01: TRAPPED IN THE
This is where it all
begins. Certainly the episode I’ve seen the most – except possibly
for The Uninvited. It’s the setup, the basis for everything
else, and it does it all with the snappy chic of the early 1960s. I
watched it one more time for this review, and I was still able to
appreciate how well it holds up. You almost wouldn’t know how
heavily the story was padded out after Gerry Anderson showed it to
the ‘big boss,’ Lew Grade at ITC. Lew watched a 25 minute cut and
promptly demanded a longer, more epic show every week.
I’m glad he did, because
this is one of the best examples of ‘set up and send in IR’ in the
whole series. Trapped in the Sky is a great introduction,
full of nail biting sequences which get me every time.
So, in the words of
Scott Tracy (presumably after an ad break), “let’s recap.” This will
contain spoilers, but I’m guessing one or two of you will have seen
it before as well!
We open in the least
likely place for a futuristic sci-fi show about rockets and
explosions. Eerie music plays over a temple in the jungle, and then
we’re shown a sinister ceremony. The big bald bad guy of the show
makes his first ever appearance – there are flames, a huge gong
sounds, and the man commands a statue to speak. Even though he’s
wearing a light blue tunic with pink flowery edging, we already know
this guy’s not praying for world peace. You can tell he’s evil
because his eyes glow a rather interesting shade of yellow when he’s
really getting into it. In a brutal, guttural voice he aims his evil
intentions at the statue. This reveals that it represents his
hapless half-brother, Kyrano.
Meanwhile, on an island
somewhere in the South Pacific (although we won’t know that until
later)… In a 1960s lounge (that’s living room to you Americans out
there!), the very same Kyrano, looking much less waxy, is chatting
to that nice Mr Jeff Tracy, patriarch of the Tracy clan, kindly
filling in the background between them, when the bad guy’s mojo
kicks in. Kyrano hits the carpet with an awful squeal of pain, and
Jeff frantically asks his loyal friend what’s wrong. Unheard by
Jeff, the bad guy psychically interrogates Kyrano, demanding to know
when something called ‘International Rescue’ is going to start
operating. After a little glowy-eyed persuasion, Kyrano screams that
the organization is ready now. It’s time for the bad guy, whom we
all know best as the evil Hood, to make his move.
The opening sets up a
promising recurring villain who only occasionally lives up to the
threat in this scene. Perhaps the 60s weren’t ready for him! But now
we’re on our way – the Hood plants a bomb inside the new
Fireflash passenger plane. This should draw in International
Rescue, he cackles! All together, now – booooooo!
And what do we learn
next? A pretty young lady named Tin-Tin Kyrano is about to board the
same flight, on her way to join her father on Jeff Tracy’s island.
She also draws the attention of the two Fireflash pilots –
luckily for her, their plan to leave the cockpit once in flight and
hit on the passengers gets pushed aside when ol’ Hoody calls in a
bomb threat! Tin-Tin has a nice, worried discussion about the
situation as the superplane turns back to London Airport. It does
beg the question, did the Hood know his half-niece was on board and
targeted this aircraft specifically? Or was he just adhering to the
rule that any new machine in this world inevitably explodes…?
Anyway, the frantic
radio calls between Fireflash and London Airport are also
received by a mysterious listener in the sky. Yes, here we see
Thunderbird Five for the first time, and very impressive she is,
too. The main control room is full of important-looking flashing
lights - radio messages from every corner of the world play over the
speakers. She’s given extra importance by the strict-sounding drum
riff that will introduce Thunderbird Five from now on. The
listener inside is the first Tracy brother we meet – blond astronaut
John Tracy immediately takes an interest in the Fireflash
situation and calls Jeff. On Earth, Tracy Island is fully introduced
as the tropical paradise we know and love. Back in the snug ’60s
lounge, Jeff’s admiring the tall picture of a yellow rocket which
will be very important later on…
We learn that Jeff used
to be a VIP astronaut, back in the day. Jeff’s very sweetly
concerned over Kyrano, too, considering his recent fit of falling
down. Then John’s call comes through. Something’s up with Tin-Tin’s
flight. Meanwhile, London Airport Control Tower staff take an X-Ray
picture of Fireflash’s hull, and confirm that there’s a bomb
– or possibly a can of paint with ‘bomb’ written on it, gaffer-taped
to the inside of her landing gear. If Fireflash tries to
land, she’s gonna blow up. So she will have to keep circling until a
solution can be worked out.
