Even these tapes cost something

  Thunderbirds 2086
1983 | ITC Entertainment Inc.
Thunderbirds 2086 video collection

International Rescue make the shift from the puppet world to animation, but how does this Japanese incarnation compare to the far better known wooden original?

Anime Bargain Bin RSS feed

Created by British TV producer Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds first appeared on TV screens in 1965. Each week the International Rescue team, consisting of five brothers and led by their father Jeff Tracey, would use there specialist Thunderbird vehicles, numbered 1-5, to save helpless people from life threatening situations and natural disasters. What made this show different from other action orientated TV of the time were the stars - they were wooden puppets. The show proved to be very popular with TV audiences in it's homeland and across the globe particularly in Japan. In the late 70's the show's creator met there with Banjiro Uemura, head of the Tohoku Shinsha animation studio to discuss a possible Japanese animated TV series of Thunderbirds. Extensive plans were drawn up but MBS, the station backing the proposal had the project cancelled citing a lack of public interest in Sci-Fi at the time.

Several years later in 1982 Uemura reused ideas from the planned Thunderbirds animation to create Scientific Rescue Team Tecnovoyager (Kagaku Kyujotai Tecnovoyager). Set in the distant future of 2066 it followed the adventures of the International Rescue Organisation headed by former astronaught Gerard Simpson, making use of their 17 different, combinable, rescue vehicles to save people from the dangers of the future. The multinational crew featured young Captain Raiji Hidaka, Eric Jones, token black guy Sammy Edkins Jnr, token girl Catherine Heywood and dependable father figure Gran Hanson. Gerard's troublesome but well-meaning son Paul also made a regular appearance so the younger kids had someone to relate to.

Despite having some impressive anime talent behind the scenes including Macross director Noburo Ishiguro as a writer and director and famed composer Kentaro Haneda, who would go on to create the popular score for Macross as well as Bargain Bin classics Frankenstein, and Space Warriors, Tecnovoyager was not a success with only 18 of the 24 episodes reaching TV screens.

Local disinterest didn't spell the end for Tecnovoyager though as Banjiro Uemura also happened to be head of the Japanese branch of ITC the company which owned the international copyright to Thunderbirds. The series was sold on to the company's American branch and in 1983 Thunderbirds 2086 hit U.S. TV screens.

The characters had under gone slight name adjustments; the leader was now all American Dylan Beyda assisted by Jonathan Jordan Jnr, Kallan James, the Texan Jesse Rigel and Gran Hansen. Other alterations included Computer Animation added to the episodes and opening credits along with the removal of the Japanese lyrics from the theme music and a slight tweak to the episode running order.

The Japanese pronunciation of the letter "V" as "B" also meant that the initials on the sides of the rescue crafts were "TB", as in TecnoBoyager or now in this case "Thunderbird". All 24 episodes were shown and it eventually reached other world markets, including Britain and Europe (it gained it's biggest following in Italy) in 1986. Thunderbirds 2086 was a moderate success but not overly popular. The closest it got to merchandising was a 60 page Annual by Granddreams and several VHS releases.

It seemed that these Thunderbirds were just to far removed from the Tracey Brothers had started in the 1960's.

Grand Dreams Thunderbirds 2086
The UK Granddreams Annual
Episodes 1 & 2

Episode #1: "Firefall"

In deep space the Rosenatee space colony is in big trouble! Their defense squadron was unable to completely prevent an asteroid shower from damaging the sanctuary and now it is in critical shape. Rosenmotie Commander Bill Watson orders a complete evacuation but insists on staying behind on a suicidle mission to steer the stricken, and most importantly Nuclear Powered, vessel out of a collision course with other Colonies. His heroic sacrifice doesn't go unnoticed however as Bill's wife Danielle is good friends with the Captain of the Thunderbird team Dylan Beyda and she rushes to him desperate for his help. Captain Beyda just happens to be having a swim at the time and the hunk uses his impressive muscles to comfort the distraught woman in her time of need.

Dylan and Kallan meet with Commander Simpson to get his approval but the cold hearted bureaucrat isn't interested. As far as he's concerned it's the jurisdiction of the Colony Captain and International Rescue can do nothing without UN clearance. But their not gonna take no for an answer so the two corrageous rescuers head to their Thunderbird vehicles where they are met by fellow IR member Jesse Rigel. Unfortunately he agrees with the Commander and holds his friends at (stun)gun point. The Captain takes no notice of his threats and the situation is completely difused by the appearence of third memeber Gran Hansen. Jesse puts his (stun)gun away and Gran reasons with Dylan stating "We all know you trained with Bill and that there was a time when he even saved your life". Token black member "little" John Jordan Jnr arrives and it's time for the flying sleds to take the team to their vehicles. After a long, sci-fi standard, launch sequence the Thunderbirds are finally on route to save Commander Bill.

With a two hour flight ahead of them Captain Beyda has plenty of time to have a little flashback. Like a scene from Airplane! he recalls "...the summer of '76 - flight school! I had lost both engines and was flying like a rock, trying to dead stick into any kind of landing. Bill was running through the Air Star check list, relaying info to Phoenix control!" Through thick red tint we watch as Dylan brings his jet to a fiery stop in the harsh, unforgiving ground. Bill rushes to his aid, dragging him heroically from the blaze just moments from a fatal plane explosion. Flashback over, he recieves a call from Commander Simpson who informs him of the team's impending court martial and also the entry code for the Space Colony. More mutinees are underway as the escaped Colony crew return to Rosenmontie to help out the Thunderbirds.

