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  Thunderbirds Are Go"I have always been fascinated by the phrase 'life as we know it'. I have a feeling we may encounter life as we don't know it."

When humanity's first manned mission to Mars ends in disaster thanks to the Hood, International Rescue are called in to supervise the remount. But no one knows the dangers the astronauts will face on Mars nor if they will return to Earth in one piece...

Glenn Field Airport At Glenn Field Airport, USA, a launch is in progress. Under instructions from a controller in a tower, a hanger marked 'Zero-X' slides backwards revealing the craft inside, a dull-blue missile like object on wheels. By remote control is moves to the centre of the launch area. It is lifted by two stands and a pair of wings are driven out beneath the rear and clamped into place. A robot arm extends from a building to the Zero-X and becomes a track along which a lifting body travels along and is lowered into place. The lifting body's wings hinge so that the wheels on each meet the ground. Assembly phase one is completed.

The controller travels down in a lift to a control centre in the base of his tower. Three astronauts (Captain Paul Travers, Space Captain Greg Martin and Space Navigator Brad Newman) meet him there and he communicates with two more (Dr. Tony Grant and Dr. Ray Pearce) in a separate capsule over the radio. He tells them that if their mission if successful they will be the first men on Mars but their own safety takes priority.

The men all enter the capsule which travels to the Zero-X and attaches itself to the main body at the front and serves as the cockpit. A nose cone in front of it completes the assembly.

The rockets fire and the spaceship moves down the runway and takes off into the sky. Travers tells Newman to commence chemical engine countdown. Unknown to them a saboteur is at work in the bowels of the ship. Travers tells Newman to check the trim. A piece of machinery crushes the foot of the saboteaur and his mask falls of - it is the Hood!

The Hood at the hatchway The Hood struggles to get free while the astronauts discover that the elevator control is jammed. The Zero-X begins to head downwards. Travers reports this to base and ejects the nose cone. The controller calculates that they will crash into the sea and launches the air-sea rescue units. The Hood crawls to a hatch and manages to bail out. Travers joins the other astronauts in the ejector pod and they depart at 1000 feet. The Zero-X impacts wiith the sea and explodes but the pod lands safely.

At a meeting two years later, a the president of the space exploration centre concludes a report on the Zero-X mission by declaring sabotage the only possibility. A unanimous vote is recieved in the confidence of the report. However, when the president suggests that the mission be remounted when the Earth and Mars are in the correct positions again, there is one dissenter. One man believes that International Rescue should be asked to help with security.

At Tracy Island, Jeff considers an appeal by the president, with take-off only due tomorrow, while his sons wait anxiously. Despite believing that no International Craft should be launched unless someone is in danger, Jeff agrees to break the rules just once. Scott is to coordinate the launch with Thunderbird 1, Virgil to escort Zero-X through the atmosphere in Thunderbird 2 and Alan to escort it in the Earth's orbit in Thunderbird 3. The three machines are launched, Thunderbird 2 carrying Pod 5.

Gordon watches them go sadly. Tin-Tin wonders what will happen if the saboteur strikes again and so Jeff decides to contact Lady Penelope. In the middle of tea, she agrees to fly over to America with FAB 1 immediately. Jeff has arranged for her to be at a press conference, representing a British magazine. She rings Parker and tells him to prepare.

Scott has set up Mobile Control in the control tower and clears Thunderbird 2 for landing. Scott and the controller agree that all is now ready. Scott declines to attend the press conference.

At the press conference, each of the five astronauts is seated behind a table as are the journalists on the other side of the room. Everyone has a phone and talks to each other by dailing the numbers next to the person they want to talk to. Penelope contacts Travers and begins to question him. He jokingly admits that he finds the press conference more frightening than his mission. She sends a package containing a St. Christopher which Travers promises to wear on the flight. As people ask him more questions he pins it to the inside of his lapel.

The next morning, the launch is about to be remounted. Alan reports that Thunderbird 3 is in position. FAB 1 parks and Penelope detects the whereabouts of the Zero-X crew using the St. Christophers she gave them all. As Zero-X assembly commences, one signal is wrong. Penelope tells Scott who elects to deal with the problem personally.

Scott enters the capsule where the astronauts claim that everything is fine. Suddenly he pulls the mask off Dr. Grant - the Hood backs away and holds them all at gunpoint. He demands that they allow him to get away. Parker locates the real Dr. Grant and FAB 1 gives chase to the Hood's car.

