Thunderbirds – 10. Martian Invasion

Directed by David Elliott

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First Broadcast – 17th March 1966

Martian Invasion is a bizarre mix of a fairly ordinary rescue of two film actors trapped in a cave combined with what could have been one of the most important moments in the series – International Rescue’s capture of The Hood. How does this exciting opportunity play out? Let’s take a look.

Lots of intriguing stuff in this opening teaser. Are those actual aliens? They look cool.

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This sign post puts us somewhere roughly in the Nevada desert, 300 miles from Los Angeles and 300 miles from Salt Lake City. Geographically this sign post is pretty spot on.

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Is that a flying saucer in the distance?

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Wow, okay, aliens have come to ThunderbirdsMartian Invasion certainly is a good title for its shock value the first time around, although having seen the episode many, many times one does forget the implication that beings from the planet Mars have actually come to Earth. The episode as a whole is about so much more than that fictitious aspect of the plot that the image of the UFO standing in the desert isn’t as powerful as it was probably intended to be.

Driving through the desert is a police car with two officers inside, Maguire and Slim. Matt Zimmerman and David Graham put on some fabulously over the top voices for reasons which will be revealed later.

Suddenly, Maguire spots something and the car gets half buried in the sand as it attempts a handbrake turn. A slightly repainted version of this police car set is also seen in Edge of Impact and 30 Minutes After Noon.

As the officers go out for a wander to investigate, they encounter some very strange beings indeed.

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The Martians blow up the police car and we get our first good look at them. They’re really beautifully make puppets. The AP Films puppet workshop had done some great work making weird aliens for Fireball XL5 and Stingray, but these two are certainly the culmination of all that artistic skill and creativity. Their laser blasters are also a couple of really nice props. Episode guides refer to these two as Martian Pete and Martian Ray – named after their voice artists, Peter Dyneley and Ray Barrett.

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They start taking pot shots at the police officers. Very dramatic indeed.

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Taking cover in a cave, Slim and Maguire manage to avoid the Martian Pete’s rather poor aim.

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Meanwhile, Martian Ray is demonstrating his new missile launcher for the shopping channel. Yours in 3 easy payments of 99.99…

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He fires in a couple of gas capsules which begin to fill the cave with steam… I mean poisonous gas… although it clearly is steam because you can see water dribbling down the side of the rocket on the left.

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As things start to look desperate for the officers everything goes wibbly and becomes a black and white illustration, beautifully rendered by the art department. That’s right, the whole thing is a movie! It’s certainly an intriguing opening sequence. The only downside is that because it’s supposed to be a pastiche of an alien B-movie, one can’t help but roll one’s eyes. We also don’t know whether this is a finished scene that Goldheimer’s already shot, or a hypothetical one that he is describing to get the rest of the movie finished.

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If you’ve ever wanted to read the handwritten notes on Bletcher’s desk, here’s your chance!

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Here’s the happy-go-lucky movie director Mr. Goldheimer who has the same taste in clothes as Dr. Godber from The Perils of Penelope.

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Bletcher is a film producer and for some reason keeps Goldheimer employed. During his work day he smokes cigars and drinks milk from the bottle on his desk. Behind him you can spot the studio’s ‘Stage H’. Bletcher was also seen as Maxie in The Cham-Cham and in the audience of ‘The Ned Cook Show’ in Terror in New York City.

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Also sitting in the office is Mr Stutt. He apparently thought it was worth investing $4 million in the movie, ‘Martian Invasion’ on the condition he could add some of his own scenes. Obviously it’s The Hood in disguise. Goldheimer isn’t supposed to know that of course, but I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to pick up on it immediately. But we do because it’s a very similar disguise to the one we saw in The Mighty Atom. He also pops up in this disguise in a brief cameo during The Duchess Assignment.

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There’s something very hideous about the decor and layout of Bletcher’s office. Anyway, The Hood is giving Goldheimer $4 million to make a movie in order to stage an accident which will bring International Rescue on the scene. This plot certainly has echoes of the Stingray episode Standby For Action. Anyway, it’s a pretty solid plan for the most part with The Hood presumably assuming he’ll make a return on his investment once he has the plans of International Rescue. Either that or he genuinely thinks ‘Martian Invasion’ will be a hit.

