It’s been a really,
really long time since I last watched this one. I best remember this
episode for being about a desert in serious danger of exploding, and
containing long periods with no Tracy boys at all. Watching it
again, I found it much better than I was expecting. One of the
oddest things about re-watching the Thunderbirds episodes is
realizing how much my attention span has shrunk, and frankly this
has been good practice for getting it back!
So let’s start. The
episode opens over a set of silver industrial buildings somewhere in
a desert, and the spooky space music last heard in Sun Probe plays
here. Apparently, this is an atomic irrigation plant and a bus load
of reporters are being given a top secret tour! The point of the
station is to power the transfer of sea water, where it’s presumably
being desalinated, before it’s pumped into the Australian desert to
reclaim the land. Bearing in mind that it’s atomic powered, the
journos are naturally a little jumpy about potential dangers. They
are repeatedly told by their guide that “It’s perfectly safe…nothing
can possibly go wrong…” Now where have we heard that before? D’oh.
Well, I’m sure that this
atomic pile would behave perfectly if they just upped the amount of
security. Our old friend The Hood has already sneaked on site and is
lurking and taking pictures of the place. He has his own spooky
music which swells as he anticipates the wealth he will gain from
stealing these secrets!
Two controllers discuss
the potential the plant has for making Oz radioactive. But nothing
can possibly go wrong. Can it?
At that moment, the Hood
utterly fails to be inconspicuous (seriously, he may as well have
dressed up as a clown and can-canned across the atomic reactor). A
lone security guard starts yelling at him, prompting a gunfight
that, inevitably, involves the destruction of some important looking
cylinders. The nuclear power plant catches
The journos have been
watching, or at least listening to, all this drama from their tour
bus. Time to evacuate, I reckon…
The power station’s
controllers send out the ever-useless bunch of fire trucks. As I
say, high time to evacuate…
The journalists finally
start to zoom off in their bus, and we’re now following two
reporters who are apparently more desperate to get to a phone than,
say, a nuclear bunker!
The fire chief at the
plant reports that the fire is getting out of control (huge surprise
there!). The Hood hides behind some presumably lead-lined bushes and
swears that ‘they have not heard the last’ of him! That’ll tell
One of the journalists
from the bus has elbowed his way to a phone and is now reporting
that the fire has reached the nuclear reactor. Eeek! At this point,
the two controllers are inside the reactor room trying desperately
to shut it down by pushing the rods in the right sequence. They’re
lamenting their inability to halt the sea water intake, as
apparently this would prevent the thing from blowing up. And here,
ladies and gentlemen, we have this episode’s: ‘Design Flaw they
can’t be bothered to fix before their inevitable next attempt with
exactly the same design.’ Anyway, the two controllers figure it’s
high time they evacuated the area too.
An aircraft which we
last saw in Trapped in the Sky, gently depositing hapless airman
Meddings underneath a Fireflash, lands at the doomed power
station and collects the last few stragglers. A warning noise gets
shriller as reactor pressure increases. The plane takes off,
accelerating away from the acres of smoke and shooting flames.
There’s a boom, some crackling, some more smoke and then – NUKE!
Yes, a mini-mushroom cloud (it’s clearly meant to be one) ascends
above the regular clouds.
A moment later, some
sinister-looking white MIST is curling its way across the Australian
desert, like something from the eponymous Stephen King movie. It’s
accompanied by eerie music that really gives it a spooky edge. It
drifts and drifts.
Now we’re at a press
conference, and the two journalists from the bus are here to cover
it, too. They listen to an Australian army General named Speyer, who
debriefs the journalists with a warning that the creepy white mist
is a radioactive cloud that they’ve been unable to disperse. The
press have been downplaying the seriousness of the explosion to
avoid a panic (this is from a simpler time, people) but now Speyer
wants the public warned of a serious threat, as the deadly cloud is
approaching Melbourne and only a miracle can save the city now.
There’s yet more footage
of the mist rolling along the desert landscape, slow and
irreversible. They do stay on this for a little bit too long, but
all of a sudden a new blast of air starts to shred cloud apart and
disperse it fully. Well, at least it’s just New Zealand’s or the
Philippines’ problem now! The newspapers start to roll the good news
– headlines cheer that the wind has changed and now Melbourne is
completely safe. One of the journalists from the tour bus says he is
also relieved, but as was often the case in early Thunderbird
episodes, they manage to make him sound a tiny bit doubtful about
the ease of their reprieve.
The next headline we see
is explaining that a year has passed, and the scientists are trying
another atomic irrigation plant. There’s a big question mark over
this, asking ‘Is It Safe?’ Well, not with the Hood still breathing,
no. From his Malaysian temple, the criminal mastermind poses before
Kyrano’s statue. Hoody’s in his gold suit of evil, and he’s so
excited by his plan to steal the atomic plans and expand his empire,
that his eyes glow gold too, for no reason at all!
