Thunderbirds – 31. Ricochet

Directed by Brian Burgess

Teleplay by Tony Barwick

First Broadcast – 6th November 1966

In the mid-1960’s, the UK was gripped by the Radio Caroline phenomenon, a pirate radio station broadcasting from a ship off the English coast without a government license. It was popular for bravely busting the BBC’s broadcasting monopoly and circumventing the restrictive music broadcasting rules of certain record companies. Something about this cool and rebellious concept struck a chord with Gerry Anderson, who theorised that in the future, pirate radio ships would be replaced with pirate radio satellites broadcasting from orbit without a license.  It’s a wonderfully inventive notion, and one which I feel is extremely well executed in this episode. The story also gives us a rare Thunderbird 3 mission, a fun guest character, and it gives us a little break from the Penelope based adventures which otherwise dominate the second series.

Space rescue! A big proper space rescue with explosions and everything! I fondly remember watching Ricochet as a kid on the Thunderbirds In Outer Space VHS compilation tape. I would watch that video a heck of a lot, which probably convinced me there were more space rescues in the series than there actually are. As it is, this is the third and final rescue mission that Thunderbird 3 goes out on in the television series. I do like Thunderbird 3, but her functionality was always just a tad limited. It could basically get as far as taking the team into space, but beyond that it didn’t actually have any cool gadgets to do much rescuing. This has been rectified considerably in the new series.

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The episode opens with a tracking shot across a vast installation. Music from Edge of Impact is seamlessly blended with music from Sun Probe as the title card appears accompanied by the sound of a ricochet… which is pretty neat. In the background, you can actually spot the Christmas container rocket from the next episode, Give or Take A Million. The red and white launch hangar can later be spotted in the background of the missile site during the climax of Thunderbird 6.

A sign outside indicates that this is Sentinel Base. The lines indicating the bricks of the building appear to have been drawn on in blue pencil. One computer bank is the same models that crops up in Lord Parker’s ‘OlidayPath of Destruction, and Atlantic Inferno. On the other side on the room is the main computer bank which is lit up like a Christmas tree. The main countdown screen at the top also appears in Thunderbirds Are Go.

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Sitting in a very comfortable-looking lounge across from the computer room is a chap called Power. He’s reading a copy of Riviera magazine… the tans edition apparently.

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Professor Marshall enters to check on things. She was previously seen as Madeline in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Apparently there was a fault but it was cleared and the computer fixed it all. Basically the computer does everything and Power just needs to watch it. What could possibly go wrong?

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Power just smiles blankly at the professor as she leaves the room… I think he might have a thing for her…

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This is the rocket that’s being launched, Telsat IV, named after the Telstar program. It’s an incredibly realistic rocket design. It’s really fascinating to consider how the series’ approach to moments like this have evolved. Gone are the days of Sun Probe when it was an exciting event for a big, bright, colourful rocket to fly off and do something stupid like taking a piece of the sun. In contrast, this is a really routine event where a simple, neutrally coloured rocket is just going to head up into orbit and drop off a satellite. It’s all controlled by a computer with no lives at risk (initially at least). No news cameras are here like there were in The Perils of Penelope, it’s just a couple of people doing a very simple job. By this point in the series, we’re supposed to feel that rocket launches are just a part of everyday life and nobody’s necessarily that interested. It may not be as dramatic or exciting, but it does show that the series has changed and evolved, demonstrating that the writers are generally more at ease with the format, treating it in a more mature way.

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Over on Tracy Island, Jeff is whining. He’s a bit bored with computer controlled rocket launchings too. Jeff’s much more interested in life or death space travel. Suddenly things get interesting as it looks like we’re going to get some character backstory for the first time in basically forever. He recalls an experimental rocket and how they expected trouble…

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Never mind. Tin-Tin’s turned from a mature woman with in-depth scientific and technical knowledge into a teenage brat. Her character development has been on a bit of a downward spiral for a while now but it would appear she no longer holds a position as Brains’ assistant and is now just a girl that lives on the island to make coffee and be young and hip. Anyway, she’s enjoying the music of Michelle and the Asteroids at full volume. Jeff is incredibly grumpy about having his story cut off. I think we all are.

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Remember when portable TVs were the next big thing? Well don’t worry because it looks like they’ll get popular again. This is Rick O’Shea broadcasting on KLA, promising tomorrow’s show will be a “non-stop, gagging, glorious, ginormous session.” That doesn’t sound too pleasant actually.

