My Favourite Photograph: Thunderbird 2 Landing At London Airport – hopefully one of a series by: GF Willmetts (article)

January 4, 2015 | By | Reply More

We all have our favourite SF films and TV series but do you ever have an SF photograph that first made your heart flutter when you first saw it?

For me, that first event was back in 1966 with a very  small black and white photo in the Daily Mirror showing a large aircraft landing announcing a new series called ‘Thunderbirds’. Of course, I’d already seen photos in ‘TV 21’ comic but even so, this was a photograph in a national newspaper showing it doing something and it was going to be on TV shortly. There had been nothing like this before. Not in ‘Stingray’ and certainly more advanced than ‘Fireball XL5’. Back then, to my young eyes, this looked real and pitter-patter.

You can see the picture below. Bigger than I originally saw it and in full colour. I use it amongst others as one of my computer’s wallpapers and when it pops up occasionally, I still stop to admire the action. Mind you, there’s three or four other Thunderbird Two photos that I will also stop to admire but this one is still my favourite.


In a single landing pose, Thunderbird 2 landing at London airport from the first episode ‘Trapped In The Sky’ symbolises the then state of the art of the incredible special effects by Derek Meddings and his team. You really could believe this wonderful machine could actually fly and carry its heavy cargo on rescue missions. No matter the excitement of the high speed Thunderbird 1 and the spaceship Thunderbird 3, Thunderbird 2 was the all purpose vehicle at the business end of all terrestrial missions.

Despite Scott Tracy saying he’d been on all missions in ‘Danger At Ocean Deep’, he actually missed out on one in ‘Perils Of Penelope’ and, although it probably happened later, when he was in charge in ‘Atlantic Inferno’. Outside of Thunderbird 3 missions, Virgil Tracy had been on all the televised terrestrial missions. Versatile and expert with all the pod vehicles, no one flew Thunderbird 2 but him. John and Alan alternated with Thunderbird 3 and there is one story ‘Ricochet’ where it docked with Thunderbird 5 with Virgil and Gordon on board with John so he must have been the pilot. With Thunderbird 1, Scott relinquished it to Alan in ‘Atlantic Inferno’. No one ever did that with Thunderbird 2. All right, there were in the comicstrip but are they truly canon? Virgil Tracy was the man. Dependable, artistic and never panicked. The ideal choice to pilot Thunderbird 2. He didn’t even mind being upside down briefly as he used the quick slide chute down to the Thunderbird 2 hanger, which must surely must have been the worse entrance compared to the others, even if it did add an element of spectacle.

In many respects, Thunderbird 2 looks unaerodynamic. I mean, it has a large heavy fuselage and wings that face the wrong way, an accident in construction but kept because it looked more interesting. All its thrust comes from the rear tail assembly and when it boils down to it, Thunderbird 2 is just loaded with power. Yet in Derek Meddings’ own book, ‘21st Century Visions’, he describes an occasion when Thunderbird 2 broke free from its wires and instead of dropping like a stone, flew several feet. Ultimately, it was actually very aerodynamic. It’s no wonder that when you look at the photo that there’s that inner feeling that this vehicle could actually fly.

Look at the picture again and think 1966. This new CGI version of ‘Thunderbirds’ has a lot to live up to.

© GF Willmetts

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Category: MEDIA, Scifi, TV

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 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.

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