Thunderbirds – 32. Give Or Take A Million

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Alan Pattillo

First Broadcast – 25th December 1966

It’s worth remembering that nobody intended for Give Or Take A Million to be the end of the Thunderbirds television series. It would be wrong to judge it against other series finales because for the production team, this was not considered to be the end of Thunderbirds. It looked as though A.P. Films, now Century 21, had found their winning format and would continue making Thunderbirds for as long as there was a demand for it. Hopes were also high for the Thunderbirds Are Go movie to launch International Rescue into a string of adventures on the big screen. Although the movie failed to perform at the box office, there was still hope for further success, and so Thunderbird 6 was commissioned. But for the television series, the plug was pulled very suddenly by Lew Grade when the sale of the series to the American networks fell through – a result of him raising the price too high. But that high value sale was necessary for the production of Thunderbirds to continue being financial viable to Grade, it was something he had counted on – and without it, the most expensive television series in the UK at that time simply could not continue. And so, rather unluckily, the last episode we have been left with is this Christmas special – a merry escapade for a Christmas Day evening, but when weighed against the rest of the series, is lacking some pretty vital components.

Well this episode certainly looks Christmassy enough with lots of Santas and snow… not all that much International Rescue business going on though. In many ways it’s already a relief to see zero attempt to assert that Santa is real, thus ensuring that this episode isn’t a complete write-off for defying the rules of reality…

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The sun is shining on the beaches of Tracy Island. Not one sign of Christmas here. Give Or Take A Million is hardly the most Christmassy title either, but it’s certainly intriguing.

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Plot twist! There’s snow surrounding the villa! Well this is certainly a puzzle, I sure hope the entire series ends by revealing how this came about…

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Err… Jeff… there’s a kid on the island. The last time a kid was on the island you threatened to shoot him… I guess it’s Christmas so the risk to security has just sort of gone away somehow.

So the little kid is Nicky. He’s wearing the same yellow sash as Bob Williams from Cry Wolf. Jeff is dressed up as Santa. He’s trying to get into the spirit of it, insisting that Nicky calls him Santa… but beyond that he’s not trying terribly hard to get into character. To be fair, if I’m following the sequence of events in this episode correctly, it’s Boxing Day so Jeff’s probably hungover. Laid out on the table are some very special items. These are actually toys of Thunderbirds 1-3 produced by J. Rosenthal. Thunderbird 4 appears to be an actual studio miniature rather than the toy. The J. Rosenthal Thunderbird 5 looks nothing like the real thing, and there was only one very large Thunderbird 5 model produced for screen use, so it’s absent from this scene entirely. So Nicky has a wish to see all the Thunderbirds launch. Not sure yet why he has the right to demand such a thing, but Jeff doesn’t like the little fella all that much so only allows him to choose one Thunderbird to launch. Because Christmasn, and indeed life in general, is all about not getting everything you want kids…

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Nicky chooses Thunderbird 3. Thunderbird 1 has been moved out of the way so we can get a good look at the toy. It doesn’t have the best paint application though. Jeff remarks that it’s a good choice. Well if he’d asked for Thunderbird 1 they would have had to move away from the pool for safety reasons, they wouldn’t have seen much of Thunderbird 2 or Thunderbird 4, and Thunderbird 5 wouldn’t have done anything much. So for no reason whatsoever, let’s watch Thunderbird 3 launch!

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Jeff radios in from “Christmas Control” and orders Alan to launch Thunderbird 3. Jeff’s right hand is weirdly shiny. Alan simply responds “FAB” and it is in fact the only line uttered by Matt Zimmerman in the entire episode. It suggests that Zimmerman may have been absent from the recording session and the “FAB” was simply lifted from another episode. He voiced no other guest characters in this episode.

For the only time in the series, footage from the Thunderbirds Are Go film has been inserted into the episode to show Alan’s journey to Thunderbird 3. It sticks out a mile because the footage is noticeably grainier. Because of the nature of filming in Techniscope, the films are grainier than the episodes anyway, but this has been made worse here because the footage has had to be magnified in order to fill the 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s a tad messy and it’s hard to judge exactly why the decision was taken to do this seeing as stock footage from series 1 was used throughout the second series, and it wouldn’t really matter if the footage showed both Scott and Alan boarding the ship. Maybe it had something to do with the fact Thunderbirds Are Go premiered a couple of weeks before the broadcast of this episode in the UK and they wanted to show off some footage, or maybe the team just fancied sticking in some footage from the movie regardless of how it looked, or maybe somebody was insistent that Alan should be seen launching Thunderbird 3 on his own and this was the only footage available… but somehow I doubt that. It’s not a mistake so much as quite an oddity.

