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Thunderbird 6 is a 1968 British science-fiction adventure film written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, directed by David Lane and produced by Century 21 Cinema. A sequel to 1966's Thunderbirds Are Go, it was the second film to be adapted from the 1960s television series Thunderbirds, which combined scale models and special effects with marionette puppet characters in a filming process that the Andersons termed "Supermarionation". Intended to provide a lighter-hearted cinematic experience to contrast with the harder science of Thunderbirds Are Go,[2] the Andersons elected to base the plot of Thunderbird 6 on Skyship One, a futuristic airship that is the latest project of the scientist Brains.

Thunderbird 6
The words "Thunderbird 6" line the bottom edge of a poster which depicts a futuristic aircraft against the backdrop of a tower. The lower hull of this aircraft, resembling an airship of the future, is on fire. A small biplane flies overhead, while from the background the face of a man wearing flying goggles stares in the direction of the viewer.
UK film poster
Directed byDavid Lane
Produced bySylvia Anderson
Screenplay byGerry and Sylvia Anderson
Based onThunderbirds
by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
StarringKeith Alexander
Sylvia Anderson
John Carson
Peter Dyneley
Gary Files
Christine Finn
David Graham
Geoffrey Keen
Shane Rimmer
Jeremy Wilkin
Matt Zimmerman
Narrated byKeith Alexander
Music byBarry Gray
CinematographyHarry Oakes
Edited byLen Walter
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
29 July 1968[1]
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The film's plot depicts Alan, Tin-Tin, Lady Penelope and Parker representing International Rescue on Skyship One's round-the-world maiden flight, unaware that criminal mastermind the Hood is once again plotting to acquire the secrets of the Thunderbird machines. Paid agents of the Hood murder the original crew of Skyship One prior to take-off and assume their identities, entertaining the guests while scheming to lure the Tracy brothers into a trap. Meanwhile, Brains' efforts to produce a satisfactory design concept for Jeff's proposed Thunderbird 6 collide with fate when Skyship One is damaged and Alan's old Tiger Moth biplane appears to be the only hope of saving the International Rescue group and their impostor hosts.

Actors John Carson and Geoffrey Keen provide guest speaking roles, with additions to the regular voice cast in the form of Keith Alexander and Gary Files. The design of the puppets that appear in Thunderbird 6 marks a transition between the caricatures that Century 21 had used up to Thunderbirds Are Go and the realism introduced in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.[3][4] Filming ran from May[1][3] to December 1967,[5] and the art and special effects departments collaborated to realise Skyship One as both a miniature model and a collection of themed interior designs.[6][7] A number of sequences of the Tiger Moth in flight were filmed on location with a full-sized stunt plane,[1][6] but a legal dispute with the Ministry of Transport regarding alleged dangerous flying by pilot Joan Hughes forced the production team to film the remaining shots in-studio with scale replicas.[1][7][8]

Released in July 1968,[1][5][8] Thunderbird 6 had a mediocre reception at the box office, which ruled out the production of further sequels in the Thunderbirds film series.[9] Critical response has remained mixed: although the special effects have been praised,[7] commentators are divided on the quality of the plotting, which is considered either well-paced and concluding on a note of high action,[10] or confusing and inordinately long, with little visual spectacle to contrast with the dialogue.[11] Nevertheless, Thunderbird 6 is viewed favourably in comparison to Jonathan Frakes' 2004 film adaptation.[12]



In 2068,[Note 1] the New World Aircraft Corporation in England gives Brains an open brief to design a revolutionary aircraft. Although Brains is ridiculed when he suggests an airship, NWAC eventually accepts his proposal and builds Skyship One, a vessel powered by anti-gravity compensators.

Representing International Rescue on Skyship One's maiden flight – a round-the-world trip with pre-programmed stopovers – will be Alan Tracy, Tin-Tin, Lady Penelope and Parker. Brains, meanwhile, is forced to remain on Tracy Island after Jeff decides that IR requires a Thunderbird 6. Forced to work without a specification, Brains produces a number of concepts, all of which are rejected by Jeff.