For some bizarre reason when Goldheimer, and then Bletcher, are forced to leave they start bowing outside the office door… I understand Goldheimer is feeling a certain amount of gratitude but I don’t get it… did Gerry do this at Lew Grade’s door every time he got given another series?

Apparently the only reason The Hood needed Bletcher to leave was so he could remove his mask and have a quick chuckle to himself. Why The Hood looks so ruddy angry I don’t know. The shot is just a little too close up for comfort in order to cover up the fact that floor puppeteers were holding The Hood’s arms to remove the wig and mask.

Back in his temple, The Hood grumpily awaits the arrival of a visitor. We’re treated to some shots of his statues.

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A mysterious figure appears at a curtain in The Hood’s temple. Apparently The Hood has a special visitation curtain rigged up for all his anonymous guests. It’s not terribly effective mind you thanks to the high definition blu-rays which reveal that behind the shadow is a puppet that we’ve seen before. General X is in fact being portrayed using the Mr Stutt puppet that we’ve just seen! So this guy is The Hood’s buyer for the secrets of International Rescue at a price of $200 million (a figure pretty much plucked out of thin air), which means after investing in Goldheimer’s movie he’s left with a profit of around $196 million… that’s some good business right there.

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General X (or General Strond as he’s apparently known in the script) leaves and fairly abruptly we cut to The Hood kneeling before his statue of Kyrano. It suggests some material was shot later to extend the episode but we’ll cover more of that later.

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Meanwhile on Tracy Island, Kyrano is serving drinks and Alan is fanning Tin-Tin… because that’s where Alan and Tin-Tin’s relationship is at right now.

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Jeff is reading a magazine which, like many of the books and magazines in Thunderbirds, has random pictures clipped from books and magazines stuck on the front. Jeff’s hair is looking slightly more bouffant than usual. He orders Kyrano to take a break from being a servant for a bit… as if that isn’t what Kyrano is paid to do and he does it purely out of the goodness of his heart…

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The Hood drones “Kyrano, Kyrano”…

And rather unceremoniously Kyrano takes a tumble in the garden. The Hood’s certainly gotten very efficient. Behind Kyrano is a statue similar to one previously seen in Titan’s throne room in Stingray, although the tail looks to be slightly different.

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The Hood gives his orders to immobilise Thunderbird 1’s automatic camera detector, which previously nobbled him in Trapped in the Sky. 

Somehow while writhing around on the floor, Kyrano managed to move to a completely different patch of the garden where the lighting is also slightly brighter.

Jeff and Tin-Tin go looking for Kyrano, Jeff’s hair now slightly more under control. I’m not sure that statue’s rather oddly shaped private parts were supposed to appear on camera quite so prominently as they do here. Tin-Tin tries her best to ignore them. When they find Kyrano he is lying back on the yellow patch of ground where we first saw him fall. He tries to pass it off as nothing. Why he doesn’t just tell Jeff about The Hood is a bit of a mystery. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

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Shooting on the ‘Martian Invasion’ movie is about to continue. This scene was most likely added to extend the episode because of the puppets featured. Chandler from The Duchess Assignment is used to portray the Martian actor, Hector McGill from Attack of the Alligators! is painting the set and the croupier from The Duchess Assignment is smoking a cigarette. The make-up girl was seen as the driver in City of Fire. On the subject of additional material, it’s probably worth mentioning that although Lew Grade gave the order for the half hour episodes to be extended after episode 9, Move – And You’re Dead, was completed, this episode and the next one, Brink of Disaster, were in production at the time and it was decided to complete them as half hours before going on to extend them later. This means that some of the scenes written to extend Martian Invasion were among the last to be shot for the first series, hence why puppets from episodes like The Duchess AssignmentAttack of the Alligators! and The Cham-Cham are featured. Prior to this point in the episode it’s hard to determine exactly what is added material and what isn’t. In The Hood’s temple, one assumes that his discussion with General X about the sale of the film was added, and that his instructions to Kyrano were original. The scene in Bletcher’s office could have been added depending on how The Hood carried out his plan originally. The puppet of Bletcher also features in The Cham-Cham as Maxie but that may not necessarily mean all his scenes in this episode were added, it’s just possible that they were. The opening of the episode with the Martians and police officers could have been added or it could be original but used slightly differently. So there’s some stuff to consider.

