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International Rescue: Thunderbirds Agents' Technical Manual by Sam Denham and illustrated by Graham Bleathman

01/07/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy International Rescue: Thunderbirds Agents' Technical Manual in the USA - or Buy International Rescue: Thunderbirds Agents' Technical Manual in the UK

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pub: Haynes. 135 page illustrated large hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85733-117-5.

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In many respects, any books on 'Thunderbirds' is practically an automatic seller. Throughout the series' history, there have been blueprint breakaway diagrams of both the vehicles and Tracy Island in the original annuals of 1965 and 1966, the 1990s comics and used in a cutaway book using said material (also illustrated by Graham Bleathman) and the extremely rare Japanese books. Therefore it's hardly surprising that Haynes would commit themselves to do a manual about the International Rescue vehicles with their fiction line.

As I've got more than a passing interest in the subject, a lot of this review will focus on what I've discovered that is either not been covered in the earlier books or plain astute observation, not to mention areas that I would contest. I suspect that the die-hard Anderson fans will probably be even more thorough than I am below.

Writer Sam Denham's look at this world of the future hits on many key points that hook into areas where International Rescue were involved in their adventures. I'm a bit nervous about him pointed out anti-gravity or force field devices were in use because they weren't referenced in the original series and even saying that applying modern day scientific knowledge it's unlikely we'd have anything like that in fifty years, mostly because it's used far too much as a solution get-out-of-problem card. With Thunderbird Five being geostationary, it would have to be using the pull of Earth's gravity and a little thrusters correction which would explain why John Tracy wasn't floating around.

The reason all three Thunderbirds reach high altitude fast, and not stated in the book, is to get about the three mile high radar tracking limit, as noted in 'The Imposters', and in the cases of TB1 and TB2, fly at eleven miles high. Unlike me, they didn't consider Sir Jeremy Hodge and Professor Borender's revolutionary fuel as being a major contribution. It's all very well having elaborate nuclear-powered sourced motors are probably going too fast to take advantage of processing heated air for turbo thrust alone.

Something that I did wonder on was just when did Jeff Tracy's wife die? Considering Jeremiah Tuttle knew about this when Tracy was in the US military, this does set a time-line. Interestingly, you would have to go back to the 60s annuals for their actual ages of the characters, which aren't documented here, but it would pin-point it to that time in his career. Considering Alan Tracy is twenty-one, that would mean Jeff Tracy would still have been in the US military at the time, which gives a proper time frame from building his fortune to creating International Rescue.

Denham's observation about the changes from Jeff Tracy's hi-tech table to standard wasn't something that I hadn't picked up on before which gave me a wry grin, maybe the two support rods didn't fit the décor or got in the way of the strings.

Looking at the detailed blueprints, I should point out these are all new work by Graham Bleathman and working my way around the keys did raise some odd questions. With the Tracy Villa, for instance, and for those wondering, the cutaway removes the stairway, as seen in 'Give Or Take A Million' from the lower floor to the swimming pool patio. My fellow reviewer, Pauline Morgan, also wishes it was shown how the Villa area can reach the beach, especially as it was indicated in the 'Introducing Thunderbirds' EP that Parker could drive FAB ONE up to it and the airstrip to Cliff House must surely have an elevator there. I'm also a bit dubious that the Tracy Island would have had such vast caverns inside it without excavating a lot of lava stone.

One thing I puzzled over with the Thunderbird One hanger is why not leave Scott Tracy's aircraft on the launching bay than have it much closer to the lounge. Considering the number of fume extractors in the launch bay, having fresh air down there wouldn't be seen as a problem. Even so, it's still a puzzle not resolved here and it isn't like Denham or the people he got advice from don't speculate occasionally on things that could really do with some justification.

I did like the explanation of how the distance between the pods in the Thunderbird Two Hanger could be expanded once the pod was selected because that covers a comment made by the late Derek Meddings himself that there really wasn't enough distance between the pods for Thunderbird Two to descend on one without clipping its wings. Although the bay is shown to house a number of conventional jets the Tracy family own, I did spot one discrepancy in that I remember seeing planes in the section where the hanger drawbridge descends which, Marineville-like, also descends to a lower level. It's hardly likely that Eddie Houseman or Colonel Tim Casey would have had their planes stashed away in the main TB2 hanger. It's a shame really that the complete launch Thunderbird Four from the TB2 hanger from the island wasn't shown although it is pointed out that it can hover a little to race down the launch ramp. Even so, aligning Pod 4 to do so, especially with Thunderbird Two under repair, let alone bringing it inside afterwards in 'Terror In New York City' would have been interesting to watch.

