“5-4-3-2-1: Thunderbirds are go!” Fifty years after audiences were first thrilled by the rocket-propelled exploits of International Rescue and its magnificent fleet of Thunderbirds machines, and Peter Dyneley’s legendary voice-over introduction still sends shivers down the spine.
Though it continues to follow the life-saving missions of Tracy brothers Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan – now voiced by an all-new cast that includes David Menkin and Rasmus Hardiker, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s best-loved supermarionation has been given a CGI makeover that initially met with understandable resistance from long-term fans.
But while the Tracys’s plastic boyband appearance is jarring at first, series director David Scott and his team have taken care to retain at least some of the charm of the original 1965-66 series with the use of scale models and iconic launch sequences – not to mention a clip from Stingray that’s slyly inserted into an early scene – which should ease the transition for older viewers.
Not that their opinion will matter much – this revamped series is designed to appeal to an all-new generation of younger viewers who will no doubt expect the slick and glossy spectacle that Weta’s computer-polished visuals unquestionably deliver.
This hour-long reintroduction to the family of high-tech rescuers offers a fast-paced adventure crammed with against-the-clock jeopardy, destruction and nail-biting tension as a powerful artificial seaquake strands a research team in an undersea lab, and the crew of the Thunderbirds must locate the culprit before its too late.
The new-look series also gives us cool gadgets, over-the-top schemes courtesy of shadowy Blofeld-alike The Hood, and glamorous locations that are charmingly reminiscent of 70s Bond movies, while writer Rob Hoegee splices the dialogue with a knowing wit that ensures the show can be enjoyed by the entire family.
In fact, ITV bosses may well have missed a trick in scheduling the rest of the series in a Saturday morning time-slot as the high-stakes thrills on offer, coupled with a gripping combination of weekly rescue tales and a longer serialised arc involving a principal villain, could have made Thunderbirds Are Go the perfect Saturday night viewing for families in-between series of BBC One’s Doctor Who. It’s at least a better option than the cringingly cheap hypnosis game show You’re Back In The Room.
Hoegee could also try to elicit more drama out of the Tracy’s brothers’ unbalanced dynamic, which is suffering after the death of their father, Jeff, whose spectre looms large over their every decision, as this is only briefly touched upon in the opening episode.
There is, of course, still plenty of time to get to that and for the most part Ring of Fire is a triumphant return for the show, offering a rollicking family-friendly adventure that pays homage to the original series whilst also introducing the slick special effects work that will hopefully encourage a new generation to seek out Gerry Anderson’s truly magnificent work.
Click here to watch Thunderbirds Are Go – Ring of Fire on ITV Player