extremely funny writing, and Brains taking charge as only he can
combine to make Day of Disaster one of the most interesting episodes
in the series. The machine that requires rescuing is particularly
epic, ensuring that this will be a rescue to remember.
It all starts with a fierce
storm battering a suspension bridge. Two men watch the weather
anxiously from inside a control room. The one with the moustache,
the pompous Controller (who oddly never gets a name) is sure that
the bridge can take it, but the more cautious Dave Clayton, a
younger man with less facial decoration and a long-suffering
attitude, is certain they should perform a full check-up. He might
well be right, as the episode title flicking up over the bridge
prophesies some real trouble ahead!
The next day, the bridge
Controller is under pressure from the ‘Minister’ to ensure that
there will be "no delay." The Controller urgently promises that the
Allington Bridge will be reopened in time, and that they’re checking
for storm damage right now.
Sweet, speculative music
plays as a man in a hardhat is winched down beside the bridge. He’s
using some kind of ‘storm damage stress detector’ although it’s not
clear exactly what the crackling signifies, other than that perhaps
it could be a radioactive bridge. The surveyor is pulled back up and
he and several other surveyors (including one named Gerry, probably
after the show’s creator), report to David Clayton that the bridge
appears "OK." Clayton takes a lift back to the control tower at the
top of the bridge. His partner, the moustached Controller, is
already looking officious, and when Clayton tells him the good news,
the Controller blusters that this was exactly what he expected and
mocks Clayton’s anxiety about needing the checks at all. He also
informs Clayton that he has given orders to reopen the bridge,
despite Clayton’s concerns that more tests are needed. Clayton is
worried about the ‘load’ the bridge has to carry – but the
Controller huffs that the ‘Martian Probe Rocket’ will not get
held up at Allington Bridge!
Enter the Martian Probe
Vehicle/Rocket/explosion waiting to happen. It’s a gigantic machine.
Its impressive appearance is accompanied by the excellent ‘March of
the Oysters’ theme last heard on Stingray, although here it
seems to trumpet ‘welcome to the 21st Century!’ as the gargantuan
rocket is borne through city streets, accompanied by a four strong
police escort. It’s not empty, either, as we meet Bill and Frank,
two American engineers (it’s always two, remember) who’ve stayed on
in the MSP’s nose cone during its journey to perform last minute
Frank expositions the tight
deadline for the craft’s launch, as it’ll be another four years
before Mars is in range again. Bill reckons their work is done now
and his mind is on getting coffee. Frank is more freaked out by the
fact that the rocket is primed to take off "like that" – snapping
his fingers (off camera!) – and worries what would happen if
something went wrong. Bill jinxes them entirely by saying,
"Nothing’s gonna go wrong." They never learn! Bill reminds Frank
that the rocket can only launch if it’s upright, and reassures his
colleague that he’ll be back in San Diego with his wife and kids
"before they’ve even missed you." Wow, they are so screwed.
The police escort continues
to lead the MSP (Martian Space Probe) along narrow English roads. We
see NTBS (the infamous Ned Cook’s TV network in Terror in New
York City) are filming the transport as it goes by. Rolling news
is a bitch to fill, right?
Next we see the image on a
posh TV in an even posher drawing room, and faithful butler Parker
is fixing the image. Brains is there watching, and after thanking
Parker he tries to get Lady Penelope interested in the non-events of
the "huge ship" on the screen. Penelope is more worried that he has
the correct strength of tea, which she’s made weak because
"Americans usually prefer it that way." Brains seems a little
thwarted as he takes his cup, but muses that the MSP’s creator,
Professor Wingrove, must be excited that the project is nearing
Penelope appears bored
rigid. When I first saw this episode I always felt that she was
disappointed that the Tracy boys weren’t there – and I think my
theory gets borne out later on. For now, though, Brains continues to
wax enthusiastic about the MSP mission, and he points out Professor
Wingrove, who’s now appeared onscreen. I think there’s a rule that
all scientists on the show must wear that dark one piece
outfit with the light stripe down the front. Wingrove explains that
the MSP had to launch from the UK because of the position of Mars,
but as the UK apparently lacks Cape Kennedy’s facilities, they built
the MSP to be completely automatic.
