Fred McNamara on why we should (and shouldn’t) be worried about Thunderbirds Are Go!…
There’s a certain website that’s got a countdown timer on it. As of this piece being written, there are 2 days, 5 hours, and 4 minutes left before whatever blasts off actually blasts off, and Lord knows what time we’ll be on once this piece is published. It’s called thunderbirds.com, and you can view it here. It’s the latest piece of viral marketing for the half-CGI/half-model remake of Thunderbirds entitled Thunderbirds Are Go!.
Whatever the website reveals, those behind the website, and the show’s production, appear to have the spirit of the series down to the last letter. That feeling of excitement when something extraordinary is about to happen is a common feeling for those who watch the original 1960’s Supermarionation extravaganza.
So should we be worried that such a classic slice of cult pop childhood of television entertainment is being remoulded, remade, and redesigned for a new audience?
Yes. Yes we should.
What snippets of viral videos, Thunderbird craft re-designs, and model making we’ve already seen have met with a positive reaction, but the series isn’t to be screened until well into next year. When that happens, there’s still every chance this series could take to the skies only for it to crash into oblivion, much like the mammoth starship Zero-X did several times in the 1966 film which this upcoming remake borrows the title of.
Not everyone wants to see their childhood re-created for someone else to enjoy, and like a great many cult entertainment products, there have been those who’ve suggested Thunderbirds is far better off left alone as the convoluted slice of vintage/futuristic science fiction that it is. Indeed, its setting may be the future, but there are several elements that keep the series firmly placed in the 1960’s.
But we can also be hugely excited for these new adventures to begin. One particular reason is because Gerry Anderson spearheaded this remake. At least, he might have done. Before his unfortunate passing, Gerry did announce that he was in the process of updating Thunderbirds for a new audience. A month after his passing, ITV made the official announcement that they were working alongside Weta Workshop and Pukeko Productions. One can only assume then that ITV carried on with Gerry’s arrangements, which, in all honesty, have been in motion since Thunderbirds was abruptly cancelled in the 1960’s.
Throughout his career, Gerry worked tirelessly attempting to bring Thunderbirds back to both the small and big screen in some fashion, with varying degrees of success. A live-action reimagining originally developed in the 1970’s saw no joy, while the light-hearted Terrahawks began life as something called Thunderhawks. One can only put two together (or in this case five – get it? Wa-hey!) and assume that this remake comes from what Gerry wanted himself.
Another reason to stay positive for the new series is the fusion of CGI and actual model sets, something that was surely done with the series’ original flavour kept in mind. That, and other minor details that we’re already aware of, greatly suggests that ITV, Weta, and whoever else is lending a hand in the production of this series is very much aware of what’s at stake, and aren’t in any mood to jeopardise the series by doing a bad job.
Of course there’s all the usual jargon of “it’ll introduce a new generation to a great TV series” and “it’ll never be as good as the original!” and “those redesigns look awesome” as well as “you’re ruining my childhood!”, but I propose one vital reason why we should be very grateful that Thunderbirds Are Go is blasting off next year.
The fact that this series is being produced implies that the world of TV/film entertainment are looking beyond the novelty of the original Thunderbirds and want to bring Gerry Anderson’s work into the modern world with some respectability.
Think back to when Chris Evans tangled himself in fake puppet strings on The One Show to promote Thunderbirds’ 50th anniversary. Adorable, wasn’t it? But such an act does highlight how the casual viewer really only remembers Thunderbirds as ‘that show with the weird puppets’. Thunderbirds Are Go looks set to both modernise and dispel such views, and bring the show into the futuristic world it was originally set in.
Also, not to dampen Gerry’s incredible legacy at all when I say ‘with some respectability’, but hopefully you understand what I mean. It’s no secret that Gerry didn’t exactly have a ball when being somewhat forced into making puppet films when he had his heart set on live-action features. The Supermarionation shows are some of the most revered children’s shows in history, yet it’s interesting (and somewhat distressing!) to see how, when compared to other cult sci-fi franchises such as Doctor Who, Gerry Anderson is somewhat left behind, pointing perhaps to the perceived novelty of having wooden puppets fly fantastic rescue machines.
Thunderbirds Are Go! will, with any luck, not only be a fab series in its own right, but make those casual viewers sit up and pay more attention to its source material. As of this final sentence being written, the countdown reads t-minus 3 days and counting. It may be two days late, but you know what to do…