You’re playing with fire when you remake Thunderbirds. No matter how smart the changes you make, or how much reverence you hold for the original, you are going to annoy at least three generations of fans who have loved it since their childhood.
But calm down everyone. If you were paying attention to the first episode of Thunderbirds are Go, you might have noticed these subtle nods to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s original masterpiece. Some of them we noticed ourselves, and some were pointed out by the cast and crew at the series premiere in London.
A voice from the past…
Perhaps the biggest change is that big daddy Jeff, father of the Tracy brothers, has gone missing in action. The producers confirmed that he wouldn’t be showing up for at least the first two series, but he is most certainly still an influence on the team. Not only are they trying to live up to his example, but the voice of the original Jeff can be heard giving the countdown every time the Thunderbirds lift off.
Incidentally, David Graham repr-haises the role of Parker, and another voice from the past will crop up later in the series: Sylvia Anderson, the original voice of Lady Penelope. We won’t spoil it by telling you which character she plays.
In a nice wee in-joke, John was caught watching another Gerry Anderson classic. Meanwhile, that undersea base looked awfully similar to the Eagle from Space: 1999 – yet another Anderson mainstay – and to our eye the new Thunderbird S (not6) is a bit like the White Falcon aircraft from Captain Scarlet.
The Thunderbirds are no longer secret
Despite constantly piloting nuclear powered rocket ships about the place, the Tracys otherwise used to like to keep a low profile. Many old episodes included scenes of them wiping all filmed evidence of themselves and their craft, in case enemies like the Hood got a hold of it. However, in the modern age of total surveillance and smartphones, this was deemed unrealistic, and now the Thunderbirds operate openly and with the assistance of the world authorities.
This does make you question why they bother hiding their vehicles under their house. Having Thunderbird 1 launch from out of a swimming pool used to be for camouflage. Now it’s presumably just because it looks really, really cool.
CGI vs reality
So: the puppets, or lack thereof. The most contentious aspect of the remake was the decision to use CGI instead of physical models for the Tracy brothers and their craft. From the sheer range and speed of the action in the new series, it’s obvious why. But did you clock that the CGI Tracys were running through ‘real’, miniature landscapes? It’s in keeping with the spirit of the original, but can produce an odd effect: the sense of scale sometimes slips, making International Rescue look like they’ve been shrunk to the size of a mouse. This was also a danger back in 1965.
Speaking of models, one fan asked whether any of the old craft had made it on screen. Unfortunately (cover your ears, inner child) most have been destroyed, but apparently a great many of the surviving models are now in the collection of Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings. Jackson established Weta Workshops in New Zealand, the special effects house that now handles Thunderbirds are Go.
Don’t mess with Parker
In the original series Parker, Lady Penelope’s cockney butler, wasn’t always on the side of the angels. A reformed cat burglar, he was occasionally called upon to crack a few safes. The new Parker’s knowledge of the black market – not to mention his Lock, Stock wardrobe – suggest he’s still a bit tasty.
Remake, reuse, recycle
A lot of tonight’s adventure will have seemed familiar to longterm fans, particularly if you remember the episode Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday. Expect more direct remakes of old stories, including a new version of Trapped in the Sky. The very first Thunderbirds episode, it saw the team trying to guide a sabotaged jet liner to the ground.
The lemon squeezer is still on the wall
Remember this detail from Thunderbird 1’s hanger? Every Brit who grew up with a post-Habitat kitchen would recognise this as a lemon squeezer. Look closely at the launches in Thunderbirds are Go and you’ll see it’s still there.