EPISODE 28: PATH OF DESTRUCTION
28: PATH OF DESTRUCTION
International Rescue take their time appearing in this slick Thunderbirds Series Two episode. ‘Path of Destruction’ combines a gargantuan runaway machine, some very dodgy ethnic cooking, and a literal cliff-hanging moment.
In the mountainous, heavily wooded backwaters of
South America, we’re shown a bunch of trucks labelled
‘Superon’ and another one marked ‘Crablogger Base
Control.’ Two men are waiting within the truck. The one
called Simms checks his watch and comments that
someone is late. His buddy, a gruff, professional man
named Jansen, responds that “McColl knows what he’s
doing.” But Simms doubts that Jansen is taking the
“operation” seriously enough. Jansen retorts that he’s
“just as keen to get started” as Simms is. This show
always excelled at bickering guest characters who have
to work together before almost meeting their doom.
Then a chap named Franklin, who was out of sight until
just now, tells them his programming work is completed,
and he reckons that this must be “the biggest thing
anyone has ever programmed for.”
They’ve been tracking whatever the “biggest thing” is
on a map of the area, and now the flashing LED is right
next to ‘base camp.’ Jansen radios Crablogger One and
welcomes its drivers to the base. Now we get to see
what all the fuss was about. Appropriately Godzillaesque
music plays as the big yellow behemoth of a
machine arrives, and from a model making perspective
it must have eaten about a hundred Airfix kits. Franklin
was right…this thing is BIG. “Path of Destruction” pops
up as the non-too-subtle title card. After all, big
machines have a very poor survival rating in the
International Rescue universe. As it nears, Jansen
warns the Crablogger crew not to get “too close” to
Base control. The driver, a man with a posh English
accent who turns out to be the McColl that Jansen
mentioned earlier, agrees. McColl then gleefully tells
his co-driver “They’ve probably never seen a machine
quite like this.”
As the monstrous Crablogger comes to a halt, McColl is
told he’s good to “park her” for the night. Jansen then
invites the crew to “freshen up” as they’re due to set
out to work bright and early the next morning. Jansen
quips that McColl should put on his “tuxedo” and that
he’ll show them “the sights” of the town. It’s a
celebratory night out for everyone but Simms, who opts to stay put and finish the “fix up” before they start work
the next day.
A melancholy Spanish guitar plays over the run-down
South American town of San Martino. One of those
futuristic desert jeeps is parked outside a darkened
tavern, and there’s some lovely, detailed set work to
enjoy. Two men, one wearing Alan’s yellow striped shirt
from ‘Move and You’re Dead,’ chat at a table outside,
while a fly curtain flaps in the breeze. Inside the
restaurant, a Mexican guitar player (complete with
sombrero) plays a low down version of the show’s theme
music. Jansen, Franklyn and McColl, plus McColl’s codriver,
Peterson, are seated around a table, laughing and
drinking. During the business banter, we learn that
McColl and Peterson had worked with the Crablogger’s
designer, Jim Lucas. Hard-driven entrepreneurs and their
lofty ambitions always make great stories for
International Rescue to deal with, but they also provide
a great grounding in ‘real life’ which it’s good to see
Jansen says how glad he is that they have the “experts”
with them on this job. Then the restaurant owner, a
cringing Latino stereotype named ‘Sanchez,’ welcomes
them profusely and chats away to Jansen, who’s clearly
a regular at the eatery. Sanchez is ecstatic that Jansen’s
brought some new clientele with him, although Jansen’s
tone suggests he’s more than a little repelled by the
shameless sucking up. Keen to order his dinner, McColl
asks if he can see the menu. Sanchez regrets that there
is no menu, but tells him he will prepare something “very
spey-shul” and Jansen vouches for that, assuring them
that Sanchez really does cook his beef in a “very special
way.” Luckily Sanchez takes this as a compliment.
Persuaded to try something new, McColl opts for the
“special” and wants it “hot and strong and plenty of it!”
Peterson and Franklyn make the same choice. However,
rather tellingly, Jansen only wants his “usual – thick, and
rare and juicy.” Sanchez recaps the fateful order of “three
spey-shuls…one steak.” Jansen confirms the order and
tells him to hurry up with it.
The more times they say “special” the more ominous it
sounds, and a rather uneasy Franklyn wonders just how
“special” it actually is, but Peterson tells him that they
should be living it up on their first ever trip to South
America, and that they should “try anything once.”