Fireflash, although someone built atomic engines which are good
for six months, no one thought to make the plane’s radiation shields
last any longer than about two hours. Hate to think about the travel
insurance for that one. So, in two hours, everyone in Fireflash
is going to start glowing. And not in a good way.
The head honcho at
London Tower is not optimistic – he declares that nothing short of a
miracle can save the plane now.
This hands our boy John
the chance to make the cheerful reply, “That’s just what you might
get.” Awesome! He sounds so damn PLEASED when he says it. Time for
action – and watching this again, I had a jolt of how great this
pilot episode really is, setting up the reasons why they guard their
machinery so closely. Now Jeff’s speaking into some kind of
audio-log, presumably talking about his new Thunderbird machines,
musing that “In the wrong hands, they could be used to destroy
life.” Then it’s time for action.
The brothers gather in a
semi-circle in the lounge opposite their father. There’s the darkly
handsome eldest Scott, the chestnut haired second-eldest Virgil,
blond tearaway Alan-with-a-surprisingly-deep-voice (they hadn’t
hired his real voice actor yet!)…and redheaded ‘what, I only get TWO
lines?’ Gordon. A moment later, Scott heads to a couple of lamps on
the wall and the whole section flips around – he’s now on an
automatic gantry heading for his ship, and THEN, oh boy, does the
music kick in.
I really worked on
watching this with fresh eyes, and the launch sequences are still
the most fun to watch. The coolest rocket ever explodes out through
the open swimming pool – the sequence prompting mums and dads the
world over to say ‘I hope nobody was IN THAT POOL’. Pause for laugh.
Once launched in
Thunderbird One, Scott delivers his most-used catchphrase,
“Changing to horizontal flight!” He’s very excited by this mission –
it’s in every clipped syllable, every bossy but endearing
inflection. Even as he blasts on his way, he calls for ‘heavy
rescue,’ and the big green bus is also launched. Virgil shows his
nerve even now by heading to the picture of that yellow rocket (I
told you it was going to be important, remember?) and getting tipped
upside-down on the long drop to his ship. Thunderbird Two
looks totally wrong but somehow utterly perfect as the backwards
wings take her into the sky. Virgil is also hilariously chilled-out
compared to Scott’s rapid-fire urgency. You can almost hear him
saying, “Yeah, Scott, whateva…”
The Controller at London
Tower exclaims, “It’s fantastic!” as if in response to this amazing
launch display we’ve just witnessed – but he’s actually listening to
a hare-brained scheme from a cheekily-named pilot called Meddings.
He retells the backup plan, AKA ‘The Filler.’ (Because that’s what
it is – the filler whilst we wait for the fantasy machines to show
up, and the whole subplot thrown in by Gerry and his Merry Men to
help Lew Grade get his full hour episode.) It consists of Meddings
being winched into the Fireflash’s landing gear so that he
can dispose of the bomb, and it does seem to take FOREVER to
attempt. But I have a new appreciation for this sequence, even if
it’s obviously doomed from the setup. Although it wouldn’t be if a)
Meddings had been given a rope or some magnets or SOMETHING, and b)
they’d just frickin’ CLOSED the hatch he was climbing around in.
But then we wouldn’t
need International Rescue to show up. Which would be a major
disappointment! Not least to Scott, whose “Let’s hope they succeed”
response whilst on his way is perhaps not the most convincing I’ve
So, naturally, Medding’s
scheme is a bust – the poor guy can’t even reach the bomb, and his
obviously puny upper body strength results in him falling out of the
hatch and barely getting his parachute open in time. However much it
may drag after the tenth viewing or so, this sequence has some
excellent model work, and it’s worth it for hearing Scott’s voice
actor (the peerless Shane Rimmer) doing a very cheery Texan accent
for one of the pilots who helped Meddings.
Things are looking very
bad for Fireflash. Now they’ve evacuated London Airport so
that the apparently doomed plane can make her risky landing. That’s
until the Control Tower spot a fast-moving ship coming in at 7.5
thousand mph! Scott Tracy immediately hails and bosses the hell out
of them, whipping the controllers into shape with his staccato
requests for secrecy and help moving his, er, equipment. He’s soon
installed himself and the Mobile Control Unit at the tower in his
best no-nonsense style. The Mobile Control Unit is, I’d say, the
BEST portable desk EVER. It has more flashing lights than
The Hood, meanwhile, has
snuck back onto the scene and is merrily snapping pics of
Thunderbird One with a cleverly concealed ‘hat camera.’ Uh oh…
This is a cue for that
other International Rescue gadget to go nuts. The Automatic Camera
Detector is another frequently recurring plot device. Once the Hood
gets inside Thunderbird One the thing starts flashing like crazy. In
the tower, Scott recaps the Fireflash situation and informs
Virgil that they will have just ten minutes to pull off this rescue.
