EPISODE 31: RICHOCHET
The penultimate episode in the series is a trippy
combo of kitsch pop culture and hard as nails sci-fi.
Well, hard-ish. The intro sequence promises plenty
of explosions in outer space, and Brains appears to
be in the Millennium Falcon’s gunnery. As the episode
opens there’s tense music at the site of a space-rocket
bay, and the title card comes up ominously, then stings
us with the television western ‘Richochet’ sound
effect. Better get used to that noise, loyal viewers.
Inside the control room at the rocket site, everything
buzzes with beeping machines and flashing LEDs, so
you know it’s got to be an important endeavour. A
young man has his feet up, reading a magazine, when
a female scientist walks in. We know she’s a scientist
because her hair is up, she’s carrying a clipboard, and
she wears thick-rimmed glasses and a white lab coat.
She’s the stern but sexy Professor Marshall, and the
younger man, Power, gets ruffled as he didn’t expect
her arrival this early. Marshall says it’s all right and
that she’s there to “check on the fault.” There’s a bit
of a frisson of formal friendliness. Surely all very
professional. Powers tells her that the fault has been
cleared, as the computer programmed a three minute
reboot before continuing the countdown. Marshall is
pleased and notes it is now four hours to blast off.
She leaves him, “or rather…the computer” to it. What
are the chances that this “fault” has really cleared
properly? Place your bets now.
On Tracy Island, the atmosphere is relaxed and Jeff
is regaling a captive audience of Alan and Brains with
complaints about the new “automated countdowns”
(like the one in the previous scene) which are all “very
different” from his “day.” Brains calls it “progress”
but of course Jeff’s never liked automation, and he
also misses the “excitement” of the old rockets. He’s
about to launch into what promises to be a lengthy
anecdote from his astronaut days, when he’s drowned
out by “Dangerous Game” (the song from “The Cham-
Cham”). It’s hip-young-thing™ Miss Tin-Tin Kyrano,
and she’s blasting the lounge with happenin’ tunes
from her portable TV radio. Or, if you will, iPad
equivalent. Jeff growls at her to “turn it down.” It may
be time for headphones, Tin-Tin. She seems to have
regressed to ditzy teenager in this episode, and protests
that “It’s Michelle and the Asteroids, they’re great!”
Remember we’re in the space age, everyone. Jeff
grumbles that he doesn’t know about “great” but they’re
“certainly loud.” You’re so unhip, Daddy-Tracy-O.
Tin-Tin dials the noise down and sits beside Alan.
They both watch the TV DJ wittering on about the next
“session” and he introduces himself as the titular
“Rick O’Shea,” complete with the soon-to-be seriously
overused sound effect. Tin-Tin calls Rick “minty,” and
Alan grumpily snarks that he “can’t see anything in
him.” Alan tries to get Brains to back him up, but all
IR’s genius can say is that he finds music “of the
modern idiom” too “repetitive.” However, he concedes
that the rhythm has a “certain hypnotic effect.” Don’t
get your hopes up, there will be no evil Hood popping
up to cause mayhem in this episode. Tin-Tin retorts
that Alan is “just jealous” which makes him huff “Why
should I be jealous of that clown?”
They’re about to launch into a full blown squabble
until Jeff barks at them to “Wait a minute,” and he
gets into the real problem of the broadcast, which is
that it’s coming from a “pirate” television station. For
the record, they’re obviously referencing pirate radio
broadcasts by Radio Caroline which were going on in
the 1960s, and so really, this is extremely topical for
its time. This is also years before YouTube or whatever
eventually replaces YouTube. Basically back then, it
was Pirate Radio or nothing if you wanted to hear
decent pop tunes. It’s interesting to see how
Thunderbirds has reacted with a very grownup, albeit
rather finger-wagging, response to the phenomenon.
Tin-Tin, who really should know better, whines, “What
harm does it do?” so Jeff points out that the space
station is “dangerous,” as all of the world’s satellites
are currently in an internationally controlled orbit path,
but the pirate TV station isn’t registered and is
therefore “a menace” which could cause a “very
serious accident.” We can probably assume
Thunderbird Five is registered too, albeit under an
At Jeff’s doomey words, there’s a CRASH ZOOM out
away from KLA’s pirate skull’n’crossbones (geddit?)
logo on its exterior. The small, toothpaste-lid sized
satellite is rocketing through orbit in spaaaaaaace.
Rick O’Shea, the peppy DJ, is berating his luckless coworker,
Loman, for messing up the timing on his sound
effect jingle. Rick repeats, “Rick-pding!-O’Shea!”
