More intrigue, bombs and lazy spies than you can shake a stick at conspire to make this a fairly standard ‘Lady P in Peril’ episode. Riding the crest of a Bond mania wave as it was, this isn’t by any means my favourite episode, although it is saved by the seedy Riviera scenery and by Barry Gray doing his best to out-do John Barry. I also quite like how it seems to be midnight with a full moon ALL the time.

We open with the excellent music I just mentioned. On a moonlit night on the French Riviera, a sinister frogman sneaks aboard a sleek yacht, gets to an office where a man, obviously the captain, is innocently reading. At the peak of the music, the frogman coldly shoots the captain several times and he and his chair fall over, extremely dead. In fact, at least two of those bullets must wind up getting lodged in the chair itself, since the frogman keeps firing even though the chair back and seat are pretty quickly blocking the line of fire. The music comes to a respectful stop. Now the evil frogman ransacks the captain’s desk, hissing, “Where are those plans?” as he does. After finding bundles of cutlery, and a surprisingly large amount of doilies, he unscrews a flashlight and uncovers what must be the plans inside it, rolled up in a yellow and red tube. The minute he does, the music gets curiously upbeat and the spy game is back on. The frogman leaves the yacht, only pausing in his escape to stick a bomb on the side of the boat.

Seconds later another yacht pulls up. A chap with a posh accent spots the yacht the frogman just attacked and tells his captain, Tidman, to “move in” next to it. As they get close, EXPLOSION! The first yacht sinks rapidly after blowing up no less than five times! The captain of the new yacht asks the posh chap beside him, “Why?” and we learn that his pal’s name is – drum roll please – ‘Bondson’. Very subtle homage there, can you hear the slow clap? Anyway, Mr Bondson admits he has no idea why the other yacht exploded. Tidman wonders if it could be the fuel tanks as “she was petrol driven,” while Bondson worries that there’s no sign of “Blacker”, the yacht’s ex-captain, and elects to head down for a look at what’s left of the yacht in case the man is trapped. We all know that the poor guy has already met a nastier end, of course.

As Blacker’s yacht finishes its descent, the title card comes up and the music is back in full swing. Tidman tells Bondson he’ll need to work fast before “local police” arrive. Bondson crisply orders him to fob them off with “just enough” information to keep them happy, as he doesn’t want the wreck touched yet. Tidman wishes him luck and Bondson dives in. More very cool jazz follows. The wreck is in a bad state, though, and Bondson soon finds Blacker in the cabin and reports, “He’s dead”. He can also tell that the poor guy has been shot five times by an unusual type of gun, of which there “can’t be more than a dozen” in this part of the world.

A few things about this moment. I find it remarkable that the bad guys failed to cover their tracks at all, as despite the yacht blowing up around five times, there’s still more than enough evidence left over for Bondson to get some useful evidence – which he recognizes even without the help of a ballistics report! Talented chap, this.

After hoping that the rare bullets will help them track down the murderer, Bondson leaves Blacker’s corpse and tries to locate the papers. He finds the flashlight they were hidden in but, as we already know, the papers have been taken. Bondson concludes, “That explosion was no accident!” and as in “30 Minutes After Noon,” you can tell that MI-5 only hire the very brainiest agents to solve these world-threatening mysteries.

The water of the Riviera becomes the sunnier and warmer surface of the Tracy family’s pool, and before you can say ‘Isn’t that the Hood’s submarine?’ it’s clear we’re on Tracy Island, and Brains is playing with a remote control sub that messes with my sense of puppet scale. A chilled-out Jeff Tracy gently warns Brains to hurry up, as “Alan will be out for his swim, soon” (love the way he says that, Jeff almost whistles there). Brains agrees that Alan’s presence in the pool would upset the “sonic beam” and tries out the submerge function. As he does, Alan arrives – alert for shirtless Tracy, guys and girls – and drops his towel. We hear a splash that probably looks like that Hockney painting. Alan’s head and torso bob up from the pool’s surface. I guess he’s totalled Brains’ new toy. He apologises, “Guess I didn’t realise you were working”. Brains says it’s OK, while sounding like he’s about to cry, and Tin-Tin sympathetically notes “He’s upset”. Oh, Alan, you’re a monster – a monster!

