May 28, 2005

thunderbirds are go

I've spent the last few weeks going through the entire catalog of Thunderbirds videos on Netflix. I used to watch these along with Doctor Who when I lived in England as a boy. It's amazing how this shows holds up after all these years. The basic premise is the Thunderbirds are a family who perform rescue missions. It's headed by a dad - Jeff Tracy and his 5 sons. The five sons each control one of the 5 thunderbird rescue vehicles. They are known as International Rescue. There's of course an arch-villain - The Hood. And my favorite ancillary characters - Lady Penelope - who drives a 6 wheel pink limousine and her butler - Parker. There's also the brains behind all the gadgets - aptly named Brains. It's really unlike any other show I've watched for a number of reasons.
  • It's all done with marionettes. Apparently they are about a foot tall in real life. Each scene is very staged so that you generally don't see the strings and the feet. It's very well done.
  • The attention to detail is incredible. When small vehicles start moving little puffs of exhaust come out the back. Control rooms are made with incredible detail (knobs and flashing lights). Inconsequential things are done like cars moving past roads in the background.
  • Nothing really happens in the show. There's a very basic emergency such as a bomb on a plane that International Rescue spends the 30 minutes of the show dealing with. However the actual rescue is usually 5 minutes long. 15 minutes is spent launching the rescue vehicles. Entering each spacecraft took forever. People would really be dead by the time they made it there. It involved a complex set of chutes that the pilots would go down linking up with other chutes at various spots. They would eventually make it to the vehicles and eventually take off. This actually is an asset because the main reason kids watched the show was to see the cool vehicles.
  • It's an English show but most of the characters are American. But the accents are clearly done by English people. They're done well but English people doing American accents always has a particular sound to it that's unmistakable.
  • The English characters are very English looking and the American characters are stereotypically American - perfectly coiffed pompadours and impossibly big sunglasses.
  • The vehicles are just amazing. Completely impractical but utterly satisfying for a 10 year old boy. The designs are very much in the vein of those old books you used to see about the future (a la Syd Mead).

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