Wouldn’t it be easier to just record it complete? Rick
accuses Loman of messing it up “twice” during the
last “session.” Loman sarcastically doubts anyone was
“foolish enough” to tune in. Is Tin-Tin their only
listener? Rick tells Loman it’s his turn to do breakfast
and Loman grudgingly slopes off to “make” it. Rick
ponders how he ever “got landed” with Loman, who
more than reciprocates the sentiment.
This show continues to use clashing personalities who
get stuck together in the worst possible closed off
environments, and Ricochet handles these interactions
effectively. It’s like a blueprint for the mismatched crew
of Alien’s Nostromo, if the crew were wacky
broadcasters instead of doomed outer space truckers.
Loman returns with the breakfast, which turns out to
be cereal. O’Shea whines “not Honey Crunch Crispies
again!” and Loman points out that KLA advertise them,
and that the company “gave us a year’s free supply.”
Wow, is that entire supply on the space station right
now? Where on earth (or rather, in space) do they keep
Back on Earth, the riveting automated launch is almost
ready to go. Young Mr Power is watching over it when
Professor Marshall returns. She tells him that his job
transfer to “area control” has come through, and at
first he’s a bit too pleased. He hastily covers this with
“I mean, I’ll be sorry to leave here,” but she
acknowledges that the “automated launches can be
very boring.” No kidding, Prof. A robotic voice counts
down the moment of truth. One minute left to blast
off! During the last few seconds, Marshall coolly
wishes Power “the very best of luck for the future”
and then the rocket launches in a booming cloud of
black smoke. Everything seems fine and the Professor
dutifully notes that she and Power “must keep in
touch.” As the rocket separates, she decides that
everything seems “under control” and mentions she
will see him again before he goes. They are totally
going to hook up at his leaving party. Then, as she
leaves, an “emergency” beeper goes off and the
soundtrack gets all excited.
Professor Marshall returns in a flash and asks what’s
wrong. Apparently the “second stage” hasn’t
separated. Marshall thinks this is “bad” and orders a
switch to manual control so they can then activate
an “emergency cutoff.” Power flicks a clearly marked
switch, which doesn’t work. Marshall realises that the
rocket has gone “rogue” and no matter how much
Power switches it on and off the thing won’t stop.
Marshall orders him to contact “ISC” for clearance to
destroy it, as she can’t take the chance it’ll cause a
collision when they “abort” the rocket.
ISC are the very chaps Jeff Tracy was talking about a
moment ago, and it stands for International Space
Control. They’re based in a building that seems
familiar from more than one other episode in the
series. Once the guys in ISC learn about the rogue
they bring up a big map of orbiting satellites. Power
is calling from “Sentinel Base” and requests
“clearance to destroy.” Once they’ve done some
calculations they’ll let him know. While they wait for
this information, Professor Marshall consoles Power
that there’s “nothing” they can do until they get the
“data.” Power is just irritated at losing his first rocket
on his last day. She reassures him that “these things
happen” and they both agree that ISC is a great
system to have, as otherwise they’d risk destroying
another satellite. Oh, really? It seems possible that
other satellites are manned like Thunderbird Five.
After they emphasise how lucky it is that they’re all
registered, and that they can safely explode the rogue,
we all know there’s at least one satellite that’s almost
certain to be in range when that rocket goes boom.
KLA’s outer space station whirrs obliviously through
the cosmos, making weird clinky space sounds. Inside
the station, Rick is relaxing between broadcasts by
coming up with a new jingle. He asks Loman what
their orbital height is. Loman tells him exactly, but
Rick flippantly rounds it up to a slightly less accurate
128 miles, exclaiming, “what’s a mile or so?” Then
he smugly churns out his ditty “The station that’s
great at 128!” This pleases him very much, but earns
a sarcastic “fantastic” from the dour Loman. Now this
is a neat little bit of writing, providing both character
moments and some rather vital information. Because
right then, ISC radios Power and Marshall to give them
a time and coordinates for where they can ‘safely’
blow up the rocket. Of course, it’s “128 miles.” Gee,
that sounds familiar. Oh no!
As the scientists prepare to abort the rogue, Rick hums
his new jingle, looking insufferably smug. At Sentinel
base, Power and Professor Marshall tensely await
detonation time, and Power appears to be counting it
down off his wristwatch. With ten seconds to go, it’s
made very clear in a wide angle shot that the little
KLA station is in direct trajectory with the naughty
rocket. A second later, BOOM!