Viewers may recalls that’s exactly what Scott said in ‘Cry Wolf’ in the moments before the great ‘launch chute,
go-cart, chicken coop and garbage can crash’ incident.
To further emphasise you should only ever go for the steak, we’re shown the grotty interior of Sanchez’s
kitchen. If you squint you can spot some E. coli setting up
a small guest house in one of the filthy pots of crap that
litter the preparation surface. A vat of acid would be the
best prescription for cleaning up this mess. There’s even
a ‘rat’ (actually a live mouse, enormous in this scale!)
making itself at home on the table while the harassed
‘chef’ makes dinner for the Crablogger crew. A worn out
woman named Maria, she has great sad bags under her
eyes and a tragic disposition. She stirs a filthy pot of
bubbling mixture as Sanchez bustles in and orders her to
“‘urry." She wearily tells him that Mr Jansen and his new
guests will “‘ave to wait".
While they all wait, Jansen is scribbling an illustration of
the Crablogger’s methods onto the tablecloth. The main
concern for the giant machine is the ‘production unit,’
and Simms is in charge of the transporter fleet and ‘liquid
gas tanks’ (the Superon fuel) to receive the sixty-odd
barrels of “pulp” that the Crablogger produces every thirty
minutes, while the Superon tankers will link up with it
every three hours. McColl really can’t wait to get started.
Peterson just wishes that Jim Lucas was around to see
the Crablogger “show its muscles.” Jansen simply
wonders where the hell their food is.
Poor, overworked Maria seems to have boiled up a
‘special’ that resembles, at best, a big pile of steaming
cow-dung. At least half of it has ended up outside the
revoltingly encrusted saucepan. There’s no getting away
from the appearance of a big pile of effluent. But,
according to her, “it’s ready.” She thrusts it at her husband
for approval, “Smell good, yes?” and Sanchez scolds her
for talking too much. Yuck. When Sanchez turns up with
what only technically counts as, er, food, Jansen
cheerfully tells the crew that it’s their chance to get “all
the energy” they’ll need for tomorrow’s work. McColl
looks incredibly doubtful at the steaming pile of slop
which Sanchez plonks under his nose. It looks exactly
like a fresh cowpat. Just how hungry do you have to be to
tuck into that? Enjoy, guys.
The next morning, the Crablogger’s getting fuelled and
the control jeep pulls up alongside her. Jansen gives the
order to get “underway.” They’re still tracking the
behemoth’s location; currently she’s right beside Base
Camp. The operational route is marked out in a long,
straight diagonal across the map. Simms is there and
comments that he’s worried by how sick Franklin
currently is. Jansen says he’ll radio for a “doc” to “fly up
and take a look at him” after they get started.
McColl and Peterson board the Crablogger and, with all
the fetishization of automation that this show loves so
much, the two men are carried into the machine on a
series of lifts and chutes. Then the hatch in the roof of
their control cabin screws shut, like sealing a vault. With
two minutes to go, they slide up the radiation shields
over the front windows and switch to ‘Ocular Monitor’
The Crablogger soon lumbers forward into the
unsuspecting jungle. McColl and Peterson start to raze
the forest, and we see how the Crablogger gets its name.
It picks up trees with its ‘claws’ and feeds them into its
‘chest,’ where the wood is pulped and finds its way out
the back end. Jansen is very pleased and calls it a
“success,” while also wishing that “Lucas” was here to
see it. Think this Lucas chap will be important later, then?
As the Crablogger thunders on, some viewers may only
just have realised that International Rescue are nowhere
in sight yet. All that is about to change.
Regular viewers will also not be entirely surprised that
Jansen’s declaration of “success” is the cue for
everything about it to go – well it rhymes with ‘mittsup.’
It might only be because they had less of the ‘special’
than Franklin, but McColl and Peterson are now starting
to feel the ill-effects of their dinner the night before.
As McColl reports that the first load of wood pulp is ready
for collection, he then orders Jansen to “switch to
remote” and they’re both looking worse for wear. Their
heads are nodding, the food poisoning taking hold, and
I bet they’re really regretting choosing a pale blue
uniform colour about now…then Peterson collapses!