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Nicky’s an impatient little git, but Jeff assures him he won’t miss the launch because Thunderbird 3 is 287 feet high… that’s right, for the only time in the series we’re actually given a concrete specification about one of the International Rescue craft. They probably don’t talk about that sort of thing normally because it’s, y’know, top secret. But Jeff’s living in a haze of Christmas brandy right now, so who cares about secrecy…

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Thunderbird 3 blasts off out of the round house and for some reason we’re now back to standard television series stock footage rather than shots from the film. But off goes Thunderbird 3. Alan’s probably got to drop off John’s Christmas presents on Thunderbird 5 along with some leftover cold, dry and flavourless turkey especially for consumption in space… hope John hasn’t got the mistletoe ready…

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Nicky’s happy but completely forgets to call Jeff, Santa. With his brain soaked in booze from the day before, Jeff starts to ramble on about how Nicky got to be the special guest at Tracy Island for Christmas. Jeff’s vision starts to go all fuzzy as the last of the gin kicks in and the picture wobbles over to Coralville Childrens Hospital.

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A committee are having a meeting, as one would expect. Even though there’s only four of them, they all have plaques on the table because they just can’t be bothered to learn each other’s names. Saunders and Harman are having a bit of a tiff. Doctor Dorito… sorry, Doctor Pringle I mean, tries to bring things to order. Reminding us all that they’re supposed to be raising money for a new solar therapy wing for a children’s hospital… that’s supposed to be the plot I think, but it gets a bit lost later on. Pringle is portrayed by the Commander of Matthews Field from The Cham-Cham. So the plan is that if International Rescue will participate (whatever that means), Saunders will supply a rocket and Harman will fill it with toys. How that raises funds for the hospital I don’t know. It sounds like quite a costly venture. Why not just give the money being spent on the rocket and the toys straight to the hospital? That’s got to get them part of the way there…

Night falls at the hospital and things are tense because the music says so. Nurse Nimmo and Mr. Harman are already on the drink. Dr Lang is portrayed by Francois Lemaire from Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Nurse Nimmo has already been spotted in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker and Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday. Harman announces that the rocket will be blasting off soon and will arrive at the hospital in ten minutes. Intriguing!

Over at Saunders Automations, a rocket blasts off. It’s not a very interesting looking rocket. As we mentioned in Ricochet, rocket launchings are portrayed as being much more run of the mill by this point in the series. The rocket is purely functional and has very little about it that’s exciting from a design point of view.

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Dr Lang announces that it’s 9:58 but the caped crusader, Mr. Harman, declares that Lang is not to be trusted for timekeeping as his watch is a minute fast. All the windows have been “screened” so that nobody knows what is happening, including most of the staff. It turns out that this is only a test run for the real thing… whatever that thing might be.

The rocket starts to descend and drops a container. A parachute opens and the pod slowly drops towards the hospital. The parachute appears to be the same one used on the escape unit of Zero-X in Thunderbirds Are Go.

They approach the pod very suspiciously. For no particular reason it’s all very tense and dramatic. Nimmo is initially hesitant, but Lang assures her that it’s not going to blow up… this is Thunderbirds… it might.

No bombs to be seen, just a gazillion packages wrapped up in paper and string. Nurse Nimmo declares… she doesn’t actually declare anything but apparently saying, “I do declare” is enough to get all the declaring out of the way. She opens up one of the packages to reveal… a lovely horse.

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With the test successfully completed, it’s time for the real thing to be arranged. Dr Lang is ordered to contact International Rescue, but he doesn’t know how. Really? They’ve been around for a while now buddy…

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Up on Thunderbird 5, things aren’t terribly festive.

Even though it isn’t an emergency call, John’s just happy to have someone to talk to. A press conference phone from Thunderbirds Are Go makes yet another appearance on Lang’s desk as he informs John that the test run was successful. With the rocket launching at 0900 hours on Christmas Day, John announces that International Rescue will be ready at 0915 to “pick up the lucky winner.” Nurse Nimmo still doesn’t understand how International Rescue are involved even though John’s basically just mentioned it. Lang refuses to tell her in case she gets over excited.

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But the excitement’s still too much for her, leaving her eyes pointing all over the shop.