Even with the mile or so gap between vehicles, the
rocket explosion goes off right underneath KLA (so to
speak) and sends Rick O’Shea flying high. The
shockwave hits the station really hard. Back on earth,
a totally unaware Professor Marshall comforts Power
again, saying “Everyone becomes involved in a bad
launch,” and she tells him not to blame himself. With
irony thick in the air, she consoles that at least “no
lives” had been “endangered.” In space, the camera
ZOOMS OUT again to reveal KLA’s battered Pirate logo
and the damage done to its exterior following the
Within the glorified tin can, the KLA team are slowly
recovering. Loman sits up from his desk and calls over
to Rick, who scrapes himself off the floor. The scene
flips over to reveal a bit of time has passed, as Loman
makes a damage assessment. Rick asks if they were
hit by a “meteorite” but Loman figures it was some
kind of “explosion” and that he’ll have to check the
damage. Rick is aghast at the mess in their work
space, but Loman’s more worried by potential “external
damage.” Rick doesn’t seem to get the gravity of the
situation and wants only to be back on air in thirty
minutes. Loman can’t believe he wants to carry on
like nothing happened, but Rick insists that if they’re
still in one piece then “the show goes on.” Hmm, might
be difficult to broadcast when you’re sucking vacuum,
O’Shea. Loman points out that they could have “been
killed.” Rick isn’t fazed, and cheerfully says “but we
weren’t,” and decides that they will go on as
scheduled. After all, if there’s any trouble they could
just call International Rescue, right?
It seems not. Thunderbird Three is pulling out of TB5’s
docking bay, while back on Tracy Island Jeff attempts
to radio John, getting anxious at the lack of reply.
Instead he radios Thunderbird Three where, jarringly,
we see Virgil piloting with Brains alongside him. The
world just turned upside down. We literally never see
Virgil here. Also, Brains appears to be wearing Alan’s
white sash. Weird. What on earth is Scott doing? Virgil
reports that they successfully transferred a
replacement module (which is a nice, non-descriptive
bit of tech speak) but informs his dad that it will take
another three hours to get it installed so that
Thunderbird Five can pick up radio calls again. Jeff
gets an alarmed CRASH ZOOM at this news. He
doesn’t like it. Virgil adds that Gordon has stayed on
board Five to help out John, as it’s a helluva job. Brains
supports this, telling a hacked-off Jeff that although
“it’s a routine change of component,” it’ll take time.
So possibly this is not your usual Windows update.
Jeff loathes the idea of Five being “non-operational”
for so long, and Virgil responds that “we all do,” but
emphasises that the job will be completed “as fast
as possible.” Did no one run through this with Jeff
before they took off? Virgil’s meant to be the favourite,
according to some sources, so perhaps they all
figured it was better news coming from him. Jeff finally
accepts the situation, and just hopes that
International Rescue’s assistance is “not required”
in the next three hours. Uh oh, calling Major Jinx…
Back on KLA, Rick’s determined to go ahead with the
broadcast even as Loman protests that he needs some
time to “assess the damage” outside their tin can
space station. Rick scoffs that he worries “too much”
and insists that they go on the air in two minutes. He
snarks at Loman to concentrate, but Loman’s
understandably preoccupied with the possible
damage to their craft, and fluffs the “Rick-pding!-
O’Shea” section, then fails to play “Little Luthor and
‘Shram Shram’” quick enough after Rick announces
it. As the jaunty tune finally gets going, O’Shea gives
him a rollicking. Loman protests that he has “more
important things” to worry about. As Rick starts to
rant, Loman points out that the “tape’s ending.” No
DJ wants to risk dead air, so that gets O’Shea off his
In Tracy Island’s kitchen, Grandma cooks at the hob
while Tin-Tin inelegantly jazzes out to the music
O’Shea was just playing. Grandma asks her to set the
table, and as she responds, “Sure, Mrs Tracy,” Alan
leans against the wall in the doorway with his arms
folded, watching her and pouting. He’s wearing a very
natty pink shirt and tie with that high collar look. He
snarks, “Heck!” and accuses her of always watching
“that guy.” Apparently Rick O’Shea gives Alan “a pain”
and surely Loman would empathise. Tin-Tin chides
Alan for being “silly,” which gets him all defensive.
He flips back, “You’re the one who’s silly…silly gone
on that Rick O’Shea.” In what scenario does he think
she’s going to hook up with O’Shea? At a pirate radio
awards ceremony? Hmmm, I wonder if Cass Carnaby
could get him a gig at Paradise Peaks? Grandma
intervenes in the squabble, sternly reminding them
that Brains and Virgil will be landing soon, and they
shouldn’t find the pair “quarrelling.” This is the point
where we wonder why Alan isn’t piloting Three.
Perhaps that’s why he’s at a loose end, stuck on the
Island and bothering Tin-Tin about her taste in DJs…
Back in the beleaguered KLA satellite, Rick’s pushing
on with his “Sensational Sixties” countdown when
there’s an ominous rumble through the space station.
