transition flips Parker around and all of a sudden he’s in a very fabulous costume.

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The costume department have done another great job on this one. But just you wait…

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Penelope appears at the top of the stairs dressed as Marie Antoinette. It’s an incredible outfit. She descends the stairs fairly convincingly despite the fact she’s basically just being bobbed up and down.

Faccini stands in front of an enormous pink sun because he’s just fabulous like that. The room is populated by characters wearing costumes from days gone by. Tin-Tin’s stripey poncho from End of the Road and Edge of Impact is worn by Mason from Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Nurse Nimmo from Give or Take A Million is dressed as a cowboy. Petersen from Path of Destruction is wearing Hassan Ali’s outfit from Desperate Intruder. The lady in orange is tricky to identify but could be Madeline from Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Wakefield from The Impostors is sat in the rear corner of the room wearing a Zombite uniform from The Uninvited. The Foreign Colonel from The Cham-Cham is wearing part of the admiral’s uniform from the Stingray episode, Set Sail For Adventure. Some of the guests are sitting incredibly still, suggesting only a few of the puppets in this scene actually had operators.

It’s almost time as preparations are made up at the station.

The power is switched on and soon enough the lights in Monte Bianco are illuminated. Faccini’s big pink sun brightens up the room. How marvellous.

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Penelope and Parker share a quick toast. They’re clearly captivated by just how pink the sun is… it may be coming home with them if it’ll fit in the boot of the car…

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The storm is really brewing up on the mountain. Apparently there was only supposed to be light rain. Even in the future, weather forecasts haven’t gotten much better.

Parker is quietly baffled by a plate of spaghetti. It’s a pretty enormous portion but with very little sauce…  not looking very much like something served up in a hotel for a fancy event.

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The storm causes trouble with the power, but the show must go on so Faccini asks the band to play. Look who it is! Footage from The Cham-Cham is used to give the impression that Cass Carnaby is playing at the party. From the super deluxe Paradise Peaks hotel, to a small little place in Monte Bianco… Cass’ careers may not be going so well.

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“It will be a great disaster.” Why has nobody made a t-shirt out of that catchphrase yet?

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As if Bruno had willed it at that very moment, lightning strikes the tower with an enormous bang. Uh oh!

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And then the dish gets hit! This can’t be good!

The lightning conductor has been blown and the power levels are going crazy! There’s nothing to stop the entire tower burning up under the intense electrical charge of the lightning. Probably time to call things off and get out of there guys!

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The tower is getting ripped apart. The lightning bolts are very good effects, presumably achieved by being painted onto the film during editing. The same technique was previously used to apply gun flashes onto shots in Four Feather Falls and Supercar before real explosive charges were used.

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Lundgren insists that the power be cut, plunging Monte Bianco into darkness. We can now spot Jim Lucas from Path of Destruction and an unknown female puppet sitting at a table. There’s immense panic, probably because the calming pink light from Faccini’s massive replica of the sun has gone out.

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Candles are lit and everything is lovely once again, but Penelope senses that something is up.

More lightning strikes the tower. For some unknown reason, Lundgren decides to go up on the roof to look at the damage… I mean he could do it while driving away from the tower at speed just to be safe, but never mind.

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Okay Bruno, try not to wear out that catchphrase now or people won’t buy the t-shirts…

The tower begins to collapse so Lundgren, with great poise and dignity, flops to the floor flat on his face. It really looks like somebody’s chopped his strings.

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The dish rolls down the mountain with a lot of loud clanging. They’re really trying to sell the idea that this is a big, heavy piece of kit. Unfortunately the model just doesn’t quite suggest that, seeming far smaller than what was probably intended in the script.

It settles on the mountainside. In between the close-up and the long shot, the three little prong-type things in the middle have become detached. But that does appear to be that. Not much else could possibly go wrong…

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“The reflector’s been smashed.” Not exactly Penelope. If it had been smashed there wouldn’t be a problem because it would be in bits. The issue is that it fell and stayed more or less intact, which for something in Thunderbirds is quite an achievement.

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Mitchell pops upstairs to rescue the professor. Other than a small cut on his head and being a bit soggy, Lundgren appears to be fine.

Down at the hotel, the reflector can be seen shining moonlight down onto the town. A great job has been done in this episode of differentiating between the wide variety of lighting conditions that come up. Credit must go to this episode’s lighting cameraman and Supermarionation veteran, Julien Lugrin, and to special effects lighting cameraman, Michael Wilson.

The party has moved outside. All of the puppets in the background sit completely still. Bruno comes over to Penelope and whispers in a rather distressed manner in Italian, remembering to chuck in his catchphrase for good measure. Faccini shoos him away as if he were an over-friendly mutt, but Penny is on Bruno’s side, realising that when the sun comes up the light reflected onto the town could be rather more hazardous. Parker is baffled, but left with instructions to keep Bruno quiet. And with that, Penelope takes her leave. Things are starting to get tense! Incidentally, these heart-shaped chairs have a long history in Thunderbirds, appearing in Brink of DisasterThe Perils of PenelopeThe Duchess AssignmentThe Cham-ChamPath of Destruction, and Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. They continue to be used in Captain Scarlet.

Penelope has hopped into FAB 1 to try and contact International Rescue. The interference from the mountains is too intense. But she’s had a bright idea to rectify the issue and drives away. It’s worth pointing out just how carefully paint has been applied to Penelope’s face to simulate make-up – that must have been some really delicate work!

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After a gentle drive down to the coastline, Penelope throws FAB 1 off of a jetty. This scene looks incredibly familiar. The coastline is different but the jetty is the same one which features in the Thunderbirds Are Go scene where Penelope and Parker pursue The Hood. The same jetty can also be seen in a famous publicity photo of Stingray.

Penelope engages FAB 1’s hydrofoils which, as previously mentioned, also saw an outing in Thunderbirds Are Go. They’re a seriously neat bit of a kit and are perhaps one of her most memorable gadgets.

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FAB 1 passes a yacht which you may recognise as actually being FAB 2 from The Man From MI.5. That’s right, she’s still going after Parker lost the ship at the casino in Monte Carlo.

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A party goer watches FAB 1 go by, dropping his drink overboard. He’s a little bit tipsy, remarking that pink elephants may be one thing, but a pink Rolls Royce driven by Marie Antoinette is ridiculous. Couldn’t agree more sir, let your psychiatrist try and figure that one out! This character is particularly amusing because David Graham is using a voice which is actually rather close to his own…

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As FAB 1 zips along the water, you can actually see water splashing around inside the car underneath the canopy.

After finding a good spot far from the shore, Penny retracts the hydrofoils and lets the car just bob along on the surface. I’m guessing FAB 1 is supposed to be fairly watertight.

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Over on Tracy Island, Jeff and Brains play chess while Alan and Virgil reads. Scott’s just sort of hanging around by the window. Gordon must still be in bed where he remains for the entire episode. Who knows what John might be up to.

Penelope makes contact, informing Jeff and Brains of the situation. The 400 tonne dish is angled on the mountainside in such a way that it will reflect the sunlight in an intense beam over Monte Bianco. The burning hot beam will move across the town as the sun moves in the sky, potentially causing an inferno. The conditions have to be unbelievably precise for that to work and it primarily relies on the material that’s going to be burnt being incredibly dry. It’s been raining for a great deal of the night so I find it hard to believe that a fire would come close to starting. Nevertheless, the International Rescue team are concerned enough to mobilise. Brains is sent along too.

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Stock footage from series 1 is utilised to show the full launch sequences of Thunderbirds 1 and 2, which hasn’t actually happened for a while. We spotted this alternate take of Virgil coming down the launch slide into his chair way back in Vault of Death and it appears to have come up again here – spot the wooden framework in the top left corner.

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Alan and Brains arrives via the passenger elevator. Can I just point out that Brains’ all orange suit isn’t necessarily his best look…

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Thunderbird 1 levels out as usual. Thunderbird 2 is about to roll out of the hangar. For some reason this launch sequence has been dragged out so much that the timing of the episode requires a fade out to the commercial break part way through.

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Alan and Brains look like they’ve run out of things to talk about during this very long launch sequence. Incidentally, in this episode and the previous one, Virgil has been holding the steering wheel upside down.

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Jeff and Grandma are watching the launch arm in arm. How sweet. Apparently Jeff has a bad feeling about this one. I must say, there are a fair few other rescues that Jeff probably should have had a bad feeling about besides this one.

Parker is finally filled in on the impending disaster. Penelope is going to head up the mountain, leaving Parker in charge of keeping all of the guests at the hotel… I mean he could probably have the whole of Monte Bianco evacuated by the morning, but okay we’ll keep everyone there to burn instead.