Alan and Tin-Tin travel to England in an old Tiger Moth biplane and join Penelope and Parker before Skyship One departs NWAC Headquarters. However, the IR guests are unaware that the ship's captain, Foster, and stewards have been murdered and replaced by agents of the Hood, operating as "Black Phantom"[Note 2] from the disused El Hadim airfield near Casablanca, Morocco. As Skyship One is fully automated, the impostor crew are not required to demonstrate any technical knowledge of its systems; consequently, they avoid raising their guests' suspicions as the ship passes through New York City, the Grand Canyon, Rio de Janeiro and India.

After Skyship One leaves the Egyptian pyramids, Penelope discovers a bugging device in her quarters. Unknown to the guests, the impostor Foster and his associates have been recording and editing Penelope's speech to assemble a false transmission requesting that Jeff dispatch Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to the airfield, where the Hood and his henchmen will hijack the craft. During a stop in the Swiss Alps, Parker locates the editing equipment and informs the others, but before they can take action the message is completed and transmitted to John on Thunderbird 5. Alan realises the threat against IR just in time for Penelope to radio Jeff and warn him that Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are flying into a trap. On landing, Scott and Virgil use the craft's cannons to destroy the Hood's base.

On Skyship One, Alan, Penelope and Parker engage in a gun battle with the impostors but are forced to surrender when Tin-Tin is taken hostage. The ship's compensators are damaged in the fighting, causing it to lose height and crash into a radio mast at a missile base near Dover. With Skyship One balanced precariously on the mast's tip and its anti-gravity field weakening, it is up to Scott, Virgil and Brains to rescue all on board before it falls onto the base. However, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 cannot approach the ship without destabilising it and IR's Pod Vehicles are too heavy to deploy onto it.

At Gordon's suggestion, Brains pilots the Tiger Moth up to Skyship One's top deck. On landing, he is confronted by Foster and his two surviving associates. Holding Penelope hostage in the Tiger Moth's cockpit, Foster attempts to take off without the others but is shot dead by Alan. The Tiger Moth is launched with the IR personnel and the impostors hanging on to the wings and landing gear. Soon after, Skyship One crashes to the ground, starting a chain reaction that destroys the missile base.[Note 3]

A shootout ensues on board the Tiger Moth, during which the last two impostors are killed. Stray bullets damage the plane's controls and fuel tank, necessitating an emergency landing. After near misses with an exhaust tower and a bridge on the unfinished M104 motorway, Alan and Penelope safely ditch the plane into a field. Back on Tracy Island, Brains unveils Thunderbird 6 as none other than the repaired and repainted Tiger Moth, which the whole of IR agree has proven its value as a rescue vehicle.


It was felt that we'd done the one with the hardware and that now we wanted to do something amusing. Out came this script with a Tiger Moth in it, which was as far removed from the hardware that was in Thunderbirds as anything I can think of.

David Lane on the premise[7]

Despite the unexpected failure of Thunderbirds Are Go on its release in December 1966, the United Artists distributors authorised a sequel, to be budgeted at £300,000.[1][2][13][14] Major production credits were unchanged from the first film: while Gerry and Sylvia Anderson scripted the film in three months[13] and returned as producers, David Lane filled the position of director.[1][14]

The plot of the ill-fated Skyship One was intended to be more light-hearted than that of Zero-X in Thunderbirds Are Go,[2] although at the earliest production stage the focus was to be a "Russo-American space project".[5] From an idea of Desmond Saunders, a long-standing collaborator who had an interest in aviation,[2] the Andersons based the plot on the destruction of the British R101 in 1930.[4] Gerry Anderson researched airship history by reading books on the R101, the R100 and the Graf Zeppelin.[2] The plot also emulates the Thunderbirds Series Two episode "Alias Mr. Hackenbacker", which stars another of Brains' pioneering aircraft, Skythrust.[13]

