Thunderbirds – 11. Brink of Disaster

Directed by David Lane

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First Broadcast – 24th February 1966

There’s a general stereotype about Thunderbirds that the word ‘automatic’ should translate to the word ‘lethal’ by default. Brink of Disaster is the prime candidate for that being true. This episode brings us high stakes, with members of International Rescue in danger once again, and some enjoyable characters in the form of Warren Grafton and his crooked gang of businessmen. But there’s also something rather unremarkable about this episode which I want to try and pin down over the course of this review…

The opening teaser lays out the episode rather neatly. FAB 1 in car chase, Jeff and co. on a monotrain, and Lady P getting burgled – simple as that. Of course the subplots do intertwine a little better than that but perhaps what is most unremarkable about this episode is its structure. Very simply, the stuff with the monotrain is the original half-hour version of the episode, and the stuff with Lady Penelope and Parker was added later to extend the episode. The subplots may be linked but because they don’t have much to do with each other and we’re always flicking between the two we don’t have much of a chance to connect strongly with either of them. But on the basis that people generally watch Thunderbirds for the action and cool explosions, I’m going to guess that like me, most people are more interested in the monotrain stuff than anything that happens with Lady Penelope in this episode. That’s just a speculation though, let me know if you disagree.

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The title of Brink of Disaster is one of those fairly generic titles which just about references the events of the episode but probably should have been changed when the main focus of the story shifted more towards Warren Grafton being an all around dodgy bloke rather than a monotrain getting stuck on a bridge. This scene also opens with an unusual, chopped together, fanfare – an example of the somewhat lacklustre use of music in the episode. Only a handful of episodes had music specially composed for them with the rest picking and choosing pieces to fit. Most of the time it works, but Brink of Disaster feels like it’s lacking something musically.

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Parker is taking a break in his office. Notice his chaffeur uniform hanging up on the right of shot. Some lovely puppet-sized furniture is on display. The newspaper bears the headline ‘Fire! 98 Saved From London Plane’… the curse of Fireflash strikes again.

We get the rare opportunity to see more of the grounds of Creighton-Ward manor in this episode. A car pulls up outside – the same car used by the Casino Owner and his crooked croupier in The Duchess Assignment.

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Parker is called away to answer the door, complaining that he’ll have to read about ‘the Killer of Clapham’ later… what a jolly tale…

Quite how Grafton managed to ring the door bell when there doesn’t appear to be a door bell to ring is a bit of a mystery. Parker very impressively manages to walk backwards in order to let Grafton in. It becomes apparent that Lady Penelope isn’t actually there. Grafton agrees to wait in the library saying “she’s certainly worth waiting for.” All Parker can do is politely agree with the implication that his respected employer is something to behold. David Graham provides a great New York accent for Warren Grafton in this episode – I’m going to be picking out some of my favourite over-the-top lines as the review goes on. The puppet of Grafton was also adapted to portray Wilbur Dandridge in The Duchess Assignment.

Parker twists a statue which somehow turns into a communicator. Lady Penelope’s hidden gadgets certainly get everywhere! Taken out of context, Parker either looks like he’s about to knick the statue, or he’s staring at it adoringly.

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Time for padding upon padding. In this scene which adds next to nothing to the plot, Lady Penelope is driving FAB 1 with a couple of crooks on her tail. She’s wearing a great outfit and a fabulous hair do. Unlike the scenes in Vault of Death, she now has decent driving skills, probably because the writers were being made to write for her properly by this point.

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Here are a couple of gangers wearing trademark gangster trenchcoats and hats. The chap driving is the creepy Erdman Gang member from the opening of 30 Minutes After Noon, while the passenger later appears as Sanchos in Path of Destruction among many other roles. They are following Lady Penelope. We don’t know why. The only reason that ties in to the plot could be that Grafton hired them to keep Lady P out of the way while he searched her house. The implication is, however, that this is just one of Penelope’s wild and dangerous adventures which you can read about in her comics or hear on LP by buying the mini albums. In fact the whole subplot centred around Penelope in this episode feels like a Century 21 mini album.

