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Series / Thunderbirds

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5... 4... 3... 2... 1! Thunderbirds are go!note 

S-O-S! Mr. Tracy, the western world is falling...
S-O-S! International Rescue, hear us calling...
Kate Kestrel, "SOS", Terrahawks

Created by preeminent British puppet-show producer Gerry Anderson (1929-2012), Thunderbirds is the story of the Tracy family, a wealthy clan who embark on a unique philanthropic venture.

In the year 2065, billionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons (Scott, Virgil, Gordon, John and Alan) form "International Rescue", an organization whose purpose should be self-explanatory. They use technology designed by their resident Techno Wizard, "Brains", which is far beyond anything possessed by any military or civilian agency on the planet, even given the series's far future setting of the late 21st century.

Every week, some monstrous disaster would occur, and the boys (primarily Scott and Virgil) would pilot their awesome Thunderbird aerospace craft to the scene, moving at speeds that would make an aeronautical engineer drool. Scott would get there first, survey the situation, and call back to Virgil, who would then arrive at the scene with the right equipment loaded into the cavernous interior of Thunderbird 2's "pod". Amongst other things, a drilling vehicle (Mole) or an underwater rover (Thunderbird 4) could be loaded into 2. In fact, the other wiki has a list of the many bizarre vehicles deployed.


There were five Thunderbirds, one for each brother:

  • Thunderbird 1: Was the most used. Looks like a missile, moves like a jet fighter. Takes off from base vertically using rockets then switches to horizontal jet propulsion and lands horizontally. Usually used for recconaissance to travel to the disaster quickly and assess which of International Rescue's other resources is needed in that situation.
  • Thunderbird 2: A ginormous plane that incorporates equipment pods into its fuselage. A selection of pods is available, each pre-loaded with specialist rescue equipment. The heavy lifter of the fleet (and the most frequently seen, turning up in all but one of the episodes and both movies).
  • Thunderbird 3: An actual rocketship. Mostly used to get to Thunderbird 5, but also used on a number of space rescue missions.
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  • Thunderbird 4: A small submarine/underwater rover, usually carried by Thunderbird 2 in pod #4.
  • Thunderbird 5: A Space Station, capable of receiving transmissions from all over the globe and automatically detecting and translating distress calls.

Acting as an espionage back-up, to prevent any of IR's tech from being stolen and used for military or destructive purposes, was prim and proper spy Lady Penelope, and her rough-edged cockney Battle Butler Parker, in Penny's pink six-wheeled (and heavily-armed) Rolls-Royce limousine, FAB 1.

The miniatures used were cutting edge for the time. The show was described as feature film quality, to the point where Lord Grade, the head of the commissioning company ITC Entertainment, upped it from a half hour to an hour long drama (necessitating additional scenes to be shot for the first few episodes).

Oh, and all the characters were puppets. The show was filmed in Supermarionation, which was a process using souped-up marionettes with moving lips electronically synchronized with pre-recorded dialogue.

This show is a classic in its native Britain, and around the world. The first season was such a success that it was decided to make a full-blown movie before production began on the second season; the result was Thunderbirds Are Go, wherein the Tracys must rescue an imperilled Mars rocket after a scrape with the local lifeforms. Expected to be a blockbuster of James Bond proportions, it performed poorly at the box office.

An unsuccessful trip made by Lew Grade to try and sell the show to American networks ensured the second season would be the series' last; further, amid corporate fears that the bubble had burst, Gerry Anderson was instructed that said second season be cut back to just six episodes. United Artists, surprised at the failure of the first movie, subsequently commissioned another — Thunderbird 6, where designing a new Thunderbird vehicle is put on hold when a state-of-the-art luxury airship is in danger — and this also flopped. But by then Anderson was already at work on new Supermarionation projects with a new generation of puppets.

Punk/new wave band The Rezillos released a song "Thunderbirds Are Go" in 1978, singing the praises of the series: "the TV show that's never been beat." 80s band Fuzzbox released a single called "International Rescue" as an affectionate tribute/parody of the series, which made it to number 11 in the UK charts. Also in regards to the show's presence on the music scene, Gerry Anderson co-directed the video for "Calling Elvis" by Dire Straits in 1991, where the band members appear as marionettes and footage from Thunderbirds is intercut with footage of a woman meandering around her house.

In 1982, ITC took Scientific Rescue Team Techno Voyager (note: onscreen it is transliterated in Engrish as Techno Boyger, thus the vehichles retain the TB designation making the Thunder-Birds connection slightly more obvious), a 24-episode anime on Fuji TV inspired by the series, and dubbed it as Thunderbirds 2086. This series is not considered part of the Thunderbirds canon by most fans, but interestingly was originally planned as such until a dropoff in popularity of the franchise in Japan led to difficulties in finding a sponsor. Nevertheless, it tanked and was canceled early in both Japan and the UK, though the US and Canada did get all 24 episodes in syndication.note  A pre-Macross Artland worked on episode 10, which notably features a Misa Hayase prototype as a minor character.

The early 90's saw a few attempts to revamp the show for a new American audience, the first being airings on Fox on Saturday mornings, with the episodes whittled down to fit in a half-hour time slot with rerecorded dialogue and some new music. After a fairly short run this version faded from view. Much stranger was the attempt that followed shortly afterward, known as Turbocharged Thunderbirds. Live action segments were added of the "Hack Masters", Trip and Roxette, operating out of "Hacker Command" (that is, Thunderbird 5), where they coordinated the actions of the supermarionettes from the 60's footage. What's more, the forces of evil now reported to another new character, a giant spectral head named "The Atrocimator". Who was voiced by Tim Curry.

2004 saw the release of a live-action version directed by Jonathan Frakes; unfortunately, Universal's Executive Meddling and being trapped in Development Hell since the 90s turned what could've been an awesome film into something most fans of the franchise would like to forget, and many, including Anderson himself, consider Trey Parker and Matt Stone‘s Affectionate Parody Team America: World Police, which was made using marionettes similar to the original series, to be the true Thunderbirds movie released that year.