Loman immediately cuts the transmission despite
Rick’s objections – Rick still doesn’t seem to twig to
how lethal any fault in their tin can could be. Loman
tells him, “We’re in serious trouble,” and this finally
shuts Rick up, especially when Loman says they’ve
“moved in orbit.” That can’t be good. The engineer
reckons that the explosion slowed their acceleration,
which even Rick understands as a bad thing. This
means that their orbit is now decaying and they’re
descending to Earth. At first this doesn’t bother Rick,
who points out that they’re “built for re-entry” and
“had to come down some time anyway.” How long
were those two scheduled to be stuck up there
together? Long enough to eat all their supplies of
Honey Crunch Crispies? The mind recoils. Anyway,
Loman has found a flaw in their re-entry procedure.
The explosion has knocked out the parachutes that
would slow them down, and without those they’re
headed for “annihilation” as they’ll burn up! There’s
a dramatic fade to black.
We’re still following the situation on KLA. Loman
figures he needs to go outside, which he knows he
“should have done in the first place.” Rick protests
mightily but Loman insists. O’Shea says he wouldn’t
go out there “for a sack full of diamonds” but there’s
only two of them, so out Loman goes. Once suited
up, he goes out the airlock and spooky music plays.
While Loman works outside, Rick plays with the
‘Ricochet’ sound effect and practices his jingle. He
triumphantly concludes, “a kid could do it.”
Meanwhile, Loman works on the exterior right by the
Skull and Crossbones logo. He tells Rick “it’s not good”
and will come back inside to get a “laser” although
he still isn’t sure if he can fix it. He re-enters the
airlock, but now the inner door won’t unlock! Loman
sounds the most impassioned he ever gets, pleading
to Rick “you’ve got to get me out of here!” Yes, he’s
now got to rely on “Rick-pding!-O’Shea” for help.
That’s a scarier thought than having to deal with the
On Tracy Island, Tin-Tin is puzzled by KLA’s silence
and thinks it “must be the set.” Is that her room, with
the sleek orange bedsheets? She elects to take the
device to Brains for him to fix. Two things on this –
isn’t she an engineer? And can’t she check any other
TV station on it before assuming it’s out of order?
One more flip screen later, Brains has opened up the
little TV and tells her it’s in “perfect order.” He
concludes that it “must be the station.” Of course,
we already know that.
On KLA, Rick is on the floor poking at some circuits
near the door. Loman asks if O’Shea has the “circuit
diagram,” although for all the difference it makes to
Rick it “might as well be in Chinese.” It probably is!
Loman doesn’t want to “be dramatic” (the guy really,
really doesn’t) but his air supply “isn’t going to last
forever.” Gulp. Rick frantically reassures him,
promising Loman he’s going to “get him outta there”
even if he has no idea how yet. He tells Loman to
“hang on.” A resigned-sounding Loman tells him to
“hurry.” Then Rick asks him how to switch on the
transmission, which shocks Loman at first, but O’Shea
has decided to save him by doing what he does best
– by broadcasting the heck out of the situation. Once
the power’s back on, Rick tells Loman to “hang on”
again and sits in his announcers chair, sending out
news of KLA’s dire situation to their entire audience,
whoever they might be.
Unfortunately, Thunderbird Five is still undergoing its
refit, and can’t receive KLA’s call – playing right into
Jeff’s fear of them being offline when someone is in
need of rescue. Something else weird is going on
here…working so hard on Five has apparently made
John forget how to use his own voice! Perhaps they
were hoping that if no one heard from John all season,
we’d all forget how he sounded? Instead, in Gordon’s
voice, he comments that Thunderbird Five will be
offline for another two hours and “in the meantime,
IR is non-operational!” In fairness, Gordon could be
practising an annoying ventriloquism act. But it’s a
stretch. And it’s kind of creepy…
Still trapped on the doomed KLA, Rick keeps up his
mayday broadcast, adding that the “engineer” is
trapped in the airlock and they “can’t hold out much
longer.” He begs for anyone who can help them to
“please make contact.” In the airlock, Loman’s looking
bad by now. He doesn’t respond when Rick asks if
he’s all right, so the dwindling oxygen must already
be affecting him.
On Tracy Island, Tin-Tin thinks she “heard the TV”
and Alan bitches that “You said it needed fixing.”
Probably plotting taking a hammer to it. They’re both
carrying towels here, so we can assume that they’re
off to swim or do something else energetic. Perhaps
to annoy Alan deliberately, Tin-Tin still wants to go
and “take a quick look,” but there’s nothing on the TV
screen and she figures it must have been her
“imagination.” As she leaves the room, things seem
very bleak for the KLA crew. Rick O’Shea keeps trying
to radio viewers for help, and makes a full on
“emergency call” as the camera pans across Tin-Tin’s
empty bedroom. She left the TV powered on…and in a
stroke of luck, she was still close enough to hear
O’Shea’s desperate transmission! She calls for Alan
and thinks she has “an assignment for International
Rescue!” At last.