Introducing a vintage de Havilland Tiger Moth as the new Thunderbird 6, in their script the Andersons allude to 1960s publicity for Esso, which advertised under the promotional banner of "Put a Tiger in Your Tank".[7][15] A line from Virgil Tracy during the final rescue of the Skyship One occupants adapts this slogan to refer to the "Tiger" stored inside Thunderbird 2's Pod.[7][15] However, no character dialogue explicitly refers to the aircraft by the full name "Tiger Moth".[15]

Voice castingEdit

Voice acting was recorded in six days[13] at the Anvil Films Recording Studio at Denham in Buckinghamshire, where dialogue for Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons would also be recorded.[16] Dialogue for characters returning from Thunderbirds Are Go, such as the Tracy family, Tracy Island's other residents, Lady Penelope, Parker and the Hood is, with two exceptions, provided by the same actors. Voice actors introduced in Thunderbird 6 are:

Cast list
Voice actor Characters voiced
Peter Dyneley Jeff Tracy
Shane Rimmer Scott Tracy, Steward Carter (original)
Sylvia Anderson Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward
Jeremy Wilkin Virgil Tracy, Steward Lane (original), Steward Martin (impostor)
Matt Zimmerman Alan Tracy, Steward Martin (original), Steward Hogarth (impostor)
David Graham Gordon Tracy, Brains, Parker, Kyrano, Indian Stall-keeper
Keith Alexander John Tracy, Narrator, Steward Carter (impostor), Missile Base Announcer
Christine Finn Tin-Tin Kyrano, Indian Fortune-Teller
Gary Files The Hood/"Black Phantom", Captain Foster (original), Steward Hogarth (original), Steward Lane (impostor)
John Carson Captain Foster (impostor)
Geoffrey Keen NWAC President James Glenn
  • Keith Alexander as John Tracy and the Narrator. John's original voice, Ray Barrett, had returned to his native Australia on the completion of Thunderbirds Are Go.[13] Replacing Barrett in this role for Thunderbird 6, Alexander was also contracted to provide an opening narration, which describes the secrecy of the International Rescue organisation and Tracy Island. Emigrating from Australia in 1965, Alexander continued his association with the Andersons after Thunderbird 6, voicing the characters of Sam Loover in Joe 90 (1968) and Agent Blake in the final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service (1969). He also appeared in a minor role in Doppelgänger (1969) and held the regular part of Lieutenant Keith Ford in UFO in the 1970s.
  • Gary Files as "Black Phantom". While production of Thunderbird 6 progressed, Files, another Australian actor, also provided voices for Captain Scarlet, including the recurring character of Captain Magenta. More roles followed, from supporting voices in Joe 90 to the regular part of Matthew Harding in The Secret Service. He recalls that his lines in Thunderbird 6 were intended as a test prior to Captain Scarlet and has fond memories of his casting, stating in an interview, "I was just knocked out to be working with people like Geoffrey Keen, and those other marvellous people involved."[16]
  • John Carson as the replacement Captain Foster ("White Ghost"). A British actor of television and cinema, Carson's small-screen credits of the 1960s and 70s include The Saint, Man in a Suitcase, Department S and The Professionals, while his film roles include Plague of the Zombies (1966) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970). His appearances in The Troubleshooters attracted the attention of the Andersons.[3] Carson's delivery of Foster's lines has led to a mistaken assertion that fellow British actor James Mason was cast for the role.[3]
  • Geoffrey Keen as James Glenn, the New World Aircraft Corporation President. Also known to the Andersons for his role in The Troubleshooters (as the leading character of Brian Stead),[3] stage, television and cinema actor Keen appeared in more than 100 films in his lifetime, including Doctor Zhivago (1965), Born Free (1966) and, with Carson, Taste the Blood of Dracula. Spanning 1977 to 1987, he portrayed Sir Frederick Gray, the fictional Minister for Defence in the James Bond series, from the films The Spy Who Loved Me (which also featured Shane Rimmer) to The Living Daylights.

