In which IR’s penchant for absolute secrecy backfires spectacularly, and they’re rescued by the unlikeliest of International Rescue Agents, and they get to go into space, and Lady Penelope appears to be taking stupidity-enhancing pills. 

Things start normally enough. A World Television helijet descends in time with some triumphant music. A reporter – not Ned Cook, he’s on another network – is reporting on the scene below. He’s called Eddie Kerr and he pops up a LOT during the show’s run, but most notably in City of Fire (before the building went up in flames). Here he’s excitedly telling his viewers that, for the first time in “television history” they’re being allowed to film “the fabulous Thunderbird International Rescue team in action.” Yes, Kerr actually calls them that. You’d think he’d know to just call them International Rescue by now, or perhaps he’s just had too much coffee. This filming business really doesn’t sound like the über-paranoid Tracys we all know and love, either. Anyway, Kerr promises viewers the “first dramatic pictures” in a few seconds. 

A sign tells us that this emergency is happening at the ‘Aeronautical Research Base’ and we see an ugly looking machine with ‘International Rescue’ emblazoned on the front. Regular viewers of the show are getting seriously confused by now. Kerr informs viewers that as this rescue is “fairly routine” there will be none of “that wonderful equipment in use,” but he pinpoints something important from the fan’s point of view, that it’s “not the equipment that interests us…it’s the great guys who use it.” His enthusiastic and rather sycophantic enthusiasm for International Rescue is worth paying attention to. As we all know, the media, and the public, is extremely fickle and at the mercy of public mood. As Kerr shoves his way through the crowd to get a better look at the rescue site, we’re told that a well has collapsed and that International Rescue were “on the scene” even before anyone knew a man was trapped down it. Someone called Joe (perhaps all cameramen in this universe are called Joe?) informs Kerr that the International Rescue men are on their way back up. Who could it be? Scott, Virgil, Gordon, Alan or even John? The platform is winched up out of the hole. We see two men, one injured beneath a blanket, the other is definitely wearing IR’s distinctive uniform but wait – something is already odd. The sash colour is a dirty beige and we still can’t see the man’s face. Weird. 

Kerr is pretty curious too and wants a word with the rescuer, so he leans in for a scoop. The man speaks angrily, “Keep back, give ‘im some air! ,” which doesn’t sound like any of the Tracy brothers at all. Kerr continues to gush that International Rescue have done it again and that “another human life has been saved!” and he pushes the man in the International Rescue uniform for a word to the viewers. The man says grumpily, “No TV, no pictures!” and no memo to that effect, apparently. As Kerr pushes in closer, the International Rescue man swings round and snaps “I said, no photographs!” and we immediately know that something is really, really wrong. As the camera flashes, and the film morphs into a black and white photograph on the front page of a newspaper, we’re left wondering, who the hell is that guy?  

That’s just what the real International Rescue team are wondering. In a thoroughly baffled voice, Scott Tracy reads out the newspaper headline, turning it into a question. “International Rescue does it again?” His concerns are mirrored by Tin-Tin and Jeff, who have their own newspapers to pore over. Scott continues, “I just don’t get it.” Jeff agrees that it’s “kinda strange” but tries to give them the benefit of the doubt. Tin-Tin is appalled that the strangers have copied their name and uniforms, which Jeff agrees is “unethical,” but he says that it’s more important that they saved a life, and thoughtful music plays as Jeff walks away looking, er, thoughtful. Tin-Tin says that he “is worried…and upset, despite what he says,” more for our benefit than Scott’s I think. Scott replies, “Of course he is, Tin-Tin, we all are,” then he voices his suspicions that the rescue “just doesn’t figure” and wishes he knew “what really happened.” 

We’re about to find out. Sinister music reminiscent of Stingray plays as the camera slides back down the rescue tunnel in a long, spooky tracking shot that ends up showing us a big hole in the wall of what looks like a safe room, presumably at the Aeronautical base. Filing cabinets and drawers marked ‘Top Secret’ have clearly been ransacked. Something bad happened here.  

