Thunderbirds – 13. Terror In New York City

Directed by David Elliott and David Lane

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First Broadcast – 21st October 1965

There’s no doubt that for most Thunderbirds fans, Terror In New York City is a classic. I first saw it as part of the Countdown to Disaster VHS compilation feature alongside Atlantic Inferno. Needless to say it was a tape that I watched as often as I could. The episode delivers not just one, but two standout moments which push the format of the series to the limit, giving us two of the most catastrophic and dramatic disasters ever seen in Thunderbirds. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

So much drama! One of the great things about these teasers is the fact that they show you snippets without really spoiling the episode. They make you want to find out how all of these incredible things ended up happening!

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It goes without saying that the title of this episode has certain other connotations for modern audiences, but that aside its much like any other Thunderbirds episode title by referring to some vague threat. It does, however, highlight one particular and very famous location to have maximum impact on the viewers, immediately setting the stakes higher than normal. But for the moment we’re not starting in New York City, we’re at an oil field and the music informs us that there’s a big disaster going down.

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An ambulance screams past camera with a wailing siren towards a pillar of black smoke. This is the same type of ambulance that is often seen dealing with the many disasters which take place at London Airport. The various rigs seen here are really nice looking models detailed with different kit pieces to look very functional and realistic.

At the heart of the blaze, Virgil is operating the Firefly pod vehicle. This would have been the vehicle’s first use in the production of the series as the Firefly’s appearance in City of Fire was not filmed until later. It’s always been a popular pod vehicle, probably because of its great functionality, versatility, and ability to take a beating in the most hazardous situations. The control cabin of the Firefly is slightly different from the one we saw in City of Fire. The steering wheel is taken straight out of the Fireflash cockpit, as well as a different chair and the absence of the TX-204 winch control prop. As Virgil faces the blaze, the red lighting in the cabin is very threatening.

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Scott is supervising the rescue from another rig. I guess that’s supposed to be helpful.

The Firefly’s canon is deployed for some blasty goodness. The model is absolutely covered in dirt and looks splendid using shots also seen in City of Fire.

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So far the fighting fire with fire approach doesn’t appear to be working all that well. The flames look absolutely magnificent though.

The force of the explosion actually spins the Firefly around. Inside the cockpit, the shot has had to be flipped (as indicated by the reversed IR emblem) to ensure Virgil is facing the right direction. Burning rubble starts to fall from the sky.

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Very suddenly the fire has now been extinguished and oil gushes forth, and the music informs us that all is well. Presumably the blast from the Firefly’s canon swallowed all the oxygen and stopped the fire from burning. We just didn’t quite see that happen.

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The Firefly raises its shield victoriously and returns to Thunderbird 2.

It’s N.T.B.S. We saw them at the beginning of the last episode, The Perils of Penelope. I love that the writers sort of established a regular news service in multiple episodes. It just starts to put meat on the bones of the Thunderbirds universe. Anyway, these guys are pretty grumpy that they weren’t able to get the world exclusive on this rescue. They had their special N.T.B.S vests on and everything.

As the Firefly trundles back into the pod, the news team start plotting. Thunderbird 2 looks absolutely magnificent as it lowers down on to Pod 6. It certainly is difficult to assign pod vehicles to a particular pod because aside from Thunderbird 4 belonging in Pod 4, the pods get used for all sorts of different things regardless of what number they are.

Scott and Virgil are ready to head back to base after another successful rescue operation. Putting a rescue at the beginning of the episode certainly does a lot to draw the viewer in, saving all the large chunks of exposition for later. Did anyone else used to have a jigsaw puzzle with that shot of Scott on it?

As Thunderbird 2 takes off, news reporter extraordinaire Ned Cook is at the wheel of his truck and pulls off at an alarming speed with his cameraman, Joe, on the roof. It’s a miracle he manages to stay up there.

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The camera that Joe is desperately clinging on to is the same one used by The Hood in Martian Invasion.

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Ned stops the truck incredibly abruptly with enough force to probably fling Joe into the next state. It looks very impressive on screen though. The same few oil rig models are moved around constantly between shots, making the oil field look vast as they drive around different parts of it.

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Apparently Ned is only interested in filming the take-off of Thunderbird 1 even though, let’s be honest, Thunderbird 2 is much more impressive. Not to mention it’s slower so it would be much easier to film. Ned is also wearing exactly the same outfit that Eddie Kerr wore in City of Fire, as well as having a very similar voice provided by Matt Zimmerman. I picture Ned and Eddie being deadly rivals in the world of TV news.

This episode provides us with some of the most impressive shots of Thunderbird 1 in the series. This larger model certainly show it at its best, and Derek Meddings and the team always knew which angles made her look pretty. The automatic camera detector immediately kicks into action, an effect achieved by someone simply shining a light at it.

Scott isn’t terribly happy and immediately lands to give Ned a good telling off using his megaphone. Not compensating for anything, Ned Cook grabs his much larger megaphone and tries to convince Scott that he’s just doing his job. It sure is fightin’ talk!

They both get ready for a chase, with Ned’s nerves very well expressed by the way he’s puppeteered.

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He zips off once again with no regard for Joe’s safety whatsoever.