As the truck pulls up behind the Crablogger to collect
the neatly cut logs, McColl warns Jansen that his
colleague has “passed out” and that he doesn’t feel “too
good” himself. Jansen instructs McColl to take it off
remote and close down the reactor. McColl protests that
he can “handle her” but Jansen insists on halting the
operation for the day. However, it’s already too late,
and McColl collapses as well! There’s no stopping the
Crablogger now, and it’s already veering off the
designated course – so perhaps McColl fell onto the
steering lever. The unstoppable machine bulldozes its
way through the rest of the forest, its new course now
taking it directly towards the town of San Martino
(revenge for serving its crew the “spey-shul?”). The town
is also right beside a newly constructed dam.
Jansen realises that they just “can’t stop her!” as he
knows McColl couldn’t have switched off the reactor in
time and Simms points out the town that lies in her path
and there’s a CRASH ZOOM on the location on the map.
Jansen tells Simms that they must keep fuelling and
unloading the Crablogger or “she’ll blow” and wipe out
“everything in a fifty mile radius!” Simm works out that
the drivers must have had the “same bug as Franklin”
and he asks Jansen what they’re going to do. Jansen
knows that only one “outfit” can handle this. Simms
scoffs that there’s nothing anyone can do, but luckily
Jansen ignores him and radios for International Rescue.
On Thunderbird Five, John is checking that Jansen has at
least “warned the village” and Jansen tells him that they
have (but when?) and that one of their transporter
vehicles is helping with the evacuation. But he adds that
if the Crablogger does get to the village the ‘processing
plant’ will definitely jam up! Jansen adds that “anything
can happen” and John assures him that they’re on their
way. However, Jansen has a final bombshell to drop. He
thinks that, with luck, Crablogger will “bypass the village”
but that there’s no way it will miss the ‘San Martino
Dam!’ D’oh. Fade to black.
On Tracy Island, a faint breeze stirs the palms, and John
reports on the Crablogger’s desperate “position.” Jeff
immediately sends Scott out and orders Tin-Tin to fetch
Virgil and Brains “right away.” Scott boards Thunderbird
One, while Virgil and Brains stand in front of Jeff. Tin-
Tin has already filled them in on the situation, and Brains’
comment about “a crablogging machine” going out of
control suggests that there may be more than one
machine like this out there. Goodbye, rainforests. Jeff
wants advice on what to do. Brains recommends getting
hold of Jim Lucas who designed the Crablogger for
“Robotics International in England.” He thinks that Lucas
could answer all of Scott’s “danger zone queries.” The
problem is that it would take too long to go and meet
Lucas, and Virgil points out that it would blow their
identity to contact him directly. Not sure why, though,
can’t they just call him up with ‘sound only’ selected?
Scott’s all set to go and blasts off. Jeff is already calling
Creighton-Ward Manor, where Parker is closing the
drapes and Penelope thanks him for making it “so much
cosier.” He “quite agrees” and offers her some sherry
before he serves her dinner. Then her candlestick starts
beeping. Penelope thinks it “may have to be sandwiches
instead” and answers the candlestick with her flawlessly
manicured nails (real hands!), enquiring in a flirty voice
if this is “business or pleasure?” Jeff quips, “Put it this
way…it’s always a pleasure doing business with you.”
He tells her that they need her to track down Jim Lucas,
as they need him for the Crablogger shutdown. Oh, and
it’s a “matter of life and death”.
Jeff also figures that as it’s night time in the UK, Lucas
probably isn’t at the Robotics “plant” and that she’ll need
to find him at home. He emphasises that people’s lives
are in danger and that she “must contact him.” Penny
assures Jeff that she’ll “be in touch directly” and informs
Parker that it’ll be sandwiches after all, and to “get out
the Rolls Royce”.
Thunderbird One speeds towards South America, and
Scott calls base for any new developments. Jeff explains
about the task he’s set Penelope and that Virgil and
Brains will be “blasting off” any minute. Now we see
Brains arrive in Thunderbird Two’s cockpit, and he says
he hopes that Penelope “can find Jim Lucas.” Virgil
doesn’t respond, and simply opens the “hangar doors,”
and the big green machine rolls out onto the runway
without any fanfare at all, just the whine of her motors.
Then, Thunderbird Two takes off. Jeff and Tin-Tin are
watching from the lounge and Jeff just hopes that the
Crablogger can be stopped.
The runaway behemoth continues her relentless
rampage towards the town. Fortunately, the place now
looks utterly deserted, which is confirmed by Gutierrez,
a policeman. Jansen orders him to “clear out” as the
Crablogger “will be on top of you any moment!” No
kidding, Gutierrez hears it arrive, and the machine bursts
right through a wall on the outer edge of the town,
causing widespread destruction. Jansen yells at him to
get out of there, because if the processors jam up with
bricks “they’ll hear the bang a hundred miles away!”
