Review for Thunderbirds are Go! Volume 1
You know, the worst thing you could do for the ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ 2015 series DVD is to give it to a middle-aged man who saw the original series when it aired in 1966, who watched it all over again in the very early nineties (when it enjoyed an unexpected renaissance) and who has been a lifelong fan of the works of Gerry Anderson. That would be terrible.
Even worse would be if the same chap interviewed Gerry Anderson during the making of the appalling ‘Thunderbirds’ movie and witnessed the full vent of his distaste for such a project, so would be inclined to expect the very worst from any further attempts at a 're-make'.
Finally, and perhaps the biggest faux pas of them all, would be to pass the disc on to someone who has something of a distaste for CGI animation, particularly when it looks more like a retro video-game (The Sims anyone?) than a movie or TV show.
So – cards on the table as if you hadn’t guessed. I am that man. So this review is unlikely to be impartial or particularly relevant. Perhaps it would be far more sensible to see what a 10 year old boy thinks of it. They may well think it’s the greatest thing on television. I do hope so. Because that’s how I’ve felt about the original series for best part of a lifetime.
So to make this more tolerable I’ll get the ‘don’t like’ stuff out of the way first and then we can move on to the ‘do like’ list for the sake of balance. Fair enough?
I should add, before I start, that I received a single disc from the two disc set so have only seen the first seven episodes. But I think that’s more than enough to have formed an opinion.
Here's what I didn't like:
- Elements of the CGI animation; in particular the ‘Sims’ like people.
- Turning Brains into an ethnic geek. I think this slightly back-fires and loses one of the strongest and most intriguing characters from the original, not to say a lost opportunity to retain David Graham’s original stuttering voice-over. After all, he was still used for Parker.
- Lady Penelope – the ‘Made in Chelsea’ stand-in doesn’t have an ounce of charisma compared to the original.
- The title graphics font. Why change a classic? The original text , which went from large letters to small in red, is absolutely iconic. The new titles will never, ever be.
- The Grandma wearing a tracksuit. So much less ‘cute’ than the original, although that may be the intent.
- The endless re-use of ‘same sequences’ (in truth, a feature of the original too).
- The Hood – who just looked a bit ‘slim’ and nowhere near mean enough for my tastes. I thought the original was far more menacing!
But here's what I did like:
- The Thunderbirds themselves – they still look great!
- The music which, whilst not a patch on Barry Gray’s original work (what could be?) still works pretty well.
- Using David Graham (Parker) and Matt Zimmerman (as Professor Harold in just a single episode) from the original – a lovely touch.
- The stories which, albeit a little convoluted were no more so than the originals and were reasonably well told.
- The humour – there’s still an opportunity to chuckle at Parker’s dry wit or at Grandma’s cooking, just as there ever was.
- The episode length – running at a mere 22 minutes each (I guess making room for adverts in a half-hour slot), the CGI never out-stays its welcome.
There is no way the format could sustain the 52 minutes of the original series.
- Tracey Island – just as exciting as it ever was.
- Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce – not as FAB as the original, but not as bad as the movie re-make version either.
So there you have it.
I suspect that Gerry Anderson would have approved this time round. He liked CGI (he re-made Captain Scarlet in that format) and I think he would have enjoyed seeing the vehicles rendered in this way. He was never a great fan of his puppets in any case so would have liked the pace and agility of the new squad.
You get 13 episodes over two DVD discs (I’m unsure whether a Blu-Ray is available or not) and they look pretty decent. I was only able to watch seven but once I got used to the format I started to enjoy them a bit more as it progressed. In fact, by the time I got to ‘Runaway’ I was beginning to really enjoy it. (A bit like the movie ‘Speed’ a high-speed test train in Japan is out of control and can’t stop. It turns out to be under the control of some artificial intelligence that looks like it wants a game. Quite a complex idea but I guess the kids will get it?).
Here’s what you get.
1. Ring of Fire Part 1
2. Ring of Fire Part 2
3. Space Race
10. Tunnels of Time
13. Heavy Metal
I’d check out the trailers or the series on TV before you commit. If it looks like fun then you might just enjoy it. Even an old die-hard like me has to admit that, despite the CGI, it does have its charms.
If you have kids then they may want to check out www.thunderbirds.com too. They can sign up and become bona-fide members of the team. Now if only we’d had that in my day.