Over on Tracy Island, the gang are chilling out. Alan’s back in his horrendous white tracksuit and hideous sunglasses while Tin-Tin lounges around in some equally hideous sunglasses. Scott is doing something very complicated at the table. Virgil is reading while Jeff and Gordon consult something technical. John calls in. It’s the only contact he has with his family for the entire episode. They don’t say a word to him for the entire Christmas period. He’s just stuck up there all on his own. It’s truly tragic. Particularly as Penelope has been invited to the island along with this surprise guest from Coralville. John is truly detested by the rest of his family by this point. Jeff isn’t the slightest bit concerned about receiving an emergency call so it’s not even like John needs to stay up there, they just don’t want him around.

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Virgil’s reading something musical. He’ll apparently be making the trip to pick up the guest in Thunderbird 2… because that’s a good use of resources. Virgil’s actually wearing a shirt previously worn by Alan in episodes such as Sun Probe.

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Jeff specifically states that there’s no danger involved in this assignment… well that pretty much puts the nail in the coffin for this episode. He says security still has top priority… even though they’re inviting yet another kid to Tracy Island to take a look at all of their equipment and get to know the team. Gordon’s the only sensible one in the room, pointing out that they could receive an emergency call. Tin-Tin tells him not to spoil it. Apparently Tin-Tin’s the one in the right here. The number of times Gordon is told to simmer down and keep quiet during the series, and the films, is actually hysterical. His opinion is only marginally more valued than John’s.

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Grandma is seriously concerned that they won’t be ready for Christmas. It’s time to set the plans in motion! After all, Grandma has to beat her record from last Christmas of giving three guests serious cholesterol concerns.

Scott and Tin-Tin are placed in charge of all the shopping arrangements this year. It’s Wednesday 21st December. They’re soon ready to set off in the Ladybird Jet last seen in The Cham-Cham.

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Tin-Tin’s in one of her outfits from The Cham-Cham. As they take off, she presents the neatly typed up shopping list which is taller than she is. The list include: turkey, paper, pudding, toys, lights, cigarettes, cigars, fruit, candy, eggs, bacon, bread, meat, butter, drawing pins, sticky tape, coloured ribbons, mushrooms, salmon, tongue, and ham. Yes, that’s right – tongue. It must be John’s Christmas present…

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That evening, Kyrano and Grandma begin to consult their recipe book. This is the only episode in which we see Kyrano in the second series, and the first time we’ve actually seen him since Danger At Ocean Deep. His hair has turned from grey to white, that’s how long it’s been.

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December 22nd. Time to turn Operation Christmas up a notch.

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Virgil is unravelling the mysteries of the tinsel box. He looks completely enthralled by this particular piece.

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Alan is hanging up some shiny stars and snowflakes. At the rate he’s using that glue they’ll probably be ready by next Christmas…

Grandma’s plan to clog everyone’s arteries is well and truly underway with a total of FIVE turkeys in the oven, that’s a whole turkey for every Tracy brother… except John who’ll be having the aforementioned tongue. Brains is doing some whisking because he otherwise has absolutely no culinary skill whatsoever. Kyrano is finishing off a cake the size of a Labrador.

Lovely stuff. Kyrano’s reappearance in this episode makes me wonder whether The Hood will be popping up to steal Christmas at some point… he doesn’t, but that would have been fun.

Jeff has left it a bit late but is attempting to write some Christmas cards. Alan drops some of Virgil’s favourite tinsel on the desk. Silly Alan. December 23rd has arrived.

Two days after leaving the island, Scott and Tin-Tin arrive home with a packed plane full of gifts and trees and that all important tongue. They’re wearing the same outfits they left in. Incidentally the set of the cockpit is completely different to the one seen in The Cham-Cham as it now has to seat two. It appears to be the set used for Jeff’s jet in Atlantic Inferno but repainted slightly.

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There’s food as far as the eye can see in the kitchen. One of the turkeys has already gone but there are two whacking great puddings in addition to the enormous cake and all the other treats that have been made. It really is quite worrying how much the Tracy family consume on special occasions.

The decorations are still in a pile on the floor and a half-dead, un-decorated tree stands in the corner – conveniently blocking John’s portrait for the festive season. The chosen brand of Christmas lights by the Tracy family are ‘wink n’ blink starlites’ for those of you who are fans of vintage Christmas decorations…

Christmas Eve is here and the trees are being decorated by Tin-Tin while everyone else just sits around. The presents are piled high, although Gordon has already pinched one of his. So ends the Christmassy montage and I have to say, while this episode does fall flat in terms of excitement and danger, it’s nice to have some more moments like this to see the characters having fun and being a family.