Boy Scott is grumpy when he sets off after them in Thunderbird 1. I don’t know exactly what Ned’s plan was here. If he wanted to escape with the film he didn’t really have much chance seeing as Thunderbird 1 is a supersonic rocket plane and Ned’s driving a truck. If he wanted to keep filming Thunderbird 1, driving away really fast probably wasn’t the best way to go about it. I guess he’s just really scared of Scott’s angry face.

Naturally Thunderbird 1 catches up pretty quickly. Ned refuses to stop while Joe pleads with him. I like that a little window appears to have been stuck to the outside of the Thunderbird 1 model to avoid cutting into it or leaving the hatch off altogether. The landing skids appear to have been rivetted through the top of the wings on this particular model of Thunderbird 1.

Scott has a device which shines a blue light at Ned and Joe and somehow electromagnetically wipes the video-tape. This was briefly referenced in additional material for Martian Invasion but is actually put to use here. Who knows whether it’s actually possible, but in the Thunderbirds world of video-tape and room-sized computers, it’s the sort of thing that makes sense. Scott’s more than a little smug about the whole thing.

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Thunderbird 1 magnificently lifts off into the sky.

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The rolling road and rolling sky come to a stop in a way that doesn’t quite look natural but gets the point across.

The smoking reel of tape is dropped into Ned’s arms as Joe proves that Scott wasn’t bluffing somewhat maliciously. That’ll serve him right for nearly flinging Joe off into the desert.

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Back on Tracy Island, we’re show a very wide shot of the villa, probably one of the widest seen in the series so I thought I’d include it here for people wanting a decent view of the side of the house.

Tin-Tin is once again using her type-writer with lego bricks for keys as Jeff dictates a letter. Virgil reports in that everything went splendidly and that Scott had a slight delay. Tin-Tin manages to say the word ‘however’ without moving her lips. As Jeff continues his letter it becomes apparent that he’s been invited to watch the moving of the Empire State Building. Well that sounds totally risk-free, I’m sure we won’t be hearing about that later… Jeff considers the redevelopment of obsolete areas to be vital as well as the preservation of national monuments and institutions. The question is though, if the Empire State Building is such a national monument, why on earth does the area need redeveloping? Surely there would still be plenty of tourists and businesses wanting to get near it, and the older it got the more appeal it would have. I can understand knocking down the buildings around it perhaps, but why do they need to move the Empire State itself? Not to mention, the last time I checked, Manhattan’s absolutely packed with buildings, people and infrastructure. How did they clear a path for it? We’ll pick holes in this later. It’s certainly “daring and imaginative” as Jeff puts it, but it also seems a bit silly.

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As Thunderbirds 1 and 2 continue flying home, Virgil’s radar pick up the Sentinel, a new navy ship that goes like a stabbed rat. I have to say it’s not the most impressive looking ship ever seen in Thunderbirds, partly because we don’t get many good shots of it. We mostly see wide shots of it going from right to left all the time. We don’t even know for certain if it actually has a starboard side because we never see it.

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On board we meet two crewmen in very blue uniforms. The throttle control in the background is also seen in the Stingray episode Star of the East on board the Wadi. We learn that the Sentinel can reach 200 knots. That’s pretty quick.

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A voice over the radio announces the detection of Thunderbird 2. Rather unfortunately, someone decided to cast Shane Rimmer in this part and allowed him to use a voice that is frankly far too similar to his voice for Scott. This distressingly makes it sound like Scott is the one ordering the Sentinel to shoot down Thunderbird 2. You may think I’m being facetious, but I’ve genuinely heard stories about kids being terribly confused about this sequence because the voices sound so similar. We learn that Thunderbird 2 is travelling at a speed of 5000mph… which is surely much faster than the Sentinel so they’d really struggle to fire any missiles at it.

Virgil and Scott have a feeling that the Sentinel might cause them some trouble so discuss changing course.

And just because the Thunderbird craft travel in tip-top secrecy, they are considered an unauthorised military threat. The Commander sounds battle stations. Even though the ship is still going at high speed, everything out of the window and in the close-up shots of the ship looks stationary because the sky isn’t moving. A lego brick can be spotted stuck to the side of the bridge section. The missiles raise into position rather timidly because even they think this is a bad idea.

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As we fade to black for a commerical break, the implication is very definitely that the navy is going to try and take on Thunderbird 2 and that it may not end well…

Soon enough, the order to fire missiles is given and the attack begins. Virgil starts sweating. The missiles themselves are a bit funny looking. They don’t quite have the sleekness that most sea-to-air missiles have.

Everyone has their angriest faces on. Scott urges Virgil to swtich on a jammer, which sounds very odd considering Shane Rimmer’s very similar voice has just been heard giving the countdown for the missile launch.

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As Virgil attempts to pull up, the first set of missiles explode just beneath him in a spectacular manner.

After a tense pause, Virgil suggests he might have some damage on his tail unit which is indicated by the way he looks over his shoulder with his eyes. I love little details like that from the puppet operators.

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Rather bizarrely, and sounding very much like it was added at the last second, First Officer Clayton says, “Changing frequency to combat jammers” as the Sentinel sails across the screen. The piece of dialogue just doesn’t really sound like it’s supposed to be there.

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More missiles are fired and strike Thunderbird 2, this time engulfing the rear section entirely in a massive fireball.

With some great camera work it looks as though Thunderbird 2 is being forced into a crash-dive as Virgil struggles to keep control.