Parker has changed out of her costume into a jacket which she previously wore during the opening of Atlantic Inferno. A ton of stock footage from The Perils of Penelope is utilised to show her driving up the winding mountain pass.

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Parker confides in his new pal Bruno. So apparently the reason the guests need to stay in the hotel is because they might be needed to fight the fire… or you could just alert the local fire brigade and ask them to tackle it… or have International Rescue do it seeing as they’ll be around anyway… but no, instead Parker decides the best thing to do is to keep the guests occupied with a game… it’ll have to be a seriously good game for them to risk burning to death.

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FAB 1 has reached the station, giving us a better sense of just how large the tower and the dish are supposed to appear.

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Lundgren has been patched up, but Mitchell has been doing all the real work, calculating that although sunrise is at 6:03, the real damage will begin at 6:30. Good thing all the guests in the hotel will be sitting there right in the middle of it.

Over on the other side of the world, the sun is setting on Tracy Island. Grandma remarks on how lovely it is. Touchy subject dear…

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Thunderbird 1 arrives on the scene in Monte Bianco. Unusually, she actually appears to have lights on the tips of her wings which is probably supposed to indicate the fact the sun is only just coming up.

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Scott’s radio microphone has been replaced with a much sturdier looking one. The last one probably just snapped off. Brains really wants to get a better understanding of the situation at the solar station, but they can’t just call them because of that ruddy static which keeps causing trouble. Scott can, however, use the radio camera to transmit shots over to Thunderbird 2. We established in our Operation Crash-Dive review that radio photographs are actually a thing, but the primitive technology is far from resembling what we see in Thunderbirds.

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Thunderbird 2 is shown to be flying in the dark using stock footage from The Man From MI.5.

The sun begins to reflect off of the dish and creates an intense beam of heat. Mitchell is attempting to fix the radio which has been damaged by the lightning. Apparently it’s taken him this long to get around to thinking of calling someone. Penelope announces that she’s swanning off, also mentioning that Lundgren should probably go to a hospital (several hours after he actually took his tumble), oh and by the way, International Rescue have already been called. Thanks for mentioning it. Penelope basically just disappears for the rest of the episode. It looks like they ran out of things for her to do.

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While Mitchell’s been failing to fix the radio, Parker has somehow produced some high quality artwork for his early morning bingo game… and managed to source all of the Bingo paraphernalia… in the middle of the night… in a tiny village… nice job sir!

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He’s even printed his own bingo cards… I know you’ve been working really hard on this Parker, but there’s an apostrophe missing…

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Bruno is given the order to wake up all the guests, starting with the manager… he looks thrilled.

Bruno arrives in Faccini’s room. The grandfather clock which appeared earlier in Penelope’s house pops up again here. The dressing gown hanging over the bed was last worn by John Tracy in Atlantic Inferno. The bed was previously used by Parker in Brink of Disaster. The sound of engines can be heard roaring towards the town through the window which is a rather nice touch.

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Thunderbird 1 begins to dive down for a closer look at the situation. The lights on the wings are switched off now.

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Needless to say, Faccini is far from thrilled about waking up to Bruno’s cheery disposition. But then he learns that Parker is an English lord and immediately changes his tune… I think it’s fair to say that most normal people wouldn’t care less whether the person making them wake up early was aristocratic or not.

Scott pulls off some cool manouevres to get a good look at the dish. Note the ‘TB1’ printed on the right wing which is never seen anywhere else in the series. It’s actually worth mentioning as well that this is Thunderbird 1’s final outing in the television series. In my opinion she was never quite used to her full potential, but she’s still a great looking machine with lots of cool tech stashed away which we got to see every so often when Thunderbird 2 couldn’t quite get to the scene fast enough.

The photographs arrive aboard Thunderbird 2. The printer is the same one previously seen on Williams’ desk in Cry Wolf although it, and the numbered buttons, have been repainted. Brains formulates a plan to simply tilt the reflector up towards the sky so that the sunlight isn’t being bounced down onto the town. One downside, the dish weighs 400 tonnes so it might be a bit of a struggle. Rather than carefully tilting it up towards the sky, they could of course just pull the thing down the mountain which would probably be easier… or failing that, Thunderbird 2 could just hover in front of it to block the sunlight while Parker, Penelope, and Scott evacuate the town like they should have done in the first place… but no, we’ll try carefully tilting the 400 tonne lump of metal instead…

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Faccini has managed to wake himself up remarkably quickly and apologises profusely to “Lord” Parker who does a semi-decent job of pretending to be posh.

That pesky interference has kicked in again, which only seems to happen when convenient for the plot. Due to the poor communications, Jeff decides to put Virgil in charge… he probably just fancied a quick nap. Jeff doesn’t fail to remind us all about his bad feeling.

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Thunderbird 2 arrives on the scene and hovers above the dish. Just go down a bit lower Virgil and give it a nudge!

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Alan and Brains have quite a heated debate about who gets to go down and survey the damage. Brains has certainly gotten a lot bolder in these last few episodes it seems.

Virgil chooses Brains for the mission because he’d probably whine about it more. When Brains leaves the room there’s a very sudden change of puppets and lighting, suggesting that this shot was filmed or re-shot during the production of Ricochet. Even the steering wheel is the other way up.

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Scott agrees to hang around in case any backup is required… just stand on the roof of the hotel with a fire extinguisher, Scott and you’ll probably be helping out a bunch more than you are right now.

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Brains is very sensibly wearing a heat suit and is about to be lowered down onto the dish. You can spot the full-sized safety beam control panel from Sun Probe in the background. This set uses some similar aspects to the winch room seen in Danger At Ocean Deep but has been repainted among other changes.

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The puppet-sized sections of the tower could have done with another coat of paint as the grain of the wood can clearly be seen, when I imagine it should look a little more like metal.

Brains has a splendid old time wandering around on the tower, but pauses for a while when confronted with just how far he could fall down the mountain.

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Virgil is thoroughly cheesed off with Brains for taking his harness off and for generally not taking the situation very seriously. I mean he looks unbelievably cross.

Brains begins to climb up the dish with seemingly nothing to actually hold on to while he does so. He now has a pair of regular puppet hands that have been painted white to simulate gloves, and we get some great foot acting in the live action inserts.

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Alan lowers in Thunderbird 2’s new magno-grab. Let’s hope it’s a tad more effective than all of the grabs which haven’t exactly worked with 100% efficiency in the past.

Alan lowers it down while Brains eases it into position. But all of a sudden he loses his grip! It’s ruddy dramatic!

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Meanwhile, major drama in Lord Parker’s bingo hall! He’s got to check someone’s card! That hotel must have some seriously good air conditioning.

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Don’t worry, Brains is just dandy. Nobody even mentions his little mishap. The magno-grab clamps into place and all is going swimmingly.

Thunderbird 2 starts to gain height and pulls the cable tight. But the dish won’t budge! The drama!

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Virgil decides he has to resort to using full thrust… not sure why he wasn’t using full thrust in the first place… were you saving it for something more important?

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It’s no good. Brains concludes that the rotation gear must be jammed and he requires the use of a laser unit. One laser unit coming right up Brains!

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Over at the hotel, Parker announces that thing are really ‘otting up now! Get it? Because the building is about to catch fire and apparently nobody is allowed to escape… Oh and I guess “number one, give ‘im the gun” refers to Brains being given the laser… how neat.

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Brains locates the jam in the rotation housing. Lots of real mechanical parts have been squeezed inside to look important. The same laser unit is still visible on the wall of the winch room next to Alan.

The hotel is starting to smoke! A big dark patch is is looking seriously hot. This is about to get nasty!

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But don’t worry! Brains has had a bright idea to put a new Thunderbird 1 feature into action. Scott gets to do something – hurrah!

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“Now we’re going like a ‘ouse on fire!” Pun-tastic stuff…

Thunderbird 1’s incredible new ability is apparently to just throw a spanner in the engine mechanisms and see what happens. Actually it’s rather clever – a stream of thick black smoke billows from the back of the craft which will hopefully block out the sun temporarily. Of course it’s easy to say now, but someone really should have thought of that earlier.

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Meanwhile, Brains gets to work on cutting the rotation gear free. Sparks fly everywhere and it all makes our hero look incredibly cool.

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The sun is indeed getting blocked out by the black smoke. I can’t imagine that gadget on Thunderbird 1 being put to any other use, but it’s very lucky Brains installed it when he did.