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Tin-Tin pays Rick the highest of compliments… he’s minty. I guess she values oral hygiene very highly. Alan is put in a mood. Curiously, and for the only time in the second series, Alan’s wearing a different head – the one which featured in Thunderbirds Are Go. It’s perhaps possible to assume that filming on the movie had wrapped by this point, allowing certain elements to be used in the TV series. Alan’s outfit is similar to what he wore in The Cham-Cham.

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Brains is an old stick in the mud when it comes to music. He probably didn’t have much fun listening to Dangerous Game over and over and over again during The Cham-Cham then.

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Time for a lecture from Jeff. He points out that Rick O’Shea is broadcasting from an unauthorised satellite, a pirate if you will, and therefore isn’t in an exact orbital path based on the paths of other satellites under international control. According to Jeff it’s a recipe for a very serious accident… made even more serious by his grumpy face.

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This is the KLA satellite. On the outside it’s nothing too exciting, again reflecting the more realistic approach to spacecraft design. The rear of the model appears to made from the bottom of the spy satellite from Cry Wolf.

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Inside the satellite is a cramped and plainly decorated studio. Again, the series is now reflecting that space travel is a simple affair and can be done on a budget if necessary. The only two occupants of KLA are Rick O’Shea and his engineer, Loman. How they actually got the satellite into orbit remains a mystery. Issue 22 of the Thunderbirds Redan comics suggests that from a secret location, Loman and O’Shea used stolen military technology and a rocket to launch the satellite. It’s still a baffling explanation, but it’s the best we have.

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Rick was sculpted by Terry Curits to resemble Sean Connery. His slightly pink suit is pretty fabulous.

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Loman was previously seen as Franklin in Path of Destruction among other roles. He’s clearly fed up of living and working with O’Shea and absolutely loathes his Rick *ping* O’Shea motif. As the writer credit pseudonyms on almost every single episode of Terrahawks prove, Tony Barwick had a talent for coming up with names that hold a double meaning. Anyway Loman reports that breakfast should be ready.

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Loman emerges from the Relaxation Bay with two bowls of Honey Crunch Crispies, as advertised by KLA… I assumed Loman was cooking something seeing as he said “it should be ready.”

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They’ve got a year’s free supply and O’Shea detests the stuff. It’s particularly funny because Thunderbirds were used to advertised Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks that same year… we’ll have to take a close look at that advert at some point on the blog, but I wonder if the team at the studio ended up with free samples that they weren’t too keen on either.

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Power is watching the computer do its thing back at the Telsat launch. The control console was last seen in the London Airport Control Tower in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker.

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The hangar moves backwards as the countdown ticks down.

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The computer is being voiced by David Graham in a manner not too dissimilar to his voice for the Daleks which he had been providing for Doctor Who. 

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Professor Marshall arrives to give Power good news. He’ll be transferring to Area Control. That’s right, instead of controlling the rocket launch computer he’ll be controlling… areas… apparently that’s a promotion. He tries not to sound too excited for fear of offending the professor. With 60 seconds until launch, Marshall wishes him the best of luck for the future. Let’s hope he doesn’t do anything to mess up this promotion in the next 60 seconds or so…

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10 seconds to go! The computer spells it out as ‘one-zero’ for those rocket scientists at the base who can’t count above 9…

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As the computer counts down, we cut between various different shots, including this one of Power and Marshall which has been flipped so that they’re standing on the correct side of each other.

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Up she goes! See Jeff, even if a computer does it, it’s still exciting.

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Marshall and Power have swapped sides post-launch because Power is probably edging closer and closer towards the door to the promised land of Area Control… Marshall wants to keep in touch but now he has his promotion he doesn’t sound that fussed. Maybe she’s more into him.

The first stage separates. Top notch.

Suddenly an alarm sounds. Power announces that it’s an emergency! Marshall doesn’t look happy. Good thing Power will only be controlling areas in the future…

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Some arrows are printed out from the same printer which was seen last week aboard Thunderbird 2 in Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday.

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From this angle is looks more like Power’s reading his shopping list… actually the computer says that the second stage has failed to separate. Nice going Power…

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Having switched to manual control, he attempts to shut the rocket down, but there’s a fault in the emergency cut-off… this isn’t exactly the first time a device intended for emergencies has broken in Thunderbirds… clearly they need a new inventor of emergency things…

The time has come to abort the mission, and for that they need permission from the International Space Control. We cut over to the same building which previously appeared in Cry Wolf, The Impostors, and The Mighty Atom. The interior is very impressive, boasting huge screens with maps on. Sat in the centre of a big round console is the ISC Commander. The console would later be seen in the control rooms of the Lunarville stations in Captain Scarlet. The Commander is going to calculate an area for the Telsat IV to be detonated safely.