The gangsters pull up alongside Penelope…

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Check you out…

Smoke pours from the back of FAB 1 to lower visibility and allow her to lose the gangsters… which would have worked had the road not been completely straight. But Penelope reckons they have radar-assisted steering… very modern…

Gadget no. 2: Trails of oil are squirted on to the road which makes the car skid around a bit, and causes one of the gangsters to almost break his neck as pictured. However, because the road is still straight, they’re able to keep on it fairly easily. Anyone else feel like Penelope’s just trying stuff out for the sake of it?

The crook pulls out a machine gun and takes a few shots at FAB 1. Nasty fellow.

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So Penelope does what she should have done in the first place and gives them the guns.

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The car’s front tyre blows and causes the vehicle to glide off the road. In the background, a piece of greenery drops from the sky for some reason. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Inexplicably, the car is now on fire as it crashes into a tree and explodes in a gigantic fireball. That’s two well and truly dead criminals.

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Back at the manor, Grafton is up to no good… he’s also got rather long fingernails.

Using his detector of things he deduces that there’s something under the floor. But what could it be? The suspense is thrilling. Then he goes looking for the alarm system… he finds it behind a curtain.

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Apparently the wires for the alarm system in the home of International Rescue’s top agent are just exposed for anyone to poke around with. Really? Okay, well Grafton puts a thing next to the thing and that deactivates the alarm apparently. A slow hand clap to whoever came up with that security system…

Lady P finally arrives and isn’t at all suspicious about why Grafton is standing on the other side of the room looking so… well… suspicious.

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Finally, we can get to something to do with the main plot. Grafton has come to Lady Penelope to ask for an investment in his monorail line which runs from the Pacific Coast of the US to the Atlantic, hence the Pacific Atlantic Monorail. Why he travels all the way to England to seek investment on what is clearly a very American project isn’t terribly clear except for the fact he reckons Lady Penelope is loaded. She is quick to remind him that she actually doesn’t have very much money. Trapped in the Sky briefly referenced the fact that she was having to open up her home to tourists so she’s probably being rather truthful about that. Grafton’s after $40 million altogether. Assuming we need to adjust that for inflation that’s about $300 million in today’s money. But even in the 1960’s, $40 million wouldn’t have been very much money to set up a monorail a few thousand miles long. In 1964 it cost $15 million per kilometre to build the Tokyo monorail. I know Grafton is planning to make huge savings by automating the system, but it still doesn’t really add up. Anyway, because Lady Penelope doesn’t bite he suggests that she starts selling her stuff to cover it… probably not the best way to convince someone they’re in a good financial position to invest in your company.

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Parker brings in the tea and rather bizarrely, if you watch the wooden floor in the foreground as the camera moves out, you’ll notice that it shifts around quite considerably.

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Parker hands Penelope a telegram. In case you weren’t already aware from countless other sources, this is quite an anachronism as the UK telegram service ceased in 1982. I have to say that that never really bothered me. In the context of the retro-futuristic world of Thunderbirds I can believe that telegrams still existed in the same way that everything was recorded on film and tapes. It’s one of those things you can just buy into quite easily. Anyway, this is how we learn that Lady Penelope lives in the fictional village of Foxleyheath. Oh, and that Grafton’s chauffeur is a crook – very important.

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Penelope considers the news disturbing… even though her own chauffeur used to be a crook too. Anyway, she manages to play a ‘mere woman’ card and dodges this ridiculous business investment, promising to pass it along to her good friend…

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The chauffeur, whose name we later learn is Harry Malloy, is taking pictures using the same camera as The Hood in The Mighty Atom. The same puppet, and the same uniform are used to portray Brophy in The Duchess Assignment. It’s such a good puppet face that he just looks like a nasty piece of work.

