Stand by for action! Anything can happen in the next 39 half-hours (plus bonus features)!
Network Distributing continue to work their way through the back catalogue of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s shows, arriving at 1964’s Stingray, which was not just the first of their productions not to be made in black and white, but also the first British television series filmed in colour, although regular colour transmissions would only make their debut here in the UK much later in the decade.
For anyone unfamiliar with the show’s premise, Stingray is set in the year 2065, and centres around the flagship of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, which oversees the security of the planet’s oceans. Under the eye of WASP’s Commander Sam Shore, Stingray is crewed by Captain Troy Tempest and Lieutenant ‘Phones’ Sheridan. Troy ends up in a love triangle involving Commander Shore’s daughter Atlanta, and a mute undersea dweller named Marina, which at times appears far more risky than defending the seas from peril.
Having been produced in colour seems to have helped with Stingray becoming the first Anderson show to be ensured a longevity sadly denied its monochrome predecessors, such as Supercar and Fireball XL5. The makers elected to pick a truly vivid and vibrant palette of hues, which look absolutely glorious here, thanks to the restoration work carried out for this release, meaning Stingray looks even better than on its first broadcast, the picture so pristine and sharp.
Stingray is also noteworthy for the refinements made to the Supermarionation process between shows, with the puppet sculpts having more detail, and being more proportionate in comparison to those featured in earlier productions, making the characters seem more defined and realistic. Model work also feels more polished, the design of Stingray itself being a genuine stroke of pop culture iconography. The ‘underwater’ sequences stand up remarkably well, even now.
Above all, Stingray is a hugely entertaining, fun romp which manages to pack an inordinate amount into each episode, in maintaining a storytelling pace which feels rapid fire, yet not rushed. It really is the first truly iconic Anderson series, and deservedly so, as it helped finalise the template for what was to come after. Stingray warrants the kind of loving attention which has been lavished on it here by Network, with this Blu-ray set carrying with it a cornucopia of special features which makes this an essential purchase for fans and casual viewers alike.
Front and centre is ‘The Reunion Party’, a special episode of Stingray which only first saw the light of day in 2008 as part of a Gerry Anderson Night on BBC 2. Being assembled from a longer promotional film shot for Japanese TV execs in order to sell the show, the rediscovered material was condensed to form a ‘new’ and unseen episode of Stingray. We also have a compact but informative documentary all about the history and production of the series, which does put to shame some similar (and, sometimes, far longer) featurettes about other programmes.
A ‘Tech Talk’ feature narrated by David Graham in character as Brains from Thunderbirds manages to tie the two shows together in a way which is logical yet still mind-boggling. As well as some vintage ads and rare archive material (including a French version of the end credits, with a version of the song ‘Aqua Marina’ en français), there are also non-visual treats to enjoy, with some audio Stingray adventures. Immensely fun to see a contemporary skit featuring Des O’Connor having an extremely up-close-and-personal encounter with Stingray et al during an off-guard moment.
The high standard of Network’s Anderson releases has been maintained here, and with a tranche of lovely bits of themed paraphernalia (including a Stingray pilot licence, and a book all about the show), this really is one set where the last thing you want to do is stand by with inaction.
Stingray: The Complete Series is out now from Network Distributing.