EPISODE 27: ATLANTIC INFERNO
27: ATLANTIC INFERNO
Well, here it is. The first episode of the extremely short Thunderbirds Series Two, and it promises plenty of explosions, sky high flames, and Jeff Tracy chilling out with Lady Penelope.
The scene opens on a mountainside, where advanced warning sirens wail across a bleak landscape and a delicate hand pushes a switch. The mountain EXPLODES, big time.
The delicate hand belongs to Lady Penelope, who’s underneath a mesh-protected area near the mountain. She’s wearing a pink (of course) hard hat and headscarf and she’s surrounded by men who have chosen a more conservative style of head protection. They thank her for blowing up the mountain for them, and she thanks them for providing her with a “bit of excitement.” She gets invited to the construction workers’ after-party, but she gracefully bows out. It seems she has to get to “her little farm” before nightfall, and a bloke named Sir Harry offers to drive her there. The Dozers – huge road building machines last seen in “End of the Road,” only painted yellow here – are “getting down to the job.” I hope Eddie Houseman got a patent on those machines.
As Penelope returns to FAB One, Parker apologises for “’urrying” (sic) her, but reminds her that she wanted to look at her sheep before turning in. You see, Penny’s currently in Australia, and her “little farm” is a wee bit bigger than she just suggested.
As FAB One drives away, Penelope’s next action is to call up Jeff Tracy, as she has “a little idea.” Gulp.
Now we’re on Tracy Island. Brace yourselves, because the Tracy boys all look a bit…different. Inside the luxurious lounge, a chubbier-cheeked Virgil (too much of Grandma’s cooking?) is painting at an easel. Thankfully he lost the smock this time, instead getting creative in an old shirt smudged with paintbrush marks. Alan (who has either been in the sun too much or let Tin-Tin experiment on him with hair bleach) and Tin-Tin are waiting around to play tennis, dressed in blindingly bright whites, while Scott (who looks alarmingly smooth faced, as if he’s had surgical intervention recently) reads a book, and Gordon (also with lighter hair than we remember – Tin-Tin again?) optimistically plays a game of chess against Brains. All is serene, and even Jeff just seems to be staring out the balcony window. Then Penelope’s call comes through.
Ringing him from her radio compact, she tells him she’s “just blown up a mountain” and after getting the obviously desired “you’ve done what?” exclamation from Jeff, she assures him that it’s nothing to worry about, it was done for someone building a road through a mountain, and that now she’s going on to her farm. She explains that an “idea” had just occurred to her and tells Jeff that she can’t remember him taking any vacation for “at least eighteen months” (it’s not clear if that’s how long International Rescue has been operating, but I’m going to assume it’s around that length of time). She invites Jeff to spend a few days on her “farm” in Australia and promises to “make certain” he isn’t disturbed at all so that he can “relax completely” and before even waiting for an ‘uh huh’ she adds brightly, “when can I expect you?”
‘No’ is not an option here, only Jeff doesn’t realise it yet.
He immediately protests that it isn’t so simple, and that he can’t just up and leave as an “emergency call” could come in “at any time” which he’ll need to be around to “organise.” At this point Scott pipes up, sounding strangely medicated (maybe he’s still on pills after the face lift!), and reassures his dad that “we’ll still be here…and we know the procedure.” Virgil wholly agrees, adding that it’s time Jeff “had a rest.” Take a moment please to hear the small violin for the change in Virgil’s voice, sniff. It’s just not the same, is it? But at least he sounds warmly concerned about his dad, which is nice.
Rather than feeling cared for, Jeff seems to feel rather ganged-up on, demanding to know if this is a “plot” to “get rid” of him and insisting he does not “need a rest.” Penelope has taken the boys’ agreement as concurrence and rather crossly tells him she’ll “expect” him at the farm that evening. She signs off with “I insist that you come,” and snaps the radio compact shut before he can protest again.
Jeff is narked that she “closed down” on him. Scott suggests, still in his gently medicated voice, that he may have “got her a little mad.” He adds that “she was just thinking of you,” and Virgil reinforces this, saying that “she was trying to help.” Jeff is mightily aggravated, calling it a “great idea,” but then attempts to get them on his side. He protests, “You boys realise the problems, don’t you?” At this, Scott and Virgil pointedly turn away. Jeff appeals to Alan and Tin-Tin, saying, “You understand that I have to be here, doncha?” but they make a quick getaway to their tennis game. Jeff finally implores Gordon and Brains for some backup, but they are either utterly absorbed in their chess game or pretending very hard that they haven't heard the question. Jeff flails around for a good reason not to go, but finally, he grumbles, “OK, OK, I’ll go to Australia,” and submits to some vacation time.
His family stop ignoring him! Scott’s particularly overjoyed, “that’s great…forget International Rescue for a while,” while Tin-Tin – not yet at her tennis match – says she’ll get her dad to pack Jeff’s bags. Incidentally, where the heck is Kyrano? Then Scott brings up the “first problem” of who’ll be in command while Jeff’s away. Not to nitpick, but, well, this really makes nonsense of the other episodes where Jeff has been away without any of this discussion or whinging – namely “Brink of Disaster” and “The Duchess Assignment.” But the discussion is happening this time.
Virgil immediately nominates Scott to replace Jeff, as he’s “the eldest.” Though flattered to be “put in the hot seat,” Scott wonders who would fly Thunderbird One. Jeff interrupts the debate rather crossly, as he’s “not gone yet” and is still giving the orders! Scott is “next in line” so he gets the command desk. Which is what Scott and Virgil just figured out, but anyway…also I like how Scott is already wearing a ‘responsible shirt and tie’ outfit, which makes me pretty sure that Penelope worked this out with the Tracy boys before calling Jeff with her “idea.” Anyway, Jeff I’m-still-here Tracy assigns his sons some new roles. Virgil and Gordon will stick to piloting Thunderbird Two and Thunderbird Four, but Alan will pilot Thunderbird One, because One and Three are rarely required at the same time. Makes sense.
