Stand by for action! Anything can happen in the next three hours!
The classic Supermarionation action series Stingray rises from the depths once more in this new dramatised talking book by Anderson Entertainment, in association with Big Finish. Husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson brought us the adventures of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol way back in 1964, in the first British television show that was made in full colour.
Captain Troy Tempest, his navigator ‘Phones’, Commander Sam Shore, Lieutenant Atlanta Shore, and the exotic mute undersea dweller Marina saved the world every week in 25-minute mini-movies, taking on the villainous King Titan, as well as Surface Agent X-2-Zero, and the Aquaphibians, with the aid of the advanced submarine Stingray. From a trading estate in Slough, the Andersons and their team managed to create marvels which captivated the nation’s children, over the course of 39 episodes.
With the full series available to stream on BritBox, Stingray is still very much with us, and the Andersons’ shows are still rightly held in high regard. As such, there is likely no better time than now to launch Stingray once more from its base in Marineville, and scratch that nostalgic itch with the help of this new audio production, which is available for purchase as a digital download from Big Finish, as well as in a collector’s edition CD set from the Gerry Anderson Store.
As with the first in this growing series of audio adaptations – Thunderbirds: Terror From The Stars – this is based upon a 1960s spin-off novel written by John Theydon, who penned a series of official books, bringing the Andersons’ creations to the printed page. Similarly to the Thunderbirds audio, the original novel of Stingray: Operation Icecap is also getting a reprint, which – like the CD release – is available exclusively via the Gerry Anderson Store, bringing Theydon’s tome back into print for the first time in decades.
Stingray: Operation Icecap sees the crew of Stingray come across a mysterious vessel which would appear to have been submerged for centuries, leading them to question whether it hails from an extraterrestrial origin, or perhaps even a lost civilisation. In order to try to solve this conundrum and find the answer, Troy Tempest and his friends all end up having to go further than ever before, whilst trying to also thwart King Titan’s evil machinations.
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Bringing something from a visual medium to audio instead always poses some challenges, but as this work is based on a novel, Ben Page – who did the adaptation – has been able to make use of Theydon’s prose, getting around the major issue of how to try and explain the action just through dialogue or sound alone, with Wayne Forester providing the narration. Both the music by Benji Clifford as well as the sound design by Toby Hrycek-Robinson also give the finished product an extra dimension and authenticity.
Although Stingray: Operation Icecap has a relatively small cast, they all do a sterling job when it comes to bringing the familiar characters to life; each of the actors is able to evoke how their parts sounded on screen, without giving a slavish impersonation of the original actors. Marc Silk is a great Troy Tempest, and Wayne Forester captures the Southern drawl of ‘Phones’, as well as the Peter Lorre-inspired vocal stylings of Agent X-2-Zero.
Nicholas Briggs – the voice of the Daleks in Doctor Who on TV and for Big Finish – gives his own distinctive take on the gravelly-voiced Commander Shore, and his version of King Titan is quite uncanny. Jules de Jongh effortlessly captures the tones of Atlanta, portrayed on TV by Lois Maxwell, best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in the first fourteen of the James Bond movies. Even Ben Page gets to go before the microphone, playing the Aquaphibians, doing double duty in addition to his work in adapting the book.
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Running for less than half-an-hour on TV, every episode of Stingray was so taut and action-packed that the sheer pace of events would often be breathless. Here, sadly, clocking in at three hours, Stingray: Operation Icecap sags somewhat at points, but this is a failing of the original novel, not of this production. Theydon’s spends the best part of a chapter, for example, depicting the crew of Stingray rescuing a penguin, slowing down the momentum considerably; in addition, the story spends too long going anywhere, and not enough time on delivering a satisfying climax.
However, these are all relatively minor quibbles, considering the stand-up job everybody has done in reviving a TV classic, and making it feel very fresh and vibrant, even after all these years. Like Thunderbirds: Terror From The Stars, a new cast promises great things for the future, which will hopefully be in the form of conventional TV-length episodes, in order to truly make things come alive, and deliver on all the potential there is to offer here.