It’s safe to say that most people have heard of the Thunderbirds, either through the original 1960s TV classic, the toy revival in the 1990s or the woeful 2004 Hollywood movie but 2015 has seen its reemergence thanks to a brand new modern day reboot, Thunderbirds Are Go.
Creator: ITV Studios, Pukeko Pictures
Distributor: ITV Studios
Number of Episodes: 13
Run Time: 22 mins per episode
Release Date: Available Now
Launched to coincide with the original show’s 50th anniversary, Thunderbirds Are Go has become a prominent feature of Saturday mornings on CITV in the UK. The new show does away with the beloved puppets of the past and instead provides a unique combination of CGI and live-action miniatures in a bid to modernise the show for today’s children.
As a huge fan of the original show, I was less than keen when I saw the initial promotional images of the CGI Tracy family but then I remembered that I should be looking at this from the point of view of a parent, introducing my own children to something I loved as a child but in a context that’s more familiar to them.
So I vowed to give the new show a chance and to my delight it is actually very loyal to the original, from the designs of the Thunderbirds to Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce (not a Ford like the movie), there’s even an original cast member on board with the return of David Graham as Parker. The highlight for me though is the opening titles countdown, if you’ve seen the original then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
The nods to the original don’t actually stop there though, throughout the 13 episodes included on the DVD there are a number of homages to Gerry Anderson’s original series, from the tools used in certain episodes to a complete reworking of one of the original stories. There is definitely some appeal for parents who were fans of the original to sit down with the kids and give this new version a go.
Nostalgia aside, one of the best elements of the new show is the live-action backdrops and miniatures. It would not have been difficult for ITV to make the decision to go entirely CGI, it’s far from uncommon, especially with remakes; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, even Fireman Sam have all been remade in recent years using pure CGI.
Thunderbirds Are Go has taken a different approach and one that, as a fan of the original, I’m all for. It adds a level of originality and quality you tend not to see in modern kids shows and very quickly jumping back on the nostalgia train, it’s a nice tie back to the way the original was made.
Where the new show benefits considerably from new technology is in the action sequences, there’s certainly a lot more you can do when your lead characters aren’t strung up. Despite my personal distaste of the new look Tracy brothers, the CGI works well in finally allowing the characters the freedom to fully immerse themselves in the action, be the action heroes International Rescue are supposed to be (anyone remember the old shows close up moments when the puppets hands were replaced with a real persons hands).
Of course, with this freedom any realism tends to go flying out of the window but this is a kids show after all so I very much doubt the target audience will be too bothered about picking apart the science behind the show, that’s Daddy nic-picks job over here.
The DVD set itself covers the first 13 episodes of the new series, with each episode having a runtime of 22 minutes. Given that the original series episodes ran at 50 minutes it’s understandable to note that the stories do suffer in places, character development and plot set-up’s are among the biggest losers given the restriction on time. This again, however, isn’t something that is really going to bother the target audience.
Sadly the DVD does not come with any extras, it literally only contains the show itself. This is something of a disappointment given how important the shows release has been and it’s specific timing to coincide with the 50th anniversary, a documentary on the making or the history behind the show would have been a nice addition.
Though the DVD might be lacking in extras, there is plenty out there to accompany the show. Both the official website, thunderbirds.com, and the iOS and Android Apps offer fans of the show the opportunity to participate in their own International Rescue missions with plenty of activities and challenges to keep the kids happy.
Overall, Thunderbirds Are Go stands up surprisingly well against the beloved original, with homages galore for the older fans and an exciting modern look for this generation of kids. Despite my early pessimism regarding the CGI elements of the reboot, it’s safe to say that even with the modern face-lift, the essence of what made the show watchable still exists.
Thunderbirds Are Go Volume 1 is available to buy on DVD right now, with individual episodes available to download from iTunes.