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Anyway, the chat between the actor and the make-up artist is very amusing because he clearly has an ego problem and she clearly doesn’t care. A nice reminder also why working with puppets is sometimes easier than working with actors – at least the puppets don’t complain…

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Operating the camera console is the puppet last seen as Lt. Burroughs in Operation Crash-Dive and Asher in Sun Probe. The guy standing by the camera could be the news presenter from Sun Probe and Operation Crash-Dive, but it’s hard to tell. The camera in the background was also used as an NTBS camera in The Perils of Penelope and Terror in New York City.

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Goldheimer shows off all the fancy camera equipment he’s blown the budget on. Six remote control cameras all controlled from one console. Apparently that’s the future of movie making.

The Hood also specially requested a camera to sit at the top of a mountain, presumably to use to get shots of International Rescue. How on earth he climbs up there, we don’t know. Anyway, the shooting schedule is suddenly changed and Mr Stutt’s new scenes are at the top of the list… I love the fact that The Hood would have presumably had to pretend to take the film seriously in order to tell Goldheimer what he wanted to add.

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Time for the Martians to get in position, but lighting up a cigarette has to come first.

The camera sweeps across the film set, revealing that the farmer from Operation Crash-Dive is now working in the movie business. The Hood has ordered Bletcher to alter the strength of the explosive charges… I wonder what those will be used for…

Inside the cave the actors are given instructions by radio. The radio was last seen painted green in The Uninvited.

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We’re shown one of the cameras operated by remote. This camera was later used on the roof of Ned Cook’s truck in Terror in New York City.

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Inside the cave, an effects technician called Brian uses a mobile smoke machine to fill up the cave. Supposedly Brian was named after Thunderbirds‘ special effects director Brian Johncock. The mobile smoke unit was previously seen in the Stingray episode Titan Goes Pop as a hover scooter used by a WASP messenger.

Goldheimer calls action by means of waving a tissue that he happens to have in his hands and the scene continues from where we left off as the Martian demands that the police officers come with him to become slaves. They refuse, and so he threatens to entomb them in the cave…

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Goldheimer cues the explosion with his tissue.

It looks rather spectacular but it does bring down huge boulders in front of the cave… which presumably crushed the actor playing the Martian to death… but we never find out what happened to him.

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Some rocks are dislodged and waters starts to pour in. If you look really closely at this shot you can see the fingers of the technician that shifted the rocks. But more importantly, where on earth is all this water coming from? They’re in the middle of a desert but apparently there’s a huge supply of water being stashed next door to the cave which is above sea level.

Goldheimer is very distressed, but The Hood can’t resist making a quick gag about how good it all looked on camera… because no-one will suspect he’s a criminal if he just tries to show off how much of a movie expert he is.

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Meanwhile, on Tracy Island, someone is heading over to Thunderbird 1. Even though it isn’t Scott, the same piece of stock footage is used from the launch sequence, although it’s not like you can tell that the little plasticine figure is Scott anyway.

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Tin-Tin is in Thunderbird 1 for the first and only time in the series. She’s actually doing her job which is being a technical assistant to Brains, in case you didn’t know.

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Kyrano arrives, and just like in the regular Thunderbird 1 launch sequence, the studio wall can be seen behind him.

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Kyrano explains that since his attack he has wanted to watch Tin-Tin work. All Tin-Tin has to say is, “that’s nice.” I’ve made a point about this in my Trapped in the Sky article, and I’m not sure it’s intentional, but Kyrano and Tin-Tin’s relationship comes across as very strained and awkward almost every time they’re on screen together. They rarely talk to each other and when they do, they don’t generally have a lot to say. I know Kyrano has a big secret to keep but would he really be that distant from his daughter without her figuring out that something was seriously wrong with him.

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Ever so briefly Tin-Tin’s face changes to her smiler head with her fringe becoming slightly shorter.

She instructs her father to take a seat in Scott’s chair… Scott’s special chair… he wouldn’t like that. Tin-Tin lists some of Thunderbird 1’s systems and doesn’t bother to question why Kyrano has suddenly taken an interest in all this.