Before Brains can drop anything else electrical into the pool and deprive Thunderbird 3 of a pilot, we’re saved by a beeping noise and Jeff tells them all to hold on. It’s John calling. The starbound Tracy reports they’ve been contacted by “a guy named Bondson” and that it’s “kind of unusual”. He adds that Bondson has something to do with the British Secret Service, which prompts Jeff to snap a reminder that the BSS has “its own operators and methods” and that IR won’t be getting involved. He has a point, but Bondson is so keen to get IR to do the job that he’s told John that if they don’t help, “the whole world could be destroyed”. Hmm. This persuades Jeff, as he exclaims, “That’s quite a statement,” and asks John to get Bondson’s contact details and to tell the (lazy) agent that IR will be sending one of their agents to meet him. I’m not bothering to take any bets on who that might be!

The next thing we see is a Fireflash – ten episodes without a crash and counting – speeding through the air. Personally, it seems like overkill to take a Fireflash for a hop from the UK to the South of France. Maybe Jeff was paying air fare again. Penelope is in First Class, of course, and wearing her really big orange hat from her title card in the regular Thunderbirds opening sequence. There’s also no sign of Parker, so depending on broadcast order this may mean that she’s learned from the ear-bending she got last time (in “30 Minutes…”). She listens quietly to an announcement requesting that passengers extinguish their cigarettes before landing. Awww, at least there were no mobile phones to put Fireflash in danger yet. The Fireflash touches down without crashing (yay!) and Lady P meets up with Parker. It turns out that she sent him ahead with her yacht, which is parked off the coast out of sight. I’m wondering how she survived without him, and for how long, as it would involve her getting to the airport without murdering any foreign agents on the way, not to mention having to figure out how to handle her own luggage. After this, Penelope goes off to make an important telecall.

Lazy agent Bondson is sound asleep in his hotel room when his video-phone starts ringing, making rather a squelchy noise. It flicks on to ‘sound only selected’ (AKA the ‘just got out of the shower’ setting) and we hear Penelope putting on a sexy French accent. She orders Bondson to drive to the Forest of Digne at midnight, to stop at a clearing “3 kilometres from the perimeter” and then he’s to wait there. He asks with a briskness that could well be nerves, “How will I know you?” and she replies smoothly, “You never will, Mr Bondson” and – for laughs, I feel – she tells him to repeat his instructions. Before he does, he asks her how he knows he can trust her, and she coolly reminds him that he doesn’t know. She also reiterates that he contacted them, and offers to forget the whole thing if he dislikes the arrangement. Terrified by the prospect of actually having to do his own legwork, Bondson agrees to the risky meeting, and covers this by saying how in his job “you have to be careful”. She says she does, too, and makes him repeat the rendezvous instructions.

The meeting really is in a lonely spot, where it’s a still a full moon. Just before midnight, Bondson is sitting impatiently in his car, being hunted by a curious livefootage owl. It’s not even fully midnight yet, but he’s so impatient he starts up the car. A gun appears from behind, aimed at his neck. It’s Penelope, and still using her sexy foreign accent she tuts, “We are impatient.” After ordering him to switch off the car engine, she warns that if he moves a muscle she will “blow off your head”. I bet Bondson thought IR’s agents were going to be a pushover. But I feel she totally would blow his head off, the maniac. She warns him not to turn his head and tells him to explain why he needs International Rescue’s help.

