09 April 2016

TV Review: Thunderbirds - Operation Crash-Dive

After the last couple of episodes, which have seen Scott battling a strange ancient civilisation based inside a pyramid and Thunderbird 3 on a collision course with the Sun, this is a more ordinary story. This harks back to the very first episode, with the trialling of the Fireflash aircraft, but isn't quite as substantial as that story, despite some exciting set pieces.

The story begins with one Fireflash aircraft disappearing without trace, with all its crew and passengers still on board - a case eerily similar to the infamous missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which vanished two years ago. A saboteur is at work, putting the navigational systems out of action so that the last reported position of the craft can be hundreds of miles from where it actually is. They're also cutting the aircrafts' power to the engines, causing them to crash into the Atlantic. 

After one is lost, International Rescue manage to save the pilot and co-pilot from a test run along exactly the same course. The plane sinks but Gordon is on hand to cut them out using Thunderbird 4 - just in time before the Fireflash explodes. On yet another run of the same route, Scott pilots alongside one of the two men he saved in the first episode, Trapped in the Sky. They repeat the routine but with Thunderbird 2 alongside. Once power is lost, Gordon enters the wing and spots the saboteur at work. After despatching him, he manages to save the aircraft just in time by holding the two wires of the electronic power unit together. I'm not sure if he then had to hold it for the entire time until they landed, but nonetheless, that seems to have done the trick.

Then the operation is over because this somehow allows the conspirators to be apprehended and arrested. It's a shame that the bit of the story which I would probably find most interesting - the 'spy' aspect of it - is reduced to a sentence at the end of the episode, but I understand that this series was much more geared the other way. It does feel a bit incomplete without this, but the bottom line is that Gordon saved the day - twice. If I was Jeff I'd give him a little bonus - he did far more than anyone else, particularly Alan and John who seem to be useless when put under any kind of pressure.

So, as I say, this is a more pedestrian affair than some episodes, but you need that baseline so that the whole series doesn't lose its focus. This is Martin Crump's first contribution to Thunderbirds - and it seems he only has two television credits in total, for some reason. Although I didn't necessarily find this as thrilling as some other stories, I didn't think there was much wrong with it. It fits the billing very well, and certainly no less than some writers' work (cough - Dennis Spooner - cough) so why he didn't do more is a bit of a mystery. Apparently Thunderbirds aficionados aren't entirely sure either, but it is of course possible he just didn't want to do any more. Desmond Saunders gives this story a very clean look, with some interesting camera angles and movement - more than you see on a lot of live action productions!

It's nice to see characters being mixed up a bit. Last time, Alan and Tintin (and arguably even Brains) were given a greater prominence than usual, and here the same is true of Gordon. I know that apart from Scott the sons are pretty much interchangeable, but I've always liked Gordon. He seems to come to the rescue a lot without a great deal of praise - he's the underdog. Plus he's got the coolest Thunderbird. I feel like if Scott did half the things Gordon did, he'd make a lot more noise about it - and so would Jeff. Instead he gets to be the leader, and point out the bleeding obvious at apposite moments. 

One of my favourite examples is when Thunderbird 2 is crashing and Scott tells Virgil to pull up - and that's the entirety of his contribution. Oh, cheers Scott, I can see why you're in charge. Here, he's big-headed enough to volunteer to fly the Fireflash and then is completely helpless when it's sabotaged. Gets my goat, that one. It's been five or six episodes since we've heard from Lady Penelope and Parker too, so I hope more is on the way from them soon.

As I say, this is less gripping than some stories, but it's still well made. I wasn't bored, and the way it ended so abruptly is the only thing to mark this down on. It's another enjoyable instalment - not a standout, but not disposable.

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