A revival, titled Thunderbirds Are Go, started on 4 April 2015 and concluded on February 22, 2020.

There are also three audio episodes recorded by the original cast and released in the Sixties. In 2015 these were used as the basis for three new episodes filmed in Supermarionation style. And in 2021, Big Finish acquired the rights to the series and released three full-cast audio adaptations of John Theydon's tie-in novels.

There is a Recap in desperate need of assistance! Thundernerds are go! Tropes applying to the movies can be found there as well.

Thundertropes are go!

  • Abandoned Area: A few show up over the series. They make for pretty believable rescue locations, after all.
  • Abandon Ship: Used surprisingly rarely for a series that's all about rescuing people, who are often trapped inside the latest technological-wonder-gone-wrong. But then again, just getting the people out wouldn't allow the team to show off their awesome vehicle designed just for this exact type of emergency!
  • Action Girl: Lady Penelope, the organisation's secret agent. She is never afraid to put her life on the line to further a rescue operation and is ready to use lethal force to protect International Rescue's secrecy. Taken Up to Eleven in the live action movie where she shows some serious martial arts prowess.
  • Adaptation Expansion: This occurred with the audio dramas adapted into tv episodes as part of the Thundebirds 1965 project.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: Despite the tendency of large-scale science and technology projects in the Thunderbirds 'verse to catastrophically and explosively fail, nobody ever stops building them.
  • Aerith and Bob: Jeff Tracy's sons are named Scott, John, Gordon, Alan... and Virgil. All of them are named after the original US astronauts, the Mercury Seven, but you might know Virgil Grissom better by his nickname: Gus.
  • All a Part of the Job: The members of International Rescue may live in an island of tropical paradise, but they are on call 24/7 and can never hope to have any kind of social life due to the risk of discovery. They frequently have to put their own lives in danger to save those of others and have had some close calls, yet they will always fly to the rescue without hesitation whenever a call for help comes in.
  • The Alleged Computer: To the modern viewer, most computers in the series are built after the manner of this trope, complete with mechanical winding and grinding sounds as the computers take minutes to perform the most simple tasks. With all their vision of how technology would advance in the 100 years after the show was filmed, the production team seem to have assumed that computing technology was as good in the 60s as it would ever be.
  • All There in the Manual: The recurring villain, The Hood, was never named in dialogue or credits in the original TV episodes, only in publicity materials. Many things about the main character's history, like the Tracy boys' Expansion Pack Past, Jeff's late wife, and the founding of International Rescue, are also never mentioned on the series, and their headquarters was never actually referred to as "Tracy Island." The same goes for specific details surrounding the Thunderbird vehicles and other machines, like their dimensions, speed and other technical data. (One of the few things the 2004 movie did do right was actually having the names of The Hood and Tracy Island spoken in dialogue.)
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: The creators liked this trope and used it in several episodes as it gave a natural sense of urgency to their rescues.
    Scott: The last atom of air in those tanks could be the difference between life and death!
  • Alternate Techline: The Thunderbirds universe continues the trend of technology from the 1960s, extrapolating it into the 21st century. As we get closer and closer to the 2060s, a lot of the tech looks increasingly out of place.
    • All in-series passenger airliners are supersonic. After Concorde proved too expensive for the masses and so loud that it was banned from flying over several countries, the industry focused on size over speed, and now even that is being sacrificed for efficiency.
    • Everything is nuclear powered. The prevailing mood now is that nuclear power is only really practical in large ships, submarines and power plants, and no one in their right mind would ever suggest a nuclear-powered plane today. However, at the time, nuclear-powered aircraft really were something that was seriously considered. Even the cooker in Tracy Island is nuclear powered.
      Kyrano: It would be much quicker to use the nuclear cooker.
      Grandma: I could never get the hang of the rods.
    • While magnetic tape does still have its uses in the computing world, it has nowhere near the level of ubiquity it enjoys in Thunderbirds.
    • Computers in general are shown to still be room-sized and built for one specific job, far from the miniaturised, versatile machines of today. Scott's mobile control, which he had to ask for help to unload from Thunderbird 1, could easily be replaced with a modern laptop or even tablet.
    • It seems mobile phones never took off, with everyone instead making video calls from a dedicated phone booth. And no one today would bat an eyelid at someone talking to their smart watch.
  • Always on Duty: There are no shifts on Tracy Island. Each son is assigned his own Thunderbird, and if his is needed for a given rescue, day or night, he will jump into it and fly to help.
    • Special mention to whoever is manning the radio on Thunderbird 5, who must be ready at all times to answer an emergency call. It strains belief that we only see poor John's sleep disturbed once in all the episodes.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: As with a great deal of science fiction franchises of the mid-20th century, the more out-there vehicles in the series are exaggerated versions of actual concepts of the time that have since been developed further into technology that's either in use today or in active development. For example, nuclear-powered planes like the Fireflash from "Trapped in the Sky" really were a serious subject of study in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the jet also serving as an example of a futuristic supersonic airliner, something that later became a reality with the arrival of the Concorde.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: The Tracy boys live with their father, Jeff. Where is their mother? Not mentioned in the show, that's where. Not even a photo of her is seen around the house. Once you notice it, her complete lack of presence in their lives is a little unsettling.
    • Also applies to Jeff himself. His mother comes to live on Tracy Island in the episode Move — And You're Dead and appears in several subsequent episodes. His father is never discussed. Given the advanced years of Grandma, however, it's a much more natural assumption that Grandpa died at an old enough age and long enough ago that his absence is no longer a taking point.
  • Amphibious Automobile: FAB 1 has a hydrofoil that pops out of its undercarriage if Lady Penelope ever needs to make an impromptu trip over water.
    • Inversely, Thunderbird 4 has hoverjets for making brief trips over land.
  • Animal Theme Naming: International Rescue like to alternate between this and Exactly What It Says on the Tin. As a general rule, the machines we see in more than one episode get this treatment. Apart from the Thunderbirds themselves (not all of which can fly), there is also the Mole, their drilling machine, and Firefly, their fireproof bulldozer.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Alan is the youngest of the five Tracy boys, and the whiniest. The others are usually good-humoured about it, playing on his latest gripe to wind him up.
  • Appease the Volcano God: In one of the more... peculiar comics, a tribe of Africans try to sacrifice Thunderbird 2 by rolling the gargantuan aircraft into an active volcano.