Gerry Anderson biographers Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn suggest that Thunderbird 6 develops the character of Lady Penelope from her previous appearances in the Thunderbirds franchise.[17] This is argued to be due, in part, to a more mature reading of the character's lines from Sylvia Anderson, who provided Penelope's voice from the first episode of the Thunderbirds television series.[17] Archer and Hearn also praise the work of David Graham, particularly his reading of Parker's dialogue, but note that other regular characters, such as Gordon and John, appear infrequently in the film.[17]


With the cancellation of Thunderbirds after the six episodes of Series Two, the next small-screen project for AP Films, re-branded as "Century 21" in December 1966,[18] would be Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. This series, which was screened from September 1967, starred a brand-new generation of Supermarionation puppets sculpted with more realistic proportions than the caricatured marionettes of Thunderbirds.[4] However, in the pre-production stages for Thunderbirds Are Go, it was decided that audiences who had seen Thunderbirds were too accustomed to the older style of puppet for the returning characters to be upgraded to the new design.[4] To maintain continuity, a compromise was made to produce puppets for the second Thunderbirds film which would mix traits from the two Supermarionation generations: although the heads and hands would remain disproportionately large, the marked caricature from the television episodes would be reduced.[3][4]

For guest roles, puppets were mainly recycled from their previous appearances in Thunderbirds Are Go, although the Captain Foster puppet was a new addition.[4] Puppeteer Wanda Webb recalls that Thunderbird 6 maintained a high standard in the appearance of its cast, commenting on a shot which depicts Lady Penelope asleep on board Skyship One, "I had placed the sleeping eyelids in Plasticine and made the eye shadow a little too blue. We ended up re-shooting the whole sequence."[19] One-use puppets appear in what Supermarionation historian Stephen La Rivière describes as "a contender for the most horrific scene ever produced by Century 21":[6] in the opening scene, the characters of the NWAC executives present gaping mouths and teeth, complete with dental fillings, when Brains' plan to design an airship sends them into howls of laughter.[6] The decision to begin the film with a cold open and delay the title sequence and opening credits was one of Century 21's efforts to distinguish Thunderbird 6 from the preceding film.[17]

Design and effectsEdit

Examples of the Century 21 art department's designs for the interiors of Skyship One include the Gravity Compensation Room (left) and the Games Room (right), which comprises dice-, chess- and card-themed furniture.[3] In the left image, the White Ghost replacement of Captain Foster holds the International Rescue guests of Skyship One hostage after the airship crashes, while on the right the characters of Parker, Lady Penelope and Tin-Tin send a distress message to Tracy Island when the true intentions of their hosts are revealed. The puppets appearing in Thunderbird 6 are proportioned with greater realism than that used for Thunderbirds Are Go and the Thunderbirds television episodes.[3]

Principal photography for Thunderbird 6 commenced on 1 May 1967,[1] by which time Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons had already entered production.[1][3] One of the Century 21 production units was transferred from Captain Scarlet to the second Thunderbirds film and shooting was completed in four months alongside that of the new television series.[1][3] Special effects director Derek Meddings constructed the Skyship One model[6] and supervised the creation of scale replicas of destinations explored in the film, such as the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Egyptian Pyramids and the Grand Canyon.[7] The Swiss Alps shots which frame a scene set inside the fictional Whistle Stop Inn called for the FAB 1 model to skate across ice, while scale figures of Alan and Tin-Tin follow the Rolls-Royce on skis.[20] The length of movement required necessitated the construction of a special effects set that was between 40 and 50 feet (12 and 15 m) wide (the largest used for the film), filled with salt to simulate the snow-capped Swiss mountains.[20] The film was also shot in parallel with Joe 90, as evidenced by special effects footage of the destruction of the Dover Missile Complex re-appearing in the pilot episode of that series, and a brief appearance of Sam Loover's car during the evacuation of the Complex.

