1... [takeoff noises]
Thunderbirds are GO!
This year saw the release of an updated version of the classic hit, "[Thunderbirds Are Go!](tag:856653)" and unlike most remakes, this one is simply a gem.
It's not often that a remake finds the perfect balance of catering to nostalgia while also attracting a new audience, but ITV's new series, which airs on it's Children's network, manages the balance almost seemlessly.
You see, this show is not about rewriting all that has come before it.
Instead, this show takes what the world loved in the original Supermarionation series and redefined it for a new generation, all the while building on the mythology that Gerry Anderson laid in place for this show. If you aren't watching it, you simply are missing out on a true televisual marvel.
The animation, by Weta Workshops, is flawless. Sometimes I get a little mad at the lack of scale for objects, but that isn't really so bad. The animators effectively use precision-crafted environments, depth-of-field and focal length to help make us, the audience, a part of the world. To make Thunderbirds of us.
Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself at the new renditions of each character and their respective Thunderbird.
1. Scott Tracy and Thunderbird 1
As with the rest of the Tracey brothers, Scott Tracy is essentially just a more realistic version of his puppet counter-part off of which he was based. If you look as Scott's shoulder, you'll see a badge with Thunderbird 1 on it. All of the Tracey brothers have these, but they're personalized to their Thunderbird.
Thunderbird 1 is a truly mastered design, and this time around, it's got some continuity! Gone are the days where Thunderbird 1's grappling hook changes position depending on which episode it's in, the High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft makes sense and has a plan. We know it's capabilities, it's limits and everything in between, and we're only just getting started!
I can't help but feel that this incarnation of the oldest Tracy brother is by far the most accurate, at least based off of what Gerry Andersen had in mind for him. You really can feel how bold and decisive Scott is this time around, and how his brashness becomes borderline reckless.
2. Virgil Tracy and Thunderbird 2
The voice of reason who looks like the most intimidating Tracey brother whereas he's actually the most sensitive and level-headed comes across as just that. Virgil Tracy and the colossal Thunderbird 2 have always been a good pairing and the new series definitely shows us that.
You may have noticed that the sashes across the Tracy's chests are now more accurately color-coordinated and the utility belts on their sashes help different Tracys with different rescues.
Thunderbird 2 has received some upgrades with the latest re-vamp. It is now much smaller than it's predecessor, but that's not a bad thing. It now means that the doors that helped Virgil so much in the 1965 series are now within reach, including (most notably) the giant bulkhead on in the cockpit ceiling. We see this put to use at the start of the first episode, and it's also Virgil's primary means of entry during the launch sequence.
All in all, Virgil is the embodiment of what it means to be a member of International Rescue and his new rendition shows it perfectly.
3. Alan Tracy and Thunderbird 3
One of two space-faring Tracys as well as being the youngest, Alan's immaturity and yearning to grow up are captured perfectly within the confines of his digitally rendered character. You may have noticed that, unlike the previous two brothers, Alan's gloves cover his fingers. There's an obvious reason: it's so that if he needs to get into outer space quickly, all he needs to put on is a helmet.
Thunderbird 3 has some notable changes right from the get-go. The arms which reach down to the engines are now capable of facing forward and acting as grappling arms, with magnets attached. The delivery system is now a crane which delivers them mid-way up the hull, rather than making their (rather dangerous) entry through the thruster like in the original series.
I am incredibly excited to see Thunderbird 3 through the new lens of CGI, and see it's full range of capabilities explored.
4. Gordon Tracy and Thunderbird 4
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but I like to think of Thunderbird 4, in the original series, as a wasted opportunity. It got three, maybe four good episodes of use back in the 1960's, and that's for a very good reason: the underwater canvas doesn't exactly provide the biggest array of rescues to be performed. Someone gets trapped in a sinking boat/submarine, Thunderbird 4 goes to pick them up, end of story.
Or at least, that's how it used to be...
With the new series only thirteen episodes in (and currently on hiatus), Thunderbird 4 has already seen use about as many times as the original series did in it's entire run. You see, modern technological advancements and a clearer understanding of humanity's future gives the writers more doors to take Gordon and his Thunderbird through.
Out of all the Thunderbirds, this little lad is the one that changed the least. It's few changes are, among others, grappling arms attached and stowed at the bottom (an idea taken from the 2004 movie) and safety pods for survivors, which take them right to the surface.
5. John Tracy and Thunderbird 5
Thunderbird 5 is the Thunderbird that had to give way for a more modern audience. You can see how the animators over at Weta Workshops tried their utmost to stay true to the original design, but I'll have to admit, when I first saw this Thunderbird, I didn't recognise it at all, and tried my best to rationalise it.
Mind you, I say that as if it's a bad thing, when it's really not...
Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays his oldest-looking character yet (a wee little wink to you internet meme artists out there ;) ) in John Tracy, the sibling in charge of linking his brothers with worldwide disaster. John is the most calm and collected of the brothers, displayed perfectly through the show. Unlike the original series, we have yet to see him swap duties with Alan for a small while.
Here's the redesign, in all it's glory. Yes, it bares little to no resemblance of it's predecessor, but what it loses marks for in nostalgia, it makes up for in practicality. It's solar panels, gravity ring and airlock are all much more, err, scientifically-back-up-able. Here's a little something though...
My sincerest apologies for the low-resolution of the image, but what you're seeing is an issue that the original series never even dealt with: how does John get from Earth to Thunderbird 5 with ease? Originally, it would have been that Thunderbird 3 would pick him up, but that's an incredible waste of fuel and resources. There we have a problem.
The new show's solution? A space-elevator, a pod with thrusters and attached to a cable which can take enormous amounts of strain. John can lower himself to Tracy Island whenever he needs.
The rest of the characters...
Tin-Tin Kyrano is now replaced by Kayo, a character who is incredibly similar to Tin-Tin, so much so that you occasionally call her Tin-Tin. She is the pilot of Thunderbird Shadow.
Tin-Tin's father Kyrano doesn't appear in the series, and his house-keeping duties have been picked up by Grandma Tracy, who also returns.
Most noticeable, however, is the absence of Jeff Tracy, the father of all the Tracy siblings. The first episode very briefly explains it away as the result of a plane crash, for which they hold the Hood responsible. Personally, I think this was the right way to go with Jeff. With the tragic passing of Peter Dyneley in 1977, no one would ever sound the same as Jeff Tracy onscreen again.
Dyneley still gets the countdown voice in the series, which has been digitally remastered and accompanies both the title sequence and the launch sequences of Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 3.
What you're missing out on...
"Thunderbirds are Go" is a very faithful, engaging and entertaining modernization of the original series. If handled correctly, this remake of Thunderbirds could reach levels of popularity similar to the Doctor Who remake.
The show still abides by it's predecessor's code, that heroes don't necessarily need recognition. Sometimes, making just your family proud instead of the whole world is all you need.