Bondson tells her a British agent collected plans for a nuclear device and they fell into the “wrong hands”. He can’t go into detail about that. He then explains that, as we know, the rendezvous didn’t work and that when he went to meet his contact the man had been killed, and that he had died before the yacht exploded. He tells Penny the make of the gun that was used – “not a very common weapon,” she comments (they obviously subscribe to the same gun enthusiast magazines). She then reminds him that it is not IR’s “policy” to get involved with “politics or police work” but Bondson frantically insists that they must help as IR has “the most advanced equipment in the world” and that “millions of lives depend…” he gets overexcited on this last line and nearly turns around. Penny warns him to keep his head, as he “won’t,” if he moves again. Bondson apologises and then begs her to hurry and find the plans. Penelope announces that she’s leaving now and he is to “do nothing, say nothing” and she will contact him. She adds that he must remain as he is for ten minutes, and then she returns to her car.

As she leaves and opens the car door, Bondson can’t resist a peek. A burst of gunfire explodes beside him. Parker’s matter-of-fact voice booms, “The lady said don’t move,” and we see FAB 1’s machine gun retreat back into the car’s grille. They briefly blind Bondson with full-beam headlights, and then zoom off into the night. As they drive away, Penelope asks Parker to head for her yacht, and compliments him on his “excellent shooting”.

Back on la Riviera, Penny is on her yacht in full naval getup while Parker brings her some tea. She instructs him that when they “drop anchor” he’s to go ashore and spread the word to local newspapers that “Gayle Williams, the leading fashion model” has arrived on her yacht and will be exposing the murderers who blew up the yacht yesterday. Parker enquires who this “Gayle Williams is” (although I suspect he might already have a fair idea). Penny explains that it is, of course, her. The stupidity of her entire plan aside, it seems that Parker will now be lying to the most gullible and ill-informed reporters on the planet. If you’re a “leading” fashion model, doesn’t it help if someone’s heard of you? Is she stealing the identity of some other, Kate Moss-type model here? Penny-logic prevails, I’m afraid.

At least the cool music make a comeback, as the bad guy from the start of the episode is chilling out on a sunny deck, reading the paper in jumper and jeans. The headline shows that the newspapers really have swallowed Penny’s little cover story, and report that she is a model who will bring down the murderers! Odd choice of pursuit for a fashion model, we think, but the bad guy seems to fall for it and growls, “So she’s gonna track us down, is she?” He goes a little Scottish here, and mutters “We’ll see about that”. Uh oh. He drives his little boat past the huge pleasure yachts and out to a set of boathouses along the coast. There’s a lovely, creaky, watery atmosphere as he pulls in. Once anchored, he dons his frogman outfit and dives down to the clearly evil red submarine parked on the sea bed.

Inside the sub, we see two men are playing cards and bitching, as the bad guys in TB tend to do, about all the waiting around. It’s very clear that they’re baddies – just check out their accents and facial hair! Their conversation reveals that since the rather ineffective blowing up of Blacker’s yacht, the “authorities” have the area “bottled up” and now they can’t avoid the “patrol boats”. They’re both relying on Carl, the erstwhile frogman, to figure out a way to get them clear – with the plans. This is just when he turns up. He chucks the newspaper into the middle of their game and explains what the headline means. One of them is unimpressed that this “model” will be tracking them down, which is the kind of response you’d actually expect. Carl, however, is more convinced by the details she seems to have about the theft of the plans, “how many shots were fired, stuff like that” and at this they exclaim, “This is serious!” Carl tells them that what they’re going to do to her is “serious”, too. She’s “going to die!” and I agree, that’s pretty serious indeed. Dramatic moment!

It ’s nighttime, and on her yacht (called FAB 2, incidentally), Penelope is having a very pink moment in front of the gigantic mirror in her bedroom. When Parker enters she instructs him to take the evening off, as she’s “expecting a visitor soon”. Parker is rather alarmed, asks if that’s “wise,” following the newspaper story. Penelope just repeats more firmly that he is “excused” and that he’s to “go ashore” and enjoy himself. Parker needs very little persuading here, as he realises how profitable a night in nearby Monte Carlo could be for him. Don’t gamble, kids. Lady P is just pleased that her order is “settled” and tells him once more to enjoy himself. As Parker goes to get ready, she gives Jeff a call.