Brains announces that the rotation gear is free and makes good his escape, throwing in another complaint about the heat suit for good measure. Thunderbird 2 once again gains power to start tilting the dish. It’s really hard to comment on this following sequence because the same shots are used over and over again to create huge levels of tension.

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To cut a long story short, they did it. The angle of tilt on the dish hasn’t actually changed much but they have managed to pull the whole thing over… so they probably should have pushed it all the way down the mountain for good measure…

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Plot twist! A very floppy looking Brains is falling down the mountain! That would account for Jeff’s bad feeling.

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Footage from End Of The Road is used to simulate a large rockfall which has been triggered on the mountain.

The reflector is dislodged and begins to take a tumble down the mountain as well. Brains’ floppy body lands on a very uncomfortable pile of rocks, followed by the dish which lands slap bang on top of him. No explosions this week due to the fact that dishes don’t really do that.

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Well that’s a rather morbid image.

Scott’s asked to provide assistance after the accident. Scott’s really the hero of the hour this week. Alan isn’t very optimistic about this, assuming that Brains simply must be dead.

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Well he isn’t. And let’s be honest, none of us ever believed that he was. Not only was the suit clearly empty when it fell, but also it would be rather dark for a light-hearted episode called Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday to feature the brutal death of a main character.

It’s the middle of the night on Tracy Island, and Jeff is ruddy exhausted, but manages to mention yet again that he always knew something would go wrong with this mission… it didn’t… but we’ll let him have that one. Virgil announces that they’ll be home for breakfast, but Jeff is going back to bed – remarking on the time difference between the locations. Well it would still take Thunderbird 2 a few hours to get home from Monte Bianco, so it probably would be breakfast time by the time they made it back to the island.

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That’s probably why Brains is so confused about the whole thing.

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Back at the hotel, Lady Penelope is back from where ever the heck she’s been. Parker is wrapped in a cloak which looks mighty suspicious. Penny isn’t happy that Parker has been posing as a lord, probably because it implies to the guests that they’re either married or somehow related… which is a bit odd to think about. But with a cup of tea in her, Penny’s rather forgiving and reveals that she’s never heard of bingo. Bingo’s a pretty timeless game so I don’t necessarily buy the notion that in the future, people of Penelope’s generation won’t have heard of it in the slightest. But never mind that, it’s time to hit the beach…

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Parker’s ready to go! It’s probably one of the funniest closing gags of any Thunderbirds episode, and it makes the whole bingo sub-plot make sense now.

There is much about Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday which just doesn’t make sense, however. Where does Penelope disappear to partway through? Why do the guests have to stay in the hotel despite the fact they could turn rather crispy? Why do International Rescue not try a bit harder to block the sunlight from reaching the reflector in the first place? Why is the town at risk of burning at all when the place should be soaking wet from the night before? And most importantly, where does Parker get all of that bingo gear in the middle of the night? It’s all a bit far-fetched and strange, but it still passes as an enjoyable episode. There are some pacing issues, particularly with the overly long launch sequences (which is saying something considering this is Thunderbirds after all).

Considering the title also suggests that this is an episode all about Parker, it’s a shame he didn’t get to be a real hero in all of this. Instead International Rescue fiddled about with a dish on the side of a mountain for a good chunk of the episode. It’s not exactly one of the most memorable or exciting missions, but all of the comic moments are superb and stand out as some of the series’ best. If you want an episode with a good sense of humour, this is the one to watch, particularly as this is Penelope and Parker’s last proper outing in the classic television series, with Penelope just making a quick cameo at the end of Give Or Take A Million.

Next week, a pirate radio satellite is spiraling out of control, plummeting towards the Earth without braking parachutes. Will Thunderbird 3 reach Loman and D.J. Rick *ping* O’Shea in time to rescue them? Stay tuned for Ricochet!

Thunderbirds – 29. Alias Mr. Hackenbacker

Teleplay by Alan Pattillo

Directed by Desmond Saunders

First Broadcast – 16th October 1966

Alias Mr. Hackenbacker isn’t exactly one of the most talked about episodes of Thunderbirds. Indeed, before sitting down to watch this one I had no idea what I was going to make of it. The simple fact is that I really enjoyed it. There’s lots of action, intrigue, entertaining characters, great technology, all building to a thrilling conclusion… which admittedly does match the climax of Trapped In The Sky almost shot for shot. Maybe that’s the issue here, or maybe it’s the somewhat cheesy fashion show plot that puts people off this one. The plot elements don’t necessarily gel together perfectly, but for me there’s still a good mix and balance between the fashion show stuff and the revolutionary new aircraft getting hi-jacked stuff. Let’s dive into it!

Planes, clothes, and Brains in dark glasses. That pretty much sums up the episode. You can all get back to work now.

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So let’s get one thing straight right here. Hiram K. Hackenbacker is Brains’ alias. It is not his name. Hence the title, Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. That’s taken care of that.

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In the background of this shot you can spot the blue tower from the Paradise Peaks hotel as seen in The Cham-Cham. Parked on top of another building is a tiny World Navy helijet from Atlantic Inferno.

As suggested by lots of re-used footage from Trapped In The Sky, we’re at London Airport. Flight D103 is about to crash land without its under carriage lowered. I’m guessing International Rescue didn’t leave any Elevator Cars lying around after their previous visit…

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From this angle the D103 looks almost two dimensional. Rather eerily we never see the inside of the plane during this opening sequence, contributing to the tension and the rather morbid outcome of this landing.

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Waiting at the end of the runway are a number of emergency vehicles including an ambulance first seen in Trapped In The Sky, the transporter truck and Superon tanker from Path of Destruction, a fire tender from City of Fire, and another ambulance which has been adapted from The Hood’s blue truck from Edge of Impact. This is also supplemented with shots from Trapped In The Sky of emergency vehicles rushing down the runway.

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The model looks considerably more impressive when filmed at this angle. This is another of Mike Trim’s designs for the series and certainly looks like a more realistic aircraft when compared to something like Derek Meddings’ design for the Fireflash.

Flight D103 comes screeching down the runway and bursts into flames.

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The entire plane is consumed in not one, but two enormous fireballs which look like some of the biggest bangs in the series so far. The passengers and crew on board couldn’t have possibly survived. This is by far one of the most hard-hitting disasters in all of Thunderbirds. The scale of the destruction is enormous and the death toll is high.

It turns out this whole event is part of Captain Saville’s movie collection which he’s unveiling to the press. If I were in charge of PR at London Airport I’d ask him to keep that major catastrophe quiet. The first reporter to speak is played by Frank Hooper from Atlantic Inferno, and the second is McColl from Path of Destruction. Also visible in the background is Dick O’Shea from Atlantic Inferno. The first reporter is initially voiced by Jeremy Wilkin, as is the second reporter, but then the first reporter starts to speak with Paul Maxwell’s voice. Paul Maxwell starred in Fireball XL5 as Colonel Steve Zodiac. He then took on the role of Captain Paul Travers in Thunderbirds Are Go. No doubt it was for this reason that he then went on to make uncredited contributions to this episode only. Maxwell would go on to voice Captain Grey in a number of episodes of Captain Scarlet, and appear in the UFO episode, Sub-Smash. Captain Saville confirms that his new plane, Skythrust, has been designed to eliminate all risk of bursting into flames when hitting the runway.

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Look who’s sitting in the corner but our old friend Commander Crash-Dive… I mean Norman. He’s had a bit of a makeover since his last appearance in the series and to be honest he doesn’t look too good for it. He’s attempted to dye his hair to get rid of the greys which emerged with each Fireflash disaster, and for some reason gotten some thicker eyebrows. His eyes are also pointing all over the shop. It doesn’t look like Norman’s running the show on this occasion, but he has been allowed to watch… which is probably safer…

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A mysterious stranger is driving towards the London Airport entrance which has been redesigned yet again since its last appearance in The Impostors.

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Who is this mysterious stranger? I can’t think of anyone who would wear such distinctive blue glasses. He calls up Jeff Tracy and announces himself as Hiram K. Hackenbacker. Jeff completely gives the game away, or almost does at least, and reveals that this is in fact International Rescue’s loveable boffin, Brains. I never would have guessed. So Brains is wokring under an alias in order to avoid any possible connection being made to his work with International Rescue… and because nobody else would put up with a scientist being egotistical enough to only answer to the name ‘Brains’.

Brains pulls up at the the front gate and meets the same security guard with the same uniform and the same office that we saw in Path of Destruction last week. Brains’ security pass has been signed by a member of the prop department, Tony Dunsterville. He reportedly designed the Spectrum emblem later seen in Captain Scarlet.