Gutierrez says he’ll head over to the dam site to see
what he can do there. As he leaves, the Crablogger wreaks
further destruction upon San Martino. Inside the
behemoth, the drivers are still out cold, and it’s looking
like they’re very probably doomed.
Scott has reached the scene and radios Virgil for his ETA.
Two is eighteen minutes behind, and Scott figures that
just forty-five minutes after that the Crablogger will
have reached the dam! The scale here is a bit confusing,
but perhaps the Crablogger actually moves pretty
slowly? Thunderbird One lands and Jansen spots that he’s
arrived. Scott radios base to give them another
timescale, as now Virgil will be there in fifteen minutes,
and they’ll have just forty-two minutes to stop the
Crablogger before it reaches the dam – and they’ll have
to cut their way in before they can even try to switch off
the reactor. Scott is anxious to have that shut down
procedure from Lucas as soon as they’re inside, as “it’s
going to be that close.” Everything hangs on Lady P and
Parker’s success. There’s a dramatic flourish as Penelope
speeds though the UK night in FAB 1. Fade to black.
FAB 1 is now parked outside Robotics International, and
Penelope is chatting up the security guard in an attempt
to get information from him about Lucas. He refuses to
give her personnel details without “written permission,”
refusing to budge even when she says that it’s “terribly
important.” As she won’t tell him why, he won’t budge
an inch. This is not her most secret-spy-type moment.
Then she spots the drawer conveniently marked
‘Personnel File’ and after checking one more time that
the guard won’t tell her what she wants to know, she
claims that she “can’t wait any longer” and promptly
signals Parker. Her chauffeur is standing just outside and
points something alarmingly death-ray shaped at the
hapless guard. It appears to paralyse the poor sod, and
Penelope apologises to him before rifling through the
file and getting what she came for. She promises it’ll be
returned to him and she and Parker leg it back to FAB 1.
The guard promptly collapses onto the alarm! Dogs start
barking angrily as FAB 1 makes a swift getaway. Yes. Very
subtle. Slow clap.
As they drive, Penelope compliments Parker on his
“impeccable” aim. Gulp. She reads out the address for
Jim Lucas, and tells Parker to hurry as Scott and Virgil are
“relying on us.” While they speed towards Lucas, you
have to wonder how they got hold of a gizmo that
effectively ‘Hoods’ those you point it at. Or did Brains
invent it in case the Hood showed up again? We need
Back in South America, Thunderbird Two impresses
Jansen as she touches down, and the mobile crane pod
vehicle is released. Unusually, Scott is driving the big
truck, while Virgil and Brains are squeezed in behind
him. Scott checks how much longer they have – Jansen
tells him they’ve got just thirty-four minutes before the
Crablogger reaches the dam. Scott says Jansen will “be
hearing from us” and tells Virgil and Brains to “hold tight”
as he speeds after the Crablogger.
Although speed really is vital, Penelope and Parker get
a little distracted on their mission. They stop to aid the
victim of a nasty car crash – the vehicle is upside down.
Is this karma after causing so much roadside destruction
in other episodes? It feels as though this scene was
included to show a less homicidal side to the usually
unstoppable Lady P, although it’s obviously also there
to ramp up the tension. Penelope and Parker help the
guy who’s been thrown from the vehicle, and she radios
for an ambulance while Parker fetches a First Aid kit.
Talk about your moral quandaries.
Back at the Crablogger, Scott is in hot pursuit, whilst still
looking too ‘cute’ compared to his appearance in series
one. Then Virgil spots the Crablogger – “We’re nearly on
it!” – and Scott gets them to the right position. Once
they’re in the mobile crane’s carriage, Scott gets Virgil
and Brains up level with the Crablogger. Following their
directions, Scott holds them level with the massive
machine until Virgil and Brains (who’s being quite the
action man here) hop aboard the roof. Brains tells Scott
that Virgil is starting to use the “laser beam” on the
“hatchway” but that they’ll need Penelope’s information
on the reactor as soon as possible. Scott agrees, adding
that they’re getting rather too “close to the dam” for his
At the roadside in the UK, Penelope is chatting to the
ambulance on her pink phone, giving them instructions
on how to find the accident victim. The man has a
concussion and a broken leg, but they’ve made him
“comfortable,” and she says she really must head off
now on an “urgent appointment.” FAB 1 speeds away as
they hear the ambulance siren approach. Penelope
utters the deathless line, “Quickly, Parker, to Aylesham!”
and they leave the accident victim between two
emergency lights, although they don’t really look like
they’re switched on.
