Tension overload in a breathless and relentless audio adventure from 1966.
The first record that I ever owned – and still own – was Thunderbirds & Captain Scarlet, a Hallmark LP that collected two audio adventures that had been previously issued in 1966 and 1967 by Century 21 onto a single album, the precise release year doomed to forever be a mystery – but certainly at the start of the 1970s, which is when it made its way into my grubby mitts in Woolworth, and – after the usual round of eager staring and begging of my parents – came home with us.
The Captain Scarlet story was a passable affair, perhaps a touch too moody and reliant on a strong understanding of the show’s broader narrative – unfortunately, Captain Scarlet was not being shown on TV when I was a kid, so it was rather baffling and somewhat dour. Not that I didn’t play it to death, of course – my limited record collection ensured that every part of this album was enjoyed and poured over constantly.
But it was the first side that was the winner. I was a huge Thunderbirds fan, for one thing; and the story was much, much better for another.
Thunderbird 1 is essentially the first Thunderbirds story retold – with breathless determination by Shane Rimmer as Scott Tracey – this 21-minute tale is a masterclass in audio drama, never slowing down or pausing for breath for more than a few seconds. It starts with the dramatic and – if you are four years old – almost painfully exciting “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Thunderbirds are GO!” intro and builds to a finale so tense and gripping that youthful listeners must have almost passed out from holding their breath as International Rescue save the giant Fireflash airliner from destruction after a bomb that will be detonated on landing is placed on the plane.
No matter that this makes no sense in retrospect – I mean, if landing sets off the bomb, how does landing on several drone vehicles make any difference? The story, Rimmer’s brilliant narration and the belting music of Barry Gray will keep you on the edge of your seat even now. Thunderbirds, even as a kid, was perhaps a little removed from reality because of the puppet characters, but here that is no longer an issue – you can picture actual people sweating and panicking – real danger and real tension.
Strap yourself in and get ready for tension overload!
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