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Black smoke billows from the back of the craft as she dives. It certainly looks very impressive. Attempts were made, particularly during the actual crash sequence, to try and avoid damaging the Thunderbird 2 model by applying rubber gel and burning that instead, but this caused the paint to burn and ended up ruining this particular model anyway.

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The control panel explodes as Virgil fights to regain control. Despite the loud bangs and fear for their creations getting blown to bits, the puppeteers managed to continue operating the marionettes through the most dangerous of stunts!

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In close-up, the tail section doesn’t actually appear to have that much damage and certainly isn’t emitting huge clouds of black smoke. It mostly looks like some dodgy chemicals have been poured on it just to make it appear burnt.

Jeff manages to pull a few strings with the people at Washington to stop the attack. Fearing for his career, the Commander immediately demands that the final two missiles are destroyed as if it was someone else’s stupid idea to launch them in the first place.

Virgil is soon knocked out from all the smoke fumes and Scott is barking at him down the radio to pull up before hitting the ocean. We see a shot of the water looming closer and it’s actually hard to tell if it was filmed by the special effects team or is in fact a piece of live action stock footage.

Virgil just about wakes up in time and Thunderbird 2 very dramatically pulls up just before plunging into the water. It really does look amazing as a great big trail of smoke spews out the back while Virgil attempts to steer her across the ocean towards home.

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Thunderbird 1 glides across the screen as Scott attempts to catch up with his brother.

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Virgil’s certainly looking worse for wear as fumes continue to fill the cockpit. The long, drawn out demise of Thunderbird 2 and its pilot in this sequence is certainly a different approach to the one taken when Scott crashes very suddenly in Thunderbird 1 at the beginning of The Uninvited. That sequence was played more for shock value, whereas this crash sequence is more tragic than shocking as we’re all a bit more attached to Thunderbird 2.

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Back on the island, Jeff is assembling a team to tackle the incoming crash landing. The mood is turning very sombre. Everyone knows something bad is going to happen, we just don’t know exactly what.

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Scott wants to know whether Thunderbird 2’s reactor is damaged which is the only suggestion we get in the series about how the Thunderbird machines are powered. Virgil is urged by his brother to keep going, although Scott is unable to hide his concern. It’s always great to see the bond between the brothers when they worry for each other’s safety.

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Jeff is even more worried about Virgil. Kyrano offers him some coffee which the puppet just about manages to avoid spilling all over the floor.

At the Thunderbird 2 runway the palm tress ominously bow out of the way, hatches open in the ground, and strange lamppost-like contraptions rise up along the length of the runway. There’s certainly a ‘calm before the storm’ feeling in the air.

This is the one and only time we see the Cliff House on Tracy Island in use in the series, aside from characters assembling on the roof in Thunderbird 6. Jeff refers to it as landing control. Alan and Gordon are on standby, waiting for Thunderbird 2 to attempt its landing.

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Thunderbird 2 banks for its final approach. No music is needed for the heart-stopping drama that follows.

“Easy does it, easy…” Poor Virgil, he just wanted to have a peaceful flight home.

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It looks very much like the Thunderbird 2 model is thrown down on the runway.  For some reason there’s no ‘2’ numeral on the tail section.

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Wow. I mean this looks incredible. The sheer mass of the vehicle is conveyed superbly.

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Scott can’t bear to watch.

Jeff realises that Thunderbird 2’s wheels have given way, meaning it will just slide along the runway on its belly, causing even more damage. Tin-Tin is lost for words.

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Thunderbird 2 starts to collide with the posts which probably wasn’t part of the plan. Stories suggest that Thunderbird 2 was covered with green plasticine to obscure the fact it was badly blackened and burnt on one side. This added weight to the model which made it unusable.

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The cockpit is thrown around as Virgil desperately tries to bring her to a stop. Hopefully they’ve got the hangar door open.

Jeff gives the order for foam to be sprayed all over the burning Thunderbird 2, making everything look even worse.

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The clouds of foam settle. Thunderbird 2 looks well and truly dead. A similar sequence was attempted recently in the Thunderbirds Are Go episode Earthbreaker – it looked pretty good and definitely benefitted from the use of a practical model. I’m not sure it matched the incredibly sad feeling we’re all left with by this sequence though.

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Here’s a great shot of Virgil lying unconscious in the wreckage of the cockpit as the flames around him lick closer and closer. We could have had the rest of the episode dedicated to the other Tracy brothers attempting to rescue Virgil from the damaged and unstable carcass of Thunderbird 2. But that’s probably enough major drama for one day. This is enough of a haunting image to be left with.

As Virgil wakes up we get an unusual POV shot of Scott and Jeff coming into focus. He’s basically doing okay – just a bit of a bump on the head. I think it’s adorable that Virgil has a picture of Thunderbird 2 landing at London Airport above his bed… although who exactly took that photo and how they got away with it remains a mystery. We learn that Thunderbird 2 is going to need a few weeks of repair work. Jeff hopes she isn’t needed… Thunderbird 2 being the only vehicle that has been used on every mission in the series so far… my guess is you might need her.

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Somhow, and we really can’t guess how, Thunderbird 2 was turned around, brought into the hangar, and cleaned off. Kit parts and off-cuts surround the patient to cover up the fact this is a different model which actually hasn’t had that much damage done to it at all.  Aside from the standard stock footage of the launch, this is the only other shot in the series of the inside of Thunderbird 2’s hangar. The red scaffolding in the background previously appeared as part of the Sun Probe’s launch gantry and as part of the Australian Irrigation Plant in The Mighty Atom. We’ll actually be seeing it again elsewhere later in the episode.