  • Apron Matron: Grandma Tracy. Don't let her lack of techno-savvy and advanced years fool you. She's still as sharp as knives, providing outside-the-box solutions to difficult rescues and sassing right back when provoked.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: The fact alone that Jeff Tracy and his whole family live in a mansion on their personal South Pacific island would be impressive enough. That they can afford to research several technologies that no one else can replicate, then build, run and maintain a fleet of bleeding-edge rescue vehicles is off the chart. What kind of Fortune 500 company is Jeff Tracy running behind the scenes?
  • Artistic License – Geography: A few locations and directions are a bit off.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Kyrano and Tin-Tin are just made up names that sound Asian.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: International Rescue have no official authority; indeed, they strive for total independence and anonymity. In the first few episodes, they have to work hard to persuade the authorities to let them help and are only permitted because all other options have been exhausted. But once they have established a name for themselves by saving every life entrusted to them, they are generally granted total control of a danger zone the minute they arrive.
  • The Atoner: Parker used to be exclusively a criminal.
  • Automated Automobile: Surprisingly averted. With all the seriously advanced tech that International Rescue possess, you'd think they'd let the computer do at least some of the work, but you never even see them put a Thunderbird on autopilot on the way home.
    • Supplementary materials say that the interfaces the crew use are greatly ergonomically simplified, so the computer decides what function to assign each control by context. This goes a long way towards explaining (for example) how Scott can control the many functions of a hypersonic rocket / ramjet plane by moving only two levers backwards and forwards.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Pretty much every vehicle in the series is a victim of this. See the individual episodes in the Recap section for specific examples.
  • Automobile Opening: Each episode kicks off with a countdown of the Thunderbirds vehicles racing to the rescue.
  • Badass Driver: Alan was a racing car driver before the series began. He gets to show his skills in Move - And You're Dead when he wins the Tacoma Sands race, despite the dirty tactics of his main rival.
    • Parker is an interesting example. He never really gets to show off any serious driving ability, but he is such a pro with FAB 1's built-in cannon that he has used it to shoot a poisoned glass out of his boss's hand.
  • Badass Family: The Tracys could easily have retired to the lap of luxury on their private, South Pacific island, but instead decided to use their billions to build and run a fleet of rescue vehicles way beyond the technology of the time. They will not rest until everyone in the danger zone is brought to safety, no matter the risk to themselves. And they will shoot to kill if you a) try to steal their secrets, or b) threaten anyone in their organisation.
  • Bald of Evil: The Hood, the recurring villain of the show. While the Tracys developed their technology to help others, the Hood tries to steal it purely for power and profit. He does not care how many innocent lives are put in danger by his efforts and is even willing to torture his own brother, Kyrano, using his psychic powers to get the secrets of International Rescue. And the only time he has a hair on his head is when wearing one of his many disguises.
  • Basement-Dweller: Averted by the Tracy boys, who seem to just be taking advantage of their father's wealth to live in the lap of luxury, as stated by Jeff's visiting friend, Col. Tim Casey, in Edge of Impact. Of course, this is all just a front; they need to live on the family island to do their wholly-altruistic work.
  • Battle Butler: Parker. Weaponized car and all.
  • Beeping Computers: All part of the Zeerust. How else would you know they were doing anything while they grind through those instructions, line after painful line?
  • Beware the Nice Ones: International Rescue is altruistic and will stop at nothing to rescue those in need. However, those who take pictures of their technology are dealt with harshly, whether it be having their film destroyed remotely, or even find themselves shot off the road by Lady Penelope.
  • Big Anime Eyes: Due to the limits of the Supermarionation technology at the time, the puppets had heads that were disproportionately large with exaggerated facial features, including this trope. This turned out to be a good thing: when they developed the ability to use realistically-proportioned puppets for Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, they found that the smaller eyes were far less emotive and went back to this trope for Joe 90.
  • Big Disaster Plot: The majority of episodes revolve around International Rescue either responding to a disaster in progress, or preventing a disaster before it can begin.
  • Big Storm Episode: There are a few of these. The deadly nature of a storm makes it a natural location to find International Rescue saving people who are experiencing this trope.
  • Billions of Buttons: Surprisingly averted. Although the fancy equipment is capable of many things, when control panels are seen, they have relatively few buttons and dials, and often only those relevant to the plot are seen. Sometimes the equipment is operated by speaking into it. However, large panels of unlabelled lights (which are always filament lamps, rather than the LEDs they would be nowadays) are regularly seen, which flash all the time.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: This is how gunfights are usually ended in this series. It's an odd example: while the showrunners had no problem with the heroes shooting the villains to death in their vehicles, they would never let them shoot them in face-to-face combat.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: John and Alan are blonds, Scott and Virgil are brunets, and Gordon is a redhead. Jeff might be grey haired but he has brown eyebrows.
    • Which just adds more questions as to who might be the mother(s).
  • Blue Blood: While it is never made clear exactly what Lady Penelope's rank is within the peerage, she owns a stately home in Kent and is frequently having tea with the rich, famous, and influential.
  • Blue Is Calm / Blue Is Heroic: The members of International Rescue wear blue uniforms. They are the ultimate lifesaving force, fearlessly stepping into the most lethal of situations and not coming out until everyone is safe.
    • Scott is the wearer of the blue sash and is the most unflappable of all the Tracy brothers in the high-risk, high-pressure situations they regularly find themselves in. He is the natural choice for the on-site leader who coordinates the rescue missions and makes life-or-death decisions at a second's notice. He is also the one most often seen chasing down any villains who caused the disaster.
  • Bowdlerise: In latter-day airings of "Day Of Disaster" (at least on The BBC) when Brains dances for joy following the successful rescue of the rocket the line "You... er... don't suppose he escaped from somewhere, do you?" (said by one supervisor to another) is cut out.
  • Brains Versus Brawn: This is certainly how the Hood sees his attempts to steal International Rescue's secrets. With his self-proclaimed "superior intellect", he could become the wealthiest man in the world... if only they would stop shooting him off the road whenever he tried.
  • Brainwashed: The Hood can use his psychic connection with Kyrano, his half-brother, to torture him into revealing information or acting as a Manchurian Agent. Poor Kyrano has no memory of having been used after the event.
  • Brits Love Tea: In Day of Disaster, Lady Penelope interrupts Brains' watching of the Martian probe on television with "in my house, everything stops for tea". In the same episode, Scott uses Lady Penelope's teapot phone.