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Grafton emerges through the front door saying, “I’ve sure enjoyed visiting with you.” Wouldn’t a normal person just say, “I’ve sure enjoyed visiting you” and leave out the meaningless ‘with’? Very odd.

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Closing the door, Penelope remarks on him as an ‘extraordinary fellow.’ I think we can all agree she’s being rather too polite.

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So even though Lady Penelope has suggested a much more suitable investor, Grafton has decided that they need to rob the place… because I’m sure she would never suspect the dodgy businessman of stealing her jewellery collection, even though he is probably the only man to ever ask about it after being left alone in a room with it for some considerable time, and also happens hire a crook, and needs a large amount of money.

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Penelope and Parker discuss how odd the whole situation is. They know something is amiss, and I’m surprised Penelope hasn’t spotted Grafton’s alarm blocking device seeing as she’s standing right by the window where he hid it in plain sight! Anyway, she decides to contact Jeff because he’ll know what to do.

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On Tracy Island, Jeff, Scott, and Brains are checking out a new aircraft design. It’s a lovely sketch. I don’t believe we see this plane pop up in the series. Jeff has a pointy stick to point at all the best bits presumably… or to keep Scott awake. Penelope calls in and claims to have something that needs investigating. She tells them that Warren Grafton is seeking investment for his monotrain…

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Alan tries to sound clever by pointing out that it must be “Grafton of Pacific Atlantic.” Thank you Captain Obvious… he says nothing else in the rest of the episode. Anyway, Tin-Tin is wearing an outfit later seen in Cry Wolf.  Alan also wears this outfit in Cry Wolf as well as Terror in New York City and End of the Road.

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Jeff suggests that he might be interested in investing, probably because Penelope doesn’t fully convey just how dodgy Grafton seems. Somehow she knows that he’ll be returning to his New York office tomorrow which cues some needlessly danger-filled music to take us to the commerical break.

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Stock footage of New York City at night.

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Grafton’s office is dominated by a ring of sofas and a fully stocked bar. I believe the sofas could be the same ones used in the lounge of Fireball XL5. This is Grafton’s team who all have a part in raising the money to build the monorail. They’re raising money from casinos, some sort of oil deal that the authorities apparently won’t get near, and racetracks. Then Grafton announces that Malloy and another associate, Selsden, will steal Lady Penelope’s jewel collection. There’s no doubt that these guys aren’t honest blokes. Meanwhile, Grafton will take Jeff and his two advisers on the monotrain to actually do some decent fundraising.

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Rushing into shot comes the Pacific Atlantic Monorail train, the first commercial monotrain seen in a Gerry Anderson show (the Zombites did use a secret one in The Uninvited). In the 1960’s these things were the future and so quite rightly they started to crop up in various forms in the Andersons’ shows. The design is very nice – futuristic but functional.

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Inside, the passenger compartment has all the luxuries… chairs and booze. Is it just me, or are Grafton’s trousers a bit too long for him?

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While Grafton vigorously stubs out his cigar, we’re given a little more about his character. He’s a fan of private enterprise and dodging government involvement where he can. He wants a few ‘modest’ (meaning horrendously wealthy) men to benefit above everyone else. Sound like anyone you know? We then learn that the train is controlled by automatic signals.

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Jeff’s on the case immediately wanting to know about safety precautions. Surprise, surprise, Grafton is unafraid of taking risks and just has a fleet of helijets patrolling the track… hang on a second… so despite Grafton having little regard for safety and wanting to save money at every opportunity, he’s decided to spend an absolute fortune on a fleet of helijets and helijet pilots. This is as opposed to employing just one person at the controls of the train who can stop it whenever anything goes wrong, and maybe one other person with a computer system operating the signals. I just don’t see how Grafton could possibly come to the conclusion that paying for helijets and pilots is a better financial decision.