Penelope reports to a concerned Jeff that, if her “arrangements” go as expected, then the plans should “be in our hands” by midnight. Jeff probes for information about her “arrangements” and asks if it’s going to be “dangerous”. I’m not sure what sort of mission he actually thinks she’s on. Penelope coolly tells him not to worry and to wait for her call, promising him that she’ll be “perfectly all right”. Riiiiight.

As Penelope hangs up with Jeff, Parker passes by her room on his way to party in Monte Carlo. He’s wearing the ‘evil purposes only’ grey raincoat and he’s walking with a definite spring in his stripy steps, sounding smug and vaguely inebriated as he crosses the deck. He’s singing something about the “bank in Monte Carlo”. Hmm. He wishes Penelope good evening and she hauls him up on the briefcase he’s brought with him. He insists it’s for his winnings and shakes it to prove his innocence. He needs a better briefcase, as this one flies open, revealing a pile of equipment that will certainly guarantee he gets some cash this evening. Parker mumbles, “I wonder ‘ow they got in there?” Penelope looks rather amused, as if breaking and entering is hilarious. Her tone of voice shames him gently into leaving his burglar kit at home. As Parker leaves in the boat, he wonders how she expects him to keep his “hand” in and elects to go to the casinos after all. Don’t gamble, kids!

On FAB 2, Penelope decides that everything is now ready for her “guest”. As she hears a boat pull up, she realises that the “fish has taken the bait” sooner than she expected. We see that Carl is on-board! As he peers around the doors there’s a CRASH ZOOM and Penelope sees him. She welcomes him and he sounds a little surprised until he spots the huge mirror. He wastes no time in threatening her with the gun, and tells her they are “going for a little boat ride”. She comments that this will be “nice” and that she’ll join him “in a moment”. He shows her what he thinks of this by shooting at the mirror and chipping a large chunk out of it. Penny looks at the mess and hopes that he isn’t superstitious. Carl snaps at her to “move and cut the chatter.” Penelope keeps up the tough-girl airhead act by asking if he’ll take her arm. So, her whole plan – her ENTIRE plan – relied on the murderer showing up that night and kidnapping her? Oh, gawd.

At the boat house out on the coast, Penelope muses that “One just wouldn’t know where one was, would one?” Heh. I admit her airhead observations get pretty funny against Carl’s general bad-guy grumpiness. Once the boat is stashed in the bay, he threatens her with a gun, and a bomb. He snaps that the “pleasure cruise” is over and that his “little box of tricks” will soon blow her “sky high”. Penny’s response: “How interesting” – which might suggest she’s pretty high already. She asks how the bomb works. Carl explains how, when she blows up, they’re in the clear (eh?). She says, “fascinating,” and wonders aloud that her waiting for it to happen is a “morbid pleasure” for him. He refutes this, as the delay is “all part of the plan” to mislead the patrol boat, which would otherwise catch him and his gang on the move. The patrol boat will be in the bay in ninety minutes. When it does, they’ll blow up Penelope and escape through all the chaos. Simple. Now Carl starts brandishing some long pieces of white rope.

A hilarious exchange follows where Penelope asks Carl if he’s going to tie her up. He growls, “You bet I am,” and she responds, “Oh I don’t mind, really…” The atmosphere has turned all Avengers. She has a final request before she dies – to “fix” her face using her powder compact. Carl is highly amused, “You dames slay me!” but he acquiesces to the request, and tells her to go ahead, “I got time”. Yes, it was the 1960s. What he doesn’t know is that this is all part of Lady P’s highly questionable plan. She takes the opportunity to contact Jeff Tracy on her compact radio (which functions like the Tracy boys’ video-watches, only in girly form). I’m a bit worried that her plan hinges entirely on the bad guy letting her do this. And then, instead of, perhaps, repeating everything she’s just heard so that the Tracys know how to help her, Penelope takes ages to perform an elaborate code sequence with her powder applicator to get a garbled message across to her rescuers.