Back at the Crablogger, Virgil leans on one knee while
cutting away at the vault-like hatch. Very nice miniature
work here. Scott radios base camp for a time update.
There’s just thirteen minutes left before they reach the
dam! Jansen hates to think what will happen if the
Crablogger crashes before the reactor is shut down. But
I think we can probably imagine. Jansen adds that they’re
awaiting “confirmation of clearance” of the dam site.
In a shed at the foot of the dam, only one person hasn’t
left yet - a dedicated chap called Manuel, who is still
trying to get his “papers” together. Gutierrez watches as
Jansen radios for Manuel to leave, warning him that
when the Crablogger falls into the dam “as it’s gonna
do,” it’ll tear the dam apart and no village below it will
be “left standing” after the subsequent flood. So he’s
got a lot of faith in International Rescue! Jansen tells
Manuel to “beat it” and finally he agrees, lamenting that
the dam was only two weeks from completion.
Scott is still driving alongside the Crablogger, and Virgil
is still hard at work trying to laser his way into it. The two
men are still unconscious within the cabin, although
Virgil notes that they’re “nearly through” and he “sure
hopes” that Penelope and Parker can “come up with the
information” they need in time.
At Lucas’s house, Parker reports to Penelope that no
doors or windows are unlocked, so to Penelope’s dismay
it appears that they might actually have to break in. No
one’s thought to just ring up Lucas, then? Really? Or use
the doorbell? As men’s lives are at stake, Parker requests
the loan of an ‘airpin (sic) from ‘er ladyship. Yes, OK,
they have to protect their identity – but how does that
tie in to what they did to the poor security guard at the
Virgil is now inside the Crablogger cabin and checks over
McColl and Peterson, while Brains informs Scott that they
“don’t look too good” and the sooner they’re out of there
the better. Scott asks about shutting down the reactor,
but Brains sensibly doesn’t dare to touch a thing until he
knows the “closedown sequence,” so Scott tells Brains
and Virgil to get the two men out of there first, and then
they’ll worry about the reactor. The rest all relies on Lady
Penelope’s success, and Scott says, “Only she can save
the situation now.” Oh dear. The Crablogger rumbles on
towards the doomed dam. Fade to black.
At Jim Lucas’s house, Parker keeps watch outside the
window while Penelope sends a flashlight beam around
a bedroom. It briefly falls on an egg timer on a desk or
dressing table, but now Penelope has found Jim Lucas
and she’s right back on scary psycho form. Perhaps
forgetting that Lucas isn’t actually a secret agent (see
Bondson in ‘The Man from MI5’) she shoves a gun barrel
against his head and wakes him up. Really great PR for
International Rescue! A sleepy and very confused Jim
Lucas asks her who she is and what she wants. She replies
that who she is, is “not important,” and orders him to
keep quite still and “no harm will come to him.” What’s
she going to do? Shoot off his kneecaps? Lucas is still
half asleep and starts to protest until Penelope shushes
him, as they mustn’t “disturb” his wife. He and his wife
have separate beds, luckily for Penelope. She tells him
to relay the “close down sequence” for the Crablogger
he designed. He’s still very confused as she places a
recording device next to his head and, as he wishes he
knew “what this is all about” she urges him to hurry up,
that “men’s lives depend” on her getting this
information. There really has to be an easier way then
this, Penny. To his credit, Jim Lucas does seem to know
the sequence off by heart; or at least we hope so.
On Tracy Island, Tin-Tin supplies Jeff with the usual vat
of coffee while he wonders if his “boys” have got the
“fellas” from the Crablogger yet. John promptly radios
to confirm that that part of the rescue has been
successful and that the men have been shipped off to
hospital. Tin-Tin dextrously pours Jeff his coffee while
he notes that “now they’re waiting” on Penelope. It turns
out that John will pass on the instructions from Lucas
once Penelope has hold of it.