We’re shown the Ultra H.F. guidance system, the Horizontal Flight Control, and the Automatic Camera Detector. The ‘H.F.C.’ label was added specifically for this scene and helps to confirm which scenes in Thunderbird 1 prior to this episode were shot before this scene during production, and which scenes were added after it. For example, the label is there in the added scene when Scott gets shot down in The Uninvited, but isn’t there in an original scene when he’s flying towards the pyramid.

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At the mere mention of the automatic camera detector, we zoom in dramatically on Kyrano who starts to hear The Hood’s voice and gets a bit sweaty.

And rather than being a decent bloke and coming clean about the whole thing, Kyrano just lies to his own daughter rather badly and gets her out so he can go ahead with (somehow) sabotaging the automatic camera detector. How does Kyrano know how to sabotage the detector in such a way that it can go unnoticed? Does he have no control over his actions or does he do it purely out of fear of his brother? It’s not surprising really that the decision was taken to minimise Kyrano’s involvement in the series because the flaws in his very existence on Tracy Island begin to show. Why does he not tell Jeff about his relation to The Hood? They’re on a secret base so it’s not like The Hood could come after him if he found out about the betrayal. Reducing Kyrano to the background of most episodes does make his role in the series even more puzzling as he could be viewed as something of a central character through which we learn about both sides of the fight between International Rescue and The Hood. The writers should have either done a lot more with the character, or a bit less so we weren’t left with all these questions.

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Back on the film set, the camera operator, whose voice has changed from being performed by Shane Rimmer to David Graham, does a lot of hand waving to explain that nothing can be done for the actors in the cave as water rushes in and the roof starts to collapse. Apparently “the boys” have been trying to shift the rock, although the bloke in the background couldn’t look less bothered.

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Huge boulders splash into the water, narrowly avoiding caving in the actors’ skulls.

The hats are rather out of focus as they float around and the camera looks up at the actors who are just about still alive and unhurt despite having slammed their faces into some rocks.

Bletcher strides up to Goldheimer and suggests they call International Rescue. The Hood nods his head in agreement because it was totally his idea…

John picks up the call up in Thunderbird 5. He’s gotten himself a nice chair since I commented on his little wooden stool in Trapped in the Sky, although it does appear briefly in additional material shot for City of Fire. This is the first time we’ve seen John in Thunderbird 5 since Vault of Death.

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As we fade to black for the commercial break, boulders continue to get skull-crushingly close to the actors’ heads.

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John calls base with the news of the disaster. Even he doesn’t sound at all baffled by the fact a cave in the desert is flooding with huge amounts of water… The projection of his pre-recorded footage is noticeably more flickery than usual.

Jeff quickly dispatches Scott and Virgil. This scene is likely to have been added later because the puppets used match the ones seen in the additional latter half of the episode.

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Bletcher asks The Hood if he can “blow”… which we assume means leave. We learn that he will be receiving a cut of the $200 million, so The Hood’s profits have gone down slightly from the $196 million we predicted earlier.

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We’re introduced to a new stock shot of Thunderbird 1 which I rather like and doesn’t get used very much until the latter part of the series.

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Scott informs Jeff that he’s approaching the danger zone. The dialogue used sounds like it came straight out of Trapped in the Sky, although I think it’s just the written lines that were copied from Trapped in the Sky and what we hear in this episode was still recorded for Martian Invasion.

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Goldheimer spots Thunderbird 1 coming in to land and we’ve reverted back to the old stock footage of the original Thunderbird 1 with wheels.

The Hood is on his special camera as Thunderbird 1 touches down with lettering on the belly and nose of the craft. The automatic camera detector has indeed been disabled. Well done Kyrano…

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As she touches down, Thundebird 1 now has skids instead of wheels and no lettering on the belly.

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Through The Hood’s camera we can just about make out that there’s no lettering on the top side of the craft or at least some very thin, subtle lettering.

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Then, after Scott orders some guys to help him move equipment because he relies on that apparently, we’re shown another angle of Thunderbird 1 with fat, stumpy letters now along the top side of the craft. Thunderbird 1 really is an absolute nightmare for continuity.