Alan is thrilled to be handed the keys to the fast silver rocket. Although Scott now looks a little less amused, he still sounds way too cheerful (or maybe he’s on thorazine, not painkillers!) when he tells Alan, “Guess you’re taking over my old job.” Jeff is pleased that “that’s settled” and updates John on the changes. (And now we know the truth – Tin Tin is planning on opening a beauty salon! John’s hair has been lightened, too!) His response to the vacation news is priceless, “It’s about time!” and Jeff must be truly suspecting a conspiracy by the dry “yeah” he gives in reply. He wants to make sure everything’s all right in the world before he hands over the command to Scott. John reckons there’s “nothing to concern us” right now, apart from the World Navy “on exercise in the Atlantic.”
John is ‘Mr Segue’ in this episode. The scene immediately cuts to the World Navy on exercise in the Atlantic. The music references Stingray as we watch them prepare to test some undersea missiles. One of the officers used to be Cass Carnaby from “The Cham-Cham.” I think this is a bit of a step down!
Back on Tracy Island, and Jeff is in his jet on the runway, telling Scott to keep him “informed.” Scott gently tells his dad to “relax, I’ll call if we have any serious problems” and like that, Jeff finally leaves and Scott takes up his dad’s place behind the big command desk. Scott tells them that he thought Jeff would “change his mind at the last minute.” Virgil empathises, saying that Jeff has “never left us on our own before.” That line annoys me massively, because it’s both not actually true, and makes them sound like eight year olds camping outdoors for the first time in the front garden. These are grown men who run rescues, right? OK, rant over.
Alan asks Scott what his “first decision” will be now that he’s “in charge.” Scott thinks for a moment then tells him that’s “easy” and he’s going to contact (i.e., bug the hell out of) John in Thunderbird Five. Um…didn’t Jeff call him a very short while ago? John also wonders “what’s wrong”? Scott makes a slightly embarrassed “err…” noise and then says that he “just wondered how things were.” John graciously tells Scott that it’s “still quiet” and that the World Navy are getting ready for their target shot.
Mr Segue strikes again. As the exercises heat up in the Atlantic Ocean, the World Navy’s command officers give the order to “warn all vessels in the vicinity” and to tell the drilling rig, Seascape, as well. On Seascape, when Frank Hooper, the superintendent, hears the words “nuclear missiles” he grabs the microphone and asks for more info, as he “doesn’t like the sound” of what was just described. The deeply patronising Atlantic Commander tells Hooper not to worry, as the explosions will all occur underwater, and “there is absolutely no chance of any danger.” Ahem. JINXED. This is the same World Navy that nearly nuked Thunderbird Two, right? Seascape is so very screwed.
After the call, Hooper’s mightily hacked off that the Navy are always “bellyaching” about the number of new drilling rigs, but that no one’s allowed to complain about “their explosions.” An immersed sub promptly launches its missiles and approaches the little target vessel. Inevitably, this being Thunderbirds, one of the missiles flies off course and they can’t correct it. The other missile hits the target, but the rogue nuke continues on its own way, veering off near a bubbling section of the ocean bed. Attempts to destroy the rogue remotely are unsuccessful, and the deadly thing zooms upwards out of the ocean, only to plunge straight back down again. When it hits the ocean bed, it EXPLODES, causing a major wave of water, and the section of ocean floor it hit begins to bubble even more violently.
Up in Thunderbird Five, John is telling Scott that the missile exploded on the sea bed. Scott enquires about the Navy’s reaction. Apparently a lot of people are “hopping mad” but it “seems there’s no danger.” However, the sea is “still boiling” if reports from Hooper on Seascape are “anything to go by.”
Thanks to this, it’s “storm stations” on Seascape and they’re on Amber Alert, which means they’re raising the rig by ten feet. Nifty.
Away from the chaos in the Atlantic, Jeff is arriving at Penelope’s sheep station, the eccentrically named Bonga Bonga, and Parker gives him permission to land. He tells Jeff that Lady Penelope is outside “with the sheep” and seems to think that “one” of her 200,007 strong flock is missing. In fact, Penelope does actually comment that she is sure her sheep counter is faulty…probably because, as the Fanderson website has kindly pointed out, there are only five digits on the hand held device, and it needs six to count that high…
Parker radios ’er Ladyship to tell her Jeff has arrived, although she has also heard the jet’s approach. She leaves the missing sheep to its unknown fate and goes indoors to meet him. Jeff is pleased to see Penny, and she’s glad to see him, although she immediately wants to know all the news about “the boys” and “Tin-Tin and Kyrano.” Jeff wants to let them know he’s arrived with her. Penelope sternly says that she’ll allow him “one call” and that then he must promise to try to forget “all about the Island.” Good luck with that, Penny. Jeff admits he’d be happier checking in “now and again” but Penelope points out that right now, Scott and the others are “probably in bed.” However, Jeff thinks he knows Scott well enough to be sure his eldest son is still “wide awake”.
He does, and Scott is. When Jeff radios in to ask how things are, Scott is still behind the desk in the lounge, although he has sent everyone else to bed, as “you never know when something might break.” This just reinforces the whole sleepover feel that keeps rearing its head in this episode. I know they’re a close family, but it seems so different to the business-like approach of the earlier episodes. Jeff suggests that Scott gets some rest and takes it easy, and Scott wishes him goodnight. When Jeff hangs up, Scott suddenly has a big frown on his face (forgot to take his medication?), and calls up John again. John is also still awake, and tells Scott that it’s “all quiet here.” Scott requests an update on the Atlantic explosion. Apparently the sea has calmed down, and John bets that the “guys on that rig are glad.”
Another strike for Mr Segue, as it’s night time on Seascape, and Hooper rants to a man called Kravitz that the Navy “let a fool thing like that happen” and that it’s bad enough being “stuck” in the middle of the ocean without the Navy trying to “send us under.” Kravitz notes that the “weather computers” are suggesting a “lulu of a gale come sun-up.” Which should end well.
But for now, it’s all quiet. Even Scott has finally nodded off behind the desk, and Superintendent Hooper is kipping in Seascape’s command office.
Then, the ocean bed ruptures and there’s a massive BOOM. Seconds later, a pillar of fire is spurting through the ocean and up into the open air. It’s terrifying. The frantic radio shouting wakes up John, who’s cuddled up in bed in his pyjamas (blue of course) and he radios Scott. They’re both working some impressive bed-head here. Scott asks John what he makes of the “fire jet.” Then Brains appears, also in his pyjamas, and Scott asks what he makes of it. There’s some really nice use of Brains as an advisor in this episode, although at this point it’s “too early” for Brains to speculate on the situation. John radios Seascape to get more info. Hooper tells him that the explosion ruptured the sea bed and then it took a few hours for the atomic heat to get to the gas pocket underneath them. This “gas pocket” stretches for forty miles from the Seascape’s position.
Back at base, Scott asks Brains how urgent he thinks the danger is. Brains theorises that there could be a massive explosion resulting in a huge tidal wave spreading to “both coasts of the Atlantic,” which Scott concurs is a “pretty terrifying thought.” The question he’s wrestling with is, “do we get involved or not?” Brains oh-so helpfully reminds Scott that the decision is “entirely up to you.” That’s the tough part, then. Torn between decisions, and apparently bereft of all the command ability he demonstrated in Series One, Scott ponders what his Dad would do.
Jeff is currently chilling out at Bonga Bonga. Playful jazz burbles from the TV as he and Lady P relax in the sheep station’s lounge, and it looks like she has Alan’s baby alligator as a stuffed ornament behind her. The jaunty music on the TV is abruptly interrupted by a newscaster who tells listeners about the fire jets in the Atlantic. Jeff appears to be snoozing on the couch, and Parker asks Penny if he should wake him about the news. Penelope sharply tells him not to, but Jeff is already awake and tells her to relax, as he knows that Scott will just keep “a check” on the situation, and as no one has been hurt, “this is not a job for International Rescue”.
Perhaps he forgot that Scott is a man of action. The eldest Tracy brother has finally come to a firm decision, and tells Brains to wake up “the boys” because “this is a job for International Rescue.” I can picture Jeff’s face-palm face already.
Thunderbird One launches with Alan in the cockpit, which looks really, really weird since we’ve never seen anyone but Scott handle the ship before! Alan comments on just how different “this baby” is from Thunderbird Three. Scott (who has obviously reduced his dosage a bit) sternly tells him not to forget it, because “I want that ship back in one piece.” Alan chirps that he’ll be OK and tells Scott that he’ll reach Seascape by dawn. Virgil arrives at the desk and Scott orders him to take “Pod Four and the Sealing Device,” so Gordon’s going too! We next see him and Virgil in Thunderbird Two’s cockpit, and Gordon hasn’t bothered to change out of his
dressing gown, which is nicely incongruous on board the rescue craft. Guess he’ll be changing into scuba gear soon, anyway.
As Two rolls onto her runway, Seascape’s crew are anxiously wondering when International Rescue will get there. More flame spurts from the sea bed. Right then, Alan passes the rig in Thunderbird One – a bit too close from the looks of it, actually – and requests landing permission. He’s told to use the helijet platform, which is a bit of a tight squeeze for One, if Alan’s anxiety about getting her down “on an even keel” is any indication. Once he’s managed to set down without parking her in Seascape’s command office, Al radios Scott to tell him he got there “in one piece” and Scott informs Gordon and Virgil. Virgil will be there at 0700 hrs. So far, so good. Both Tin-Tin and Brains are full of admiration about how Scott has handled the situation, saying that his dad would be proud. Now Scott’s getting cocky. He grins, “You’re not suggesting I call him, are you, Brains?” He reckons that Jeff is asleep by now anyway.
Although they have very similar personalities, it’s clear that father and son don’t quite understand how the other one thinks, and this continues here. Contrary to Scott’s belief, Jeff is actually still wide awake in his room. Penelope knocks on his door, asking if he’s been awake all night – so it’s now morning in Bonga Bonga. Jeff confesses that he’s been worrying about the fire jet all night. Penelope thought he’d said he wasn’t worried about Scott putting IR into operation, but Jeff would now prefer to call base to put his “mind at rest.” Penelope argues that he really should “leave it to the boys,” but Jeff thinks she doesn’t understand his concern. She sternly says she does, calling him a “good father” and “naturally anxious” and implores him to relax, just for her. Jeff finally agrees to stop worrying, admitting he actually is “kind of tired.” Waah-waah music plays as he gives in. Good thing he hasn’t checked the news, and Penelope’s probably disabled the wi-fi…
Back in the Atlantic, Thunderbird Two passes over the water beside the fire jet and Virgil releases Pod 4. Virgil wishes his brother luck as Gordon steers Thunderbird Four and the Sealing Device down to the danger zone on the ocean bed. He tugs the Sealing Device towards the area as it sinks. On the rig itself, Alan is at Mobile Control, a sight which also looks pretty weird, reporting to Scott about where the Sealing Device will go. The music gets all serious as Gordon very carefully steers towards the flame spout and clamps the Seal over the hole. He applies its compression valves and the fire finally goes out. All is well. Alan tells Gordon to return to Thunderbird Two and base – job done. Easy-peasy.
A little later, Hooper is still very pleased that the fire is out, but his buddy on the rig isn’t so sure it worked, as he’s been picking up some “pretty violent” waves since International Rescue were there.
Unaware of the returning danger, in the Tracy lounge everyone is falling over themselves giving compliments to Scott for his handling of the situation. Virgil is seriously impressed, “no panic, you didn’t put a foot wrong.” Well, you’d kind of hope that as mission leader for practically every rescue, Scott would know what he’s doing by now. Alan jokes that he could do Jeff “out of a job,” which is exactly when their father calls them up.
