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Calling International Rescue: an article by: GF Willmetts.

September 29, 2019 | By | 2 Replies More

With two slightly different versions of ‘Thunderbirds’ TV series out there, it did make me ponder on a very real point. If there really was a secret organisation intent on appearing when normal rescues were impossible to do that very thing in our type of world there would be different repercussions, more so in a media-orientated world we have today.

However, if we remain true to the 1966 version, let’s discount that for the moment or at least think the Thunderbird vehicles means to neutralise photographic evidence would be a lot easier against digital cameras. We’ll focus mostly on this version.

Indeed, one would still have to wonder how they couldn’t be tracked on radar screens that covered the world. The USS Sentinel in ‘Terror In New York’ certainly didn’t have any problems although it was top of its class and thought Thunderbird 2 was a high-speed rocket as it was unable to determine its mass. There was no indication whether it detected Thunderbird 1 as it was approaching and certainly faster. It should also be noted that Thunderbird 3 could not be detected until 2 miles up in ‘The Imposters’ and that was only because Space Observatory 3 was tracking in the South Pacific.

We’ll forgive them for not tracking vectors which would determine its launch site, although Elliott’s rescue no doubt distracted that. You would have thought Brains would have come up with some means for the Thunderbirds not to be tracked once they are in the air. Judging by Thunderbird 3 not being detectable until 2 miles up would suggest that Tracy Island can shield itself when the Thunderbirds are launched.

What was more amazing is that General Lambert could not find International Rescue’s home base simply by deduction. After all, even though the Thunderbirds weren’t tracked, the times of rescue calls, directions and arrivals would have been noted. It wouldn’t need many of these to produce time and distance maps and see where they crossed. Of course, we know that International Rescue’s Operation Cover-Up conceals their equipment and vehicles when visitors are on their island. The major slip-up of the people they rescue knowing their full names would have been a bigger problem and more amazing that it was kept out of the media. A simple matter of showing the rescued people photos of the Tracy brothers would have been more than enough.

As a racing driver, Alan Tracy’s photograph would certainly be on file, although I have pointed out in the past people are more prone to remembering uniforms than the people wearing them. Maybe the rescued people wouldn’t intentionally want to acknowledge who they were but an eye flicker and such would give one or two of them away. Certainly the pilots of the Fireflash would be put in a compromised position if they were threatened with a loss of their pilot’s licences if they didn’t co-operate. All the concealment on Tracy Island could not hide a serious search once they knew what they were looking for.

All of this is based on a single time when crooks masqueraded as International Rescue. Preventing photographs being taking of the Thunderbirds themselves has meant few people have actually seen them and even descriptions wouldn’t guarantee people couldn’t be fooled. After all, the crooks stealing from Aeronautical Research Station simply told bystanders that they didn’t need more elaborate equipment to conduct a phony rescue. In many respects, International Rescue’s own policy worked against them. Granted had they allowed some photos of the Thunderbirds to be photographed, how could they stop more being made and the pilots themselves be photographed?

Taking that aside, the real effect of a covert international rescue organisation able to conduct rescues shows the inadequacies of different countries in saving their own citizens. Granted this would be true of any country, even in our reality, because no country can have the right equipment available at the right place for every eventuality, let alone the right vehicle to get it there if it wasn’t. Interestingly, the attempted rescue by Meddings in ‘Trapped In The Sky’ was duplicated by International Rescue successfully itself in ‘Operation Crash-Dive’. A demonstration of superior equipment will beat any ad hoc attempt.

A side comment on both versions is they kept the landing gear bay doors open instead of shutting them. Although this has been seen as an error, if the power to the bay doors is disabled then they would have been trapped inside. With a crash-land, they are vulnerable to turbulence and grinding into the ground, further trapping them if they survived. Simply put, there would have been no escape and probably no rescue.

Every time International Rescue comes to rescue trapped people, at governmental level there must be some debate. Of course, they will be grateful but it must be galling to show their own failure. Even more so when International Rescue preferred to remain incognito and not even share the secret of their equipment. To be fair, they do reveal their equipment in the wrong hands can be equally dangerous. Saying that, you would have to wonder which.