The water continues to fill up the cave. The actor playing Maguire should probably be drowning right now. The boulders start to fall again. How do those guys not get hit? Scott radios in and inadvertently manages to save Maguire from drowning by waking him up.

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Scott’s smiling away during a rescue mission once again. I’ve pointed it out in fair number of episodes to the point that I reckon this is actually supposed to be a regular Scott head that happens to be quite happy, rather than a designated ‘smiler’ head.

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Ummm… do you guys want to be left alone for a bit?

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Virgil brings Thunderbird 2 into land rather magnificently.

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Phwoar.

Virgil releases Pod 5, The Hood filming every second of it. Of course, none of this stuff is all that secret really because countless people have seen it before on previous rescue operations and probably told their mates about it.

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The Drilling and Cutting Excavator (more generally known just as the Excavator) emerges from the pod. This front heavy machine almost lands in the sand face first as it comes down the ramp. The main body of the machine was also used for the D.O.M.O. in The Duchess Assignment.

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Virgil is absolutely loving driving this machine. He smiles throughout the rescue operation. Virgil doesn’t actually smile all that often so why it was decided he should be smiling during this particular sequence is an odd choice.

Now The Hood’s getting shots of the Excavator, marvelling at it while he films. Some great track marks are left in the sand.

Virgil lowers the Excavator’s thingy and starts grinding up the rocks in front of the cave which shoots sand out of the back. Very cool. The Excavator is a bit like the Mole in function so why that isn’t used to drill a dirty big hole much faster I don’t know, although the Mole is never shown to work horizontally in the series, only in the comics.

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As Virgil keeps excavating, more boulders start to hit the water – still missing the actors.

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With the big-ish rocks out of the way, Virgil begins drilling through the remaining debris.

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The water has risen awfully quickly. It’s rather soapy. I guess that’s supposed to imply it’s frothy from all the activity… but it’s probably just washing up liquid. Anyway, Scott informs the actors of the plan. They need to dive in the water and get carried out as the water rushes through the hole… would that work without killing them? Who knows…

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Virgil estimates it will be another 5 minutes until he’s through. But my goodness does he look optimistic with that cheeky smile.

Slim and Maguire are beginning to regret achieving starring roles in this movie. They’re probably regretting ever getting into acting in the first place… maybe they’ll head down a different career track… I wouldn’t recommend the WASPs to them though… the work is mostly water-based. Maguire threatens to fix The Hood… he’s probably beyond repair though…

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Suddenly the Excavator starts to shoot muddy water out the back.

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The Excavator is pulled out as water gushes forth from the cave.

Weeeee! Slim and Maguire sink towards the hole, rather unconvincingly being carried by the current along with a few flying rocks. It just doesn’t look very much like they’re underwater.

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Somehow they’re squirted out of the cave without injury or hitting any rocks on the way out…

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Oh dear… the less said about this shot the better.

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Finally, more boulders fall from the roof of the cave. Even though they didn’t do any harm to the actors before, one’s left with the feeling that this particular rockfall would have finished them off just because.

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All mucky and spluttery, Maguire and Slim are safe. Poor guys, what a horrendously rough way to be rescued.

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We’re treated to a whip-pan transition. Where are we going now?

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Oh, we’re still on the set. But some time has passed. Virgil has stopped smiling even though they’re getting a nice pat on the back from Goldheimer. Cables can be seen running from Scott’s mobile control unit, suggesting that it’s powered from elsewhere.

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The Hood is pretty chuffed too. His film of the International Rescue team at work is almost complete.

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With the Excavator packed away, Thunderbird 2 blasts off for home.

Goldheimer goes to take a picture of Scott, alerting him to the fact something is amiss.

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The automatic camera detector is dead as a doornail, confirmed by the fact Goldheimer has been taking his own pictures throughout the operation. He should have just lied about getting rid of those photos and sold them to General X for a few million… probably would have made him more money than the ‘Martian Invasion’ movie.

The Hood has legged it, leaving his wig and mask behind. Creepy. The mask shown in close up is different to the one in the wide shot.

