Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
With no strings attached, the Gerry Anderson series Thunderbirds was relaunched on ITV. Instead of puppetry, the new series Thunderbirds Are Go is produced with computer animation and live-action sets. The story focuses on the Tracey family, who run the International Rescue organisation from their secret Pacific island. With their advanced land, sea, air and space rescue vehicles, called the Thunderbirds, the Tracey family pursue their humanitarian mission.
(Video: Thunderbirds Are Go)
This is not the first time the Thunderbirds series has been reimagined. A Japanese animated series called Thunderbirds 2086 was released in 1982. In this version, the vast organisation TechnoVoyager supplants the family-run International Rescue, and wields a greater number of advanced machines. Despite employing thousands of people, TechnoVoyager sends the same five-man rescue team on every mission for no adequately-explored reason.
Re-cut and re-dubbed, the 1994 Fox Kids version of Thunderbirds reduced selected episodes from 45 minutes to twenty. This evisceration of the original material meant certain subplots and character developments were entirely dropped, whilst scenes with blood and violence were censored.
In the same year, Turbocharged Thunderbirds spliced the source footage with live-action American teenagers from the year 2096. Aimed at the 1990s American youth, the two ‘Hack Masters’, named Roxette and Tripp, discover the uncharted planet called Thunderworld. They monitor the planet below from ‘Hacker Command’ — a relabeled Thunderbird 5 — to check for threats to human life. When trouble arises, they make the call to Jeff Tracey — ‘Mr T’ to our intrepid heroes — and Thunderbirds are go.
In 2004, a Thunderbirds film attempted to revamp the franchise. Directed by Jonathan Frakes, the film’s plot was influenced by the success of Spy Kids and Harry Potter. Alan Tracey, a snubbed teenager, must save his family from the machinations of The Hood, played by Ben Kingsley. Alan is helped by Tin-Tin and a new character called Fermat, the son of chief scientist Brains. Losing millions of dollars, Sophia Myles’ performance as Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was one aspect of the film to receive general praise. Series creator Gerry Anderson called the film “the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life”.
It is important to remember whenever a series is reimagined, such as Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek, the original copies are not wiped from existence. Regardless of this new series, the Fireflash landing in Thunderbirds remains an iconic television moment. Tempered by history, I welcome this new series.