One flippy-over screen later, and Alan, Scott and Virgil
are lined up on the sofa. Tin-Tin perches on Jeff’s
desk as Brains connects Papa Tracy to Rick O’Shea
on a radio signal, announcing him as Mr Tracy. Wow,
great secrecy there. Hopefully KLA’s not broadcasting
the conversation… As soon as Jeff speaks, O’Shea
starts babbling at high speed about their desperate
situation. Jeff rumbles “take it easy” and instructs the
DJ to describe what happened “clearly and slowly.”
As Rick explains, Jeff asks how badly damaged they
are, but Rick can only relay what Loman told him, that
they were “knocked out of orbit.” Jeff tells him to stay
tuned to the current frequency and then orders Virgil
to launch Thunderbird Two. Virgil. Thunderbird Two.
Phew, normality is restored. He sends Brains with
Virgil, and then Alan and Scott set off in Thunderbird
Three. Alan. Scott. Thunderbird Three. Phew, more
normality restored. Alan pouts at having to rescue
O’Shea, and Jeff sternly reminds him that they have a
job to do. Alan immediately quits his whining and
apologises. Scott stays disappointingly mute during
this whole exchange. He’s got that basket-weaving
class overmedicated look again, that he displays quite
a bit during the second season.
As KLA slides downward towards earth, Thunderbird
Two rolls out from under the cliff house. Meanwhile,
Loman is lying down in the airlock, looking like he
doesn’t have much longer to breathe. As Thunderbird
Three blasts towards the pirate TV station, Virgil says,
“We’re right behind them”— but why is Thunderbird
Two needed on a space rescue?
Rick updates Loman that International Rescue are
coming. He also hopes that they hurry. Right then,
Alan radios KLA while Scott sits gnome-like in the
background. O’Shea asks how soon they’ll be there.
Soon, apparently, they’re just three minutes away.
Scott finally gets a line, pointing “That must be it!”
as KLA shows up on their screen. Alan notes that KLA’s
“losing altitude” and that they’ll “have to move fast”
before the station begins its re-entry. Now it’s Scott’s
chance to radio KLA. He tells Rick that they’re coming
alongside and to “open the outer airlock door” when
they’re “in position.” Rick is ready. Thunderbird Three
matches KLA’s speed and O’Shea opens the airlock
door without prompting, so let’s hope Three’s crew
actually are ready. Alan has suited up and Scott checks
if Loman is conscious. No such luck. Alan announces
that he’s “going across” and Scott responds with an
“FAB.” There’s a cool view of Alan’s miniature figure
leaving the huge hulk of Three and drifting across
space to KLA. The gravity in the space station must
be awesome because Loman still isn’t floating. Alan
tells Scott the engineer is in a “bad way” and that
he’s “bringing him back.” Scott says to “be careful.”
Alan holds on tight to Loman and drifts back across
space to Thunderbird Three, which kind of looks like
the underwater rescue sequences in Desperate
Intruder, or in any Stingray episode, ever. It’s an
impressively tense scene.
As Alan makes it back to Three’s airlock, gravity seems
to hit and Scott asks if Loman’s OK. Alan thinks he is,
“just about,” but now time is short. Scott points out
that they’re “losing altitude every second” and have
about four minutes before they hit earth’s atmosphere
– which will tear Alan apart if he’s still between the
craft. Gulp. Alan orders Scott to contact O’Shea and
instruct him to get into a space suit. Scott obediently
relays this, and O’Shea finally realises that he must
leave the space station, and he panics, “I won’t be
able to do it!” Alan drifts back across space towards
him, and Rick has suited up by the time he returns to
KLA. He tells Rick to “make sure” the suit is secure as
he’s about to start cutting through the faulty airlock
door. At this, O’Shea starts freaking out in a big way.
Alan snaps at him to “get a hold” but O’Shea thinks
he’d rather take his chances in the crashing satellite.
Rather scornfully (and probably hoping Tin-Tin is
listening), Alan tells Scott that O’Shea is “chickening
out.” Scott needlessly reminds Alan that “there’s very
little time” and emphasises that on re-entry the cross
winds will “rip you to pieces.” In that brief moment,
Scott really sounds like his old dynamic, commanding
self! Maybe the morning’s pills are wearing off… With
time running out, Alan orders O’Shea to close the
outer door, as he’s “coming in.” Rick looks
apprehensive as Alan’s torch burns around the stuck
door, and it seems to take far longer than the few
minutes they have. There’s a dramatic fade to black.
On Earth, the International Space Control guy tells Virgil
that the KLA satellite station is coming in on a “sub
orbital descent.” Virgil assures ISC that the “men on board were transferred,” but that turns out to not be the issue. The space station is now headed for a “direct hit” at an oil installation in the Middle East. Oh, crap. ISC points out the huge damage and fire that this crash would cause. At this, Virgil notes that this rescue “isn’t over yet.” What ’re the chances of it crashing somewhere so lethal in the entirety of a desert? OK, it’s not a city or anything, but, what are the odds?
