Thunderbirds Are Go: Ring Of Fire, a first review by: GF Willmetts

April 4, 2015 | By | 2 Replies More

In many respects, any company doing a remake of the 1966 series of ‘Thunderbirds’ is on a hiding for nothing. I don’t mean just from us older fans but the younger ones, too, if they have seen it as well.

Some things do make sense. Others less so. I mean, International Rescue is there for rescues when other means can’t be done in time or lack the necessary equipment with an emphasis on rescuing people. Yet, in the opening ten minutes, Alan Tracy in Thunderbird Three is saving a satellite seems a little trivial thing to do. Is the rest of the human race already that dependent on a secret organisation to do all the rescuing for them?!

The costume changes is a tad like the 1986 animated TV series ‘The Centurians’ as indeed is some of their body equipment with the way it’s attached and forgetting how heavy it must be to move. It’s all well and good using CGI for animation but forgetting that it is a means to an end rather than show off its inadequacies for gravitas shows its main weakness. This is something that is still reflected from the previous ‘New Captain Scarlet’ series, so it’s a common problem that really needs to be sorted out.

This also extends to the Thunderbirds themselves. The craft themselves seem lightweight. Yes, they move awfully fast in flight but when they get there, they lack gravitas in that these are heavy but powerful machines. I’m going to draw some comparisons here using the worse case Thunderbird Two. It looks like a paper cut-out rather than a heavy duty vehicle. The way it hoisted pod four out of the water rather than land on top of it tends to emphasise that as well. Considering how much is automated, does Virgil really have to close the hatch by hand rather than let it close automatically? A neat trick is having the wings closed until in flight gets around selecting the pod but these pods look like normal freight shapes that you would see in a conventional dock.

NewTBs-2

A few months back when I saw the new Thunderbird One, I confess to not being very keen on its small wings come out but seems to have done better, at least in take-off and action. Thunderbird Four, although lacking, the forward scoop of the original, likewise hasn’t done badly. Then we come to Thunderbird Three and we have not so much a cardboard cut-out but a Lego model. Thunderbird Five is probably the most changed having a rotating ring to create gravity to ensure John Tracy won’t have any bone weakness when returning to Earth but then you have to ask the obvious question as to why he’s floating inside than taking advantage of this. FAB ONE owes more to the 2004 live-action film with its ability to fly than being a convention car with tank-like extras. With its two-tone colours it looks less like a pink Rolls Royce and, well, should I also say plastic-like and awfully tiny.

NewTBs-1

Let’s look at the team itself. Although it’s hinted from the start that their father, Jeff, has apparently died in an accident with no hint of a body, it does leave things open for another story or even his return. It does leave an odd problem of just who is in charge as, other than Alan, the other brothers seem to have autonomy as to their decisions and mostly looks like John is actually giving most of the orders or taking decisions than, say, Scott who should be the nominal head as he’s in charge of Thunderbird One. Interestingly, Scott and Virgil look very similar to the originals, so why were the other brothers changed so radically? Indeed, so has Grandma Tracy and I sincerely hope they get past that running joke about her cooking or the brothers will starve to death. The updating of Tin-Tin Kyrano to Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano, the name change apparently being due to copyright issues with Hergé’s male detective, has also aged and moved her away from being Alan’s love interest and no explanation as to what has happened to her father. In some respects, I do wonder if his absence is more to do with having too many characters on the island. The biggest puzzle is why has Brains changed from being American to German. The likeness of Parker to the original, as indeed using the original voice artist talent of David Graham would have caused some uproar had they not been similar but it’s a shame that they lost his chauffer’s uniform. Lady Penelope herself might look trendy but not very aristocratic considering that she is supposed to be part of the landed gentry. In some respects, I hope there will be a couple episodes centred more on her so we see what kind of ‘agenting’ things she does actually get up to that doesn’t actually blow what little cover she actually is supposed to have when you consider in her introduction that she was under attack. They all seem to do badly with their slightly over-sized eyes, too, making them more a model for CGI than then touch more realism that they needed and which is also reflected in their immobile hair.