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Because Jeff likes spoiling the plot for everyone he points out that it’s perfectly possible for the signals and the helijets to go wrong simultaneously. Thanks Jeff… couldn’t have left us wondering what might happen or anything.

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Here’s our helijet pilot. His name is Joe. Say hi to Joe. Anyway, the helijet set is the same one used in episodes like Pit of Peril and City of Fire. It still very clearly doesn’t have a roof on it – I know the model shows a transparent canopy over the top of the cabin but there clearly isn’t one on the puppet set.

The helijet itself is… well… not all that great really compared to the other designs seen during the series. This little thing is basically a flying brick. It certainly looks like the cheapest helijet that Grafton could get his hands on. When it flies over the bridge, for some reason everything looks like it’s a model.

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Joe reports in to base that “everything is A-OK.” What a boring job. Flying up and down the same stretch of unchanging, uninteresting track all day, everyday. Then a storm breaks and the rain starts to pour. The guy at the base brags about having a firm roof over his head… of course we all know that Joe certainly doesn’t. Anyway, Joe gives up trying to talk to base. Ray Barrett’s delivery of the line, “Better get out of this piece of sky before I get my feet wet,” is certainly a highlight of the episode.

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The mist of rain is beautifully well done and in scale with the model, something which must have been very hard to achieve.

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A lightning bolt strikes the helijet… which is jolly unlucky. The effect is extremely well done.

And bang! The helijet goes out of control as Joe desperately tries to get out of the crash-dive.

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Joe has no option but to eject. I’m rather amazed Grafton could be bothered to pay for helijets with ejector seats.

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In this otherwise very well done sequence, the moment Joe is flung out of his ejector seat is perhaps slightly less convincing.

The helijet whizzes straight past the camera and plunges towards the monorail bridge!

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The already burnt and smouldering helijet is blasted apart in a few more spectacular explosions which start to damage the bridge.

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Joe’s parachute just about deploys… he still thinks he’s sitting in his chair though.

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More gorgeous explosions as the bridge starts to get torn apart.

Joe can only look on from his parachute as the automatic signals start to catch fire and burn out. I think we can all agree he’s having a pretty bad day…

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And it just got a lot worse. Through sheer bad luck, Joe’s parachute gets snagged on the highly combustable bridge, leaving him swinging around…

He attempts to climb up his own parachute but the darn thing just slips some more and he’s still left swinging. Poor guy.

The bridge continues to explode, and Joe being the nice guy that he is doesn’t worry about himself but warns base that the train is coming and is going to be in a spot of bother very soon.

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Meanwhile, on the happy train, the weather is perfectly pleasant. Considering they can’t be too far away from the bridge, it’s a little odd that there’s no sign of any storm.

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Grafton is struggling to sit in his chair. Brains and Tin-Tin are sitting on the couch used to access Thunderbird 3 – that thing pops up everywhere. Grafton is bragging that “in the standard coaches, we can pack in 500 people.” Either he’s referring to 500 people fitting on the train overall, or 500 in each coach, but either way it certainly is tight considering how small the coach they’re sat in looks to be.

Jeff looks about ready to whack Grafton, who offers to show them the impressive power unit up front.

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Poor Joe is still hanging around.

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Here’s the monotrain’s automated power unit. It’s certainly big. Apparently developing, manufacturing, testing, and operating this thing is more cost effective than paying a train driver to operate a normal, standard issue monotrain.

While Brains and Tin-Tin do something that looks vaguely like checking the system out, Grafton continues to try and convince Jeff, who points out that “people aren’t cattle.” Grafton thinks that’s incorrect… even though he says people are like sheep… which isn’t cattle. But you get the point. We are again reminded that there are no staff on the train at all, and Brains questions what would happen in an emergency. David Graham marvellously delivers Grafton’s line, “An emoirgency?!” Splendid stuff.