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The officer falls for the charade and Brains is directed over to building 67. Rather helpfully it’s the one labelled number 67.

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Brains has joined Captain Saville, Commander Norman and the reporters on the observation roof. The floor of the roof is instantly recognisable as the floor of the Space Exploration Centre’s orange and black conference room from Thunderbirds Are Go. Brains must have his contacts in because he decides to take his glasses off for most of this scene. Captain Johnson from Danger At Ocean Deep can be spotted manning a camera in the background.

Emerging from a ruddy great hole in the ground is Skythrust, a new airliner designed in part by Brains. It’s a pretty cool plane but does suffer a bit from not looking terribly pretty from all the angles she’s filmed from.

It turns out that Brains’ alias is a little hard to grasp for Captain Saville who manages to make a reasonably good running gag out of miss-remembering ‘Hackenbacker’. Brains doesn’t want to take all the credit because he only designed the pretty bits of the aircraft… Inside, many of the controls are adapted from those of the Zero-X in Thunderbirds Are Go.

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Captain Ashton is automatically proven to be a nice bloke purely because he’s being voiced by Paul Maxwell. The co-pilot is portrayed by the puppet which previously appeared as the lieutenant of the Reaper sub in Atlantic Inferno.

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Skythrust does have quite a chunky rear end which serves as an enormous cargo bay. Very functional, but perhaps not the best looking aspect of the design from certain angles. The plane is essentially a giant lunch box with wings and a cone sticking out the front.

Commander Norman watches through boring normal binoculars while Brains pops on his binocu-glasses. Skythrust takes off rather splendidly.

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Through the binoculars we get another angle on this very interesting aircraft. It’s just quite odd to see an aircraft of all things built around a giant square box.

With the Skythrust leveled out, the show is pretty much over. The reporter is curious to learn more about her super secret special abilities. We know the new technology has something to do with safety, but we’ll have to wait and see. Intriguing! Commander Norman announces that Skythrust should be going into service soon once it has a certificate of airworthiness… he’s not allowed to sign those himself anymore… Brains poses for the briefest photo-shoot in history and announces he’ll be in the control tower keeping an eye on things. Norman says “see you later” as if he won’t also be going back to the control tower to do the job he’s supposed to be doing…

Some very lovely music introduces us to the gang on Tracy Island this week. Skythrust has been featured in an aviation magazine… or rather the beginning of an article has been stuck into a random book about aircraft.

The cover of the magazine appears to be a blue watercolour painting… rather than a picture of a plane or something. Only Virgil and Jeff are vaguely interested in hearing about Brains’ achievements as Tin-Tin is reading something completely different while Gordon and Alan stare blankly at the table. Brains is hanging around in Europe a little while longer in preparation for Skythrust’s first commerical flight from Paris to London.

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Tin-Tin reveals that Penelope is on the cover of ‘Chic’ magazine. The same photo of her was also used on the cover of the Television Mail. 

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Gordon proclaims that everyone’s in the news this week… even John, who broke the world record for the number of baked beans consumed in space in two minutes… funnily enough, nobody’s fancied popping up to Thunderbird 5 to give him the award yet…

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Anyway, the news is that Penelope might be participating in a fashion show for Francois Lemaire, her favourite Parisian designer. But what could be so special that it would arouse such interest from Penelope?

Stock footage of the famous city  as well as some generic French-type music introduces us to Paris, and more specifically, the office of Francois Lemaire…

The camera pans across the lavishly decorated set which manages to avoid looking hideous. The chairs will later go on to feature in the lounge of Cloudbase in Captain Scarlet. The stairs out on the balcony can also be seen in Thunderbirds Are Go by the Tracy Island pool. Penelope is very excited to learn about Francois’ sensational new creation.

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Ray Barrett does a superb job voicing the outrageously camp Francois Lemaire. His costume is similarly stunning.

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Penelope has to put an abrupt stop to the proceedings. She is wearing her coat and hat from Danger At Ocean Deep and The Duchess Assignment.

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She pulls a hairbrush from her handbag which is actually a detector for hidden microphones, and it’s registering one hidden somewhere in the office! Suddenly things got a whole lot more serious!

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A tiny little transmitter is located in the flowers.

Penelope then goes to check Francois’ conveniently located telescope to check outside. She apparently sees a long-range television camera… we’ll have to take her word for it.

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Feeling a tad insecure, Francois chooses to instead go and write down his great secret. Penelope’s left eye goes a bit wonky with the sheer excitement of it all.

Because Penelope’s so ruddy clever, she works out that Francois’ rarely used pen is in fact an ‘impressor pen’ which can transmit anything that is written down on the paper. It’s certainly a creative invention. I want one. Penelope proves it by writing out a threatening message and printing it out on her little printer which she apparently keeps in her handbag at all times just in case she needs to demonstrate an impressor pen to anyone…

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Francois becomes delirious. Ray Barrett’s delivery of the line “peeping Thomases at the window” is hysterical. Also, just take a good long look at how hideous that wallpaper is.

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We are introduced to Francois’ two leading models, Madeline and Deirdre. One is sent to make tea and the other is asked to try on clothes. It looks as though Madeline might have previously been seen as Mrs Lucas in Path of Destruction, while Deirdre has appeared in various roles previously including the makeup girl on the set of Martian Invasion.

Francois is finally able to reveal his creation. He pulls out a small matchbox and begins to pull fabric from it. This is all set to some pretty intense accordion music just to make sure you know how ruddy fabulous all this is. An entire outfit has been pulled from the box without getting creased or crumpled in the slightest. Francois has developed a new fibre from which to make clothes that can be squeezed into impossibly small spaces. It’s nice to know that in the world of Thunderbirds, there are technological advancements outside of the aviation and construction industries – it makes the whole thing seem rather more complete and thought out when we have moments like this. The fabric is named Penelon, after Penelope. How sweet. On Francois’ desk, you can spot a phone from the press conference scene in Thunderbirds Are Go.

Deirdre models an ensemble which apparently looks like leather, although we’ll have to take his word for it because we don’t get a good look and her ghastly sunglasses are too much of a distraction anyway. More design sketches are put up on the screen to take us into the commercial break. How lovely. I’ll admit this is hardly the most interesting scene for Thunderbirds fans that are purely into the tech and explosions, but I rather like the character of Francois and knowing that new technology is playing a large part in all aspects of life in this vision of the 21st Century.

It’s time for tea, and Madeline is offering Penelope sugar – I promise this episode gets more intense later. Using her unique powers of observation, Penny notices a particularly large lump of sugar which happens to be hiding another transmitter. That’s a pretty terrible place to put a bug seeing as someone might actually do exactly what Penelope does do and put it in their tea. Someone needs to go back to spy school. The question is, who might be responsible for doing this? Is it the person who made the tea? Well that would be Madeline, but she couldn’t possibly be a baddie so we won’t bother suspecting her. It must have been the owner of the sugar cube factory who desperately wants to know the secret of Penelon…

Francois is understandably fed up. Penelope insists that the location of the fashion show has to be changed because “the risk is too great.” If she’s worried about risking the secrecy of Penelon then holding a fashion show in the first probably isn’t the way to keep it quiet. And frankly there’s not much chance of any other type of danger or risk coming up at a fashion show so they’re probably all right to go ahead with it as planned. Nevertheless, Penelope has had a cracking idea for where the show should be held.

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Over at London Airport we’re treated to this stock shot of the main control tower. Parked in front is a little bus with ‘Air Terrainean’ written on the side – what a nice detail.

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Over in building 67, Saville announces that Skythrust is ready to go into service. On his desk is another one of those phones from Thunderbirds Are Go. The circular desk which last appeared in Maxie’s office in The Cham-Cham has been redressed to appear here. Commander Norman is sitting in the corner in case he breaks something. A call comes in for Mr. Hackenbacker, allowing us to get in one more gag about Saville forgetting names. It’s still funny though so that’s good.

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Brains picks up the call on another phone from Thunderbirds Are Go. The floor is the same orange and black floor from the SEC conference room and was last seen a few scenes back on the observation roof. The walls of this set have been taken from Jim Lucas’ bedroom from Path of Destruction.

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Penelope is using a radiophone, which, you guessed it, is the same phone seen in the press conference in Thunderbirds Are Go. Those things are springing up everywhere. The radiophone booth does look quite a bit like a shower cubicle… Rather suspiciously she asks if Brains is alone… saucy…

A shot of Paris in the evening is reused from The Perils of Penelope. Outside of a restaurant, Parker is parked… sorry, but he is.