Scott is back in his outfit from Atlantic Inferno. If you couldn’t tell already, Gordon is desperate to open his present… probably a new pair of swimming goggles or something. Tin-Tin shoots him down because she just doesn’t like him that much this week.

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Jeff switches on the TV to hear the news about the Christmas rocket to Coralville. Not sure if it’s still supposed to be a surprise or not, but if it is then this reporter’s just blown it. He’s the same puppet that appeared as the co-pilot of Skythrust in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker among many other roles.

Tin-Tin and Virgil remark on how much they like the snow. Virgil wishes they could have a white Christmas, like the old days. Remember that we aren’t given any back story about the Tracy family in the TV series itself so this does at least confirm on screen that they haven’t always lived on the island. I know it sounds obvious, but if you’re trying to build up a picture of the characters just from the series this is the type of limited information we’ve got to go on. Anyway, Brains immediately has his thinking face on…

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A helicopter comes in to lower the nose cone onto the rocket. The same type of helicopter can be seen as part of the air sea rescue operation in Thunderbirds Are Go launching from Glenn Field. It also pops up in the Captain Scarlet episode, Place of Angels.

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The Harman’s store and the Second National Bank next door are all dressed up for Christmas. It would appear that this building is actually a series of plastic boxes stacked on top of each other and dressed with individual light fittings, blinds and other miniature room fixtures. This idea for creating skyscrapers would continue to be used on Captain Scarlet to great effect.

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Tanner, the toy packer, shoves another gift into the box. Despite timing being of the utmost urgency, he’s performing the ask on his own the night before the rocket is due to be launched. Give Or Take A Million would have been produced in the summer of 1966, so the toys on display here were probably a little out of date by the time Christmas came around, although I’m sure some companies might have been keen to get their products in an episode of Thunderbirds for promotional purposes. Tanner is portrayed by the same puppet as Frank Hooper from Atlantic Inferno.

Brains’ absence is suddenly noticed, and they all assume he wouldn’t possibly want to miss it. I feel like the gang greatly over-estimate Brains’ interest in watching rocket launches on television seeing as he wasn’t that interested in Sun Probe either. Gordon goes on a hunt for him, encountering Grandma and Kyrano having a polite discussion in the kitchen along the way. Kyrano suggests that Grandma should use the nuclear powered cooker. But she could never “get the hang of those rods.” She also remarks that they’ll taste better this way… you know… less plutoniummy.

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Anyway, Brains is working on an experiment so has left a message on his door to be left alone… written in blood… he must really mean it…

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He studies what appears to be a map of the island which roughly matches the overhead view we get of the island in Thunderbirds Are Go. A plant pot with a few sticks stuck in it spins around while no doubt doing something very important and science related.

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Over at Santa’s Hideaway in Harman’s store, the snow is being cut after a long day of entertaining children and extorting money from flustered parents.

Two Santas emerge completely out of character, because apparently the team behind Thunderbirds were keen to expose the lies we’ve been telling to children about Christmas in one simple blow. They were last seen as two fashion buyers in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. After a long day talking to children, it’s time for them to meet up with Tanner the toy packer and get blind drunk to see in the festivities.

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They hear a noise which gives us the perfect opportunity to look at some more toys. Cartoon character figures from the period include Top Cat, Fred Flintstone, Donald Duck and Yogi Bear.

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A jack-in-the-box suddenly pops up to scare the willies out of all the kids at home.

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From out of no-where appear two nasty looking fellows, Scobie and Straker (not the UFO character). Straker was previously seen as Stevens in Danger At Ocean Deep.

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The two Santas are being held at gunpoint in another room and according to Scobie they may just have their Christmases ruined… it’s nice to imply that Santa might get shot on Christmas Eve, that’ll make the kids at home feel all warm and fuzzy…

Meanwhile, Tanner’s almost finished packing up the rocket, which he’d get done a lot faster if Harman wasn’t coming in to bother him. He remarks on how well the store has done as a result of this charitable endeavour, because Harman’s a capitalist pig and all that. It does allow him to mention that the Second National Bank is right next door though…

And two chaps are just closing up the vault for Christmas. One guard, Preston, manages to make a truncheon magically appear out of no-where so he can test the alarm. He taps the floor which immediately triggers it. Really high-tech stuff, I just hope they have some other sort of security system in place… Joe, the security chief is portrayed by the same puppet as one of the reporters from The Mighty Atom.

