Tom Thumb Tempest

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"Tom Thumb Tempest"
Stingray episode
Episode no.Episode 22
Directed by Alan Pattillo
Written by Alan Fennell
Cinematography byPaddy Seale
Editing byHarry MacDonald
Production code21 [1]
Original air date28 February 1965 (1965-02-28)
Guest character voices
Aquaphibian
Newsreader
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List of Stingray episodes

"Tom Thumb Tempest" is the 22nd episode of Stingray, a British Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by their company AP Films (APF) for ITC Entertainment. Written by Alan Fennell and directed by Alan Pattillo, it was first broadcast on 28 February 1965 on ATV London. [1]

Contents

The series follows the exploits of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), an organisation responsible for policing the Earth's oceans in the 2060s. Its flagship, Stingray, is a combat submarine crewed by Captain Troy Tempest, Lieutenant George Lee "Phones" Sheridan and Marina, a mute young woman from under the sea. Stingray's adventures bring it into contact with numerous underwater civilisations, some friendly and others hostile, as well as strange natural phenomena.

In "Tom Thumb Tempest", Troy has a nightmare in which Stingray and its crew are miniaturised. The use of life-sized sets to convey the shrinking of the puppet characters has attracted a mixed response from commentators. [2] [3]

Plot

The Stingray crew are relaxing in the Marineville standby lounge when Commander Shore (voiced by Ray Barrett) orders them to prepare to launch, warning them of a dangerous mission. Captain Troy Tempest (voiced by Don Mason) is eager to leave immediately but Shore tells him to await further instructions. Troy's attention turns to the fish in the lounge aquarium. He then falls asleep in his chair.

Troy wakes to hear Shore on the intercom, ordering the crew to launch. He leaves in Stingray with Phones (voiced by Robert Easton) and Marina. Shore radios in, ordering Troy to pilot Stingray through an undersea tunnel. Troy asks for details of the mission but Shore gruffly denies his request, leaving Troy feeling belittled.

Stingray exits the tunnel and hits a sheet of glass. The crew are astonished to find that they have been miniaturised and ended up inside an aquarium within a giant dining room. Leaving Stingray on their hovering monocopters, they investigate the dining table, which has been set for various undersea villains. At the head of the table, set for King Titan of Titanica, is a schematic of Marineville's defence systems. The crew realise that they have stumbled across a gathering of the undersea races to plot the destruction of Marineville.

The crew hide as an Aquaphibian dressed as a waiter enters the room to check the table. They then use a nearby telephone to call Marineville. Shore answers and Troy explains the situation, but the commander thinks that Troy is joking and ends the call. The crew again take cover as the Aquaphibian returns with Titan's agent X-2-Zero (voiced by Robert Easton), who notices the mess the crew have made of the table and reprimands the Aquaphibian for what he assumes to be poor table-setting. The Aquaphibian tidies up.

Left alone, the crew destroy the schematic by pouring alcohol on it and setting it alight. The fire quickly engulfs the room, forcing them back to Stingray. As the aquarium boils, Troy realises that Stingray is trapped. He orders Phones to break the glass with a torpedo, hoping that the escaping water will put out the fire.

As the torpedo is fired, Troy wakes to find himself back in the lounge. Shore tells the crew to stand down and Troy, realising that he has had a nightmare, apologises to the commander for his impatience.

Production

"Tom Thumb Tempest" was significant for combining 13-scale Supermarionation puppets with a life-sized dining room set. [2] It was not the first episode of a Supermarionation series to deal with miniaturised characters: the idea had previously been explored in Supercar 's "Calling Charlie Queen" and Fireball XL5 's "The Triads". [4] However, whereas those episodes had used back projection for their miniaturisation effects, "Tom Thumb Tempest" presented its "shrunken" characters on a physical set. [5] Stephen La Rivière cites "Tom Thumb Tempest" as another example of the " Land of Giants -type" episode that APF had attempted in its previous two series. [6]