Remember, if your
machine is COMPLETELY AUTOMATIC, I’d just get International Rescue
to follow the thing around until it inevitably bursts into flames.
Perhaps intuiting that
she’ll hear more than enough about the MSP soon, Penelope promptly
flicks off the TV and announces that she’d "fail" in her duties as
hostess if she didn’t tell Brains that, in her home, "everything
stops for tea." So, she’s basically Brains’ grandma. Then she grills
him for news on "Jeff and the boys."
This neatly takes us to
current events on Tracy Island – Virgil is playing some jaunty jazz
on the piano in their lounge, setting up the mood of silliness which
follows. Alan plops onto the sofa with a heavy sigh. He’s wearing a
grey one piece jogging suit with a great big red ‘A’ stitched on the
breast pocket. What worries me is that this means all the Tracys
have matching joggings suits with their initials on them,
too. Maybe they were trying to keep Grandma busy? Anyway, stand by
for some quality Alan teasing!
Alan’s sigh prompts Gordon,
who’s relaxing on the sofa with a magazine, to enquire "what’s up,
kiddo?" Alan grumbles that he’s "pooped" and Gordon teases him for
coming back "exhausted" after a "short sprint around the island".
Scott adds his own dig that "a kid" like Alan "should be able to
take things like that in his stride". Please note Scott seems about
to nod off, here. Alan is narked that his brothers all "sit around
waiting for the next meal" and then have the "nerve" to say he’s
unfit. Before the teasing can get nasty, Jeff steps and empathises
that all the waiting around between operations is "killing" but that
he’s sure they’ll get a call "soon enough." Er, yay?
Scott now wishes that he’d
gone to England with Brains to watch the Martian Probe rocket
launch. So does Penny, Scott. There was a very similar moment to
this in Terror in New York City, although this time Jeff
confirms out loud that he gave Scott the chance to go. At this
point, Grandma appears looking worried, and Virgil stops his piano
playing to listen.
It’s very serious – Grandma
has mislaid her favourite, raspberry flavoured, edible transmitter
while she was baking the apple pies for lunch! Jeff is concerned, as
apparently the transmitters are needed "in case anyone’s captured
and can’t contact base." Scott concludes that she thinks "one of us"
has eaten the thing, and Grandma concurs. Virgil thinks the idea is
ridiculous, as "we always know when we’ve eaten our edible
transmitters" – which begs the question, just how often are
you guys captured? Jeff thinks it’s entirely possible since Brains
has made the devices "extra small." Oh dear.
Alan is sure it wasn’t him
as he just had a light meal (and so not a whole apple pie) for lunch
before his run. Jeff is anxious to discover the culprit, as it could
be blocking other signals, although he’s not clear how or what these
signals are. Jeff instructs Grandma to mix up a batch of Brains’
‘Transmitter Dissolver’ and she agrees, scolding herself as she
walks away. Gordon sounds alarmed as he asks, "What’s this about a
Transmitter dissolver?" and Scott, also sounding panicked, says "You
mean it’s some kind of medicine?" I think their worry is justified
-- it sounds to me like it’ll cause no good results for the
digestive process. Ick.
Jeff confirms it’s a
medicine and resolves to find out who has the transmitter inside
them – he brings up a map of the Tracy Villa interior, which slides
up from behind the video-link portraits on the wall. The
transmitter’s signal is beeping in the lounge, and it may have been
worth checking that before Grandma left? Scott notes that this
does mean one of them has swallowed the transmitter, and Jeff
sends Scott off to his room to see if the signal moves. Scott goes
without a protest while Jeff snarks that the "boys" should chew
their food properly. When he’s gone the signal doesn’t budge and
Jeff concludes it was either Gordon or Virgil who ate it. Jeff sends
out an irked Gordon next, who protests that he’d know if he had
eaten it. Jeff sends him packing, but the light still doesn’t move,
so it seems that Virgil is going to have to take his medicine.
Virgil also protests but Jeff orders him to go and wait for the
medicine in his room. Hopefully he has a private bathroom! Jeff
mutters grumpily that the boys "don’t get enough to do" on the
However, when Virgil
leaves, the signal still doesn’t leave the lounge. Jeff fails
to notice until Alan points this out, just as Tin-Tin arrives with
the medicine. Jeff finally realises that it was he who ate
the transmitter and chuckles in good-natured defeat, agreeing to "go
quietly," while Alan shakes with mirth behind his book on Manet.