We pull back to see the same footage now showing on a monitor, beside which an officious man closes his presentation. This man is General Lambert, soon to be IR’s potential nemesis. We learn that the ‘rescue’ was a cover for the theft of some extremely secret documents, and a man with a hilariously weedy ‘Jeff’ voice asks, “There is of course no doubt that their plan succeeded?” “None,” General Lambert assures him, and goes on to say that he is convinced that “International Rescue faked the whole thing to steal the plans of the AL4.” The purpose of this meeting, he declares, is to decide on a course of action which “must see those plans back in our hands.” The General is not about to give International Rescue the benefit of the doubt, despite another army man’s protests that he “still can’t believe International Rescue would pull a stunt like this.” Lambert shows them a map of all IR’s rescues which, to “their knowledge” have been “pulled off” and he believes that the rescues were deliberately spaced out so that their base couldn’t be located. Lambert also brings up IR’s insistence that they shouldn’t be tracked when they leave rescue sites. “Quite a plan,” Lambert says smugly, “what fools we were to go along with it.” The General will not be dissuaded, and even seems to have something of a vendetta against IR. When questioned, he easily comes up with reasons why International Rescue would spend a whole heap of money on the machinery and equipment for the rescues. Apparently, the AL4 project was a “strategic fighter capable of speeds of accelerated light” which has cost the country about 25 thousand million dollars! (Is that even a real number???) Compared to that, he reasons, IR’s setup “cost peanuts”. 

General Lambert now goes on to explain the plan to catch IR. There isn’t a lot of discussion at this tactical “meeting,” then. Lambert says they’re going to start a search force “the likes of which the world has never seen” which will cover every inch of the globe. He is determined that they will “find those rats”. 

What follows is a montage of the hunt for International Rescue, bolstered by the fabulous ‘March of the Oysters’ theme. Jets, trucks and aircraft carriers have been sent out all over the place to find our boys. Even space stations have been roped in to monitor illegal flights, as we’re now introduced to Space Observatory 3, where two men are keeping an eye on their area over the South Pacific. One of them is pleased that they can now track it “if a kid sends up a kite without permission” and that International Rescue only need to make one move into the air and they’ll catch them. They gleefully anticipate International Rescue getting caught by those searching on the ground, too. 

Next we’re given a terrifying shot of World Navy jets buzzing across Tracy Island and flying low pas the Villa. Eddie Kerr is reporting on the TV, which the Tracys are watching together at Jeff’s desk. Kerr is updating viewers with news about the search for the “traitorous International Rescue gang of crooks ,” which proves he still has no idea what he’s talking about. Fickle media hound. Virgil is rather hurt by this comment and repeats it angrily. Scott seems to put a calming hand on his shoulder and says, “I heard, Virgil.” We see Jeff and Alan out on the balcony behind them. Next, Kerr is interviewing General Lambert himself, who blusters, “It’s a pleasure” to Kerr. A disgusted Gordon spits, “Yeah, I bet it is!” Jeff has now hurried back to the desk and admonishes Gordon, “That’s enough.” He clearly wants to hear what the pompous General has to say for himself. 

Lambert starts by saying that the search is going according to schedule, “categorically,” and Kerr asks if he has any idea yet about just where IR’s “hideout” is. Note that he says “hideout,” not “base,” there. The tide really has turned against our boys! Lambert sheepishly admits that they have no idea yet, but goes on to list “more favourable” places than others, suggesting an island and isolated areas. Perhaps this gets a bit too close for comfort, because Jeff then switches the television off, growling that “We know what’s going on without having to listen to that.” Tin-Tin asks him what he thinks the chances are of them being found out. Jeff seems confident that they still won’t be located, even if the island is searched, reasoning that, “people have been here before, that’s no problem.” Scott then enquires just what they are going to do, and Jeff tells him there’s only one thing they can do, and that’s to find these “imposters.” Jeff also lays out the hard truth that they cannot operate as International Rescue until the criminal mess is cleared up. Scott plaintively wonders what will happen if they get an emergency call. Jeff tells him that they will “just have to sit tight,” and Alan says, somewhat incredulously, “You mean, just ignore it?” and Jeff concurs. Alan protests, “People could be dying somewhere, depending on our help!” and Jeff grimly reiterates that they are now “powerless to help anybody,” and that any use of the International Rescue craft will get them all “clapped into jail.” 

Scott accepts this, but wants to know what the action will be now. He must know that Jeff won’t just sit back and do nothing, and he’s right. Jeff repeats that they need to find the real imposters in order to “clear our name.” Alan points out that they’ve nothing to go on, but Jeff tells them that this is where their “agents come in” and that International Rescue has agents all over the world. You could have fooled me! Lady Penelope is still the only one to get her picture on the Tracy’s wall. Now Jeff presses a switch and a big world map descends from the ceiling, dotted with lots of LED lights representing their loyal agents. Jeff explains that there will be some urgent information-gathering going on, and that he’s sending Lady Penelope over to the “States” to interview some witnesses. Congratulations, she has been efficiently shoehorned in to this week’s episode!  