In the Tracy lounge, Scott, Gordon and Virgil are watching this performance with some consternation. Her actions spell out this twitter-length message: “Held captive. Boathouse. Submarine. Must stop it. The bay next to yacht. Bomb!” and she only gets that far before an impatient Carl knocks it from her hand and snaps, “you’ve prettied yourself up enough” and starts to tie her securely to the chair. As he threatens her to “quit gabbing” or he’ll gag her, Penelope gives her dropped compact an anxious glance. I guess Parker would have been handy as backup right about now?

The Tracys are puzzling over Penny’s situation, having been left with a single image from the compact’s viewpoint on the floor. “What the heck could have happened, Father?” Scott exclaims. Jeff doesn’t know, and Virgil figures out that the camera is pointing at a “control panel”. Can I just note how very tanned they all appear in this episode? Jeff guesses that the control panel could be on the boat, following Penny’s description of a “boat house” (slow clap). Scott reminds them that she was telling them “something about a bomb”. Yes, we get it, things are serious! Jeff figures that as the picture is working on the compact, the sound probably is too, and he turns up the audio.

We hear danger music – with the compact sitting at Penny’s feet, she’s actually obeying Carl’s order to keep her mouth shut. The silence unnerves Jeff, and Scott suggests that they contact her. Jeff is worried that the wrong person might get the message, so Scott wisely suggests they use a “code signal”. Genius! Jeff concurs and Code 5 is used, which is basically a scratchy sort of Morse code. Penny hears this, but so does Carl. She moves enough that the sound warns them and Scott tells Jeff to “hold it”. Carl wonders what the scratching noise was, and Penelope distracts him with a neat insult about rats being his only friends. He snaps, “Are you being funny?” but Penelope merely says, “no” and asks if he thinks the rats will leave before the bomb explodes, or “go up with it too”.

Penelope’s welcome bout of exposition horrifies the Tracys. “So now we know…what a situation!” Scott exclaims, apparently not aware of the even worse situation currently being created by his hideous ochre and dark brown tank top outfit. Jeff says it’s not too late, and both he and Gordon think they have some time left, as “one of the murderers” is still aboard and will probably need some time to get clear of the explosion. Jeff sends Scott out to Penny’s location, swiftly followed by Gordon and Virgil with Thunderbird Four. Jeff adds that with Penny in trouble, their machines will need to “move faster than they’ve ever done before!”

Back at the boathouse, Carl is dragging Penelope even further away from the compact and tells her “This is it”. He sets the bomb on a desk beside her – apparently deciding that the use of very rare guns is not the best way to stay undetected by international spies or, er, curious fashion models. She snipes that she’s sorry he’s going, just as she was “beginning to enjoy” his company. He curtly tells her “So long” and informs her that she has “about an hour left”. Gulp. Will International Rescue reach her in time? CRASH ZOOM on the bomb!

Back on the island, Thunderbirds One and Two blast off efficiently, with almost no launch sequence at all, although Virgil only takes off after asking Gordon if he’s “All set?” Aww. Jeff is still staring at the video image from the compact, still only showing the boat’s control panel. Tin-Tin brings him coffee right on time, and Jeff muses that he thinks the waiting is “always the worst part” of these operations. Apart from actually being in danger of getting blown up, obviously. Tin-Tin mentions that she saw Virgil and Gordon fly off, which doesn’t seem to help – and is kind of stating the obvious, considering how much noise Thunderbird Two must have made. Jeff wishes he knew more clearly what they were going to find when they got out there. Penny really hasn’t told them enough.

On the boat, beside the bomb, Penelope is trying to shout the information to Jeff, but she does it in such a ladylike way that all he can make out is a muffled voice in the distance. He tells her that “The boys are on their way to you” and asks if she can get any nearer to the compact microphone. Penelope tries to tell him about the bomb in the bay, but he still can’t make out what she’s saying. Note to Brains: change your microphone parts supplier! Penny finally does something sensible and starts to shuffle-rock herself along in the chair. Apparently Brains could take pointers from these guys about where to buy rope, too…these don’t seem to be the breakaway kind that IR usually uses on missions… The noise that Penny makes with the chair startles Tin-Tin. Jeff wonders if it’s Penny trying to tell them something, and hopes that the “compact transmitter” can “stand up to the treatment” (see previous comment about the parts supplier!) At this point, Brains (did he hear us heaping scorn upon his handiwork?) reappears from wherever he was hiding (I suspect it has something to do with holding Alan’s head underwater for an ‘experiment’) and he thinks that the transistors should hold up, as they are small but very sturdy. It’s all on Penny now.

