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  Thunderbird 6 Model Citizens
Year: 1968
Director: David Lane
Stars: Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Matt Zimmerman, Shane Rimmer, Jeremy Wilkin, David Graham, John Carson, Christine Finn, Gary Files, Keith Alexander, Geoffrey Keen
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: As a member of International Rescue, scientist and engineer Brains must keep his identity secret at all times. This is why he remains anonymous at a closed meeting with an aircraft company to outline his plans for a new type of transport - or rather, a new variation on an old type of transport, the airship. When he suggests this, the board of directors burst out laughing, but nevertheless agree to Brains' idea, and Skyship One is duly constructed. For its maiden voyage, British International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward is invited aboard, with I.R. pilot Alan Tracy, so he and Tracy family assistant Tin-Tin fly to England from their island base in a Tiger Moth biplane. However, what should have been a pleasant holiday turns into a fight to the death when Skyship One is hijacked....

Written by Thunderbirds creators Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson (Sylvia also provides the voice of Lady Penelope), Thunderbird 6 was the second big screen outing for the popular puppet series. Less episodic than the first film, Thunderbirds Are Go, you'd think from the title that it would outline the introduction of an all new, swanky Thunderbirds craft that will join the other five, but Brains' ideas for such a thing are continually quashed by the dissatisfied leader, Jeff Tracy, leading to uncharacteristic temper tantrums on the boffin's part. Also, judging by his skill at creating models, Brains looks to be in the target audience for the Thunderbirds TV show - does this reflect on the model makers behind the scenes, I wonder?

Once Lady Penelope, her loyal chauffeur Parker, Alan and his "are they-aren't they?" companion Tin-Tin are aboard Skyship One, all seems to be going well, and we're treated to a lengthy sequence of globe-trotting where the gang visit New York, the Grand Canyon and a Swiss mountain skiing resort, among other places. In fact, the film is nearly half way over before the baddies' scheme takes effect. They have replaced the original crew and are surreptitiously recording Lady Penelope's every word to make her random sentences into a message for International Rescue, and thereby lead the Thunderbirds into a trap. Who's behind this? Our old friend the Hood, who disappointingly gets two short scenes (wearing a wig - you're not fooling anyone, Hood) and no comeuppance.

Despite the usual innocent shenaigans you've come to expect from this series, there are a number of jarring elements - not only the huge moustache that Parker sports for the first half hour. The board of the aircraft company's laughter is depicted with specially made, laughing puppet heads which look unnervingly like something out of a carnival funhouse. Then there's Alan's method of relaxing in Africa: shooting a lion. There's an awful lot of shooting guns in Thunderbird 6, the body count is in double figures, starting with the original crew of Skyship One, who are callously massacred. But most of the baddies get shot by International Rescue, too, and Thunderbirds 1 and 2 use weapons on an ambush, making you wonder if Jeff Tracy has been planning his own private militia.

The bloodthirsty violence aside, there's still much to enjoy about this sequel, even if it's not up to the standards of the television incarnation. The Tiger Moth comes in handy when Skyship One is stuck on top of an early warning system tower, and the miltary base below has to be evacuated while the Thunderbirds fight to keep it airborne and save the lives of those onboard. The biplane has been introduced to show off the stunts of a real aircraft, which is not entirely smoothly edited into the puppet action; perhaps a model would have been better employed. Still, a lot of the charm can be taken from simply watching the various craft flying over meticulously constructed landscapes, even if the story is lacking. Aren't you a little let down by the reveal of Thunderbird 6 at the end? Futuristic hardware would have been more satisfying. But at least Brains gets his own uniform. Music by Barry Gray.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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