In England, Jim Lucas is still explaining the shutdown
sequence, but the most important part of his
technobabble is a final line about a three minute “time
lag” following the shutdown sequence, after which the
Crablogger, “should, um, stop.” With the instructions
completed, Penelope tosses the recording over to Parker
who runs off to upload it to John. Penelope wishes Lucas
farewell and adds that, “for reasons too complicated to
explain” she’s going to send him right back to sleep. She
slips a red-cased round into her gun and fires it in the
back of the hapless designer’s head. Fortunately, it just
seems to be some sort of very low impact knock-out
dart, and he nods off to sleep, still wishing that he knew
what “this was all about” and how he was “hoping” to
get to know her better as she had a “lovely voice.” Then
he zonks out.
Parker has been playing the recording over FAB 1’s radio
direct to John, who is forwarding it on to Brains and
Virgil. In the Crablogger, Virgil hears the “three minute
time lag” bit and immediately frowns. “We’ll never make
it in time!” he exclaims. They’re very close to the edge
of the San Martino dam now, and Scott must have taken
the sick men back to base camp, as he’s nowhere in sight.
Now the Crablogger demolishes the sign for the ‘San
Martino Dam Project’ and it really does seem about to
crash. Now that Brains has carried out all of Lucas’s
instructions, all he and Virgil can do is wait, so they pull
up the shutters and “take a look outside.” What about
the radiation? Is that definitely off now? Outside, Brains
spots that they’re headed towards “some kind of a
ledge.” Oops. The Crablogger grinds along the cusp of
the path, but the cliffside under the machine is already
crumbling beneath its enormous weight. Things still look
very dicey, and the Crablogger’s still stuffed full of highly
explosive Superon fuel!
Back at the Crablogger base camp, Scott’s concerned by
this very thing, and insists that they empty the
Crablogger’s tanks, because otherwise when it goes up
it will “bust the walls of the dam!” and tells Virgil and
Brains that he’s “coming in” to help drain it right now.
Jansen and Simms think he’ll never make it, and point
out that the Crablogger is right beside the dam, but Scott
insists, “We’re not just gonna sit back and do nothing!”
and hotfoots it over to the tanker trucks.
As Crablogger continues her relentless route, more rocks
hurtle from the crumbling ledge. A huge boulder
completely crushes the little hut which Manuel was so
loathe to evacuate earlier. Scott is on his way, and the
siren on the tanker sounds just like the ones the useless
emergency services use at their other rescue sites.
Jansen still believes that they “just haven’t a hope” and
Simms notes that there’s only “two minutes to go.” Wow,
how fast are those tankers, and how slow is the
Crablogger actually going?
Despite the very real threat of a crash and burn situation,
Brains and Virgil seem eerily calm. Scott is already nearly
with them, and he tells Virgil to get onto the roof of the
processing plant to “hook up the pipelines.” Jansen
helpfully informs them how to use the fuel release
valves, and Scott urges the tanker truck to “come on,
baby.” Jansen spots that the Crablogger signal on the
map is growing fainter as its reactor closes down. Are
they only following its radiation signal, then? What if
they lost her! Simms thinks they’re already far too close
to the ledge.
The Crablogger continues to roll on, and let’s just take a
moment to appreciate what a wonderfully detailed
piece of model kit this thing actually is, before it
inevitably implodes. Brains warns Virgil to “hold tight”
as they climb onto the outside rail just as the machine
finally comes to a standstill. However, Jansen does not
like “where she’s stopped,” which is right on the very
edge of the crumbling ledge over the dam! Scott pulls
up in the tanker as Virgil and Brains prepare to hook up
the pipelines. The tanker’s trailing pipes extend very
slowly, and then start to dangle in front of a full size
Virgil and Brains. Once he’s connected them, Virgil gives
Scott the OK to “start the pumps” and Scott gives him a
thumbs up in response. This is pretty hair-raising, as right
now it really seems like the Crablogger’s going to wipe
out all three IR members the moment that ledge gives
way. As the Crablogger slowly slides off the ledge, Scott
frantically counts down the tanker volume. He really
starts sweating when it reaches 200 gallons, and the
Crablogger tilts at a sharp angle! Virgil warns Brains to
be ready to jump, and as the 70 gallon mark is hit, Scott
counts down the last few gallons in quick succession.
Finally, Virgil shouts, “That’s it!” and as the Crablogger
slides all the way off, he yells, “Jump!”
Virgil and Brains seem to be wearing the jetpacks which
IR supplied to the two men trapped on top of the BT
Telecomm tower in ‘Edge of Impact.’ They both get clear
as the Crablogger finally tumbles to its doom. The big
yellow behemoth crashes spectacularly into the pit
beside the dam below, destroying the entire building
site, but thankfully leaving the dam itself undamaged.