In what turned out to be a regular staple of the series the Thunderbird team spend a long time discussing their plan. It is decided that upon arrival (that's right they still haven't got there yet- it almost feels like 'realtime') they will use the Thunderbird vehicles to reach the unstable nuclear reactor, remove it and then blast it into space where it can explode 'safely'. After what seems like forever the rescue team reach the out-of-control Colony and the plan is underway. Dylan locates Bill at the stations controls and they begin their evacuation but, during there escape, are helplessly blown into space. Kallan and the rest of the team are forced to work on saving the Colony while their friend floats away, beyond rescue.

After more than 10 minutes of tireless (and dull) work the reactor is finally on it's journey into space and explodes at a safe distance. The rescue was a success except for the loss of Commander Bill and Captain Dylan. But, don't worry, as they are safe and well and aboard one of the Rosenmontie escape shuttles. How where they rescued and how did they survive? Something to do with extra insulation apparently. The closiing moments are equally rushed as a narration from space news informs the viewer that the World Federation has not only found the Thunderbirds team not guilty on all charges but will also be awarding them their highest decoration. Would they have had the same result if they weren't famous bigshots? Typical!

Episode #2: "Computer Madness"

Thunderbird Two, piloted by Jesse and John, has just completed it's mission to oversee the delivery of a new computer system to Moonbase Omega. The two IR members return to Thunderbird 6 little realising that won't be their last visit to the Moonbase today. In one of Omega's cities Tim and his wife watch with pride as their son Chris gets to grips with his new computer, intended to replace his dog that had to be left behind on Earth. Christopher seems to be somekind of child genius, programming his Apple II look-alike with ease. Soon it's talking, singing and answering to the name "Pookie".

The man of the house leaves for work. He is one of the team of engineers tasked with switching over control of the Moonbase from the old system to the newly delivered computer. "That computer sounds sad to me..." comments one of his co-workers "I wonder if it knows it's being replaced." Of course it doesn't, it's just a computer. Right? As its memory modules are being dumped into the incinerator the departing Computer begins to question its situation. An oddly Scottish accented foreman shuts down the 'main brain' and yet it comes back on moments later. Soon everything is going heywire and an emergency call is sent out to Thunderbird 6. The inhabitants head for the secure shelters while Chris' computer acts strangely. "He doesn't like the way I'm programming him" he notices. The voice of the old Master Computer is heard over the communication system informing the people of Moonbase Omega that it is in control.

All attempts by the workers to stop the Master Computer fail. The angry machine attacks with mechanical tentacles and everyone is ejected to a secured chamber. Had this episode been written by Toshio Maeda things would have been MUCH worse so they should be thankful. LAX07 is now fully in control with all human personnel trapped and unable to prevent it from fortifying the base. Jesse and Jonathan are investiaging the area in Thunderbird 2. Chris spots the IR ship from the window and sends them a distress signal in morse code with his torch. The signal is received and Thunderbird 2 returns to base for reinforcements while the Super Computer steps up production of attack drones in anticipation of their interference.

After a long, money saving, launch sequence the whole Thunderbird team (or at least the usual five) have arrived at Moon Base Omega with plans to rescue the civilians from their crazy computer. They don't get too close before the Master Computer unleashes it's drone army. The battle rages longer than the LAX07 planned for causing a strain on its systems. To prevent from overheating it decides to shut off all unnecessary programs which includes the one supplying air to the humans! Jesse notices another morse code signal which he quickly translates to mean "The Master Computer is drawing off all life support and the situation is critical", pretty good work for one man and a torch. The computer won't listen to reason so Dylan separates Thunderbird 1 and goes in for a closer look. Realising its in danger the Master Computer sets the drones to attack the Moon Base itself.

Dylan manages to slip inside the colony and fights off the Computer's defense mechanisms while Christopher tries to help out using Pookie. It seems the Master Computer has invaded the boy's terminal too as Pookie tries to lay the guilt on him insisting that Chris must hate him prompting the child to profess his love for the inanimate machine. Finally our hero reaches the Computer's room and blasts the psychotic system with his gun (which in the previous episode was supposed to only stun). It explodes stopping the drones in their tracks but also, it seems, killing Pookie. The air supply comes back on and Dylan wonders if the Computer intentionally gave up its own life to save the people, although whether this is true of not is unclear. The Thunderbirds leave and the episode comes to a close.

Episodes 1 & 2
Missing videos Missing videos

Thunderbirds 2086 Opening
The full intro sequence along with the introduction.

Thunderbirds (2086) are GO!
The longest of the stock- launches.
Think the music sounds like Frankenstein?

Fair dubbing
Good score
Dull stories
Seriously lacking in action
  LOTS of padding
  Average character designs
  Flat animation
  Just too much talking

The biggest problem I have with Thunderbirds 2086 is that very little happens. Take episode 17 for instance; it's practically 23 mins of cartoon waves crashing about intersperced with the Thunderbirds crew planning their next move. In short it's like watching one of those real life sea rescue shows but as a cartoon where you know no one will die and nothing will go wrong.

The other main issue is the incredibly slim storylines that barely stretch even when bulked out with extra long stock shots of the Thunderbirds launching. Again, episode 17 amounted to little more than; storm warning, Skipper leaves, storm hits, Thunderbirds launch, 15 mins of people being rescued, end. And the endings themselves are really abrupt.
The dull animation does nothing to lift things. Personally I found Thunderbirds 2086 to be slow moving, underplotted and dull to look at.

The dull animation does nothing to lift things. The episodes that don't involve natural disasters are the best as there is actual conflict (rather than a man vs nature rescue mission) and it's much more involving to watch the team battle a physical enemy than lifting X number of nameless, faceless background characters to safety.