Considering that International Rescue is supposed to be secret, how come this World Council has the capability to shut them down and this female Colonel Casey even knows who they are. So much for them doing their version of ‘The Imposters’ and being secret.

Unlike the original, this version of International Rescue has been running for some time now so I presume we might see an earlier adventure or three down the line. In that respect, this could be seen as a bonus considering how many series start off with an origin show but this was also true of the original series as well. Here, though, we are left with more questions than answers and like we’ve skipped an opening series.

Even without the Thursday night making of show, the game of spotting the references to other Anderson shows isn’t difficult with footage from ‘Stingray’ and the head of an Eagle Transporter from ‘Space: 1999’. There is also a homage to the original ‘Thunderbirds’ episode ‘Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday’ and the solar dish, although quite how Scott was neither blinded nor fried entering the centre entrance was skipped. I presume I’m not the only one questioning such things.

The story itself ends up being little vignettes for various rescues using only the main machines. There is not even any hint that we will see new versions of the Mole, Firefly or anything else seen from the original series. So much so that the Hood’s threat to the World Council that he wants all the Thunderbirds (can someone explain how to deliver Thunderbird Five to him?) seems almost like a footnote and totally ignored, even by him, at the end. The overall threat of earthquakes around the world doesn’t even seem like much of a threat considering how easily it was over-turned. Had the Hood got such fire-power, then surely he would have had the means to second-guess that International Rescue could beat it or use it again in a future episode. He’d hardly have any means for wanting International Rescue’s equipment with that kind of weaponry at his disposal. As we’ve yet to see any of these episodes, I’m going to be polite and not look, that will have to be left until later. With new series of any show these days, the pilot is invariably the shake-down episode where mistakes and such are ironed out further down the line.

Most of this article has obviously centred on a lot of the things that I see as being wrong. As my opening paragraph has said, any remake of the original ‘Thunderbirds’ is on a hiding for nothing whatever they do. Oddly, with some of my criticisms, especially with the vehicles themselves, they could have easily have sorted out by cranking down the speed on arrival and they could still sort that on with a little polish. Even watching normal TV after this hour long premiere, I’m still watching everything at their speed. Only the Illuminatii knows how this is affecting children.

There are some nice touches like the use of holograms for communication but constant communication all the time to everyone isn’t questioned when things breakdown or, in the case of Kayo Kyrano, breaks the link and prevents the reveal that she is aware that the Hood is her uncle at a crucial time.

Going back to the making of programme where physical models were used with CGI, I can’t see that being used here with the pilot. I have a feeling that this was decided later to ensure that production could keep up with schedule. Only watching the rest of the series will be able to tell if that is so.

So, the real question is it worth seeing any more of the series? Well, I won’t know until I do, although quite why after putting the debut episode on its main channel and ITV then delegate it to Saturday morning 8am on CITV afterwards seems a bit of a backward step in my opinion for their own confidence in the new ‘Thunderbirds’.

I can’t see this new series as being a significant rival or even being better to the original ‘Thunderbirds’ though, at this time but with all shows that are developing the Anderson brand for the new century, it is better to watch and find out than totally ignore from the start.

© GF Willmetts 2015

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. avatar Chris says:

    I agree with the the seemingly lightweight vehicles, Thunderbird 2 should definitely feel a lot more substantial than that. However Brains is definitely not German, he sounds like a mix of Indian and Geordie. And as for the live action models mixed with CGI, the underwater lab was a model, the dish and city were models, almost all the landscapes were model sets, and most of Tracy Island was a live action set too. They just did a bloody good job of blending the two mediums together. I think it was a solid attempt at a modern reboot, and the majority of what they did worked very well.

  2. avatar UncleGeoff says:

    Hello Chris
    I suppose it depends on what vocal inflection people picked up from Brains’ speech but it certainly wasn’t American.
    I stand corrected on live action sets in as far as there was more than I thought but bear in mind I was writing shortly after the show ended and even I was surprised by how much I wrote from my notes.
    One odd thing that has occurred to me now is if all the Tracy brothers have their normal clothes under their uniforms, poor John Tracy must have an awful stench when he gets back to Earth, assuming he is still on a monthly turnaround with Alan.

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