Thunderbirds Are Go – Season 1 Episode 8
Time for Thunderbirds Are Go to focus on John and his role of monitoring the rescue situation from orbit as a sentient A.I.
John has been very much a support role since the series began. He’s been a constant presence but hasn’t been given any significant development before this point. Seeing a bit more of John and how he goes about his day is a welcome change of pace after the constant use of Thunderbirds 1 and 2. I’m sure Gordon must be due for his own episode soon.
The episode starts out really mundane but in a business as usual sort of way. Seeing John’s morning routine really worked for me as it provided some nice insight into the character. Despite being isolated away from his brothers in space John loves what he does and never loses the sense of wonder he feels about looking over the Earth all day every day. His role is instrumental to the whole International Rescue operation as without Thunderbird 5 the Tracy brothers wouldn’t be able to respond to the emergencies that constantly come up. I hope that the show will give some idea of what problems they consider to be in need of their assistance. There are only 2 major rescue machines and all the gear is loaded into Thunderbird 2 so there are limitations over what they can respond to. I wonder if they have a rule about an acceptable level of emergency to be dealt with by the standard rescue infrastructure. Hopefully that will come in time.
John encounters a problem when Thunderbird 5 starts misbehaving. At first it seems innocent enough with the food dispenser firing out bagels but quickly escalates when it becomes clear that distress calls aren’t being intercepted. It turns out that an A.I. has taken over Thunderbird 5 and thinks that John is a problem that needs to be dealt with. It locks him outside and waits for his air to run out.
The way that John deals with the problem shows how resourceful he is. He knows Thunderbird 5 inside out and remains calm under pressure. It has always been shown that he’s an intelligent man and this is reinforced in the way he works through the problem. His communication with Lady Penelope gives us an idea of his ability to think laterally and foreshadows his eventual solution to the problem.
His interactions with EOS are the strongest parts of the episode as their conversations are pretty interesting. I enjoyed the reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey with EOS paraphrasing HAL. Her general outlook and design resembled that A.I. in some ways too. It’s the first indication that Thunderbirds Are Go isn’t entirely aimed at children. I don’t know of any young children that would get that reference. It’s a really obvious one but appreciated nonetheless.
I like that John doesn’t want to destroy EOS as she’s unique and alive so to him that would seem like murder but he’s also willing to go through with it if he needs to. There’s a personal stake in it for him as he is partly responsible for her existence. The code that was present on the runaway train last week is also present here and it was established that it was based on an old code that he had written. It’s evolved beyond what he originally programmed but still he has a part to play in the existence of this new form of life. It’s enough for John to feel personally responsible and gives him a vested interest in making sure this unique life form isn’t destroyed.
His solution is quite creative. He trusts EOS to have a sense of morality when pushed so challenges her to open the airlock and kill him if that’s what she really wants to do. He makes it clear to her that he doesn’t want to destroy her and would actually like to keep her around as a companion when he’s in space. It’ll give him someone to talk to and he can teach her about humanity and why people are worth saving. It’s a pretty strong message to give to children about different not being a bad thing. It’s something that should be celebrated and encouraged to better understand other ways of life. It’s a heavy handed message for adults but for kids it’s actually fairly sophisticated.
The set piece moments were as always fantastic. Most of the action was in space but we really get to see the size of Thunderbird 5 relative to John walking along the outside of it. Thunderbird 3 being included in the action at a crucial point worked really well and the whole episode managed to be appropriately tense.
I still have an issue with the juvenile humour mostly centered around Grandma Tracy and her ordering everyone on Tracy Island to clean when they have some down time. I get that this is for kids but these jokes were weak. Plus these guys save people on a daily basis so a morning off is probably deserved. I did like that Grandma Tracy’s terrible cooking was the catalyst for them being onto the deception created by EOS.
This episode should mark something of a change in the show overall. John will now have an A.I. companion and detecting emergencies should get a lot more efficient from now on. I look forward to seeing further interplay between John and EOS and I like that the show seems to be accounting for more than just a young audience.
This is among the strongest episodes of this series to date. It’s great that John gets some long overdue character development as he has an episode pretty much to himself.
John as a person is explored in some interesting ways this episode. Despite the fact that he’s out in space all the time he never feels like it has become routine and always has that sense of wonder as he views Earth from orbit.
His interactions with the A.I. EOS are really interesting. I like that he wants to make every effort to preserve this new form of life partly because he feels responsible for creating it but also because it is truly unique and shouldn’t be destroyed for that very reason. It’s a strong message to give to children that different is a good thing in life.
John is shown to be a lateral thinker who can come up with creative solutions to problems. This is shown by him communicating with Lady Penelope and the eventual way he manages to talk EOS into helping him rather than kill him. It was an unexpected solution and worked really well within John’s established character.
The space sequences were spectacular with an impressive sense of scale shown as John walked around the outside of Thunderbird 5. I loved seeing just how massive the space station truly is and it’s a testament to the effects work on this show that it keeps impressing week on week.
My criticisms are minor this week but I found the jokes around Grandma Tracy making the boys clean Tracy Island when it seemed like they had some down time really tiresome. I get that this is for kids but I found it far too silly.