The art department, headed by Bob Bell and responsible for the interiors of Skyship One,[7] designed each room in a unique style: while the airship's Ball Room includes spherical-shaped décor, a Games Room is furnished to a dice and chessboards theme.[3] Although Keith Wilson was attached to the production of Captain Scarlet, he contributed the design of Lady Penelope's bedroom, which is shaded a bright pink to match the colour of FAB1.[3] In the course of filming, the floor of the Skyship One Bottle Room set ignited under the heat of the studio lights and had to be completely rebuilt.[7] The interior of the Whistle Stop Inn is a favourite of Bell.[3][21] Shooting on this set had to be carefully timed due to the presence of model trains, of a smaller scale than the puppets, which run on tracks and transport meals to the characters as their "cargo".[3] In their biography of Gerry Anderson, Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn hold the Skyship One Gravity Compensation Room, in which the Gravity Compensators are represented by rotating metal frames, in high regard.[17] However, Penelope's bedroom is described as resembling a "Barbara Cartland nightmare".[17]

POV (point of view) shots were done with the Tiger Moth biplane. During one such time at the end of summer, by which time the grass around Booker Airfield had turned brown, members of the effects team rectified the colour by applying green paint. Some time later, the production team received a message that a furious farmer's prize ram (an uncastrated sheep) had died, and when the animal was cut open, there was a large amount of green paint inside it. Concluding that no one else but them were responsible for the death, the production team did a lot of explaining and funded the cost of the incident. Production manager Norman Foster gave the farmer's wife a big bunch of flowers.[22]

Aerial stuntsEdit

When we applied for permission to [record the Tiger Moth flying under the bridge] from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, we were told that the Tiger should not fly under the bridge, but had to touch its wheels down and then taxi under the bridge, tail up. In the event, Joan was carrying dummies of the puppets strapped to the wings and she was barely able to maintain flying speed. As she approached the bridge, she was caught in a crosswind and the aircraft began to crab.

Gerry Anderson on the incident on the M40[23]

The vintage de Havilland Tiger Moth appears as a scale model for sequences such as Alan and Tin-Tin's departure from Tracy Island and Brains' arrival on the top deck of Skyship One. The production team also decided to arrange a live-action location shoot in Buckinghamshire to star a full-sized biplane.[1][6][8] Joan Hughes, an experienced pilot who had flown Supermarine Spitfires and Avro Lancasters from factories to airbases during the Second World War, was selected to fly the aircraft.[6][8][23] Sequences that comprise live-action filming include Brains launching the Tiger Moth from a field to rescue the occupants of Skyship One, Penelope's subsequent struggle to control the aircraft, the gun battle with Foster's remaining henchmen, the near collisions with the motorway bridge and the exhaust tower, and the final crash-landing. For the later sequences, stunt dummies fixed to the Tiger Moth's wings and undercarriage represent the characters of Alan, Tin-Tin, Parker, Brains and the White Ghost agents, while Hughes doubles for Penelope in the cockpit.[6] The location filming was based at Wycombe Air Park.[1]

The full-sized Tiger Moth G-ANFM biplane passes under a bridge on the M40 motorway at Lane End, Buckinghamshire with its wheels off the ground. This violation of the Air Ministry flying code resulted in the unsuccessful prosecution of pilot Joan Hughes and production manager Norman Foster.

The M40 motorway, which was nearing completion at the time of production, doubled for the fictitious M104.[1][6][8] In the run-up to the filming of the plane's near-miss with the bridge between Junctions 4 and 5, at Lane End on the High Wycombe Bypass,[23] the Ministry of Transport and the local police ordered that in accordance with Ministry of Civil Aviation regulations, the manoeuvre be performed with the wheels in contact with the tarmac at all times.[1][8][24] During a take, a crosswind sprang up and the drag caused by the dummies left Hughes concerned that she would lose control of the Tiger Moth if it were to hit the ground.[1][8][24] She therefore kept the plane in mid-air while passing under the bridge, clearing it by nine feet (2.7 m) as originally planned.[1][8][24] On another attempt, the continuing adverse conditions necessitated a second low-level glide, angering the Ministry of Transport official supervising the filming; subsequently, Hughes and production manager were arrested.[23] Hughes, a pilot with more than three decades' flight experience by 1968, later commented that this dangerous stunt marked only the first time in her career that she had feared for her safety.[23]

