This is one of the first episodes to really involve Lady Penelope and Parker, and serves well as an introduction into what they would normally be doing with or without their connection to International Rescue. Whether this is an excuse for the incredibly simplistic stereotyping, even for the era, is up to the viewer to decide. Still, this was one episode I tended to watch quite regularly (taped off the telly in the early 1990s, ssshh).

It begins with a stock shot of Big Ben surrounded by leaves, one which will be used again in later episodes. Then we see London shrouded in a thick ‘pea-souper’, a murky and sometimes deadly kind of fog that tended to gather in London during the first half of the 20th Century. Fogs like that haven’t been seen since a series of Clean Air Acts began to clean up London’s air fifty three years ago – nine years before Thunderbirds began filming – but clearly in International Rescue’s universe, no such acts were ever passed.

Nevertheless, it creates an atmospheric, almost Hitchcockian, setting and it allows a pair of (real-life) female legs on high heels to approach and spook a policeman (a British ‘bobby’). He shines the torch, and Lady Penelope glides out of the murk. Once he’s moved the light away from her eyes, she explains that she’s lost her way and needs directions to the Tower of London. The ‘bobby’ begins to explain, but is cut short by Parker shoving a rag over his mouth and dragging him away! Parker allays Penny’s concerns; he hasn’t hurt the guy, just administered a dab of chloroform! The old methods are clearly the best, and offer fewer lawsuits. Parker shifts the policeman aside, sounding like he’s risking a serious spinal injury while he’s at it. Then we see a plaque on the building wall. It appears that Parker and Penelope are about to ‘knock over’ the Bank of England! As Parker grunts trying to move the poor bobby, Penelope checks out the area.

This episode employs a lot of real life (film crew) body parts to help out the puppet’s movements. They employ hands and even an eye, in this case, when Penelope peeks through the keyhole into the bank! Parker has knocked out the bank’s alarms, too, and comments on how obliging it is that they put everything on the same circuit. As usual, the 21st Century is full of security snafus. Now the pair pulls out plastic explosives!

Penelope sets the charges and Parker dutifully hands her the fuse. Even through the pea soup, surely SOMEONE will hear that? Turns out that the pair have been smart enough to time the explosion for the first 2am chime of Big Ben. BANG on time, the door is blasted open and the odd couple stroll inside. They leave the poor policeman on the pavement, for late night clubbers to trip over. Not the smartest move, surely?

It takes them about twenty minutes to get into the vault itself. Parker starts work on the vault with his trusty safecracker’s stethoscope, and soon Penelope is really bored. She snaps her fingers together inside her (real life) black leather gloves. Parker gets to be cheeky, requesting, “Do you think we might ‘ave a bit of ‘ush, Milady?” When she points out he might get there faster with a modern safe cracking device, he snottily prepares to argue at length that this way was good enough for several generations of his family. They might all be criminals, but the Parker family seem to have taken considerable pride in their heritage! So, Parker takes his sweet time and poor Penelope is forced to wait alongside him, probably wishing that iPods had been invented already.

Much time later, and by now Penelope’s probably invented the iPhone herself by now, or at least wishing she’d brought along a copy of Dan Brown’s latest novel, or something. By 4am, Parker frets over the final lock, and then there’s a ‘click-click-THUD’ and the vault opens at last!

Out of nowhere, a lot of well-dressed men suddenly appear to congratulate them! Now it’s revealed that this was all a test. Of course! They’re the good guys!

A dashed-decent chap named Lord Silton chats to Penny, thanking her for helping him test the vault. Now he can put forward an argument to the Board of Governors, proving that the strong room is no longer quite strong enough. Meanwhile, Parker is basking in all the attention, agreeing that he has a rare talent, “…that one either ’as, or, then again, does not…’as.” Er…

Penelope clamps down on this little fit of ego and says rather primly that she hopes that will be all. Someone’s nose out of joint, perhaps? She then confirms Lord Silton’s forthcoming dinner date at her mansion home and affectionately patronises Parker a bit more. Just before they all go, Parker checks that he won’t be in any trouble for his little show of skill. Silton assures him it’s all above board and everyone says goodbye. They wonder what sort of ‘trouble’ Parker had in mind, which is when the unfortunate bobby wakes up on the foggy pavement outside and starts frantically blowing his alert whistle!