At Creighton-Ward Mansion, much packing has been going on and Lady Penelope’s suitcases are spread across the drawing room floor. She’s in full dotty-rich-lady mode this week, sadly, as she bemoans that she “couldn’t carry everything that she wanted to, but this is an emergency.” Parker just sends a real LOOK back at her as starts to load the cases into FAB 1. When the six-wheeled Rolls leaves, there’s so much stuff that the car’s boot, or trunk, just won’t close. I’d like to think there are lots of grenades and cool gadgets stashed in there, but let’s face it, it’s probably just a lot of hair products and thongs. Or something. Penelope is even surrounded by her suitcases in her seat. They soon arrive at London airport and board a Fireflash by loading FAB 1 directly, and therefore neatly skipping past baggage control. Maybe Jeff offered to pay the extra carrying fees? When they get on board the Fireflash, Parker is extolling the perks of being in First Class, “worth that bit extra,” as Lady P tries very hard to look like she isn’t with him. Parker goes on to bitch about the lesser service from “these young fellas” on the slight, earning a rather terse, “Quite, Parker, quite” from Penny. Déjà vu strikes as Fireflash takes off, with recognisable footage used of the plane and its pilots from “Trapped in the Sky.”  

The next time we see Penelope, she has removed her hat to reveal an Ab Fab beehive, and smokes distractedly from a long cigarette holder while she muses, “It will be very difficult,” which interrupts Parker’s magazine reading. He asks her what’s wrong, and Penny just hopes that one of their agents “somewhere” will find “something” to help the Tracys. 

On cue, we get introduced to the most unlikely agent of all. Hillbilly banjos introduce us to a ginger-haired, straw-hat wearing fella who’s huntin’ critters. He shoots and successfully catches something that looks worryingly like a pet cat, which he judges fit for “supper.” Take note, his voice is just how a ‘hillbilly Jeff’ would sound. As he packs up his next meal, our new friend spots something “mighty strange” – there are odd tracks in the mud nearby.  

He soon returns home to his shack, where his ‘Maw’ is swinging on the porch with a shotgun, cheroot and straw hat, taking it easy while chickens squawk somewhere behind her. His name is Jeremiah, and when he shows her the fluffy feast he shot, which Maw says must’ve “sure taken some catchin’.” Jeremiah apologises to her for being “a mite” late but that he had some business up at “the old mine” and says that he can’t say more as it’s “kinda between me and that there Mr Tracy.” He then goes off to report what he saw, transforming his kitchen – with two kicks to the oven – into a hi-tech hideout that Stingray’s Agent X20 would give his right fin for. Jeremiah Tuttle, AKA Agent 47, calls the Tracy house and Alan picks up the call. 

On Tracy Island, Jeff is talking to some army men out on the villa balcony. They thank him for letting them search the island, and Jeff tells them, “I hope you find the ones you’re looking for.” They choose to ignore the double meaning implied there. As they leave, there’s a small CRASH ZOOM on a worried Jeff. When he gets back inside, Alan has finished taking Jeremiah’s message. Alan asks if the search party have left, and Jeff says they have “for now” but he thinks they’ll “be back.” Incidentally, does this mean John’s going to be stranded up in Five indefinitely? Hope his water recycling plant doesn’t have any hitches for the duration. Anyway, Jeff asks Alan about the message and Alan mentions Agent 47, who Jeff remembers immediately as “Jeremiah Tuttle…quite a character.” It’s apparent that Jeff had the concept of International Rescue in mind for a very long time, as Jeff tells his son that he met Jeremiah while he was “in the service” and that Jeremiah “kinda guessed” about Jeff’s plans and what he planned to do. Alan tells him that Jeremiah reported some odd aircraft tyre tracks, but Jeff thinks this might just have been a forced landing, and tells Alan to file it away under “no action”. 

