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Film / Thunderbird 6

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Thunderbird 6 is the second Supermarionation feature film based on Gerry Anderson's TV series Thunderbirds, released in 1968.

The New World Aircraft Corporation gives Brains an open invitation to design a new aircraft. When he suggests an airship, he is mocked and ridiculed, although the NWAC go ahead and build the antigravity Skyship One. While Alan, Tin Tin, Lady Penelope and Parker travel on the Skyship's maiden voyage as International Rescue's representatives, Brains remains on Tracy Island, designing Thunderbird 6. Each of his designs is dismissed by Jeff Tracy.

Unbeknownst to International Rescue, however, a man known only as the Black Phantom is moving against them. Tired of merely taking photographs, he plans to hijack the Thunderbirds themselves. His agents murder and replace the crew of the airship, and plant recording devices around Lady Penelope. Their plan is to Quote Mine her to summon the Thunderbirds to the Black Phantom's remote base, where he will be able to steal those magnificent machines. Unfortunately for the villains, Alan, works out their plan, and Lady Penelope is able to warn International Rescue just in time. Thunderbirds 1 and 2 destroy the Black Phantom's base. On the airship, however, things aren't going so smoothly. A gunfight disables the ship's antigravity system, and it plunges towards a British missile base. All the Thunderbird craft are too heavy to attempt a rescue - except the antique Tiger Moth biplane that Alan and Tin Tin had flown to meet the airship. Brains flies the Moth onto the top of the airship, but there the leader of the villains forces Penelope at gunpoint to get in the plane with him and plans to leave the others behind. Alan shoots him, and the plane takes off with an inexperienced Penelope at the controls and everybody else clinging on to the wings and landing gear. Shortly after, Skyship One crashes to the ground, starting a chain reaction that obliterates the missile base. The remaining impostors are killed in a shootout aboard the Tiger Moth, and with Alan's help Penelope lands the plane in a field. The Tiger Moth is then declared the new Thunderbird 6.

