In the 1960’s, TV Century 21 was the place to go if you were a young science fiction fan in need of a Thunderbirds fix! A lavish weekly comic full of exciting comic strips featuring the International Rescue team alongside characters from Stingray and Fireball XL5 (as well as other TV favourites like the Daleks), the adventures of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson‘s puppet heroes took centre stage in exciting new adventures that were beyond the scope of the television episodes. Over the past year, Anderson Entertainment, in collaboration with Doctor Who audio producers Big Finish, have begun adapting these comic strips into full-cast audio dramas. The first volume, Thunderbirds Versus the Hood, debuted in September, and hot on its tail is Fire and Fury, which contains audio adaptations of two popular comic strip stories from the 1960s – The Space Mirror and Blazing Danger.
Both stories were originally written for TV21 by regular Thunderbirds scriptwriter Alan Fennell, so there’s already a distinct authenticity to proceedings from the get-go, but adapters Nicholas Briggs and Iain Meadows add to the aesthetic thanks to their sterling work in pacing their scripts and shaping the dialogue to match the style of the original show. Of the two stories, Blazing Danger is the highlight of the set thanks to its addition of some personal stakes and a decent plot twist amid the main rescue plot, though The Space Mirror‘s more overtly science fiction aspects are as equally fun and well-realised on audio. Both certainly wouldn’t feel out of place sandwiched between the original television episodes, and the fast-paced nature of the stories ensures very little in terms of filler (something the TV series occasionally struggled with).
Beyond the scripts, there’s also a commendable attempt to recreate the sound of 60’s era Thunderbirds on the production side, right from the performances and pacing to the sound effects and music. Remarkably the producers and director Samuel Clemens have done a wonderful job of recreating the aesthetic feel of the show – a mammoth feat in itself considering how reliant on visuals the classic series was. The use of original sound effects from the series is a nice touch in itself, and the voice performances, whilst not always convincing impressions, still manage to conjure up the spirit of the characters and imbue proceedings with the necessary gusto required for an Anderson production (Dead Ringers star Jon Culshaw and Justin T. Lee are particularly uncanny in their portrayal of their respective characters).
The only (minor) downside to this audio is the synthy music, which is good enough in itself, but doesn’t quite have the punch or swelling bombast of Thunderbirds composer Barry Gray‘s sensational orchestral score. That said, the music here is excellent when it deviates from Gray’s existing themes and tries to create something new, and the end result is perfectly fine in the context of the action unfolding in the story.
Thunderbirds fans have been treated incredibly well by Anderson Entertainment and Big Finish’s audio efforts thus far, and Fire and Fury is yet another thrilling collection of stories that will satisfy every fan’s nostalgic itch. Bundled together with a collection of bonus cast interviews, these comic strip adaptations are expertly realised for the audio format and remain just as explosive and exciting as they were on the pages of TV Century 21 way back when.
Whether you’re a Thunderbirds fan of old or new, set course for Danger Zone and make sure you have this CD in your (i)Pod!