Just watched the opening episode of the new take on Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s classic Thunderbirds. The new version, which appears fifty years after the original first appeared uses a mixture of CGI and practical sets in a manner that I’m inclined to believe would have met with Gerry’s approval – if this kind of technology had been available, I’m quite sure he’d have used it with enormous enthusiasm.
Unlike the live-action movie that came out some time ago, and which is best forgotten, the new series shows all the signs of being made by people who grew up on the original, and still love it. The CGI characters, while lacking strings and oversized heads, have a plastic-like sheen which is a nod to the original. And the Thunderbirds themselves? These have been done pretty damn nicely – instantly recognisable, but with more detail, and more realism (despite being 100% less real) and a general feeling of being updated without losing the essence of the originals. Space station Thunderbird 5 does look quite different (more rotating bits and so on), but the others are just as you might expect. And the original launch sequences are all present and correct.
There’s a bit of plot development since the original – father and commander Jeff Tracy is missing, presumed dead. Recurring villain the Hood is still with us, and more than likely responsible for the loss of Jeff.
And there were a few nods to other Gerry Anderson shows – a brief flash of Stingray, and an undersea base with a section that looked suspiciously like the cabin of an Eagle from Space:1999.
The use of CGI rather than models for the ships is a good move – it’s allowed for some incredible shots that would have been very difficult, not to mention expensive, to achieve in the traditional way. Overall, the first episode worked very well indeed – if you’re a Thunderbirds fan, you should love it.
Future episodes are being shown at 8am on Saturdays, so make sure you set your recording devices. I know I have.