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Scott demands to see footage from the film cameras, with Goldheimer claiming that everyone’s been too busy watching the rescue to film. Although that guy behind them is still working on the newspaper he was reading earlier so he may not have been all that enthralled.

Scott is given a preview of five snippets from ‘Martian Invasion’ before anyone else. Lucky guy.

But camera 6 reveals the worst. Seeing as The Hood has taken the film he was shooting on, how those shots are visible on the camera console is a bit of an unknown.

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And suddenly everything’s different. The Scott puppet has changed and the guy reading the newspaper is probably a different puppet which is why he’s covering his face so much. This is where the bulk of the episode’s additional material begins as the chase for The Hood gets underway. We don’t know how the original half hour version of the episode was resolved but presumably it was a pretty simple affair of getting rid of the footage. Maybe The Hood had a slightly different plan originally.

The Hood starts to drive away in his jeep which now has wheels instead of the tracks seen on it previously.

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Goldheimer whips out his handy cool binoculars which Jeff also uses at the air show in The Duchess Assignment. He doesn’t appear to recognise The Hood. Scott’s ready for a fight.

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The Hood gets in contact with General X. This is his house. It’s rather nice. The red car is a scale model kit of a car designed by Darryl Starbird.

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General X is sat at home in his armchair listening to The Hood babble on about how great it’s all going with two flashing lights to keep him entertained. I love that the identity of General X is never revealed. It suggests that there’s something really sinister and dark about this guy and what he represents. By maintaining his anonimity he’s given a huge amount of power. He commands The Hood and that makes him seem like even more of a threat. I would have loved to learn more about General X, and see him engineering a master plan to foil International Rescue’s efforts as the series went on, but as it stands, his appearance in this episode is certainly something special and different.

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The secrets of International Rescue are secret no longer! It’s funny that even 50 years on, when kids probably don’t have much of a concept of films and videos existing in a physical form, I’d like to think that the idea of footage of International Rescue being on a reel of film isn’t totally lost on children viewing these episodes today. I hope that the analogue, non-digital, world of Thunderbirds doesn’t stop them from believing that this is a version of the future, rather than an antique from the past.

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Scott reports back to base that he can’t wipe the film with the electronic beam because it’s not magnetic. Viewing the series in ‘production order’ we’ve yet to actually see that function demonstrated as it is in Terror in New York City, but seeing as this additional material would have been written and shot after that episode, and Martian Invasion ended up being broadcast after that episode, we should already know what he’s talking about. Again, magnetic film probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to general viewers nowadays, but you still get the idea.

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Scott quite rightly questions how the camera detector came to be sabotaged in the first place. The fact he assumes that it was sabotage at all saves us a bit a time. But all Jeff says is that he’ll look into it later… and then he never does. Kyrano’s gotten away with it. That said, as this was the 24th episode to be broadcast, it is in fact the last time The Hood appears in the television series and pretty much the last prominent appearance of Kyrano. Maybe everything did get uncovered off screen and Kyrano’s psychic link with The Hood was broken. Although Kyrano was supposed to be contacted by The Hood in the Thunderbirds Are Go feature film, but that scene was deleted in the final edit. Anyway, Scott is given orders to destroy the film – let’s do this.

Scott tracks down The Hood and in a rather drawn out sequence he asks him to stop and hand over the film. The Hood’s just loving the attention. I don’t think I’ve ever really picked up on just how similiar both halves of this episode are to Terror in New York City but they really are. The disasters are very similiar, albeit solved in completely different ways, and this sequence of Scott chasing down The Hood is pretty much the same as Scott chasing down Ned Cook. Both episodes, funnily enough, were written by Alan Fennell.

The Hood drives off the road! How exciting! But don’t worry, we’re back to the same scenario again once Scott makes a U-turn.

Finally, Scott resorts to gun-fire, something he had absolutely no trouble with last week in Move – And You’re Dead. The Hood is able to dodge the shots without breaking a sweat.

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He escapes into the Stapleton Tunnel which Scott presumably manages to avoid flying straight into.

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Gordon and Alan are the smart ones this week and figure out that they should put Thunderbird 2 at one end of the tunnel and Thunderbird 1 at the other.

Virgil gets the news about how badly Scott has messed up. He’s probably not happy about it. Not to mention he’s been flying one of the uglier Thunderbird 2 models since he took off.

