19 April 2015

TB Review: Thunderbirds Are Go

50 years since the original series, Thunderbirds has been revived with a move away from the marionettes and models of the classic to a mix of computer generated characters and ships with miniature sets.

It can be difficult rebooting a franchise for a modern audience and Thunderbirds has already seen the failure that was the 2004 Hollywood inspired movie that ultimately spat in the face of established fans and series creator, Gerry Anderson.

With Gerry's recent passing, the rights for the show have been freed up allowing this new series, Thunderbirds Are Go to come to light and launch this year.

The pilot episode, Ring of Fire is a two-parter at approx 50 mins in length and introduces familiar and new characters while omitting one in particular. Both episodes deal with emergencies that call on the help of our favourite International Rescue pilots. I say our favourite because everyone is involved in each unfolding disaster. While this is good no matter which Thunderbird pilot and craft is you love to see, it is a bit overkill for a 20 minute timeslot! Remember that in the original series it took 11 episodes before we got to see Thunderbird 3 in action.

The charm of the marionettes is gone but the characters are reproduced well in CG. For me, Virgil looks the most different from his puppet counterpart. The problem with CG is that on screen the characters can sometimes appear to be a bit lighter in their environment than they should be, but the team have put a lot of attention into the details which can be appreciated by the fans.

One thing the original series did well was the launch sequences of each craft. Each Thunderbird had it's own theme and own elaborate launch including how the pilot got into them. For the most part, the sequences have been retained and re-imagined for the new series, but the thematic music is gone and with it the appreciation for each craft in their own right. While I love the detail of TB1 descending to her launchpad and blowing away the swimming pool deck chairs (does Grandma put them all back again?) I feel that TB2's launch is rushed and that takes away from how grand this beast of a machine really is. TB2 is probably the favourite of all the Thunderbirds but the whole sequence feels sped up. Originally the palm trees folded down due to TB2's wingspan but the new TB2's wings are retracted as she enters the runway, so the trees don't really need to fold down anymore! TB3's launch sequence retains the moving lounge chair and launch through the round-house. With each launch sequence though, do we really need to hear the familiar 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown every time?

Thunderbirds 1 and 3 are true enough to their original series counterparts although TB3 has been equipped with extending 'arms' which change the look of the ship and we see used to assist an orbital satellite. TB3 was my favourite of the original craft but the new feature has put me off the new one quite a bit. Thunderbird 2 looks similar enough but more like a cargo carrier than the curvacious original version - maybe a little more aerodynamic as a result.

We are introduced to Kayo, a female member of International Rescue who appears to be a replacement for the original's Tintin. As the episode unfolds, it appears that she is the new Tintin. It will be interesting to see where they take this character, particularly with her own ship. Thunderbird S? Really? Shouldn't they have named it TB6?

Notably missing is Jeff Tracy. Scott appears to have taken the reigns on Tracy Island in his absence while John coordinates missions from TB5. There are mentions to an 'incident' that Jeff was involved in but I noticed they deliberately didn't mention he is actually dead... I wonder if this is a thread that will continue through the show to a resolution at some point?

Lady Penelope and Parker are back with their pink Rolls Royce but gone is Lady P's famous upper class accent. Parker retains his as voice actor David Graham returns to the new series. Both are thoroughly featured in the pilot episodes just like everyone else. Lady P even has a little dog for a companion now. Some of the graphics don't quite stand up when FAB1 is involved unfortunately - and they've made it capable of flying (again).

Brains and Grandma make appearances too. Brains has a more distinctly Indian sounding accent than his original series version and Grandma is an incredibly bad cook it seems. Added in with all the rescue mayhem and getting everyone involved, including that bald-headed villain (The Hood), just adds more to the limited time slot and why the pilot episodes continue to feel so hurried.

I'm hoping future episodes will slow down a bit and be a bit less cluttered with emergencies and mayhem. The new show looks like it wants to fit more in with half the time slot of the original. There's no chance to appreciate the depth of the emergency that's presented, or appreciate the awesomeness of the Thunderbird machines in all their revitalised, remote controllable (from a wrist-watch!) glory. However, perhaps the mayhem was a result of starting off with a bang and showing off everything to get audiences interested.

There's potential in this new show and with 50 episodes to come, there's plenty of time to see how this develops. I'm interested enough to want to watch more and that's better than the 2004 movie did!

Thunderbirds Are Go!

16 April 2015

BSG Review: Lost Planet of the Gods (Parts I & II)

The Battlestar Galactica leads their rag-tag fleet in a continued quest to find Earth. Following from the pilot episode Saga of a Star World, we have this two-part episode where many of Galactica's pilots fall ill, forcing new pilots to be trained from the female population.

Meanwhile, Adama navigates Galactica into a dark void to evade Baltar's pursuing Basestar - a course that would eventually lead them to the planet Kobol and an unfortunate encounter on the surface.

Apollo announces he and Serina will get married, with Boxey's approval of course.

Galactica launches two patrols; Boomer and Jolly head to a planet where they discover a Cylon base while Apollo and Starbuck come across a large black void ahead of the fleet. Upon returning to the ship, Jolly and eventually Boomer begin showing signs of severe illness, which is enough to ground most of the male pilots aboard Galactica.

This prompts the training of female pilots including Serina who eventually form part of the mission to protect a medical shuttle in order to find a cure to the illness affecting the other pilots. Meanwhile, Apollo destroys the Cylon base and Galactica navigates in to the void.

We don't get much indication of how much time is passing in this episode as I imagine it would take some a while to train up the new pilots before they're capable of protecting a shuttle. We also don't know how much time has passed since the Battle of Carillon in the pilot episode. However, it seems it doesn't take long for Rigel to completely change her hairstyle during the Viper launch sequence (reused footage from the pilot episode!)

Rating for Part I: 6/10

Continuing through the black void, Galactica picks up a blip on the edge of their sensor range. Adama orders a patrol to investigate which is originally assigned to Apollo and Serina but results in Starbuck taking Apollo's Viper without permission as he acts out against being 'replaced' by Serina.

Apollo and Serina launch to pursue Starbuck but he leaves their scanner range and ends up being captured by some of Baltar's Centurions. After returning to Galactica, Apollo and Serina go ahead with their marriage ceremony, during which a star and a planet are found at the end of the void. Adama believes the planet to be Kobol and it will hold the secrets to the location of the thirteenth tribe, Earth.

Adama, Apollo and Serina investigate some of the ruins on Kobol and find a tomb where they encounter Baltar who explains his side of the story in an attempt to lure them into a trap - delivering them to the Cylon Imperious Leader. Adama isn't convinced and the planet is soon attacked by Baltar's own Basestar with Lucifer, Baltar's Cylon companion taking matters in to his own hands.

Galactica's forces are able to overcome the Cylon attack and Baltar is left trapped on Kobol. Unfortunately, Serina is mortally wounded by a Cylon in the escape from the planet surface.

I quite liked this episode as we got to see our characters in a different environment, the scenes for Kobol appear to have been shot among Egyptian ruins. The story continues with the first confrontation with Baltar since the attack at Cimtar in the pilot episode but then there are things like Starbuck's 'disappearance' which the crew don't really react to in any significant way except for Apollo checking the scanner. Then there's Serina's death which appears to be thrown in for the sake of it. Surely her wounds could easily have been treated and her character allowed to continue? It just felt a little odd how it was handled.

I'll also admit that it seemed a little convenient that Adama's medallion was the key to everything in the tomb - and are we to assume that Baltar went through a similar trial of his own to get to the same location? He hardly has the same patience!

Rating for Part II: 6.5/10