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The boffins in the corner of the room don’t really jump into action terribly quickly. The chap in the centre was previously seen as the co-pilot of Skythrust in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker.

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Power’s sad that this is his first and last rocket failure. We get some exposition about what’s going to happen next. The International Space Control have a complete record of all the vehicles in orbit so they can work out where there’s an empty space to detonate the Telsat without hitting anything… sure hope there aren’t any unregistered spacecraft up there right now…

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Oh… yeah this might not end well…

O’Shea’s working hard on KLA’s new jingle. After some debate on the mathematics he comes up with “The station that’s great, from 1-2-8.” They’re orbiting 128 miles up… except they’re not, it’s nearer 130 as Loman points out. But Loman doesn’t understand poetry so we’ll ignore him. The jingle is ultimately a homage to Radio Caroline’s wavelength of 199 metres to rhyme with the name, even though it was actually broadcasting on 197.3 metres…

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ISC announces the result of their calculations. According to their reports, the safe altitude for detonation is 128 miles… wait a minute…

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The rocket races towards her detonation point…

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Just in case you missed it, KLA is the station that’s great from 1-2-8… ONE – TWO -EIGHT!

Well, I hope Rick has renewed his satellite insurance… Incidentally, Power wears the same watch as Faccini from Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday. And now, a large explosion.

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Phwoar.

Loman and Rick are sent flying by the sheer force of the detonation. Back on Earth, Power is still under the delusion that he’ll be getting that promotion. Now what does confuse me about this is the fact that the International Space Control worked out the detonation position purely from their records of where their registered satellites should be at the given time. I would have thought they could have done a quick scan of the area first, even with a telescope, just to double check it was definitely empty. It’s not like pirate space stations are a complete unknown factor, they must know that there’s at least one up there what with KLA broadcasting very publicly. Maybe the ISC Commander knew KLA was there all along and just wanted to teach O’Shea a lesson.

Somehow the damage to KLA looks fairly minimal with a few scratches, bent antenna, and what appears to be charcoal smeared over the model. By the way, does anyone know what KLA stands for exactly? I have no clue.

Loman and O’Shea wake up basically unharmed. A flip transition is used to avoid showing O’Shea’s struggle to stand up. The same transition was used to show Parker’s costume change in Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday last week and is used more later in this episode also. They’re both puzzled by what could have happened, but O’Shea reckons the show can still go on in half an hour once the studio is tidied up. Loman is more troubled by what could be damaged outside.

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in Earth orbit, Thunderbird 3 is leaving Thunderbird 5. What a treat to see her from an alternate angle again.

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Jeff attempts to contact Thunderbird 5. Looks like John has finally taken his revenge and refuses to talk to him.

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So instead Jeff calls up Thunderbird 3. I know it’s sad, but I’m rather excited to see new model shots of the rarely seen spaceship… I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been reviewing the series for 31 weeks solid…

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Virgil is flying Thunderbird 3… I don’t think you need me to tell you that’s a bit different. Even more different is the redesign of the Thunderbird 3 interior for the Thunderbirds Are Go movie which we haven’t actually seen in the TV series yet. The actual set is exactly the same but is has been jazzed up a bit with some silver padding to look a bit more spacey. The control console is the same but repainted in grey. The seats are new and much more substantial – in fact they’re exactly the same as Virgil’s seat in Thunderbird 2.

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Jeff isn’t happy to learn that Thunderbird 5 will be out of action for the next three hours. Brains is quick to point out that the maintenance is entirely routine, as if its Jeff’s fault for making him install a dodgy, cheap component in the first place. Fingers crossed for no disasters in the next three hours. But hang on a second. How is Jeff even communicating with Thunderbird 3 if Thunderbird 5 is out of action? After all, it prevents communication between Thunderbird 2 and base later in the episode…

Loman is still worried, but with two minutes until transmission, he has to focus on the show. The silly lad misses his cue for the ricochet sound effect which is triggered by a very satisfyingly large button. He also has animal and bird noises on that control panel. Rick introduces the first track, ‘Shram-Shram’ by Little Luther…

The tape Loman ends up playing is an instrumental version of Duke Dexter’s ‘I’ve Got Something To Shout About’ from the Stingray episode, Titan Goes Pop. Rick threatens that if Loman louses it up just once more he’ll… well we don’t know what he’ll do but his only option really is going to be flushing Loman out of the airlock… which he does have a go at later.

