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Thunderbird 6
The words "Thunderbird 6" line the bottom edge of a poster which depicts a futuristic aircraft against the backdrop of a tower. The lower hull of this aircraft, resembling an airship of the future, is on fire. A small biplane flies overhead, while from the background the face of a man wearing flying goggles stares in the direction of the viewer.
UK film poster
Directed by David Lane
Produced by Sylvia Anderson
Screenplay by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
Narrated by Keith Alexander
Starring Keith Alexander
Sylvia Anderson
John Carson
Peter Dyneley
Gary Files
Christine Finn
David Graham
Geoffrey Keen
Shane Rimmer
Jeremy Wilkin
Matt Zimmerman
Music by Barry Gray
Cinematography Harry Oakes
Editing by Len Walter
Studio Century 21 Cinema Productions
Associated Television
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 29 July 1968 (1968-07-29)
Running time 89 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £300,000

Thunderbird 6 is a 1968 British science-fiction puppet film based on Thunderbirds, a Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by their company Century 21 Productions. Written by the Andersons and directed by David Lane, it is a sequel to Thunderbirds Are Go (1966).

The film is largely set on Skyship One – a futuristic airship designed by Brains, the inventor of International Rescue's Thunderbird machines. The plot sees Alan Tracy, Tin-Tin Kyrano, Lady Penelope and Parker representing International Rescue as guests of honour on Skyship One's round-the-world maiden flight, unaware that master criminal The Hood is once again plotting to acquire the organisation's technological secrets. The Hood's agents murder the airship's crew and assume their identities to lure International Rescue into a trap. Meanwhile, Brains' efforts to design a proposed sixth Thunderbird collide with fate when Skyship One is damaged and its occupants' only salvation seems to be Alan's old Tiger Moth biplane.

Actors John Carson and Geoffrey Keen provided guest voices, with additions to the regular voice cast in the form of Keith Alexander and Gary Files. The puppet design compromised between the caricatures that Century 21 had used up until Thunderbirds Are Go and the realistically proportioned marionettes that were introduced in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. The film was shot between May and December 1967. Some of the sequences showing the Tiger Moth in flight were shot on location using a full-sized plane, but a legal dispute with the Ministry of Transport over alleged dangerous flying forced the crew to film the remaining shots in-studio with scale models.

Thunderbird 6 was released in July 1968 to a mediocre box office response that ruled out the production of further sequels. Critical response has remained mixed: while the special effects have been praised, the story polarised commentators.

Plot

In 2068, the New World Aircraft Corporation in England gives Brains an open brief to design a revolutionary aircraft. Brains suggests an airship, prompting howls of laughter from the executives. Nevertheless, his proposal is accepted and the corporation builds Skyship One, a fully automated airship powered by an anti-gravity field. Representing International Rescue for the maiden flight – a private round-the-world trip with pre-programmed stops – are Alan Tracy, Tin-Tin, Lady Penelope and Parker. Brains, meanwhile, is forced to remain on Tracy Island after Jeff asks him to design a sixth Thunderbird craft. Working without a specification, Brains produces a range of concepts but all are rejected by Jeff.

Alan and Tin-Tin fly to England in an old Tiger Moth biplane and join Penelope and Parker before Skyship One departs. However, the group are unaware that Captain Foster and the stewards have been murdered and replaced by agents of The Hood, now operating as "Black Phantom" from an abandoned airfield near Casablanca. As the ship is automated, the impostors are not required to demonstrate any detailed knowledge of its systems and are thus able to avoid raising their guests' suspicions as the trip progresses.

After Skyship One leaves the Egyptian pyramids, Penelope finds a bugging device in her bedroom. Unknown to her, Foster and his men have been recording and editing her voice to assemble a fake radio message asking Jeff to send Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to the abandoned airfield, where The Hood and his men intend to hi-jack the craft. During a stop in the Swiss Alps, Parker discovers the editing equipment, but before the group can act the message is completed and transmitted to Tracy Island via John on Thunderbird 5. Jeff immediately dispatches Scott and Virgil in Thunderbirds 1 and 2, but Alan realises that his brothers are flying into a trap and Penelope is able to forward the warning just in time. On landing at the airfield, Scott and Virgil use the Thunderbirds' rocket launchers to destroy The Hood's base. They then take off to rendezvous with Skyship One.

Aboard the airship, Alan, Penelope and Parker engage in a shootout with the impostors but are forced to surrender when Tin-Tin is taken hostage. The anti-gravity system is damaged in the fighting, causing the ship to lose altitude and crash into a radio mast at a missile base near Dover. With Skyship One balanced precariously on top of the mast and its anti-gravity field weakening, it is up to Scott, Virgil and Brains to rescue all aboard before the ship collapses onto the base below. However, Scott and Virgil are unable close in without their thrusters tipping it over and none of Thunderbird 2's Pod Vehicles is light enough to deploy onto it. At Gordon's suggestion, Brains flies the Tiger Moth up to Skyship One's top deck to airlift the passengers and crew to safety one by one. However, on landing, he is held at gunpoint by Foster and his two surviving henchmen. With Penelope hostage in the plane's cockpit, Foster tries to take off but is shot dead by Alan. The Tiger Moth launches with the International Rescue agents and impostors 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. Stray bullets puncture the fuel tank, forcing Penelope to make an emergency landing. After near misses with a factory chimney, a bridge on the M104 motorway and a tree, Penelope ditches the plane into a field. Parker is thrown out when the plane clips the tree top and ends up dangling upside down in its branches before falling to the ground.

Back on Tracy Island, Brains unveils the new Thunderbird 6 as none other than the repaired Tiger Moth, which all agree has proven its worth in the field.

Home video

Thunderbird 6 was first released on DVD in Regions 2 and 4 by MGM in 2001. Special features included an audio commentary by producer Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane. In 2004, an "International Rescue Edition", released both separately and as a box set with Thunderbirds Are Go, went on sale in Regions 1, 2 and 4 with additional special features including three making of documentaries. In 2014, Twilight Time, through their sub-licensing deal with MGM, released Thunderbird 6 on Blu-ray as a double feature set with Thunderbirds Are Go, limited to 3,000 copies and available only through the Screen Archives Entertainment website. The set was re-released by Kino Lorber in 2017.

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