From the moment the launch countdown booms ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ over Thunderbirds Are Go’s opening sequence, goose bumps and raw excitement are imminent no matter how old you are.
After being so used to seeing the Tracy brothers as puppets, the idea of an animated Thunderbirds series seems a little strange. It’s a little disappointing that you can no longer have fun pointing at the strings and marvelling at the craftsmanship that actually goes into the puppets. However, CGI doesn’t complete dominate the screen. You wouldn’t know just from watching it but each and every one of the sets, from the Villa’s living room to the Thunderbirds’ cockpits, are hand-built miniature models, made in New Zealand by the geniuses of Weta Workshop.
The first episode – a double bill titled Ring Of Fire – wastes no time faffing around the setting the scene. From the get-go, International Rescue is on the ball, taking us through water, space and air with hardly time to breathe or think, but it’s excellent. After Thunderbirds’ reputation as a staple of British pop culture, it’s easy to forget that it is, after all, a kids’ show that wouldn’t be out of place sandwiched between Saturday morning cartoons on the TV schedule. Having said that, it’s funny, thrilling and exciting, and age and experience is completely irrelevant.
Nods to the original series manage to invoke buckets of nostalgia for older fans while not excluding new ones. Jeff Tracy doesn’t physically feature in the reboot – the series wanted to focus more on the brothers and their sibling relationships – but his presence is still felt. The introduction of CG characters doesn’t leave puppet-shaped holes in the hearts of long-time fans – everything about the new Scott, Virgil, John, Alan and Gordon screams puppet origins, from their jolty movements to their huge eyes and slightly confusing mouths that barely move in time with their speech.
But best of all, David Graham is back voicing Lady Penelope (Rosamund Pike)’s trusty manservant Parker fifty years after the first series. Like everything else, he’s been updated for the 21st century, ditching the butler suit for a suave polo neck and leather jacket, but the quick lines and ‘posh cockney’ accent are still there, and it’s wonderful.
Thunderbirds Are Go! continues on Saturday mornings on ITV1.