RogerBW's Blog

Thunderbirds Are Go (2016) season 1 26 June 2016

2015-2016 children's science fiction, 26 episodes: the five Tracy brothers pilot a variety of vehicles to rescue people in trouble.

Well, obviously I wouldn't have bothered to watch this if not for a certain lingering nostalgia for the original. (I'm no sort of hard-core fan – I only saw it for the first time a few years ago, rather than in childhood – but I quite enjoyed it.) And I think it was made with the original viewer at least somewhat in mind (not least because, after the 5pm slot for the pilot, it was broadcast at 8am on Saturdays, presumably with an eye to the PVR market): in many details, the original series has very clearly been an inspiration. All the original craft are there, if slightly redesigned, and – much to my surprise in this era of CGI – there have been actual physical sets built, and while the characters and vehicles are computer-generated and overlaid onto those sets they've also been scanned from existent models. (The characters look computer-generated, mind you, or like a family of creepy dolls.)

You'd think, or at least I would, that using CGI would mean it was easy to film things like the Thunderbirds launch sequences from different angles, rather than endlessly repeating the same footage – but that's exactly what they do, with only very rare modifications (like launching two or more of the craft at once). Well, this is a children's programme, and many children are easily made happy with repetition.

The plots are generic, of course, but at least the writers seem to know this, and occasionally have some fun with them – like adding the hapless worker who shows up in three separate incidents, complete with his favourite potted plant.

There is a Girl added to the team, but she's completely absent for most of the episodes and mostly seems to be used to provide an attitude in conflict with the well-aligned group-think of the brothers. Ah well, better luck next time.

The show does get bonus points for talking about the "far side" rather than "dark side" of the Moon, one of my personal bugbears, but loses many of them for actually giving a real-world time for how long it'll take to get there: a time which would require a constant 50-gravity acceleration. No, you don't have antigravity. (At least you don't claim to. Though it would explain a lot. Particularly the speed of the space elevator.) Nobody uses nuclear power any more, though it's never explained what replaced it.

There's nothing terribly profound here, and probably there shouldn't be, though I'd have liked to see more for the adult viewer than pure nostalgia factor. To someone who'd never seen the original, I think this would be a pretty forgettable action-adventure show. The show has been renewed for two more 26-episode seasons.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 04:40pm on 26 June 2016

    I watched the originals of Thunderbirds as a child and I have fond memories of them. But CGI characters don't inspite me to watch this. On the other hand I can't get enough of the new Clangers, apart from occasional bits they're great. Made with real knitted clangers using stop motion animation!

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 04:45pm on 26 June 2016

    That's the first positive mention I've heard of neo-Clangers. Might give them a look.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:41pm on 27 June 2016

    Have you heard negative mentions of neo-Clangers? There are bound to be, some people can't handle any change at all. They'll be moaning about the lack of 16mm film grain or some such.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 02:55pm on 27 June 2016

    A certain amount of "why can't they let Oliver Postgate rest in peace and make something new", rather than comment on the specific new material. Given that most television is rubbish in the first place - certainly I wouldn't recommend neo-Thunderbirds for more than casual entertainment, and I don't expect it to be popular in fifty years' time - and there's a lot of material that is known to be worth watching, I tend to wait until something is actually praised.

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