Penelope has returned to the Atalante which was also her restaurant of choice in The Perils of Penelope. The place has, however, had a complete makeover since its last appearance. The puppets in this scene are tricky to identify but they include Stevens from Danger At Ocean Deep, and Dick O’Shea from Atlantic Inferno sat outside in glasses. Franklin from Path of Destruction can be spotted sitting behind Ashton who apparently never changes out of his uniform. Penelope is very done up indeed.

Ashton, handsome though he is, appears to have one eye on Penelope and one eye pointing down at his dinner. Sitting behind Penelope appears to be Cass Carnaby from The Cham-Cham and a puppet which last appeared as Simms in Path of Destruction. Penelope refuses to reveal how she knows “Hiram Hackenbacker,” which makes it sound like she’s been a bit indecent with him. Naturally, Ashton can’t see what all the fuss is about with the fashion show.

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The waiter, who previously appeared as Patterson in Operation Crash-Dive, comes to deliver coffee.

Parker alerts Penelope via her compact that another transmitter has popped up on his detector. It must be in the coffee pot… because putting a bug in the tea worked so well last time… The waiter could not look more suspicious as he watches from the kitchen.

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With no subtlety at all, the microphone is clearly visible in the lid of the pot. These guys are really bad at this.

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Ashton now appreciates the seriousness of the situation and insists that the location of the fashion show needs to change. His eye is unbelievably wonky. I’ve only started to notice these dodgy eyes on the series 2 puppets but the chances are it happened a bunch on the earlier puppets too and I just managed to go through all 26 episodes of the first series without noticing.

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Skythrust taxis out and the camera zooms in on the cabin in a way which throws everything else into soft focus and ends up really making the model look like a model. It’s probably this shot more than any other that lets the Skythrust down on screen.

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Mason the steward arrives with some telegrams wishing the crew well. Mason is played by Victor Gomez from Move – And You’re Dead with a moustache. Hiram K. Hackenbacker promises champagne upon their arrival in London because he’s such a party animal apparently. That just doesn’t sound like something Brains would say. Hackenbacker must be Brains’ much more cocky alter ego.

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Skythrust’s enormous back end produces a ramp, allowing vehicles to be transported in the cargo bay. Fireflash also has a bay for cars, suggesting that people in the future just have to take their cars on holiday with them.

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Francois, Madeline, and Deirdre are driving along the runway towards the plane in a pink, but not too pink, car. The puppet set was used as Brains’ car earlier in the episode with a different lick of paint. All of their outfits are pretty over the top, but I think Francois wins for his cape alone.

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The clothes are safely stored on the backseat, looking rather like a selection of over-sized liquorice allsorts.

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They enter Skythrust through the rear… I’m sorry, I’ll try not to make such indecent comments again…

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Only Penelope could manage to overdress to a fashion show. She also wore this outfit in The Cham-Cham and it looked a bit silly then too. Parker is being left to fend for himself in Paris. Why he isn’t brought along for the fashion show I don’t know. He would be completely and utterly disinterested which would have been comedy gold.

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Parker takes FAB 1 up Skythrust’s back passage… well I tried…

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Penelope and Francois enjoy a quick drink at the bar which first appeared in the cocktail lounge at Parola Sands in Move – And You’re Dead.

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The passenger lounge has been converted for the show and looks very striking. The round sofas which first appeared in Fireball XL5 have been reupholstered since their last appearance in The Duchess Assignment and additional material for Brink of Disaster. Some unusual music is played over this scene which doesn’t sound much like Barry Gray’s work but presumably must have been.

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Cars are clamouring to use Skythrust’s back entrance…  but there’s only room for one at a time… fortunately we fade to black for a commercial break, preventing me from talking anymore about the matter.

With all the passengers aboard, Skythrust starts to thunder down the runway for take-off. Francois and the ladies are midway through getting everything ready. Considering Francois is supposed to be a big deal in the fashion world he doesn’t have much of a team to help out with this sort of thing, although as we’ll see later he shouldn’t have even trusted the people he does have with him. We learn that Mason the steward is going to be helping with the music. He’s new to the airline you know…

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Brains and Tin-Tin are on their way to London Airport to meet the Skythrust upon arrival. It’s never mentioned why exactly Tin-Tin has flown over to join Brains, but she’s super excited about the fashion show so it probably has something to do with that.

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Skythrust is heading for London. It’s only a little thing, but my brain tells me that she should be pointing the other way seeing as London is west of Paris rather than east…

Francois is presenting the show and is about to unveil the first outfit. In the audience, Jim Lucas from Path of Destruction can be spotted as well as the lady in the red coat who was sat outside the Atalante earlier… or at least a different lady wearing the same coat. Penelope looks stunning of course and very Sixties. It’s incredibly rare to see a puppet in a skirt this short, and it looks as though these legs have been specially made without any knee hinges, and high heeled shoes sculpted as a part of the feet.

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Hugo from Brink of Disaster portrays a fashion buyer who is incredibly excited about Penelon. Both he, and the fashion buyer sat behind him, go on to play a pair of Santa actors in Give Or Take A Million.

A wide variety of costumes are unveiled. They clearly look like they’re made of different materials, making it slightly hard to buy that they’re all made of Penelon. Nevertheless, they look fantastic. The costume department headed by Elizabeth Coleman never receives enough praise for all of the costumes seen throughout Thunderbirds – there are a heck of a lot of them. They’re all specially made from carefully sourced material which not only has to be thin enough to not affect the movement of the puppet, but also has to feature patterns small enough to look convincing on screen. It must have been extremely tricky to keep up with the schedule, particularly when characters like Penelope go through a different costume in every scene sometimes. The process of changing costumes must have been pretty delicate work too. Combined with that, the ladies go through a variety of hairstyles to match their costumes which also must have been quite a challenge.

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The final piece of the collection is a little… strange. The Penelon bridal dress with a couple of bridesmaid dresses to go with it. The actual wedding dress isn’t too bad, but the bridesmaids… well it’s not the best look.

With the show successfully completed, Skythrust is ready to touch down at London Airport. Commander Norman is looking out for her through his binoculars… he’s probably facing the wrong direction. The control tower set has been revamped a little with a new automatic x-ray machine and a new control console which featured in the Crablogger Base Control room in Path of Destruction last week.

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His eyebrows have been trimmed quite a bit and his glasses removed, but the voice strongly suggests that this is Lt. Burroughs from Operation Crash-Dive. Unfortunately, he chooses to describe Tin-Tin as “the little number” which Brains is escorting. He’s actually more flattering to the bottle of champagne they’ve brought in than he is to Tin-Tin.

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Deirdre has managed to get changed already but for some reason Penny’s gone all Miss Havisham on us and won’t remove her wedding dress. Jim Lucas looks absolutely furious sitting in the background. Penelope finally decides it is time to get changed before they land. But where oh where has Madeline got to?

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Oh she’s just hi-jacking the plane… as you do… Of course nowadays it seems ludicrous that Madeline could get a gun anywhere near the plane.

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The co-pilot tries asking politely for Madeline to just hand over the gun. Nice try mate…

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Madeline reveals that they have a new destination in the middle of the Sahara… I don’t think she’s quite thought this through.

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Skythrust is now shown flying in the right direction towards London, but she’s turning around so never mind.

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Mason, who if you’ll remember is new to the airline, holds the passengers at gunpoint. He’s in on it too. He demands that all of the outfits from the show be boxed up for him to steal. Now here’s the thing that’s a little unclear about this episode. Have Mason and Madeline been plotting this whole time to steal the plane, or the Penelon collection? I’ve always taken it that their primary objective was to steal the plane, and that the collection was just a bonus. When I discussed this matter with a fellow Thundernerd, he revealed that he’d always assumed the exact opposite. After all, why would Madeline need to bug Francois’ office to learn more about Penelon? Maybe she was bugging Penelope because she knew of her link to ‘Hiram Hackenbacker’ and Skythrust? Otherwise, why would she and Mason go to the effort of flying an entire plane out to the Sahara just to get hold of a few boxes of clothes? And would their conspirators in the Sahara really be that interested in Penelon anyway? We’ll see, but in my eyes the evidence points more towards them wanting to steal Skythrust primarily, rather than the clothes.

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Madeline is confident that they have this thing in the bag. She’s certainly played it very cool up until now.

Meanwhile, on Tracy Island, Jeff has been on the bottle since dawn and has therefore passed out by the window. Gordon and Scott are playing a very complicated looking board game. Virgil is reading a book all on his own.

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Everyone sits patiently in their seats while Mason stands on the stage with a gun. The lady in the red coat looks pretty relaxed about the whole thing. You can also spot Nurse Nimmo from Give Or Take A Million among the passengers.