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Tin-Tin brings Brains some biscuits when, as his assistant, she should probably be helping him with the mammoth task of fixing the ruddy machine – another instance of the writers sort of forgetting what her actual job is. Without doing too much damage to the set, a wonderful job has been done of making it look like a burnt out mess. I sincerely hope someone is doing more to help Brains out with all this than just bringing him coffee.

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Someone had a fun afternoon sticking kit pieces together.

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Rather than doing anything useful to get Thunderbird 2 working any quicker, Scott just worries and complains about it because of course he does. We learn a little about the maintenance of the Thunderbird machines. They order different components from different aircraft corporations and put them all together at the island. I’m sure the aircraft corporations in question probably wonder why exactly they’re dropping off pieces of aircraft at a millionaire’s luxury island home. They probably just think Jeff is a bit bonkers. Of course in spin-off stories outside of the TV series, Mateo Island is a neighbouring island which International Rescue use for maintenance and to generally divert attention away from the main island.

With lunch over we get a quick moment with Kyrano. He calls Virgil “Mr. Virgil” because they’re on first name terms, but not all the way there yet. Gordon arrives to watch the moving of the Empire State Building with his favourite brother. Virgil has a nice little TV tucked away in his bookshelf. It’s quite a teeny-tiny thing really.

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They’ve got it on in the lounge too. Ned Cook is reporting.

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The amount of time the Tracys must spend rearranging furniture is almost ridiculous. Here we have a new configuration of all the chairs. The couch to access Thunderbird 3 has vanished.

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Using another camera from Martian Invasion and last seen in The Perils of Penelope, Ned tells us all about the project. They’re going to move the Empire State Building 200 yards. Why? Apparently to “make way for modern development” which is why everything else in the area has also been demolished. Why is this so-called national monument so unsightly that it doesn’t have a place in the modern development? Is the modern development really that important? How did they clear a space 200 yards away to make room for it in the packed city? Basically it all sounds like a big, expensive, dangerous project for very little worthwhile benefit. But that’s how Thunderbirds goes sometimes – big engineering marvels just happen because they’re impressive and prove that humanity can do incredible things. That was the optimistic attitude in the 1960’s which led to Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the Moon. Gerry Anderson reportedly got the idea for this episode from a real-life example of a Japanese department store being moved to make way for a new highway.

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Jeff says he wish he could have been there in person. In the most bizarre tone, Scott says, “Yeah, me too.” What kind of messed up sarcasm is that? He really doesn’t sound like he means it.

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Ned provides the viewers at home with this graphic to explain the obvious and it ends up making the whole scheme slightly more baffling. But at least the diagram has nice labels. Some pour soul in the production team had to come up this animation and did the best they could.

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So here she is. The model of the Empire State Building is pretty amazing. Sylvia Anderson called it a work of art in her biography. That red scaffolding from earlier is back in use again. I don’t tend to share behind the scenes photos but I love this one:

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Derek Meddings gives the building a slight adjustment. You can get a good look here at all the other skyscrapers that have been randomly dispersed around the set. They don’t necessarily give the impression that the area around the building has been demolished. Among them is part of the terminal building at London Airport, and just off to the side is the Washington D.C. WSP building from Stingray.

The powerful atomic engines come into action and start dragging the building along the track. Considering the rig has atomic engines I’m surprised the disaster didn’t go worse.

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With the camera zooming in at lightning speed, Ned lets us know that something isn’t right.

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Holes start to open up in the ground under the track. No wonder it’s falling apart, they seem to have thrown bits of metal in there at random. This effect is so well done though and conveys the opening of the ground so much better than when the same thing happened in Pit of Peril. Hope that poor ambulance driver can get out in time.

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“It’s like an earth tremor beneath my feet!” … ya know Ned, that might just be what it is…

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There goes that ambulance… the cracked ground looks so realistic. If only the fall of the Sidewinder had been this good.

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Ned gets told by a police officer to clear off. He genuinely sounds surprised.

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Hey Ned. Ned? Look at your feet Ned. Ned? Maybe you wanna get off the plank Ned. Ned? Can you hear the earth moving Ned?

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Oh Ned…

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I don’t make jokes about puppet strings often, but I think someone’s been at Ned with a pair of scissors…

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Hey Joe. Joe? How about you jump off the camera platform Joe? Joe? Can you hear me Joe? You look like you’re regretting every decision you’ve ever made about your life Joe. I’m sorry Joe.

There goes Ned… well actually there goes an old puppet, probably from Stingray, that nobody wanted anymore.

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Joe (or rather stunt Joe) is having an even worse day. The back of his head actually flies off.

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Yeah that definitely isn’t Joe, but it is a fun way to get rid of old puppets.

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All of a sudden, without any transition whatsoever, the guys are buried in rock and sand and a huge pile of boulders has appeared that wasn’t there before.

Despite Ned breaking both his arms and Joe actually losing half of his skull, they’re both basically fine aside from a few cuts and bruises. I mean that fall did enough damage to the stunt puppet alone, never mind what a drop of that size would do to an actual person – they’d be pretty dead probably.

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Believe it or not, the Empire State Building is still standing… but not for very much longer.

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Did N.T.B.S really have nothing else to put on the screen after Joe’s camera crashed?