Back at the Tuttle shack, Maw is rocking on her chair while she embroiders and listens to the frogs. Jeremiah still thinks there’s something up in that “old mine.” I’d go and take a look, Tuttle, before some crazy English lady tries to steal your thunder! Anyway, we soon find out that he’s right. The creepy music is back and so is the long, slow Steadicam glide into the “old mine.” Deep inside it, there are two International Rescue uniforms hanging up, and we see the two crooks, with their distinctively evil ‘crook voices,’ gloating about stealing the priceless documents and letting our boys take the rap for it. The last thing we see is the Top Secret documents carelessly dropped on the floor nearby. We hate these guys, right? 

Back at Lambert’s Search Control HQ, the General is regrouping and we learn that the first worldwide hunt has failed. Phew. He refuses to be put off and announces that the team will just divide the world map up again and start over! Finding International Rescue is crucial, he claims, for the “security of the world.” The search also continues up in the heavens, where Space Observatory 3 and the two men we met before are worrying over a fault in the satellite. Elliot and Hale have worked out that this fault goes all the way through the circuit and will require work from both sides, which means going outside the satellite to work on the antennae. Hale reluctantly goes to call General Lambert to tell him the bad news, saying that the quicker he gets the call over with “the better it’ll be for my ulcers” – the best line in the episode! 

John overhears the call to Search Control as Hale reports they’ll be unable to monitor the South Pacific for at least three to four hours. John passes this news over to Jeff, who points out that even if they did manage to take off undetected, the station would track the return journey. Sorry, John, he’s not sending Thunderbird Three up to retrieve you just yet! Jeff asks him to keep monitoring the situation all the same, and tells him that they’re ploughing through agents’ reports, hoping for a lead. As he gets back to this, Jeff muses that “At least we’re not the only ones with troubles.” 

Once he hears that the Space Observatory is out of action, Lambert cements our already poor opinion of him by calling up the two guys and yelling at them. Hale and Elliott are just getting ready for Elliott’s space walk and they’re not thrilled to hear from the mad General, who demands they fix the fault “in the shortest possible time, if not sooner!” Er, OK. They tell him that Elliott’s about to go outside to start repairs. We get another chance to enjoy Barry Gray’s spooky ‘space music’ as the astronaut makes his way outside. Hale is anxious about the work and reminds his colleague to use the tie-ropes and to double-check them, too. As Elliott hooks himself to an oversized Meccano set, Hale adds that they “don’t want you drifting off into space,” and announces that he’ll make a start from inside the satellite. Work is underway. 

At the headquarters of World Television, Inc., Lady P is interviewing the reporter, Eddie Kerr, who no longer feels much love for International Rescue. He reckons the whole world was outraged by “those rats” and tells her that “International Rescue is certainly a dirty word around here!” Actually, it’s two words, nitwit. There’s hypocrisy here that a five year old could appreciate, and so much for an impartial media! Penelope crisply thanks him and presses Kerr for more information about the fake International Rescue craft. He tells her that it left in a South-South-Westerly direction. She thanks him again, and he says it was a “real pleasure” and asks her out to lunch. She politely refuses, saying she must pass this report on to her, “er…chief.” 

The Tracy family gather to hear Penelope’s report. She repeats the direction that the imposters’ plane took, and Alan instantly reckons it was a “blind,” but reasons that they “wouldn’t want to go too far out of their way.” Virgil has listened with interest, and says he checked the weather reports and “north and east are out.” I wish I knew what that meant. Scott brings his own specialist guns to the table, asking Penny to clarify which make of craft the imposters used, saying that he figures that the “EJ2” isn’t a “long range job. A thousand miles at the most.” This leads Tin-Tin to conclude that the imposters “couldn’t have had far to go to their base.” Well, yeah. Assuming, rightly as it happens, that they didn’t get a lift somewhere else after stealing plans worth…what was that screwy figure the General quoted again? 25 thousand million dollars?  

Jeff reckons that this new info still isn’t “much to go on” but he decides that they should focus on a specific area of the map now they’ve narrowed it down. Scott asks which agent covers that area – and of course, it’s 47. Jeff immediately recalls the message Alan had about Tuttle reporting some aircraft tracks – Alan’s squeak of “Remember?” gets a growled, “Yes, I do…” from Jeff as he thinks for a second, then tells Penny to get Parker standing by “with the Rolls” as he has “another mission” for her. Hands up if you think he HAD to ask her because she was right there when they figured it out? Aww. 

