Thunderbirds Are Go concerns spacecraft Zero-X and its manned mission to Mars.
When Zero-X suffers a malfunction during re-entry, it is up to life-saving organisation International Rescue, supported by its technologically-advanced Thunderbird machines, to activate the trapped crew’s escape pod before the spacecraft hits the ground.
Filmed between March and June 1966 at APF’s studios on the Slough Trading Estate and on location in Portugal, Thunderbirds Are Go features guest appearances by puppet versions of Cliff Richard and The Shadows, who also contributed to the film’s score.
It was the first film to be shot using an early form of video assist called “Add-a-Vision”.
The film’s special effects sequences, directed by Derek Meddings, took six months to complete.
Although early reviews praised the film as a well-made cinematic transfer of the TV series, Thunderbirds Are Go drew a lukewarm public response and has erroneously said to be a box office failure, in fact it did make money, just not as much as was expected.
The film was criticised for its characterisation, lengthy effects shots, and inclusion of a fantasy dream sequence centring on Cliff Richard and The Shadows.
Comedian Bob Monkhouse provided the voice of one of the Zero-X crew, Space Navigator Brad Newman.
Surprised by the film’s underperformance and confident that Thunderbirds still had big-screen potential, distributors United Artists ordered a sequel, Thunderbird 6. However, this too received a mediocre critical and commercial response.
The spaceship Zero-X later appeared in the first episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, the Andersons’ follow-up to Thunderbirds, while tie-in publication TV Century 21 ran a Zero-X comic strip until 1969.
The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray.