This week, things go awry aboard a solar energy station as it malfunctions and fires plasma bolts towards the Earth. Elsewhere, a cargo plane carrying a rare Giant Panda is struck by the bolts and is about to go down over the North Pacific ocean – cue International Rescue to swoop in to save the crew and its cargo. It just so happens that Lady Penelope and Parker are already on board the station, and face a race against time to shut it down.
Eagle eyed fans of both the original and this new series will spot that we’ve seen this kind of mid-air rescue set up before in the Thunderbirds universe. Once again, this week’s caper has been loosely adapted from an original series episode, ‘Operation Crash Dive’, again proving that Thunderbirds Are Go’s writing team can blend the old with the new to make it fresh and exciting. ‘Operation Crash Dive’ featured one of the series’ ill fated planes, Fireflash. Whereas in the original episode, the plane suffered sabotage at the hands of aviation terrorists, this concept has been replaced by a cargo plane, but still flying under the Air Terrainean banner, which is a nice nod to the series history.
In the original series, the Fireflash aircraft became something of a byword for Concorde, the short lived attempt at the supersonic passenger jet airliner that suffered its own catalogue of problems, before being decommissioned in 2003. As well as ‘Operation Crash Dive’, the aircraft also featured in ‘Trapped In The Sky’, which formed the basis for TBAG series 1 episode 5, ‘Fireflash’ which essentially remade the episode and featured original music (OK, i’ll stop saying ‘Fireflash’ now!).
Aside from the triumvirate of Scott (Rasmus Hardiker), Virgil and Gordon (both voiced by David Menken) leading the rescue mission, Lady Penelope (Rosamund Pike) & Parker (original Thunderbirds voice actor David Graham) also get in on the action, as we see International Rescue’s London agent conducting essentially a health and safety investigation into the station’s station’s full capabilities and its environmental impact.
These two intertwining plot points are balanced fairly evenly and with the episode’s twenty-two minute run time, while the quick pace is maintained for the most part, with the race-against-time factor makes for extra peril. Previous episodes have hinted at romance between Gordon and Lady Penelope, thankfully that’s not mentioned here as it would perhaps overload things. Instead, the comedy relief comes from Gordon and Virgil, to provide a breather at points away from the drama. Incidentally, Gordon comes off as the most well-rounded character, in between Scott’s detective work and Virgil’s heavy lifting and rescue operation.
This episode also features the voice talents of Ruby Wax as the station’s pushy sales director Hayley Edmonds, who isn’t that bothered when it comes to the solar station’s environmental safety, and when she pushes for the station to operate at full power, things start to go very wrong indeed. Series regular Kayvan Novak voices her concerned assistant Kinnear, along with Brains and the cargo plane co-pilot, showcasing skills we’ve come to expect from an actor with his level of vocal dexterity.
Wax is a broadcasting and comedy legend but, for me, is a bit of an odd choice for an animated kids series. Nonetheless, she brings gusto to the role, lending her character a Southern accent and sending up the stereotypical American persona (as we’ve seen from Rich Hall in previous episodes), complete with loud outfit and garish makeup. It’s clear from her performance that she had great fun recording her lines.
There are a few moments when the animation tries to imitate the shakycam effect, which added with the overzealous editing, took me out of the moment on a few occasions and makes aspects of the team’s rescue look too easy – this is perhaps to its detriment, given the short run time. On the plus side, as the action mainly takes place inside the energy station and around Thunderbirds 1 and 2, allowing for aspects such as the writing, dialogue and acting to take centre stage, leading to a predictable but overall well rounded episode.
Thunderbirds Are Go! airs on ITV every Saturday. Let us know what you think of the season.