Billionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy was the man who first devised the idea of International Rescue, but it is his five sons who have between them embarked on life or death rescue missions around the world in order to realise it. Each of the Tracy brothers was named after a famous astronaut – Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Leroy Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn – in honour of the accomplishments those men made to the field of space exploration. Each of the Tracy brothers has their own particular area of expertise, as illustrated by the particular Thunderbird craft each is most often associated with, but all are also capable of filling in other duties elsewhere as needed.
Scott, the oldest of the brothers, is pilot of Thunderbird 1 and also serves as backup crew on Thunderbird 3. He also occasionally takes duty shifts aboard Thunderbird 5 and serves as second in command of the International Rescue organisation, although the episode Atlantic Inferno was the only time we saw him sitting at his father’s desk. This illustrates the quick thinking and decision making skills that often lead to him taking charge at the danger zone, with Scott being involved in all bar one televised rescue operations.
Virgil Tracy is the man at the controls of Thunderbird 2 and many of its various pod vehicles. While Scott is coordinating the rescue effort, it is usually Virgil who is at the very heart of the action and he always remains cool under pressure. When not out on rescues, Virgil enjoys playing the piano and painting.
Alan, pilot of Thunderbird 3, is the youngest of the Tracy brothers and often the most impetuous which can sometimes lead him into trouble. He used to be a world famous motor racing champion, but put that interest firmly on hold when International Rescue was launched. He enjoys a close friendship with Tin-Tin that threatens to occasionally boil over into a full blown romance, were it not for his occasional interest in Lady Penelope!
Gordon Tracy is a keen aquanaut, which made him the natural choice to take charge of International Rescue’s one-man submarine, Thunderbird 4. When not participating in underwater rescues Gordon often accompanies Virgil as backup crew aboard Thunderbird 2 and when off-duty is laid back and easy going, with his catchphrase “Ah relax, will ya?” perhaps best summing up his personality!
Space monitor duties aboard Thunderbird 5 are meant to be shared between Alan and John Tracy on a monthly rotation, but it is the latter who is most often seen manning International Rescue’s orbiting space satellite throughout the course of the series and both feature films – and the show’s opening titles! Despite having to deal with regular distress calls John remains remarkably upbeat and chipper throughout the series, and although we’re told he’s participated in “about a dozen” rescues the only one we ever see him participate in is the recovery of the crew of Ocean Pioneer II during Danger at Ocean Deep, where he proves to be just as capable and professional in a crisis as his brothers.ers.