FAB 1 is back on the move, away from smog-swamped London, and Penelope says she’s glad there are so few other people with Parker’s gift. Parker agrees, telling her he can only think of one other who could manage it. Although it’s not clear if they’re only counting those who don’t use any modern break-in equipment, and this thieving business all seems like a bit of a boy’s club to me! Anyway, Parker’s rival is apparently ‘retired’. To a guy like Parker, this definitely means ‘locked away’ in jail. And the next shot of Parkmoor Scrubs Prison can’t be a mere coincidence.

The residents of this jailhouse are a noisy bunch, making lots of shouting and rattling their tin cups on the bars in each of the cells. The camera does a nice POV shot of someone, probably a guard, going past and checking each cell, then doing a double-take at the one where the occupant has dug up the floor and escaped! Cue alarms and roving floodlights. One beam passes over a collection of bins. When it moves on, there’s movement inside the one marked ‘A Block’, and a surly figure with a cigarette hanging loosely from his mouth pops his head out. Uh oh! Surely the prison is performing a very thorough search for this old rogue?

Unaware of this, Penny calls Lord Silton from her manor and checks that he’s going to turn up for dinner. She’s all dolled up in a silky blue dress and white fur stole. He tells her that the vault has already been replaced! They will see each other soon.

Lord Silton chats to his chief toady, Lovegrove, in the Bank of England Office. The bank’s figures are all up to date mainly due to the efforts of a hardworking fella called Lambert. Lovegrove mentions that Lambert’s concentration is ‘quite terrifying’ and that he does the work of ten people! Lord Silton adds that ‘they could do with a few more like him’ although he himself is shortly swanning off to join Lady Penelope! Not that this stops Lovegrove sucking up with plenty of phrases like ‘Indeed one could, sir, yes’. Silton pauses to look at a black and white image of the bank, pointing out how much it has changed on the inside. It now contains the “strongest, most modern vault in the world”. Lovegrove does some more ass-kissing, and Silton continues his exposition by basically explaining that all the air gets sucked out of the vault to preserve papers and gold bars (very important, and also pointless MacGuffin there), and he now possesses the only key that can open it (MacGuffin Two)! This key which never leaves his side! Because Lord Silton believes he is utterly infallible. Which is why we need International Rescue. Who might be along eventually. We can only hope.

Everyone else seems keen to escape the office and get on with their evenings, too. They are about to close the vault for the next two years, and they perform a roll call to check everyone is present. They’re all so busy doing silly British voices (which are, admittedly, hilarious) that it’s assumed that the known workaholic Lambert has already left. Some dope yells out he’s gone and no-one bothers to perhaps poke their head in the vault to make sure. The vault door closes and the airs starts to be pumped out – they have a handy monitor informing them just how much is left. Again, that’ll be vital later on! Lord Silton doubts the door will be opened for the next two years, and promptly skedaddles for his rendezvous with her ladyship.

So, inevitably, since of course one of the essential elements of a Thunderbirds episode is the catastrophic failure of some new fangled technology, we immediately learn that Lambert is still inside the vault! He’s hard at work and blissfully unaware that he’s trapped and that the air-sucking device is working really, really well. I suppose that otherwise that leaves plenty of air in there, unless he really WAS trapped for days and days. If that happened, the real question would be, are there any toilets in that vault?! Or a snack machine?!

On this cliffhanger, the screen goes dark, and we’re left hoping for Tracys. Who still haven’t turned up.

Back in the vault – of death! – Lambert continues to scribble, unaware his air is now already a quarter gone. Luckily for him, ass-kisser-in-command Lovegrove has finally figured out that Lambert is probably trapped! He tries to contact his colleague, but not realizing the urgency of his situation, Lambert is having none of the interruption, and shoves the microphone into the desk drawer. If only we could all do that to our boss occasionally! Lambert’s annoyed because he said he gave orders he wasn’t to be disturbed. You have to wonder who to – the jerk who told everyone he’d left? But at least now they all know he’s in there. Lovegrove tells a clerk, in a Scott-Tracy-doing-a-posh-Brit-accent voice, that he can’t get the door open nor stop the air being removed. Lambert has just two hours of air left! Now we have that other crucial element of a Thunderbirds episode – the unrelenting deadline!

They need to contact Lord Silton for the key, but Lovegrove can’t remember where he went (too busy brown-nosing to actually hear the words, were we?). They try the emergency beacon for Silton instead, so that his Lordship will ring them. These days, that’s known as a pager. Or a mobile. But in the 60s, there are no quick solutions!

At Creighton-Ward Manor, Lord Silton thanks Lady Penelope for help and back-handedly compliments Parker, saying that he “knows his place, dresses well, sort of fellow you could take anywhere.” Naturally, this flips the screen to Parker swigging from a handled pint glass in his shirt sleeves, demanding some ‘grub’ from Lil, the cook, and generally being, er…uncouth.

Lil isn’t going to pass any EU health inspections, either. The epitome of a ‘fag-ash Lil’ (1) (I guess that’s the gag, those were the times, etc.) she turns around with a half-smoked, ash-loaded cigarette hanging from her lips and responds, “I’ve only got one pair of ‘ands!” Parker teases her about her cooking, and gets miffed when she calls him ‘Nosey’. He insists that it’s ‘Mr’ Parker, and she responds “All right, Mr Nosey Parker.” The British class war starts here! Parker sweetly says he’s only been teasing her and asks her again what she’s been making for Penelope and Lord Silton. She reels off a list of badly-pronounced French cuisine, which Parker dismisses as a “load of old rubbish” and wants to know what she’s made for him. She’s taken his simpler tastes into account and delights him with his “fave’rite”; a big slop of thick brown stew.

Parker tucks into it and reads the paper, and then stops in shock and surprise as he reads that Light Fingered Fred has escaped!

The escaped prisoner from the earlier sequence is still concealed in the apparently unsearched ‘A-Block’ bin (Parkmoor PrisonGuards suck!) which is being driven through green countryside roads on the back of a conveniently open-top truck. He promptly throws himself from the vehicle, whilst still inside the bin. Ick. He’s just very lucky it wasn’t, say, a dump truck carrying the rubbish that week! The bin bounces and rolls violently before coming to an abrupt halt. The criminal, who we can by now safely identify as Light Fingered Fred himself, crawls out of the bin. Amazingly he’s almost unscathed, although his cigarette is utterly crumpled (but still dangling from his lip). He’s free!

It’s night at Creighton Ward manor, and a sophisticated strings version of the Thunderbirds theme plays over a zoom-out from Lady P’s coat of arms. Penelope is entertaining Lord Silton at the table and calls Parker in to serve coffee. She asks if Silton wants Parker to remove his briefcase, which gives Silton the chance to reiterate that it never leaves his side! Just then, the bank’s emergency call system beeps. They speculate it could be being robbed and Parker promptly drops the coffee all over the poor lord’s trousers. Silton howls “You clumsy nincompoop!”

Penny is somewhat affronted by both the PG-rated ‘swearing’ and Parker’s extreme clumsiness. Silton apologises for his outburst, although the coffee “was rather hot”. If only Thunderbirds had been on HBO! Once he recovers, Silton decides to ring the bank and see what’s happened.

In the Vault, Lambert still hasn’t twigged he’s trapped and about to suffocate. And STILL there’s no appearance by the rest of International Rescue. Boo!

Lovegrove speaks to Silton on the videophone, but Parker, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, snips the wires and cuts off the connection! Penelope calls him in and as he opens the doors, the wire cutters drop out of his pocket. He successfully convinces her he was just “pruning the roses”. Riiiight. She impatiently tells him to get the Rolls, and that they’re off to London. She assures Lord Silton that her car is “capable of phenomenal speeds”.

Or not. FAB 1 moves like a donkey cart as Parker continues to try to stop Lord Silton from reaching the bank. He pretends he has no idea what’s wrong with the vehicle, even as Penelope angrily orders him to speed up and get them there. They flash past crossroad signs pointing the way to both London and, the rather less well-known, ‘Nowhere Heath’. Uh oh. I think yet more delay is on the way.

