Production: GB, 1965

The most popular of Gerry Anderson’ “Supermarionations” (and probably the most famous).
The adventures of “International Rescue”, secret organisation founded by former astronaut Jeff Tracy and run by his five sons Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan (same names of the first five american astronauts), pilots of the futurible (the year is 2063) vehicles “Thunderbirds”.
Gerry Anderson’staff had achieved a great experience with puppets and special effects (always created by Derek Meddings), and had more and more ambitious targets.
The purpose was to capture also the interest of adult audience, not only boys.
The original plot is based on an organisation which can handle very catastrophic events, where usual rescue means prove to be inadequate.
To call International Rescue for help it is only needed a specific call on any frequency: the Thunderbird 5 satellite, manned by John Tracy, is always listening.
First vehicle to lift off is Thunderbird 1, a very fast rocket aircraft, capable of 7000 mph: its pilot is Scott, eldest of Tracy brothers, the first to arrive on the disaster scene to organize the

Usually the follower is Thunderbird 2: flied by Virgil, it is a cargo vehicle which every time carries a pod contaninig the right hardware for the rescue (in a typical shot, in every episode we see the various pods sliding under Thunderbird 2 until the right one is choosen.
Thunderbird 3 is piloted by Alan, and it is a spaceship for rescues in space (and also the less seen vehicle of the show). Thunderbird 4 is a mini-submarine, is piloted by Gordon and it is often transported by Thunderbird 2.
Another important character is Brains, an engineer who invented the Thunderbirds
and goes on inventing new rescue vehicles; Tin Tin is an oriental girl, Brain’s assistant and Alan’s girlfriend; Lady Penelope is an aristocratic woman living in London and International Rescue’s secret agent, ready for action to handle possible villains: she owns a pink Rolls-Royce with six wheels and a machine gun hidden in the radiator grille; Parker is Lady Penelope’s butler and chaffeur, and his past as a professional thief is always useful…
There’s also an ultimate villain: the Hood, who has mysterious hypnotic powers; he lives hiden somewhere in Asia, and his twin brother is Kyrano, Jeff Tracy’s servant and Tin Tin’s father.
Thanks to his powers, the Hood can have useful (but unwanted) informations about International Rescue, because his purpose is to steal the secrets of Thunderbirds.

The serie is, of course, a great exhibition of special effects and strange vehicles; all due to Derek Meddings and other two technicians just hired: Mike Trim, able to invent an incredible variety of new vehicles, and Brian Johnson, who will work (uncredited) to “2001: A space odyssey” and to Star Wars trilogy, and will also create the visual effects for Gerry Anderson’ “Space:1999”.
Rescue missions are the most various: helping a passenger super-aircraft to land without its gear (with special lift-vehicles), extracting a giant vehicle from a volcanic crater, entering a nuclear power plant to avoid the reactor’s
explosion, altering course of a spaceship on collision course with the sun…
Puppets look as realistic as possible (except for proportions, like usual). Notably, Scott’s face was inspired to Sean Connery’s.
Thunderbirds had an international success, especially in the USA and in Japan (where, years later, an animated serie titled “Thunderbirds 2086” was created, but a comparison is impossible).
In Great Britain all military bands can play the Thunderbirds musical theme (composed, as usual, by Barry Gray), the scale vehicle’s models were made in lots of variants (famous and now difficult to find the Dinky Toys ones), and Tracy island diorama was the most desired toy for children,

included the adult ones…
Also two long feature films were made, “Thunderbirds are go!” and “Thunderbird 6”, and Thunderbird 6 was an old yellow Tiger Moth biplane which was able to handle the rescue mission… those films were not a big success, as often happens when television products are adapted for cinema.
Thunderbirds characters have also been used for a Dire Straits videoclip, “Calling Elvis”, where we can see a puppet version of singer Mark Knopfler.

Also a live-action movie has been released in 2004, but a poor script  and the total absence of Gerry Anderson’s contribution made a complete crap, despite to a very good updating of Thunderbirds' design.

32 episodes, colour, 60'

1)  Trapped in the Sky
2)  Pit of peril
3)  City of fire

4)  Sun probe
5)  The uninvited
6)  The mighty atom
7)  Vault of death
8)  Operation crash dive
9) Move and you are dead
10) Martian invasion
11) Brink of disaster
12) The perils of Penelope
13) Terror in New York
14) End of the road
15) A day of disaster
16) The edge of impact
17) Desperate intruder
18) 30 minutes after noon
19) The imposters
20) The man from MI5

21) Cry wolf
22) Danger at ocean deep
23) The Duchess assignement
24) Attack of the alligators
25) The Cham Cham
26) Security hazard
27) Atlantic inferno
28) Path of destruction
29) Alias Mr. Hackenbacker
30) Lord Parker’s Holiday

31) Ricochet
32) Give or take a million


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