About a week ago I decided to clear out my room and organise my books and other belongings. Now, since you probably haven’t seen my room (and if you have, what exactly were you doing there?), I’ll just tell you this, it was not an easy task. But that’s not what I’m writing about today, what I’m writing about is that while I was doing this I came across a shoebox, and inside that shoebox were pieces of my childhood. I found a lot in there; Dr Who toys, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, a couple of random action figures, Captain Scarlet figures and vehicles and even some toys from the less popular Stingray. But the things I found that meant the most to me, and made my head spin with nostalgia, were the 1992 Matchbox diecast models of Thunderbirds 1, 2, 3 and 4.
These fairly heavy, beautifully designed lumps of metal and plastic were my absolute favourite toys, and many a time have I heard the story of my parents’ epic struggle through shopping centres to find them when the Thunderbirds re-run hype was at its peak in the nineties. I’m forever grateful to them for that, because with these toys and my over active imagination I created entire episodes of Thunderbirds in my head. Admittedly, most of them were to do with the multi-storey car park playset I had collapsing in one way or another, but despite the constant re-runs of this disaster (you would think that they would close that car park down or something), it was the most fun thing to do in the entire world.
I’m realising that I’m gushing a bit here, and some of you (hopefully none of you) might be asking yourselves and me, ‘What the hell is Thunderbirds?’
I sincerely hope you’re not, because Thunderbirds was my favourite TV show, it took everything a kid, or even an adult, wants to see and put it on-screen in the form of hour-long episodes. There was action, drama, aircraft that defied the laws of physics, tons of cool sci-fi ideas and the most important one of all, everything explodes. Even a truck filled with water.
I know what you’re thinking, it all sounds a bit silly, right? Wrong. It’s brilliant!
The story focused on the adventures of the wealthy and respected Tracy family, the creators and operators of International Rescue. The father, Jeff, a respected astronaut and creator of the organisation, runs it and monitors all the missions. Meanwhile, his sons; Scott, Virgil, Gordon, Alan and John all pilot the various Thunderbird Machines. This was one of the first shows that brought in the idea of having more than one main hero. Although Scott and Virgil were definitely the more popular characters, as they were the pilots of Thunderbirds 1 and 2 respectively, and they were the two most used machines on the rescues.
The rescues themselves were absolutely genius ideas. They were science fiction but never strayed into the realms of the unbelievable or surreal. And a lot of them still have relevance today, in fact the first episode is about a bomb being planted in the undercarriage of a new supersonic aircraft, ‘Fireflash’.
The show was made using realistic models, pyrotechnics and sets, with puppets portraying the main and background characters. It was as if your toys were coming to life on the screen, and that was probably why it was so easy and enjoyable to pretend those little metal toys were the real machines of ‘International Rescue’.
ITV announced last year that they will be bringing out a new revamped series of Thunderbirds next year, mixing live action sets with CGI characters. I for one am pretty excited about this. I’m not really sure how it’ll turn out, as the live action 2004 version was pretty fucking terrible, but I’m really hopeful for this new attempt. It could renew the show’s popularity for the new generation, like the re-runs did for mine. And to be honest, Thunderbirds definitely deserves a decent revamp. So yeah, I’m not really sure what my point in this article was, it was mainly a way to vent the excitement of rediscovering those old toys and the show. But to make it so that this wasn’t a complete waste of your time, I’m going to recommend that you watch episode 1 of Thunderbirds, ‘Trapped in the Sky’, because it’s still one of the best debut episodes of any show I’ve ever seen. Just don’t take it too seriously, enjoy it for its humour, great dialogue and majestic models and sets.