“Your job is to save lives that are in danger, and that’s how it’s gonna be, always. Got it?”
One of the many reasons we all love Thunderbirds is for its overwhelmingly positive message about saving lives and helping people, but just occasionally International Rescue chooses to pursue their objectives of worldwide brotherhood by less than honourable means – up to and including lethal force. Here are ten examples of International Rescue going completely off-message and being about anything other than saving lives.
#10 Rick *Punch!* O’Shea
A relatively minor incident to start off with, as Alan Tracy resorts to giving orbital disc jockey Rick O’Shea a black eye in order to get him off the doomed KLA satellite. Thankfully Rick survives the whole experience no less chipper than he was before (and more importantly with no hard feelings towards Alan) but it does highlight the fact that International Rescue maybe needs a refresher course concerning how to deal with hysterical people – ideally something a bit more comprehensive than just “My fist, your face.” Alan may maintain he did this in the line of duty, but it’s pretty clear that defence wouldn’t pass a lie detector test.
We just feel sorry for poor Loman, who had to live alone in space with Rick for so long without knowing that he could have punched him any time he wanted and faced no consequences.
#9 – Random Property Damage
Tasked with distracting the crowds watching the recovery of the Martian probe nose cone from the Allington river, Lady Penelope and Parker take it upon themselves to destroy several nearby abandoned buildings – without first checking that said buildings are actually empty. Oh sure, they drive around for a bit before randomly selecting a building for destruction, but they don’t even bother getting out of the car to investigate further before they open fire.
Who’s to say there wasn’t a homeless chap or two dossing down in that empty warehouse? Some kids playing where they shouldn’t be? A stray cat or two? Whomsoever may or may not have been in those buildings is toast now, and all because Lady Penelope didn’t want to get her expensive new shoes dirty.
#8 – Road Rage
This time we’re going back to the very first episode of Thunderbirds, as Lady Penelope and Parker pursue the Hood after he makes his escape from London Airport with photographs of Thunderbird 1. You all know how this goes; after waiting until they get to “a clear stretch of road” Parker opens fire on the Hood’s car, which crashes through a barrier, explodes, and ends up plunging down the side of one of London’s many mountains.
Now, narratively this all seems to tie up that particular storyline…except that Penelope is always more about the wanton destruction rather than actually accomplishing her mission. Once again she doesn’t stop to make sure that the Hood’s camera really has been destroyed, or even attempt to ascertain whether he survived or not. They just take his demise as read, while the mess is just left for some poor unfortunate to stumble upon later.
#7 – Accidental Genocide
This next one is really no one person’s fault, but it’s also something that nobody really seems bothered about either. Whilst rescuing trapped archaeologists Lindsey and Wilson from the lost Pyramid of Khamandides all three are captured by the Zombites, the mysterious lost tribe that dwell within.
Despite living in the middle of the desert the Zombites have a fully equipped force of fighter jets (which had shot Scott down earlier in the episode) and the Pyramid itself is armed with missiles, so there’s no denying they’re a potential threat. Scott and the archaeologists rush to escape, but during the ensuing gunfight, a wounded Zombite accidentally throws a lever that floods the entire pyramid with explosive gas. The gas renders the remaining Zombites unconscious, and Scott and co only just manage to escape in time before…
…and everybody is remarkable cheerful about the fact that the Zombites have just been blown to pieces. You particularly have to feel sorry for the Zombite that inadvertently caused the gas leak in the first place, who recovers just moments before the whole place goes up but too late to do anything about it.
Also, it’s hard not to feel for Lindsey and Wilson, who have spent years trying to locate the lost pyramid, probably to the scorn of many in the archaeological community…and almost as soon as they do find it the whole place is wiped out leaving them absolutely no evidence of their discovery at all. International Rescue may have done many wonderful things, but being indirectly responsible for the destruction of an ancient civilisation really doesn’t look too good on the old CV.
#6 – Firing on Fugitives
“Foreign agents are fleeing Britain, they must be stopped! And you’ve only got a couple of hours.”
It’s that woman again. Lady Penelope is sent on a mission to track down three members of an international gang who have just attempted to destroy England in a nuclear holocaust, armed with literally nothing more than the above information from Jeff. Against all odds she actually manages to track them down, just as they’re taking off in a helijet – and promptly opens fire on them.
It’s true that the helijet doesn’t explode when it crashes so it’s not impossible the trio inside survived to stand trial later on, but given the sombre music playing over the wreckage and the fact that this is Lady Penelope we’re talking about then we have our doubts…
#5 – Shooting Saboteurs
Gordon Tracy has always seemed like an amiable sort of fellow, which is what makes this bit of unnecessary gunplay all the more out-of-character. At the end of Operation Crash-Dive Gordon gets into a shooting match with a saboteur who has cut the EPU lines aboard Fireflash, and is about to make his escape via the open inspection hatch.