    Brains: If you're gonna start talking to teapots, there's a guy I think you ought to see.
  • British Brevity: While the first season got a US length 26 episodes, the second and final season whittled it down to just six, totalling it to 32 episodes. It did also spawn several movies, package films and revival episodes afterwards however.
  • Broken Aesop: "Atlantic Inferno". Jeff leaves confident son Scott in charge of International Rescue - cue 'bad decisions', Jeff's ire, and an apparent Aesop of "being in charge is more difficult than it looks". However, Scott makes sensible decisions based on expert advice. Jeff unreasonably censures Scott without listening to the evidence, leaving Scott unable to function. The Aesop sadly becomes "adults are always right, even when they are wrong".
  • Butt-Monkey: Parker
  • Catchphrase
    • "Thunderbirds are GO!"
    • "F.A.B."
    • And to a lesser extent, Parker's "Yus, M'Lady".
    • Brains' "Of course! Why didn't I think of it before?"
  • Chained to a Railway: Lady Penelope, in the appropriately titled episode, "The Perils of Penelope."
  • Christmas Episode: "Give or Take A Million". Which doubles as the last episode of the series.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome
    • International Rescue will never turn down a call for help, even if they put themselves at risk of being unmasked like in "The Imposters" and "End of the Road".
    • Lady Penelope suffers from this in "Path of Destruction". She has to find the one person who knows the complex shut down procedure of the Crablogger, an atomic-powered logging machine that has gone out of control and now threatens to destroy a dam and explode, putting thousands of lifes at risks, before it's too late. But despite this, she still can't help but stop along the way to help the victim of a car crash.
  • Clip Show: "Security Hazard" — a surprisingly good one at that centering around a boy who snuck onboard Thunderbird 2 after a rescue. Done well because the clips are cut and edited to put spins on the previous episodes so the IR team can impress the boy. For example, the "Sun Probe" episode clip is edited to suggest Thunderbird 3 never got into a bit of a pickle after rescuing the probe. These cuts also give the viewers a hint as to how the episodes may have originally played out before the show was extended to an hour. This also averts one of the cliché standbys of Anderson series — many of them are prone to "it was all a dream" episodes (especially Stingray, which had three), but here it's averted by the boy himself, after they've returned him home and he's gone to sleep, waking up and thinking that it was all a dream.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The vehicles:
  • Colour-Coded Characters: The pilots wear pastel-coloured sashes and belts:
    • Scott: light blue
    • Virgil: yellow
    • Alan: off-white
    • Gordon: orange
    • John: lilac
    • Plus Lady Penelope: pink
    • Brains: bronze (in Thunderbird 6)
    • And Jeff: gold — not in an episode or film, but in an ad for the charity Barnardo's.
  • Combining Mecha: In 2086, Thunderbirds 1 and 3 connect to Thunderbird 2 for transport.
  • Compilation Movie: Three, all airing in 1981, under Anderson's Super Space Theater title.
    • Countdown to Disaster, featuring the episodes "Terror in New York City" and "Atlantic Inferno".
    • Thunderbirds in Outer Space, featuring the episodes "Sun Probe" and "Ricochet".
    • Thunderbirds to the Rescue, featuring the episodes "Trapped in the Sky" and "Operation Crash-Dive".
  • Continuity Nod: Several projects and vehicles, such as the Fireflash atomic powered airliner and the Sunprobe project, as well as characters involved in those projects, turn up more than once and reference the previous encounters. Not surprising really, they did still have the models after all.
  • Continuity Snarl: Hoo boy! The series was first released in 1965. Since then we've had movies, comics, novels, annuals, guide books and interviews with the cast/crew — all of which largely contradict themselves. This include topics such as: How did the boys' mother die?note  What order were the boys born in?note  Up to and including, what year is the show set?note 
  • Contrived Coincidence: The average rescue is set up by means of a series of comically ludicrous coincidences and horrible design/engineering. For example, in "Day of Disaster" a vehicle is transporting a giant rocket. Fully fuelled. With people inside. And it's set up with an unstoppable automatic launch countdown. And they have to cross a weak bridge. And there's a storm. And the bridge supervisors are idiots.
  • Control Freak: Although Jeff mostly trusts the boys to do the right thing, in "Atlantic Inferno" he finds it difficult to leave everything to the boys when he goes on holiday, even threatening to return home when Scott makes a decision he does not approve of; but Lady Penelope persuades him to stay. When Jeff returns, Scott rubs it in by refusing him permission to land at the base, because Thunderbird 2 is approaching. And at the very end:
    Jeff: You know, the only way I can relax is to be in charge here. So if you don't mind, Scott, I'll have my desk back.
    Scott: Father, with my money, you can have it. I need a vacation!
  • Cool Car: FAB 1. A pink, six-wheeled, amphibious, weaponized Rolls-Royce complete with Battle Chauffeur and bulletproof bubble canopy.
  • Cool Garage: Tracy Island, with all its retractable and hidden landing and launch bays.
  • Cool Plane: Fireflash, a futuristic supersonic jetliner just look at it. Undeniably cool.
  • Cool Ship: Five main ones, and many more which needed to be rescued. More specifically:
    • Thunderbird 1, piloted by Scott, is a hypersonic aircraft powered by a nuclear thermal engine, designed for getting to the crisis scene as fast as possible to gather intel.
    • Thunderbird 2, piloted by Virgil, is a giant less-hypersonic-but-still-fast lifting-body transport for moving the gear that Thunderbird 1 called for. (This one is unsurprisingly the most frequently seen of the lot, appearing in both (all right, all three) movies and all but one episode of the TV show.)
    • Thunderbird 3, piloted by Alan, is an SSTO rocket used for space rescues and reaching Thunderbird 5.
    • Thunderbird 4, piloted by Gordon, is a submarine for underwater rescues. Often transported in Thunderbird 2's pod 4.
    • Thunderbird 5, manned by John, is a space station capable of monitoring all radio frequencies world wide to listen for distress calls.
    • Also the Mole, used for underground rescues, and a host of souped-up construction gear hauled in TB2's pods.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Alan doesn't quite like it when Tin-Tin shows interest in another man. This is best seen in "End of the Road", when her old friend Eddy Houseman comes to visit her, and "Ricochet", when she turns out to be a great fan of Rick O’Shea. Ironically, in both episodes Alan ends up having to rescue the men he doesn't like.
  • Cut-and-Paste Translation: ITC did this twice in the mid-90s. First came an attempt to cram it into a half-hour slot on Fox Kids- in addition to cutting scenes for both time and censorship, all the voices were redubbed and the original music replaced by generic rock music. After that flopped, ITC took it into syndication and edited it even more, turning it into the horrific Turbocharged Thunderbirds. Now there were a couple of live-action kids called the "hackers", who lived inside Thunderbird 5 (now "Hacker Command") and took orders from Jeff Tracy (who they called "Mr. T"). while The Hood took orders from a floating holographic head named "the Atrocimator"; they redubbed all the dialog again to add "post-modern" jokes, and supposedly took place on "Thunder World". It really says something when the YouTube comments on an episode of Turbocharged say that the 2004 movie was better than this.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subverted, as the bulk of the Tracy family fortune comes from selling aerospace-related technology through various front companies. The reason they are so adamant about keeping the Thunderbirds secret is that that level of aerospace technology has several direct military applications, none of which the Tracys want to be party to.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Virgil plays the theme song on a piano at the end of the pilot episode.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Lady Penelope is usually totally calm and collected, even in great adversity (with the exception of being caught in mud in The Impostors). In Brink of Disaster, when thieves have made off with Lady Penelope's jewel collection:
    Parker: They happear to 'ave gained access to the Rolls Royce.
    Lady Penelope (calmly): Oh dear, I hope they don't scratch the paintwork. I'm off to Ascot in the morning.
  • Drill Tank: The Mole, one of TB 2's pod vehicles, sets a gold standard for the type. It has rockets to push it into the ground, for fab's sake!
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lady Penelope, of all people, at first. She grows out of it.
    • Also the woman who causes the inferno in City of Fire by crashing in the underground parking area, and the archeologist Wilson who drives carelessly in the desert, causing the trailer to break away from the truck.
  • Easy Logistics: In "Ricochet", we find out that even a pirate radio station can put a manned space station into orbit. This is apparently so common that nobody can keep track of the launches. This raises Fridge Logic as to how on Earth nobody has found Tracy Island yet, and possibly Fridge Horror if you consider the fact that if you have the resources and knowledge to put a satellite in orbit, it's not a lot harder to shoot one down.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Tracy Island.
  • Epic Launch Sequence: Tracy Island seems to have been completely repurposed specifically to facilitate this trope, as each of the eponymous vehicles gets its own lengthy sequence of being moved into position every time they launch, complete with sections of the landscape moving aside.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Everything is Made of Explodium, including vehicles.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: International Rescue.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: The creators made extensive use of steam, smoke, and zero-thrust rocket motors to depict take-offs and landings in miniature. Rockets in flight were filmed inverted, so the smoke would rise away from the rocket instead of climbing after it.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Nearly all of the Tracy Brothers (who range in age from late to early 20's) had quite interesting careers before retiring from them to join IR full time. Scott served in the U.S. Air Force where he got decorated for bravery, John published four textbooks on astronomy and is known as the discoverer of the Tracy quasar system, Gordon used to be a Olympic champion at the butterfly stroke and served at the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (from Stingray), and Alan was a successful race-car driver. (His career was briefly revived in the episode "Move and You're Dead".) Jeff also counts; he was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, astronaut for the Space Agency and one of the first men on the moon, and finally started his own company.
  • Exposition Diagram: In the episode Terror in New York City, the plan to move the Empire State Building is explained by the characters watching the news on television, with diagrams showing exactly how this will be done.
  • Exty Years from Publication: The series was set in the 2060s, conveniently exactly one century after it was made (as is the case with almost all of Anderson's series). Confusingly, though, some episodes are dated in the 2020s.
  • Fake Aristocrat: One episode has Parker pretend to be an English lord and get everyone in the hotel to play Bingo with him. This was part of a scheme where in the event a fire broke out (thanks to a dish falling off a building and lodging itself on a mountain in a position where it would project the sun's rays at the town where the hotel was) everyone would be awake to fight the fire.
  • Faux Action Girl: Tin-Tin actually does have an IR uniform and occasionally joins the boys on a rescue mission... but stands as the person who ended up in need of rescue the most. Averting this trope is one of the few positive things fans can point to about the 2004 film.
  • Finagle's Law: The series loves this trope, as the vast majority of episodes revolve around something going terribly wrong, thus motivating the characters into action. A notable example is the episode "City of Fire" where a giant building goes up in flames because of a car accident in the basement. Naturally, cars in The Future are all Made of Explodium...
  • Fun with Acronyms: "F.A.B.", the Tracy boys' catchphrase, essentially meaning "understood." Anderson himself has said that it wasn't really intended to stand for anything other than "fab" — even though it takes longer to say. Fanon sometimes has this as standing for "Fully Advised and Briefed."
    • Using acronyms like FAB, and those seen in other Anderson series, such as P.W.O.R. (Proceeding With Orders Received) from Stingray and S.I.G. (Spectrum Is Green) in Captain Scarlet, was a nod to then-current real life radio practice which required responses to messages to be understandable even if the signal was bad. Oddly enough, the show's use of actual radio practice — giving directions like "Left-left two degrees" got it wrong, as there should only have been one "left" but two "rights" so as to be decipherable even if all that could be heard was one or two unintelligible squawks.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: When the main villain, the Hood, uses his mesmeric powers on any other character, his eyes glow yellow.
  • Glowing Mechanical Eyes: when the Tracy Brothers' portraits in the lounge are used for communication, their eyes flash while the portrait is static, before converting to a Video Phone.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: In Terror in New York City, TV journalist Ned Cook is determined to cover the event of the Empire State Building being moved. Even when the operation goes wrong and the ground starts cracking up under his feet, he stays where he is, until he falls through the ground, the Empire State Building falls on top of him, and he has to be rescued in a very difficult operation.
  • Homage: Travel website Orbitz briefly had a series of commercials dubbed Destination: Orbitz, with Anderson-esque puppets helping people with travel- the lead puppet was voiced by Maurice LaMarche and they even had the insert shots!
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: In 30 Minutes After Noon, the main villain is not seen, and communicates with his subordinates by radio. There is also a brief scene where three British agents are discussing infiltrating the mission; we do not see the men, only their hats on the stand.
  • How We Got Here: The episode "Move - And You're Dead" begins with Alan and grandma stranded on a bridge with a bomb. While Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are on their way to save them, Alan recalls how they got into this situation in the first place (which takes up most of the episodes time). Justified because Jeff is asking him how he got there in full detail to keep him concentrating, so he doesn't fall unconscious from heat exhaustion and fall to his death, if not triggering the bomb's motion sensor.
  • Hover Bike: International Rescue has several of these at its disposal for navigating around a danger zone. note 
  • Humiliation Conga: Tends to happen to The Hood a lot.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Atomic Power won't grant you superpowers, but it'll do just about anything else in this show. Including allowing something as unlikely to so much as bump two inches off the ground as Thunderbird 2 to fly in three dimensions like a helicopter. Also, Stuff Blowing Up.