Jeff is enraged that Scott sent out International Rescue and gives his eldest both barrels, shouting that IR is “not just a load of machinery for putting out fires, it’s a serious business!” Although Scott protests that the fire “could have caused a disaster” Jeff says that they aren’t “dealing with chances” and that they “can’t afford to make mistakes” and adds that he’s heading back to the Island right away. Ouch. This could have been avoided by giving Scott a simple flow chart. Are people in immediate danger? Then send out IR immediately. Are no people in immediate danger? Then don’t send out IR at all. Easy. Scott is bummed out by the telling-off, but at least Virgil still supports his decision. Aww.
Back at Bonga-Bonga, Jeff paces angrily until Penelope asks if he’s “really angry” and Jeff growls “Sure – oh heck, no.” and confesses that he’s “just worried.” Penelope astutely points out “You upset him, you know” and Jeff tells her that he still meant every word. She questions if that includes the threat to fly “straight home” and warns him that to do so would be a “big mistake,” as Jeff’s now made his point. Scott now won’t send the boys out on call again “unless it’s absolutely vital.” Very reluctantly Jeff concedes that she’s correct, and that Scott “must run the show on his own” without interference. Bit late for that revelation, but Penelope is very pleased and says she will call Scott to tell him. There’s a lot of facesaving going on here. Unfortunately, Parker has already packed Jeff’s bags (they’re mega- rich, OK? They just don’t pack for themselves) and Jeff’s decision to stay causes Parker some consternation, and he bitches “you’d think some people would make up their minds” at a volume just loud enough for Jeff to (probably) hear him. Heh.
On Tracy Island, Scott has been given the good news by Penelope. He thanks her for her help, but is still sounding glum. Virgil is pleased that his brother is “back in control” and Scott figures that “Dad wasn’t as mad as he sounded.”
But things are still not quiet in the Atlantic. The sea bed cracks and yet more fire jets begin spurting from the sea. Hooper orders O’Shea to get International Rescue there “on the double." O’Shea protests that they don’t have IR’s frequency, but Hooper knows that you just put out a call “on any wavelength” and IR will “pick it up.” He gets a CRASH ZOOM here. However, this time the response from IR might be a little different.
John radios Scott to tell him about the latest fire jet “five miles east of the last one” and Brains reasons that the first explosion moved the rock under the ocean floor and ignited pockets of oxy…something… gas. Alan asks him why the whole gas field didn’t just go up, “like you said earlier” and Brains speculates that the flame is “travelling until it reaches the next weakest point” and that “that point could well be Seascape.” Scott asks what they do about that. Not unusually, Brains’ suggestion involves Thunderbird Four blowing something up. If Thunderbird Four fired missiles at the troublesome rock strata, it would stop the fire from spreading. Scott understands that this would “cause a barrier across the gas field” but then asks why the Navy can’t do that instead of IR. Brains points out that they lack the “right type of equipment.” What, they don’t have any missiles? Scott figures that if they did carry out this plan it would save Seascape from disaster, and Virgil is already raring to go, but Scott puts the brakes on.
Clearly it’s a case of once bitten, twice thoughtful, because Scott reasons that they could actually just get the World Navy to evacuate Seascape and “leave the gas field to burn itself out.” Virgil protests that they don’t know “how long that gas might keep on burning” but Scott responds with a curt, “So what?” as ships would “automatically avoid the area.” And so Scott announces that this time, “This is not a job for International Rescue.” Gordon immediately calls him on this attitude turnaround from two hours ago, but Scott sheepishly admits, “Sure…two hours ago, Dad hadn’t given me a bawling-out.” Scott firmly declares that in this case, “normal methods of rescue are adequate.” He’s actually completely right – unless, say, the Seascape crew decide to do something incredibly recklessly stupid…
On Seascape, O’Shea tells Hooper that IR are not coming, and that the Navy will be sent to evacuate them, although they won’t arrive at the rig for another two hours. Hooper exclaims that the Navy are over five hundred miles away, and O’Shea confirms that they’d moved position after IR fixed the last fire jet. The flaming gas will then just be left to burn. It doesn’t look like it will burn out quickly, that’s for sure.
Several sky-high plumes of flame are bursting into the air, churning the ocean’s surface, sending waves bashing into one of the rig’s stilts. There is a sharp explosion and Seascape shudders. Hooper cries that one of the support columns has “slipped its shackles!” Fire continues to wreak havoc in the ocean and a flaming crack opens up wider in the ocean floor. So, amidst all this panic, and with airlift rescue only two hours away, both Hooper and O’Shea opt to take a look at the damage from inside in a tiny diving sphere. Very bright. Really, you’d think they could all just hold on tight and wait until the World Navy arrives! Well, maybe it’s an insurance thing.
John reports on the rig’s perilous situation, telling Scott that it’s slipped its support column and that the fire is moving faster than anticipated. It’s “found an outlet close to the rig." Scott asks what they’re doing about it, and John tells him about Hooper and O’Shea going down in a “diving sphere.” Time for another face palm, I think.
Peering at the support column through the sphere’s tiny window, Hooper and O’Shea confirm that the damage is “serious” (no, really?) although O’Shea thinks that “maybe” they could fix it in their “scuba diving gear.” Surely, with all these flames boiling in the ocean right now, that would be an even worse idea? Before they can do anything even dumber, the rest of the broken Seascape support column falls right on top of them. The diving sphere hits the ocean floor with a heavy crash, landing amid murky rubble. Hope the inside of that thing was cushioned, or that’s really going to hurt. The two men are still alive, at least. O’Shea and Hooper pick themselves up, and surprisingly, they look relatively unharmed. Now Hooper realises that the rig has slipped again, trapping the sphere under its rubble, and their “only hope” is if the control centre registered their position.