Penelope has a plan. She uses her handy dandy emergency ring… which for some reason she didn’t feel the need to use as soon things turned nasty. This immediately triggers Penelope’s portrait.

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Scott, Virgil, and Jeff immediately leap into action. We get a brief shot of Virgil actually using the new rocket painting to enter the Thunderbird 2 launch slide. He actually manages to speak while being tilted backwards which you can imagine was a nightmare to shoot. The scene immediately cuts to stock footage from series 1, causing the painting to suddenly change – fortunately Virgil is wearing the same outfit in both shots.

Scott, Virgil, and Alan are ready to fly out to rendezvous with Skythrust. A chunky bit of silver panelling is going right down the middle of Thunderbird 2’s hull which I don’t believe we see anywhere else.

Penelope teases Francois a bit with the promise of help arriving soon. Mason’s pretty confident that with Madeline in charge of the radio, nothing can go wrong. He sounds very pleased with himself indeed. What exactly is he planning on doing with all of these passengers once they get to the Sahara and presumably steal the plane?

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I forgot to mention this last week, but a radio microphone has now been added to Scott’s chair. Alan was originally using a headset microphone in Atlantic Inferno. This new microphone does shake around a fair bit during flight.

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Using data from Scott and Virgil, Jeff is able to pinpoint Skythrust’s exact position on a map. Needless to say, this map looks a tad out of date by today’s standards.

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Jeff and Gordon are rather stumped by why on earth Skythrust is being taken to the Sahara desert. Actually Gordon is still stumped by how Jeff managed to work out all that clever stuff with the map…

Out in the blazing heat of the desert, Ross and Collins are waiting at an airfield. Their truck was seen earlier as an ambulance at London Airport. Ross has played a number of roles in the series including Kenyon in 30 Minutes After Noon. Collins appears to be Chandler from The Duchess Assignment. These two blokes are the ones receiving delivery of Skythrust and the Penelon collection. Which do you reckon they’re more interested in?

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Madeline wants the radio switched on as they approach their destination, but who calls in but our old pal Scott Tracy. He tries to get all threatening, suggesting they’ll turn to forceful methods if Skythrust doesn’t head back to London. Madeline holds her own and refuses to comply.

Jeff informs Scott that Brains has a grand scheme to call Madeline’s bluff and Virgil is being filled in right now… for whatever reason Scott wasn’t considered important enough to learn about this plan and doesn’t actually appear again for the rest of the episode…

Brains and Tin-Tin are parked at the end of the runway where they were presumably going to meet Skythrust. Virgil is being told to open fire on Skythrust’s undercart. He’s understandably cautious, but is told to, “Just trust Mr Hackenbacker.” Virgil responds by calling him Hiram… they’re all starting to take this alias thing a little too seriously now and it’s making Brains dangerously cocky… although his solution to most things is usually to fire a missile at it.

Ashton quite rightly points out that Skythrust is just too big and heavy to land on a desert airstrip. That’s the one thing which makes me wonder whether stealing Skythrust wasn’t originally a part of the plan. Madeline is finally able to call up her buddies. The shot of Collins reflected in the side mirror is pretty neat. It is announced that all is going well and that even International Rescue won’t stop them… which probably means International Rescue is going to stop them.

For some reason Virgil and Alan aren’t going ahead with Brains’ plan for the moment and are instead trying to spook the hi-jackers by flying dangerously close to the plane. I’m not entirely sure what they hope to achieve by doing this but it’s rather cool to see Thunderbird 2 being thrown around like a toy and pulling off these stunts.

Madeline is pretty grumpy about the whole thing and gets real serious with her gun, holding it right up to Ashton’s head and threatening to shoot if there’s anymore International Rescue monkey business.

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Thunderbird 2 pulls away, but Virgil declares that it’s now time to try out Brains’ plan… not sure why he decided against it originally but never mind.

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The missiles pop out of a hatch. They’re a completely different design to the Thunderbird 2 missiles previously seen in Martian Invasion.

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Alan takes his seat at the missile launcher. The same device is used to fire a line across to Zero-X  in Thunderbirds Are Go.

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There’s definitely some echoes of Zero-X visible in Skythrust’s design when you look at it from this angle with the colouring and the way the panel lines are drawn.

Some Barry Gray goodness is used to ramp up the tension as Alan counts down to firing his missile. We get an extreme close-up of his face which looks to have had the paint applied a little too thick… which probably isn’t the first time Alan has been described as being a little too thick… Nevertheless, he makes a direct him on Skythrust’s undercart. That pretty much brings the Tracy boys’ involvement in the rescue operation to a close.

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Sure enough, a fault appears in the undercart, so I hope Thunderbird 2 has the Elevator Cars packed inside because it looks like they’ll be needed! Ashton is adamant that they can’t land in the desert without wheels, but Madeline finds this all a little bit too scientific apparently so goes to get Mason.

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Fortunately, Mason knows absolutely zilch about Skythrust’s secret abilities… even though he’s supposed to be a steward so I would have thought basic training about Skythrust’s safety procedures would be a must… unless maybe he isn’t a real steward… he is new to the airline after all… So the decision is taken for them to turn back and head to London. Good thing Skythrust is still full of fuel, nearly 5,000 gallons to be precise.

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So it’s time for Skythrust to turn around once more. I promise not to complain about which way she’s pointing again.

A very concerned Alan reports in to base that Skythrust is heading to London. Jeff has been doing his homework and suggests that they pay a visit to see Ross and Collins, who are apparently wanted murderers. They sound delightful.

The fire trucks and ambulances are assembled at the airport just as they were at the beginning of the episode. Tin-Tin is very worried, but Brains is totally chilled about the whole thing because Hiram K. Hackenbacker is a cocky so-and-so. He even refuses to tell Tin-Tin what’s so darn wonderful about Skythrust. No sign of those Elevator Cars yet though…

Skythrust is almost back on English soil with almost half her fuel still aboard. Ashton insists that they can’t possibly jettison any of it before they land… I mean they probably could but Ashton wants to try out his new toy…

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Madeline and Mason are sent to the back of the plane and the time has come to see what all the fuss is about as Skythrust makes her final approach…

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Hope those Elevator Cars are ready now!

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If this guy keeps his job after yet another security lapse at London Airport, then there’s something wrong with the world.

Looking ruddy epic, Skythrust swoops in over the runway. Guess those Elevator Cars never turned up. The shot of the runway rolling stretching out ahead of the plane is lifted straight from Trapped In The Sky. The same music is even played which accompanied the Fireflash landing.

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This one’s gonna leave a mark.

But wait! The entire tail fin blasts off and soars up into the sky! Well that was unexpected…

Lt. Burroughs has a special button on his desk which blows up the remote controlled pod. Wait, what’s happening?

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With lots of glorious screeching and smoke billowing everywhere, inter-cut with shots of the crash tenders from Trapped In The Sky, Skythrust slowly comes to a halt on the runway as the rolling road and sky are gradually brought to a stop. Really great stuff.

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Commander Norman decides to explain what just happened to the audience at home. It’s incredibly surreal, mainly because his face looks a bit weird in this episode. The music slowly builds in a slightly terrifying manner just to make it even weirder. So Brains’ special device was an eject-able fuel pod to prevent aircraft from exploding as soon as they hit the ground without wheels. That’s pretty neat, although perhaps not quite the grand surprise we were all waiting for.

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The emergency services arrive in completely different vehicles to the ones we saw earlier via the Trapped In The Sky stock footage.

Penelope plays it totally cool of course, claiming to have experienced worse conventional landings than that. Madeline and Mason are cowering in the corner because things haven’t really gone their way. It’s at this point that Penelope decides to pull a gun on them… why didn’t you do that hours ago before we went to the Sahara and back? Nice one Penny…

Ross and Collins are still awaiting the arrival of Skythrust. Ross claims he never liked the idea of hanging out in the desert. Just a shame we never learn what they were actually there for in the first place. In an extremely well done shot, Thunderbird 2 emerges through the sandstorm and roars overhead.

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The chaps remark on the ‘new design’, believing Thunderbird 2 to be Skythrust. The fact they knew about Skythrust’s new design suggests they were probably there to steal the plane rather than the Penelon collection.

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Thunderbird 2 doesn’t look tiny very often, but for some reason this shot doesn’t make her look as imposing as she usually does.

