Before you bunker down to watch this weekend’s return of Game of Thrones, give yourself a jolt of nostalgia with Amazon’s Thunderbirds Are Go, a fun reboot of the British TV series from the 60s. Never heard of it? If you’ve seen Team America: World Police from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, you know where their inspiration came from.
Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Thunderbirds was a science fiction action-adventure that followed International Rescue (IR), a life-saving organization with advanced technology for land, sea, air and space rescue. It sounds like a cheesy Bond knockoff, but it was anything but. What made Thunderbirds unique was its ground-breaking use of electronic marionette puppetry, later dubbed “Supermarionation.”
Supermarionation is a combination of old techniques, using marionettes suspended and controlled by thin wires and solenoids to create facial movement for dialogue. For its time, it was a wonderful system that AP Films—the production company Gerry and Sylvia Anderson worked for—perfected, and a large part of Thunderbirds’ charm. Yes, you could see the wires suspending the marionettes—but it was all part of the schtick. Combined with scale model special effects sequences, and you had yourself a pretty convincing spectacle.
While Thunderbirds Are Go, now available exclusively through Amazon Prime Video here in the U.S., doesn’t use the same techniques of the original, the charm and spirit remains in tact. In fact, it’s just as fun, offering plenty for kids and fans who grew up watching Thunderbirds over 50 years ago.
Produced by ITV Studios and Pukeko Pictures (and with help from world-famous Weta Workshop), the series follows the Tracy brothers—Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon, and Alan—in the year 2060 as they attempt to stop the Hood from destroying the world. Here’s a more succinct description of what viewers can expect:
When disaster strikes and there’s no one else to help, International Rescue answers the call! From their secret island base, this family of highly trained responders can reach every corner of the globe – and beyond – in minutes. With their remarkable cutting edge Thunderbird Vehicles, brothers Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon and Alan Tracy along with head of security Kayo and lead engineer Brains pull off amazing feats of heroism. No rescue is too big and no journey too far to save a life. When duty calls, Thunderbirds are GO.
Rather than the same Supermarionation technique used in Thunderbirds, Thunderbirds Are Go uses a mixture of CGI animation and live-action model sets. It sounds like a complete departure from the original, but the look and feel makes for a nice tribute without sacrificing what made Thunderbirds such a classic.
Honestly, the recent trailer for the show doesn’t really paint the show in the best light, coming off as cheesy and lifeless, when in fact it’s fun and exciting (and, okay, a little cheesy, but in a good way). After catching a few episodes—there are 13 available through Prime; however, there are 26 in total, all of which have aired overseas—I can see this becoming a big hit among younger audiences.
Despite its campier look, Thunderbirds Are Go offers big budget thrills, and the voice acting is terrific, with a headlining performance from Rosamund Pike as Lady Penelope. The show is often funny, too, offering a slick mix that will keep viewers engaged throughout.
If Thunderbirds was a part of your childhood—of you have kids yourself—don’t miss this one. Thunderbirds Are Go might not initially seem worthwhile, but it’s a wonderful homage to the 60s classic. You can stream all 13 episodes now through Amazon Prime Video.