Stingray starts with Barry Gray’s pounding theme music accompanying a montage of action-packed sequences showing Marineville, the headquarters of WASP (World Aquanaut Security Patrol), descending underground and launching the super-submarine Stingray against the latest enemy. The excitement is built up to the announcement that “anything can happen in the next half hour”. Well, all sorts of weird aquatic adventures do occur, but we know that in the end us landlubbers will be saved from the terrors of the deep.
This 5-DVD boxset features all 39 half-hour episodes, which were broadcast by ITV in the UK from October 1964 to June 1965. Fortunately, it was also syndicated to the USA and Canada, so for their benefit it was filmed in full colour - us Brits had to watch it on our technologically-backward monochrome TV sets.
Nonetheless it was still very exciting, and for those who were deprived back then, you can now wallow in and enjoy its Supermarionation colour. This also makes it easier to spot the strings controlling the puppets, but what the heck, this is the universe of 2065 ruled by the puppet master Gerry Anderson. This is more than compensated by the wonderful special effects directed by Derek Meddings, who went on to work on James Bond feature films.
Troy Tempest is the hero/Captain of Stingray who is accompanied by navigator ‘Phones’ on his missions to battle underwater villains and aliens who are intent on destroying WASP. His main nemesis is King Titan, who lives in an underwater city and whose forces operate ‘Terror Fish’ submarines in their attacks.
The other main characters are Commander Samuel Shore, who issues orders from his hover chair, his daughter Lieutenant Atlanta Shore, and the mute, former slave girl of Titan, Marina. Modelled on Brigitte Bardot, Marina even has a song dedicated to her in the end credits and is in competition with Atlanta for the love of Troy. Perhaps, as in the Elvis Presley song, they ‘don’t have a wooden heart’ despite appearances.
These 21st century adventures were imagined at a time when the UK was optimistic and creative. Mini cars ruled the roads, The Beatles blasted the sound waves, space exploration and atomic power were filling the headlines, and Stingray showed a wonderful future where technology was literally FAB. Though we must wonder why Stingray was based 10 miles from the sea or why Marineville wasn’t permanently based underground. No doubt because technology and gadgets look good and add plenty of drama.
The future as anticipated in Stingray is also a place where puppets (shock horror) drank alcohol, smoked and played cards, and as for the representation of women, we best not go there. Those were the days...
STINGRAY THE COMPLETE COLLECTION / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: DON MASON, ROBERT EASTON, RAY BARRETT, LOIS MAXWELL / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 28TH