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  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?

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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

Episode #3: "One of a Kind"

This episode opens in a picturesque forrest glade as a helicopter pilot searches for someone, or something, known as "Goliath". Nearby, in a wooden cabin- slightly ill at ease with the futuristic setting, sits a Grizzly Adams clone waiting for the signal from his room mates to go hunt down "Goliath" the old fashioned way. Impatient with the authority's lack of results he heads into the woods and soon runs across two rangers who have narrowly survived a confrontation with the fugitive. The hunter cannot believe that a simple Buck (a male deer to you and me) has managed to evade a whole squad of rangers and decides it's now time to bring in the animal he has been hunting his whole life.

The Thunderbirds team return to base after a long training mission in space which has nothing to do with the rest of the episode but it killed some time. Commander Simpson greets the crew and reminds them of there imminent holiday time, Gran recalls his family. It's not a happy scene. Gran talks to his daughter over a video phone assuring her he will be home for her birthday but his wife isn't so believing. It's the same old thing- "You spend too much time working/She needs a full time father"- and she promptly leaves him.

Back in the forrest a storm is brewing. The hunter finally comes face-to-face with his nemesis but even he fails in his attempts to kill it. The storm worsens suddenly and lightning strikes the trees igniting a forrest fire- and only a short distance from the Nuclear Power Station!! Two rangers (one of which I think had a small role in Macross) head into the fire in search of the missing hunter. The crew are undergoing a stress evaluation as word of the unfolding disaster reaches Commander Simpson. Things don't look too good for Gran, the monitor displaying his brain waves starts beeping and flashing the word Cosion! in a yellow block. I'm no doctor but even I know that can't be good. The others have finished their evaluations and are discussing their holiday plans when the Commander calls them back into duty to fight the fire at the Nuclear Plant. They rush off on their Flying Sleds and into stock animation while the staff doctor muses over Hansen's results, it seems he has all the signs of high stress.

With the reusable launch footage done, the Thunderbird team arrive at the site of the fire and recieve a message from one of the Doctors. He pleads with the rescuers to save Goliath as well as putting out the fire. It seems that the deer is some sort of experimental creature which he believes holds the key to nature's survival. Thunderbirds 12 & 3 are separated, one to search for the hunter & deer and the other to tackle the blaze. Meanwhile, within the flames, the hunter searches for an Emergency Phone. Inexplicably finding one attached to a nearby tree he manages to alert the authorities to his location before the line goes dead. Unperturbed by the flames McMann follows a blood trail left by the buck, determined to finish his job. Soon the two meet, McMann draws his knife. "The gene engineers did a good job on you but you can't win... you see, they did a better job on me!" But his words are wasted as the animal is in no mood for a fight and faints. Despite his complaints of "Too much ground to cover" Gran and Kallan stumble across the pair quite quickly. The hunter spots two female deer sheltering in a cave (the youngest played by the same animal that played Disney's Bambi) and realises the truth- he was just trying to protect his family. "We are not equal. You bred true!" he exclaims and what that means I've no idea (it's never explained either). Gran and Kallan rush in on foot and carry the wounded animal and exhausted hunter onto Thunderbird 3. The vehicle is moved into position to save the deer's family as the wind changes direction and the flames grow stronger. Time is running out for them so it's no time for Gran to freeze up, racked by uncertainty and doubt over his own family situation. Due to the unstable nature of the terrain Thunderbird one has to hold TB 3 on a magnetic line above the ground. The plan is for Gran to fire the escape pod over the fire and into the vicinity of the trapped deer. Once there Dylan will leap out grab the scarred animals and they will all be recovered in the pod. But the stress of the situation has Gran cracking under the pressure. "I need my family, I'm nothing without them!" he cries while adjusting the controls. Recognising the specimens to be just like his own family back home, Hansen is able to react in time and they are saved.

Foam bombs are launced by Thunderbird two and the flames are smothered and the fire is soon extinguished. A short while later the animals are set free back into the, now unscared forrest and Gran vows to return home to his own family certain that they will take him back. But will they? We'll never know as the episode abruptly ends and I doubt his marital situation was ever mentioned again.

Episode #4: "Snowbound"

This episode takes place in San Maritz in the Swiss Alpes. Everything is peaceful in the idilic ski resort although a storm is being forecast for later in the day. Onboard a mountainside monorail the Conductor, Chrissy, is giving the passengers a guide to the scenic region. But their relaxing tour is suddenly interrupted by a life threatening event. A careless Eagle accidentally (or maybe not) causes an avalanche and the Monorail is directly in it's path! The train driver increases velocity to maximum speed and races for the safety of the tunnel up ahead. After several tense seconds the Snowland makes it inside the tunnel and to supposed safety but Mother Nature is a malicious woman and doesn't give up that easy. The snow from the avalanche floods into the tunnel from both ends and Snowland is travelling much too fast to stop in time. With immense force it collides with the raging wall of snow causing the passengers to be tossed around inside and thrown from the windows. The Controllers in the control room become concerned- the train was detected entering the tunnel but not exiting and to make matters worse weather reports show that the storm is increasing in strength and has changed direction and is now heading straight for them. Mother Nature sure has it in for those passengers! Inside the Snowland Chrissy is trying to keep the injured passengers calm. Leaving them for a moment she goes to check on George the driver but finds him "unconscious" (ie dead) and the radio is broken too! George's cap slips off of his head, ominously.

Outside, rescue helicopters are sent to help. By the time they reach the accident spot the wind is already picking up and reaching speed of 135 mph causing more snow slides. It's hopeless, they can't reach them in this weather, the pilot suggests getting Superman but then settles on just the Thunderbirds instead. International Rescue respond sending Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 5 to save those trapped in Tunnel 40. It's stock animation time!

Inside Tunnel 40 Chrissy is having a hard time convincing some of the more unruly passengers not to attempt an escape. Like Aragorn in that
Stallone movie 'Daylight', a bunch of stupid, reckless survivors ignore, Chrissy's pleas for patience as well as common sense and attempt to dig their way out -with their hands! This, predictably, doesn't lead to freedom but to a rockslide which causes the first coach to catch fire. They got off lightly, Aragorn was squashed under a huge pile of rubble.

On the approach, the Thunderbird team make plans for the rescue. Dylan will use a rocket pack to land on the roof of the tunnel and will then dig through into the tunnel using a laser. Meanwhile Thunderbird Two will off-load Thunderbird Five, which is equipped with a front-mounted drill and Thunderbird One will stand by to collect the survivors. Talking to himself throughout, Dylan lands on the moutainside and locates a cave entrance the leads nicely into the tunnel. That was lucky! He reaches the trapped passengers much faster than planned and sets about tackling the fire but there aren't enough fire extinguishers to deal with the blaze and to make things worse a minor explosion throws Captain Beyda to the ground, knocking him unconscious (not the same kind of unconscious as poor George suffered though). Kallan, piloting Thunderbird 1, drops Freezer Bombs onto the area to turn the snow into ice, preventing further snow slides. Dylan is rescued by Chrissy and gives Gran orders to begin drilling into the tunnel in Thunderbird 5 but he must hurry as the smoke from the fire is rapidly replacing the oxygen.

After a lot of padding Thunderbird 5 reaches them and the passengers quickly board. TB 5 breaks through to the outside, all the passengers are safe, the mission is a success. and the episode ends.

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.

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