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  Sun Probe

"We're still on a collision course with the sun!"

When a mission to capture a piece of the sun ends with three solarnauts heading directly towards the sun, International Rescue mounts a two-pronged rescue attempt both from the ground and in space itself...

At Cape Kennedy the Sun Probe is to be launched in 24 minutes. The Solarnauts enter the ship and the launch area is cleared. Amber alert is sounded. The thrust checks reach 20 million pounds and Colonel Benson declares them a success. The gantry is retracted and the final countdown commences. Lift off succeeds and Benson remarks that it looks good.

Several weeks later, the Tracys are watching the launch on TV. Apparently the Sun Probe will travel all the way to the sun. Jeff wonders where Brains is and Scott tells him that Brains is in his workshop with his latest invention. Sure enough, Brains is testing the secretarial skills of his new robot, Braman. An impressed Scott tells him about the Sun Probe programme but Brains is more interested in getting Braman to play chess.

On TV, Professor Heinz Bodman explains how the actual probe will detact itself from the Solar Module and catch an actual flare from the sun. The reporter assures the viewers at home that the astronauts are protected against heat and radiation.

Inside the Solar Module, the three solarnauts, Colonel Harris, Asher and Camp look at the flare that they are heading towards and increase refridgeration so that they can get close. They fire the retros to slow down and enter the correct orbit. The probe is launched and manages to catch the flare.

The TV reporter shows a tel-radio picture of the probe returning to the module. Jeff is happy but Brains does not think it will work. The reporter confirms his theories by stating that the reforming of the ship has forced it onto a collision course with the sun!

Brains explains that turning towards the sun was always part of the plan, but the radiation interfered with the control systems so that the retros wounld not work to break the probe free. A radio beam from another source could make the retros work but he doubts whether International Space Command have the right technology to carry this out. Benson appears on TV and asks for International Rescue's help.

International Rescue hold a meeting at which Brains says that the only possibility is if they themselves send the signal. Scott and Alan suggest sending Thunderbird 3 which could send it from up close but Virgil argues for Thunderbird 2 which has a much more powerful transmitter and could be used from Earth. Gordon suggests that they send both. Jeff sends Brains to prepare Thunderbird 3 to leave at sunrise. Tin-Tin will accompany Alan and Scott to operate the beam. Virgil goes to the computer room to find the best global location to send the Thunderbird 2 signal from.

In the morning Jeff sends the Thunderbird 3 trio off, activating the Thunderbird 3 launch sequence. Alan takes the lift to the control room while Scott and Tin-Tin remain in the lounge as the ship takes off. As they leave the Earth's atmosphere, Scott joins Alan upstairs while Alan tells Tin-Tin to get the equipment ready.

Brains and Virgil are checking their equipment. They are taking auxiliary clothing, two snow dispersal units and the transmitter truck (in the pod). Brains decides to bring the mobile computer and gestures towards the box containing it, but Virgil thinks that he is talking about a different box. Thunderbird 2 takes off with the two of them on board. Jeff watches it go and confesses to Gordon that he has never been so unsure of success that now.

In the Sun Probe, Asher is beginning to panic; the solarnauts have one day left. Alan contacts them and explains what they are going to do. Scott suggests that Tin-Tin tries sending the safety beam but they are four hours to far away. This means that Thunderbird 3 will have to go closer to the sun that is technically possible.

Virgil reports to Tracy Island that he is flying Thunderbird 2 over the Himalayas through snowy weather. He lands on a flat ledge as Jeff reports Thunderbird 3's situation. Virgil and Brains drive the transmitter truck from the pod; after briefly getting stuck in the snow it moves slowly up the mountainside. Virgil lines up the radar dish.

In Thunderbird 3, Alan offers to take Tin-Tin to safety before going any closer but Tin-Tin insists that they cannot afford to waste time. She tries the beam again but, as Scott dreaded, they are still two hours off. Brains attempts to send the beam but it is not quite powerful enough. He intends to make some adjustments.

The solarnauts are by now all very weak. The walls of the Solar Module are beginning to blister and crack and the refridgeration unit has stopped functioning. The heat is also beginning to affect the Thunderbird 3 crew. Tin-Tin attempts the beam and at Alan's suggestion, increases the power. This time the beam goes all the way. By this time only Harris is still concious in the module. He thinks that the ship is breaking up when suddenly he hears the engines and realises that it is turning around.

Alan attempts to fire Thunderbird 3's retros and move away from the sun but now they will not work. The TV reporter confirms that Thunderbird 3 is now heading towards the sun. Gordon deduces the retro failure. Jeff tells Virgil and Brains suggests sending a neutralising signal. He can work out the frequency using the mobile computer.

Alan is the only one still concious on Thunderbird 3. He realises that the beam could be sapping the power to the retros. The beam is on but Tin-Tin cannot switch it off. The reporter believes Thunderbird 3 to be doomed but Jeff refuses to believe it. In the pod, Brains and Virgil discover that instead of the mobile computer they have packed Braman. Alan gets the lift to the lounge of Thunderbird 3 and struggles to get to the beam controls but he collapses on the floor.

Brains believes there to be no hope until he realises that Braman can calculate the frequency. He activates the robot and gives it the formula. After a long wait Braman gives the answer. Brains and Virgil return to the transmitter truck and tell Jeff what they plan to do before sending the beam.

Thunderbird 3's retros fire successfully and it turns around. Alan comes round and realises what has happened. Brains and Virgil detect the retros. Jeff hears and plans to give Tin-Tin, Scott and Alan a heroes welcome when they return.


Notes: Extensive footage from this episode is used as a flashback in Security Hazard.

Verdict: There is some good tension in this episode (one of a mere few featuring Thunderbird 3 in a major capacity) but it suffers from taking place in arguably the two least interesting landscapes available; a snowy wasteland and space.
2/6
Broadcast information: Broadcast on BBC 2 on Sunday 24th September 2000 at 5:55 pm.

DVD availability: On Volume 3 and the Complete Box Set.

VHS availability: On Volume 6, the Pod 1 Box Set and the Complete Box Set.

Novel availability: Novel by Dave Morris.

Photonovel availability: In the 2001 Top Secret Annual as part of the Security Hazard photonovel.