This is a nice moment for the Tracy family, but it’s a pity the
edible transmitters, silly as they are, don’t really have anything
else to do with this episode. This was still a funny scene that
provided more information and colour for each character. It’s
valuable fan fiction fuel, too!
Now we’re back with the
Martian Space Probe as it continues its journey. Frank is pleased
that they’re almost at the launch site but Bill reckons they have a
few more miles to go, and they still have to get across the
Allington Suspension Bridge. We’re shown the bridge next, and ‘yes,
it’s doomed’ music suggests that it all might go horribly wrong. The
two controllers watch anxiously from above as the massive vehicle
edges very slowly onto the bridge, the head Controller reassuring
the Minister again that they’re confident the bridge can take the
MSP and that it’s all proceeding exactly as scheduled. Clayton just
hopes they "aren’t the ones to ruin it." The Controller scoffs at
Dave’s concerns, blustering that the bridge can easily support the
weight. Clayton muses that it probably can, in evenly distributed
traffic. He’s less sure about its chances in a "solid mass."
As the MSP glides slowly to
its fate, the two engineers inside it look forward to reaching the
launch site and stretching their legs. This doesn’t seem likely, as
the music grows more ominous than ever.
Back at Penelope’s mansion,
Brains appears to have wrestled the remote control back from ‘er
Ladyship and is watching the final stages of the MSP’s journey. The
newscaster is giving some details about the Allington Bridge,
explaining that it’s forty-two years old and is a link in the
North-South ‘Superhighway.’ I like the 21st Century! But the music
is worsening and the controllers watch more anxiously. Clayton
points out that the rather helpful ‘Tonnage Indicator’ is at maximum
and the Controller is starting to freak out at how very slowly the
MSP is moving. Clayton finally tries to be optimistic, and the bored
engineers wait inside, oblivious as the inevitable finally happens.
The bridge buckles and
twists and then the suspension wires begin to snap one after the
other. At the mansion, Brains starts yelling for Penelope, who has
probably dozed off in her chair by this point. Back at the bridge
Clayton urges the MSP on, but there’s no chance of it getting clear.
Frank shouts, "She’s not gonna make it, Bill!" and he’s right. The
bridge cracks and collapses, and the MSP plummets into the extremely
deep waters of the river below. It lands upright, of course. Frank
immediately spots that the auto countdown has started. He reckons
they’re "gonna be blown to pieces!"
I have more questions.
Surely there should be a ‘go’ button to prevent this kind of thing?
How the hell does the ‘auto-launch’ get into the final blueprint?
Wouldn’t it take off the minute it got erected at the launch site?
Perhaps Frank and Bill are just awful engineers? No one else seems
to wonder about this as FAB 1 speeds along the motorway.
Penny and Brains are in the back and she asks him what his plan is
once he gets to Allington Bridge. Brains doesn’t know yet, but he
doesn’t rate the engineers’ chances of survival very highly.
At the bridge, a boat
putters over the MSP crash site and we see cranes floating on the
water. The pompous Controller is trying to reassure the Minister
that things are in hand and that the floating cranes have been
delivered. Now they’re waiting on the divers to get a line down to
the rocket, and we see the little divers descending – the music gets
Inside the crashed rocket,
Frank and Bill establish that they can’t get radio contact with
outside, and that so far they’ve been down there for three hours!
Don’t worry, guys, Penelope and Brains are on their way – only they
get halted by a road block just as they near the site. Brains is
frantic to reach the trapped men, and Penny coolly tells him to leave it to her. She
chats to the constable in charge of the roadblock, who informs her
of a "spot of trouble" by the river – he’s a real Dixon of Dock
Green type and recognises her car, too. Penelope tries to sweet-talk
her way in but the constable doesn’t recommend visiting the bridge
due to the huge crowd of onlookers. She finds this "tiresome" and
thanks the copper, closing the window.