Nobody on Tracy Island looks all that bothered about it to be honest. They’re not exactly jumping into action. It looks like they’re watching snooker.

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As things start to go bang, the top part of the Empire State Building briefly seperates from the bottom part. But it looks like the end is pretty near for it anyway.

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Ned and Joe have managed to get themselves up. Unfortunately they didn’t drag a ladder down the hole with them so are more than a bit stuck.

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One more big cloud of dirt and the building starts to sink into the ground…

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This is a bit of an odd shot as the building starts to fall and apparently cover up the pretty tiny hole that’s been ripped in the ground. I feel like the damage to the ground would have been a bit more substantial than that. But of course in amongst the rest of the drama it all looks very threatening.

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All Ned and Joe can do is raise their arms in terror. I mean maybe they’re strong enough to hold up a building, but I sort of doubt that Joe is strong enough to do anything. Will they survive? Find out after the break.

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The Empire State Building is now a totally unrecognisable tangle of rock and metal. Quite the haunting image.

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A tiny little voice can suddenly be heard yelling for help. Ned Cook somehow survived. The newscaster has the task of talking to Ned while also broadcasting live across the world presumably – tough gig!

Alan is immediately pessimistic about the situation, but Scott reckons if they rush Thunderbird 2 to the scene right away all will be well… because he has the memory of a spoon. The great dilemma that this whole episode is based around of a big disaster happening and Thunderbird 2 being unoperational is laid out to us by Jeff, even though I think we all pretty much grasped it as soon as we learned the Empire State Building was going to be moved. I can’t really believe Scott was that far behind the rest of us… well maybe I can.

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Brains pipes up with a theory that an underground river caused the ground to give way under the Empire State Building… we’ll come back to this whole thing later. But he also says that they could use Thunderbird 4 to navigate the river and access the cave where Ned and Joe are trapped before they drown.

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“But we can’t airlift it to New York without Thunderbird 2.” Yes, thank you Tin-Tin, I think everyone at home has grasped that by now. Here’s one issue with this episode being broadcast fourth in the entire series – Thunderbird 4 had yet to actually appear in an episode, so the idea of Thunderbird 2 carrying it to the danger zone wasn’t something that people even knew about when watching the series for the first time.

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Gordon declares that he will take Thunderbird 4 all the way to New York by sea. I try in these reviews not to get too bogged down in how long it will take for the Thunderbird machines to reach other parts of the globe usually, but in this instance I feel I have to comment. The distance between the middle of the South Pacific and New York is over 5000 miles. Thunderbird 4 is reported to have a top speed underwater of 160 knots which is about 184mph. That means, going at maximum speed, it would take Gordon around 27 hours to reach New York, which isn’t much faster than what the Sentinel has to offer, so one can only assume they were worried about Thunderbird 4 running out of power rather than its speed. Either that or no-one had come up with Thunderbird 4’s top speed at this point and the writer just assumed it was quite slow. Also, you can only just see it in this shot, but Virgil has a walking stick.

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Jeff berates Gordon for wanting to spend a whole day at sea to rush to New York… even though that’s what he ends up doing anyway. I love this shot though, the sharp focus on Jeff is very cinematic. He’s out for blood after the Sentinel shot down Thunderbird 2 and basically made the entirety of his organisation a bit useless.

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Virgil has a marvellous plan to make the Sentinel transport Thunderbird 4 to New York instead. That way Gordon will have some company on the trip. He can chat with them about how hard they were trying to kill his brother…

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“I get the picture and I like it.” That’s a cool line. I might start saying that in real life, particularly when someone is delivering a portrait to me. Sorry. Anyway, Scott is dispatched to New York in Thunderbird 1 because he actually has some co-ordinating to do at the danger zone for once. Jeff then tells Gordon to launch Thunderbird 4 using “emergency procedure” and rendezvous with the Sentinel. Fancy.

“Good luck Gordon. What can I do father?”… “Go back to bed.” Well that’s nice Jeff, at least Virgil’s volunteering. Alan and Tin-Tin are just sat there still doing and saying nothing.

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I believe this is the first time we see Thunderbird 1 blasting off from this angle.

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Meanwhile, Thunderbird 4 is doing something very unusual and exciting. Using its hover jets, the submersible races down the Thunderbird 2 runway, albeit looking absolutely massive by comparison to Thunderbird 2.

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I hope Gordon packed a toothbrush because this is going to be a long trip.

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The end of the runway lowers and Thunderbird 4 plunges into the water. This is only ever seen happening again in the opening sequence of Thunderbird 6. 

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Scott gets to work en-route by contacting the Empire State Site Control.

Upon receiving his call a police crew realise they

should probably get to work and speed over to the building’s wreckage as if they’re late coming back from their lunch break.

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The back doors of the van swing open to reveal a site control team of just two police officers… I would have thought they’d need a few more than that seeing as one of the biggest and most important landmarks in the world just fell over. On the left, one officer operates a console previously seen in the Thompson Tower control room in City of Fire while the chap on the right is seated at the camera console from Martain Invasion. There’s also a tape recorder unit which popped up in the Thunderbird 2 lab in Pit of Peril as well as various other points throughout the series. The officer reports to Scott that a pilot hole has been drilled down to the cavern to supply Ned and Joe with air, lighting, and food… any chance they drilled it wide enough to just winch them out? Probably not, that would be far too convenient. We learn that the water level is rising and Scott asks them for a detailed plan of the underground river systems… again, we’ll come to that later.