On Tracy Island, John tells Scott that they have “a real emergency” now and fills him in on Hooper and O’Shea’s perilous situation. Brains realises that the “drilling rig is the next weakest point” and that the fire is definitely going to use Seascape’s “bore hole” as an “outlet.” Scott looks very relieved to say, without fear of reprimand, that, “IR is the only hope for those guys.” And he orders Alan back out to the danger zone, and for Thunderbirds Two and Four to get Hooper and O’Shea to the surface before the rig “blows.” He emphasises that they must “get moving…and fast!” Welcome back, Scott!
Thunderbirds One and Two blast off! Not a good day for IR’s budget, that’s for sure.
Now the World Navy fleet are launching their helijets. The fleet commanders – including the patronising one from before – think they’ll be able to rescue all the men on the surface of the rig, but wonder what will happen to the men in the diving sphere. They can do “absolutely nothing” to help, as the men are stuck beneath half-a-ton of metal and tangled up in cable wires. The Navy’s subs and divers “could never shift that” which only enforces that this is the perfect job for International Rescue. Perhaps Scott can get some testimonials to show Jeff when this justified rescue is over with!
Alan calls base from Thunderbird One, currently in flight, and tells them he will be relaying “on the spot information” to Thunderbird Two as soon as he touches down. Scott acknowledges with an “FAB” and then Al lands on the helijet pad on Seascape, which is now an even more perilous manoeuvre than before. As he carefully brings the Thunderbird down, an epic amount of fire spews from the ocean behind him. Very impressive, it looks lethal!
Still trapped in the sphere, O’Shea frets about their imminent doom, but Hooper reassures him that “they’ll soon have us out of here”.
Meanwhile, at the Bonga Bonga station, Parker’s blasting some fast-paced jazz from his radio whilst Jeff snoozes behind a pair of dark glasses. Lady P admonishes her manservant for the music’s volume, as Jeff is trying to rest, but it’s too late to turn it down. Another newsflash breaks into the music programme, and I can’t help thinking that these interruptions must happen a lot in their world. The newsflash informs listeners that “The drilling rig Seascape is near collapse as fires rage in the Atlantic Ocean and two rig crewmen are trapped at the base of Seascape.” Jeff is already on his feet at this “real emergency” and exclaiming that the “boys’ll need my help.” Naah, I reckon he’s just desperate to escape yet more snoozing and awkward small talk.
But it would appear that Scott actually has it all under control. He sends Tin-Tin off to get more coffee (what Engineering Degree does she have again?) and then he checks if Virgil’s reached the danger zone. He has, and he’s about to drop the pod again. Scott relays that Gordon needs to work very quickly because the fire “could hit that bore hole at any time.” Gulp. Virgil skillfully manoeuvres the massive bulk of Thunderbird Two between the fire jets, and deposits Thunderbird Four into the churning water.
Inside the diving sphere, O’Shea is still ready to give up entirely, moaning that they’ll never get out of there “with all that metal on top of us!” Hooper just tells him to “take it easy.”
Jeff is still trying to leave Bonga Bonga but Penelope wants to be sure that Jeff’s “really determined” to return to the Island. He is. Parker is standing in the hallway with all of Jeff’s bags again, so I’m pretty sure at least two people there want Jeff to leave already. Penelope insists that she’s coming along as well, and Jeff agrees but tells her to “please hurry.” Good luck with that, Jeff. Lady Penelope doesn’t exactly travel light!
In the Atlantic, the fire spouts burn menacingly around Thunderbird Two, and equally daring Navy helijets flit between the flames as they evacuate the rig’s crew. Alan is still on the rig as well and asks Kravitz, the third person we’ve actually seen on the rig, how many men are left to rescue. Apparently there’s another sixteen to go (does that include Kravitz?). Alan tells Scott that the process is “gonna take some time” and even though “Operation Lift Off” is “in full swing” it’s a problem “not knowing exactly how long we’ve got.” Scott just says they’ll have to work as fast as they can. The flames around Seascape are huge now.
Gordon calls Alan to tell him that pressure and damage have jammed the diving sphere’s hatch, and he’ll have to cut the “guide cables” attaching the sphere to the broken support column. Alan says he’ll relay it to base as Gordon moves Thunderbird Four’s nose close to the cable to start the laser cutting. As he does, Scott acknowledges the news, but Alan realises that the rig is “slipping some more” and his transmission to Scott fades out for a moment. After a frantic moment of Scott trying to reach him, Alan says he’s fine, but he’s worried about Thunderbird One sliding off. Scott checks how many men are left to evacuate. Just six to go. That suits Scott fine, and he tells Alan to “get the gear into Thunderbird One” and to “operate from the air.” If the Navy was already coordinating the airlift, then it seems likely that Alan was only on the rig as a show of solidarity.
Jeff is on his way and saying, “Come on, baby, faster, faster” to his plane, which is nicely mirrored by Gordon urging the laser cutter and muttering, “Come on, baby, faster, faster” as he works to free the cables. As the last cable is being cut, the rig tips over and Thunderbird One begins to slide. Virgil yells out a warning for Alan to “Get her up! Fast!” The ‘bird teeters on the very edge of the shattering rig, but Al just about manages to ignite the rockets and blast the craft clear. He calls base to tell them that he’s OK and that he “will remain on hover in danger zone.”
The rig is continuing to collapse and the diving sphere seems to take an age to free, but finally Gordon does it. Just as he tells Alan he’s going in to shift the rest of the debris, the whole rig starts to fragment! Looking more and more like an ill-constructed Meccano set, Seascape splinters. As Gordon works to clear the wreckage he radios to find out what’s going on, as the wreckage will “smash” his craft “to pieces.” Alan only now tells him that Seascape is breaking up. I can’t help thinking that was worth bringing that to Gordon’s attention before it started hitting the water. Al asks how long Gordon will take, and Gordon responds with an as long as it takes “to clear the mess away.” Oh boy.