Brains is still frantic to
reach the two engineers and reckons he couldn’t "face the fellas"
back at base if he hadn’t tried to "do something." I can’t help
thinking that calling the "fellas" now would be a start! She tells
Brains to cut across the fields to the bridge and intends to create
a "rival distraction" which should clear away the crowds. She wishes
him luck and mischievous music plays as FAB 1 leaves. It’s worth
pointing out that the constable is still standing in the same road
while Brains commits a bit of trespassing.
Meanwhile, the bridge
controllers have a radio link setup, while Frank wonders if there’s
anything they can do to stop the take-off, like smash up the
equipment? Bill reckons that’s not such a good idea, as "the whole
thing would probably explode!" I still reckon they’re not very good
engineers. At that point the bridge controllers get through on the
radio, but there’s not a lot to say.
FAB 1 pulls up amongst some
run down buildings near the site. She wants to make sure she and
Parker are all alone. Gulp.
At the bridge, the two
controllers confirm that there’s 9 ¾ hours left before the countdown
completes. The main Controller reckons they’ll have Frank and Bill
free soon, but Frank would prefer it if they called International
Rescue "just to be on the safe side". The Controller huffs,
"certainly not". This show excels at its pompous control freak
baddies in charge.
Back at dilapidation city,
Penelope is still making sure she and Parker have some privacy.
After an innuendo-laden conversation, Parker proceeds to use FAB
1’s front cannon to blow the crap out of the surrounding
buildings – this show loves to max out its explosives budget!
The controllers hear the
racket FAB 1’s making and assume it’s a scheduled demolition
of the area. They’re just glad it’s distracted the crowd away –
which has also given Brains the opportunity to sneak into the lift
to the control room. Good work Penny! While he’s on his way, the
Controller is appalled to learn that it will take one more hour to
fix the lifting cables to the floating cranes. He spits that men’s
lives are in danger and they need to work faster. At this tense
point, Brains shows up in the control room and nervously says, "Hi
there…" The Controller demands to know how he got in, which turns
Brains all assertive: "Never you mind…" he says. Wow, kick-ass,
Brains. He goes on to question them about the situation and the
long-suffering Clayton gives him a full rundown of the rocket’s
status and the countdown in progress. The Controller angrily tells
Next, Brains asks if
they’ve called International Rescue, and when he learns they
haven’t, he’s shocked that this is all the equipment they have. The
Controller sneers, "what’s wrong with our equipment?" and there is
no safe answer to that, although Brains calls it a 100 years out of
date and "antiquated." So the Controller sarcastically asks Brains
if he’s an expert on rescues. Brains appears stumped by this logical
enough question – he can’t blow his cover, after all, and the
Controller is a bit of a tool. Luckily for him, Clayton defends him,
saying Brains is "just trying to help," even though the Controller
snaps that they "don’t need help" from Brains "or anyone else!" This
sets off Brains’ high-pitched, Jimmy Stewart voice as he exclaims he
will not "just sit by and…". This promptly gets him branded as a
troublemaker. The officious Controller snaps at Clayton to keep him
there so he can’t interfere and stomps off. Clayton wearily
apologises for his associate, but flatly advises Brains to "do us a
favour, try and keep out of sight". There’s another use of the
creaky waah-waah-waah music.
So, Brains does what any of
us would do – he finally calls Thunderbird Five on his
wristwatch! John Tracy gets this week’s CRASH ZOOM shot when Brains
whispers that it’s him calling, and goes on to mutter the situation
into his watch. You can imagine what this looks like to the two
bridge controllers, and the Controller sniffs that he knew Brains
was "a nut." But John Tracy has a handle on the situation and that
Thunderbirds One and Four are required. And,
presumably, Two will be there to airlift the submarine. Back
on Tracy Island, the others are raring to go and we learn there’s
just seven hours left. The launches seem to pass quickly, and soon
Thunderbirds One and Two are on their way to
Allington’s disaster site.
The floating cranes are
working now, but Frank is still freaking out inside the MSP, as
nothing seems to have happened. Bill advises him to relax, but Frank
just can’t as they only have five hours left, "and seven gone!" at
this point the head Controller contacts them from what they’re
calling ‘rescue central control’ to announce the start of the crane
lift. Frank grumbles it’s "about time, too." The Controller ignores
this and orders the cranes to begin – they’re just lifting wreckage
away from the rocket and business-like marching music underlies the
action. Clayton reckons they won’t make it, but the Controller is
desperate that "they have to." Brains’ expression suggests that he
agrees with Clayton.