He also spots the illegal paparazzi in his ship and demands that the
police stop the guy. In what will become a recurring theme, the Hood
immediately escapes and outruns them.
Then Virgil lands. Could
Scott look any more pleased? Thunderbird Two ejects the pod
and out pop the chunky elevator cars, whilst Barry Gray’s MOST
determined music shows that, oh yes, they have this situation
Scott learns that the
cops have given up chasing the Hood. Not the slightest bit
concerned, he flips to a speaker marked with a, er, teapot…
Penelope, proclaimed in the credits as International Rescue’s London
Agent – she’s taking her tea in a grand drawing room when she
receives Scott’s request via a nifty bit of split-screen. Hearing
about the Hood’s sneaky escape, she immediately blows off the three
coach loads of tourists who were about to tour her stately home, and
heads out with her trusty butler/chauffeur/partner-in-derring-do,
Parker, in her trademark hot pink Rolls Royce. She sounds gentle and
refined. The Hood is in a LOT of trouble.
Time for the rescue.
Scott’s coordinating back and forth between Fireflash and the
elevator cars. Virgil’s controlling all three cars and he looks like
he’s LOVING it. There’s lots of ‘FABs.’ I am very happy. The
situation gets even more tense when Virgil spots a fault in one of
the cars, but they deal with this by ignoring it. Hmmm.
Fireflash makes its
approach. Tension mounts. They line up the cars with Fireflash’s
extremities, then Virgil tells the pilots to cut their engines – and
wouldn’t you know it, the dodgy elevator car spins out of control
and Fireflash barely lifts up in time! Virgil survives this
embarrassment and gears up for another try. They have a backup
elevator car. Maybe they were kind of EXPECTING this to happen?
Anyway, here we go again – this time fire trucks gear up in
readiness. Can we have a shout-out for the sound effects? Very
Again, things are TENSE.
Fireflash has just two minutes before its radiation shields
fail and everyone gets fried. Everything comes down to Virgil
keeping his nerve. The trucks line up, and here we go. The result is
nothing short of spectacular. There are squealing tyres, engines
burst into smoke – Virgil’s control car veers off and flips over,
leaving Fireflash to slow itself down by its nose, which is
now making spectacular sparks on the runway tarmac.
It stops. Finally. By
some bizarre quirk of bad luck, the bomb falls anyway – but doesn’t
hit anything…just hangs by a piece of tape. So I wonder what WOULD
have happened, if they’d just tried a normal landing…?
Never mind that –
everyone has made it. Even Virgil, who remains chilled out even
whilst upside-down, still strapped to his chair. It really was a
“Jolly good show,” as the Controller puts it. Scott cuts over the
Controller’s thanks and requests that London Airport doesn’t try to
track them home. Hmm, again – taking a lot on trust here, aren’t we?
(How things have changed since the 60s!) The Controller agrees, of
As for the Hood, he’s
rapidly blasted off the road by Penelope. Her Rolls Royce is as full
of surprises as she is, with its Bond-like hidden machine gun used
to great and iconic effect.
Despite her efficiency,
she is also the first in a long list of IR staff who decide that
they can’t ‘rilly’ be bothered to check that the photo film’s
destroyed, and they just assume that the bad guy’s been bumped off.
Think again! “You haven’t heard the last of me!” bellows a highly
pissed-off Hood, whilst the secret photo film fortuitously ‘poings’
out of his hat in a comic and image-exposing spiral. IR’s secrets
are safe…for now.
Now the team has
reassembled back on Tracy Island. The Tracys are pretending to be
normal playboys whilst the local Doc visits to check on Kyrano. In a
very cute family scene, Virgil’s showing off his piano skills,
Scott’s losing to Gordon at chess, and Alan’s snuggling with Tin-Tin
on the balcony. Whilst they relax, Jeff fishes for compliments by
waving the newspaper headline under the Doc’s nose. It reads,
‘International Rescue – Who Are They?’ The Doc says he’d like to
shake IR by the hand. Then, having no idea that he’s fulfilling just
that wish, he shakes Jeff’s hand. Smooth!
As if prompted, Virgil
triumphantly plays the Thunderbirds theme – which swells as an
orchestra joins in. Yes, we ALL know who International Rescue are
now. And guess what? We’ll definitely be tuning in next week!