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And so the door is closed and the vault secured. The door itself is new but the wall surrounding it was last seen in 30 Minutes After Noon and Vault of Death.

Meanwhile, the Santas have now been stripped to their underclothes, tied up, and gagged… a particularly sensitive child might be seriously affected by that image. Straker is keen to get the equipment out of the jack-in-the-box… because keeping your heist gear in a nice, quiet, securely locked box just wouldn’t do at all… it has to be accessible to children.

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On the roof of the store, the Christmas rocket is being prepared. It’s exactly the same as the test rocket with a few Christmas trees painted on it. I really do wish the rocket was just a little more exciting to look at…

The crooks’ plan is simple. Cut through the wall of the toy store and into the vault next door… they expect to get ten million dollars, give or take a million… get it? Just before the commercial break, the camera zooms straight in on Straker’s eyes for dramatic effect which I guess we’re supposed to think have dollar signs in them or something…

Time for quite possibly the dullest sequence in all of Thunderbirds. In an excruciating amount of detail, we’re shown Straker drilling a big hole in the wall. It’s supposed to be full of tension but it’s just unbelievably boring (yes, ha ha, boring also means drilling) and goes on far too long. This is supposed to be the exciting part of the episode where the action kicks in and it just isn’t gripping in the slightest. But if you like watching a drill slowly make a hole in a wall and watching a plastic bag fill up with dirt, then this is the episode for you.

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Upstairs, Tanner is still packing up gifts and is about to wrap the invitation for some lucky kid to visit International Rescue for Christmas. How sweet. It’s certainly more interesting than what’s going on downstairs.

The drilling keeps going and the Santas keep trying to get free and it all keeps being boooring.

Some of the dirt MIGHT fall on the floor… but it doesn’t because the skirting board is unusually wide… just to diffuse all the tension a little bit more.

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Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, Straker starts to drill ANOTHER hole. PLEASE STOP! You can clearly see the mark in the wall that he’s supposed to be drilling at.

Straker and Scobie start to pull the bit of wall away. It’s a little more exciting, but by this point everyone’s lost interest, so John could light himself on fire, skydive down from orbit, and land in the middle of the scene completely naked and you still wouldn’t be the least bit entertained…

The crooks are in the vault which is full of gold. Serves the bank right for building a vault somewhere other than the closely guarded heart of the building. But surely there’s a camera and a security guard who can see what’s happening or might have heard the noise of a large drill? Well apparently not. So Straker and Scobie have had a pretty easy time with this break in overall… which doesn’t add to the tension all that much. THIS WEEK, the THRILLING FINALE OF THUNDERBIRDS – two men have a RELATIVELY EASY TIME breaking into a bank  – Will they make it? YES, THEY PROBABLY WILL.

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Just to slow the pace down even further, we’re treated to the full spectacle of Tanner wrapping the last present from beginning to end. It’s genuinely more interesting to watch than the entire drilling sequence. Mainly because the wrapping paper is hideous and the bow doesn’t go with it at all – that must be all he had left.

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It gets shoved in the pod with the others. If Tanner had put some effort into neatly stacking the gifts he’d probably reduce the risk of them breaking and would have gotten twice as many in… but then if I had to wrap 185 presents in one night I probably wouldn’t care after a while either…

Time for the next step. Straker fires a clamp across the vault and trusts Scrobie to hold the rope it’s attached to. He fails and the rope nearly touches the floor. Silly Scobie…

The ropes are tightened and Straker ties a thing to another thing so that Scobie can be winched across the vault without touching the floor. A good job is done getting the puppet through the hole despite his wires.

Stealing the lightweight, untraceable cash is against the rules apparently. The gold is what they’re after even though it’s much more inconvenient. The gold bars don’t quite have the shine on them that real gold bars would have, looking quite a bit like blocks of wood sprayed with gold paint.

Meanwhile, night has fallen on Tracy Island and we’re in a part of the house that we’ve never seen before. The Tracys seem to have acquired a statue from The Hood’s temple. Tin-Tin is up late with Virgil, giving him coffee for his early morning trip to Coralville. Tin-Tin’s about to do something to cause quite a stir. Viewers of a nervous disposition may want to look away now.

