Thunderbirds To The Rescue -  










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  Alias Mr. Hackenbacker

When the latest fashion show by Francois Lemaire in Paris comes under threat from his rivals, Penelope helps him to relocate it onto the Skythrust, a new aeroplane invented by Brains, alias Hiram K. Hackenbacker. But when the plane is hijacked it seems that the Penelon, Lemaire's new material, will go into the wrong hands after all...

The staff of London Airport prepare for the emergency crash-landing of Flight D-103. The aircraft attempts to make a landing on a runway but catches fire as it skids to a halt. The fire and ambulance services rush to the rescue but the plane is completely destroyed in an explosion before they can get near.

This is in fact a film to illustrate the fire hazards of crash-landing being shown by Captain Saville at a press conference for a new aircraft called the Skythrust. All that remains is for the designer, Hiram K. Hackenbacker, to arrive. This is in fact none other than Brains who is currently driving into London Airport. He joins the other members of the conference in an observation room and they watch as the Skythrust is raised from its underground hanger. Controller Norman gives the plane's pilot, Captain Ashton, permission to take off on its test flight. Brains, Saville and Norman are happy with the Skythrust's performance but refuse to answer any questions as to the special features that it has.

Scott reads a magazine to the other inhabitants of Tracy Island in which it is revealed that the Skythrust's maiden flight from London to Paris should be in the next few days. Tin-Tin has discovered in another magazine that Lady Penelope is in Paris, hoping to participate in a charity fashion show by Francois Lemaire. She is excited by a hint that there is something special to be seen this year.

Penelope is in Lemaire's studio and offers to model for him. He is about to explain his new discovery when she stops him and scans the room for bugs, eventually finding one in a bunch of flowers. Examining the nearby buildings with Lemaire's telescope, she discovers that he has been under surveillance from a TV camera and shuts the blind. Lemaire tries to write down his secret but on examination of his pen, Penelope discovers that even it is transmitting his writing.

Lemaire pulls a piece of clothing out of nothing more than a matchbox and reveals that it is Penelon, a fibre that can squeeze into the smallest space without creasing and be made into any kind of costume, which was named after Penelope. Deirdre, one of his models, shows a Penelon costume he has designed. Madeline, another model brings in the tea but Penelope discovers another bug hidden inside a lump of sugar. Fearing for the safety of the upcoming fashion show she thinks of another place to hold it.

At London Airport, the final tests of the Skythrust have proved satisfactory. Brains receives a phone call from Penelope asking a favour. Soon Penelope is meeting with Ashton in the Cafe Atalante in Paris. However, from outside Parker detects another bug, which Penelope finds in the coffee pot. The waiter who planted it escapes. Realizing the importance of the fashion show, Ashton agrees to host it on Skythrust.

The next day, the plane prepares to depart Paris. Madeline drives a car into the freight deck with Lemaire, Deirdre and some matchboxes. Penelope, who is leaving Parker in Paris for the time being, boards and views the room where the show is to be held. After the fashion buyers have boarded the Skythrust takes off. Tin-Tin is joining Brains at London Airport to welcome it back.

Once take-off is complete, Lemaire shows off his designs with Penelope, Madeline and Deirdre modeling the costumes. The show is immensely successful with the buyers but afterwards Madeline enters the cockpit and pulls a gun on Ashton and his co-pilot. She forces them to change course for a remote location in the Sahara Desert. Meanwhile Mason, the new steward, is similarly holding the passengers at gunpoint and he forces Lemaire to pack up the Penelon outfits; Penelope correctly surmises that he plans to steal them.

Penelope sends a distress call to Tracy Island. Scott departs in Thunderbird 1 followed by Virgil and Alan in Thunderbird 2. Scott and Virgil track the course of the Skythrust that Jeff pinpoints to the Sahara. Two crooks, Ross and Collins, are waiting there for the Penelon. Scott tries to radio the Skythrust and order it back to London but Madeline thinks his threat of action is only bluff and refuses to comply.

Brains has an idea and suggests that Virgil fire a non-explosive missile at Skythust's under cart. However, when Virgil tries to fly close Madeline threatens to shoot Ashton unless Thunderbird 2 departs immediately. Pretending to retreat, Virgil heads for a blind spot underneath the Skythrust's wing and Alan fires the missile, locking the wheel house. On Madeline's instruction, Mason enters the cockpit where Ashton explains that landing without wheels but with 5000 gallons of fuel aboard will cause the Skythrust to explode. Supposedly, only the rescue facilities at London can help and so Mason reluctantly orders them to return to London.

Jeff has learnt about Ross and Collins and sends Thunderbird 2 off to the rendezvous point. The emergency vehicles gather by the runway at London Airport and the Skythrust makes its final approach, wheels. Just as it touches down, a pod is launched from the rear and Lt. Burroughs flies it to a safe height and explodes it by remote control from the tower. The Skythrust itself skids along the runway before grinding to a halt with the minimal of fire, its fuel having been ejected in the pod. Norman is confident that this method will revolutionize aviation. The occupants of the plane are all safe and Penelope holds Madeline and Mason with Mason's gun.

Thunderbird 2 approaches Ross and Collins' base and they mistake it for the Skythrust. Alan fires a missile at the building but the crooks who were standing outside survive. Meanwhile at London, Brains, Tin-Tin, Penelope, Norman, Burroughs, Lemaire, Deirdre and Ashton head for the Starlight Room to open a bottle of vintage 1993 champagne.

Verdict: An entertaining story about a plane hijack, combining the notions of a new aircraft with a fashion show convincingly (if the latter is a little odd for a Thunderbirds episode). Brains and Lady Penelope are both given plenty to do.
Broadcast information: Broadcast on BBC 2 on Tuesday 27th March 2001 at 6:00 pm and on Saturday 31st March 2001.

DVD availability: On Volume 8 and the Complete Box Set.

VHS availability: On the Pod 2 Box Set and the Complete Box Set.