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The storm has passed over the bridge and Joe has had time to dry out completely… he must have been there for hours and hours. He delivered his last report at 4:35 (pm presumably) just before the lightning hit. A long time must have passed for the storm to clear and for Joe to completely dry out. Yet the monotrain appears to have been travelling along very similar landscape for most of that time. Not to mention it must now be evening and yet at no point in the episode does it get dark. Unless it really was 4:35am… in which case why on earth are Grafton and Jeff arranging business meetings at such a ridiculous hour?

As the bridge continues to randomly explode and catch fire, another helijet touches down.

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The pilot, Stan, must be pretty bold to walk out onto a bridge that’s very near collapse. Despite hanging there for a very long time, Joe insists that the train be radioed about the nightmare they’re approaching. Stan’s quite the joker, telling Joe to not go away – ha ha ha.

Back on the train, a thing lights up to inform Grafton that there’s a call coming in. Jeff looks utterly sick of the sight of him.

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The gang discuss their opinions of the train. Brains isn’t happy. Jeff thinks Grafton should be in jail. All I can see is three empty wine glasses on the table so no wonder Jeff looks like he’s ready to thump Grafton.

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Remember this episode has a subplot? Yeah I’m afraid so. Selsden and Malloy are on their way to Lady Penelope’s.

After the commerical break, Selsden and Malloy are shown slowly driving up to the house… very slowly. This is set to music composed especially for The Man From MI.5, clearly demonstrating that this episode was finished after that episode went into production – if that makes sense.

Penelope and Parker are shown to be sleeping in their respective bedrooms (before anyone starts to wonder whether there was something going on between those two). It’s bizarre to think that Sylvia Anderson would have had to gently breathe into a microphone to simulate Penelope sleeping, followed by David Graham coming along and snorting at full volume to capture Parker’s snoring.

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As Selsden picks the lock on the front door, Malloy hopes that his boss is having an easy time… which is nice of him I guess.

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Grafton comes back from his call and announces that they’re heading for trouble.

And while at one end of the bridge Joe is finally getting winched away and everything seems fine, at the other end the whole thing is exploding, on fire, and pretty much fallen down.

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But no matter, our buddy Joe is finally safe! When he climbs up into the cockpit, the helping hand of a floor puppeteer can be seen holding his seat for some reason.

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Jeff has really run out of a patience with Grafton by this point. His quips of, “That’s obvious,” and, “Thanks, you’re a great help” cut real deep. Brains is now left with the task of trying to stop a train which he knows nothing about. Because they really couldn’t stretch to spend a little more money on a stop button… and yet I can’t over emphasise how odd it is that Grafton would pay for a fleet of helijets to patrol the track!

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Meanwhile, Selsden and Malloy have gained access to the library, the doors of which actually seem to open without being touched. Selsden is blissfully happy about how it’s all going, much to the annoyance of Malloy.

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They find the safe under the rug… which really isn’t all that subtle.

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The end of the bridge has completely collapsed… although in close up it had pretty much already completely collapsed several minutes ago. But that really is it now, the train is totally doomed.

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There’s no shortage of shots of the train whizzing past camera in this episode. It’s cool at first but does get rather over-used by this point.

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While Grafton has a minor crisis about their fate, Jeff tells him he should have thought about that. While I see his point, it would be a tad pessimistic of Grafton to actually plan for a helijet to get struck by lightning and crash into a bridge which also knocks out every single one of the automatic signals. I don’t think anyone can deny that while Grafton may have been foolish not to have an emergency stop button installed, they are also just very unlucky that this has happened – it’s not an everyday occurence.

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Jeff and Brains do that awkward thing of trying to whisper but also having to speak loudly enough for us to hear, meaning that Grafton, who is only stood a few feet away, must be very hard of hearing. Anyway, Jeff is going to call International Rescue without raising Grafton’s suspicions that they’re connected with the organisation. Brains is being terribly melodramatic saying things like “it’s too late” and “if we survive” in a tone which basically suggests he’s having a mental breakdown.