Thunderbird 4 has arrived at the rendezvous point with the Sentinel and is being lifted aboard. Next to the very grey and very functional looking Sentinel, Thunderbird 4 is this little yellow pocket of fun which is part of the reason it remains my favourite Thunderbird machine. Gordon reports that they are still 24 hours away. I was tempted to say that this officially made this the slowest rescue operation in Thunderbirds, but then I remembered that it took Thunderbird 3 65 hours to reach the Sun in Sun Probe. Thunderbird 4 gets tucked in a little nook and settles in for the cruise.

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These guys are a bit bored and complain about having to wait half an hour for Thunderbird 1 to arrive. Considering they’re sitting on top of a site that could collapse at any moment they certainly seem relaxed. Shouldn’t they be checking the area to see if anyone else got hurt or something? It does seem a tad implausible that Ned and Joe were the only ones vaguely near the area at the time.

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As Thunderbird 1 makes her approach, the police put out an announcement for everyone to clear the area because of the subsidance. That police car we saw parked outside the Anderbad Tunnel last week drives along.

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Ignoring the fact that the use of stock footage causes the landing wheels to turn into skids, this shot of Thunderbird 1 coming into land is absolutely magnificent. The crew really knew how to shoot her from a good angle in this episode. The top of Thompson Tower can be spotted in the background as well as the terminal building from London Airport again.

So here we are, let’s tackle this whole underground river thing. Brains studies ‘Underground River Chart 78’ which tells him that Manhattan Island has a base of solid rock with a few underground streams. Jeff makes an unintentionally dreadful pun about washing out the underground river theory. But Brains says it’s possible that over the last hundred years the streams have grown into rivers and nobody noticed because “no recent surveys have been carried out.” No recent surveys? What on earth were they doing during the 10 years of planning to move the Empire State Building? Not to mention Scott asks the police to provide him with a detailed plan of the underground river systems which I’m guessing they didn’t go and dig out of a library. Nobody immediately turned around and said, “Erm, we don’t have one of those,” or, “We’ll have to search the government archives to find something like that.” My point is that I can’t truly believe that nobody knew about a whacking great and highly destructive river running underneath one of the busiest cities in the world, particularly when 10 years have been spent trying to work out how to move a massive skyscraper which would have taken an awful lot of digging. Then Brains says, “It’s going to be a difficult task to locate the river.” If Brains can see on his supposedly hundred year old map where the streams are, then surely what is now the river mouth would just be a much bigger opening in exactly the same place that the original stream opened at, making it pretty easy to find. Anyway, rant over.

Scott reports in to inform us that the water level is rising and calculations suggest that Ned and Joe will be completely underwater by the time Thunderbird 4 arrives. So Jeff suggests passing breathing apparatus down the hole. Smart thinking.

Meanwhile, all Ned and Joe can do is sit there and watch a small puddle of water trickle into their cave menacingly.

Night has fallen. A road block has been erected as well as some search lights and a large structure in the background which could be the drilling rig used to create the pilot hole, or for winching down supplies. Scott has plopped his mobile control unit at the back of the police van.

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The water has risen considerably to Ned and Joe’s waists. Although why they’re standing in the water when they could be sitting/lying on the rock with their coffee and sandwiches is a mystery. They’ve been there for nine hours and Ned doesn’t sound terribly impressed.

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Joe just stands there trembling with wide eyes like a scared little rabbit. But he’s holding up pretty well considering the back of his head came off.

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Checking his watch, Ned concludes they’ve got about 10 hours, saying they’ll be under at 10am.

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Scott contacts a very grumpy looking and unshaven Gordon who gives an ETA of 10:o5am. Not only is that ridiculously precise but it conveniently falls 5 minutes after Ned’s estimate of when it would all be over for them. Gordon really doesn’t look like he’s enjoying life with the navy… maybe he’s more of a WASP guy…

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The police have been working on finding some breathing equipment to pass down the hole. Keep in mind that Jeff came up with the idea when Scott arrived on the scene… nine hours ago. How has it taken them this long to work on that one pretty simple task? The officer says “we’ve located some units at the navy yard” as if they were really hard to find.

Fast forward about three hours and Ned and Joe are still standing in the water when they could be sitting on a dry rock. The estimated drowning time is pushed forward to 9am, one hour before Thunderbird 4’s arrival.

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The police officer now informs us that the breathing equipment is only just being sent down… three hours after they were picked up from the navy yard and twelve hours after Jeff came up with the idea. Who the heck did they put in charge of this? Constable Tortoise? Also notice the spelling error on the console which says ‘Ulta Short Wave’.

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A glorious shot of the Sentinel approaching New York as the sun begins to rise.

5am. I do love the references being made to the passage of time in this episode. It helps to give it that feel of a big disaster movie. Apparently they’re tearing the motors apart to keep the speed up although frankly I wouldn’t trust a word that Commander says at this point.

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Back in the cave the water has risen a little in the past two hours. In between doing these scenes, technicians would have had to fill up the water tank a little each time which probably made for a long day of shooting. With the rate the water is rising, Ned and Joe will have to wear their breathing gear for the last two hours before Thunderbird 4 arrives which should just about work as the tanks have a two hour supply. Although why they couldn’t just pass more tanks down to them in case anything went wrong is a mystery. I guess it would have taken another 12 hours for Constable Tortoise to find some.