Assembly is nearly complete and the controller tells the police to pick up Dr. Grant. FAB 1 has followed the Hood to a jetty at the end of a narrow coast road. Dr. Grant is in good enough condition to carry on with the mission and returns to the capsule. He throws Penelope's good luck charm away in disgust, exposing the circuitry.

The Hood escapes in a motorboat, while FAB 1 follows on hydrofoils. The Hood heads for an army helicopter, hevily armed, where he is met by an accomplice. Zero-X takes off, accompanied by Thunderbird 2. The helicopter attacks FAB 1, but Parker manages to dodge all of the shots and, as the helicopter moves in for another attack, Parker shoots back. It crashes into the sea, apparently killing the Hood.

The Zero-X in the air Penelope and Parker see the Zero-X as it heads off into the skies. Travers reports that all is going well and Virgil prepares to return to the ground as Zero-X is leaving the atmosphere. Scott alerts Alan that he will be needed in one minute. On Zero-X the two lifting bodies and nose cone are ejected and the chemical rockets fired.

Alan sees Zero-X, now in space, and reports that take-off has been successful. He prepares to return to base. Travers and the controller thank Scott for International Rescue's assistance.

Thunderbird 2 and FAB 1 arrive back at Glenn-Field. Scott and Penelope each report success and Penelope invites Scott to a nightclub near her hotel called the 'Swinging Star'. Virgil monitors this message and wants to come too.

Thunderbird 3 returns to Tracy Island. Jeff is annoyed with Scott and Virgil at deserting International Rescue like this but reluctantly allows them a break at Tin-Tin's suggestion. Alan comes in to the ounge in time to catch the end of Scott's message. He wants to take Tin-Tin out to the mainland as well but there is only so much that Jeff is willing to tolerate. Alan storms off to bed without any coffee.

That night Alan has a dream. He is standing on a platform in a strange mist-shrouded void. FAB 1 pulls up and Alan sits next to Penelope. They head across a viaduct towards the Swinging Star. FAB 1 begins to fly and passes Mars. They arrive at a giant crystal space station and park in the void.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows Inside the Swinging Star, the Shadows are playing, watched by Penelope and Alan. Penelope tells Alan that this is a special Swinging Star reserved only for Alan. Cliff Richard Jnr. takes central stage and performs 'Shooting Star' with the Shadows.

Penelope invites Alan for a dance when he is contacted by Jeff. There is an emergency and Alan is the only one he can rely on. Alan insists on returning to base. Penelope warns Alan to mind the gap into the void as he steps onto FAB 1 from the platform. FAB 1 begins to drift away. Alan attempts to jump to it but falls into space, and hurtles towards Tracy Island. Jeff enters Alan's bedroom only to find his son has fallen out of bed and woken up.

Several weeks later, Gordon and Tin-Tin are in the pool while Virgil and Brains play chess, Scott shows Jeff a series of modifications he has planned out with Brains and Alan tries to read a magazine. In Thunderbird 5, John hears a report that Zero-X has landed on Mars. He passes down the message to Tracy Island.

On the surface of Mars, an exploration vehicle from Zero-X drives along, containing all of the astronauts bar Newman who is in the main body in orbit. Grant wants to collect some samples in order to determine the possibility of Martian life.

The vehicle comes to a halt beneath one of many rock formations that look like coiled snakes. Pierce wonders what exactly they are. Grant suggests that they are molten rock that has been squeezed onto the surface through meteor craters. Travers wants to move on.

The scientists want to collect samples and so Travers prepares to blown one formation off. On a hunch, Pierce warns him to stand by in case of trouble. The formation is blasted apart and Martin escorts Pierce to the airlock.

Meanwhile, another nearby coil raises its head. It opens its single glowing orange eye and spits a fireball at the vehicle through its O-shaped mouth. Pierce quickly returns to the cockpit as the rock snake continues firing. The astronauts srive away hurriedly as other snakes rear up by their path and fire as well. Newman reports that he will have the main body in the correct rendezvous position in four minutes; the vehicle cannot take off beforehand.

The MEV under fire from the Rock Snakes The vehicle comes up against a line of the rock snakes and Travers decides to return fire. They manage to hold out for longer but Travers finally elects to take-off early and risk missing the rendezvous. Fired on in all directions, the take-off is only just successfully achieved. In space the retros on the vehicle are fired at the right moment making the docking possible.

On Tracy Island, Scott and Jeff play pool while Virgil watches. John has reported that the ship is undamaged and Jeff has spoken to the controller who believes that ladning will be smooth given the number of test runs the astronauts have been through.

Zero-X returns to Earth Six weeks later, the Zero-X has return to Earth and is in orbit. The retros fire and the ship begins to enter the Earth's atmosphere. Once again the retros are fired. The two lifting bodies are sent up to meet it by the controller who gives the remote control of them to the Zero-X crew.

Newman moves body one into position and it clamps on successfully to the top. He prepares to bring the second one underneath when suddenly he loses control. The lifting body crashes against the hull then sprials downwards and explodes. The controller prepares to send up another body but Travers reports that the place it attaches to is damaged.

In Thuderbird 5, John listens to a systems report. As well as the remote systems, the escape systems are also dead. Jeff reviews the situation; they need to get the escape pod working. He sends Scott and Brains in Thunderbird 1 and Virgil, Alan and Gordon in Thunderbird 2 with Pod 4.

Zero-X is descending at 3000 feet a minutes. The controller predicts that their crash course will take them directly into the city of Craigsville. He warns Washington DC to evacuate it and then calls for International Rescue. Scott asks him to pass on coordinates relating to the Zero-X's course to Thunderbird 2.

Thunderbird 1 lands by the control tower. In Thunderbird 2 Alan goes to get his gear on while Gordon heads for the astrodome. Scott sets up Mobile control and directs Thunderbird 2 to the correct course. Scott tells the controller that they hope to put Alan on board Zero-X and fix the escape unit. He tells Travers to try and lose as little height as possible. Five minutes from impact, they are to go into the escape unit leaving automatic pilot on.

Thunderbird 2 flying beneath Zero-X Gordon prepares to launch Alan. Martin belives it is suicide but the astronauts open the hatch nevertheless and lower the wheels to a position out of the way. Gordon navigates Virgil underthe hatch and successfully fires the line into the ship. Alan is hauled out of Thunderbird 2 and up the rope into Zero-X.

At Mobile Control Brains tells Alan what to do. Alan finds a circuit box marked E.U.C. Travers removes the doctors to the escape unit. Alan places a box on the side of the junction box and begins removing the wires and attaching them to it.

Travers sends Martin and Newman to the escape unit but insists on staying to pilot Zero-X until the last possible moment. Travers reports this to Virgil. The controller is worried that they are running out of time; one minute is left. Virgil tells Gordon to pay out more cable so Thunderbird 2 can move out from beneath Zero-X. Travers increases the power of his engines to give them more time but this causes Alan to drop his screwdriver throught the hatch. Just above the trees, he is forced to tie the wires together manually. Virgil orders Travers into the escape unit and pulls Alan out.

The destruction of Craigsville At a signal from Virgil, Scott activates the eject by remote control and the pod escapes, moments before Zero-X crashes into Craigsville and exlodes its way through several buildings.

Alan and the Zero-X crew are all safe. Gordon reports that Alan cannot be hauled all the way back in and they will have to drop him on the ground. Alan is not disappointed as he sees Penelope waiting in FAB 1 and is lowered to the same position. The cable is released. Parker drives them back to Glenn Field. On the journey, Penelope offers to take Alan to the real Swinging Star.

That night they sit at a table at the Swinging Star. Alan is wearing a false moustache explaining that sometimes International Rescue operatives need to wear disguises. Penelope, on the other hand, has noticed that Jeff is sitting on the next table wearing a false beard. Scott, Virgil, Brains and Tin-Tin are all there, disguised. Jeff toasts Alan, 'the hero of the day'.

Verdict: The first movie sets itself around a particually grand event; the first successful mission to Mars, a setting which has a good scope for rescues. Unfortunately, it is a little dull and also very similar to some of the TV episodes, in particular Operation Crash-Dive. The sequences set on Mars are spooky and more like something from Captain Scarlet And the Mysterons while the dream sequence is just plain wierd. Certainly worth watching, although as a special episode it really should have featured some Thunderbird 2 pod vehicles.
4/6
Broadcasting and other availability: Unfortunately, as the rights to the Thunderbirds movies are not owned by Carlton it is unlikely that they will be broadcast or released in the near future, instead being ignored totally.