Back at Jeremiah’s shack, the Tuttles are relaxing out on the porch when a honking noise erupts inside. Maw asks if Jeremiah if that’s the “emergency call sign” and he says yup, “That’s why ah’m rushin’, Maw.” Heh. He saunters into the shack and kicks the cooker again. Jeff Tracy has no time for pleasantries and tells the agent that there might be something in the report he submitted, and that he’s sending his “London Agent” to see Tuttle. Jeremiah reckons it’s “doggone decent” of Jeff to involve him, and his nose doesn’t seem too out of joint even when Jeff tells him to give Penny “all the help you can” because she will be investigating the tracks. Why? Seriously, why? This is what happens when you don’t attend the office mixers, Jeremiah. Now they have to go and meet Penny, and Jeremiah asks his Maw to help him get the chickens out of the truck. Nice. I wonder if the writers were fans of “The Beverly Hillbillies?” You think? 

In marked contrast to the hillbilly shack, which the show often did so well, in the next scene we’re back up in space where Elliott’s still hard at work on the broken aerial. This really can’t end well. Elliott asks Hale how he’s doing – his colleague says there’s at least two hours work left. Elliot is all done his end, though, and tells him he’s coming back in. As Elliot closes up his tool kit, he has a funny turn and jars himself on the safety line. One of his spanners goes vaulting off into space like the bone at the start of 2001: Space Odyssey. Elliott makes an exasperated noise as the thing spins into the infinite. It’s already irretrievable. Elliott heads back to the airlock, unhooking himself from the safety lines. Hale waits beside the airlock as Elliott gently jet-packs himself in line with the door. However, now tragedy strikes and something goes wrong. He presses ‘forward thrust’ but gets blasted away from the satellite, and spins helplessly off into space, just as lost as the spanner. 

On Earth, Penelope zooms along rugged country roads at full speed in FAB1. Jeremiah chugs along in the opposite direction, driving an old jalopy while his Maw complains about his ‘speed’. The hillbilly music is still hilarious. Up ahead of the Tuttles, a 1960s fop, driving a sleek red sports car, gloats that now he’s on a clear stretch of road with “no road hogs” in the way of his “beautiful wagon” he can really let her rip, and shrieks joyfully, “that’s my baby.” Cringe. Unfortunately for the fop, Jeremiah has realised he’s running late for his rendezvous with “Lady Pennalope” (sic) and apologises to Maw in advance that he’s about to use the “superjet.” The jalopy goes VROOOOOOM and Maw clings onto her hat! As the fop exults “This is really living it up!” Jeremiah’s car horn warns him to get out of the way. The fop can’t believe it as the rickety old car burns him right off the road.  

Penny is nearly at the meeting spot too and she tells Parker they’ll be going back to Jeremiah’s place to make their plans. 

Back at Search Control, General Lambert has absorbed the bad news about astronaut Elliott. Hale reckons his colleague only has three hours of oxygen left, and tells the General that he can’t pinpoint which dot on the scanner is Elliott because of all the meteors. Hale pleads for a rocket launch to rescue Elliott but Lambert cuts his request short, snapping that Hale knows how long it would take them to launch a rocket up to that sector. Hale knows all right, but can’t resist mentioning the irony, that only International Rescue would have been able to reach the lost man. Lambert snarls at him to remember what their operation “is all about.” John is listening in again as the General asks how long it will take the tracking station to work again. Hale tells him an hour. The General orders him to get on with it, as “Elliott gave his life for the success of this detail” and that he will “make sure it wasn’t in vain.” I’m sure that Elliott would be thrilled to know that, General. 

John has relayed the news to Jeff, and Scott, Virgil and Alan are all gathered close by in the lounge. Scott is perched on the desk, appalled that Elliott has “just three hours up there.” Alan is frantic, “We’re gotta do something!” but Jeff still refuses to “make a move” unless Penny comes up with something in the next three hours. Scott sheepishly emphasises that “There’s a man’s life at stake.” Jeff tries to be logical, pointing out that it’s only one man and that if they’re discovered and shut down “it could be five hundred over the next few months.” All the Tracy boys look like kicked puppies and sad violin music plays over their expressions. Jeff gruffly tells them to “snap out of it” and says that he feels like they do and “worse,” but he insists that there’s nothing they can do. Then he looks at his watch. Time is very short. 

We see Elliott spinning away, still lost and without hope. Sniff. 