Somehow The Hood has great radio signal inside the tunnel and makes contact with General X to explain the delay. He refers to himself as Agent 7-9, the only name that we ever hear him given on screen. The General isn’t too impressed that International Rescue is chasing The Hood.

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Scott arrives at the north end of the tunnel…

Leaving the south end totally clear… and the road ahead looking quite different to how it was when The Hood entered the tunnel…

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So he legs it because Virgil didn’t think it was worth flying all that fast apparently. How The Hood managed a three-point turn in such a narrow tunnel is a mystery.

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Finally Thunderbird 2 shows up. A rather sweet little model is used to make it look far off in the distance.

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Having flown all the way to the north end of the tunnel, Scott then has to fly all the way back to the south end to help Virgil. This isn’t exactly the most thrilling chase that it could have been. There also doesn’t appear to be much of a road at the north end of this tunnel… just a big pile of rocks…

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Thunderbird 2 is such a good looking craft if I haven’t mentioned that enough in these reviews.

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Thunderbird 2 is shown to have missiles for the first time in the series. They’re very colourful.

Virgil opens fire on the mountainside, having received permission from the state police to do whatever’s necessary… which is awfully nice of them.

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The Hood’s path is blocked…

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So off he pops. Virgil reports to Scott that The Hood has gone into the trees… shame he only brought two missiles with him or this would have been sorted out pretty quickly.

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Rather conveniently, The Hood comes across an airfield. Among the planes to choose from they have a little helijet last seen at the London Heliport in Vault of Death, the plane used by Colonel Tim Casey in Edge of Impact, or a plane which some suspect hasn’t seen the light of day since Supercar – based on the Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer kit. Needless to say The Hood makes the wrong choice.

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Use is made of the giant Thunderbird 2 cockpit model which last appeared in The Mighty Atom. Virgil certainly has landed in a very tight spot.

He gets on his hoverbike and starts to track The Hood’s footprints. Virgil doesn’t seem to feel that much sense of urgency. I’d have thought he’d have noticed that there was an airfield nearby while overflying the area and that The Hood would probably go for that. Why didn’t Virgil land there?

So, of course, The Hood makes his escape with the film. He struggles a bit with the take-off, but he manages it. The implication is supposed to be that The Hood isn’t all that experienced at flying, which I don’t really buy as he’s someone that attempts to make a living out of stealing the secrets of aircraft and/or sabotaging them.

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As Virgil reports in to Scott, it sounds very much like he says that it’s a green Angel Executive Aircraft… I think we can all agree that the plane is in fact yellow. Maybe Virgil thinks that any aircraft worth talking about has to be green…

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So Scott has to make yet another U-turn. Why are International Rescue doing so horrendously badly at keeping up with this guy?

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The chair The Hood is sat in is the same one usually occupied by Gordon in the Thunderbird 4 cabin. He manages to speed up the plane by flicking a switch… which isn’t how planes normally work…

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Scott announces to his father that they’re breaking off the chase because the plane’s engineers say it will crash any minute. Is that really a good enough reason to just give up on recovering International Rescue’s secrets?

The Hood certainly does have some trouble controlling the aircraft. He approaches a huge antenna, but manages to miss it… mostly because the design of it completely changes as he passes over the top.

Barry Gray manages to sneak in some gloriously silly music from Supercar as The Hood’s aircraft begins to let him down. Ray Barrett’s performance as The Hood is really admirable during this whole episode – as things start to go wrong he manages to play it silly, but not too silly. Because The Hood is a bit of a thicky by this point, he starts pushing every random switch he can see…

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Which probably wasn’t the best idea…

Things start to go bang and look pretty spectacular and dangerous.

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One near miss! The model of the General’s villa really is lovely.

Scott can only look on as things start to go really wrong for The Hood. It sure took him a while to catch up considering he’s in a supersonic rocket ship.

The Hood had been told by the General to land in a suitable field… but he’s managed to find a fairly runway-like road to attempt to touch down on. But when that fails, he only has one alternative…

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With a short, sharp wallop, The Hood ditches his plane in the General’s villa with only a small bang to accompany the impact.