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You may or may not have noticed that throughout my series of reviews I have actively avoided stating the exact year that Thunderbirds is set in. The fact is that it doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t affect how one enjoys the series one little bit. But I know you all want to know – is the Security Hazard blog in the 2026 camp or the 2065 camp? Well growing up I was always a 2065 kid who learnt all of the character’s birthdays according to the 2065 timeline, so I can’t help but be more inclined towards that. Had I come to the series for the first time as the grumpy old git I am now, I would have said that you can’t argue with what’s on screen… in which case this calendar and all the newspapers in the series suggest that Thunderbirds is set in 2026… and 1964…. and 2007… basically meaning you can’t really trust anything you see on screen. But who knows where this calendar originated from. Maybe it was stated in the original script that the year must be specified as 2026, or maybe some prop maker just had to come up with it a few minutes before shooting started…

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Tin-Tin and Virgil hear a strange noise. I’ve never interpreted it this way before, but I suppose the implication is supposed to be that it could be Santa. Virgil’s face suggests that if it is Santa, he’ll be getting his teeth knocked out…

Virgil and Tin-Tin go to investigate. Desmond Saunders was apparently feeling quite keen on doing extreme close-ups on the puppet’s eyes during this episode.

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A door opens, and just before Virgil absolutely decks the intruder, their identity is revealed. It’s Brains. He was seeing what the weather was like… somehow saying “I was waiting for Santa” would have sounded more believable. Tin-Tin insists that Brains has some coffee before going back to bed… an award-winning combination…

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A vague attempt has been made to darken the stock footage to make it look like the launch of Thunderbird 2 is being carried out at night. It’s not at all convincing, particularly when you see the sky. A proper night-time take-off would have been seriously cool to watch.

A superb job is done by the live action hand double of making these blocks of wood look like heavy bars of gold. Scobie loads them into a pouch on his chest, probably crushing his vital organs slowly.

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Sure hope Scobie’s feet don’t touch the floor… that would make this long, dragged out sequence a complete waste of time.

Straker begins the long and tedious process of pulling Scobie back. Extreme strain is placed on the clamp as Scobie sags closer and closer to the floor. Sure wish he’d pick his feet up.

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He does. So that’s good… there really isn’t much more to say about this ruddy sequence.

Scobie suddenly steadies himself on a table. One more intense close-up of Straker’s eyes tell us he shouldn’t have done that. The pencil is dangerously close to the edge of the table… it’s pretty much the most exciting thing to have happened all evening.

On the roof of Harman’s store, the sun is beginning to rise on Christmas morning. This poor TV reporter has to stand on the rooftop in the freezing cold while the rest of his family unwrap presents without him. The Christmas rocket is almost ready for launch as Tanner informs Harman that the canister is finally full.

After successfully getting Scobie out of the room, it’s Straker who messes it all up by dropping the harness on the pencil which hits the ground. It was pretty much the easiest gold heist ever carried out ever and they completely screwed it up at the last minute. It would be far too generous to call this a plot twist. This is just downright annoying. For a thoroughly underwhelming sequence to end in such an infuriating way just doesn’t feel tense or exciting, it’s just frustrating because we all saw it coming and had to sit through several slow and repetitive scenes in order to get here.

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The worst security guards in the entire history of poorly guarded bank vaults are on the alert. I’m sure they’ll immediately leap into action and stop the thieves…

Straker and Scobie abandon all of their gold which is conveniently stacked up on tables for them. At least grab a bar or two to cover the bus ticket home guys. Oh well, never mind. The guys make a run for it, encountering the stripped Santas on the way out. It finally becomes clear why they actually bothered to do that. With the costumes hanging on the wall, Scobie and Straker decide that disguises are in order to aid their escape… it’s a dumb idea but at least it helps to make things a little more festive…

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The guards haven’t actually managed to leave the office yet. In fact they’ve only just bothered to turn on the security camera… which apparently isn’t on 24/7… I mean these guys basically deserve to have their gold stolen because they are truly awful at their jobs.

Without pausing for breath, the crooks have thrown on their disguises and made it to Tanner’s packing room. Scobie and Straker take the opportunity to hide in the canister, in case you were wondering how these two plots go together.

Closing the doors, Straker and Scobie are surprised that the elevator is going up… even though they’d already acknowledged that this is indeed an elevator… so it can’t be that much of a surprise that it’s going up… I mean how were they planning to use it from inside the pod anyway… surely it’s a good thing that someone’s sent the elevator up for them… if you can’t tell already I don’t have a very high opinion of this script.