As KLA descends to oblivion, Virgil brings Two closer towards it and asks Brains how they should “tackle” this one. This is oddly similar in setup to the previous episode, Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday, when Virgil is making decisions in the field and has Brains around as advisor. We can perhaps speculate this as a new angle they were introducing into the show, shortly before they were canned and had to come up with Captain Scarlet instead. If the show had continued, would we have wound up with Alan, Lady Penelope, Virgil and Brains as the leading characters? Would Scott have had a bizarre gardening accident and disappeared from view entirely?
Anyway, Brains has an answer for Virgil. He thinks they should destroy the “space vehicle” while it’s in “the air” and then it won’t do any damage while it’s over the desert. This “sounds good” to Virg, but he notes they need to do this before it reaches the refinery. Bits are dropping from KLA as she plummets, and Virgil instructs Brains to “get to the missile turret.”
At the same time, an evacuation has begun at the refinery. Just in case, obviously.
Once Brains is in position, and prepares to fire at the crashing satellite, the KLA jingle chimes cheerily over the radio in Two’s cabin. Virgil frowns hard and tells Brains to “Hold it!” and he concludes that “crazy idiot” O’Shea “must still be aboard.” Brains figures O’Shea must have “really flipped!” but now they have a real problem, and KLA is still dive-bombing towards the oil refinery. Think fast, guys.
Naturally, they’re still unable to check with base about Rick O’Shea, thanks to Five’s refit. They really love giving Virgil these tough decisions. He ponders, “O’Shea or the refinery?” and Brains points out it’s “one life against many,” but Virgil’s still finding it tough. Luckily, Alan’s not in charge of this decision. There’s a thoughtful pause, until Virgil decides that the “personnel at the refinery” must be chosen over O’Shea. He sends Brains back to the big guns, to continue with the original plan. It stalls when Brains can’t bring himself to shoot O’Shea “ in cold blood.” Virgil’s now frantic that there’s almost no time left, but Brains thinks they might at least be able to redirect the station’s trajectory, sparing his “conscience” a bit. O’Shea will still die, but at least Brains won’t have to be the one who pulls the trigger. Virgil is up for this alternative, and asks how to pull it off. It turns out that they’ll need to use Two “as a bumper car.” Which neatly transfers the responsibility for O’Shea’s fate back to Virgil. Smooth, Brains.
Tense, fast music plays as Two chases the runaway space station. Virgil’s focusing closely as bits of KLA threaten to clobber Two, and they narrowly avoid a large chunk before they make it alongside. Virgil rams KLA with Two’s wing -- but nothing happens. Brains suggests trying to get under and “flip it over” and Virgil attempts this with a wing, but this still doesn’t help and Virg thinks they’ll just “smash” themselves up. Nevertheless, he keeps on trying it until KLA is stuck on the wing and they then try to “level out.” Unfortunately, now they’re “locked together!” It’s incredibly close as Thunderbird Two and KLA barely skim across the top of the refinery and as they overshoot it, the space station finally slides off Two’s wing and explodes dramatically, just a few short metres from the danger zone. Brains feels totally dreadful for O’Shea and Virgil morosely tells him not to think about it. The saddened crew set course for home.
On Tracy Island, even sadder music plays as Jeff, Alan, Scott and Tin-Tin hang out in the lounge. Alan thinks an important “lesson’s been learned” and that no pirate space station will “want to go into orbit” after this. Jeff agrees that they certainly won’t “unless they get authority from ISC” (or perhaps if other more law- abiding channels start playing some decent music). At this point, Thunderbird Two lands and reverses into the cave hangar. While Virgil parks his ‘bird, Scott muses that, although O’Shea was “ irresponsible,” he also “kinda liked the guy.” There’s a chance that he’s saying this purely to get a rise out of Alan, although it must be said that Scott ’s also back to looking disturbingly tranquilised. Alan grumps that O’Shea was “all right” and Tin-Tin picks up on this admission, accusing him of still being “jealous.” “I’m not!” Alan protests, and does a bizarre little role-play, jangling a pen in a glass to mimic Rick’s jingle, and calling her the DJ’s “greatest fan, T in-ding-ding!- T in.” Very mature. T in-T in chides him, “Oh, Alan!” and the others all laugh.
Then Brains and Virgil arrive in a noticeably sombre mood. Jeff asks them what’s wrong. Brains responds that “It’s what you would have done, Mr Tracy” and Virgil adds sadly “but O’Shea was killed.” Jeff is baffled, assuring them that they have it “all wrong” and that the DJ is as “alive and well as I am.” This mightily confuses Virgil and Brains, as they “heard his voice.” Alan quickly figures out what must have happened.