From their safe vantage point, Brains calls it, “quite a
bang” and Scott comments that it “could’ve been a much
bigger one.” (That’s what he said…) and Virgil ponders
what Jim Lucas will say “when he hears about his
The next morning, in the UK, the rescue has made the
headlines -- and on Christmas Eve, apparently, if you
believe the dates in the paper, but that’s a whole other
debate we don’t have time for, here! Reading it over
breakfast, Jim Lucas is astounded by the news that
‘International Rescue Saves a Thousand Lives’ and as he
reads it, and apparently still half asleep, he gasps, “That
explains it!” His wife naturally wants to know “what” it
explains. Lucas dopily thinks out loud, musing that he
“thought it was a dream…that girl in the bedroom…she
really was here!” and his wife rounds on him, demanding
to know what the hell he means by that! Jim says “never
mind” and that it’s “back to the drawing board” so they
don’t have to call out International Rescue every time.
But that really isn’t a good enough answer.
After he sighs, “What an organisation,” the camera pans
back and the music rises over the increasingly irate voice
of Lucas’s wife. The poor woman really wants a decent
explanation for this “girl in the bedroom” malarkey.
Fortunately the scene breaks away to the credits before
their argument gets into full swing, although this might
well explain their separate bed issues. One theory could
be that Jim Lucas stayed home to work on his marriage,
and Lady Penelope’s little visit can’t have helped!
This was a strong gag to end this episode on, as so many
other ‘humourous final lines’ are pretty cringeworthy.
This episode is proof that by Season Two the show had
really perfected the iconic setup and destruction story.
‘Path of Destruction’ has it down to a fine art, introducing
a likeable, bickering crew in charge of an unstoppable
hunk of machinery that they – and the surrounding
countryside – inevitably need rescuing from. It gets into
trouble without the help of sabotage, too. Only human
error is involved this time, and the disaster erupts quite
organically, though the mighty Crablogger’s fate is
signposted in neon from the first moment we see it.
The episode’s main problem is that we only spend a very
short time with the Tracy family. The scenes on Tracy
Island usually provided useful expansion for the earlier
episodes. ‘Path of Destruction’ gives Penelope all the
extra screentime, and while the episode feels far more
evenly paced than many others, it also seems to have
reduced the Tracys to simple ‘fixers’ who arrive to do
their job and are never seen again. Perhaps the writers
were relying on our own familiarity with them to fill in
the blanks there, and no one is really out of character, at
least. However, Scott in particular still seems to be on
his bland ‘happy’ medication. It is nice to see a larger
role for Brains, though, despite the fact that putting IR’s
precious ‘brainbox’ in the path of such danger seems
like a mightily bad idea, really.
Despite these minor gripes, the tighter storytelling really
makes this a perfect rescue episode, and the build-up
and the action is tense and exciting. It looks gorgeous
and it’s great fun, and would perhaps be a useful episode
with which to introduce newbies to the rest of the series.
On this strength alone it deserves a high mark, especially
considering the weird and wonderful episodes left to go!
to Episode Index
28: PATH OF DESTRUCTION
What the second season of Thunderbirds lost with its haircuts and face changes, it more than made up for in interesting storylines. ‘Path of
Destruction’ is a great example of the sort of stories Thunderbirds did best: a cracking plot, an amusing side story, a tense rescue, and a tiny
town right in the path of… er… destruction.
Opening on a field of heavy equipment, we know this episode is going to be big on machinery, but what we don’t know is that it’s also going to be heavy
on the beans. In fact, it’s the beans that start the rescue ball rolling. But wait, stop, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Tracking back to the field of equipment, which is located somewhere in South America, we learn that Misters Janssen and Sims are awaiting the arrival
of the Crablogger 1.
is apparently the bastard hybrid son of the Sidewinder and the road building machine from End of the Road – a big yellow behemoth that
eats trees for breakfast and excretes them back out after lunch as compact little logs. It’s huge, lumbering, and has its own theme music. As I said,
it eats trees by the handful (it does, in fact, have hands), and then flattens whatever terrain it drives over.
Apparently Brazil has totally given up on the Amazon rainforest in 2026, for the Crablogger is given carte blanche to eat as many trees
as it likes for however long it likes – because, like many technological marvels in the Thunderbirds universe, this thing is designed never to stop.
