1. What is Thunderbirds Are Go?
Thunderbirds Are Go is a kids’ TV show set in 2060 that mixes physical sets with CGI characters and ships. It follows the missions of International Rescue, an organization created by Jeff Tracy and operated by his five sons–Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon, and John–alongside a small team of others. International Rescue operates outside of political and geographical boundaries, offering help to anyone who needs it, from an individual in peril to assisting with global catastrophes–and some off-Earth situations too.
2. Haven’t I heard of Thunderbirds before?
Possibly! The series is a reboot of the original Thunderbirds TV show from the 1960s. The original series was very popular in the UK and has remained so ever since periodically resurfacing over the years for new generations. However, this is the first full reboot of the show, assuming we will be ignoring the godawful Thunderbirds live action movie from 2004. Which we will be. Forever.
3. What’s changed in the reboot?
The most obvious change from the original series is the switch from Supermarionation puppets to CGI characters (the sets are still physical models). This takes a bit of getting used to for those familiar with the original but allows for far more flexibility and scope in the storytelling. Story-wise, there have been some significant changes too. Family patriarch Jeff Tracy is no longer on the show (his mysterious disappearance following a plane crash is a minor plot arc throughout season one), meaning that eldest brother Scott Tracy has mostly assumed command of International Rescue, and John now coordinates efforts from the orbiting Thunderbird 5. A new female character, Tanusha “Kayo” Kyrano, has also been brought in and she assumes some of the character plot points from Tin-Tin in the original.
4. Will my kids like it?
The entirety of season one has already aired in the UK and the show has been popular enough that it is already renewed for seasons two and three–so yeah, it’s been something of a hit with kids here! Thunderbirds Are Go is fast-paced, action-packed, and filled with interesting characters and cool ships so there’s a lot for kids to love. The focus of every episode is on rescuing rather than fighting too, which makes it a refreshing break from the constant stream of superheroes wailing on each other that usually fills my six-year-old’s TV time. He likes recreating the rescues from the episodes and inventing new rescue scenarios with his other toys (there are a shocking number of train crashes in my living room lately), and he has repeatedly watched every episode so many times he can now identify where each track on the OST album come from.
5. Will I like it?
Thanks to its 1960s heritage, lots of families in the UK have been watching Thunderbirds Are Go together–in our family my son watches with his dad and father-in-law–and the show has been going down well with its adult audience. There was even a significant backlash against the channel when it was announced that the show would air early on Saturday mornings in the cartoon slot, rather than in the teatime family viewing slot the pilot episode debuted in. This new reboot is significantly more fast-paced than its puppet predecessor (the frequent and long launch sequences notwithstanding) and the use of CGI allows for a far bigger scope and sense of drama, which helps engage adult viewers and turn Thunderbirds Are Go into a true family show. The scripts certainly don’t hold back on tech speak and realistic sounding discussions, and as for the animation, the show has been created by WETA Workshop who worked on The Lord of The Rings/Hobbit trilogies and Mad Max: Fury Road, so it is of a supremely high standard. Personally, I would place the show in the Star Wars Rebels range of kids TV shows. Although clearly aimed at a younger audience, there’s a lot to draw in adult viewers too.
6. What about the cast?
Thunderbirds Are Go features a fairly impressive cast list. One of the most recognizable would be Thomas Brodie-Sangster who voiced Ferb in Phineas & Ferb and who appeared in Game of Thrones, Love Actually, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Angel Coulby, who played Gwen in Merlin, voices Kayo, and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride and Prejudice) voices Lady Penelope. Anyone familiar with the original Thunderbirds will instantly recognize David Graham who returned to reprise the voice of Parker. Iranian actor Kayan Novak voices Brains, switching his heritage to Indian and adding some much-needed diversity.
7. How violent/scary is it?
Considering the premise of the show is the team rescuing people, there’s a fair amount of peril in every episode. The pilot, “Ring of Fire,” opens with a young boy and his father trapped in an out-of-control hot air balloon that has been caught in a storm and is rapidly gaining altitude. The same double-length episode also includes numerous earthquakes, an IR team member knocked unconscious & their ship briefly trapped in a underwater cave, a team of scientists trapped in an undersea laboratory that is filling with water, a giant solar reflector damaged and now aiming lethal sunlight directly at a city, and a second team of scientists trapped beneath the falling reflector. However, this being a children’s show, all these situations are resolved without too much lasting injury to any party and certainly without death or blood. The show’s premier antagonist, The Hood, belongs in the Bond villain category of bad guys with his frequent plots to take over the world being thwarted by International Rescue. Although he may scare very young children, and his schemes are certainly the stuff of a true evil genius with innocent people frequently put at risk, the good guys always win out.
8. The promo photos make this look like another bro-fest. How diverse is it?
Obviously, any show whose core leading cast is a family of five white, male brothers is going to have a slight issue with diversity, but Thunderbirds Are Go has to be given credit for making some significant improvements over the original here. The biggest of these is the introduction of Kayo, a bad-ass female member of the International Rescue team who also works as Head of Security/Covert Ops and, by the end of the first episode, has her own ship–Thunderbird Shadow: the only new craft introduced for the reboot. Sadly Kayo is somewhat underused during the first half of the season, but she comes back with a vengeance in later episodes. Lady Penelope, a British secret agent hiding behind the public image of a high society lady, is another key female character, imported from the original series alongside her chauffeur/partner-in-espionage, Parker. Although she is rarely in the thick of things, Penelope’s contributions are usually vital for the success of IR’s missions. One area I did notice was lacking was any racial diversity. In the two-part pilot, “Ring of Fire,” a major sequence is set in the city of Taipei and it is very noticeable how white the city’s residents appear. Even International Rescue’s tech mastermind, Brains, looks more like he is sporting a suntan rather than clearly showing off his Indian heritage.
9. Where can we watch?
Thunderbirds Are Go will be available as part of Amazon Prime membership. Episode one, “Ring of Fire,” is currently available to watch and is free to view for everyone if you’re interested in trying out the show. The rest of series one will be available from April 22nd.
For UK fans who missed the show during its first run, repeats are currently airing on CITV.
10. Is there tie-in merchandise?
Of course there is, although the range has yet to reach US shores except via imports. The core of the toy range are the replica ships. Thanks to my six-year-old’s obsession, we have a full set of the ships (FAB 1 courtesy of Vivid Imaginations) and they are great quality–my father-in-law is even planning to pick them up for display purposes alongside his collectible pieces. They’re also robust enough to handle rough kid play and each one has sounds and appropriate actions from the show–Thunderbird 2 can deploy a pod containing Thunderbird 4, Thunderbird Shadow can drop down a motorcycle, etc. The ships are scaled to fit with the replica Tracy Island–home base for International Rescue–which sadly doesn’t live up to the same quality and is best only being picked up on deep discount. Pick up some ear plugs while you’re at it; you’ll thank me later. There’s also an almost complete set of highly articulated 3.75″ action figures available (currently Lady Penelope and Parker are missing) plus a dress up costume, super-sized ships, and more coming. If your kids get into this, you’re set for their next few Christmas lists!