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Brains suggests an airship to the New World Aircraft Corporation, the executives erupt with laughter.
  • Bad Boss: Imposter!Foster has no qualms about betraying his underlings if it benefits him.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: When Lady Penelope is talking with Alan about Skyship One's captain Foster, of whom they both already suspect that he is not who he claims to be, the lamp next to her bed falls of the table, revealing a listening device underneath. Realizing the ship's crew is eavesdropping on her, she quickly alters her opinion about Foster and tells Alan they shouldn't jump to conclusions so fast.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: When all their usual vehicles are unable to reach the stranded Skyship One, an old-fashioned biplane (that Alan used earlier to travel to England) is used instead. Imposter!Foster lampshades the trope:
    Imposter!Foster: Don’t tell me they’re gonna try a rescue with that thing! They must have got it from a museum.
  • Broken Aesop: Jeff repeatedly turns down Brains' ideas for a new Thunderbird on the basis that the ideas are only suitable for a single type of rescue mission. Fine and good, except that (a) this applies to every single one of TB2's pod vehicles including Thunderbird 4, all of which Jeff presumably approves of, and (b) it's hard to conceive of any great number of uses for the vehicle that ultimately is made Thunderbird 6. In fact, it's not clear why Jeff thinks they need a Thunderbird 6...
  • Continuity Nod: The Ski Thrusters from The Cham-Cham, which enable the characters to ski uphill, make another appearance.
  • Cool Ship
    • Thunderbird 6 is an antique Tiger Moth biplane. It earned the name when it proved the only aircraft in the Tracy arsenal both light enough and slow enough to land on top of a distressed luxury zeppelin.
    • Brains also designed several Thunderbird 6 prototypes more in-line with the original five units — each was a perfectly viable vehicle in their own right, but all were rejected because Brains was going through a Heroic BSoD at the moment.
    • Skyship One is Brains' airship — not a dirigible or blimp or the like, but a heavier-than-air vessel which generates its own antigravity field.
  • Circle of Shame: When Brains outlines his idea of building an airship, a roomful of air industry executives laugh at him. The film's DVD Commentary points out that, since all the characters are marionettes, lots of laughing puppet heads had to be constructed even though each of them would only appear in one shot.
    "Sure, they laughed — and then they built it!"
  • Darker and Edgier: Not only is the original crew of Skyship One brutally murdered, we actually see their corpses being tossed into the ocean.
    • Also, according to Word of God, the Black Phantom is actually killed when Thunderbirds 1 and 2 destroy his base.
  • Canon Discontinuity: In the original Thunderbirds series, the Tracy family explicitly stated that International Rescue was a secret organisation. In Thunderbird 6, Jeff says for the Skyship One flight that "International Rescue [was to be] represented by Alan, Tin-Tin and Penelope", thereby ignoring International Rescue's code of secrecy.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Officially, Black Phantom is the Big Bad who came up with the whole scheme to capture Thunderbirds 1 and 2, and Imposter!Foster is strictly his dragon carrying out the plan. However, Black Phantom is only briefly seen in a few scenes, and eventually unceremoniously killed off when Scott and Virgil destroy his base, while Imposter!Foster has quite a lot of screen time, and is the only one of them who directly interacts with International Rescue...
  • Dragon with an Agenda: ...And he continues to be The Heavy long after Big Bad The Black Phantom has been killed.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The Black Phantom.
  • Expy: The Black Phantom for the Hood... maybe. Confusingly, he is the Hood - as in, literally the same puppet with a wig on - but the film implies he isn't, and Word of God is that he's not. (Sylvia Anderson called him "Hood Jr", which is either acknowledging he's an Expy or literally means he's an unknown family member). Most fans who watched the movie probably assumed he really just was the Hood and wrote off his apparent death as a convenient Never Found the Body as the story makes just as much sense if so.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Imposter!Foster is perfectly personable and a very convincing airhost, joining his guests for dinner on several occasions. His charm gradually fades when his cover is blown, though.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Alan starts the gunfight in the engine room that leads to Sky Ship 1 crashing, and he later shoots the engine of the Tiger although one of the goons did so first. Both the heroes and the villains are to blame for the disaster at the end of the movie since they were just reckless.
  • Quote Mine: Invoked. The Black Phantom's agents use recordings of Lady Penelope's voice to construct a new message they want her to say, and broadcast it to International Rescue. Imposter!Foster even slyly steers the conversations in order to get her to say the needed words; for instance, he deliberately mistates a set of map coordinates, with the map sitting right in front of them, all but inviting Penny to correct him.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: The Black Phantom's grand scheme involves recording Lady Penelope's conversations through a number of listening bugs spread all over the dirigible, then splice them into a request to send the Thunderbirds 1 and 2 into a trap. The scheme works, but the moment the Tracys figure out it's a trap, they use the Thunderbirds' cannons to blow the whole place to smithereens.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Somewhat surprisingly, Alan and Tin Tin deny to Imposter!Foster that they are in a relationship, as it would distract from their duties. Apparently, Alan has outgrown his Crazy Jealous Guy tendencies.
  • Spotting the Thread: The imposters do their best to impersonate the crew of Skyship One, but Parker gets suspicious when he notices they don't seem to know as much about the ship as one might reasonably expect. Lady Penelope and Alan also begin to have their doubts about Foster because somehow every conversation they have with him eventually leads to a discussion about International Rescue. These two facts combined + the discovery of the listening device in Penelope's room are all the proof they need the crew is not to be trusted.
  • Villain Ball: Imposter!Foster firmly grabs the ball when, after hijacking the Tiger Moth and boarding the plane with Lady Penelope as his hostage, he openly claims he has no intention to come back to save his fellow agents and even attempts to shoot them. Thus, the other agents turn on Foster and help the protagonists to keep the Tiger Moth from leaving until they all manage to climb on board. Had Foster kept his intentions to himself, he would have gotten away with it.
    • The villains had an opportunity to steal Thunderbirds 1 and 2, their main goal, very early in the movie when Scott and Virgil board SkyShip 1 to have a drink before it took off, leaving both their aircrafts on the airfield. Later on, they could have just abandoned the good guys in Switzerland having got what they wanted from Penelope, which would have avoided the gunfight at the end- since the ship is fully automated, this would have been especially sensible since it would have been harder to escape unnoticed once it landed back in England and any greeting party would have noticed that this was a fake crew.
    • The bad guys shooting at the heroes in the engine room of SkyShip 1 leads to it crashing, although to be fair the heroes are as much to blame for that as well. The last goons shooting at Alan and Tin-Tin while both are clinging onto the Tiger only gets both of them shot and actually damages the biplane as well, nearly causing that to crash too.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Tiger Moth biplane that is used to save the day at the climax is introduced in a grand The Alleged Car fashion, complete with it sputtering onto Tracy Island's runway with funny tuba music.