|03: CITY OF
We open on a TV reporter
in a helijet presenting viewers with the newest 21st Century
construction. The Thompson Tower is a mighty feat of engineering,
raising a mile into the air and another two miles deep. It’s stuffed
with shopping malls, theatres, cinemas, plus a monorail which we
will never see. Let’s face it, it makes the whole of Dubai look
small time. But not, I fear, for very long…
Then we’re back on Tracy
Island, where Brains is using Scott and Virgil as guinea pigs to
test a new gas he’s invented. Called Oxyhydnite, it can apparently
be used to slice through doors in record time. Scott and Virgil are
wearing masks and fetching blue boiler suits as they work on a steel
door in the test area of the lab. However, Brains has no idea what
the gas will do to the user. Which should ring alarm bells right
there. So he’s treating Scott and Virgil like those monkeys in 28
Days Later. And look how that turned out…
Tin-Tin notices that
Virgil’s blood pressure has risen slightly, but Brains just puts it
down to the concentration he’s applying to cutting a square into the
steel sheet. Jeff comments that they’re “almost enjoying
themselves.” Mr Tracy, if they’re that starved of fun, then you
need to order up a foosball table or Nintendo Wii or something,
Suddenly the ‘things are
gonna go wrong’ chords start up in the background music. They check
out Scott and Virgil’s breathing – I’m not entirely clear why – and
then our boys both fall forwards, one after the other. They land on
their backs, but personally I’m just grateful they didn’t manage to
set each other on fire with the gas cutter.
Several days’ stubble
growth later, and Scott and Virgil are still tucked up in the sick
room, fast asleep. Brains assures Jeff that, physically, they’re
fine. Apparently the Oxyhydnite gets into the pores of the skin and
knocked them out that way. Their breath masks worked but were no use
at all in blocking the ill effects. So it’s back to the drawing
board – but surely some decent Hazmat suits would do the trick?
Anyway, at this point, Scott starts to wake up! He’s feeling great
after an amazing sleep. Virgil comes round with the same response.
Jeff is very sweet to them both, checking if they’re okay. They feel
good enough to get right out of bed, and Jeff encourages them to
enjoy the great day on their tropical island paradise. Awww.
Now we’re back at the
Thompson Tower, or rather the road leading up to it. The three
members of the Carter family are driving along, trying not to get
killed by a crazy woman driver™ and her useless husband. Joe Carter,
the dad, tells his wife, Blanche and their kid, Tommy, that ‘drivers
like her are a menace.’ I still want to know why Blanche is in the
back with Tommy, though.
Joe’s words prove
prophetic when the unknown female driver speeds up to the Thompson
Tower. Once inside the tunnel she proceeds to confuse the
accelerator with the brake pedal. Crashing into the car park, she
smashes the whole damn car into a barrier and into all the other
cars nearby. She and her husband hightail it out of the underground
parking lot just seconds before the whole shebang, er, bangs. Big
The Carter family have
arrived at the Thompson Tower – presumably having taken a different
route to Psycho Driver Lady. They’ve had enough time to get
hopelessly lost beneath the mighty structure. To be fair, the
corridors look less appealing than those in the London Underground.
Blanche reminds Joe that she told him he should have bought a guide
book, but I guess he didn’t want to pay the $8 for a souvenir
document. This whole building is very poorly managed, if you ask me.
Where’s the ‘you are here’ wall map? The Carters hear a faint
rumbling in the distance. Ah, don’t worry…it’s just a disaster
happening half a mile away.
Meanwhile, unknown to
them, the increasingly HUGE fire in the car park caused by the
female driver’s crash has alarmed the guys in the building’s control
tower. They are sensibly based what looks like freakin’ miles from
the Thompson Tower itself, and quickly start to shut down the doors
and evacuate that section of the building. This involves some ve-ry
sl-ooow doors sliding through sections in each corridor.
Then the first Technical
Problem rears its head – the sprinklers aren’t working!
This is not good news
for the doomed Carter family. Joe, Blanche and their little boy
Tommy are still lost somewhere beneath the tower, wandering the
corridors. Tommy is getting fed up and races on ahead. Bear in mind
that they’re already lost, but they not only let him run off, but
then he decides to hide somewhere. On top of that, he picks a place
CLEARLY marked ‘keep the hell out.’ As he skips obliviously into a
storage room, we see that the control tower chaps are still checking
and sealing up the burning corridors – and getting nearer and nearer
to the hapless family.
Tommy’s mum and dad come
to get him, pretending to be cops. This is somehow cute and
extremely cringe-making at the same time. Whilst they’re ‘arresting’
Tommy, the control tower guys check and decide that their corridor,
D50, is clear and promptly seal the fire doors with the Carters
Back in the car park,
everything’s still exploding – and not just once but multiple times.