Up in space,
Thunderbird Three is docking with Thunderbird Five. All
obvious jokes have been made, so let’s grow up and move along. Heh.
John Tracy presses a button and swaps over with Alan – it looks like
it’s John’s turn in the satellite and Alan grumpily inquires why
he’s so late. John explains that Lady Penelope has arrived on the
island, prompting a lot of excitement (perhaps they had to sober
John up?). John tells Alan that it’s been very quiet anyway, but
that Lady P is very eager to go on a rescue with them.
Back on the island it’s
sun loungers all round, and Virgil is commenting that it’s been so
quiet that Penny’s had more ‘adventures’ than they’ve had! I take
this line as a subtle nudge for kids to buy the TV21 and Lady
Penelope comics. Ah, if only we could. Lady Penelope plays the
placid aunt quite sweetly here, asking “grandma-ma” if she heard
what “dear Virgil” just said. Apart from setting off various strands
of fan fiction regarding Virgil and Penelope’s own adventures,
Grandma simply says yes, of course she did, she’s not deaf! Penelope
reiterates that she won’t really feel part of IR until she’s gone
with them on a rescue, which Jeff is clearly less than thrilled
about supporting! He changes the subject to wondering where their
In the Tracy’s kitchen,
the slaves…sorry, servants are bickering over who gets the privilege
of serving the household. Kyrano and Parker are wrestling over a
tray of drinks, and it’s not too long before they shatter the
beverages to oblivion! Points to Parker for use of the word ‘mitts,’
I liked this little
slice of island life, not least because Grandma gets to comment that
she’s visited a great variety of places, except for a stately home,
and generally appears much less woolly and borderline senile than
she acts in almost any other episode. I can see Grandma up on
Thunderbird Five now, getting the tour during construction!
Now it’s night time at a
bunch of secret government buildings. There’s a top secret
demonstration in progress led by a scientist, Professor Langley,
who’s desperately trying to justify spending $4 million tax payers’
dollars on a small stuffed mouse. One of the audience, who unnerves
me by having the exact same voice as Virgil, laughs that they’d be
better off creating an electronic cat to catch real mice! (Do
electronic cats dream of electronic sheep? Discuss).
One man is asking all
the other questions. As he’s dressed in a bad white suit, with
dodgier facial hair and sounding vaguely Welsh, we can only assume
he’s the Hood in disguise! Professor Langley explains that the
‘mouse’ is named the ‘mighty atom’ because of its espionage
capabilities. It can sneak around taking pictures of screens in
secret laboratories, as it’s programmed to zoom in on people’s faces
with its camera (hidden within the miniscule mouse eyes). The
pictures are then downloaded by plugging it into something not
dissimilar to a USB hub. If a human comes after it, it’s programmed
to scamper off and hide, “just like a real mouse!”
The Hood thanks them for
their help and promptly zaps everyone in the room with his evil eye
mind power thing. He swipes the mighty mouse and the next shot is
him back in his hidden temple, giggling about his greatly increased
chances for world domination!
Back on Tracy Island,
Lady Penelope is really hoping some hapless people will get into
trouble so she can go along on a rescue. Those weren’t her exact
words, but karmically she’s screwed.
Now we’re in the Saharan
Desert and having flashbacks to the previous episode, “The
Uninvited.” The Hood has what looks like the same jeep that
archaeologists Lindsey and Wilson were driving, which in one shot is
heading for the dried up oasis from that episode, and in the next is
rounding on a hill right above this episode’s ‘Unavoidably Doomed
Nuclear Facility 2.0.’ The controllers of the new nuclear
desalination plant have no idea what’s lurking just above. The Hood
has the electronic mouse with him and appears to like chatting away
to it as he gets ready to send it in. The facility’s security is as
bad as ever, and the Hood sneaks on site and releases the mouse with
his well-manicured hands. The mouse is soon taking pictures of the
controller examining a screen marked ‘Danger.’ Probably worth
keeping an eye on that dial.
The technician, Collins,
spots the mouse and, as promised, it cunningly hides behind a desk.
Then it starts taking pictures while there’s nobody around. Time to
check that guarantee, Hoody. The Hood soon recalls the mouse and is
very pleased with himself – but then he remembers the disaster he
caused a year ago and figures it’s time to multi-task and, this
time, lure International Rescue to the scene. Yes, it’s a great plan
- all he has to do is set off a potential nuclear explosion, then
hang around and take pictures and have absolute faith that IR can
pull it off before he’s fried. You have to admire his faith in the
Back on Tracy Island,
Penelope is still bored rigid, hanging out in the lounge, when Alan
rushes in to tell her that Scott’s in real danger and needs
rescuing! Penelope freaks out, rather dozily calling for action from
all the Thunderbirds and Parker and the Rolls (eh?) and exclaiming
that she has no idea what to do. Then Gordon and Virgil appear, too,
and all three burst out laughing. They were winding her up, of
course, although it transpires that Scotty was caught sampling some
of Grandma’s special cake for that evening – so basically, his ass
really does need hauling from the fire! The pranksters admit that
they are boooooored, too. Sheesh, just not enough people in mortal
peril to keep them entertained. Perhaps they need a pet.