Both Hughes and Foster were prosecuted;[23] the former was charged with seven counts of "dangerous flying", and the latter with three of aiding and abetting.[1][8] However, it was not until 18 March 1968 – after production had ended – that the case against them was heard at Aylesbury Crown Court.[23] The jury viewed the final cut of Thunderbird 6[23] and found both defendants not guilty on 20 March.[7][8] Reported in the Daily Express below the headline "Under The Bridge Goes Lady Penelope", the acquittal inspired Foster to remark that the character had "opened the way for much greater realism in filmmaking."[23]

The re-painted Tiger Moth G-ANFM in 2012

In the intervening months, the Ministry of Transport had withdrawn permission for further stunts to be filmed on the M40, forcing the production team to resort to alternative methods to complete the Tiger Moth sequences.[1][7][8] The special effects department constructed a ​16-scale model re-creation, located on the Century 21 outdoor backlot to reduce lighting discrepancies, with radio-controlled miniatures of the Tiger Moth made to replace Hughes' aircraft.[1][7][8][19] Ranging from six feet (1.8 m) in width to a smaller ​13-scale for filming with the puppet characters, the replicas were unreliable and frequently crashed, but Anderson asserts that the production team successfully merged the full-sized and miniature shots so that it is difficult to distinguish which aircraft is piloted by Hughes and which is remote-controlled.[19] The scale reconstruction of the M40 bridge was aligned with a backdrop of real trees and fields to simulate the intended setting as faithfully as possible.[19] Bad weather forced the outdoor filming to run for six weeks.[19]

Built at Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire in 1940, the DH82A Tiger Moth that appears in the film (registration G-ANFM, serial number 83604) had served in the RAF before being sold to the Association of British Aero Clubs in 1953.[25] Since the production of Thunderbird 6, the plane has made appearances in other films, such as Michael Apted's Agatha (1978).[25] Damaged in a crash in 1992, the repaired Tiger Moth currently forms a part of the Diamond Nine aerobatics squadron, based at White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire.[25]


Barry Gray considered the musical score for Thunderbird 6 superior to that of Thunderbirds Are Go since its depiction of round-the-world travel provided scope for a large number of musical themes.[26] Music was recorded in six sessions at the Olympic Studios at Barnes, London, between 1 and 5 February 1968, with an orchestra of 56 members.[27] The main title music, described as "jaunty" in Gerry Anderson's biography,[17] accompanies opening credits superimposed on shots of Skyship One as it sits on the NWAC airfield. The soundtrack was released in a limited edition in 2005.[28] A rendition of the 19th-century song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" accompanies the aerial shots which chart Alan and Tin-Tin's departure from Tracy Island at the start of the film.[20] Director David Lane wanted the movements of the Tiger Moth to simulate a dance in mid-air, and to this end played the song on loudspeakers from the shooting helicopter to inspire the stunt pilot.[20]

