Thunderbirds celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a Kickstarter campaign launched to bring back the classic series one last time using the same techniques Gerry Anderson employed when filming the series back in 1965.
Gerry Anderson coined the term ‘Supermarionation’ in the 1960’s to describe the sophisticated puppets he used when filming which were made with sculpted fibreglass heads. These heads could also talk in time with the dialogue via a system that converted individual syllables into electrical impulses that allowed the characters’ mouths to open and close.
Merchandise for Thunderbirds in the Sixties included the release of a number of mini-albums. The mini-albums were 7” vinyl discs that played at 33rpm and created audio adventures for fans. Whilst many of the albums were narrated soundtracks from television episodes there were three special stories (all with the original cast) which were produced exclusively for audio.
It was these three episodes that producers Stephen La Riviere, Andrew T. Smith and Justin T. Lee were able to bring to life with the money raised by the Kickstarter campaign.
I attended a special preview at the BFI Southbank last week to watch these new episodes.
The first episode called Introducing Thunderbirds is directed by Justin T. Lee from a story by Alan Fennell which sees Jeff Tracy showing newly recruited London agents Lady Penelope and Parker around Tracy Island the home of International Rescue which includes the fantastic Thunderbird vehicles!
The second episode, The Abominable Snowman, directed by Stephen La Riviere from a story by Desmond Saunders and David Graham follows Lady Penelope and Parker as they investigate why Mountaineers in the Himalayas are mysteriously disappearing. The duo soon find themselves in danger when they discover, whilst exploring Everest, that their guide is the infamous Hood! It is up to International Rescue to save the day!
The last episode, The Stately Homes Robberies, written by Alan Fennell sees the return of David Elliot to the director’s chair. Elliot was responsible for directing several Thunderbird episodes in the Sixties. When several stately homes across England are robbed of their precious collections of jewels, Jeff Tracy realises that Lady Penelope’s home could be the next target. Penelope and Parker track down the criminals to the Tower of London but soon find themselves trapped inside with a bomb ready to go off…..a call to International Rescue is needed!
The team behind these episodes have achieved exactly what fans hoped for. New episodes that have remained authentic to the original series by using their classic techniques including real puppets, real models, real sets and real explosions!
The figures of the Thunderbirds characters have been recreated as closely as possible to the original sculpts with great success. All of them are instantly recognisable with the puppets of Scott and Jeff Tracy in particular looking exactly as they did in the original series.
To add to the authentic feel of the episodes, elements from the original show have been included such as the titles and vehicle launches, all which have been restored in High Definition. This gives the overall feel of watching episodes that have been restored from Sixties television rather than new episodes filmed 50 years later.
As a big fan of Thunderbirds I loved these new episodes and hope at some point ITV will agree to show them on television so all fans get the chance to see them.