We were hardly imposing on our neighbours, as there was only one channel available. In black and white.
I’ve always been a boy with an over-active imagination, so Thunderbirds was just amazing for me on that score.
In those days the moon was untrammelled by human feet. Colour television had yet to arrive in Taranaki. The digital watch, microwave oven, electronic digital calculator and even the cassette tape recorder were unheard of.
Yet, on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific, the Tracy family had managed to construct a technological paradise stocked with exotic kit that not only defied present day realities, but also most of the known laws of aerodynamics and other practicalities, such as a total lack of the minions necessary to make an enterprise like that run. Home-helpers Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin were good but surely not superhuman?
The Tracys were supposed to live in the year 2063, but for me at any rate, they lived in the same “now” as I did.
Practical realities counted for little, as each week we were swept up and into tales of brave derring-do, knowing that International Rescue would, after a bit of sweat and bother, eventually triumph over the forces of evil and darkness. Yay!
Yes, we knew it was make-believe. In certain lights you could even catch a glimpse of the strings that made the puppets move. Their expressionless faces dripped with meaning and, in the case of baddies like The Hood, malevolence. It was great stuff.
Now it appears that Weta Workshops, backed with Hollywood gold, is going to apply its 21st century animation and digital image manipulation techniques to resurrect Thunderbirds. Why? Clearly because there’s a dollar in it. It must also be easier to start from scratch then it is to convert very old tech television film shot in 4:3 format into something that meets today’s high tech audience viewing needs.
I hope that Weta doesn’t get too carried away with its enhancements. There is something fundamental to the delivery of Thunderbirds in having characters whose only moving facial parts are their eyebrows and lips. Characters that leap out of chairs and spruik around, rather than saunter or even walk. Nobody has ever seen Lady Penelope or ever-faithful Parker get into or out of the pink Rolls Royce. Why? Because their strings would get caught in the doors. That must really hurt.
Everybody used to have a favourite Tracy. Mine was Virgil (named after Mercury astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom). I’m a Thunderbird 2 kind of guy. I’m in the business of delivering solutions, rather than the first-on-the-scene, rip-shit-and-bust Scott, largely harmless Gordon and extremely forgettable Alan and John. I never really figured out what John did in Thunderbird 5 way out there in space. He must have been bored shitless most of the time.
I’d love to spend a day on Tracy Island. Why? To see how Thunderbird 3 gets home and back into its concealed swimming pool launch site. I’ve never seen a rescue barge or tower crane anywhere near Tracy Island.
At Cape Canaveral in Florida the rocket launch platform is several km away from any people or damageable property. The force from a freshly-ignited Saturn V rocket or Space Shuttle ensemble was enough to make birds fall from the sky. Yet on Tracy Island, old man Jeff stands in the lounge window and watches Thunderbird 3 go skywards out of the swimming pool only a couple of metres away. That’s what I call toughened glass!
Imagination is a marvelous thing. In my case my imagination is prepared to accept all sorts of credibility deficiencies if I’m getting swept along in the moment. I hope Weta doesn’t overdo the animation and make Thunderbirds too “lifelike”. That just wouldn’t be FAB in my book.