Lambert’s time is getting short, and he still doesn’t know it! The clerks, especially Lovegrove, are aghast that there’s only ninety minutes of air left and finally accept they’ll need to call outside help. Yes, we got there in the end.

John chats to Carter, the chap with Scott’s voice-with-a-British-accent, from up in Thunderbird Five. John calls it in to the island. Jeff is taking things easy, with Tin-Tin beside him. The others are relaxing by the pool when Scott and Virgil hear their emergency beacon. Virgil says enthusiastically, “Let’s go!” Aww.

Jeff directs Scott to London. John will fill Scott in once he’s airborne. Time is of the essence, as ever, so go, go, go! We get a full launch for Thunderbird One that includes all its whistles and bells, including that very overused scene where Scott pushes the levers forwards. And, he’s away!

Tin-Tin contacts Scott and tells him to land at London’s heliport. Scott requests Thunderbird Two and some help for Virgil. As it’s been all quiet on the space front lately, Jeff figures it’s worth sending Alan on this one. Another full launch sequence takes place for TB2, intercut with Alan heading down in the boring old passenger chute. Alan arrives behind Virgil and there’s some solid clunky machinery noise, then they’re away too.

The vault’s air is half-empty (it’s not a half-full situation, after all) and Lovegrove is having severe doubts that anyone can reach Lambert. That’s what he thinks! Scott is about to land at the airport, and there’s a shot of Virgil and Alan looking serious in TB2.

Scott lands at the City of London Heliport (have to love that clear signposting). Then we see he’s set up mobile control by the bank vault door. Lovegrove tells him there’s only an hour to go, but Scott’s manner is pretty laid back as he assures the clerk that they aren’t often beaten. Right then, Thunderbird Two lands at the heliport with a thud.

John tells Jeff that some changes to the plan have taken place. Scott has realised that they can’t just barge in with the Mole, due to the city’s vast amounts of underground wiring! (You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?) Tin-Tin frets that now they can’t rescue the man, but Jeff is confident that they’ll be able to burn through the door.

Sure enough, Alan and Virgil are hard at work with the cutting gear. I think it’s a shame that they don’t confirm if they’re using the oxyhydnite gas from City of Fire, but Thunderbirds’ continuity was always very sporadic. Lovegrove is still unconvinced that they can do it, and although Scott says their equipment (heh) is the fastest around, even he is starting to worry that it might not be fast enough! Lovegrove wonders where the heck Lord Silton has got to with the much-needed key! I suppose, if they’d really thought about it, they could have sent Thunderbird One to go and get him…but Lovegrove probably still has no idea where his boss even was!

And neither, right now, does Silton. At this moment, his Lordship wishes they had a SatNav. Probably. FAB 1 and its passengers have ended up perched above ‘Lovers Leap’ beneath a bright full moon. Oh, boy. Parker claims to have lost his way, but Penny no longer buys his story and stiffly demands a word with him outside the car. She’s also twigged that it was he who disabled the videophone. The jig’s up, Parker. He reluctantly begins to explain his motive via a flashback.

The last time he was ‘away’ (Penelope makes him clarify that he means ‘prison’; thanks, Milady…) he shared a cell with a rogue named Light Fingered Fred. Fred shares similar talents to Parker, and he was the man Parker was referring to when he said there was only one other person able to do the job for Lord Silton at the bank. In the flashback, Fred tells ‘Nosey’ that he has a plan for when he gets out in a decade’s time. He says he’ll reform and settle down…once he’s “knocked orff the Bank of England”!

This has left Parker a trifle conflicted, as he was afraid that the emergency was Fred doing the robbery, and he felt it wasn’t right for him to ruin an old colleague’s “life h’ambition”. I’m unclear on how Parker thinks preventing Lord Silton’s arrival could really help his friend the slightest bit. As there’s only two people who can possibly pull it off, it was hardly a subtle breakout! And didn’t Fred want to wait until he’d served his sentence anyway? I suppose Parker thinks he got fed up and skipped straight to the cash and grab!

Anyway, Parker’s really done us a favour and allowed International Rescue to turn up. Thank you, Nosey. This still leaves the question of getting Silton to London. Penelope quickly decides to spare Parker his moral quandary and drive them there herself. Cue some stock footage of a worried-looking owl.