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Very smugly, Jeff tries to suggest calling International Rescue and boasts about the fact that any radio frequency can be used to make contact as if that totally wasn’t his idea in the first place.

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So Grafton and Jeff disappear to do that while Brains makes his first attempt to stop the train. He presses a doorbell buzzer… which definitely isn’t a doorbell buzzer of course, it’s some sort of button that tells the train to start using the wiring that they’ve reconfigured… but it doesn’t work, and the train starts speeding up instead. Woops…

John gets terribly flustered when his father calls in, just about managing to maintain Jeff’s cover. Grafton is stood uncomfortably close while the call is being made. In background, the generic radio device from various episodes is sitting on a table… with a yellow lightbulb… in case you were still interested in that whole conundrum.

Somehow, John manages to make the eyes of his portrait flash extra fast when he calls in. Because apparently all the other times he reports in disasters, they’re not as important as this one. Scott and Virgil are casually lounging about the place but quickly jump to it.

Brains tries the button again but we’re shown yet more of the same repetitive shots of the monotrain going along which implies nothing has changed.

With a very clever bit of editing, the monotrain is shown whizzing out of shot, followed by the sound of an enormous explosion, implying that the train has crashed. Instead, however, we cut to Thunderbird 1 blasting off, putting everyone’s mind at rest. Nice trick.

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Meanwhile, in the slow-paced subplot, Selsden is getting very intimate with the safe. If you look very closely, you can see that Malloy’s flashlight is actually starting to smoke, presumably getting very hot indeed during filming.

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Parker continues to snore up a symphony.

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I hadn’t noticed Selsden’s scar until this point. Anyone want to submit a fan-fiction about how he got that? He successfully manages to crack the combination…

Which triggers a back-up alarm in Penelope and Parker’s bedrooms. Naturally, because every gadget in the house is concealed, so are the flashing lights which wake them up.

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An unusual piece of electronic music, only heard here, announces the opening of the safe and the reveal of Penelope’s priceless collection.

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A painting slides back on Penelope’s bedroom wall to reveal a screen showing a live feed from a camera inside the safe. I wonder if it gets Sky Sports too.

Penelope has a radio concealed in a jewellery box, while Parker has one in the lid of a tankard… because of course he does.

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I love the unflattering shots we get of Selsden and Malloy taking the jewels. How they don’t spot the camera when they get this close to it I don’t know.

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Blink and you’ll miss it, but Parker does receieve a helping hand while getting out of bed.

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Selsden and Malloy leg it with the loot, even leaving the safe wide open. If Penelope and Parker hadn’t been woken up and the safe had been shut after the robbery was complete, the crime probably would have gone unnoticed for years.

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Parker has a very amusing struggle with the suitcases under his bed.

Just as the crooks prepare to make their getaway, Penelope and Parker open fire on them. Penelope looks utterly fabulous in her nightie holding a machine gun. Parker’s bed hair is similarly impressive.

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Somehow the pair manage to get out of the car. Malloy’s line, “That’s the duchess you dumb cluck” is another favourite of mine from this episode.

As Penelope and Parker shoot out the tyres of the car, Selsden and Malloy manage to escape into the bushes, somehow remaining unspotted, not that Parker or Penelope would have probably wanted to blow them to bits and have to explain to the police why there are two dead guys in their driveway with holes in them. Malloy spots the garage which we can see has space for three vehicles. What other cars could Lady P have in her fleet?

Penelope does that thing of acting all aloof and cool when it becomes clear they’re heading for FAB 1. Apparently she’s off to Ascot in the morning. Assuming she’s refering to the racetrack, I didn’t think she had the money to support an interest in gambling… or maybe that’s why she doesn’t have any money. Maybe it’s more of a problem than Penelope lets on about… we’ll probably come back to this when she goes to visit the casino in The Duchess Assignment.

