Director: Theo Baynton
Writer: Rob Hoegee
Cast: Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Rasmus Hardiker, Kayvan Novak, David Menkin, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Teresa Gallagher, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby, Andres Williams
WARNING: MILD/POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO returns with a surprisingly well-paced bang in this spirited outing for the rebooted International Rescue. “Falling Skies” has a lot going for it, aside from the usual lighting-quick action we’ve become used to since earlier this year. In this week’s adventure, Lady Penelope and Parker board the maiden voyage of a self-constructing luxury space hotel invented by Brains, which obviously runs into trouble (because this is THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!). International Rescue are called into action, but has Brains’ genius mind finally let him down, or is there a more sinister reason for the hotel’s doom?
After a prolonged absence with handling individual episodes, head writer Ron Hoegee shows us why he’s in charge of the direction THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO is going in. For starters, “Falling Skies” takes a liberal use in how the Thunderbird craft are executed. No longer do we now see Thunderbirds 1 and 2 constantly helping each other out on Earth-based missions, for example. Here, Hoegee keeps the audience guessing as all five Thunderbird craft are seen, but only a handful are fully used to exciting effect. No longer is THUNDERBIRDS burdened with having to adhere to a strict set of rules regarding which craft should be used based on the manner of rescue, which the original series stuck to for the majority of its run. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO has taken a fresh approach to how International Rescue operate, and “Falling Skies” embodies that freshness.
One criticism that’s been apparent throughout THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO’s run so far (and most likely won’t end) is the shorter running time means that, compared to the original, the audience isn’t given sufficiant time to develop any emotional connection to those in peril. However, THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO finds ways around this, mostly through visual cues that just about manage to bring emotional weight. “Falling Skies” has one particular cue that has the ability to strike fans at their very hearts. Almost five minutes in, the Tracy brothers are deep in discussion as to how they’ll rescue the falling space hotel. As they place themselves in their respective launch positions, the camera pauses at a wide shot, framing Jeff Tracy’s empty desk, complete with retro video phone, as if its guiding the Tracy brothers into action. Jeff’s absence has only been verbally noted in the series from time to time, but moments like these show us that THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO is definitely not without emotional punch, and despite its primary mission to delight a younger audience, it more than accommodates for the older fan.
Even without these moments, “Falling Skies” delivers plenty of delightful action. The rescue is a multi-layered juggernaut of mini-tension, recalling some of the better rescues throughout the first half of Season 1, such as “Heavy Metal” and “Skyhook”. It’s a shame then that Lady Penelope and Parker don’t exactly do a lot of rescuing themselves. They spend much of the episode as helpless as the hotel’s remaining passengers, which leaves ample room for Kayo to shine. She’s infinitely more interesting than THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO’s other female star, so perhaps it’s just as well we don’t see much of Penelope. Her grappling with the Hood (spoilers, sorry!) lends a sense of menace to the series, as the Tracy brothers have yet to uncover Kayo’s relationship with him.
That’s another ace in “Falling Skies”‘ hand as well – the Hood. In this episode, the Hood appears far more sophisticated in his devious plans than he did in the original series. In “Falling Skies”, he wishes to secretly plunge the world into a state of terror from its own reliance on technology via sabotaging the space hotel, and then reaping the rewards afterwards. In fact, he had to adjust his plan accordingly once International Rescue showed up. The Hood is becoming a far more polished villain than the original, who was happy to simply cause death and destruction in the hope that International Rescue MAY show up so that he could steal their secrets.
Inevitably though, the Hood fails (spoilers again, sorry!), and International Rescue save the day, as ever, in style and with a bit of flair. Hoegee seems to have mastered what this new THUNDERBIRDS is about in terms of execution, and ultimately, he’s scribbled a handsome story that highlights the past, present and future of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO.
“Falling Skies” is now on ITV Player, and repeated tomorrow on ITV at 3 PM. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO returns next week on CITV at 8:30 AM with “Relic”!