Back at Jeremiah’s shack, there’s an agents meeting going on. Jeremiah tells Penelope that he figured, as he knows the area, she would let him handle the investigation. He clearly doesn’t know we’re dealing with the idiot-incarnation of Penny here. She’s dressed in a flowery headscarf and a floral dress, and she half-heartedly apologises to Jeremiah for moving in on his turf, adding that she wants this one all to herself. This earns her a LOOK from Maw, especially when she says “Come on, Parker” as if to a well-trained spaniel. Maw glares after them, and kudos go to the puppet sculptors here for conveying such a knowing and faintly disapproving look on her face. I’d also say that Maw is a more sophisticated creation than poor Grandma Tracy! As the ‘London Agents’ leave the shack, Jeremiah reckons that they won’t get far “in that there fancy buggy,” and Maw heartily agrees “they suuuuure won’t.” 

The Tuttles are proved right in about two seconds, as FAB1’s wheels have become very firmly submerged in the mud. Honestly, six wheels and no tow rope? No rear-wheel drive? What happened to the anti-oil slick spikes? Penny elects to walk up to the mine instead, and Parker leads the way along what might possibly be a path through the muddy woods. He also seems to be not-quite-accidentally flicking branches into Penelope’s face as they go, with a very insincere “sorry Milady.” Soon she’s so pissed off she insists on leading the way, and we see she’s doing this hike in kitten heels. Argh. For eff’s sake. This is not her finest hour! It takes less than another minute for Penelope to tip head first into the mud. Yuck. 

Back at the serious end of the story, Hale is still hard at work inside the space station as Jeff counts down the minutes on his watch. Elliott has less than two hours to live, and the Tracys are finding it impossible to bear. Scott’s head is in his hands, and Virgil is staring off into the middle distance. They’re clearly in agony about Elliott’s fate and the awful decision they’ve had to make.  

We see Elliott drifting helplessly in outer space, accompanied only by the eerie space music. He’s weakly counting to himself, calling for help in the bleak emptiness. He has no chance! 

General Lambert learns from Hale that the space station is nearly operational. At this point, Jeff can’t stand it any longer. He cracks, and International Rescue can continue to be heroes! He announces, loudly, confidently, “Alan, Scott, we’re going after him.” Alan continues to point out the obvious, saying that the search is still on. Jeff is “well aware” of that. Alan and Scott have already moved to Thunderbird Three’s launch sofa…unless they were there all along and fully aware that Jeff would probably change his mind! Virgil is now standing beside Jeff’s desk. Jeff reckons it’s “just feasible” that Penny can clear them in time and, if not, “we’ll take everything as it comes.” Aww. Jeff tells them all that matters is that only they have any hope of rescuing Elliott, and he knows they’ve “left it late” but tells the boys to do their best to save him. The launch heavily reuses footage from the Sun Probe episode, including Scott and Alan’s continuity-wrecking wardrobe changes. But never mind, the main thing is that they’ve blasted off to the rescue! 

General Lambert is counting down the minutes, too. A lackey tells him that Sector 4’s satellite picked up an unidentified rocket launch but there was no bearing taken. Lambert can’t bring himself to believe it’s International Rescue, but still orders that they “keep a close watch” on it. He grumbles that they would have pinpointed the launch if Space Observatory 3 had been “with us”. 

Hale is still hard at work and hears his radar bleeping. We see Thunderbird Three rocket past the satellite. Scott thinks it’s time to switch on the tracking equipment, as they’re in the area. The speed they’re going, it’s a wonder Elliott isn’t already impaled on the rocket’s nose cone.  

Hale speaks to Lambert again, confirming that International Rescue is “going after Elliott ,” however hard that is to believe. Lambert figures out that this must be the Sector 4 rocket that launched, and Hale says he thought they’d seen the last of IR. Lambert blusters that “there’s nothing to get” and concludes that they have the equipment, and that someone in International Rescue must have a conscience. He still can’t believe anyone in International Rescue would risk it. Lambert insists that this gesture “changes nothing” and that “they’re still wanted criminals.” He orders Hale to track the International Rescue rocket back to their base. Hale thinks he can start tracking again in “ten minutes”. 

Elliot continues to drift away as Alan and Scott scour the cosmos. Alan suggests extending the scanning range further. Scott complies, while pointing out that this will bring up so many rails “we won’t know which is Elliott.” However, Alan’s hunch pays off and the radar screen flickers. Alan gets a “rough bearing” from this and steers Thunderbird Three in for a “closer look.” As Elliott drifts on, Alan tells Scott to try again. The radar noise sounds more positive. Scott exclaims, “You were right, Alan!” Alan tells him to try “on vision” and a little video image pops up, clearly showing a tiny, worried-looking astronaut out in the blackness of space. One CRASH ZOOM later, it’s him! Scott exclaims, “What are we waiting for! Let’s go and get him!” 

