Article by Ian Coomber
With roles in films as varied as Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi to Ant & Dec’s Alien Autopsy, there are few actors who can compete with Shane Rimmer’s cult status. Other appearances include Dr. Strangelove, Star Wars, and no less than three James Bond films, but it is undoubtedly as the voice of Thunderbirds‘ Scott Tracy for which he is best known. Like many Anderson actors he continued his association with Gerry and Sylvia by guest starring in a number of their successive series, taking on a lead role once more with Dick Spanner, P.I. in 1987. What he is less known for however, is his work away from the microphone, and the episodes of the various series for which he is credited with writing, rather than starring in.
Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons
Mysteron threats aren’t the only danger faced by Spectrum when those operating the Frost Line Outer Space Defence System become their latest victims. Colonel White learns that sometimes the human reaction to the threat can be just as dangerous, doing his utmost to stave off General Ward’s shoot first and ask questions later approach. Something which in his position could mean firing missiles at Mars itself. The episode is also memorable for giving Lt. Green a rare trip to the surface and into the heart of the action, allowing him to save the Big Bear outpost from the same fate as Red Deer and Cariboo.
It’s fair to say nothing threatens the Earth’s prestige like stealing a mobile nuclear reactor. Despite the best efforts to move it whilst avoiding undue attention, Captain Black finds a novel way to divert the driver’s route to a collapsed bridge and naturally his retrometabolised counterpart takes the cargo on an even bigger detour, this time to a rendezvous with a remote control helicopter. Like Avalanche, Expo 2068 was also set chiefly in Shane Rimmer’s native Canada, where not only is Manicougan an actual reservoir, but the state of the art hydro-electric dam which Colonel White initially believes to be the Mysteron’s target, was under construction when the episode was broadcast.
Although this was the first episode written by Shane Rimmer in which he also provided a guest voice, it’s all too easy to miss his appearance. After the SKR4 rocket, which he helps pilot, is destroyed right at the beginning of the episode, its Mysteron replacement sets a return course to Earth. When the Euro Space Tracker Station becomes suspicious however, it doesn’t take long for Spectrum to piece together the evidence and link it to the current threat of destroying the Najama desalination plant. Although it was evacuated, not even four Captains and the Angels could stop such a valuable piece of infrastructure from destruction.
An episode which was mistakenly attributed to Tony Barwick in the closing credits, Splashdown features a welcome return of Supermarionation’s underwater effects. When two planes crash, each one carrying an internationally renowned scientist, Sam begins an investigation as to why their bodies weren’t found among the wreckage. WIN’s most special agent is joined by his father, albeit as bait, and the McClaines travel to Istanbul themselves to lure out those responsible. They don’t have to wait long before the next cleverly orchestrated plot is put into action, leaving Joe to save the passenger jet from crashing, and also stalling the kidnappers long enough for a navy patrol to finish the job of making the arrests.
Rescuing the two man crew of a crashed nuclear submarine might have been easy, but rescuing the sub itself is another matter. Particularly when it’s lodged on the seabed in the territorial waters of antagonistic Porto Guava. With the help of an aquanaut’s brainwaves and a local fisherman however, Joe is able to dive down, gain entry, fix the leaking missile hatch, and drain all the flood water. He may have stepped right into it courtesy of a Giant Clam which calls the ocean floor home, but that’s still somewhat better than the firing squad faced by Mac.
WIN take a leaf out of International Rescue’s book when three men become trapped in a mine. As luck would have it however, Sam grew up playing in those mine shafts, and knows of an entrance way small enough for a child to climb through. Unable to do anything himself he becomes increasingly worried as the official rescue operation continues to drill closer, while Joe has to reach a geologist in need of life saving medication. With all of them facing very imminent danger, the innocent sounding title in fact has a double meaning when it turns out the geologist is Dr. Willie Loover, Sam’s father!
King For A Day
Beginning with the assassination of the Sultan of Ardaji in a rather ingeniously orchestrated car crash, swerving to avoid a car which is actually its own reflection, the Regent attempts to claim the throne by also kidnapping his son and heir. Bearing a striking resemblance to the Prince however, Joe 90 returns to the royal palace in his place in order to stall the conspirators. Able to pass all of their tests thanks to the services of BIG RAT, he gives WIN the time they need to rescue the real Prince Kahib, and return him home in time for his coronation.
When WIN agent Roger Fleming is discovered in Santa Maria, he is interrogated to learn the whereabouts of a microfilm that contains the identities of all other agents in the area. Luckily for Fleming however, the brain pattern of his inside contact, Mike Laramie, is available in BIG RAT’s archives. Joe is sent deep into the South American jungle to rescue him, overcoming winding rivers and hungry snakes in the process. With Fleming having been drugged during his questioning though, it takes some convincing that Joe is with WIN, and he’s still not entirely sure when he recovers either.
Joe and Mac’s holiday becomes an ideal opportunity to try out the brain pattern of a bobsleigh champion, but their rest and relaxation is soon cut short when the Canadian Prime Minister comes under attack from two escaped convicts. Working with an old Mountie friend of his father’s, Joe volunteers to deliver the ransom money as a ‘neutral’ party, but once again is underestimated, especially when outmaneuvering an escape helicopter with two bemused convicts in the back seat. Just as BIG RAT has more uses than international espionage, it also seems that each pattern has more than one skill that comes in handy.
The Secret Service
Hole in One
When a hi-tech satellite is descending from its orbit, it’s up to Father Unwin and Matthew to find the security leak and catch those interrupting its recovery effort. Eventually it turns out that General Brompton’s classified conversations are being recorded with a bugged golf ball, but a plan to switch it for one containing knock out gas isn’t far behind. With exact timing needed, Unwin’s filibustering to stall the General is soon followed by a swift hole in one from the rough. An episode of which Shane Rimmer’s involvement is hardly surprising when you consider that he and Tony Barwick had previously written a thriller novel set in the world of the game.
Zeke might be an old friend of Harry Rule’s, but one who owes the wrong guy a favour. Blackmailed into helping club owner Kasankas find an old mob bookie, the only man who can still incriminate him, Zeke dupes him into meeting Bradley with a homing device attached to his car. He soon has a change of heart however, and it’s up to him and the Contessa to hope they’re not to late to warn them both. Although the part of Zeke was written for Tony Curtis, with Rimmer making notes while they worked together on The Persuaders, a last minute scheduling conflict meant there was only man to take the role, Shane Rimmer himself!
Harry, Caroline, and Paul join forces with the Police after a platinum heist. In fact it’s the gang’s third, and no wonder they’re so successful if they spray paint the van en route to a scrap merchant, and then crush it with the cargo still inside. In addition to this, Wembley Stadium car park is also a rather unexpected place for their illicit meetings. Blockbuster had the honour of being the final episode to have been broadcast during The Protectors initial run, and recovering over a million pounds of precious metal is hardly a bad way to end a series.
Written much along the lines of a regular episode, this one-off pilot forgoes showing the origin story of John and Julie’s shrinking by the eponymous alien Investigator, and instead sees them on a mission to stop a valuable painting from being stolen. Filmed in Malta, the pilot contains some of Supermarionation’s most glamorous visuals, but the sun soaked streets of the Mediterranean are often in contrast to its darker themes. Seemingly chosen against their will, the teenage heroes express regret at their newfound stature, and even their desires to be returned to full size.
Our thanks to Ian Coomber for writing and compiling this list of Shane Rimmer’s writing credits for the Gerry Anderson series.
What’s your favourite episode that Shane Rimmer wrote? Let us know in the comments!