5! 4! 3! 2! 1!
My memory of Thunderbirds is sketchy, but nonetheless fond: wonderful marionettes, ‘high-tech’ miniatures, oversized spectacles, Lady Penelope, bushy eyebrows, and a retractable swimming pool.
There were only two seasons of the Super-Marionation series in the mid 1960s, but it lived on in repeat form and a generation remembers it with nearly as much fervour as Britain’s other defining adventure, Doctor Who.
Now it has been revived (perhaps due to the success of Who), by ITV who have cleverly partnered with New Zealand’s Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong).
The result is Thunderbirds Are Go!, a half hour adventure for little -rather than big- kids. This ‘no-strings’ version combines CGI for the characters but retains live action miniatures for backdrops and key sets. That may deter purists hoping to see Virgil and his pals cavorting around like The D Generation.
But it has to be said the transition between the two styles is downright seamless. Sure, the International Rescue team may look a lot like The Sims, or possibly One Direction, but the heart of the show is faithful to the original.
Thunderbirds still blast off with great flourish and swirling music as the pool rolls back and super-duper rockets attempt to break the sound barrier.
In the opening episode Thunderbirds have to rescue a research team trapped below the ocean while undersea earthquakes place everybody in jeopardy. No mention of a tsunami threatening their base at Tracy Island, funny that…
There’s also a sub-plot around the mystery of the deceased father to the Tracy Brothers, Virgil, Scott, Alan, Gordon and John, while Lady Penelope -who is now a more sleek babe- is zipping around in her car with chauffer, Parker, and liaising via her make-up compact.
The year is also 2060, where holograms are standard stuff even for this team ahead of its time. Yet when it becomes obvious that the earthquakes are being triggered by a once-familiar villain (there’s even a map of the Ring of Fire north of Australia) it’s hard not to see the threat as international terrorism.
“This is 2060. That’s not the world we live in,” says one Tracy brother. Are you sure about that?
The American accents supplied by British actors including Rasmus Hardiker, David Menkin and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, sound too much like Brits feigning Yankees to my ear, but granted, kiddies won’t know the difference.
And that’s how this show should be taken. It is Thunderbirds for a new generation who can thrill at its sense of adventure and theatre.
This version nay be F.A.B. for kids but at least us grown-ups have YouTube.
Thunderbirds Are Go! airs 6:30pm Sunday on GO!