It looks like he’s nearly there, though. Thunderbird Four has nudged away most of the heavy “junk” with its versatile nose attachment, and Gordon now hauls the sphere free “with the electromagnets.” Phew. The magnet’s loud clang alarms the two men in the sphere, and now Hooper worries that they’ll “bust this baby wide open” (that’s about the fourth use of ‘baby’ for a machine in this episode, by the way). O’Shea still thinks they’re screwed and that IR is too late, as above them the ocean continues to boil.
The rough seas cause Virgil to yell another warning to Alan, this time about “turbulence near the rig!” Al orders the Navy helijet to get the last man off there “fast!” and instructs Virgil to get clear as well. Virgil asks “what about Gordon?” and Al finally remembers to let Gordon know “The rig’s gonna blow! Move fast!” This is it, guys, get the hell out of there!
Thunderbird Four whirrs backwards with the diving sphere attached to her nose, and the music amps up the drama as fire and water surge over the splintering wreck of Seascape. Then, BOOM. The gas pocket in the bore hole finally ignites and the whole rig is both on fire and sinking. Thunderbird Four moves with nail-biting slowness as it pulls clear of the devastation. Uh oh.
Virgil urgently tries to reach Gordon, although the little sub is still moving, which is a good sign. Virgil demands to know “Are you OK?” and Gordon finally responds, “Just about. The sphere’s safely in tow.” He asks Virgil if he could “make ready with the grabs.” Virgil instantly chills out, telling Gordon to bring the sphere to the surface, and from there he’ll deliver it to the Navy carrier. Triumphant music exults as Thunderbird Four and the sphere emerge, locked together. Hooper cheers with relief, “They did it! International Rescue saved us!” and O’Shea muses that he “figured we were dead for sure.” Then Thunderbird Two’s grabs daintily pluck the diving sphere from the water, and a confident march plays as they pull away. Another mission successfully completed.
Thunderbird One appears behind Thunderbird Four in a nice use of scale, and Alan congratulates Gordon, although now he points out that Gordon has to wait for Virgil to return and collect him. Alan lets Scott know about the delay. Alan also tells Scott that “everyone’s fine” and that the few fires left in the ocean will “burn themselves out in time.”
Still behind the desk, Scott is smiling now and leans back. He instructs that with the emergency over, it’s time that “all Thunderbird craft return to base,” and Alan helpfully tells him that they should all be back around “1500 hours, your time.” A short transition turns the hands of the clock in the Tracy lounge until just before 3pm, Tracy Island time. That’s when Jeff Tracy arrives in his jet and flies above the villa. He requests permission to land, but Scott flatly refuses it, as Thunderbirds One and Two are due to arrive at “any time.” Jeff is bemused, “how do you like that?” It turns out that Penny likes it very much, and she points out that “Scott is controlling things correctly, just as his father does when he’s on duty.” Very diplomatically put. Jeff chuckles at that. Aww.
Back in the lounge, everyone has arrived back safely, and Penny’s bags are cluttering up one of the tables. There’s still no sign of Kyrano, worryingly. Jeff is standing beside his desk, and Scott is still sitting behind it. The rest of the team are gathered around watching as Jeff tells the “boys” that they all did “a swell job” and adds that he’s proud of them. Virgil thanks his dad for that and asks how his vacation went. Bear in mind that Jeff seems to have only been away about 22 hours. However, despite Penelope’s valiant efforts, Jeff figures that “the only way” he’ll ever get any rest is to come back and start work again. So, he gently reclaims his desk from Scott.
Scott is only too happy to give away the hot seat, and tells Jeff, “For my money you can have it” quipping that now he needs a vacation. There’s a tense pause as Jeff returns to his usual position, and then there’s a burst of weirdly forced laughter from everyone present. Otherwise, that was a nice moment in a pretty strong opening episode for Series Two.
The cosmetic changes in Series Two are a little jarring. Although the new sets look very lush, some of the grittier feel of the show seems to have been lost. However, compared to many episodes in Series One, “Atlantic Inferno” has a vastly more confident pacing of script and a noticeable shift in the focus of the story. There are still the mandatory big explosions, people in peril, and much last minute pulling of victims’ butts from those explosions. But now there’s also a much bigger focus on the dynamics of the Tracy family themselves – and a clear leaning towards Lady Penelope as a regular character, with a real relationship to the family, and not just their secret agent with the double life who conducts stately home tours and also blows up baddies. Here, Penelope is a little more layered and they seem to have done away with the ditzy persona that made her rather annoying in “The Perils of Penelope” and especially “The Impostors,” at least if you don’t count the sheep counting. Here she’s become a kind of mother figure, smoothing over arguments and anticipating tensions. It also makes her a bit of a control freak, but then so is Jeff. They’re a good match, but their relationship is never made overt during the series. Still, I wonder how much ‘relaxing’ actually happened at Bonga Bonga. Frankly, Parker must have felt like a bit of a third wheel.
So as an opening episode of a now very confident show, Atlantic Inferno deals with family issues, father, son and potential step-mother boundaries, and the pressure of living up to your father’s expectations. Despite all this rather entertaining angst, part of me is simply wishing they’d get back to sorting out disasters and fighting the Hood. But otherwise, this episode only has a few problems. Most noticeably, besides the differences mentioned earlier, the five Tracy boys all look a lot younger, particularly Virgil. Also, Virgil’s voice is no longer so deep and smoky; it’s much higher, more nasal somehow (a change sadly made necessary with the departure of his original voice actor, David Holliday, who was replaced by Jeremy Wilkin). And their hair is larger. So much larger.
Cosmetic changes aside, I never could quite buy that Scott would freak out when confronted with being ‘behind the desk’, even if taking on the leadership position of ‘Dad’ is a very different switch for him. Yes, Scott suddenly became responsible for the whole rescue, not just the part right in front of him, but his confidence in dealing with multiple rescue requests also seems to have vanished, at least to begin with. It’s worth noting that a lot of his edge has vanished in this episode, and the no-nonsense, curt-voiced mission leader is pretty much AWOL. The overall impression is of a much younger, more inexperienced set of Tracys on screen than we started out with. There won’t be a lot of time to get used to it, either.