    Fireflash in the pilot is something of a Deconstruction of the then-current tropes in use which presented nuclear power in an unambiguously positive light: it allows the plane to fly many times the speed of sound and could theoretically fly for weeks without the need to refuel, but could potentially kill its passengers if it is unable to land in time and have it's shielding replenished. Of course, to modern viewers used to more negative portrayals of nuclear power, Fireflash probably looks like an optimistic portrayal of it. (One can't help wondering, though, how a plane with such a narrow safety margin could ever have been certified airworthy in the first place.)
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Lady Penelope was designed to resemble her voice actress, Sylvia Anderson.
  • An Insert: Human hands pressing a button for a puppet character. The series also liked to use cutaways to get around the problem — you'd see, say, Parker holding a cigarette when Penelope would ask for a light, then cut to another shot, then to Penelope holding the lit cigarette. "Thirty Minutes After Noon" takes this a step further by having a human hand holding a pen in the foreground with a couple of puppets in Forced Perspective in the background.
    • Not just Lady Penelope, but Everybody Smokes - the boys were often seen smoking after a mission. In Vault of Death, even Lady Penelope's cook is smoking over the food.
  • Instant Emergency Response: Surprisingly averted most of the time. The Thunderbirds are incredibly fast, but it still takes some time to get to the scene of emergencies, which of course makes their operations once there races against time with only minutes left.
  • Just in Time: Many of the rescues were completed with very little time to spare, before a bomb going off, air running out, etc.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Surprisingly averted with Alan most of the time, as he proves to be competent. However he does have the background of being a racecar driver. Every now and then when the plot demands it, he complains about something. Later franchise instalments played it irritatingly straight however.
  • Large Ham: The Duchess of Royston is about as hammy as puppets get.
  • Machine Monotone: The robot Braman constructed by Brains as well as the vocal interface of an elevator. Note that in-series it was very surprising to hear these voices respond with pleasantries like saying 'thank you' and 'you're welcome.'
  • Made of Explodium: In the Thunderbirds universe, everything can explode or burn with really cool flames if the plot commands it. Or even if it would just be really cool if something exploded. If something is introduced that might conceivably blow up, rest assured that it will have done so by the end of the episode.
    • The tail end of the opening credit sequence has a totally random oil refinery in the background. Its only purpose is to explode.
    • A particularly bad example occurs in "Brink of Disaster", in which a monotrain is stuck on a disintegrating bridge. Of course, it's not enough for the bridge to just fall apart, its joints and bars actively and regularly explode.
    • In "The Uninvited", the trailer of the archaeologists' desert jeep becomes uncoupled, and falls down an embankment. Just after one of them has said "all our gasoline and water is in that trailer", it explodes spectacularly. OK, maybe justified with the gasoline, but would it not happen immediately on falling?
  • Made of Iron: The Hood crashes at least three times in the series, including once flying a light aircraft into a villa. His face gets a bit dirty, and the film he's transporting is destroyed. It's implied, however, that he's Killed Off for Real in Thunderbird 6.
  • Master of Disguise: The Hood, and, to a lesser extent, Penelope.
  • Meaningful Name: The sons of Jeff Tracy are all named after famous astronauts of the 1960s, specifically, the Mercury Seven: Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, and Scott Carpenter.
  • Mission Control: John Tracy up on the TB 5 station, Jeff Tracy back at HQ, and Scott once he was on the scene of the rescue. Folks spent a lot of time talking to microphones on this show.
  • The Mole: Kyrano, a reluctant example. The Mole was not, to the best of our knowledge, a double agent.
  • The Movie: Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6, neither of which were very successful.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Parker would occasionally slip back into his old habit of stealing, like when Penelope caught him sneaking off to the casino with safe cracking equipment.
  • No Antagonist: There's the Hood and some one-shot villains, but there are also many episodes where the accident is down to pure bad luck or innocent mistakes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many of the cast's voices or appearances were cribbed off then-current celebrities.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Pretty much the raison d'être of many episodes. It's almost as if Gerry Anderson decided the most dangerous thing about the 2060's was that they were populated by idiots.
    • The Fireflash in "Trapped in the Sky", an atomic-powered aeroplane which would have killed all of its passengers by radiation poisoning if it didn't land within 2 hours.
    • In "Day of Disaster" a vehicle is transporting a giant rocket. Fully fuelled. With people inside. And it's set up with an unstoppable automatic launch countdown. And they have to cross a weak bridge. And there's a storm. And the bridge supervisors are idiots.
    • The Crablogger in "Path of Destruction", an atomic-powered logging machine which was going to blow up if not shut down properly, a complicated process that took upwards of five minutes. We guess a red "emergency stop" button was too simple — then anyone could have stopped it should it have been about to smash through a village or destroy a dam.
    • The monorail in "Brink of Disaster": completely automatic, and cannot stop if the signal wires are severed. When the owner of this train tries to persuade Jeff to invest in it, Jeff is none too happy about having to be rescued because of this. Unlike most other examples, this episode actually lampshades the trope with Jeff, Brains and Tintin all pointing out the glaring safety issues.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: IR's policy of strict secrecy concerning their equipment when the Tracy family could possibly save thousands of lives, not mention make a spectacular profit, by licensing out the designs of their Thunderbird vehicles to the various nations and organisations wanting to augment their own emergency response forces. Presumably, this is to keep IR's equipment unique and the plot complication of keeping that secrecy. Although it's also stated that IR's technology could be used for destruction if it fell into the wrong hands.
