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F.A.B for Thunderbirds
My sister, my brother and I used to love Thunderbirds when we were little. Those were the days before Video Recorders and we’d rush inside, even on a hot summer’s day, draw the curtains and sit down enthralled for half an hour. Afterwards we’d hurtle back out into the garden, singing the theme tune at the tops of our voices and yelling “F.A.B.” to each other. Such is the imagination of young children that the trees we used to climb became the Thunderbird vehicles: the tall Sycamore Tree was Thunderbird 1, the Copper Beech Thunderbird 2. I can’t remember now what trees represented Thunderbirds 3 and 4.
We never seemed to notice the inadequacies of the puppets. We had grown up with “Bill and Ben’ and “Captain Pugwash”. The Gerry and Sylvia Anderson animations in Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett and Stingray, were groundbreaking in comparison. We lived every moment of them and loved them all.
So it was with some trepidation that I watched the new “Thunderbirds are Go!”. I wasn’t disappointed though. True, there have been some concessions to the modern day: I scarcely recognised Lady Penelope . Gone is the mature stately carefully spoken lady I remembered, replaced with a svelte younger more go-ahead version. And I wonder why they feel it necessary to give her a dog? Maybe just to add comic effect. Outwardly her chauffeur Parker has remained the same, especially the voice, which is uncannily similar, but he seems to get more involved than I remember from before. Brains for some strange reason is now Indian. But the biggest change is the introduction of the female character Tanusha Kyrano, known as Kayo. I couldn’t even remember her from before, but I Googled it and apparently she was called Tin-Tin and was the daughter of Kyrano, Jeff Tracy’s manservant. Sylvia Anderson introduced her into the series for exactly the same reason she is in the new series: to “redress the balance” of the “male-dominated” primary puppet cast.
In this new version Kayo has a far more dominant role. She even has her own “Thunderbird” known as Thunderbird Shadow. She is a pilot. She knows Martial Arts. She is a string-willed stubborn young lady, a match for her “adopted” brothers, the Tracy boys. She also has a secret: she is related to the evil character “The Hood”.
There are other more obvious changes: the introduction of holograms for communication, the updating of aeroplanes, cars and spacecrafts. The theme tune, however, is recognisably the same, and they still have the same rather complicated method of entering their crafts and launching them and use expressions like “F.A.B.”
Crucially, they have maintained the charm of the old series, even down to the slightly jerky movements of the characters and the same type of scenery.
The pilot episode for the new series was shown on ITV at five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, a family viewing slot, a time that even people without children could watch it, like they watch Doctor Who for example. I was disappointed, then, to find that subsequent episodes were to be shown on Childrens’ ITV at eight o’clock on Saturday mornings and three o’clock on Sunday afternoons. I’m still hoping the schedulers will realise what a big mistake this is. It is only thanks to the video recorder that I can continue watching it!
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.