Thunderbirds Are Go has been on our screens for almost a whole month now, so let’s take stock with this new monthly overview examining the good, the bad, and the everything else about the half-CGI/half-model reincarnation of the classic Supermarionation puppet saga.
To begin with, this series always had a lot to live up to, not because the original series was so perfect in everything it did, but simply because there’s roughly half a century’s gap between the original and the new series. That left plenty of time for the original to become entwined in everyone’s hearts without being interrupted by a constant stream of remakes/reboots/reimagining à la Star Trek or Batman, with only Thunderbirds 2086 and Jonathan Frakes’ live action take on the show popping up.
Fortunately though, things have gotten off to a flying start. One of the loveliest things about Thunderbirds Are Go is how much fun the series is proving to be so far, and perhaps much of that fun is derived from the feeling that this new series couldn’t care less what picky negativity comes its way – Thunderbirds Are Go is having too much of a grand time to take any bad words people may have about the series to heart.
The blitzkrieg two-part opener ‘Ring of Fire’, the amusing ‘Space Race’, the classic-flavoured ‘Crosscut’, and the well-executed ‘Trapped in the Sky’ remake ‘Fireflash’ gallop along with a carefree sense of adventure that’s surely keeping its intended audience hooked. One only has to venture forth into Twitter using the #ThunderbirdsAreGo hashtag to see parents snapping pictures of their young ones doodling adorably awful pictures of the new Thunderbird craft.
With regards to the episodes themselves, there’s definitely a vigorous sense of world-building going on, with much of that coming from a family theme. Move over Incredibles, because part of the original series’ appeal was its focus on a family of heroes, something which Thunderbirds Are Go appears to be exploiting for full dramatic effect. The absence of Jeff Tracy, the relationship between Kayo and The Hood (which Kayo is having to keep secret from her Tracy brothers), and the bond Kayo has with the Tracy family are used as overarching themes linking each episode.
However, there are some elements of Thunderbirds Are Go which we’re still having to adjust to. It’s generally agreed that the scurrying ‘Ring of Fire’ attempted to introduce too much too soon (all five Thunderbird vehicles and FAB 1 before the first ad break), but the far smoother ‘Space Race’ made some sense of the sugar-rush pacing introduced in ‘Ring of Fire’. ‘Crosscut’, a story involving uranium mines going haywire, Scott and Marion having to venture out of said mine as dangerously as possible, and the threat of a nearby town becoming engulfed in radiation surely took its cues from any classic Thunderbirds episode, whereas ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Space Race’ felt more concerned with establishing what they could of this new world of 2060. ‘Fireflash’ took the classic themes from ‘Crosscut’ even further by being a remake of International Rescue’s very first adventure, and gave fans a faithful if jumbled interpretation of the classic episode.
The condensed running time of each episode, just over 20 minutes, also means viewers aren’t given the depth of scale the original constantly used to show its rescues, but there is a sense that the more episodes are broadcast, the less that will matter, as Thunderbirds Are Go is quickly carving its own niche for rescue operations. There are other factors where the new series wins over the original – the practicality of both International Rescue suits and Thunderbird machines is a welcome addition to the franchise, as well as seeing John actually get to join in during rescue missions whilst still being trapped up in Thunderbird 5.
It’s obvious that a lot of care and thought is being poured into this series, but perhaps in trying to appeal to both fans of the original and getting a new audience on board, the focus becomes a little messy, and trips over itself in its own execution. However, that hasn’t stopped Thunderbirds Are Go from opening proceedings in a delightfully charming and grin-inducing manner. Viewers can only wait with bated breath as the rescues get more complicated (just see the new teaser video ITV have recently put up for the episodes ‘Unplugged’, ‘Runaway’, and what appears to be a John-centric episode!), and the family secrets become closer and closer to being exposed.
So far, Thunderbirds Are Go is wisely arming itself with a swinging, reckless sense of fun, something which may well go onto become a trademark of this series that separates it from the original. After all, what’s the point of remaking something if you’re going to replicate everything the original had in exactly the same manner?