In the Tracy Island kitchen, Tin-Tin is doing the puppet version of dancing, while Alan watches in a condescending way. The nuclear powered cooker in the centre of the room has changed, but other than that the kitchen set is essentially the same as it was when it last appeared in The Duchess Assignment. Alan is ruddy furious that Tin-Tin is obsessed with Rick O’Shea. The pair have been reduced to a couple of teenagers but it is rather amusing.

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Thunderbird 3 comes in to land back at base. This shot of her changing from horizontal to vertical flight is unique to this episode, but the remaining sequence can also be seen in The Uninvited.

Up on KLA, things are getting a bit turbulent, so Loman decides to cut the transmission. He checks a scanner screen which apparently shows that they’re slowly losing altitude. O’Shea actually sounds quite excited to head back to Earth, if only to give the president of Honey Crunch Crispies a piece of his mind. But another indicator shows a fault with the braking parachutes. Uh oh. They’re going to hit the ground at full speed. Loman has one word which sums up their fate rather nicely – annihilation.

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And on that cheery note, it’s time for a commercial break!

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Loman is putting his foot down and is going outside to check the damage. O’Shea announces that he “wouldn’t go out there for a sack full of diamonds.” If you’re afraid of outer space you probably shouldn’t have set up your pirate radio station on a satellite should you?

Loman emerges from the relaxation bay in a spacesuit. The helmet and suit have been adapted from the gear worn by Elliott in the episode The Impostors. In a very clever bit of puppetry, Loman appears to fly through the airlock threshold with the puppet wires already on the outside while the puppet is still on the inside.

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In an extremely long and slow shot, Loman floats around outside on a little line. Unfortunately spacewalks are always some of the slowest and dullest sequences in the whole of Thunderbirds, and there’s quite a few of them in this episode.

O’Shea’s so bored he’s decided to press the ricochet button over and over again, just to confirm that Loman is indeed slow in the head. Speak of the devil, he’s found some damage. He reckons a laser could fix it. Not sure how that will help but sure, you can play with the laser if you want to Loman.

Bad news, O’Shea’s broken the airlock because he’s an absolute twit. Even if he didn’t actually break it, he certainly doesn’t know how to fix it again. Loman is trapped.

Tin-Tin is sitting in her bedroom in one of the chairs previously seen in Francois Lemaire’s office in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Much of the set is the same as it appeared in End of the Road with the addition of a big furry rug and a lick of paint here and there. Tin-Tin brings in Brains to look at her television which she reckons is broken. Remember that this is the person who was trusted in Martian Invasion to check Thunderbird 1’s vital systems – now she can’t even tell if a TV is working or not. Brains confirms that it definitely isn’t broken. Well I’m glad that’s been taken care of.

O’Shea’s at a complete loss and Loman is conscious of his air running out. To be fair, Tin-Tin’s a scientific assistant with a degree from the finest American university, and she can’t work out whether a TV’s stopped working or not, so I doubt Rick O’Shea’s going to have much luck fixing an airlock.

Time for O’Shea to use his skills as a broadcaster to ask for help. Loman has plasticine over his eyes to simulate heavy eyelids and weariness. Rick knows just about enough to switch on the power and start transmitting, making a plea for urgent assistance. I guess he’s not as dumb as he looks.

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For the first time ever, Gordon is visiting Thunderbird 5 to install the new component. John’s so excited he’s decided to imitate Gordon’s voice for the entire visit. As a result, Gordon tries to ignore John at all costs. Seriously though, it looks like there’s been a bit of a mix up here which sort of demonstrates how little anyone cared about Gordon and John Tracy by this point in the production of the series. Thunderbird 5 is, however, entirely non-operational still, meaning Rick O’Shea’s distress call goes unheard.

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After a few unsuccessful attempts, O’Shea goes to check on Loman. See, they are friends really.

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Alan and Tin-Tin look like they’re about to go and take a dip in the pool or something, but first Tin-Tin has to check on the TV which may or may not have just made a noise. The gazelle statue, which crops up all over the place but initially appeared in The Duchess Assignment, is visible in the background. A photograph exists of Alan and Tin-Tin in these costumes holding hands alongside Sylvia Anderson, David Lane, and Derek Meddings. It shows them standing on part of the set of Faccini’s dining room from Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday.