Back at the mine hideout, the two crooks are discussing a plane due to come back with their “buyer.” Now wouldn’t that be interesting to know? Crook number 2 says it’ll take “good American dollars” to get the secrets and “they can keep their foreign money.” These guys don’t take no traveller’s cheques! Little do the crooks know that the crack squad of, er, Penny and Parker are now outside. I can’t quite believe they made it this far. With her headscarf all askew, and plastered head to toe in mud, Penelope is still confident that “we’ve got them surrounded” and prepares to fire a warning shot. Or, she would have if the gun wasn’t filled with mud, or if she hadn’t possibly forgotten to load it. We will never know. The gun clicks uselessly and Penelope begins a monster whinge, complaining loudly, “Why did I ever come here?” in a way that makes you want to shake her and slap the writers. Tongue in cheek, yes. In character? Surely not. And also very annoying.  

As Penelope’s whinging gets even louder and more descriptive, “the mud, it’s everywhere!” the two imposters finally hear her and get suspicious enough to “get the rifles.” Uh oh. Penny and Parker are standing right in front of the mine entrance, and Parker begs, “Not so loud, Milady! If they h’are in there, they’ll ‘ear you!” this fails to shut her up and she wonders why she didn’t let those “hillbillies do this?” even as the two heavily armed crooks spot them and raise their rifles.

Luckily for the hapless London agents, Jeremiah and his Maw have turned up just in time. They stop a distance behind the pair, watching just as crook number two decides he’ll “shoot first and ask questions after.” The moment the crook’s finger tightens on the trigger, Jeremiah takes “a hand” and fires a couple of shots off himself.

Penelope and Parker wisely hit yet more of the dirt, and Jeremiah yells for the crooks to “git on outta there and give yerselves up.” Penelope is relieved to see Jeremiah, although her comment “we thought someone was firing at us” suggest she hasn’t quite grasped the situation. The two crooks are worried, “they got us hemmed in,” says one, while the other ironically apes IR’s catchphrase, “we don’t give up that easy.” He raises his gun again and yells for Jeremiah to come and get them. Penny supposes that they’re going to “make a fight of it” and Jeremiah reckons so, too. He asks Maw to hand him a can of her beans. Penelope is appalled, “but this is no time to eat!” Don’t worry Penny, Jeremiah actually has a plan here. Although I’m sure they taste great in a possum stew, Maw’s beans also come in handy as explosive rounds. Jeremiah tosses two cans into the mine and the explosion almost buries the two crooks. The imposters finally give up and come out coughing for air. Yay!

General Lambert is now brown-nosing on the phone, saying, “Yes sir, very good, sir” as we learn that the search has been fully cancelled under orders direct from the White House. International Rescue have been cleared and they are to be given all cooperation. This is not such good news for Hale up in Space Observatory 3. When Lambert radios him, Hale is pleased to confirm that the station is good to begin tracking again. Lambert cements his douchebag status by snapping, “You’ll do nothing of the sort!” and tells him that “International Rescue are cleared, switch off your equipment.” Hale mutters, “Yes, sir” and hopefully goes off to polish his CV. There’s just no pleasing some mini-tyrants.

Thunderbird Three is rocketing back with its rescued astronaut onboard. I think they’re dropping him back at the Observatory satellite, and as Alan says goodbye, Elliott just can’t stop thanking them and adds, “It’s just great that you guys have been cleared.” Scott manages to say, “You can say that again” without moving his lip, and I kind of like to think of these words as being inside his head, if you want to pretend that was another deliberate mistake. Alan agrees that “That call from base sure cleared up a lot of worries.” Elliott thinks no one is better qualified than him to say how great it is that International Rescue are “back in business ,” and on this triumphant note, Thunderbird Three begins to dock with the tracking satellite, International Rescue having reclaimed the moral high ground, and their good name.

I think the lesson we can take from this episode really is – don’t trust appearances, and especially don’t trust first impressions or leap to conclusions. Everything in that general area of non-judgement, basically. Also, the military’s blunderbuss approach to the manhunt seemed to entirely skip the more subtle, logical approach that International Rescue took. One major plot hole that stands out to me today — did no one on the team hunting for International Rescue think to look at the newspaper photo of the faker? Or ask Eddie Kerr the questions that Penny did? The two imposters weren’t all that hard to find, even if it helps to have a usefully placed pet hillbilly working on your side. It would have been great to find out who was about to buy the plans, too, as there’s more depth here, lurking just out of reach. Oh, and the bad guys were a little overconfident and lazy, don’t you think? They hardly went any distance from the site of their deed, plus they seem a little stupid to have pulled off something of this magnitude without expert help. Blind luck then, perhaps, but still a worthy piece of deduction from the real International Rescue team. The story is still well-paced and interesting, with a brilliant collision of old and new tech and some decently drawn characters backing this up. 

This is one of the strongest episodes so far, and the characters were a real joy to meet. Apart from the wonderful Jeremiah Tuttle and his Maw, General Lambert is a nasty example of institutional thinking gone utterly insane. He’s an even better villain than the Hood, really, as he upsets and bullies everyone around him without questioning his own orders for a second. Elliott and Hale are solidly drawn, too, feeling like real put-upon working spacemen. I particularly like that Jeff Tracy gets to break his own rule here simply because that’s what the Tracy guys do – anything they have to, to save a life. Apart from Penelope’s disappointingly ridiculous antics, I’d give this a solid rating, declaring it not to be missed, and in fact, this whole concept would be a strong basis for a decent second movie – if they ever did a decent first one.


<< back to Episode Index


The episode opens at the scene of a disaster, the green hulk of Thunderbird Two towering over what seems to be a caved in mine. But look again – that isn’t Thunderbird Two! And despite the uniforms, the men bringing the accident victim to the surface aren’t Scott or Virgil.

What goes on here?

We soon find out — a band of cunning and crafty crooks are on the loose, impersonating International Rescue and using staged disasters as decoys whilst they pillage and plunder to their heart’s content. International Rescue’s insistence on total secrecy means, of course, that nobody realises that this gang of thieves are not who they claim to be, and the collective finger of humanity points accusatorily at International Rescue.

A military task force is soon set up to find the thieves and the peacekeepers of the world enthusiastically devote themselves to the cause, forcing Jeff Tracy and sons to retreat beneath a blanket of silence – limited communications, and most importantly, no rescues.

Jeff Tracy, however, is nothing if not resourceful, and he immediately turns to his network of spies to hunt down the real crooks. Leads are quickly followed up and just as quickly dismissed, until finally a call from Jeremiah Tuttle, one of Jeff’s acquaintances from his days in the ‘force, broadcasting from a cast-iron stove somewhere in the backwoods of the U.S. of A, provides a lead interesting enough to despatch Lady Penelope and Parker to investigate.

In the midst of International Rescue’s self-imposed isolation (and how the confines of Tracy Island are chafing at this point!) the unthinkable happens. Two astronauts (whose day-job has been to suss out the whereabouts of International Rescue) get themselves into trouble, one of them floating off helplessly into space. His only hope of rescue is IR, and just when you think International Rescue might just leave the poor fellow to his doom, they decide to risk everything and stage a rescue.

Back on Earth, and thanks to Jeremiah, Lady Penelope has managed to discover the impostors in their lair — an abandoned mineshaft situated at the end of a long and muddy trail for which Lady Penelope’s footwear proves completely unsuitable. But despite the mud, and an inordinate amount of branch slapping, Penelope and Parker bravely forge their way through an interminable stretch of scrub and arrive at the mine. Of course, cornering a crook is the fastest way to a gunfight (or a bean-fight, in this case), and the bad guys don’t disappoint, giving up only when Jeremiah’s late arrival and fancy shooting convinces them of his superior marksmanship.

The Impostors is a curious episode of Thunderbirds. It contains only one muted rescue, and the action is dominated by a strong supporting cast. There are (shock, horror!) no explosions, and the tension of a rescue is replaced by another kind of tension as our heroes ride out the global storm of resentment in hiding. As kids we would have hated The Impostors, but as adults there are subtle concepts to explore, and some significant character development as our heroes face the reality of being wanted men, and realise what a knife edge their need for total security has forced them to walk. It’s an idea that was never satisfactorily explored in the series, but hey, that’s what fanfiction is for.

<< Episode Index
<< Characters
<< Thunderbirds Machines
<< Thunderbird Three's Silo