The Mole and the Firefly, with its explosive charges, would probably be at the top of the list in the hands of criminals. Considering that Thunderbird 2 was nearly destroyed by the USS Sentinel in ‘Terror In New York’, speed alone doesn’t appear to be a requisite. This is an all important factor to know should there be any government decide to sponsor their own version of an advanced rescue service. If their equipment was stolen, would it be used by criminals or terrorists?

All that aside, the collective responsibility of countries would surely invest in their own rescue equipment and, outside of secrecy, even use International Rescue as their template. As such, ultimately, the family International Rescue would slowly become redundant. There was evidence of this in ‘The Uninvited’ when Thunderbird 1 was returning as their services weren’t needed in a Tokyo fire, although must have arrived unannounced to check than wait for a call. In many respects, their goal would ultimately be achieved.

The move into providing safe vehicles, such as Skyship One, from Brains’ design would be the best way to go. This moves away from government level to having corporations making safe vehicles and no doubt into safer buildings and prevent disasters like ‘City Of Fire’. Ultimately, International Rescue would be creating a safer world but not necessarily one afraid to advance itself in doing so.

This brings us to the modern interpretation of International Rescue in the CGI ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ (2015-present) where they don’t always work in conjunction with each other in a variety of rescues and purely as to who is available. As such, this version of International Rescue is forever going to the rescue of people, including serial offenders who keep pushing the edge. These people do so knowing that International Rescue acts as their backstop. As such, the countries of this reality and even its world security service, the Global Defence Force, depends on them. Although the whereabouts of their Tracy Island is kept secret, it’s more an open secret as to who they are and there are no precautions to prevent their Thunderbirds, crew or their equipment from being photographed.

However, this reality’s dependency has made various countries and companies more reckless in their inventions and architecture. It is hardly surprising that the same people frequently need rescuing. If anything, it’s more of a miracle that so few need rescuing although puzzling why their respective governments never arrested them for dangerous activities likely to hurt others. This is really a demonstration of a world dependent on their International Rescue that it is likely that they will do little in creating their own equipment. International Rescue has literally become its own problem.

The existing International Rescue Corps we have in our reality is United Nations funded volunteer driven disaster rescue service. Primarily what is needed in such situations is qualified manpower transported to disaster areas with specialised equipment. In many respects, this is a reverse of the fictional International Rescue where their heavy duty equipment needs few people to operate it. We never actually saw the full range of rescues that the fictional 1960s International Rescue operated at, so we never saw them rescuing people in an earthquake area where the real IRC deals with regularly. Ergo, there are some types of rescue that are more problematic than others.

Would an independent heavy duty equipment and vehicle group work in our reality? Probably not. Although no one has done an assessment of how much it would cost, it would limit the number of very rich people who could fund it, let alone have a family of trained pilots. With media cameras today, it would be impossible to avoid being photographed by someone let alone selective photograph erasure. It would be easier to be public and more open, which is similar to the current ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ TV series.

The legacy of the 1960s ‘Thunderbirds’ has been a real-life rescue organisation. A remarkable legacy for a 26 episode children’s TV series. Long may it also be repeated and a reminder that we always need the right people to come the rescue in ever more dangerous situations.

© GF Willmetts 2019

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Category: Culture, TV

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. Phillip House says:

    A very good read and does make you think how they did this and how they did that but please don’t forget the 5 to 12 year olds who don’t care how they did it but did and most of the time with a very happy ending, my favorite is Virgil’s birthday no cake just crumbs then a birthday wish from the rescued scientist and his daughter. I hope they make a film, not live action like that um not very bad but not very good one.
    I try to read most of my SF news letter and enjoy them for a 63 year old Sci-Fi nut who would rather watch Danger Mouse than the News that is good going keep the information coming, Thank You. Sorry it’s a bit long.

    • UncleGeoff says:

      Hello Philip
      When I was watching ‘Thunderbirds’ back in the 1960s, I wanted to know how things worked and was upset for years for missing out on the 1966 copyright dated annual with the blueprints cos it sold out locally.
      Considering how many kids cite SF shows influencing their career choices, I don’t think it should be under-estimated.
      Geoff

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