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The Sentinel keeps chugging along. This is probably the closest shot we get of her. It’s a shame the model wasn’t built with more detail to it so that it could get some slightly more dramatic close-ups. The constant shots of the ship travelling from right to left get a bit repetitive.

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Time ticks on as we start to approach 8am.

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Joe is starting to drown and it actually looks pretty convincing.

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Ned clearly has his head above water but then looks like he’s dipping his mouth in the water and pretending to drown.

Scott barks at them down the radio to put the breathing masks on and the two police officers look at each other as if this International Rescue guy has completely lost his mind. I don’t know who they are to judge.

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Ned and Joe are now completely submerged underwater and finally sitting on that rock I mentioned earlier. For all of the shots inside the underground river it looks as if the usual technique for filming underwater of shooting through an aquarium full of water has been disregarded in favour of some different lighting and a kind of filter on the camera. Unfortunately it isn’t always that convincing as we’ll see later.

Back on the Sentinel, time has passed again and it’s 9:30. Ned and Joe have about half an hour of oxygen left. Because the Commander of the Sentinel is a tight-fisted stuck-up twerp he refuses to break the speed limit going down the Hudson. Gordon has had time to shave and is utterly sick of the sight of this guy after spending an entire night with him.

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Gordon reports in to mobile control that he is returning to Thunderbird 4 and will be at the danger zone in 20 minutes. He also might just try to sink the Sentinel with a few torpedos on the way out. As Thunderbird 4 is lowered into the water you’ll notice a few holes have been drilled in the bottom of the model. This could be to attach a rig to it for operating from underneath, or it could be to help the model to sink into the water.

Gordon is so much happier to be back at the controls of Thunderbird 4. The camera zooms in dramatically on Scott as he promises to Ned that Gordon will make it in time.

As Gordon searches the bottom of the Hudson for the mouth of the underground river some lovely music starts playing which I heartily recommend you try and listen to the full version of. It can only be found on Disc 4 of Fanderson’s release of the complete soundtrack at the end of track 22 – treat yourself.

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Even though Gordon locates the mouth of the underground river, Scott is doubtful that he will find Ned and Joe in time. He actually has a good idea for once. He tells Ned and Joe to start swimming to meet Thunderbird 4 partway along the tunnel.

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A teeny tiny little model of Thunderbird 4 is used as Gordon navigates her into the tunnel.

Gordon remarks that it’s awfully lucky that the tunnel is actually big enough for Thunderbird 4 to navigate. But this is it, the moment we’ve been waiting for, Thunderbird 4 has travelled for a horrendously long time and I can’t help but wonder whether, on this ocassion, International Rescue should have really encouraged some other emergency services to take a small submerisble craft into the Hudson to try and carry out a rescue operation themselves. I struggle to believe that in the Thunderbirds world of technological marvels, no-one else in New York or frankly anyone on the east coast of the U.S. had a submarine that could have done the same job.

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Now here’s something a bit odd. The lighting has changed quite a bit at mobile control and more noticeably, the microphone has completely transformed and as we cut back and forth it becomes clear that some of this scene was filmed at quite a different time to the rest of the episode.

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Probably for the same reason, this is the only one of the two police officers to speak or be shown in close up for the rest of the episode. Many other episodes show us that this particular puppet was in constant use at the studio and so could have easily been dressed up in the same uniform to shoot some additional scenes for this episode. The other police officer, however, never appears in the show again, probably being revamped to look like someone else. As such he isn’t seen or heard from again aside from previous footage.

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It is entirely possible therefore that this very sudden appearance of the Fulmer Finance building nearing collapse too was filmed slightly later on from the rest of the episode. It could have possibly been added to prevent the show from under-running by a few minutes. I just find it very amusing that Scott has to ask which building is about to fall over as if the one right next to the site standing at an angle wasn’t clearly visible before.

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Hope someone has time to move that car.

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You’ll also notice that someone is keeping an awful lot of junk at the top of this building as more keeps falling off as the otherwise perfectly intact building keeps tipping. Scott immediately realises the danger of the situation, arguing that if the building falls the entire area will collapse and bury Thunderbird 4.

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The Gordon puppet has also significantly changed which suggests a few scenes inside Thunderbird 4 were filmed at a different time too.

With their air running out, Ned and Joe have become sluggish and tired. The slow sequence of them discovering the tunnel and continuing to swim along builds tension nicely, which means we should be heading for a spectacular finale pretty soon. The swimming looks fairly convincing aside from the fact it doesn’t look much like they’re actually underwater.

Someone’s still chucking office supplies off the top of the Fulmer Finance and I do hope that driver’s car is covered for underground rivers and parking next to the site of a demolished building. I mean did someone seriously think it was a good idea to go to work that day?

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Thunderbird 4 continues along the tight tunnel, a wonderfully dark and claustrophobic model set.

Even though it’s not a particularly tense thing to happen, it manages to feel incredibly tense when Gordon thinks he’s come to a dead end. It turns out to be a sharp right turn. You had us all going for a minute there Gordon.

Thunderbrid 4 continues along the tunnel, looking rather menacing from the front. Ned and Joe have basically given up, but when they see the lights it looks as if a current picks them up and encourages them to swim some more. Gordon jumps up because he can’t see them. Cor this is getting exciting.