There’s an unusual use of flashback here as Alan recounts the last few minutes of the KLA rescue scene. Alan cuts through the door, as we last saw him, while O’Shea freaks at going out into space. Finally Alan boots the door down and moves towards a O’Shea who warns desperately, “Don’t come near me!” and protests that he gets “vertigo climbin’ stairs!” Just how KLA got him to go into space in the first place is a mystery. Alan tells him to “take it easy” and to “put the helmet on!” Remember how short they are on time here? But O’Shea refuses to comply, backing up as Alan advances menacingly on him. The flashback cuts away there as Alan, in voiceover, surmises that “in his panic” O’Shea had accidentally started one of the tapes, which is what Virgil and Brains heard a few minutes later. A relieved Virgil mutters, “I’ll be darned,” and Brains is thrilled by the “wonderful surprise” that the DJ is OK.
Tin-Tin finds the perfect moment here to announce “another surprise” for all the family and she switches on her portable TV. There’s a bit of a wait while the gadget warms up, and Scott and Jeff watch it dutifully. As the screen comes on, it appears that Rick O’Shea is already back in front of a live camera, talking to an “old friend” about his “hair-raising escape” from the crashing KLA space station. Rick seems as chirpy as ever, despite sporting a very noticeable black eye…and he wants to thank the “personnel of International Rescue for all they did.” Alan sits very still and expressionless with his arms folded. O’Shea adds that although his rescuers wouldn’t reveal their names (which is, surely, a first in the whole series) he sincerely hopes that they’re “looking in” and also thanks the “guy” who transferred him to “the rescue vehicle” and points to his black eye. O’Shea seems to be fine with it, but there’s one helluva questioning look being directed at Alan from every single person in the room. He’s very studiously ignoring them all.
O’Shea’s next act on screen is to play a record request for “Mr T and all the family, from Tee-Tee.” The cryptic names baffle him a little, but he goes ahead and plays it anyway. Then the infamous song that almost got picked as the show’s theme begins. “Flying High” is pretty cheesy – it ain’t no “Dangerous Game,” that’s for sure – and as it begins, Alan figures out that “Tee- Tee” is “Tin-Tin!” Well, duh! Jeff thanks her for the “nice thought” and diplomatically says nothing about the song itself. The rest of the family voice their appreciation, too, and Alan tries to slip away to “take a shower.” Not so fast, kiddo. Jeff pulls him up before he can escape, demanding some “clarification” on “exactly how” Alan made O’Shea leave the space station. Alan mumbles that he doesn’t want to “bore” them all. However, Jeff has correctly correlated the rescue events with O’Shea’s new “black eye,” which Virgil appreciates is “a beaut’!” Alan blusters that, “it was the only way” to make O’Shea “see reason.” At this, Scott exaggerates a long, slow, “Tut-Tut.” Virgil joins in the teasing with a sarcastic, “Sure, Alan, sure…” which only makes Alan protest harder that he “did it in the line of duty!” This doesn’t fool Tin-Tin for a second, chiding Alan for the second time. The family all laugh as Alan bristles, and chirpy words from “Flying High” finish up the episode, before thankfully being replaced by the proper, and far more Thunderous, theme tune.
This is almost the final episode of the series – we only have the “Christmas special” episode, “Give or Take a Million,” to come – and there are a lot of FAB and bad things about it. Compared to the opening episodes, the show has come a very long way, but not always in a good direction. The better episodes in Series Two had great pacing and characterisation, but at the same time they lacked some of the rawness, grit – and sweat – of what had come before. Smoother isn’t always better. Also, the command structure of the International Rescue team has noticeably changed by this point, with increasing emphasis on Alan, and to some extent Virgil too, and all joking about tranquilisers aside, it’s interesting to speculate how much more Scott’s role would have been pushed into the background if it had all continued.
That aside, Ricochet was a very welcome return to dangerous outer space rescues. Characterisation was strong as well, especially with O’Shea and his morose side kick, Loman – and the awkward relationship between the scientists at the Sentinel rocket base was also an interesting addition to the action. There’s plenty to enjoy and it’s a very respectable almost- end to International Rescue’s televised adventures.
to Episode Index
We start our episode with a long slow pan across an empty tarmac just before the launching of TELSAT4. Inside the administration building, handsome Mr
Power sits forlornly at his automated launch station waiting out the last four hours of the launch, while several thousand miles away, another handsome
man with a bit more power is also keeping his eye on the proceedings. We find Jeff Tracy perched rakishly on his desk, loudly bemoaning the fact that
automation has taken all the fun out of life. He’s about to launch into one if his famous reminiscences about the early days of space travel when he’s
interrupted by Miss Tin-Tin Kyrano and her portable television set, which is currently blaring ‘Michel and the Asteroids’ direct from pirate television
satellite KLA. Tin-Tin is unashamedly besotted by KLA’s ‘minty’ host, Rick O’Shea (cue the sound effects), much to Alan’s undisguised disgust. Turning
to Brains for support in the face of Tin-Tin’s overwhelming obsession, Alan receives a response so classically Aspergers it would put Sheldon Cooper of
the Big Bang Theory to shame.
