Stingray: The Complete Series – Review
By Roger Crow
For decades Stingray has been that Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Supermarionation series usually mentioned after Thunderbirds (the gold standard by which all such series were judged). But Team Anderson couldn’t have got to one without the other, and watching it again after all these years, it’s amazing to see how much of a beta test Stingray was for Thunderbirds.
The pilot also shares elements with James Cameron’s 1989 blockbuster The Abyss: a submarine is attacked by an enemy force, although in this case it’s a large mechanical fish rather than a glowing entity; the hero is taken to an undersea base and tries to reason with his captors while water is kept at bay by some weird force field.
But that’s where the similarities end. However, there are also inevitable comparisons with The Spy Who Loved Me, and given the fact effects genius Derek Meddings and actress Lois Maxwell worked on both, that’s hardly surprising.
“Weird goings on”
Anyway, the series is a delight for newcomers and nostalgia fans alike. I can only imagine the amount of 1960s kids who must have spent ages playing with Stingray submarines at bath time.
Key player is Troy Tempest, who looks like a constipated James Garner. (An excellent making of documentary on the latest Blu-ray set reveals that Garner was used as a shorthand guide for the model makers).
Troy is a member of WASP, a sort of oceanic police force, and he pilots a submarine called Stingray. What are the chances?
The episodes usually consist of Troy and his good old boy sidekick Phones (because he wears headphones) investigating weird goings on while glamorous alien Marina is usually a damsel in distress without saying a word, as she’s mute. Which must have been a blessing for the puppeteers and the scriptwriters. (Female protagonists in Stingray sadly aren’t as proactive as Anderson’s later masterpiece Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons).
Even for a kids’ show of the time, the dialogue is pretty ropey, but when I first saw the series in black and white during the early 1970s, I couldn’t have cared less about the script. “Just look at those effects!” I’d say to anyone who would listen.
As a side note, this was shot in colour for the American market, but of course we in Blighty got the black and white version as such colour sets were few and far between. The heroes’ HQ, Marineville, which looks like a Disney theme park hotel, has the ability to submerge via the sort of hydraulic system usually reserved for a Grand Designs episode warning about the dangers of flooding.
Anderson and his colleagues were always far better as technical wizards rather than tellers of compelling tales. And when the eponymous sub unleashed hell via its torpedo tubes, the result is explosive in more ways than one.
In an age when everything has been rejigged either as a live action movie or a CG series, or in the case of Thunderbirds, both, it’s amazing that Stingray has never been remade. Because as bonkers as some of the episodes are, they’re 99% less barking than the first Aquaman movie, so one day we may see Troy and company given a 21st-century makeover. However, this is the next best thing as the latest Blu-ray revamp has been remastered in HD from original 35mm film elements. For a show nearly 60 years old, it looks fabulous.
Blessed with one of the most exciting opening themes and titles in TV history, not to mention that dreamy closing titles ballad, Stingray is far from sub-standard entertainment. Sorry/not sorry.
As it’s tricky to judge any Gerry Anderson series without considering the rest of his work, the following ratings are contentious. Fans who grew up with the show will no doubt rate it
higher than latecomers to the party, and obviously the models and effects became more sophisticated as Gerry and his tech team evolved on all fronts. Anyway, here goes…
● Exclusive, limited edition deluxe packaging
● Brand-new Stingray comic
● Brand-new Stingray book by archive television historian Andrew Pixley
● Stingray WASP pilot license and badge
● Brand-new Mini Adventure CD
● Stingray Ephemera Wallet
● Gerry Anderson commentaries on the pilot and Standby for Action
● The Reunion Party - HD remaster of the Japanese Stingray presentation footage
● Give-a-Show projector image gallery
● Sylvia Anderson interview part 2
● Walton Home Movies
● Stingray TV21 audio adventures
● Image Gallery (5 mins)
● Lincoln Toy Advert
● Lyons Maid Advert
● Des O'Connor Sketch
● Ad Bumpers
● French End Titles
● Century 21 Tech Talk: Stingray
● Re-builds of the two Super Space Theater Stingray films (to be shipped separately, Summer 2022)
Stingray: The Complete Series is released on Blu-ray by Network