Underwater, at the evil red sub, Carl has arrived to update his henchmen on the situation. Everything is now “fixed” and he comments that the “dame” could “really talk” and she was “a cool one!” and now they will just wait there and count the seconds until the patrol boat will cross the bay. In just forty minutes, “the boat house, the boat and that dame go sky high”. Dramatic music!

Thunderbird One is rocketing towards the scene, and Scott asks his dad for more information. For now, there isn’t any. Jeff thinks that Penny’s trying to contact them but that she can’t get near enough for them to hear. Her muffled voice comes across faintly and Jeff tells her again she’s still “too far off the mike” and that Scott is on the way. She tries to tell Jeff to “get Scott to trace the submarine”. Wow, Parker really would be useful about now…but Jeff still can’t hear a word and suggests she gets closer. Penelope sighs at this “most strenuous” suggestion and tries again to bunny-hop the chair forwards. She gets up pretty close to the compact and declares it’s “now or never”. She rocks the chair from side to side, and tips over sideways, landing so her face is perfectly in front of the little video camera. Finally!

A startled Jeff asks if she’s ok, but Penny cuts right to telling him about the “killers” who are “hiding in their sub” although she doesn’t know exactly where that is; she adds that the bad guys will detonate the bomb once the patrol boat is in the bay at 10 o’clock, and then they’ll “slip away with Bondson’s plans”. And incidentally, what the heck is Bondson doing while Penny’s out risking her life? Partying with Parker at the casino? Wiretapping random celebrities? What? Now Jeff tells her he’ll get Scott to prepare the sonar equipment and assures her Scott will soon find them “wherever they are”. More dramatic music ends with a shot of the lurking red sub.

The coolest jazz shows up TB1 swooping across the moonlit Riviera. Scott has arrived, but it’s already 9.40pm. Jeff instructs him to begin the “sonar sounds” and Scott opens a hatch that releases a rocket-shaped device, which dips below sea level. Scott crisply reports that the reading is “negative” and that he’ll keep searching the zone “in widening circles” but he’s worried that this will “take time” and he hopes that they have enough. I know they don’t have time to find the sub before rescuing Penny, but it still comes across as a little wimpish that he doesn’t go down to save her first. Last time I’ll say it, but, perhaps Parker would have been useful about now? Scott checks Virgil’s ETA – Virg says 20 minutes. Scott requests they “try to make it sooner” and continues his scanning.

Back in the boat house of certain death, Jeff tells Penny that Scott is trying to find the sub and that Virgil and Gordon are fifteen minutes away, and he assures her she shouldn’t worry, they’ll get her out of there! It’s still cutting it fine, and they cut back and forth between Scott’s search and the sub lurking underwater. Inside the sub, the evil gang are anticipating the bomb solving all their problems, and on their timer there’s just ten minutes to go! One of them is afraid that the patrol boat won’t investigate the explosion, but Carl is very confident that the “dumb cops” won’t be able to resist it, and reminds them that he’s “always right”.

Scott is into deep frown mode, as there are still no results and time is very short. Then, finally, a smaller, steady beep signifies he’s found his target. He exclaims, “She’s down there!” Jeff rather needlessly tells him to tell Virg, and adds there’s just seven minutes left. Scott directs the TB2 crew as accurately as he can to the sub’s position. Virgil gently drops the Pod into the water and soon Thunderbird Four is launching in the area – we get an unusual view of its setting out starting from within the Pod itself. There are just five minutes to go! Gordon zips along under the water, also scanning, and he finds the sub within 400 yards of him. Scott snaps that the sub must be paralysed “but quick!” because the patrol boat, which has apparently synchronised its schedule with all the parties involved in this threat/rescue, will be there in four minutes! Already we see it’s crossing the Riviera and heading for the bay. Carl is gloating that there’s just three minutes to go.