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As Ross and Collins wave at the sky full of joy and happiness, Alan’s ready to ruin their day…

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Well they’re almost certainly dead now… International Rescue specialises in capital punishment these days apparently…

They’re not dead! Hooray! After killing an entire plane full of people at the beginning of the episode, it just wouldn’t be right to blow a couple of murderers to smithereens too… Jeff is jolly pleased with how it’s all gone… time to go and pass out on the sun lounger again…

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Deirdre, Penelope, Francois, Norman, Ashton, Burroughs, Brains, and Tin-Tin are having a quick chat up in the control tower. The co-pilot has been left to clear up the mess. Commander Norman remarks on the incredible achievements of the day, introducing a whole new era in aviation safety…

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But Brains and Penelope just want to eat and get wasted. The champagne is vintage 1993, “the best year for champagne.” When the episode first aired that would have been hilarious of course. Any champagne experts out there know whether it really was the best year for champagne?

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Francois has basically lost his mind by this point, claiming that he will follow Penelope to the edges of the Earth… The poor chap has been left with absolutely no confidence because Penelope has basically shown him that the entire world is out to get him.

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Just to finish off his high of being rather smug and full of himself, Brains puts his arm around Tin-Tin, insisting that she calls him Hiram… okay this has gone too far. Brains needs to take off those ruddy sunglasses and have a long, hard look at himself. Just because you design one eject-able fuel pod doesn’t mean you can just have your pick of the ladies, sir. Incidentally, Tin-Tin’s suffering from a slightly wonky eye. Brains grabs the champagne and they all head off to the Starlight Roof to celebrate the successful crashing of Skythrust… hooray…

Alias Mr. Hackenbacker is a pretty solid episode. It’s got plenty of action and intrigue, a fairly cool new aircraft for us to enjoy, and some glorious special effects. The fact that the episode borrows a lot of ideas from Trapped In The Sky doesn’t really lower it’s entertainment value, but it does show how the focus of the series has shifted since then. Rather than being a simple story of a plane getting sabotaged and International Rescue saving it with some cool machinery, Alias Mr. Hackenbacker has multiple layers to it which all lead towards the special device being revealed at the climax.

True, not all the elements of the story meet together all that neatly, leaving us wondering what exactly Madeline and Mason were planning in the first place, but generally speaking the scripting is much more sophisticated than it was when the show began. The main characters and the guest characters are more fully fleshed out with Penelope and Brains taking centre stage. The downside of this, and perhaps the reason why Trapped In The Sky is considered superior to Alias Mr. Hackenbacker, is that the Tracy boys have to take a backseat on this one and affect the outcome of the plot very little. That, and the fact Skythrust just isn’t quite as pretty as Fireflash.

Overall though, I have to recommend Alias Mr. Hackenbacker as being a fun episode with a great variety of Thunderbirds elements for everyone to enjoy.

Next week, the town of Monte Bianco faces disaster after an accident at the solar energy station on the mountainside… it’s a job for Lord Parker! Stay tuned for Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday.

Thunderbirds – 28. Path of Destruction

Directed by David Elliott

Teleplay by Donald Robertson

First Broadcast – 9th October 1966

Path of Destruction brings the Thunderbirds format right back to basics. A big, yellow, dangerous machine goes out of control and causes mass destruction – International Rescue have to stop it. That’s what it boils down to and that’s probably why people love this story so much. Maybe it’s too simple and contains much that is highly unlikely and highly unfortunate, but hey – this is Thunderbirds and that’s why we love it. There’s a lot that is imperfect, but suspend your disbelief and enjoy this cracking good story.

The Crablogger is clearly the star of the show this week. Co-stars include a plate of chemical waste and Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward… I hope you won’t need me to point out which is which.

The episode opens by panning across some vehicles parked in a forest clearing. The Superon tankers are a lovely pair of models which also form the basis of the wood pulp transporters which come along later. One Superon tanker appears in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker as a fire truck and another pops up in a brief cameo in the Thunderbird 1965 episode, The Stately Homes Robberies. The model was also adapted to create the Yellow Fox tanker which appeared in Captain Scarlet. The Crablogger Base Control vehicle is certainly an unusual shape. We cut rather abruptly to a completely different close-up of her which now shows the ‘Crablogger Base Control’ sign attached to the side, and a tree on the right of the model rather than the left. This model was later adapted into an ambulance for the Captain Scarlet episode, Winged Assassin.

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Inside the control room, Jansen and Simms await the arrival of someone who is late. They’re both incredibly irritable, with Simms immediately accusing his superior of not appreciating the importance of whatever operation they’re about to carry out. There’s no real explanation given as to why these two are so darn snappy with each other but it’s a rather odd exchange. This episode does suffer a little bit from some clunky dialogue. The enormous computer banks in the background were seen in the Seascape control room in Atlantic Inferno last week. Simms’ control console was used by the captain of the Reaper submarine in Atlantic Inferno also, while Simms himself appeared as the newsreader in the episode. Jansen makes a brief cameo at the SEC conference in Thunderbirds Are Go.

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Sat in the corner minding his own business is Franklin. He’s programming a tape, the biggest tape that’s ever been programmed ever… unfortunately that still doesn’t make it sound all that impressive to us 21st century tape-free viewers. Franklin was last seen as Banino in The Cham-Cham.

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This chap that they’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of is almost here. Exposition dialogue usually suffers from character’s being abnormally specific about something which they everyone knows about already for the benefit of the viewer, but here they’re all being weirdly vague to maintain an air of mystery, which still doesn’t sound much like natural conversation.

Jansen gets in contact with Crablogger One. That’s right, at the very least there are plans in the works to build more than one of these things. The driver asks Jansen to “get the reception committee to stand by.” The phrase ‘reception committee’ is used a lot in Thunderbirds and other Gerry Anderson shows, but it’s one of those things that people don’t actually say very much in real life. “I’ll send out the reception committee to help you bring in the shopping” is a phrase I’d like to hear more often. Anyway, Franklin points out the arrival of the Crablogger… as if we’d miss it.

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Here she is. It’s so big I don’t think there’s a single shot of the whole thing in frame at the same time. This is the front with her huge grabby claws, big flashing headlights, wide open mouth with grinding teeth, and a whacking great chainsaw strapped to the front. The Crablogger is certainly one of the most impressive and “out there” guest vehicles in the whole of Thunderbirds. Let’s take a look at her back end…

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Bringing up the rear is the Crablogger’s  enormous processing plant. It would appear that the foundation for this section of the model was the Australian road construction vehicle seen at the beginning of Atlantic Inferno. The model has been heavily revamped of course, in fact the tracks are the only definite match, and those originally came from a Tiger Joe Tank model. Maybe this rear section and the road construction vehicle are completely different models which happen to use similar parts and were painted with the same tin of yellow paint…

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The title card suggests that things might not go too well here. Music from Pit of Peril highlights the fact that the basic idea for the Crablogger and the Sidewinder are very similar in that they both clear trees… the Sidewinder unfortunately suffered from a severe case of falling over.

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The interior of the W.N.S. Atlantic from Atlantic Inferno has been adapted to create the control room of the Crablogger. Inside sit McColl and Petersen. McColl remarks that they shouldn’t get too close to base control… just in case it scares the willies out of them.

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The Crablogger really is ridiculously massive and terrifying and brilliant. Jansen offers to show McColl and Petersen the sights before they start doing whatever it is they’re going to do tomorrow morning… Simms doesn’t want to come along because he’s a bit boring to be honest.

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The desert jeep which first appeared with caterpillar tracks in The Uninvited makes its final appearance in the Thunderbirds television series here. It does, however, pop up briefly in Thunderbird 6. The team have taken a trip to Sanchos, the liveliest spot in town…

Sitting outside is a puppet originally seen as Patterson in Operation Crash-Dive. He’s wearing Alan’s shirt from Move – And You’re Dead. He’s having a drink with a chum who refuses to look at him. The same puppet in the same shirt is suddenly sat inside the restaurant in the next shot. Playing the guitar in the background appears to be International Rescue agent Jeremiah Tuttle from The Impostors… he’s actually undercover and monitoring the Crablogger operation… McColl looks like he’s plotting something menacing as he just finishes the hilarious tale of unloading the Crablogger. It would appear that the enormous machine was shipped over to South America from, presumably, England where it was developed by Jim Lucas at Robotics International.

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Sanchos, the restaurant owner, has come to take their order from the non-existent menu. Already the rating McColl is planning to leave on Yelp isn’t looking good. Something very special is being cooked up in the kitchen. Jansen says Sanchos cooks his meat in a very special way… which is actually said in a tone suggesting that he knows it’ll give everyone food poisoning… but we won’t assume that because that doesn’t make any sense. So McColl, Petersen, and Franklin order the special while Jansen orders his usual – thick and rare and juicy… he’s referring to a steak before your mind goes anywhere dirty with that.