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I’m not entirely sure which part of the plane The Hood has managed to end up on, but it looks like it must have hurt a lot. In the foreground you can just about see the top of the antenna from General X’s radio, meaning he’s actually landed in the room the General was sitting in… a gag which probably should have been made a bigger deal of.

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Scott can only look on smugly as the General’s car get some debris dusted over it. He declares that “the stolen film couldn’t have survived that smash.” It could have though couldn’t it? It was fairly safely protected in a film can in a passenger seat. The majority of the plane is still in tact and there wasn’t a particularly massive explosion. I would consider it more likely that the film did survive. But no, apparently we’re all done here.

Back on Goldheimer’s film set, they’re re-shooting that explosion again. I know it caused quite a big disaster and everything, but the previous explosion did look quite good. I mean, The Hood did say it was a fine piece of filming… I just can’t believe the actors agreed to come back to work and that there’s wasn’t a big law suit which chewed up the film’s budget.

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For some reason Scott and Virgil have come back in their civilian clothes to watch… maybe they’re on standby in case something else happens? Virgil did say at the end of the rescue that they couldn’t waste their time on the set because there could be another emergency call… I guess none of that was actually true… anyway, Virgil speculates that the guy who filmed the rescue operation was probably the guy who tried to film or photograph all there other rescues… now there’s a thought…

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Scott optimistically predicts that whatever disguise he wears they’ll be able to get him… even though they did a pretty poor job of it this week. Anyway, that’s the end of the episode!

Martian Invasion started life as a pretty run of the mill episode in its original half-hour form. It couldn’t have been much more run of the mill actually if it tried. The Hood wants to get International Rescue’s secrets so hypnotises Kyrano and sabotages a film stunt to bring them out. Two people get trapped somewhere but Virgil gets them out with a pod vehicle. It’s all pretty standard stuff. So standard that it doesn’t really have any particularly memorable features. Not many people would pick the rescue in Martian Invasion as one of the best.

Then the episode slips into its second half and things almost get a bit more interesting. The Hood finally has the secrets of International Rescue and they have to chase him down before he reaches an unknown villain with some sort of military connection. It promises an awful lot. Does it deliver? Well it does, but it could have done much more exciting stuff with it. It gets repetitive as International Rescue keep getting out-smarted. They can never actually claim that they defeated him because The Hood rather foolishly caused his own demise which International Rescue weren’t all that bothered about. There are a few too many questions left open. Why does Kyrano continue to help The Hood? Who is General X? What happened to The Hood? And the only reason we assume the film was destroyed is because no-one ever mentions it again in the series.

Stories are often told of the enormous time and budgetary pressures the production crew were under towards the end of shooting on series 1. Attack of the Alligators! and The Cham-Cham reportedly went over budget which was part of the reason Security Hazard was just a clip show. But on top of that they were still extending episodes like Martian Invasion, and you get the feeling that this could have been an epic finale to the first series if only they’d had a bit more time and money to make it as exciting as it should have been.

Next week, we’re going to tackle the final episode that was originally completed as a half-hour, Brink of Disaster. While Jeff, Brains, and Tin-Tin are trapped on an out of control monotrain, Penelope and Parker are facing burglary! What ties together these two loosely connected events? Warren “safety-schmafety” Grafton.

2 thoughts on “Thunderbirds – 10. Martian Invasion

  1. Last year, when I first watched all of Thunderbirds with my son, who was then four, we certainly had to talk about what the heck film even is. It didn’t even occur to me until a few days after we’d seen the comedy womp-womp bit in “Trapped in the Sky,” when the film unspools out from the Hood’s hat-camera that he had no idea what that weird stuff coming out of his hat even was. A world where photographs aren’t instantaneous is prehistoric for today’s little ones.

    I don’t know whether you’ve read my short recaps of our viewings at my blog, Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time ( https://firebreathingdimetrodon.wordpress.com/ ), but I never liked the “no cameras!” business in Thunderbirds, always thought it was silly, and was aggravated enough in our rewatch to complain about it many times. I’m really glad the current series never bothered with it.

    As always, keep up the great work. I’m learning so much from your commentary.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Thunderbirds – Extending The First Eleven – Security Hazard

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