I haven't posted in a long time, and this post is not going to be my normal thing. Facing off the back end of a rather nasty bug, I am stuck at home and was looking for something to entertain myself earlier. I managed to watch the first episode of the 50th anniversary remake of Thunderbirds. To say I was a little obsessed with the original would be an understatement, so mixed feelings abounded. Now, out the other side, I have decided to share my thoughts on the show.
The 2015 series is entitled Thunderbirds Are Go!, a catchphrase used sparingly (to my recollection) in the 1965 version, although featured in the title sequence of every episode. Nevertheless, it is synonymous with the series, and fits the revamp well.
I'll get the obvious question out of the way first: what did I think? As a die-hard fan of the original series – yes, I own the whole lot on DVD – I went into this with a great deal of trepidation. The 2004 film was a travesty, with a well-deserved, average score of 4.2/10 on IMDb. The contemporary ship designs were somehow overwhelmingly jarring, despite retaining the basic features of the original machines, and the plot was painful.
Thunderbirds Are Go! manages somehow to write a new plot and modernise the ship designs, and yet not have that same problem. The story is gripping enough, although it does fall into a chasm that many modern series do, but more on that later. The ship designs are sleek and have taken into account the advances in technology since 1965, but they are still Thunderbirds, and despite being just as different as the 2004 ones, they fit.
I wasn't sure about the CGI when I heard about it, and I'm still not. It will take a few more episodes to convince me one way or the other, I think. The change from puppetry is jarring, but it is not bad, and it will appeal to the young generation in a way that the puppet approach just wouldn't any more, I think. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at Team America. The puppet style is a direct parody of Gerry Anderson's work.)
I'm glad that David Graham came back to voice Parker. He fits in perfectly with the new cast, and even the spritely appearance of the younger character model.
So what's not great about it? That chasm I was talking about, for a start. Way too much is crammed into episode one. The editors felt it necessary to introduce us to all of the characters in the first couple of minutes in a hectic, over-the-top assault of cuts to other scenes of other rescues. The action throughout is then so frantic, that it can be hard to keep up. I very much dislike this trend of ramming everything possible into episode one. Why not show off while leaving a few surprises? (Gotham did the same thing, to name another recent show.)
Secondly, there is excessive over-use of Peter Dyneley's iconic countdown. I love that they put that in, and the plotline of Jeff being missing allows that to be there without competing with a new voice actor. However, hearing that countdown – and the titular catchphrase – every single time a Thunderbird launches will get old really fast, and I hope that's a first episode spam, rather than a trend.
I found the frequency with which the Tracey brothers contacted each other over radio using the full Thunderbird name and number a little awkward. In full conversation, I hope they begin to use their names more often, but that's a small issue for me at this point.
All in all, I'm impressed, and pleasantly surprised. I will watch more – not yet with the fervour with which I devoured (and occasional still devour) the original – and I will see where it goes.
A small post-script. In case you, dear reader, are a board game nut and have not seen the news. Matt Leacock – designer of the wonderful Pandemic, Roll Through The Ages and Forbidden Desert, amongst other great games – recently Kickstarted a Thunderbirds board game, and the base set should be shipping around August. I'm insanely excited about that!
More on both in future blogs. Next time – which hopefully won't be far away – back to my usual fare.