Eventually, Rick’s message is heard. I guess nobody else in the world watches KLA other than Tin-Tin. She has an assignment for International Rescue! I’m sure the lads will be thrilled…

Another flip transition takes us to the lounge where Jeff is making direct contact with O’Shea. Normally the transmission would be beamed via Thunderbird 5 but they’ve managed to get around that this week, probably putting the call at risk of interception from outsiders. Jeff gets some vague information out of O’Shea before giving up and ordering the launch of Thunderbirds 2 and 3.

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Alan briefly toys with the idea of letting Rick O’Shea crash and burn. He’s rather fond of leaving Tin-Tin’s love interests to die if this incident and End of the Road are anything to go by. Jeff forces him to put a sock in it and rescue him regardless. Let’s get those Thunderbirds flying, Jeff roars… that isn’t the catchphrase Jeff but I like it.

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Here’s something rather special. This is a new piece of Thunderbird 2 stock footage which would have originally been shot for Trapped In The Sky but only appears in this episode for some reason.

Thunderbird 3 blasts off, cunningly avoiding the use of stock footage from series 1 of Scott and Alan boarding the ship. Virgil and Brains blast off in Thunderbird 2 immediately afterwards. We don’t really know why Thunderbird 2 has been launched yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out!

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Loman’s still snoozing by the airlock door. The puppet gets shifted around a little so he doesn’t look too dead.

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It’s now Alan and Scott’s turn to take a spin on the new Thunderbird 3 set. Even though they’re sat in the same positions that Virgil and Brains were in earlier, the walls of the set are completely different – suggesting that Thunderbird 3’s control console is on a turntable as it was in the previous series.

Thunderbird 3 makes visual contact with KLA, which is signalled by an odd shot of its rear end. Thunderbird 3’s brand new super hi-tech space map indicates to Alan that the satellite is losing altitude.

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Thunderbird 3 pulls up alongside KLA.

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O’Shea opens the outer door. Loman looks like someone who couldn’t quite make it through their front door after a particularly wild night out.

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Alan’s started to put on his spacesuit. He actually appears to be wearing the same suit that he wore during the rescue of Zero-X in Thunderbirds Are Go.

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With a helmet on and some extra gear, Alan floats out of Thunderbird 3’s airlock. Zero gravity is one of the few things that is actually easier to do with a puppet rather than a human.

The large, six foot tall model of Thunderbird 3 has been flipped on its side for a shot of Alan floating over to KLA. Despite the model having an impressive amount of detail, the paintwork is a tad shiny and could have done with a bit of dirtying down. Alan arrives at the airlock but can’t actually get inside because his wires are in the way.

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Scott just gets to sit in Thunderbird 3 and wait around for the entirety of the mission. He’s quite good at that sort of thing normally.

Alan manages to drag the conked out Loman all the way over to Thunderbird 3. It takes a while.

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Rick has been instructed by Scott to put on a spacesuit. They’ve got about four minutes until they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. There’s no time for faffing about. Naturally, O’Shea’s spacesuit is exactly the same as Loman’s.

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Alan hops back over during another lengthy spacewalk. O’Shea’s being a chicken and really, really doesn’t want to go outside… I mean to be fair, Scott could park Thunderbird 3 a little bit closer for him, but Alan’s probably enjoying O’Shea’s panic and terror. He’s brought his cutting device with him which is the same device used by Brains to free the rotation gear of the dish in Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday.

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Scott complains about the time running out and how if Alan and O’Shea attempt to make the crossing after they re-enter the atmosphere, the wind resistance would rip them to pieces. That actually sounds ruddy epic, I wanna see that version.

Alan’s fed up of waiting and gets to work cutting the door open, treating us to some great shots of smouldering, sparking, burning metal – an effect which has always looked good throughout the series.

After the commercial break, rather than continuing the action aboard KLA, we go back to the ISC building where the commander is having a quick chat with Virgil and Brains. Apparently the commander now knows all about KLA and is able to track exactly where the vehicle’s sub-orbital descent will terminate… funny how he had no idea the space station existed earlier but is now some sort of expert… Anyway, he has bad news. KLA is due to crash straight into the oil installation at Abben-Dhu – the biggest refinery in the Middle East… that could get messy.