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The camera pans across this beautifully dressed set. Yes, it’s a disgusting kitchen, but the amount of detail is insanely good. Miniature plates, cutlery, pots, bottles, boxes and more have all been dirtied down and spread out over the table. To add a final touch of filth, a mouse has been released on the set to play the role of a disease-ridden rat.

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Sanchos rushes in to hurry up Maria the… chef. She’s a very unique puppet with a body specially bulked up just for this character. Her costume has had plenty of mucky food smeared over it. She certainly conforms to a stereotype intended for comedy, but as is so often the case in Thunderbirds, one doesn’t really interpret the stereotyping as having any malice behind it.

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Well aware that Sanchos couldn’t care less, Jansen draws out a rough diagram on the tablecloth explaining how the Crablogger operation will run. The Superon tankers and transport trucks will be meeting up with the Crablogger during the journey to keep it running and to collect the processed wood pulp. It’s pretty clever stuff.

The food is ready and Sanchos rushes to serve up. Some glorious sound effects of food squelching and sploshing on to the plates are utilised. The two guys sitting outside are still there. They’re still not looking at each other, and they still haven’t touched their drinks.

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McColl gets a ruddy good look at his dinner.

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Is that even food? Were they really that hungry that they chose to eat a plate of sludge fuming like a chemisty experiment gone wrong?

Very abruptly, we move to the next morning. The Crablogger’s crane is ready for McColl and Petersen to board. The programming for the operation is ready, but Franklin has mysteriously fallen ill and won’t be supervising the operation. The colourful route map is a rather nice painting.

McColl and Petersen watch as a tanker arrives. Petersen was seen as that rather creepy construction worker in Atlantic Inferno last week. McColl features in Thunderbirds Are Go as the Angry Young Man at the SEC conference, the impostor of Martin in Thunderbird 6, and as a member of the press in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker.

There are subtle differences between the two transport trucks, one truck having a much larger window in the rear of the cab than the other.

McColl is lowered down into the control room. Petersen refuses to share the lift with him to help speed things up.

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The hatch is closed and locked… maybe you should keep that unlocked guys… it might help out later… never mind…

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Preparing to leave, McColl and Petersen are sealed into the cabin by the radiation shields, similar to the radiation shields lowered on Ocean Pioneer in Donald Robertson’s previous script, Danger At Ocean DeepPath of Destruction follows the same basic theme as Danger At Ocean Deep – revolutionary atomic machine is left heading towards destruction after the crew are rendered unconscious and International Rescue have to climb aboard to cut a hole in the cabin to release them. That’s quite a few similarities.

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And so the Crablogger sets off magnificently…

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The grabbers move into position menacingly…

McColl requests that the ocular monitor is switched on… to us regular folk that means the camera. The light units on the model look to have been made from slide viewers.

So here’s how it works. One of the grabbers, which looks completely different to the grabbers on the main model, takes hold of a tree. The chainsaw on the front of the vehicle hacks through the tree. Behind the scenes photographs show that this effect was just achieved by Derek Meddings using a regular chainsaw. The trees are then fed into the machine which chops and grinds them all up. Pretty neat. How on earth they manage to keep moving through the dense forest so quickly is a mystery though because the process of chopping down the trees and eating them up takes a bit of time. It makes a lot more sense, however, than the flimsy Sidewinder somehow managing to wrench huge trees, roots and all, out of the ground in Pit of Peril.

Simms and Jansen watch as the Crablogger continues along her pre-programmed route. Jansen wishes Lucas, the designer, had been here to see it. Petersen said something along those lines earlier. I get the feeling Lucas’ absence is going to become vital to the plot later on. But seriously, why isn’t he here? What did he have going on that was so important?

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As trees continue to be fed into the Crablogger, things aren’t looking so good upstairs. Plasticine has been placed over McColl and Petersen’s eyelids to simulate their sudden weariness. But no time to worry about their obvious fatigue right now, the first load of pulp needs to be ejected from the rear. Quite how the pulp made it from the front of the machine to the back I don’t know because the gangway which joins the two sections together isn’t exactly huge.

As the pulp transporter arrives, Petersen fails to reach the lever to release the load, collapsing in his chair. McColl jumps in at the last second, and barrels start to pour out of the machine for the transporter to pick up.

Despite McColl looking like death, he insists on handling the machine all on his lonesome. Jansen orders him to take the machine off remote and shut down the reactor. That’s right, the entire process so far has been automated except for releasing the pulp load, and now shutting down the reactor. Did they really not think that there might be a situation where they might need to shut down the machine remotely? McColl collapses on the floor, narrowly missing the edge of his chair… that’ll show them.

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The Crablogger continues to tear through the forest. But don’t worry, McColl failed to take her off remote so she’ll just continue along her pre-programmed path…

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Or not. So here’s the thing I don’t get about this episode. Why does the Crablogger veer off course towards San Martino? She’s still on remote, and therefore must still be following the programmed route. But this map shows that she’s been taking a gentle curve away from that route for quite some time now. Incidentally, San Martino and Monte Madre are made up places.

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Jansen observes that they have to keep the machine going with fuel to run the reactor even though it’s heading straight for a populated village. That may sound stupid, and it is, but there is something that resembles a good reason for it. The processing unit needs to keep running in order to avoid getting jammed and exploding spectacularly, wiping out everything in a 50 mile radius. So either the village is going to get squished or it’s going to get completely obliterated. But surely if the fuel ran out the processing unit would stop running, therefore stopping it from getting loaded up and jammed any further, thus making it perfectly okay to let the machine shut down of its own accord… but that wouldn’t make very good television so never mind all that, let’s just enjoy the destruction that follows.

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Jansen immediately knows who to call…

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The sight of John Tracy’s reflection on the tape machine is more than a little bit creepy.

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Ever the responsible one, John checks that the village has been warned about their impending doom. Jansen says one of the trucks has been sent to help evacuate… because he’s super helpful like that. He also says that if the machine gets near the village the processing plant will jam “for sure.” And you know what that means – it’ll explode. Except that doesn’t actually happen when the machine does reach the village later, so I don’t really know what the problem is.

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Maybe it’s the fact the Crablogger is on course for a ruddy great dam. Oh good. The little toy truck which previously appeared at London Airport in Trapped In The Sky and at Cape Kennedy in Sun Probe can be spotted. The dam itself previously appeared in the Stingray episode, In Search of the Tajmanon. It will go on to appear in the Captain Scarlet episode, Flight to Atlantica and the Joe 90 episode, Arctic Adventure.

John reports in to Jeff, who is wearing an outfit previously worn by Chip Morrison’s father in Security Hazard. It’s his go-to costume for the rest of the series. Scott immediately hops up to go and launch Thunderbird 1.

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Tin-Tin is ordered to go and get Virgil and Brains. That’s pretty much her main contribution to the episode over and done with.

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Perhaps the sloppiest thing about the second series of Thunderbirds is the fact stock footage from the first series is still used and it stands out a mile. All of the launch sequences were re-shot for Thunderbirds Are Go using the new sets and puppets, so it’s a real shame the time wasn’t taken to also get some new shots for the television series at the same time.

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Brains arrives wearing a shirt that looks like an airport carpet. He points out that they need to contact Jim Lucas for information on how to stop the Crablogger. Virgil points out that it would be a risk to security if they contacted him directly… even though they’ve gotten awfully chummy with people in the past, Lindsey and Wilson in The Uninvited for example. Anyway, we need to give Penelope a subplot so this assignment will do nicely.

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Scott is standing by for blast off. They really did add a whole bunch of stuff to the Thunderbird 1 cockpit for series two didn’t they?

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Meanwhile, Penelope is sitting down for a fancy dinner all by herself like the mad aristocrat that she is. Her outfit was previously worn by her alter-ego, Wanda Lamour, in The Cham-Cham.

Parker fills up Penelope’s glass of sherry and moves it towards her. In the next shot it has suddenly moved onto her place mat. A call can be heard coming in, and Penelope immediately assumes her evening of lonely dining is going to be cut short. She almost sounds relieved.

By twisting the candelabra, Penny starts chatting with Jeff. Is there anything in that house which isn’t a transmitter? Impressive stuff. Jeff being the smooth character that he is declares that it’s always a pleasure to do business with Penny. Seriously, what are those two getting up to? At all costs, she has to contact Jim Lucas and find out the Crablogger’s shut down procedure. I can’t really believe that Jansen doesn’t have the foggiest idea how to turn the machine off. How do you get to be head of a project like that without even knowing the basics?