by Alan Yudman
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!
If you do not know what that means, well I weep for your misspent youth. Or maybe you are simply too young to know the joys of the 1960’s adventure series THE THUNDERBIRDS. The original was produced for British TV by ITC and brought to the viewers in “Supermarionation”. Yup, a bunch of puppets. But it was awesome. And now it is back thanks to Amazon Prime!
A brief history. The series was set in the future where Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan ran the organization International Rescue. When things when horribly wrong, one of the boys would show up in one of four rescue vehicles known as Thunderbirds. Number 1 was a kind of rocket plane. Two was a do it all hauler/rescue vehicle that looked liked a big hippo and carried all manner of equipment to where it was needed. Three was a real rocket/spacecraft. Four was a kind of rescue submarine that looked very James Bond-ish. There was also Five, which was an orbiting space station that monitored the world looking for trouble. The Tracy’s were assisted by Brains, the guy who built all the Thunderbirds and all manner of gadgets. Also, Lady Penelope and her chauffeur Parker, who were spies driving around in the coolest car you’d ever seen. Their nemesis was The Hood, who was trying to of course, take over the world.
There was the series, a movie and then in the early 2000’s Universal tried making a live action version directed by Jonathan Frakes. It was awful. So, how would a reboot do? Thanks to the advent of streaming services there are more avenues to try out this type of thing. Thank goodness, because this was well worth it.
Yes, THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO is distributed under Amazon’s Kids banner, but if you were a fan of the original series there is plenty here for you. I was overwhelmed by nostalgia. The only negative for me was the stilted, sometimes too kiddie dialogue. A lot of “bro” and “yeah” and high fives to punctuate the end of a set piece. But that is easily overlooked. The rest is completely true to the original, including the stirring theme music which is honored and updated. The Thunderbirds look nearly identical to the original models. But, they are better because this is all computer animation. You can do stuff with computers you could not do with puppets. The characters are true to their original arcs and the voice acting is good if not great. And Rosamund Pike voices Lady Penelope! Wow!
The updated version twists the original in a good way. Jeff Tracy has vanished in a crash, which will give the boys fodder for future episodes. The vaguely racist character of TinTin has been replaced by a kick-ass young woman named Kayo, a spy who pilots a brand new Thunderbird called Thunderbird S. Her storyline is complicated by the fact that her uncle is The Hood, a something none of the Tracy’s are aware of. So as you can see there is a lot to chew on.
This is definitely kid friendly. While people are in peril, they always get rescued and each of the first season’s 12 episodes ends on a high note. I’m loving it and if you adored the original, get an Amazon Prime subscription and share this with your children.