Oh yes, always lots of bang for your buck with this show. The
control tower guys are praying that the fire will still burn itself
out now it’s sealed in. Then Big Technical Problem number two raises
its head – a faulty vent shaft has sent the inferno shooting upwards
towards the rest of the building!
All I can think is that
the Thompson Tower’s owner wanted the insurance money. This
gargantuan building is a piece of crap…particularly where we see
smoke POURING in underneath its supposedly ‘fire proof’ doors! As
the rest of the building catches violently on fire, the control
tower couple assure each other that the building is, somehow, being
totally evacuated. Not that we’ll ever know exactly how.
Then, even though the
whole of Thompson Tower is almost empty, the control tower crew have
a sudden attack of competency and spot the Carters standing stuck
and confused in corridor D50. How ever will they get them out?! As
the heat increases, the Carter family start to panic and shout for
help. Then the observation camera flickers and dies. Things do not
Ever noticed that IR
seldom rescue more than three people at once? This episode is no
exception to that rule.
On Tracy Island, looking
very much better and freshly shaved after their long naps, Scott and
Virgil are taking it easy by the pool. When asked, they say they
feel better than normal, which has to ease any concerns Brains might
have about using them for his nefarious science purposes…not to
mention making us wonder if the writers are making a sly sixties-era
drug reference about the fun side-effects of Oxyhydnite gas. The
boys are sipping what look suspiciously like cocktails, but it’s
impossible to tell if they also have a case of the munchies. Alan
ogles Tin-Tin swimming, but apparently can’t join her as he’s due to
go up for his shift in Thunderbird Five, presumably so John
gets a chance to tan. Or talk to someone who isn’t screaming for
help. Or break his Facebook addiction.
Whatever’s going on up
in IR’s satellite, it’s driven John nuts enough that he’s chatting
away to himself as he packs his bag on Five. He really can’t
wait to get back – which makes it an even funnier and more human
reaction when the distress call from Thompson Tower comes through.
The inevitable ‘Calling International Rescue’ draws a very plaintive
“uh oh” from our boy in the purple sash.
Rescue are now the Tower’s only hope, so there’s no choice. John
learns that the whole mile-long length of the tower is about to
crash down on top of the tunnels where the family are trapped. John
radios Tracy Island with the news. Scott and Virgil quickly leave
the poolside and Scott orders Alan and Tin-Tin to come up, too.
The control tower
assistant is relieved that he remembered International Rescue are
around (still early days, people), but as usual they’re bitching
that they haven’t heard anything from our boys in blue yet. Which
is, typically, when a member of IR calls them up. It’s Jeff this
time who quizzes the control tower on the situation and Scott heads
out on a very quiet, clanky-clunk launch sequence in Thunderbird
One. Virgil also gets a quiet launch shortly afterwards, but
there’s no Brains joining them on this rescue. Time, as ever, is
Fire trucks are being
pulled out of the danger zone as the Thompson Tower is fully
evacuated and now more likely than ever to crumble. It starts to
explode and collapse as Scott arrives and, hat at a jaunty angle,
checks the map of tunnels under the tower. He’s looking for the
quickest way to reach the family. Under the Tower, the Carters are
panicking as the rubble shakes and loosens the ceiling tiles.
The situation is
definitely getting worse. As Virgil arrives, Scott realises there’s
only one way they can possibly save the family in time. They’re
going to have to use the experimental Oxyhydnite gas, of course. He
tells Virgil the desperate situation. Virgil readily agrees, despite
his doubts. Scott is definitely at his best here – he bluntly lays
it out to his father that they have no real choice. Either he and
Virgil risk using the new gas, or they might as well go home.
Tin-Tin suggests using just a little of the gas, but her suggestion
is shot down because of the time limit. I’d also like to bring it up
again – let’s try better protective suits?
Scott sends Virgil out
in the first pod vehicle of the episode. It’s the Firefly, a great
big shovelling device with a huge scoop that specialises in clearing
piles of rock and being very useful in general. A bit like Virgie.
They need to clear the rubble from the collapsed Tower so that they
can get in underground with the Mole, which we saw sort-of rescuing
the ill-fated Sidewinder an episode ago. Dressed in a
fetching white asbestos suit, Virgil starts working. Scott warns his
brother to be careful playing in the white-hot rubble and goes off
to prep the mighty Mole.