Despite these gripes, Series Two has started with a good story framed around a fantastically strong image of the Atlantic Ocean on fire, and it’s still a great chance to see more of the Tracy family and to watch how they stick together. Besides, there’s only five episodes left now, so let’s enjoy the show while it lasts.
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GUEST COMMENTATOR: GillyLee
27: ATLANTIC INFERNO
A new series, a fresh start, the snags from earlier on at last ironed out, new jobs and new clothes.
For instance, there is a major career switch for the man we previously met and knew as the commander of Matthews Field (in “The Cham-Cham”): he is now
a World Navy Commander. This promotion, not to mention the change in branch of service, must have surprised him so much it totally changed his voice.
And although we still don’t know your name, we do congratulate you, sir.
And yes, those clothes. Over the series we cannot credit the Tracy males for much fashion sense. And although the suitability of said clothes for the
climate they live in is debatable, there remains the fact that they also seem to have very sparse wardrobes. Too sparse for the sons of a billionaire.
On the other hand, a tuxedo is brought along to almost every rescue mission and, it must be said, they know how to wear their tuxes.
For this new series the men have bought new clothes, even new pajamas and robes. See Brains in his yellow-with-gray night combination. Or on second
thoughts, do NOT see Brains in his yellow-with-gray night combination. Or on third thoughts, Brains in his yellow- with-gray night combination looks
significantly better than Scott in his black and white checkered shirt, worn with trousers with an extremely high waistband.
Although it doesn’t look as if they bought many different outfits, as whatever the men bought, they wear nothing else in this episode. Only Jeff
changes – from one horrible outfit via his night attire to another, not much better looking, suit. Possibly the work of Penny. She must have threatened
to have her 200,007, or maybe just 200,006, sheep stampede over him. Anyway, I believe this family wardrobe disaster is the reason we don’t see Grandma
and Kyrano in this episode. Grandma must have gone off to Kansas to visit better-dressed relatives, and Kyrano must have locked himself into his rooms
to meditate. A pity that this episode also depicts the usual characters so out of character.
Apart from all this, this episode has an absolutely fabulous scene with the Thunderbirds universe filmed in front of a scene from the human
universe, or should I say sheep universe?
But as always when I’m asked to, just this once, step in and comment on an episode, I digress. The episode begins, of course, with the wellknown
opening credits – which never bore us, no matter how many times we see them – and promise lots of explosions and…dozing people..?
I don’t know if it is my DVD, or that the writer, director and or producer of this episode decided to put in something educational – we see the first
explosion before we hear it. The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound? Is that what they want to tell us? And one does wonder, after seeing
Lady Penelope assisting in the blasting away of a mountain, if the simple digging of a tunnel wouldn’t be more environmentally less straining on
nature. Speaking of new jobs, a not so successful story is shown in these opening scenes: Sir Harry, the owner of a construction company and an
acquaintance of Lady Penelope, uses a road construction vehicle that was previously owned by the Gray & Houseman Construction Company (in “End of
the Road.”) For a moment we see Mr. Gray of the aforementioned company himself, now a mere blue collar worker and even, and this is worrying, using
another name. Is he in the witness protection program, running from environmental protection groups after what happened in that episode? And while
we’re on the subject, what did happen to Eddie Houseman, and was Tin-Tin right in preferring Alan over Eddie? Even if Alan has no fashion sense
whatsoever? Although he wears a tennis outfit for most of this episode, and you can’t go far wrong with sports clothes.
A pity the show was cancelled soon after this episode, for it could have gone on for decades just by answering all the questions it raised.
Penny has a sheep farm somewhere in Australia, and invites Jeff over for a couple of days of rest and relaxation. At first he refuses on the account
that he cannot leave his sons home alone – more proof that Grandma Tracy is not on the island!
Of course Jeff exhibits the typical behavior of a workaholic in dire need of some downtime. And as everyone knows, this type of human simply cannot
relax just because they are pushed into it. They will either have a fatal heart attack or return home and resume work at the earliest opportunity they
It isn’t very tactful of Virgil to answer Scott’s question about who will be in the hot seat now. On the other hand thanks to him it is clear to all
and everyone that Scott is the eldest son. That is, to all and everyone who saw this episode. Anyway, Jeff sorts out who is to do what in his absence
and we also learn that high waist-banded trousers constrict blood flow to the brain, because we would’ve expected Scott to say something more to Alan
about flying Thunderbird One than “Yes, you’re used to high speeds, Alan.”
In a last and probably subconscious bid to get out of this vacation, Jeff contacts John in the space station. Does he hope that John suddenly remembers
he’s received a rescue call an hour or so before? “Oh, hi, Dad. Hey, now that we’re talking to each other, there is this plane crash/archaeologists
losing their way and there’s water/fuel and pet food explosions going on. Just thought I’d mention it.” But everything is quiet, just the World Navy
exercising. Now why that’s so remarkable is not immediately clear. But hearing that traditional sea shanty ‘What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor’
when we get our first glimpse of the vessels tells us that some sort of disaster is about to happen. Had Jeff heard it too, he would’ve canceled his
vacation and the episode would immediately come to an end with the wellknown closing credits – which never bore us, no matter how many times we see
them. And then the episode would only be remarkable for showing from which parent Alan got his tendency to pout.
Instead, we watch how the World Navy is preparing for world domination… er, making the world a safer place…by lobbing nuclear gyropedoes all over the
Atlantic. Preferably in close proximity to oil rigs.
Meanwhile Jeff leaves the island and we’re left to wonder for what valor Scott was ever decorated for. Eating apple pie above and beyond the call of
duty? Combat fashion sense?