    • The 2004 movie also dropped thisnote , presumably because nowadays, trying to keep their vehicles and tech under wraps would be far more difficult, what with how technology has advanced- you can't exactly just shoot someone's cameraphone or smartphone out of their hands (though an earlier unused script had cameras simply stop working when pointed at the Thunderbirds). On the other hand, the main plot is The Hood attempting to utilize the Thunderbird craft for his own evil ends, justifying the latter concern.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Well, saving the world is a family business. However, it was established that International Rescue has agents all over the world, although we never get to see any of them aside from Lady Penelope and Parker, and the hillbilly agents from "The Imposters".
  • One World Order: Possibly. The government is never really explored, but there is seemingly a "World Navy", though whether it represents the entire world is unclear, as it seems to enjoy testing nuclear weapons for no apparent reason. Tie-in material hints that the show may be in the same universe as Stingray and Captain Scarlet, and it's made clear there is a world government.
  • Parental Bonus: As a true "all ages" program, episode plots and characters were very well written, particularly after the episodes were lengthened to an hour.
  • Piggy Bank: At the end of "Vault of Death", Light-Fingered Fred easily breaks into the Bank of England vault, chuckling "they call this place burglar-proof? They'd do better to use my kids' piggy banks".
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. One of Jeff Tracy's rules for International Rescue is that it focus on saving lives and dealing with emergencies, and not catch the criminals or terrorists that might cause them. Averted on a couple of occasions when IR helps law enforcement by preventing criminals from escaping. One episode also had the Hood attack Gordon in Thunderbird 4, only for Gordon to shoot back and destroy his submarine.
  • Pop The Tyres: Subverted on an episode: Lady Penelope attempts to shoot out the tyres of a car, only for it to fail because they've been reinforced to protect against such things. In another episode, when some crooks try to escape with her jewels, she gets Parker to shoot the tyres. The crooks try to drive off in Fab 1, but Lady Penelope uses remote control to make it go round in circles.
    Parker: You don't want me to shoot up the Rolls-Royce, do you?
    Lady Penelope: No. For one thing, you wouldn't succeed; and for another, it won't be necessary. (Uses remote control on car) Now I think we can go back to bed.
  • Psychic Powers: The Hood has these. Among other things, he can telepatically hypnotize Kyrano, and instantly put people to sleep.
  • Rescue: A genre example on the grandest scale.
  • Ray Gun: Used by the Tracy boys a couple of times and on one occasion the baddie.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: A lot of concepts were Ripped from the Headlines sixties tropes given a futuristic spin. For example, pirate radio ships being anchored outside national waters became pirate radio spaceships outside Earth orbit, and Concorde became Fireflash.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: The show runs on this trope, as the titular craft are designed specifically for rescue. Despite really specific equipment, expect a lot to go wrong, forcing an out-of-the-box solutions. Also, International Rescue must operate under strict secrecy, as they do not wish their technology to fall into the wrong hands.
  • Retro Rocket: Thunderbirds 1 and 3, as well as some other vehicles.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: The Tracys. Penny, too.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension:
    • In Terror in New York City, Ned and Joe are trapped underground in a cave which is slowly filling with water from an underground river. Although breathing apparatus is passed down to them from above, the tension rises as they wonder if they will be rescued before the air runs out. Not only that, but buildings above them are collapsing, which might cause the roof to cave in.
    • In "Martian Invasion", the actors trapped in the cave are threatened with this.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The title sequence proclaimed it to be filmed "In Videcolor" and "Supermarionation." Plain-English translation: "It's in colournote , and it's a (sophisticated) puppet show." The "super" in "Supermarionation" referred to the automated lipsynching. The characters' voice tracks were fed to solenoids in the puppets' heads that moved the lips based on the audio level of the speech.
  • Shoe Phone: Watch phones, powder compact phones and of course teapot phones.
  • Shout-Out: In "Brink of Disaster", the gadgets that Lady Penelope deploys from the Rolls Royce are reminiscent of the Aston Martin in Goldfinger.
  • Sibling Team: The five Tracy Brothers, with their father serving as the Team Dad.
  • Speech Impediment: B-B-Brains has a t-tendency to s-stutter.
  • Spinoff: The presence of Zero-X in the first movie seems to make it double up as the pilot of the following series, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. However, it isn't really confirmed in-series as the Thunderbirds never showed up in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: This happens only once: in the pilot episode Trapped in the Sky, between Scott and Lady Penelope.
  • Stock Footage: By the pound. Only parts of the stock launch footage are usually used per episode in order to provide some variety to the launches. For the same reason, FX director Derek Meddings also insisted on shooting more angles than strictly necessary.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Lady Penelope, even by puppet standards.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The special effects crew were really, really good at explosions and flames, with the result that almost every episode had a spectacular explosion of some kind at some point.
    • The intro ends with this.
  • Team Dad: Jeff Tracy is a literal example.
  • Technology Porn: All the time, but especially the launch sequences.
  • Techno Wizard: Brains
  • Theme Naming: All the Tracy sons were named for American astronauts. The Mercury Astronauts in particular: Scott Carpenter, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper and John Glenn. Jeff being a former astronaut himself, it's probable that this is an in-universe example.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman
    • Poor Gordon, and his favoured ride, Thunderbird 4. His skills as a diver and submersible pilot were not useful as often as he might have liked. Most of the times he was called out on a rescue he was riding shotgun with Scott or Virgil as generic backup, and despite being a Tracy brother he was less important to the plot than Tin-Tin, Brains, or Penny almost all the time. TB 4, despite being a main-line vehicle, was the size of a van next to a fleet of giants, and was overshadowed in importance by many barely-seen robotic pod vehicles, like the Mole. On the few occasions when there was danger at sea, he really did shine. Gordon was recognised as the best marksman on the team, though, and was often utilised when something needed aiming, e.g. firing the cable from Thunderbird 2 into the Zero X in the first movie.
    • Gordon's insignificance is also notable in that we never see him using his portrait in the lounge to talk to Jeff.
    • And he did have more to do than John Tracy, who was stuck on Thunderbird 5 just about all the time. (In part because Gerry Anderson didn't like how the puppet looked — to the extent that "Operation Crash Dive", the only episode in which Thunderbird 5 actually does something other than relay the mission of the week, coincides with Alan being on duty relieving John!)
  • To the Batpole!: The famous "rotating furniture" that took the Tracys from the house to the hangars. In City of Fire, there is also a revolving desk in a control room, which does not appear to serve much purpose.
  • Toyless Toyline Character:
    • The show has had various toy lines released over the years, but good luck finding toy figures of Tin Tin, her father Kyrano, and grandma Tracy.
    • As far as one can consider vehicles to be characters, various pod vehicles that appeared in only 1 episode never got a toy; only the more famous ones (the Mole, the Firefly, etc.) did.
    • Downplayed with Thunderbird 5; there are some toys of this Thunderbird, but notably fewer than of any of the other thunderbird vehicles. Several lines of Thunderbird merchandising (like the 1992 toy series) completely omitted the space station, often in favor of Lady Penelope's FAB 1 car (most likely since Thunderbird 5 never participates in any action, limiting it's play value).
  • Track Trouble: In "Brink of Disaster", the fully automatic monorail track is damaged by a patrolling heli-jet crashing into it.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Every episode begins with a brief preview montage, essentially summarising the episode you are about to watch.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 are all ridiculously fast, moving anywhere around the globe (or Earth orbit) inside of a few hours. For example, Thunderbird 1 once flew from Tracy Island (somewhere in the Pacific Ocean) to London, England at a quoted speed of at least 7500 mph, which is just shy of mach 10. Tie-in media establishes TB1's top speed as 15,000 mph, and TB2's as 5,000 mph. TB1's speed was given in the original script for the pilot episode ("Trapped in the Sky"); TB2's is quoted on-screen in "Terror in New York City".
  • Up to Eleven: The setting of the 2060s was made by taking The '60s and turning it Up to Eleven.
  • Video Phone: These are used extensively. However, there are only a couple of occasions when the visual aspect is actually used to convey information (other than the callers' faces):
    • "Move - and you're dead": Jeff sends a picture of the bridge of San Miguel to Brains in Thunderbird 2.
    • "The man from MI-5": Lady Penelope uses her powder compact transmitter while "fixing her make up", sending a coded message using her lipstick.
  • Weaponized Car: Lady Penelope's Rolls Royce.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Sure, Jeff Tracy is a millionaire and Brains is a Gadgeteer Genius, so International Rescue certainly has the resources and the technical knowhow to set up their organization, but that still begs the question how they managed to build their entire fleet of futuristic machines, an island base filled with secret hangars to house these machines, and even a manned space station, without anyone finding out. It's hard to believe Brains could have done all that by himself, or with only the Tracy's help.
    • There was a handwave provided in the episode "Terror In New York City" for how the eponymous Thunderbird vehicles are kept in service; components are bought from a variety of different manufacturers -presumably through various shell companies- and no one part is significant enough to clue someone in as to who and what it is going towards, even when they needed to carry out extensive repairs on Thunderbird 2 after some trigger-happy warship captain tried to blow her out of the sky with surface-to-air missiles. Of course, this only explains where International Rescue gets the parts without attracting attention. It doesn't explain how they ever build their vehicles, or their base of operations.
  • Women Drivers: Justified in "City of Fire" as this was a learning driver and Played unfortunately straight in "Vault of Death" — although perhaps justified in that she's been driven around by other people her whole life. Averted in later episodes, when Penny actually does learn to drive.
    Lord Stilton (as Lady Penelope drives towards a cliff edge): REVERSE!!!!
    Lady Penelope (reversing rapidly): There was no need to shout, Lord Stilton. You see, we're going quite smoothly.
    Parker: Oh we are, madam, but backwards!
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Fireflash's stated top speed is Mach 6, but it evidently cruises at a much lower speed as it still takes several hours to get anywhere. Rule of Drama, perhaps, but Mach 6 is approximately 4,000 mph.
  • Zeerust: Kind of inevitable, considering the show was made in the 1960's.
    • The Thunderbirds themselves, particularly 1 and 2, were based on aircraft and prototypes that were state-of-the-art at the time; TB 1 on the MiG 19 and 21, along with a series of X-planes, and 2 on experimental lifting-body aircraft. All other kinds of high-tech machines have clicky panels, big shiny microphones and chrome-plated-chrome. And not to mention; reel-to-reel tapes, telegrams and manual typewriters are still fully in use in the the futuristic world of the Thunderbirds, while things like the internet, mobile phones, tablets, pocket calculators etc. are not present at all.
    • The International Rescue crew do have watches with little full-colour screens, on which they can see each other; although they don't use them very often. It's also notable that panels of flashing lights (of which there are many) clearly use filament lamps: not an LED to be seen.


Video Example(s):



The intro lists off all the main characters.

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Main / IntroductoryOpeningCredits

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