Thunderbird Four takes its sweet time getting to the sub, and finally Gordon announces “firing paralyser now!” Well, Scott likes to be kept up to date. What Gordon fires is essentially a big trident on the end of a long piece of wire. It sticks into the hull of the sub, alarming the crooks within, and the middle prong of the trident immediately begins to drill into its target. Time is shrinking; the patrol boat is nearly there! Carl is counting down now – 30 seconds, then Scott sounds 25, and then the drill enters the sub’s cabin and Gordon blasts the bad guys with tranquiliser gas. Carl and the others struggle to set off the bomb – not the most sensible thing to do, considering they’re already busted and adding another murder to the rap sheet won’t exactly help – and then all the crooks collapse like dominoes.

As the patrol boat enters the bay, Scott reports that Gordon must have succeeded as “nothing’s happened,” and we see the bomb itself, flashing above a prone Penny, both of which are still fully intact. Jeff hopes that Penny’s OK – although he should know, since she was talking to him the whole time! But Scott reckons he can tell Jeff if she is, “in a minute or two”. He lands TB1 near the boathouse while Gordon swims up to the red sub. Now we see Scott snuggled up on the sofa beside Penny, asking if she’s “sure” she’s all right as she really “took a chance”. Penny tells him that “that’s what keeps life interesting…the uncertainty,” and she hopes that Gordon can find the plans all right. Scott nods.

Gordon gets into the submarine where the three crooks are still passed out all over the cabin. He collects the distinctive red and yellow tube containing Bondson’s plans, musing that “this is what we’ve come to rescue,” and figuring that it’s still “intact”. He adds that now Penny can “put Mr Bondson’s mind at rest”.

We’re back in the moonlit clearing, where Bondson is waiting again for Penny. He seems to have learned from last time and is standing beside his car while he waits for Penny to arrive, smoking a cigarette. This time Penny orders him via loudspeaker to walk to a large tree and to keep staring straight ahead. Bondson obeys and soon finds the plans wedged in a tree fork. She tells him to return to his car and to be “very careful”. Does he really believe an IR agent would murder him? He soon goes back to his car and sits behind the wheel. Penelope warns him again not to move, as he knows what will happen. He gruffly thanks her (for doing all the work) on behalf of his chiefs – and she accepts, and warns that any attempt to trace her or her organisation will meet “severe opposition”. Now she hurries back to FAB 1 and they blind Bondson once more with the headlights as they speed away. Parker enquires, “ ‘ome, milady?” and she concurs, pausing to enquire how he did at the casino.

He confesses that he lost. Penny makes a sympathetic noise and asks “how much?” and then forces him to tell her. Apparently it’s not so much how much as what he lost. Now Penny really, really wants to know. He confesses he got rather “carried away” and thought he “had a system” and now Penny sternly demands to know what got lost at the casino. He finally admits that it was “your yacht, milady”.

A stunned Penelope sits back, looking about as appalled and speechless as you’d expect, whilst being brilliantly understated about the whole thing. At least until the scene finishes.

This last bit of Lois Laneish, getting-into-trouble-ONPURPOSE shtick is what really puts me off about this episode. And it isn’t just Penny. First, Secret Agent Bondson, unfathomably for a man in his profession, needs IR’s help, then IR’s superagent Lady P willingly becomes bait, apparently without telling either her chauffeur/partner in crime OR International Rescue themselves what she is up to…and all so that IR can actually sort of get the job done and ‘save the world’ from a rather oblique nuclear MacGuffin threat. So basically all the secret agents in this story really suck at what they do, almost making Maxwell Smart of Get Smart seem like Harry Palmer from Len Deighton’s 1960s spy novels in comparison. Coming back to this episode after quite a while, I feel that this was not the strongest of episodes on the rewatch, and contains far too much Penelope anyway. As a spy romp it hangs together fairly well and is still a wonderful vehicle for the Bond-esque music and constantly moonlit secret rendezvous. I think the biggest problem is how shoehorned-in the use of IR feels here, and it’s too gimmicky. Overall, not enough Tracys or machinery in the mix.