The most notoriously sexist part of the episode begins, with Penelope executing some homicidal motoring. She initially fails to reverse and almost drives them straight off the cliff! Tinkling manic piano music, like Virgil on a shed-load of amphetamines, underscores her backwards driving technique and then literally forcing another motorist off the road and into a tree! Saving lives is not her intention, tonight!

Virgil and Alan slog away at the still unmarked vault door. Scott is poring over some blueprints with Lovegrove and abruptly calls a halt. Alan tells Scott they will not make it in time, which Scott says he already knows. However, they have found a weak spot beneath the vault, and he’s going to call headquarters to brainstorm some alternative ways to reach it. Otherwise, it looks as though they’re beaten this time.

Never! They’ve been in tougher spots than this, even though there’s only thirty minutes of air left for hapless Lambert! The workaholic clerk has just realised that it’s getting a tad warm in the vault, and mops up sweat with a handkerchief. This doesn’t inspire him to leave, and he buckles down to the last of the figures. I have a feeling this episode would be much more disturbing if the poor sod knew he was due to suffocate, and thankfully this doesn’t turn into one of the Saw movies.

Scott fills the rest of the team in on the situation, and Brains is lost for ideas. Jeff refuses to believe that there isn’t an answer somewhere, prompting Grandma to say, “I think I know what it is.”

Scott answers, “You, Grandma?” in a way that I hope is ironic, because I don’t believe for one minute that Jeff’s mum would let him get away with meaning it! I’ll let him off by choosing to believe that he sounds pleased and surprised, rather than patronising and awful here. (But I still want to slap him.) Anyway, Grandma Tracy explains that when she was a little girl, her grandma told her about the Underground trains that ran in London, before they got replaced by the ‘new-fangled monorail system’. Although, if her grandma told her about it all those years back, the monorail surely can’t be that new in comparison? So just how old is Grandma?!

Jeff is convinced by the suggestion and tells Scott to check if the tunnels are still in existence. He doesn’t add instructions to beware of mutants or yeti, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

Soon after, Alan and Virgil are hover-biking through Picadilly Circus underground station, and it’s possible they dug directly through a plague pit or something, because they’re coated in dirt! Alan comments that this makes a change from space, but fails to specify if it’s good or bad!

Scott is left with Lovegrove to helplessly watch the flashing lights on the air monitor go down. Lovegrove, take note – suggest motion sensors and a bloody great alarm to alert people that the door is closing next time, OK? IR’s machinery isn’t cheap! On a similar line of thought, Parker probably owes Jeff Tracy a few quid for the launch, too. Scott asks if there’s any news on ‘the guy with the key’.

Cut to yet more awful driving and psycho-mania piano music. FAB 1 busts through yet another hedge in a flurry of dust and worried squirrels. OK, there aren’t really any squirrels. Parker and Silton are cowering in the back seat. I feel that this may be Penelope getting a little revenge on Parker, although how deliberate you want it to be is up to you. I say this because in some later episodes she seems more than capable behind the wheel, but perhaps the police made her go on a course! She continues to destroy most of the British countryside on the way to London.

Alan and Virgil finally reach the Bank of England underground station, via what is by all accounts a very roundabout route. They look for the elevator shaft that will take them underneath the vault.

Inside said vault, it’s just dawning on Lambert that something is very, very wrong. He can hardly breathe, and stumbles off to get some air. The same slow, sad music that played when Scott was alone in the Sahara in “The Uninvited” reappears now, as Lambert realises he has almost no air left at all!

A now even grubbier Virgil and Alan are climbing the lift shaft, and Alan stops them, I guess because they’ve reached the weak point beneath the bank. Virg says decisively, “Let’s get to work.” Yeah baby.

FAB 1 barrels madly down a country lane whilst Penelope seems completely calm and composed…

The vault’s air light is now flashing on empty. Scott’s expression is upset, clearly believing that they’re staring failure in the face.

In the vault, Lambert gasps for air. “Must try…get help.” Don’t talk, you ninny!

Virgil and Alan quickly drill into the wall. No eyeguards, guys? There’s some nice arm-waggling from the drill’s vibration, and Alan looks very serious and worried.