Soon enough, FAB 1 breaks down the garage door… somehow… and drives off.

So Penelope turns a thing which does a thing…

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And FAB 1 is left turning around a statue at rather high speed. If you look very closely just before the end of the scene the statue wobbles slightly. But apparently Penelope thinks the car will still be going by the morning. Assuming we don’t know any better about FAB 1’s fuel system, surely the petrol would run out and the battery would go flat eventually? So that brings that subplot more or less to a close. It ends with a nice comedy moment, but certainly isn’t the most engaging thing to happen in the series… certainly not worthy enough to essentially get remade in that episode of Thunderbirds Are Go that not many people liked very much…

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Anyway, the end looks pretty near on the monotrain. Tin-Tin looks beside herself with worry. Jeff holds her in a way that Kyrano might not be too happy about. Brains has almost lost his mind completely as he wearily makes one last attempt to stop the train before reaching the bridge.

The brakes appear to come into action with a lot of screeching and sparks starting to happen.

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Tin-Tin looks very much like she’s been on the wine again.

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Cor Jeff looks grumpy. I’m not surprised. Tin-Tin looks completely wasted and could throw up on his jacket any second.

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Grafton falls over for no particular reason. Guess he couldn’t even be bothered to install handrails for this sort of thing. The whole sequence is magnificently set to music from The Perils of Penelope, another episode about a monotrain that’s going to crash into something… which also happens to be the next episode in production…

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Still going at full pelt, the train rushes onto the bridge which continues to randomly explode.

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The timing of this seems a bit odd. The train starts to slow down. The end of the track explodes for some reason, just before the train actually gets there, and then the thing stops. It looks spectacular on screen and the whole sequence is very exciting, the timing of that one effect just seems a bit peculiar to me.

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Tin-Tin’s an absolute wreck. The whole time she’s had this thing on her hand which I think is supposed to be a ring but it doesn’t really look like it.

The guys in the helijet have been watching the whole time, and only now the train is precariously balanced on the collapsing bridge do they decide it’s time to leave. Stan claims to have called emergency services… who never show up… thank goodness someone let International Rescue know at least. Stan claims that the helijet’s endurance is down to five minutes. He could land as near as possible and try to help out, but no, they disappear back to base. Nice.

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In the nick of time, Thunderbird 1 arrives!

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Grafton and the others come to take a look out of the window. I say window… the blinds have fallen down but there also doesn’t appear to be any sign that there was ever any glass there. Jeff casually continues to pretend he doesn’t know anything about International Rescue.

Scott uses some sort of megaphone to call out to the train and remind them all that they’re on a bridge which for some reason keeps exploding. I understand that the thing is supposed be collpasing, but it’s only a bridge, why on earth does it keep exploding with such force?

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The support columns begin to fall.

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Scott promises to push the train back off the trestle… using Thunderbird 1… I assume his plan is to use the very pointy nose cone as a battering ram and just gently push the train along with that. Not only would that look very silly but it would sort of defeat the point of having Thunderbird 2 come all the way out there.

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The trestle takes a tumble…

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Which means Shane Rimmer has to deliver the worst line ever written for television ever… “Oh no! The trestle!” People criticise his delivery of that line for not sounding sincere enough… but really, if you were faced with those words on a page, how much effort could you possibly give them? The simple fact is, it’s not in Scott’s character to panic like that when something goes wrong during a rescue. So I’m surprised he gave half a goose about the trestle to be honest.

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The passengers look on as Scott starts rambling on about not being able to save the train but there still being hope for them if they listen to him. So his next bright idea is that they walk back along the bridge… can anyone detect why that might not be all that safe?

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Grafton lowers the door of the rear compartment and a ladder extends not quite all the way to the ground.