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As the Fulmer Finance building continues to lean over, Gordon finally spots two little lights in the tunnel.

At an interesting camera angle, Ned and Joe swim towards the hatch of Thunderbird 4 under instruction from Gordon. They drift towards the top of the craft painfully slowly as the tension keeps on building. The puppet-sized Thunderbird 4 must have been a pretty big piece of set.

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Reckon that car’s pretty much a write-off now.

Gordon declares success! Scott firmly snaps him out of it and orders them to clear the area before the building goes over. Scott’s been a bit rubbish in the past couple of episodes but it’s great how he takes charge in this one.

It looks like the end is near. That car is worm food now and junk is still getting chucked off the roof.

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“Gordon, she’s falling!” This is really great stuff.

Fast cutting chaos ensues as the building starts to fall towards camera in a threatening manner. Scott yells at the police officers to dive down and hit the deck. Let’s hope they weren’t parked anywhere near that particular end of the danger zone. With an incredible wallop the Fulmer Finance collapses and smashes into the ground. If you’re interested, the building was presumably named after the small village of Fulmer just outside of Slough.

The inside of the tunnel starts to collapse! It’s all starting to go a bit wrong!

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The tidal current washes Thunderbird 4 to the river bed. The thrusters fire as Gordon attempts to escape but dirt and rock tumbles down and starts to bury them.

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So strong was the force of all the water being swirled around in the tank that you can actually see a few drips coming down the outside of the glass. But oh my goodness. What drama. Has Thunderbird 4 been completely destroyed? Did Gordon, Ned, and Joe survive? Will the rest of New York City start to collapse into this enormous, watery grave? Did Scott survive the fall of the building? This could have been a whole movie! But…

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None of that gets answered because it’s time for The Ned Cook Show! Yes that’s right, all the tension that had been expertly built up and probably deserved a ‘To Be Continued’ caption to round it all off has just fizzled away. It seems that even a one hour slot isn’t long enough for some Thunderbirds episodes. It’s pretty disappointing really but I think it proves that Lew Grade was fundamentally right that the series could have worked as a movie, if only more stuff like this had been done and maybe a little less time spent showing the really long assembly of spacecraft we don’t know anything about…

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The audience assemble and comprise of a few famous faces including Dr. Godber from The Perils of Penelope, Bletcher from Martian Invasion, Wade and the Australian Plant Assistant from The Mighty Atom, and Warren Graftom from Brink of Disaster. Also seated next to Godber is a puppet that I can only assume is supposed to be Lady Penelope’s mother.

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The compere comes along and introduces the fact that “Ned has not missed a performance in the last 167 weeks.” What kind of a performance can a news reporter do which would still be interesting after 167 weeks? I get that Ned’s a pretty charismatic guy, but he didn’t seem like much of a variety performer.

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Ned comes out on stage in an electric wheelchair, the only other wheelchair seen in a Supermarionation show aside from Commander Shore’s in Stingray. He tells us there’s a great show lined up but first he wants to wax lyrical about the unselfish acts of International Rescue. Ned is perhaps one of the most popular guest characters from the series because he actually has some sort of character development. At the beginning of the episode he was hindering the work of International Rescue and only interested in getting great news coverage. Now he endorses them whole-heartedly and you can tell that he’s a changed man. It’s rather sweet really. He amusingly wishes that his words will reach them…

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Yeah they’re all sat at the back beaming away. Alan and Tin-Tin look particularly proud of themselves even though they did naff all this week. Even Grandma is there and again, as this episode was the fourth to be broadcast, nobody would have had a clue who she was. So while they’ve all galavanted off The Ned Cook Show, Kyrano and Braman are the only people left on the island. If John reports in an emergency call he’s going to struggle to get much of a response out of them. It just makes Jeff’s reaction to Alan and Tin-Tin wanting to go clubbing in Thunderbirds Are Go look a bit heavy handed. Anyway, notice that Dr. Godber and the Plant Assistant have now changed seats and are sitting in front of the Tracys clapping away. It’s all very rousing and triumphant… but Brains must have even more work to do with Thunderbird 4 buried under the Fulmer Finance building…

Terror In New York City remains one of the best episodes of Thunderbirds for its intense levels of drama and large scale disasters. The effects department are on fine form with some truly stunning set pieces. When the Filmed In Supermarionation/This Is Supermarionation double feature was on at my local cinema, I could not help but be absolutely in awe of this episode as it played out on the big screen. It is stunning and with an extra half hour to resolve the whole Thunderbird 4 getting buried thing it would have easily beaten the standard of storytelling set by the Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6 movies.

The crash of Thunderbird 2 carries much more impact than the crash of Thunderbird 1 (which was most likely written and filmed after this episode was finished), and proves to us that International Rescue is not invincible but in the face of all obstacles will still attempt to save lives. The fall of the Empire State Building is certainly one of the biggest disasters to ever happen in Thunderbirds, and I suppose an improvement to the episode would have been to see more people endangered by it. Barry Gray’s music is on fine form with the score he composed especially for this episode, and a highlight of whichever version of the Thunderbirds soundtrack you happen to own.

Next episode, we’re travelling to the mountains of South-East Asia and the construction of a new highway causes disaster when a storm hits and Eddie Houseman risks his life to save the road – it’s End of the Road.

One thought on “Thunderbirds – 13. Terror In New York City

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