I’ve just seen the new promotional photo released for the upcoming reboot of classic 1960s British TV show Thunderbirds. The show, scheduled to air in the UK in 2015, is titled Thunderbirds are Go and is being produced by ITV and WETA (Peter Jackson’s company which created the special effects for Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies and King Kong).
The new CGI-based reboot will once again centre around the secretive International Rescue organization, led by ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his 5 sons (Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John), who are featured in the new promotional picture.
When the original Thunderbirds ran on British TV in the mid-60s, it became a cult hit among young boys. The show used marionette puppets and incredibly detailed scale models (for a TV show of that time) to create a very believable high-tech world of the year 2065. I remember watching this show as a kid and being completely blown away by the scale of the settings and the various air-, sea- and spacecraft featured. I was so very excited when a live-action movie version came out in 2004, but it turned out to be an embarrassing critical and commercial failure. Perhaps the charm of the show lay in the artificiality of its puppets and it could not ever translate into the modern age, I thought.
So, I am hoping that a CGI version which creates a similar look and feel on the small screen can bring back the thrill of the original show. Anyway, while reading up about the upcoming show, I discovered that there was a 1966 theatrical film based on the show called Thunderbirds Are Go and the entire film was available on YouTube.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching it this afternoon. The plot centres around the flight of the Zero-X manned mission to Mars. The opening sequence featuring the multi-stage spacecraft taking off is scifi fanboy’s dream.
There are two amusing anecdotes connected with this movie. One of the astronauts Paul Travers was modeled on Sean Connery who had become world famous as James Bond by that time. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but if you check the clip online, you’ll see it’s a fair resemblance.
And there is a bizarre dream sequence in which one of the younger Tracy boys goes to a night club and sees Cliff Richard and the Shadows performing (surprisingly accurately depicted in their marionette form) a song Shooting Star which was written and performed specifically for the film by the great man himself! Here’s what he looks like in his marionette form.
And here’s the cover of the single Shooting Star, featuring a still from that dream sequence in which Cliff Richard is the chauffeur of a 6-wheeled pink Rolls Royce in which the young man is sitting in the back seat with fellow secret agent Lady Penelope, while the other band members are seen sitting on the car and playing along. Yes, I did say it was a bizarre sequence!
Yup, when you insert a sequence like this in the middle of scifi film, you can guess why the 1966 movie failed to replicate the success of the show! I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing anything like this in the upcoming TV reboot…