Up on the roof, Harman watches the loading of the rocket alongside the ISC Commander from Ricochet.

Holmes and Watson arrive and with some impossibly good deduction, they spot some fluff on the ground which apparently indicates that the crooks are definitely in the canister… It’s such a good deduction that I can’t truly believe that these two actually came up with it. Even Tanner is baffled by how incredibly bad these guys are at doing their job. He lets them use his phone because he’s pretty much ready to go home and sleep for the rest of his Christmas Day…

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But the rocket’s too loud for the phone to be heard. Well that’s jolly inconvenient.

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And because the phone couldn’t be heard, Straker and Scobie’s wailing and banging can’t be heard either. It is a tad unlucky for them I must say.

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Blast off! Consider this – the supersonic, revolutionary airliner Fireflash was the first aircraft seen to take off in Thunderbirds. This rocket is the last in the series. I know nobody intended for it to be that way, but I can’t help but feel things did go a little bit backwards in terms of coolness. At least Zero-X and Skyship One go some way to make up for it in the feature films.

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Well these two have probably lost their jobs now. Tanner still hasn’t managed to grasp what’s happening.

With the rocket in flight, everyone from Tracy Island to Coralville is learning about the break in at the Second National Bank. The news reporter suggests that about six million dollars of gold was stolen, and that a 10% reward will be offered to anyone capturing the thieves… I mean, Straker and Scobie didn’t actually take anything so 10% might be a bit generous. The security guards probably never found the stacks of gold left on the other side of the wall…

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Meanwhile, Virgil is almost over Coralville. Well that’s exciting at least.

Nurse Nimmo watches Thunderbird 2 fly over some trees. This is hardly her most exciting outing… Thunderbird 2’s I mean, not Nurse Nimmo… I can confidently say that this is the most exciting episode Nurse Nimmo has ever appeared in… unless you include Alias Mr. Hackenbacker and Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday in which she made cameos… so this is actually the least exciting episode in which Nurse Nimmo appears… hmmm… that’s a turn up for the books…

Our friendly medical team watch as the rocket drops the canister which deploys a special ‘Merry Christmas’ parachute.

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Coralville’s about to get a fun unconscious-criminal-themed surprise!

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Don’t worry, Dr Lang’s ready to murder them on the spot… Merry Christmas kids, don’t mind the blood of the incompetent bank robbers smeared all over your presents, and definitely ignore the fact they’re both dressed as Santa… I mean where did he even get the gun from anyway? Do doctors at childrens hospitals have to carry guns in 2026 or 2065 or whatever year this is supposed to be?

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Lang opens up the pod, and Nurse Nimmo doesn’t like the contents one little bit…

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Surprise!!

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Nurse Nimmo asks if they’re dead… you’re… you’re… YOU’RE A NURSE! YOU TELL ME!

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Virgil reports the incident to Jeff who immediately looks on the bright side and points out that Coralville will get the 10% reward money… even though they didn’t really do anything…  just saying…

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Some children are singing. It’s very lovely. The small blue building behind the tree was previously seen as building 67 in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker.

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Harman and some random people that he probably knows from somewhere are eating some food, drinking some drink, and generally enjoying how rich they are now. The lady in the blue dress was last seen as Marshall in Ricochet, and the chap sat closest to Harman was actually seen as the news reporter a few minutes ago.

The last whip-pan transition of the series takes us back over to Coralville where the gang are enjoying their Christmas dinner and also generally enjoying how rich they are now. Good for them. Nurse Nimmo reckons Nicky must be having an awful lot of fun spending Christmas with International Rescue…

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Is someone torturing a herd of cows?

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Oh no, it’s just the Tracy boys singing. They clearly haven’t quite had enough to drink yet. Scott’s got one disturbingly wonky eye which suggests otherwise. But seriously, their singing is truly abysmal.

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Penelope has dressed up especially for this horrific performance. Nicky’s all dressed up in his uniform. How cute. It’s nice to see everyone dressed up in their finery. It adds a certain something special to this final scene of the series.

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Oddly, this is the only episode in the series which features Penelope but not Parker. He must be spending a nice, quiet Christmas with Lil… Penny appears to have walked through a Christmas tree on the way in…

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Nicky describes the performance as a smash… you know, like when a bus smashes into an old people’s home…

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Scott insists that they can’t possibly eat more food. He’s one more bite away from turning into a turkey.