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Over at the refinery, things are quiet… too quiet. There’s a very real sense that a huge disaster is going to strike at any moment. Vehicles begin to move along, presumably evacuating the area. The domed buildings in the background are almost certainly made out of kitchen bowls.

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Brains and Virgil conjure up a plan to destroy the satellite while it’s still in the air. Smart stuff. Hope nobody’s still aboard…

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Visual contact is made with the beaten up space vehicle, which sheds debris like a scalp with dandruff… sorry, that simile was probably a bit visual…

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Brains takes up his position at the enormous missile turret. It’s the same one used by Alan in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Thanks to Jeff Stephens on The World of Thunderbirds Facebook group for pointing out that this is a  Johnny Seven One Man Army gun, painted silver with a few bits taken off and a few bits stuck on here and there. It’s rather amusing to see the mild-mannered Brains sat behind such a massive gun ready to vaporize a space station.

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Plot twist! Rick O’Shea’s voice can be heard broadcasting over the radio! He must still be aboard! Alan’s left him there to die… and nobody sounds that surprised… Clearly Virgil isn’t quite so keen on blasting him out of the sky now so they need to rethink. They’d heard that Scott and Alan had picked up Loman and were going back for O’Shea but didn’t actually receive confirmation that the rescue had been successful. How they knew any of that at all with Thunderbird 5 still out of action is a bit of a mystery.

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Brains abandons his giant gun while Virgil attempts to contact base. There’s no reply, confirming that Thunderbird 5 is definitely still out of action. It’s clear that the whole Thunderbird 5 maintenance sub-plot was added only for this circumstance, and to make it a bit difficult to O’Shea to make an emergency call, but has otherwise been ignored. It leaves Virgil with a tough decision – do they shoot up KLA and kill O’Shea, or let KLA crash straight into the refinery… and kill O’Shea. Either way things aren’t looking too good for O’Shea.

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They try to think what Jeff would do. Cue some dramatic music and Virgil deciding to blast O’Shea out of the sky. Brains doesn’t fancy it much, so instead decides the much more humane thing to do would be to bump O’Shea around a bit so that KLA overshoots the refinery and crashes in the desert. Is that really a nicer way to die? Who knows, but I don’t fancy trying it. Virgil agrees to the idea of “using Thunderbird 2 like a bumper car.”

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A very green model of Thunderbird 2 picks up speed in order to catch up with KLA.

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Here’s an unusual shot. Back projection has been used to show some debris rushing straight towards Thunderbird 2’s cockpit. I won’t lie to you, it doesn’t look all that convincing or threatening.

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Virgil and Brains get a bit twitchy though so at least they found it scary. A simple shot of the Thunderbird 2 model getting whacked with debris probably would have sold the effect a lot better.

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Virgil tries to have a few whacks at KLA with his least favourite wing. Not a lot happens but it’s accompanied by some Barry Gray goodness and a few bump and scrape sound effects so that make it good and exciting regardless.

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Eventually Brains announces that Virgil’s done it.

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The model of KLA attached to the wing is suddenly a lot cleaner and fixed up now.

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Virgil’s not happy. The craft are locked together, and KLA appears to be dragging Thunderbird 2 down towards the refinery with it!

Brains gets up to assist with keeping Thunderbird 2 in the air. It’s ruddy tense. A teeny little model of Thunderbird 2 makes an awfully low pass over the refinery.

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Cor!

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KLA is back to being superbly dirtied down and slowly starts to slip off the wing, leaving a great trail of dust behind.

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That’s quite a bang, and quite rightly so because this is the last major explosion of the entire TV series. Those Honey Crunch Crispies must be pretty dang combustible.

Poor Virgil, he’s had quite a difficult day. Time to go home.

Scott and Alan have made it back to base and sum up the moral of the story – don’t launch a pirate satellite or you’ll have a rocket blow up in your face. Thunderbird 2 touches down on the island via the re-use of footage from Security Hazard which also features reversed shots of the model emerging from the hangar.

Scott admits to rather liking O’Shea, and even Alan tries to cast his bitterness aside, but can’t help but make one more wise crack. He has a glass and a pencil conveniently to hand and announces: “Rick *ping* O’Shea’s greatest fan – Tin *tinkle tinkle* Tin.” Alan’s had a lot of time to work on his sound effects during the months in between space rescues…

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The life and soul of the party turns up. We don’t actually know how one gets from Thunderbird 2 back up to the lounge, but judging from the direction they walk into shot, it looks like Virgil and Brains have entered through the window…

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Jeff doesn’t buy the report of O’Shea’s death one little bit. “He’s as alive and well as I am.” Well seeing as Jeff isn’t looking extra crispy today we’ll have to assume that O’Shea didn’t go down with KLA in the desert after all!

