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  The Impostors

Crooks pretending to be International Rescue agents fake a rescue in order to steal some top secret plans, provoking General Lambert into commencing a worldwide search for the real organisation. International Rescue are powerless to help a man trapped in space unless agents Lady Penelope and Jeremiah Tuttle can track down the impostors...

A World TV Helijet carrying reporter Eddie Kerr rushes to the scene of a rescue operation and lands next to a previously unseen craft with International Rescue markings. Kerr takes his camera to the edge of a mineshaft near to an Aeronautical Research Station and explains that a hidden underground well collapsed, trapping a man, whom International Rescue are saving now. A man wearing the IR uniform returns to the surface with the victim of the accident but he certainly not one of the Tracy brothers. Another man in the crowd takes his photograph.

A newspaper on the event reaches Tracy Island, baffling the inhabitants. Jeff tries to hide his unease claiming that the impostors saved a life and that's all that matters. He is, however, unaware that the rescue was set up to break into the underground vaults of the Aeronautical Research Station during the 'rescue'. General Lambert holds a meeting at Satellite HQ in which he reveals that the top-secret plans for the new AL4 were stolen. He believes that all of the rescues to date were simply part of the plan to steal the plans which are worth a considerable amount more than the International Rescue organization. He elects to set up a worldwide search force to track down IR.

Soon aircraft carriers, radar trucks, tanks, helijets and even the Air-Sea Rescue aircraft are combing the world. A tracker satellite, Space Observatory 3, manned by two technicians, Elliott and Hale, lies in orbit around the Earth, scanning the South Pacific for any unusual crafts. The Tracys watch as Kerr interviews Lambert who outlines his theories as to the location of the IR base. Jeff plans to shut down operations, even at the risk of lives, until the impostors can be found and IR's name cleared. To this end he alerts all of the IR agents around the world to be on the lookout for anything unusual and tells Lady Penelope to travel to the USA to question eyewitnesses of the rescue.

Parker crams Penelope's huge amounts of luggage into FAB 1 and they head for London Airport where FAB 1 is loaded into a Fireflash and Penelope and Parker take up residence in the first class wing compartment. The plane takes off, flown by Captain Hanson, as Penelope muses on how they will find the impostors.

In a forest in Arizona, hillbilly Jeremiah Tuttle shoots an animal to eat for supper but while out he notices some aircraft tracks in the mud. Believing this to be suspicious he returns to his house and radios Alan with the information, being another International Rescue agent. Jeff is seeing off a party of men sent by Lambert who have found nothing on the island. Learning of Jeremiah's message, Jeff passes it off as simply an aircraft that had to make a forced landing in the area. He is unaware that the impostors, Jenkins and Carela, are using an old mine near Jeremiah as a hideout.

Lambert's forces have found nothing in their initial search but are instructed to continue. Tracking device DK0 has developed a fault on Space Observatory 3 and i will be four hours before tracking can resume. John eavesdrops on Elliott's report to Lambert but Jeff does not think any rescues can be pulled off in the time. The fault needs to be fixed from the outside and so Elliott dons a spacesuit and space walks to the antennae. He attaches himself to it with ropes to prevent him from drifting off and then commences repairs.

Posing as a magazine reporter, Penelope interviews Kerr at the World TV building in which he reveals that the impostors were traveling in an EJ2 jet and headed south-south-west after the rescue. She passes the information on to Tracy Island. The Tracys realize that, due the limited range of the EJ2 and its direction that it would have arrived in the area that Jeremiah found the tracks in. Jeff arranges a meeting between Penelope and Jeremiah.

Elliott has finished outside the space station but Hale's internal repairs will still take another two hours. Elliott unties himself and tries to float back to the airlock but he presses the wrong button on his booster pack and shoots off into space. Jeremiah and Ma Tuttle are driving in their antiquated car to meet FAB 1. Worried than they will be late, Jeremiah engages the super jet, overtaking a fast car, much to the astonishment of its owner. Hale reports what has happened to Elliott and estimates that he only has three hours of oxygen left. As getting a rocket to him is impossible in the time, Lambert is willing to sacrifice him and tells Hale to continue with repairs.

Having heard, John reports to Jeff but he reluctantly refuses to help. Jeremiah tells Penelope what he has discovered and that he suspects the mine would make a good hideout. Refusing to let him handle it, she and Parker head towards the mine in FAB 1 but soon it is stuck in the mud and they are forced to proceed on foot. Even though Hale has nearly finishes repairs, Jeff changes his mind and sends Alan and Scott to save Elliott in Thunderbird 3. Satellite HQ detects the launch and Hale sees the craft itself but is unable to confirm where it came from because of the fault. Lambert plans to track Thunderbird 3 as it returns to base. Scott and Alan detect Elliott on their radar briefly and head off in his direction. Sighting him for real, they move in to pick him up.

Jenkins and Carela are preparing to leave the mine and sell the AL4 plans. Arriving at the mine, Penelope tries to fire a warning shot only to discover her gun clogged up with mud, sending her into despair. Her voice alerts the impostors who emerge from the mine with their rifles. Jeremiah and Ma, however, have secretly followed Penelope and Parker and Jeremiah's shooting forces the impostors to retreat to cover. Finally, a can of Ma's explosive beans is thrown in to the mine forcing them to step out and surrender.

Lambert receives a phone call from the White House telling him to call of the search and he orders Hale not to track the return of Thunderbird 3. Now safely rescued, Elliott congratulates Alan and Scott on International Rescue being cleared as they return him to the satellite.

Verdict: Impostors framing International Rescue and forcing them to remain in hiding provides an excellent twist to the saga (as does the unusual absence of Thunderbird 2 and inclusion of Thunderbird 3). While perhaps a little improbable, this episode is also full of humour, particularly with IR's hillbilly agent, Jeremiah.
6/6
Broadcast information: Broadcast on BBC 2 on Tuesday 16th January 2001 at 6:00 pm and on Saturday 20th January 2001 at 1:10 pm.

DVD availability: On Volume 4 and the Complete Box Set.

VHS availability: On Volume 8, the Pod 1 Box Set and the Complete Box Set.