Ignoring the bickering over Rick O’Shea’s handsomeness or lack thereof, Jeff continues his lecture, taking off on
a tangent and vilifying the irresponsible pilots of pirate satellites. It’s not long before his predictions are made reality, as back in Mr Power’s
office, the automated launch of TELSAT4 has gone horribly wrong. Advised by his supervisor to abort the mission, Mr Power contacts the International
Space Control (ISC) to alert them of the danger, and they provide him with the coordinates of a ‘safe’ (i.e., empty) place in space in which to blow
the rocket up.
As you can imagine, the ISC are unaware of the movements of pirate satellites, and the location they choose for the destruction of TELSAT4 happens to
be the same area that satellite KLA is passing through. The rocket blows up a few hundred metres from satellite KLA, ripping a hole in the side and
kicking it into a crash dive for Earth.
Inside the satellite, O’Shea and Lohmann (a media partnership that puts Ned and Joe to shame), pick themselves up from the floor and scratch their
heads in consternation. Despite the incident, O’Shea proposes to continue on as though nothing had happened. Lohmann, however, is disturbed enough to
cut transmission and go outside to survey the damage. He’s outside for a total of three minutes before he discovers the satellite is completely screwed
and attempts to re-enter via the airlock. Unfortunately though, the inner door is jammed, leaving Lohmann trapped in the airlock with a dwindling
supply of oxygen. Panicked and with a radio too damaged to call for help, O’Shea reactivates the television transmission beacon to send out a call for
Just as well, too, because even if his radio had been working, there was nobody out there to hear him. Thunderbird Five is out of action, Virgil
and Brains having dropped off a new module for John and Gordon to install.
Fortunately for O’Shea and Lohmann, Tin-Tin’s been hovering over the television and alerts the movers and shakers at International Rescue to their
plight. Jeff quickly despatches the team: Virgil and Brains in Thunderbird Two - their job will be to shoot down the satellite as it
re-enters the atmosphere; and Scott and Alan in Thunderbird Three to rescue the occupants of KLA.
As Thunderbird Three approaches KLA, Alan advises O’Shea to open the outer airlock door. He then spacewalks (untethered!) over to the satellite
and rescues the wilted Lohmann from the airlock, advising O’Shea to suit up before he returns. Unfortunately O’Shea turns out to be a total wuss and
panics. Consequently Alan returns to a quivering mess too paralysed with fear to help himself, and with both satellite KLA and Thunderbird Three
locked into a rapidly decaying orbit, Alan is forced to make a hard decision.
Quite how hard we will have to wait to find out, for meanwhile, Virgil and Brains have discovered that the incoming satellite is headed directly for
the largest oil refinery on the planet. Of course.
Assuming that O’Shea and Lohmann are out of the satellite. Virgil and Brains are preparing to shoot the incoming space junk out of the sky when
suddenly the satellite’s transmitters burst into life. Understanding this to mean that O’Shea is still aboard the station, they find they can’t bring
themselves to shoot him down in cold blood. Unable to contact Base for advice (Thunderbird Five is still off the air), they wrack their brains
for a solution, finally deciding to simply knock the satellite off course. It will still crash, and O’Shea will still be dead, but the refinery will be
saved along with their consciences.
Bringing Thunderbird Two into alignment with the satellite, Virgil attempts to knock it off course using one of TB2’s wings. After
several heart-stopping false starts accompanied by some stimulating bongo drums, Virgil finally hooks the wing under the satellite, only to discover
that the two craft are now jammed together and headed for certain dooooom!
Fortunately the satellite breaks free at the last minute, crashing to the ground as, job done, TB2 takes off for Base. Down-faced because they
were unable to save O’Shea, Virgil and Brains return home to find Alan and Scott laughing gaily in the lounge with Tin-Tin and Jeff. Soon discovering
that O’Shea had indeed been saved and that the broadcast they heard must have been automated, their attention is diverted by Tin-Tin’s portable TV and
O’Shea broadcasting his thanks to the world. It escapes no-one’s attention that O’Shea is sporting an enormous shiner, and everybody can guess how he
Remember that hard decision that Alan had to make earlier? Well, that’s how hard it was. As hard as a fist in the side of Rick O’Shea’s head.
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