Thunderbirds Are Go – Season 1 Episode 11
Thunderbirds Are Go delivers what amounts to the best episode yet with a tense rescue sequence involving a weather station quickly rising towards space.
The episode opens with a quiet moment involving the brothers enjoying some rare down time. Apparently they’ve managed to have 3 solid days where they didn’t need to do any rescuing. I would still like an explanation as to what is their problem and what isn’t because it is still very unclear.
As scenes go it isn’t a bad one. It’s good to see the brothers hanging around together and doing nothing for a brief period. They are seldom all together like this and mercifully there is no Grandma Tracy making them clean the whole island or something equally ludicrous. I also found it interesting that John feels a little out of place so decides to leave. It seems that his time in space has caused him to feel a little uncomfortable in crowds so this could be the start of some subplot involving him becoming more detached from humanity especially with his recently acquired A.I. sidekick.
The quiet moment doesn’t last long as disaster strikes when a weather station malfunctions and starts heading towards space with no signs of stopping. International Rescue deploy Thunderbirds 1 & 2 to help and everything develops from there. I really have to applaud this episode on how it handles the action as it is the most tense and exciting this show has produced so far. I have criticicised this show in the past for characters seeming too perfect and a lack of failure removing much of the tension from sequences but this episode seems to fix that.
Everything that is initially tried fails spectacularly and the characters seem resigned to the hopelessness of the situation. Thunderbird 2 is completely incapacitated and has to be benched after a save from Gordon. This sequence was excellent with a great level of tension as the powerless Thunderbird 2 dropped like a stone. I like how Virgil calmly accepted that there was nothing else he could do and flies home with his damaged machine under the control of Gordon. It’s definitely the first time Virgil and Thunderbird 2 have failed like this and it’s really refreshing to see. Having this happen really builds the tension and makes all of this feel incredibly exciting as new plans have to be considered on the fly.
Thunderbird 1 fares no better with the attempt to bring Scott aboard also failing miserably. It would have been so easy to have Thunderbird 1 pick up the slack where Thunderbird 2 failed and have everything resolved like that but the episode really defies expectations in that regard. I found it actually very surprising to see the second rescue attempt fail.
After this, Thunderbird 3 is required once the station reaches an altitude that is too high for the others to reach. The plan is to simply pull the station down using the thrusters of Thunderbird 3 and solve the issue that way. By this point I was positive that this would be the plan that works since the first 2 failed but again, the episode managed to defy audience expectations by having this fail and Thunderbird 3 damaged so that another attempt was impossible.
All of these sequences were incredibly well executed. The focus was kept on how little time they had and how dangerous this was. Having the failed attempts cause personal danger for the Tracy brothers was inspired as so often they feel detached from the actual rescue by rarely being in any real danger. It’s good to see that they are completely at risk during their dangerous rescues.
There was a solid brotherly bickering scene as they agonise over what to do next. They are talking over each other, voicing their frustrations and arguing over what to do next. Moment like this need to be included more often as it helps remind the viewers that the Tracy brothers are a family and therefore don’t always get along.
The eventual solution was great and probably the most creative use of Thunderbird 5 ever. I haven’t watched through the old series in a long time but I can’t remember Thunderbird 5 ever being used in a rescue attempt in this way. Using the space elevator like a claw machine was a clever idea and the increased gravity acting on John as well as Thunderbird 5 had me on the edge of my seat. Hearing Thunderbird 5 creak under the strain as well as seeing how much pain John was in made for a really memorable sequence that shows how committed John is as well as how human he is in his limitations. For a second here I did consider that this might be the first failed rescue. Of course that was never going to happen but it’s a testament to the writing that I forgot that failure wasn’t an option for a brief time.
The character of Langstrom serves as the sort of antagonist here but he doesn’t really qualify. He’s just an idiot who doesn’t consider the consequences of a lack of safety measures on his inventions. In many ways he is an anti-Brains who cuts corners to get there first where Brains considers everything carefully and creates really robust designs. The episode shows this when Thunderbirds 1,2 & 3 all suffer failures of some kind and are able to recover due to the backup systems that Brains has built in to guard against such issues. The opposite is true of the weather station that almost kills everyone aboard because they have nothing in the way of redundancies. It’s a point that’s not hammered home too strictly but it is there and should help teach kids about how important safety really is. I found Langstrom a little too annoying though and I’m really not sure why anyone would take him seriously enough to fund his nonsense. The biggest problem I have with him is that he learns absolutely nothing from this experience.
I couldn’t help but think of Mad Max: Fury Road -bear with me here- while watching this. The execution of both are somewhat similar in that the established characters are placed in a running time filling action sequence that calls upon their character traits without spending too much time developing them. It’s all about the action and how the characters operate within that action. In both cases it works really well as both are very well paced. This episode certainly never stops for long enough to become dull and keeps attention gripped throughout. It truly is the best episode yet.