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So much for women and children first…

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Would you even consider asking people to walk along that? Scott’s lost his grip on the situation quite a bit…

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Grafton quickly gets back inside. Jeff tells him to stay calm. But on this ocassion I’m on Grafton’s side. Scott’s advice so far has been absolute pants. I wouldn’t be able to stay calm if the guy running the rescue kept making truly stupid suggestions.

Fortunately, Virgil arrives and immediately does the sensible thing which Scott should have just waited for him to come and do in the first place. Thunderbird 2’s magnetic grabs are deployed, and let’s be honest, they’re put to much more interesting use in End of the Road.

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The bridge continues to keep exploding like someone strapped dynamite to the ruddy thing. How on earth is it still standing at all?

Thunderbird 2 starts descending over the monotrain. Virgil is keeping it cool and doing a very fine job. Scott has the audacity to tell him that he needs to be careful… thank you Mr. Suggest-Your-Own-Father-And-Friends-Walk-Along-An-Exploding-Bridge, I’m sure Virgil will try to be careful.

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The train slips and, ladies and gentlemen, I give you this fantastic freeze-frame. Tin-Tin is heading straight for Jeff’s crotch, Grafton’s face is on a collision course with the floor, and Brains is having an intimate time with that bar stool.

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“Are they tryin’ a’ moirder us or somethin’?” Another classic Grafton line.

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Virgil’s feelings are hurt.

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Despite the fact that the bridge is combusting in all directions, the section of track with the train on remains steady as a rock most of the time. The grabs make contact.

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Inexplicably, the track has been cut all of a sudden, allowing Thunderbird 2 to lift up the carriage with ease.

Just in time too. The bridge finally folds up and falls into the canyon.

Virgil pops the carriage down on a nearby ridge. The piece of track on top has now gotten longer for some reason.

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So that’s it. That’s the rescue done… well done I guess. Feeling very proud of himself, Virgil tells Scott to go home before he makes anymore life threatening suggestions. Fortunately, Scott willingly obliges.

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In the wrecked coach, everyone is alive and well. Jeff is confident that Grafton will be going to jail. Grafton reckons he’s smart and powerful enough to get out of it. Remind you of anyone?

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Sure enough, the episode ends with Grafton and all of his associates locked up in jail. Good triumphs over corporate greed. Powerful messages!

So that was Brink of Disaster…  it’s an okay episode. The main action sequences are done superbly with the helijet crash and the train screeching to a stop on the collpasing bridge proving to be excellent highlights. Other aspects are rather less exciting. The episode takes a very long time to get going, and indeed much of the added subplot with Penelope is slow. The burglary itself is atmospheric but when played against the action-packed peril of the monotrain facing destruction, one struggles to be totally engaged in a plot which is clearly just being used to pad out the running time. I’d also never realised how incredibly simplistic the rescue is. Aside from Scott’s bizarre suggestions, all that happens is Thunderbird 2 comes along, picks up the coach, and that’s it. The International Rescue involvement in the story is fairly minimal. The episode certainly has some fun and interesting characters, Warren Grafton standing out as an eerily accurate stereotype of a corporate monster who’s only interested in profits. Malloy and Selsden make a pretty amusing double act, and Penelope and Parker are on good form. All this adds up to an episode which has its highlights, but doesn’t do that much to stand out from the crowd.

As far as one can ascertain, this is the last episode to have originally been filmed as a half-hour to be extended later in the production to an hour. It’s certainly been an interesting ride, working out what worked well about extending the episodes and what didn’t. Expect an article soon exploring the strengths and weaknesses of filming additional material for all 11 episodes that have been covered so far. Of course, when the order came through from Lew Grade to make the episodes longer, there were still scripts that had yet to be filmed which also needed extending before going into production, and we’ll focus a little on that as we move forward with the reviews. But don’t worry, we’ll also still be analysing little details of every episode bit by bit for fun and games. Next week, we’ll be looking at The Perils of Penelope, an adventure which takes us to Paris and on yet another monotrain!

One thought on “Thunderbirds – 11. Brink of Disaster

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

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