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Old 24th October 2017, 08:10 PM
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Thunderbirds has always had three extremes of guest character. First we have the everyday folks. They are sadly prominent by their rarety in TAG-15. The Sullivan family in City Under the Sea, The Williams Father and Son. Then there are the Boffins and experts, like TOS, the doctors, scientists and engineers who help out and are specialists in their field. Finally we have the eccentric crackpots. TAG-15 however has its own subgenre, in it has the crackpots so annoying that make you want to strangle them. Both for being rotten characters, and for ruining the stories they appear it.
Thankfully Professor Questa is NOT one of those characters! He fits the bill of a Professor Blakely from TOS's Desperate Intruder. Although a bit eccentric and highly excitable, he comes across as Thunderbirds version of Professor Quatermass, he is serious about his science, and although he gives the idea at times he might be ominous or dangerous, it is mearly his earnestness and concern in wanting to help people. - Mark Gattis clearly has a lot of fun with this character in making him funny, memorable but critically – likeable.
The dynamics between the Professor and Brains work a treat, and help to make this very much a Brains story, and a damned good one at that. Their discussions about science and engineering and the responsibilities both bring are credible and add to the overall story. It would be great for Professor Questa to come back. Surprisingly there is some Simpsonsish adult humour with the two robots, as MAX discovers that robot love is not an eas thing with Professor Q's robot Fritzy. Its charming and funny and a sub plot of humour that does not outstay its welcome.

As well as Brains, the story opens with Grandma in charge again and its good to see. Sandra Dickinson and Anjoa Andoh have not been given nearly enough to do, and the scenes with Mrs Tracy at her son's desk inspire the right feelings. Also please note the moment Grandma tells Virgil to break off Thunderbird 2.2's landing to assist Brains. Virgils expression changes from tired relief to disappointed resignation, perfectly matching David Menkin's vocal emoting. The same happens when Scott enthuses about Brains using the RAD earlier in the story. These CGI characters do convey the emotion of the actors performances very well.

The visuals of this episode are beautifully played out. The Romandart Hudeldorf Volcano rivals Mount Doom for LOTR in its menace from the outside, and the lava sequences are wonderfully realised. WETA, how did you do that?! We have seen next to no fire in TAG-15 and these scenes make up for that omission. The solution to the crisis creating diverter channels is logical and although it is played down to a degree in the story (a real volcano would still erupt full force from the peak) it provides a satisfactory conclusion.

The episode does have its problems. Firstly the annoying character box is ticked by the Hotel concierge. OK, he doesn't believe either Professor Questa or Professor Hiram Hackenbacker, but Virgil is in his uniform. Plus if he knows who Jeff Tracy is / was, surely he would recognise one of his own sons? The Tracy family are not cloak and dagger in this series. In the end though the ignorant fool is small scale enough that we can safely ignore him.
Also the loss of the RAD is obvious. It does give us the exciting “Robot run” to get away form the lava, but the loss of The RAD is too predictable for words. Maybe Brains will build a new one.
Of course half these problems would be solved if Brains had his own Thunderbird vehicle, but that is me.

A good episode with the right balance of fun, visual and good characterisation. This is TAG-15 standing on the shoulders of its predecessor and (mostly) making good.


Plus Points:
Grandma thoroughly in Charge again.
Professor Questa is a fun and likeable character.
The Volcano Effects are brilliant.
Re-routing the lava is a logical and practical solution.


Iffy Elements:
“Passenger loading” of TB1.2 looks dangerous!
The Concierge doesn't believe Virgil?!
TB2.2 standing On her legs with the module still in place.
The loss of the RAD is predictable.


Possible References:

Professor Questa feels a little bit like Professor Bernard Quatermass.
Fritzy is even more R2D2ish than Max!
Robot romance = Wall-E?

TOS:
Scott reporting a fire out in Tokyo – The Uninvited
Radio controlled Mole pods hints at the multiple mode vehicles, like the TOS Elevator cars and Recovery Vehicles.

A big one - Brains finally confirms what Professor Moffat implied back in “Heavy Metal,”
– his full name is Hiram K Hackenbacker.


Continuity Good:
The RAD Re-appears. Seems Scott took to it!
The “fingerless” gloves of Scott and Virgil have been eliminated for full gloves.
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