26 March 2016

TV Review: Thunderbirds - Edge of Impact


Edge of Impact falls in a run of stories that are quite similar. As I'm writing this, I've only seen one episode ahead - Day of Disaster - and so can only comment that far, but certainly the trilogy of stories that started in the previous episode - Terror in New York City - are all pretty identical. Day of Disaster takes elements both this episode and the last one to create a mediocre compromise, but more on that tomorrow or whenever I put that review up. Edge of Impact is definitely enjoyable, but isn't spectacular.

As you may or may not know, this story sees the return of the Hood - and he means business. I mean that quite literally; whereas Trapped in the Sky saw him seeking to bring down International Rescue and make a bit of money in the process, here he is purely interested in financial gain and almost seems to forget about IR until they show up. It's a drastic change for the character - he's far less of a sadistic mastermind, and more of some General's gofer. It makes me wonder whether it was actually Donald Robertson's decision to include him, or whether it was just time for him to crop up again. I know the episodes weren't recorded in the same order they were broadcast so I'm not sure if this was the second episode to go in front of the cameras to star the Hood.

General Bron has just created the Skyhawk, the fastest aircraft in the world - with one exception. The British Military is nearly the end of their Red Arrow project, and though the Red Arrows you and me would probably think of were created in 1965, it's not completely clear if they are supposed to be one and the same. I suspect so, but I'm not sure if the dates quite work given a large proportion of these episodes were written in 1964. Nevertheless, Bron wants rid of the Red Arrows and so seeks the services of the Hood, promising him a chest of gold if he succeeds. 

After the Hood successfully destroys Red Arrow 1, Jeff's old friend Colonel Tim Casey is removed from directing the project and decides to pay him a visit. Jeff is of course delighted, but it's rather difficult having visitors when trying to run the world's premier rescue agency. Brains works out how it was done, somehow (with homing beacons) and soon after, Red Arrow 2 is being tested - and encounters the same difficulties. Although the pilot manages to eject this time, the plane crashes in the UK's main telerelay tower, whatever that is. This traps two men at the top of it - in a similar way to two men being trapped under something in the last episode and two men being trapped in something at the bottom of a river in the next episode.

This is a less conventional rescue than normal as there's apparently a terrible storm on, though it's mostly realised as a bit of rain. I was hoping there'd at least be some lightning, but no such luck. With just seconds to spare, Alan manages to fire two jetpacks up into the control centre, which is of course at the top of the aerial. The two men escape just in time. This is a bit of a weird operation though, because it could easily have been a one-man job. Virgil could have taken the remote camera (yeah the Andersons predicted drones) and could have worked the firing machine thing. But it's nice they're giving Alan a run out.

All the best bits of this episode are with the Hood, and it's a shame International Rescue never discover his identity in either of his appearances as it makes it quite a one-sided relationship. I love that the Hood goes around in a laundry service van when he could choose literally any disguise. It does make him seem like he has quite a good sense of humour - Brains will find out just how good in a later episode. And the way he bows out of this episode is even better than the last one, and is of course accompanied by a comedy soundtrack. He drives off the edge of a missing bridge, which is actually quite prescient given the events of the next story. Bron declares that he can't even drive let alone stop the Red Arrow project (although we see no evidence that it is ready to continue) so isn't deserving of the treasure.

I keep meaning to mention the explosions on this series. They must have had the best pyrotechnicians in the business working on Thunderbirds because they all look so good, and when they just trigger in continuous shots, such as TB2's retro rockets firing, I usually can't tell how they're done at all. It's so professional and looks so good. One thing I have noticed is that if something isn't part of the International Rescue setup, whether that's a building or a vehicle or a machine, it will almost certainly explode at some point in the episode - which is great.

So as I said at the start of this review, this episode won't blow your socks off - despite what I've just said - but it still has the Thunderbirds charm to it so is a fun fifty minutes' viewing. The only thing I have slight reservations about is that it kind of seems the show might be settling into a formula, but hopefully this is just an intermediate stage between working out what the programme is and how it works and pushing the boundaries. The best thing about this series (besides the puppets, vehicles, sets and models) is its imagination and I'd rather not see that petering out so early.

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