Gordon warns him not to jump since his parachute probably wouldn’t open in time, but the saboteur disregards his warning and dives for the hatch anyway – so Gordon fires two shots at him. It isn’t clear whether or not he actually hit the man since we only see him fall through the hatch, but either way, it just comes across like Gordon wants to make absolutely darn sure that this villain wouldn’t reach the water alive. And that, my friends, can hardly be in keeping with the spirit of International Rescue.
#4 – Scott Hates Carjackers
Move – and You’re Dead is an episode that seems to place remarkably little value on human life. This is most obvious during the racing scenes, in which multiple cars and drivers explode in fireballs up and down the course presumably to the delight of the assembled onlookers. Perhaps in the world of 2026/2065/whatever random date the newspaper says this week such things aren’t a huge issue – who can say?
Gomez and Gillespie are certainly two very unpleasant fellows, of course. Trapping Alan and Grandma on a bridge with a motion-sensitive bomb and then making off with Brains’ super-duper new racing car – well, that’s just not on. However, we have to question Scott’s method of persuading them to stop once he catches up with them – which is to literally to open fire on them with Thunderbird 1’s machine gun.
Needless to say having explosive rounds detonating just inches away from them does little to calm the two crooks and they panic, sending themselves hurtling off a cliff to their doom. Scott isn’t entirely to blame here – just mostly to blame. Still, the car doesn’t explode once it reaches the bottom so it’s possible Brains was able to restore it to its former glory – and this time remembering to install a remote-control system in case of further thievery.
#3 – Death in the Desert
Ross and Collins, two murderous henchmen who contribute to the plot to hijack Skythrust by letting other people do it for them, spend much of Alias Mr. Hackenbacker hanging around in the Sahara desert waiting for their prize to arrive. At last, they sight it – or at least, what they think is Skythrust – approaching in the distance…
In reality, it’s Thunderbird 2 with Virgil and Alan aboard, having been sent by Jeff to “pay them a visit” despite the latter giving them no indication where exactly the pair are waiting. As Ross and Collins wave and cheer, Alan loads up a ‘live missile’ and opens fire on their car.
And…that’s it! Thunderbird 2 soars away, leaving Ross and Collins stranded in the middle of a baking hot desert with no hope of rescue. We hate to say it, but maybe it would have been kinder to just drop a pod on their heads instead of this questionable ‘justice’ – and when you have to ask your heroes to murder their enemies outright rather than leave them to die a lingering death, something has gone very badly wrong…
#2 – Alan Shoots the Wrong Baddy
In the scramble to escape the doomed Skyship One aboard Alan’s Tiger Moth are five members of International Rescue and two of the imposter crewmembers – one of whom, Martin, decides that the best way to lighten the load of the aircraft is to kill off one or two of our heroes. This results in a gun battle between him and Alan, as the latter bravely draws his pistol…
…and promptly shoots Lane, who may have been a baddy but at that exact moment a baddy who wasn’t actually doing anything except clinging on for dear life. It’s possible Alan may have just missed and Lane was unlucky – but we have our suspicions.
Alan does eventually manage to shoot Martin a few seconds later (three times!) and the shot of the stricken Martin’s arm sliding out of shot as he literally whimpers in fear is an oddly unsettling one – but Alan shooting an unarmed and clearly terrified man in cold blood is easily the most unheroic act ever committed by a member of the Tracy family.
However, as you can see, we still have one more slot to fill.
#1 – Lady Penelope murders an innocent motorist
So far most of the nasty deaths we’ve mentioned on this list have happened to people who were pretty nasty themselves. Vault of Death, however, contains a scene in which an innocent passerby is killed due to the negligence of a member of International Rescue. As you might expect, it’s the one who has quite enough blood on her hands already.
You all know the scene. Lady Penelope is driving FAB 1 to London, with a terrified Parker and Lord Silton watching from the backseat as she tears along country roads at breakneck speeds.
And then this happens.
And that’s it. There isn’t even a particularly goofy piece of music to tell us if this meant to be a comedy moment or not, and if that’s really what it was meant to be then it backfires horribly. Some poor soul swerved to avoid the big pink monstrosity that was roaring straight for him, hit a tree, and probably died. The end. RIP whoever that was. Your murderer will not be brought to justice.
So what do you think about International Rescue’s actions? Comment below to let us know your thoughts.