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Our story opens on a tranquil French harbour, playground of the rich and famous to judge from the expensive playthings floating serenely upon it. A boat lies at anchor; the captain in his cabin is studiously writing in his logbook. It is a calm night, peaceful… but… oh no! A wet-suited assassin has clambered aboard the vessel! He sneaks to the captain’s door, takes aim with his gun, and bang! Our hapless captain slumps lifeless to the floor.

This is long before the adventures of Captain Scarlet, so no blood stains the body of the poor captain, but it’s a confronting opening scene nonetheless. It is also quite removed from the usual Thunderbirds opening – a murder is a far cry from the usual tunnel collapse or exploding oil rig. To be sure, an explosion does follow the murder (the assassin, after stealing the plans he came for, sinks the boat in spectacular fashion), but from the outset we can see that ‘The Man from MI.5’ is going to be something else. Cue crazy saxophone music.

A moment later, a certain Mr Bondson and Co (Felix Leiter, perhaps?) motor up for their midnight rendezvous, only to find the plans, and the boat they were being carried on, gone. Bondson dives down to the wreck in an attempt to find them, but no go. They’re gone. And of course, they are of vital importance to the security of the world. Of course.

What happens next is somewhat inexplicable in the world of the super-secret spy biz – Bondson calls International Rescue for assistance. Jeff, naturally, is not keen to get involved, but he quickly reneges on his usual rule of ‘rescues only’ after he learns how important the plans are.

Enter Lady Penelope and her valet and henchman, Parker. They rendezvous with Bondson (at midnight, in a spooky forest) and organise the deal, and when next we catch up with Penelope she is aboard her yacht, FAB 2, which is so large it has its own gangplank (and, one would hope, more than just Parker tending to the engine room). Arriving at the scene of the crime, Penelope advertises herself as a fashion mannequin with underworld connections, despatches Parker off to the mainland for a night of gambling (which she no doubt later regrets when he confesses to gambling FAB 2 away), dolls herself up and waits, alone, for the wetsuited assassin to arrive.

For whatever reason the villain whisks her back to an abandoned boatshed, ties her up, talks to her, unties her so she can fix her lippie, then ties her up again. (Was it me, or was there a heavy hint of erm… tension, in the boathouse that night?) But of course, Lady P wasn’t merely fixing her lipstick – via the two-way mirror in her transistorised radio compact, she was messaging Jeff using a lipstick code they had cunningly worked out earlier. Basically, the message (in Chanel Coral #9) was ‘HELP!’

Jeff obliges (he’s been fretting at his desk all night), sending Scott in Thunderbird 1 to take sonar soundings of the bay. Scott’s looking for the submarine the crooks have been using as a hideout, and he quickly finds it. Virgil and Gordon head out in Thunderbird 2 to catch the pesky blighters, and it’s a matter of moments before Gordon in Thunderbird 4 has subdued the crooks with sedative gas and retrieved the plans, while Scott returns to the boathouse to untie Penelope and save her from the bomb (oh yeah, there was a bomb) the crooks had planned to blow her up with. The end.

It has been said that this episode was written as a showcase for Lady Penelope, and on some levels perhaps that is true. But if anybody wonders where ‘The Man from MI.5’ really came from, remember that during the 1960s the Cold War was at its height – in those days it really did seem as though there was a secret agent posted on every street corner, and that after dark the world became a place of high rollers and lapel pins that squirted knockout gas.

It was a weird period of history, and while this particular episode of Thunderbirds is also weird and does not play to type, it was a pure product of its time. If it was cashing in on anything it was the James Bond franchise, and there was no attempt to disguise this Mr Bond(son) at all, from his marvellously chiselled movie-star face to his Maxwell Smart wardrobe. He was a Bond clone nonpareil, and his only divergence from type was that when he slept, he slept alone. Thunderbirds was a family show, after all!

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