Seriously, whatever happened to the Scott who stood up to his father about using the oxyhydnite gas during the rescue of the Carter family (in “City of
Fire”)? “Either we chance the gas or we take off and return to base!” Where is the calm and collected Scott who makes split second decisions to avert
potential problems during a rescue? Is this how a USAF officer behaves when in command? A man who knows how to milk a cow (in “Operation Crash Dive”)?
How can the Scott we love and admire be so out of character here? The only explanations I can think of are that either Scott or the episode’s writer
have been taken over by the Hood or that the person in charge of checking the screenplay was distracted by the making of the first Thunderbirds
motion picture, which was happening at the same time.
So, while Jeff’s still en route to Australia, the World Navy advises the senior personnel of the oil rig Seascape of the upcoming
explosions. They’re nuclear, but underwater, so completely safe. In other words… you civilian guys will see, hear and/or feel the explosions, so we
have to tell you, but we don’t like it. Of course the rig’s senior manager doesn’t like it either, as we can well understand from a man who sits on top
of an oil or gas field.
Does it come as a surprise that something goes wrong? If it does, you haven’t watched much of this series, have you? And while Frank Hooper and Dick
O’Shea take measures to protect the rig and notice a gale is approaching them, a ‘lulu’ of a gale no less, John and Scott discuss the events and Jeff
arrives at Lady Penelope’s sheep station, Bonga Bonga.
It seems that Penny has learned from her experiences in rural areas, as she is now sensibly clad for the outdoors. That she still has no clue about
running a farm becomes clear from the fact that she thinks that A) it’s rare for a sheep to get lost in Australia’s Outback, and B) her sheepcounting
device has a counter that only goes as high as five digits, while the numbers of sheep she is counting run into six digits.
We come now to the part of the episode where time goes haywire. When we see Bonga Bonga, the sky looks as if the sun is about to set. When we’re
indoors and look outside, the sun is still brightly shining. Penny says it’s night time on Tracy Island, somewhere in the South Pacific, and indeed
Scott has sent his brothers to bed, but it’s also nighttime in the Atlantic.
So, it’s the night before disaster, when all through the world not a creature was stirring… except Jeff, as we later learn. And then the seabed starts
to explode, waking the whole world, apart from Jeff. As we later learn. John makes us wonder about International Rescue’s response time, as he
apparently has struggled into a robe first before contacting the island. Incidentally, Scott’s nervousness must have rubbed off on John. No one has
called for help yet, so there is no need to wake Scott. On the other hand, if Scott had slept with his head on the desk like that for much longer, he
would have needed intensive physiotherapy.
Maybe it’s an unusual procedure for International Rescue to monitor the events of a potential disaster and even ask for details, but if that means they
can launch the ’Birds earlier and take the proper (and great) equipment, time is won.
At Bonga Bonga, Penny has slipped into something more idiotic, er, comfortable. A pink and red number in harlequin-like (look closely and you can
almost see the wires!) offset squares that makes her look like she lost her way from a performance of Cirque du Soleil. Another time paradox: it’s
still late, but not yet bedtime in Australia, where Jeff is sure Scott will not take action. But Scott does, to prevent disaster – and let’s not forget
Jeff has done the same in the past. So Alan launches Thunderbird One during yet another time paradox, as it is suddenly full daylight on the
island. He also must have broken some speed records as he arrives at Seascape while Virgil has yet to launch his Bird. And during an early
Australian morning, Jeff confesses that he sat up all night worrying about the explosions he is sure Scott will do nothing about. And finally he goes
Back in the Atlantic, we have to hope that Gordon listens in on the transmissions between Thunderbird Two and base, so he can anticipate the pod
dropping. Once in the water in Thunderbird Four, he subdues the fire jet with a nifty capping device, and all’s well that ends well… or is it?
While the rig crew notices seaquakes, this maybe a good time for us to wonder about that ‘lulu’ of an approaching storm they were talking about
earlier. Where’s that storm? Hello? I’m not missing a sheep here, but a complete storm! So you see how even professional writers need beta readers. Oh
well, on with the story.
Back on the island, the Tracy brothers are debriefing and everyone is complimenting Scott on a job well done. But Jeff thinks otherwise, and calls the
base to dress down his eldest (oh, that horrible outfit!) and says he’s coming home. Penny talks him out of that and a totally subdued Scott is left
still in charge. Again, where is that former air force officer and International Rescue’s field commander? What are they putting in his food???
Then there’s a new explosion in the Atlantic. Brains predicts there will be more, and the Seascape could be destroyed in the process. He also
outlines an elaborate plan to prevent it, but Scott opts for the alternative to keep his father happy: doing nothing, as the normal rescue measures are
While the Navy rushes to reach the rig and evacuate the crew, the waves from the explosions batter the structure and one of the support columns is
damaged. Hooper and O’Shea go down in a diving bell to assess the damage. Not the wisest thing to do if you ask me, although of course they didn’t, and
it doesn’t take long for yet another explosion to damage another column and the men are trapped at the bottom of the sea beneath a collapsing rig,
surrounded by fire jets and explosions. “It will be a disaster,” as someone will repeatedly say in the near future.
It is a job for International Rescue now. And Thunderbirds One and Two are launched so hastily that no one has time to start the
musical score that usually goes with those launches.
Meanwhile, at Bonga Bonga, Parker is allowed to sit and listen to his radio within hearing range of Penny and Jeff. So they all hear the news and Jeff
rushes home because it’s a real emergency now and the boys need his help. Help with what? Unless Jeff makes better coffee than Tin-Tin, I don’t see
what he can do.
As usual the guys pull off the rescue at the last possible moment. Or is it because the rig refrained from collapsing until the last crew member is
rescued and the diving bell has resurfaced?
The episode does have a happy ending, for whatever it was that ailed Scott, he has been able to shake it off. Listen to the self-assured voice in which
he refuses his father permission to land as the Thunderbirds are about to arrive home. Take that, Jeff! FAB!
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