The Hood is creeping
around the nuclear plant with a package ominously marked ‘high
explosives!’ So that should end well, especially considering that it
only took a wayward bullet to send it sky high last time.
Inside the facility, the
two technicians (of COURSE there are only two!) are congratulating
each other on how they can get the whole plant to work by
themselves, and are pleased by how green it’s making the Sahara.
Good for us, bad for scorpions, I guess.
Just outside, the Hood
is counting down – then BOOM!
The technicians panic –
apparently the ‘yup, it was sabotage’ warning lights are flashing,
and they only have two hours before they’re vaporised. Luckily
Collins immediately thinks of calling International Rescue, who
weren’t operational at the time of the other disaster, a year ago.
Certain that this would happen all along, the Hood settles back to
wait with his pet mouse.
John, of course, picks
up the message and Jeff sends Scott out to the danger zone. Jeff
also decides to send Thunderbird Four to cut off the sea
water supply (which caused the previous plant to explode). Penelope
protests that she wants to go with Virgil and Gordon, and Jeff
eventually agrees, but not before a particularly attention-getting
“Here I go!” from Scott as he whizzes round on the wall. Gordon
politely shows Lady Penelope to Thunderbird Two’s passenger
chute (we will never, ever see where this leaves from!) whilst
Virgie heads to TB2 using his normal launch tube.
Penelope is excited to
be present on board and admires all the Thunderbird craft. Virgil
agrees and says that’s why there are some people who will stop at
nothing to get hold of them! Who can he possibly mean?
Scott arrives at the
danger zone, and there’s a nice overhead shot from behind him in the
Virgil drops Pod 4, and
Gordon launches in Thunderbird Four for the first time!
Gordon zips over to the sea intake pipe, and basically sits there to
await further instructions – Scott tells him he has to stop the
intake at the exact right moment, or they’ll all go up. There’s now
just twenty minutes to go! Tension mounts as Virgil arrives at the
site and Scott barks at him to hurry it up! I’m sure Virg didn’t
take it to heart, as they are all about to get nuked if they don’t
The Hood has waited
until both craft arrived at the site, and now he re-launches the
Virgil hurries to the
danger zone as requested, and gets Lady P to stay put by telling her
to ‘keep the radio contact open.’ Full marks for BS, Virgie!
Scott and Virgil don
protective suits and head into the reactor to play with the rods.
Apparently there’s now just five minutes to go – what have you been
doing, guys?! This adds greatly to the tension, with Virgil slowly
sliding in the rods – steady now – and waiting for a click and a
green light to flash instead of the warning beep. There’s a lot of
these and not long at all!
impatiently underwater, checking his watch.
Smoke is appearing all
over the nuclear plant. I note that we haven’t even seen the fire
trucks this time, and presumably they cut back on staff just in case
this did ever happen again.
The technicians inform
our boys that there’s just ninety seconds left! Virgil quietly says,
“That’s better,” as another light beeps green. More smoke billows.
Scott and Virgil are almost there – and with a final click, Virg
shuts down this end of the nuclear pile. Scott yells at Gordon to
fire missiles! Gordon does, and BOOM! Rocks tumble and the deadly
salt water intake is stopped. The reactor warning alarms quit
yelling and there’s an appreciable silence. Phew!
Things are a lot less
silent inside Thunderbird Two. Lady Penelope spots the Hood’s
spy mouse and proceeds to scream her head off! Not a good day for
feminism, but somehow still extremely funny!
In the next scene,
Penelope is saying “I fail to see why you’re still laughing,
Virgil,” and the ‘still’ part of that line is priceless. Virgil
manages to swallow his sniggers long enough to tell her that they’re
off to pick up Gordon and return to base.
Back at the Hood’s
temple, the international criminal master-mind is only now checking
out the mouse’s footage from the rescue. When it reveals nothing but
Lady Penelope cowering in terror, the Hood does a fantastic Victor
Meldrew impression, howling “I don’t believe it!” and proceeds to
pound the poor mouse machine flatter than road kill with his
well-manicured fist. It looks like International Rescue’s secrets
are safe once again – albeit through sheer dumb luck!
This episode is full of
classic moments which immediately came flooding back as I began
watching it. I love the focus on the reporters at the start,
explaining the first nuclear crisis, and the eerie shots of the mist
drifting across Australia. Also, Lady Penelope’s role as batty aunt
rather than chic superwoman was a nice change, as was the little
prank played by our boys. Would like to know where the hell Scott
was for most of the episode, though, which goes some way to
explaining why I’ve hardly re-watched it over the years! Overall,
this is a strongly plotted episode which is, however, still slightly
too slow, but does contain a tiny mouse-shaped camera, so basically
it’s impossible not to enjoy!