FAB 1 finally pulls up outside the Bank of England. Penelope comments that it was a pleasant drive and she really must do it more often. I just hope the remains of Lil’s cooking aren’t waiting for her in the back seat.

Scott is frowning and Lovegrove is sitting behind him with his head in his hands. There’s just one minute remaining! Scott says, to no one in particular, “Come on, fellas!”

Alan and Virg have finished drilling and Alan is sure that they’ll be through any time.

Lambert struggles for air, trying to phone someone for help!

Scott sits on the desk beside Lovegrove, and almost looks like he’s trying to reassure the guy. Aww.

Virgil and Alan are taking their sweet time placing explosive charges into the holes they’ve drilled, and Alan whispers, “Come on!” as they get clear, as if to avoid setting them off too soon.

The readout on the air supply flashes ‘Empty’ when Penny and Lord Silton finally show up! Scott leaps to his feet as they enter, and practically shouts, “There’s just seconds left!” as Lovegrove explains the situation. Lovegrove prompts Lord Silton for the much-touted key. The one in the briefcase “that never leaves your side”.

Lord Silton blusters at the realisation that he’s actually left it at Penelope’s mansion. Oh, nooooo. Idiot!

Parker’s already at the vault lock and asks Penelope for a hairpin. She says icily that this is “no time for flippancy” but he insists he’s serious. “They ’aven’t built a safe yet that Nosey Parker can’t h’open.”

We’re back with Lambert, who’s just said into the phone the immortal line, “Calling International Rescue…” when the wall goes BOOOOOOOM. Half the wall has collapsed, and Virgil’s voice cheers, “We’re through!” (A little unnecessary, Virgie!) Lambert is baffled, asks who they are. Virgil asks if he’s all right. Alan tells him that they are International Rescue. Super-clerk Lambert finds he’s been out-done, and exclaims, “I knew you were highly efficient, but this is ridiculous!”

The farce increases when the vault door slides up to reveal Penelope and Parker. Parker apologises for ruining Penelope’s hair pin, and a now-smiling Penelope calls him an ‘old rascal’. But, luckily, also quite a lovable one.

Lord Silton’s pomposity has only been a tiny bit dented. He’s more outraged that Parker managed to get inside with nothing but a hair grip. “Outrageous!” he declares, with Lovegrove back to toadying along, “Indeed, sir, outrageous!”

Virgil gives the freaked-out Lambert a hand getting out of the safe: “Just take it easy”. Aww. Alan adds that the danger’s over now. A now thoroughly chilled-out Scott says, “We sure wish you’d arrived earlier, Parker.” It’s almost as though he felt they weren’t needed…like I said, they’ll soon be billing Parker a call-out fee.

Silton is still spluttering about the ease with which Parker opened up the vault, saying, “Can’t have chaps with hair pins wand’rin’ in and out.” And he laments that at least the old one took Parker two and a half hours!

That’s all the screen time we get from the Tracys, and instead we’re back in FAB 1. Lady Penelope is also curious why it took Parker so (very) long to get into the old safe, and just seconds to get into the new one! Parker has a very cute answer to this, “The first time we ’ad a h’audience…one rule must never be broken. Never disappoint your public.” And he apologises for his earlier actions. Penelope lets him off and promises never to bring it up again. Parker is just relieved that it wasn’t his old friend, Light Fingered Fred, after all!

Then we have an epilogue. Back inside the Lambert-free vault, another wall goes BOOM! Light Fingered Fred himself, dressed in your typical black and white striped burglar’s outfit (complete with ‘swag bag’) walks inside it and takes a shocked look around. He sees a wide open vault door, and the great big hole Virgil and Alan made on the opposite side. His response is pure cartoon-cockney, “Phwoar, luvaduck, they call this place burglar proof? They’d do better to use my kid’s piggy bank!” He takes of his mask and laughs. We all laugh, too. With much ironic wryness. But, hang on. Any old sucker can use a bomb, and we were led to believe he was a criminal of the safe-cracker variety…oh, forget it.