Reception

Gerry Anderson biographers Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn consider "Tom Thumb Tempest" to be one of Stingray's most entertaining episodes. [2] TV Zone names it the worst of the series, calling the ending "reasonably clever" but the episode overall a "wasted opportunity". The magazine argues that the episode is spoiled through its use of "two hoary old clichés – the 'incredible shrinking cast' idea ... and the 'it was all a dream' cop-out ending" – the first of which merely emphasises the "unreality" of the plot while the second renders the episode "entirely inconsequential". The magazine also criticises the dream sequence itself for being insufficiently surreal and "[degenerating] into sub- Tom and Jerry shenanigans" towards the end. [3]

Jim Sangster and Paul Condon, authors of Collins Telly Guide, describe the episode as "decidedly less aimed at realism" than those of later Supermarionation series. They also refer to dream sequences as "one of Anderson's most annoying recurring plot devices". [7]

La Rivière suggests that the "tantalising glimpse of reality" provided by the episode conflicted with APF's ongoing efforts to make its puppet characters seem more human. [8] Ian Fryer regards the episode as a precursor of the final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service , which featured both puppets and live actors. [4]

Related Research Articles

Supermarionation style of television and film production

Supermarionation was a style of television and film production employed by British company AP Films in its puppet TV series and feature films of the 1960s. These productions were created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed at APF's studios on the Slough Trading Estate. The characters were played by electronic marionettes with a moveable lower lip, which opened and closed in time with pre-recorded dialogue by means of a solenoid in the puppet's head or chest. The productions were mostly science fiction with the puppetry supervised by Christine Glanville, art direction by either Bob Bell or Keith Wilson, and music composed by Barry Gray. They also made extensive use of scale model special effects, directed by Derek Meddings.

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson was an English television and film producer, director, writer and occasional voice artist. He remains famous for his futuristic television programmes, especially his 1960s productions filmed with "Supermarionation".

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Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, often shortened to Captain Scarlet, is a British science-fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company Century 21 Productions for distributor ITC Entertainment. Running to thirty-two 25-minute episodes, it was first broadcast on ITV regional franchises between 1967 and 1968 and has since been transmitted in more than 40 other countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It is one of several Anderson series that were filmed using a form of electronic marionette puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation" combined with scale model special effects sequences.

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<i>Fireball XL5</i> British childrens TV series

Fireball XL5 is a 1960s British children's science-fiction puppet television series about the missions of Fireball XL5, a vessel of the World Space Patrol that polices the cosmos in the year 2062. Commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac, XL5 defends Earth from interstellar threats while encountering a wide variety of alien civilisations.

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<i>Crossroads to Crime</i> 1960 film

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References

  1. 1 2 Bentley, Chris (2008) [2001]. The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide (4th ed.). London, UK: Reynolds & Hearn. p. 87. ISBN   978-1-905287-74-1.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. 1 2 3 Archer, Simon; Hearn, Marcus (2002). What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorised Biography of Gerry Anderson. London, UK: BBC Books. p. 99. ISBN   978-0-563-53481-5.
  3. 1 2 Payne, Stephen, ed. (Summer 2004). "The Anderson Files". TV Zone Special . No. 57. London, UK: Visual Imagination. p. 35. ISSN   0960-8230. OCLC   438949600.
  4. 1 2 Fryer, Ian (2016). The Worlds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson: The Story Behind International Rescue. Fonthill Media. p. 84. ISBN   978-1-78155-504-0.
  5. Knoll, Jack (2 June 2014). "Exploring Miniaturisation: Supermarionation Gets Cut Down to Size". gerryanderson.co.uk. Anderson Entertainment. Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2019.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. La Rivière, p. 103.
  7. Sangster, Jim; Condon, Paul (2005). Collins Telly Guide. London, UK: HarperCollins. p. 722. ISBN   978-0-00-719099-7.
  8. La Rivière, p. 98.

Works cited