All the cranes manage to do
is shunt the trapped engineers a little bit before they all come
toppling down into the water, sinking like big metal stones. A quick
line of dialogue confirms that the operators apparently got clear.
Phew. However, Clayton is aghast as there’s now no time left to set
up again. Things look very bad for Bill and Frank as the cranes
finish sinking to the bottom of the river.
Back in the lounge on Tracy
Island, there’s an air of expectant waiting. Alan is perched on
Jeff’s desk and his father says he expects Scott to report in soon.
Bill and Frank are also anticipating a call, but Frank can’t wait
any longer and radios ‘central control,’ demanding to know if
they’ve spoken to IR yet. The Controller orders them to clear the
wavelength (surely he means clear the frequency?) as he’s still
trying to reach International Rescue. Brains tells them that it’s a
waste of time to try calling IR "on that thing," although I’m not
entirely sure why. Given that in The Uninvited, Scott makes
it clear that "any frequency will do," the Controller must be using
a pair of iPod headphones to fail so badly.
Brains adds that actually,
IR are already on their way! The Controller starts to snap at him
again, but the sound of familiar retros quickly shuts him up. Both
Brains and the music seem exultant as Thunderbird One swoops
in overhead, and then cruises around the bridge to survey the
Clayton also appears a
little awed by Thunderbird One, commenting, "Isn’t she a
beauty?" At this point, Scott calls base to tell them, "It looks
pretty bad." He’s also aware he can’t do very much until Virgil and
Gordon arrive, and he confirms that Brains is holed up in the
control tower. There’s not long to go.
In the next scene Frank and
Bill establish that IR have been on the scene for an hour without
anything happening, but they think the rescue equipment is about to
arrive. Frank remains pessimistic. Just then Thunderbird Two
makes an appearance and dumps Pod 4 into the river. Thunderbird
Four zooms into the water and aquanaut Gordon Tracy springs into
action to investigate the wreckage. Brains speaks to Gordon – who
chirpily calls him an "old sonuvagun!" and promises to give him a
full rundown of what he sees. Brains’ little muttered whispers to
Gordon are hilarious as he tries to explain things, whilst the
Controller fumes that IR haven’t had the "decency" to keep him in
the loop. Sadly we never really get a scene with Scott talking to
the pompous Controller – I’d have really liked to have heard that.
Clayton just can’t believe that Brains is still talking to his
wristwatch, making the Controller suddenly concerned Brains might
have "escaped from…somewhere…" Heh.
continues to whirr away underwater, and Brains intends for TB2
to lift the rocket after Gordon does some work with Four’s
laser cutter, which we last saw saving a submerged Fireflash.
Gordon tells Scott he’ll be "twenty minutes." Frank and Bill wait
anxiously as the clock ticks away, while Brains also waits and
TB1 hovers above. Finally, Gordon tells Scott he’s done and
Scott lets Virgil know, "It’s all yours." Thunderbird Two has
some new grabs with wickedly jagged pincer teeth, and Virgil uses
these to begin clearing wreckage from around the rocket. It
resembles a funfair grabbing game, only Virgil isn’t going to get a
cuddly toy out of this, and he’s barely making a dent in all the
clutter, although when Virgil drops it in a field (sending
environmentalists choking with rage no doubt) it looks like tons and
tons at once.
Back at base, Alan muses
that they can’t have much time left, and Jeff agrees that they’re
"cutting it fine" – which I think is actually the secret motto of
International Rescue. The clock is literally ticking away and Frank
and Bill are sweating plenty by the time Brains asks Gordon if the
nose cone is clear, and Gordon says "nope" and points out they have
just fifteen minutes left. I think the time for Plan B has long
passed. Argh. Brains just has a last minute, Plan Z type suggestion
left. What can it be?
The Controller has
overheard part of "that crazy fella" talking to his watch again.
Clayton gloomily responds that they’re desperate enough even to
listen to him – but the Controller exclaims that he’s just suggested
firing missiles! Well, that does sound insane…
It’s also exactly what
Gordon does next! As the explosion rocks the rocketship, Frank
wonders if they’re trying to "blow us to pieces?" although Bill
notes it won’t make a lot of difference. Barely ten minutes to go.