Thunderbird 6
Soundtrack album by
Released1 May 2005[28]
1."What is it to Be? / Main Title"03:19
2."Tiger Moth / Operation Escort / Murder of the Crew"04:55
3."Ballroom Jazz"04:14
4."Welcome Aboard / Breakfast over N.Y. / Brains Destroys Prototype #1"03:06
5."Grand Canyon to Melbourne / Brains Destroys Prototype #2"02:51
6."Indian Street Music"02:31
7."Dinner Aboard Skyship 1"03:24
8."A Visit to Egypt / Calling Switzerland / Whistle Stop Inn"04:50
9."Parker Inspects Skyship / Thunderbirds Are Go! / TB2 Unloads Tiger Moth"02:22
10."Shaky Departure / Skyship 1 Crashes / On Final Approach"03:21
11."Grounded at Last / Finale"02:16
Thunderbirds Are Go!/Thunderbird 6
Soundtrack album by
Released15 August 2014[28]
LabelLa-La Land Records[28]
1."Plans to Build a Skyship and Thunderbird 6 Main Titles"03:29
2."Flight of the Tiger Moth"03:36
3."Operation Escort"01:56
4."The Ballroom Jazz"04:18
5."Welcome Aboard / Dumping Bodies"02:45
6."Skyship Journey–Grand Canyon to Melbourne"02:57
7."Indian Street Music"02:44
8."Dinner Aboard Skyship 1"03:24
9."Skyship Journey–Egypt to Switzerland and The Whistle Stop Inn"04:30
10."Thunderbirds Are Go / The Trap / Tower Collision"02:52
11."Shaky Departure / Skyship 1 Crashes / On Final Approach"03:21
12."Tiger Moth Escape"02:46
13."Crash Landing and Conclusion"03:37


Completed in December 1967[5] and awarded a "U" rating from the British Board of Film Classification on 22 January 1968,[1] Thunderbird 6 did not premiere until 29 July, at the London Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square.[1][5][8] To promote the film, a Lady Penelope impersonator, Penny Snow, toured Britain in a pink Rolls-Royce imitation of FAB 1.[17] Commenting on the six-month postponement between classification and release, Thunderbirds historian Chris Bentley conjectures that United Artists had lost faith in distributing the Thunderbirds franchise in light of the disappointing box office returns for Thunderbirds Are Go, and therefore intentionally shelved the sequel between January and July.[8]

Critical responseEdit

A metaphor for Thunderbirds's decline may be found in the fact that in the very first episode, we see a supersonic, atomic aircraft hurtling along a runway, and in the final outing for International Rescue, we watch a biplane chugging along a motorway.

– Stephen La Rivière (2009)[5]

Underperforming at the box office on its general release, Thunderbird 6 went on to become a commercial failure and spoilt chances for the production of a potential third Thunderbirds film.[9] In his review published in the Daily Mail, critic Barry Norman described the sequel to Thunderbirds Are Go as child-friendly but still a showcase of "technical excellence".[9] In what he termed a "class-conscious" side to the film, Norman also discussed the characterisation of Parker, a manservant, as a butt of jokes, such as being the one unfortunate character to find himself stuck upside-down in a tree as the Tiger Moth crash-lands.[9]

La Rivière theorises that the commercial failure of the film is attributable to the facts that ITC financier Lew Grade had cancelled Thunderbirds as a television series in 1966, and that, by July 1968, 18 months had passed since the screening of the final episode ("Give or Take a Million"), resulting in a loss of public interest in the franchise.[5] He praises Thunderbird 6 for its visual work, and holds the model Tiger Moth effects in particularly high regard, writing that it represents "some of the best effects work Century 21 would ever create. It is a testament to their skill and ingenuity that, in the motorway sequence, the model shots are indistinguishable from the original."[7] However, he questions whether the sparseness of the action sequences is a disappointment to child viewers, suggesting that the film "feels like an extended puppet version of holiday magazine programme Wish You Were Here...?"[7] Adding to the "unfamiliar air" of the film are the characters, who La Rivière argues sound more mature than before in a development, which he partly attributes to the new casting of Gary Files and Keith Alexander in place of Ray Barrett.[5] He also asserts that the film intentionally avoids iconic elements from the original Thunderbirds episodes, such as the Thunderbird launch sequences and the "Thunderbirds March" theme music.[5]