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Brains announces that he’d like to do a party piece… it’s good, but it’s not quite as good as the Drench Water advert from 2008.

Virgil is very hesitant to close his eyes for Brains… not after the last time. Scott, Gordon, Jeff, and Nicky at least comply. Nicky would have had to have a blinker mechanism especially made just for this scene. I believe this may be the first time that Jeff has been seen to blink too.

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Brains has only gone and made it snow! It’s pretty, and it wraps up the mystery from the beginning of the episode. Brains is such a good and simple soul. With all that genius to build aircraft and create sophisticated robots, sometimes he just wants to install snow machines to make his friends happy. I believe it’s that innocent and selfless quality that ultimately makes him one of the series’ most popular characters.

Brains announces that everyone can open their eyes. Most people do so, but apparently Tin-Tin needs a reminder from Penelope. Remember that she has a degree from the finest American university…

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Nobody quite feels like rushing to the window to get a proper look, but everyone admires what they can see from their seats… everyone’s probably too full of booze and turkey to get up.

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Virgil certainly looks like quite the heart-throb, sat behind his piano in a tuxedo with a glass of champagne.

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Jeff thanks Brains for giving them “a real old-fashioned Christmas.” I know this is the last line of the series and everything but… did Jeff grow up in the ice age? Why else would a white Christmas be considered old fashioned? I’m sorry, I’ll stop, you don’t have to put up with my nit-picking anymore if you don’t want to.

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And so with a final flourish of Christmassy goodness from Barry Gray, the scene comes to a close, and so does the original Thunderbirds television series.

After a sweet little ending like that, it’s easy to forget the enormous flaws with this episode. International Rescue’s involvement is reduced to the absolute minimum while huge chunks of the story are dedicated to a fairly uninteresting gold heist and the launching of a fairly uninteresting rocket. The pacing is seriously far off the mark, and the very notion of a Thunderbirds story which doesn’t involve a rescue situation seems laughable. Dramatic rescues are a critical part of the series and this episode just doesn’t have any. Of course it’s Christmas, and there’s no harm in making the plot light and whimsical, but the inclusion of the bank robbery is neither of those things so what we’re left with is neither a good Thunderbirds episode or a particularly good Christmas special.

That said, this episode does have its highlights, and those have to be any scene set on Tracy Island. Watching the International Rescue team prepare for and celebrate Christmas is a delight, and if nothing else it gives fans of the series the chance to spend time with their favourite television family for one last time. The tone is light and celebratory on the island, and in spite of the weak plot, it’s difficult not to enjoy watching the International Rescue team having a good time.

So that’s your lot. The Security Hazard blog has now reviewed all 32 episodes of Thunderbirds. But what does it all add up to? What conclusions can we draw about the success of the series as a whole? Well, you’ll have to find out next week in our grand epilogue article. We’ll be summing up a lot of our discoveries from this journey as well as providing our own answer to the question of what makes this 50 year old puppet show so impressive and thrilling to this day. We’ll also be revealing what we’ll be doing next…. All this, and more, next week on the Security Hazard blog!

6 thoughts on “Thunderbirds – 32. Give Or Take A Million

  1. The whole 2026/2065 is fascinating – while it now seems widely acknowledged that the series took place in 2065, when I came into the series in with the 1991 repeats everyone was firmly in the 2026 camp; official merchandise such as books and Thunderbirds: The Comic always referenced it and it’s tough for me to think of the Tracy brothers not being born between 1995 and 2005!

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  2. These have been great and wonderous recaps/reviews of the series. I do hope you do the same for the TAG series as well.

    You know – I think I’ve enjoyed your recaps even more than I enjoy some of the actual episodes! Great work!

    Oh and “John could light himself on fire, skydive down from orbit, and land in the middle of the scene completely naked ” – I promise you that would certainly interest me. AND would give John some much needed screentime!

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  3. Gary

    Whichever kid received that horse would have been delighted, I’m sure. They could put it next to their gazelle for hours of fun.

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  4. bbbeyer

    Just looked at the screenshots of the teasers in more detail. Frame 8 – the undressed doll in the top left is in a – how shall I put it – less than decorous pose. And Frame 9 – one of the silver boxes is stencilled “CUN-7”. Someone’s having a laugh, surely?

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  5. darkspine10

    Are you planning on reviewing the two TB movies? They pretty much feel like regular episodes, that just happen to be feature length.

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