Brains asks Gordon if the debris has cleared, and once Gordon can
see through the dust in the water he confirms, "It’s OK!" Then
Brains tells Scott a plan we can’t really hear, and Scott agrees
it’s worth a try and orders Virgil to stand by.
Gordon gets ready while
inside the rocket, Frank comments that it’s gone quiet again. Bill
thinks that IR "won’t give up until the end" and is sure they’re
"planning something." He’s right. As Thunderbird Two swoops
back overhead, Gordon rams the rocket’s tip with Thunderbird Four
and, rather than making it blow up sooner, the nose cone detaches
and begins to float upward! Heck, that was easy! The nose cone bobs
onto the river surface and the Controller lets out an exultant,
"They’ve done it!" Brains praises Gordon and sends in Virgil, who
uses yet another set of TB2-sized pincers to delicately pick
the separated nose cone up off the water. Then he very wisely speeds
Frank excitedly realises
that they’re now airborne and Bill points out it was with half a
minute to spare. Just as they’re completely clear, the countdown
reaches 12 and the now noseless rockets blasts out of the river,
wobbles unevenly and, after hanging there for just a moment,
proceeds to EXPLODE!
Somehow it doesn’t blow out
the glass in the control room, where the Controller crows, "They did
it!" and Brains gets a little overexcited, cheering and stammering "W,w,w,
well done, fellas!" and tosses in a "yippee" and a jig just to make
sure they think he’s completely, utterly out of his mind. I know
that the time I first watched it, I found this bit too
excruciatingly embarrassing to watch. These days, it’s just
unbelievably silly. It’s not really much of a surprise, then, that
the very next scene shows IR’s top scientist in the care of Doctor
Korda, a psychiatrist of the highest stereotype.
Korda gently asks a
couch-bound Brains how long he’s had the "desire" to talk to
watches. Secrecy can be a bitch, can’t it? Although Korda thinks he
can help Brains (a little electroshock therapy?), rescue arrives in
the form of Lady Penelope, decked out in the same outfit she wore
for the drive to the rescue site. I assume the Controller packed
Brains off for help about thirty seconds after the rescue, otherwise
surely Scott could have given him a lift? Now Penelope coos at
Brains that she’s here to take him home, "you poor dear." The doc
protests, but Penelope hilariously refuses, saying the "hopeless
case" is already being helped by "ten of the best doctors in Europe"
and adding that "we really wouldn’t want to tie up any more." She’s
Brains follows Penelope as
she hands Korda a cheque, and then entirely ignores the doctor’s
last objections. Penny sends Brains out to meet Parker and proceeds
to cruelly freak out the doctor even more by chatting to a silent
Scott on her powder compact, prompting the poor man to consider
getting himself seen by a psychiatrist. Yet more
waah-waah-waah music finishes the scene.
Back at her mansion, Lady
Penelope seems to have finally got what she wanted all along – half
the Tracy family are there for afternoon tea, chomping cigars. Going
by some briefly overheard sniggers, they seem to be discussing the
"edible transmitter" incident, until Jeff Tracy calls them via
Penelope’s flashing teapot and Scott says he’ll answer it. As he
picks up the second-girliest secret radio (next to Penny’s compact)
in the show, Brains exclaims, "What are you doing?" Scott sounds
baffled in response – points out that he’s answering his dad’s call,
and adds an indignant, "What’s the matter with you, Brains?" Brains
muses that it’s "nothing," but, if Scott’s "talking to teapots,
there’s a guy I think you oughtta see…"
This gag produces a lot
more side-splitting laughter amongst the Tracys than it strictly
deserved, and frankly they sound like they’re forcing it. But at
least Brains got to make a funny, even if it’s the most awkward joke
ever used in the show. Awww.
So, dodgy ‘funny’ ending
aside, this is one of the strongest episodes in the series. It zips
along at speed, managing to carry tension and introduce interesting
new characters -- the tense controllers and the trapped engineers
are a joy to watch. Fish out of water stories are always fun, and
both Brains and the rocket ship are out of their element and almost
tested to destruction. I loved this episode when it was first on,
and I’m happy to say I still adore it now.