Janssen can’t wait for the Crablogger to arrive – it seems he’s hankering for some new company, and has even booked a table at the local
restaurant, Sanchos. Janssen’s offsider, Sims, seemingly miffed that Janssen is so excited about the new boys in town, begs off the dinner, which would
have to be the single most intelligent decision in this whole entire episode.
The second most intelligent decision in this whole entire episode was Janssen ordering the steak. The Crablogger pilots, perhaps excited at
being in a new and exotic locale, opt to try the Sanchos special. Beans. But hey, not just any beans. These are ‘special’ beans – they’re black,
glumpy, smoky and seasoned with rat droppings. Ay-yay-yay!
Next day, bright and early, and Franklin (one of Janssen’ local boys, roped in to make up a foursome when Sims piked out of dinner), has already called
in sick. (Yes, he had the beans.) But the Crablogger pilots seem to have slower digestive tracts than poor Franklin, as the beans haven’t yet
managed to make it to their lower intestines. They clamber aboard, close the radiation shield of the Crablogger (Really? Locked in the cockpit?
With those beans?) and set off on Crablogger’s maiden journey.
Unfortunately it isn’t long before the effect of Ma Sanchos’ beans starts making itself felt, and Peterson slides sickly off his chair. McConnell
follows shortly after, and lies sweaty and unconscious on the cockpit floor. (At this point, you will excuse me for wondering out loud what is
happening in their underwear, given the volatile nature of the dinner they had eaten the night before. Not the most pleasant of topics, I agree, but I
Janssen, who ate the steak and is suffering no ill-effects, realises at this point that the Crablogger screwed. What I haven’t mentioned yet is
that the Crablogger is nuclear powered and is headed for the San Martino dam. Not only that, it also carries two enormous tankers of liquid fuel
on its trailer, and liquid fuel + atomic pile + water + food poisoning = help!
Janssen opts to call International Rescue, but it’s doubted that even they could save the situation now. To clearly state the situation, which I don’t
believe Jeff properly did before he agreed to send in his operatives, IR has to rescue the following, and all in the space of 47 minutes: the Crablogger, the pilots, the town and the dam!
John answers the call (he’s been trying on a new hairstyle in the privacy of Thunderbird Five), and soon Scott, Virgil and Brains are winging
their way to San Martino. But there’s one enormous problem standing between IR and success: with the pilots unconscious, nobody knows how to shut the Crablogger off. Brains suggests they call the designer, Jim Lucas (a peculiarly moustachioed man), and Jeff sends Penny to obtain the
information. However, owing to privacy issues, Penny has to first steal his address, and then hide her own identity from him. She does this by sneaking
into his bedroom in the middle of the night and sticking a gun in his ear. It works, and while Lucas is titillated by the thought of a strange woman
poking a pistol in his ear while his wife sleeps in the bed beside him (he openly admits to this later, the randy bugger), he pretty soon comes up with
the information. But, oh no, the Crablogger is nuclear powered, remember? That means that it takes TIME to shut down the reactor – time that
Brains, Scott and Virgil are quickly running out of.
Brains and Virgil have cut their way into the Crablogger while Scott keeps pace in his big red truck, but they’re now kind of trapped in there
until the reactor shuts down. The Crablogger, meanwhile, is determined to get to that dam and explode, and takes a very dangerous route to do
so. Not only are Virgil and Brains stuck inside a berserk machine, but it’s berserking along the edge of a crumbling cliff!
Scott comes up with the (not quite) brilliant idea of siphoning off the liquid fuel as the Crablogger skirts the edge of the cliff, in the hopes
that the explosion, when it finally comes (it seems they’ve given up on saving the day, then) isn’t quite as big. Virgil and Brains assist by
connecting the fuel hoses to Scott’s fuelsiphoning vehicle (remember that field of heavy machinery at the start?) as he careens along madly behind.
It’s hit or miss, literally, and Virgil and Brains only just manage to leap free of the Crablogger before it topples over the edge of the cliff.
And the explosion, when it comes, isn’t very big at all. Good thinking, Scott!
All in all, Path of Destruction is a very satisfying drama. It both amuses and astounds, and provides more than enough sweaty, grimy puppet men
to keep us, er, interested. And despite the new haircuts, the new faces, the new wardrobes, and, in one particularly disappointing instance, new voice,
I still consider this to be one of the best episodes yet. But that’s probably because I like beans.
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