La Rivière argues that the use of the Tiger Moth as the star vehicle, and the pun on the Esso promotional banner of "Put a Tiger in Your Tank", are more suited to an adult audience.[7] Meanwhile, children "had spent the entire 90 minutes eagerly waiting for the most fantastic piece of hardware to arrive. They got an old plane."[7] Thunderbirds historian John Marriott voices similar criticism of the Tiger Moth, writing that "the big screen was an unsuitable place for the gentle irony of steam-age technology scoring triumphantly over an array of fantasy machines."[29] Science-fiction author John Peel is dismissive of the film in general and compares it pessimistically to the "well-made fun" of Thunderbirds Are Go.[11] He summarises it as a "big mistake" and "a feeble last fling for a brilliant series", with a long and illogical plot, poor jokes and little action during the final rescue sequences.[11] Responding to claims that the tone of Thunderbird 6 differs significantly from that of its predecessor, Gerry Anderson maintains that the time that had elapsed since the airing of the final television episode meant that "we were much more aware with the second one that it wasn't just a question of making a longer episode, but it was, indeed, to make something special for the cinema."[10]

The second Thunderbirds movie is not that different from the original 1966 offering—bald bad guy the Hood's up to no good, lots of stuff gets blown up, the Tracy brothers scramble to save the world and, yet again, we don't get to see anywhere near enough of the very cool Thunderbird 2.

Film4 review[12]

A BBC Online review calls the sequel "a weak and perhaps too padded adventure" which is an underwhelming experience as a feature-length film.[30] Despite summarising it as having more "the extended feel of a special TV episode", and describing the plot as substandard in comparison to the original episodes, Thunderbird 6 is awarded a rating of three out of five stars.[30] In contrast, Jim Schembri of Australian newspaper The Age asserts that the plotting is strong (and superior to that of Thunderbirds Are Go), and that the film also boasts "a snappier pace, with an action climax leaps ahead of anything in the latest Bond epic."[10] Writing in the same newspaper, Philippa Hawker notes an increase in humour, stating of Thunderbird 6 that it is "more self-consciously light-hearted but it's also more suspenseful."[31] The Film4 website offers a three-star rating to match BBC Online, praising the production team's decision to introduce more naturally proportioned puppets and comparing Thunderbird 6 favourably to Jonathan Frakes's 2004 adaptation, which is considered a "live-action bomb".[12] Described as "great fun" and "entertaining if antiquated", the film is also referred to as "a slice of kid-friendly cinema made for a far more innocent age."[12]

Home videoEdit

In Regions 2 and 4, Thunderbird 6 was initially released on DVD by MGM in 2001, with special features including an audio commentary from director David Lane and producer Sylvia Anderson, the theatrical trailer, stills and production galleries.[32] A 2004 "International Rescue Edition", including Region 1 and packaged both separately and as part of a box set with the preceding film, Thunderbirds Are Go, contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix and extends the 2001 special features material with three documentaries detailing the production of the film.[33][34]

In 2014, Twilight Time, through their sub-licensing deal with MGM, released Thunderbird 6 on Blu-ray as a double feature set with Thunderbirds Are Go, limited to 3,000 copies and available only on the Screen Archives Entertainment website.[35] The set was re-released in 2017 by Kino Lorber.[36]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ A newspaper that appears in a close-up shot is dated 11 June 2068 (Bentley 2005, p. 99; Bentley 2008, p. 305), which places the maiden flight of Skyship One nine months after the conclusion to Thunderbirds Are Go in September 2067 and six months after the events of the final Thunderbirds episode, "Give or Take a Million", in December 2067 (Bentley 2005, p. 95). The events of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons also take place in 2068.
  2. ^ The Hood, though seemingly killed in Thunderbirds Are Go, returns in Thunderbird 6 under a new codename (Bentley 2005, p. 98). In their audio commentary for the film's DVD release, Sylvia Anderson and David Lane refer to Black Phantom as the "son of the Hood" and say that the character is motivated by a desire to avenge his father.
  3. ^ FAB 1, Lady Penelope's Rolls-Royce, is stored in Skyship One's cargo hold and is thus destroyed with the airship (Bentley 2005, p. 99; Bentley 2008, p. 305; La Rivière, p. 173).



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