I realised on this viewing that a large point of this episode is to prick the pompous self-importance of, well, everybody. After all, Lambert’s stubborn, workaholic nature and single-minded refusal to listen to others got him locked in the eponymous vault of death (and his own much-lauded efficiency is blasted away by IR’s dramatic appearance, seconds after he called for them!). Scott and the others had to get their rescue solution from Grandma, not their super-machines. Lord Silton, above all, got his blindly modernising streak (let’s face it, the safe’s setup was highly flawed) and patronising attitude handed back to him. And Penelope? She got bored witless waiting for Parker, when he could have snapped the safe open in thirty seconds at the start. In return, she got to scare the bejeesus out of Parker and Silton. Parker’s pride took a continual battering, he tried to help his criminal friend, got found out and admonished, but ultimately made up for it in the end. Light Fingered Fred found that the Bank of England wasn’t quite the ultimate life-goal prize he was hoping for and there probably wouldn’t be much point in boasting about it afterwards!

This really is one of the cartoon-ier and sillier episodes, where the Tracys and their machines only feature incidentally. The setup is slightly forced and the characters are mostly ‘nostalgic’ stereotypes. It’s enjoyable enough, but not my favourite by a long shot. It also marks the start of Lady Penelope playing a much larger role in the show, which seemed to gradually chip away at the time spent with the Tracy brothers. So, overall, I’m biased against it for sending the series that way!

(1) For those non-Brits who don’t know what that means, a “fag-ash Lil” is British slang for an unkempt woman who smokes heavily and has an ash-loaded cigarette perpetually hanging out of her mouth! Charming!


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As technically and logically flawed as this episode might first appear, it is definitely not without its charms. The relationship between Lady Penelope and Parker is showcased and we see that their connection extends far beyond that of mistress and man servant. One could almost call them buddies...almost.

Parker, it seems, is not only an ex-con, but a talented one as well. It speaks highly of his abilities as a safe cracker that he was chosen to test  the fortitude of the Bank of England’s vault. The whole opening scenario is imaginative and incorporates several live action clips intermingled with the movements of the marrionettes. You really get a feel for the atmosphere here. It’s a foggy night in London and you just never know what (or who) will emerge from the mist. The “test” that was assigned to Parker is a fully staged event, right down to the disabling of the bank guard. I’m just wondering what happened after he woke up with a chloroform-induced headache, only to find out that it was a fake robbery, with his superiors fully in the loop.

Parker manages to open the vault and the test convinces the bank execs that a newer, more secure system is in order. The staff accountant is oblivious and just wants to complete his tasks in a timely manner. To accentuate the fact that he doesn’t wish to be disturbed while in the process, he inexplicably tosses his intercom speaker into the trash. While this may not have caused a major calamity under normal circumstances, in this case, the oblivious elder gentleman has decided to complete his work while still inside the new vault. As it is now the close of daily business, the vault, along with being locked, is currently in the process of having its atmosphere eradicated. It is explained earlier on that storing bank notes in a vacuum will extend their shelf life. Of  course the tension created here is the fact that said elderly gentleman is now in danger of being asphyxiated and has refused voice contact. What to do? Why, call International Rescue, of course!

Enter Scott Tracy and Mobile Control.  He’s as frustrated as the banking staff, awaiting his brothers’ arrival on the scene. After it is deemed that traditional methods of tunneling may not be possible, Grandma, of all people, comes up with the winning solution. Scott is incredulous. Yes, the old Underground, that’s the ticket.  Virgil and Alan arrive a bit on the grimy side, due to the fact that the Underground is no longer in use and apparently has not been for some time. After an unsuccessful attempt at cutting the unfortunate employee out with lasers, Parker is once again called in to save the day. He does so, but not before Virgil and Alan blow a hole in the vault from below.

Parker, it seems, was holding out on the lot of them from the beginning and was able to open the safe much more quickly than he let on, saying that it was never a good idea to disappoint your public. Lady Penelope seemed amused at this, but I don’t think it trickled down to the Tracys or their anxious victim.

Again, while this may not have been the best TBs episode, it did have its charms and showcased the creative talents of both the writers and the (shhhhh...) puppeteers. We’ll even forgive Penelope her bout of outrageously bad (and dangerous) driving that seems to have been a one-time occurrence. Perhaps she signed up for IR’s driver education course, or the British equivalent? We may never know.  FAB!

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