Two sections that have also been expanded upon that haven't been given much coverage in other blueprints are the additional workshops and laboratories that Brains has at his disposal which are more for research and repair rather than building the pod vehicles. The small island where Alan Tracy was repairing their aerial mast in 'Attack Of The Alligators' is only shown in the map and no speculation as to why would a mast be needed away from the island itself. I'm not entirely convinced that a hanger without a runway on Mateo Island would be appropriate for Thunderbird Two there though although an auxiliary base to land Thunderbird Three in case of emergencies does make some sense. Whether having a ten mile underwater monorail between there and Tracy Island is faster than flying there, I'll leave you to speculate.

The blueprints for Thunderbird One include the secondary cabin where Brains was revealed in the 'Thunderbirds Six' film and although ladder hatches are shown for access to leave the vehicle, doesn't explain how the scientist got on-board in Tracy Island. Presumably, he gets in via the main gangway Scott uses. Considering my comments in an article a couple months, ago about getting in and out of Thunderbird Two while on a mission, it is pointed out that there is an extendable ladder hatch under the front of that vehicle as well. Considering that TB2 is much higher off the ground than TB1, that must still be a breathless climb down in an emergency.

Thunderbird Three still has some oddities. As pointed out in the text, it was build to provide transport to build Thunderbird Five in space. Looking at the blueprints, one has to wonder how much cargo space does TB3 have to take so many parts into space. I'm not keen on the idea of a gravity control to adapt from the different angles from TB5 to TB3 when they are docked when it would be simpler to accept that there is zero gee for the time it takes. It gets more complicated because the gravity field would have to extend to the entire human habitat on TB3 to make sense which would be high energy wastage.

Looking at Thunderbird 4's pod, I wish there was some indication of the buffers and gyros that balances it out when TB2 drops it on the ocean. Considering the complications of TB4 being retrieved back into the pod backwards, I would have thought it would have made more sense to use a rotating turntable inside the pod as demonstrated inside the other pods.

One thing that was pointed out by the Anderson fans many years back is that Thunderbird Five would have to have had an auxiliary space satellite to give full global coverage which hasn't been acknowledged even as a possibility here this time.

Although Thunderbird Six is acknowledged, there is no blueprint of the Tiger Moth. Oddly, neither of the two original films are noted in the episode guide at the back of the book and I did wonder why this was given in alphabetical order than chronological order, even if the DVD boxset did get that slightly wrong.

The detail of the pod vehicles makes for an interesting read. Vehicles like the Laser Cutter and Thunderizer were built off the same design which makes sense as why re-invent the wheel unnecessarily. One thing that was never resolved in the series or here was the stools they had in the Mole for piloting. When you consider the Mole digs down at an angle of over sixty degrees, I suspect a remedy for this would have been better to acknowledge than ignore, especially with other modifications made.

Although it is acknowledged that Jeremiah Tuttle has a souped-up car, it's a shame that there is no blueprint for it. Then again, I would have loved to have seen blueprints for the escape harness pods, the underwater lifting equipment and Brahman but suspect page count limited this. My fellow reviewer, Pauline Morgan, would have liked a blueprint of Lady Penelope's mansion to have been included here as well.

Oh, for new Anderson fans wondering about the reference to the lift platform in FAB ONE's boot which was never featured in the series. This is a reference back to the first story of 'Lady Penelope' in the comic 'TV Century 21'. Quite how it would be used when her ladyship had her luggage stowed when going abroad is anyone's guess.

I should also point out that there are several photographs that I've never seen in print or if not, for a long while, which is definitely a rarity and a rare illustration by original designer Mike Trimm of Thunderbirds One and Two and FAB ONE at London Airport. As pointed out earlier, I suspect the Anderson fans will be even more critical than me but I doubt this will stop any of them buying this book and I doubt if anyone would be entirely happy simply because there is so much that needs to be covered. As such, this book has done remarkably well on many levels and one can only hope Haynes, buoyed by the sales this book will get, will embark on examining the vehicles from other Anderson shows.

GF Willmetts

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