Just watching this
sequence with the Firefly makes it obvious that, handled correctly,
Thunderbirds would make the most awesome action movie. Never mind
buildings collapsing and trapped families, Virgil’s frown of
concentration where he’s all eyebrows and sweat – whilst the flaming
rubble climbs higher – is worth a film all to itself. The rubble is
tricky to shift, and just when you think it can’t get any more
gritty and dramatic he brings out the Firefly’s cannon. De-ci-sive
music plays and Virgil blasts the crap out of his surroundings. Then
he trundles the mighty machine in and easily finishes what he came
there to do. See? Easy.
This is the cue for
Scott to tag team in with the Mole. His “You ready, Virg?” is met
with a cute “Ye-ep”. Aww. Virgil steers the Firefly back and lifts
the scoop up over the driver’s cabin in a way always looks a bit
like a victory cheer. It rumbles on its way back to the big green
Oh, and the guys in the
tower control room are in awe at IR’s “great equipment”. That line*
got used way too much to be entirely innocent. Don’t you reckon?
Virgil joins Scott in
the Mole. Scott’s calculated the optimum position, apparently he
didn’t need Brains’ help for that this time. They have to enter the
corridors from another angle for…some reason they can’t just bust
into the corridor and rescue the Carters, hence the need for the
gas. The Mole – another brilliant design – reaches the path cleared
by the Firefly and bites into the earth like a hungry, er, blind
rodent with big teeth and paws. Scott informs Virgil that although
all the electronics are bust by the disaster, the power to the
lights is still working in the corridors. “That’s one blessing, but
the only one,” he says, grimly.
As the Mole emerges like
a monster from the movie “Tremors,” we are shown that in their room,
the Carter family have been overcome by the smoke. Pressed for time
(a common theme!), Scott and Virgil hop onto their hoverbikes and
zoom down the corridor. Crunch time. Virgil watches Scott take on
the first door – impatient as ever, Scott tells Virgil to increase
the pressure. The guys in the control tower are listening as Scott
and Virgil ask each other if they’re feeling all right. Scott feels
fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything…
Scott also seems to have
taken on all the door cutting by himself. The brothers comment on
the extreme heat, and may I reiterate how useful some asbestos suits
would have been? (Jeez, fellas, why don’t you listen to me?) Scott
kicks down the second door, and they continue their dangerous
Back in D50, Joe Carter
grows conscious enough to fling himself at the burning door and
plead for someone to rescue him and his family. He panics when he
sees flame coming through the door, thinking that the fire has
reached him! In fact, Scott and Virgil are right outside, and it’s
the Oxyhydnite burning through the metal that he’s seeing. Somehow,
they made it without the gas causing them to collapse like it did
the first time. “Maybe Brains can supply the answer,” Scott mutters,
before barking, “Stand back, Virgil!” and booting the door down.
Luckily, he appears to miss Joe as he does.
They’ve cut it very fine
(another common theme)! No sooner do Scott and Virgil grab the
Carter family and zoom out of corridor D50, than the whole structure
collapses in a mess of ash and flames. The control tower crew are
horrified as they watch the entire network of tunnels disappear
under the rubble. The tower controller says sadly, “Reckon they’re
the bravest guys I’ve ever…”
Wait a moment – the Mole
is coming back! The controller calls them, and Scott replies, with
well-deserved cockiness, “All present and correct. We made it just
in time.” Now maybe that should be their motto?
After the dust, flames
and asbestos have settled, and our boys are back in the Tracy
lounge, Brains debriefs the family on how Scott and Virgil managed
to survive their second attempt with the gas. Using some extremely
ropey-sounding science, he says that the extreme heat in the
corridors evaporated the gas before it could affect the user – all
he has to do is heat the canisters from now on, and they’ll be using
Oxyhydnite in perfect safety.
Virgil inquires what
Tin-Tin is reading, calling her ‘honey.’ I can only assume he gets
away with this because Alan’s in Thunderbird Five. She’s
reading an article about the Thompson Tower disaster and its cause –
an inept driver. This prompts Scott to make a crack about ‘women
drivers,’ which dates the show horribly. It’s not quite up there
with Mickey Rourke in Breakfast at Tiffany’s but it’s
approaching the same zip code. Anyway, to keep the peace, let’s just
assume for the sake of modern audiences that he was being ironic.
No? Not convinced? Well, I always put my hands over my ears and go
‘lalala’ at this point.
Dated sexist jokes
aside, this is another of Thunderbirds’ most iconic episodes. The
plot device with the gas is rather simplistic, but treated with
enough weight that it gets away with it. Both Scott and Virgil prove
the lengths they’ll go to in order to rescue anyone – and even Jeff
shows what he’s willing to risk if the situation demands it. Add in
some great pyrotechnics and a compelling story – not to mention the
gigantic tower seeming less ridiculous all the time – and you have a
superb and faster paced episode from a series that’s just hitting
* “Those International
Rescue boys sure have some great equipment!” *