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The screen goes all wibbly-wobbly as Alan begins to explain what we’ve missed. It’s certainly an exciting way to structure the story, pulling off the plot twist with genuine drama and keeping us in suspense right up until this reveal.

Alan finishes off cutting through the airlock door and takes immense pleasure in kicking the door down and being quite blunt with O’Shea. The poor guy is rather spooked, and doesn’t fancy going outside.

Alan slowly creeps towards O’Shea, trying to look as threatening as possible. O’Shea walks backwards into the tape machine and accidentally starts transmitting a pre-recorded show…

Which is exactly what Virgil must have heard over on Thunderbird 2… So Alan did successfully get O’Shea out of the space station… but how?

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Well Brains and Virgil are pretty chuffed. Curiously, the couch used to board Thunderbird 3 has been turned around for them to sit on. Although it has to be said that the furniture is moved around the lounge in the series more times than Grandma’s blown a fuse in the kitchen.

Tin-Tin announces that she’s got a surprise for everyone. Jeff couldn’t look less bothered as she goes over to switch on her TV. A very smartly dressed DJ called Tom announces that Rick O’Shea is on the show! Wherever Thunderbird 3 dropped off Loman and O’Shea it must have been fairly near a TV studio…

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O’Shea’s obtained an absolute whopper of a black eye from somewhere… apparently it has something to do with guy who helped him transfer to the rescue vehicle… I wonder who that might have been. But anyway, O’Shea has a request for “Mr. T and all the family, from T-T.” I’m sure Mr. T will be thrilled.

It turns out the request came from Tin-Tin and was intended for the Tracy family. How sweet! Well, Jeff says it was a nice thought anyway. Everyone sits in complete, motionless silence while the TV plays number 12 in the charts, ‘Flying High.’ The song was originally recorded in multiple versions and intended to be the song that would play out the end credits of every Thunderbirds episode. Previous Supermarionation series had all featured a song over the end credits but with Thunderbirds it was deemed not to be a good enough fit, so the song was scrapped and replaced with the ‘Thunderbirds March’ two weeks before transmission of Trapped In The Sky. It’s unclear whether it was this exact version of the song which would have featured on the end credits. Anyway, Alan’s bored of listening to the song and decides to go and take a shower…

He’s not getting away with it that easily though as Jeff takes a moment to comment on O’Shea’s black eye. They all take a moment to poke fun, but it looks like Alan actually has some severe anger issues – feeling no remorse whatsoever for his outburst of violence. He claims, “I did it in the line of duty.” But who will be his next victim? Everyone laughs but this is a serious problem… or is it just me that thinks that? Never mind then, it’s a very amusing exchange to end the episode on.

Ricochet is a top notch episode of Thunderbirds in my opinion, and manages to give the ill-fated space rescue scenario one last go. It succeeds and gives Thunderbird 3 a worthy final outing in the series, albeit the craft didn’t actually do very much. The whole concept of a pirate radio station based on a satellite in Earth’s orbit is a brilliant one – superbly combining elements of Sixties pop culture with the world of the future in a way that Thunderbirds does so well.

Rick O’Shea is a great guest character, written to be annoying enough that you’ll take Alan’s side, but nice and entertaining enough that you’ll sympathise with his plight. The doomed Telsat IV launch at the beginning of the episode is very well done as well as the climax of the show which sees Thunderbird 2 perilously attempt to divert the satellite. That said, it is a tad overlong and that’s probably the slight downfall of the episode – extremely padded out set pieces – but that’s hardly the first time that problem has cropped up in Thunderbirds.

Next week, it’s Christmas time on Tracy Island. Snow, Santas, and sick children are the basis of the final Thunderbirds episode, Give Or Take A Million. Will it be festive fun for our final review, or a complete humbug?

One thought on “Thunderbirds – 31. Ricochet

  1. Hazel Kohler

    Has anyone else noticed that the satellite gets smaller and smaller as the episode goes along? At the start, it’s big enough for two people to live and work in, and by the end, it’s small enough to fit onto TB2’s wing!

    Like

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