Stingray - The complete series box set Review
"Stand by for action! We are about to launch Stingray! Anything can happen in the next half hour!"
Anyone asked to name someone famous from British children's television is highly likely to say Gerry Anderson. The puppet man was responsible for some of the most famous kids shows from the sixties, which still have strong cult fan bases today. Stingray sits as an important chapter in Anderson's career as it was the first show to be shot in colour. Indeed it was the first Independent Television show in colour, although when it aired in 1964 it was shown only in America in this way, as in the UK colour didn't come to ITV for a further three years. Anderson had not started as science fiction, with shows like Twizzle and Four Feather Falls. Supercar started the move, and the previous Fireball XL5 really established the big scale Sci-Fi, but Stingray paved the way for the subsequent Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and then the move into live action shows such as UFO and Space:1999.
Stingray followed the adventures of WASP (the World Aquanaut Security Patrol) and the Stingray sub in their peacekeeping missions under the waves in the year 2065. Captain Troy Tempest was joined by his co-pilot George Lee Sheridan - otherwise known as Phones - and the voiceless but beautiful Marina, a tailless mermaid from an underwater continent. Surface-side was run by Commander Sam Shore with his daughter Atlanta (voiced by Bond Moneypenny actress Lois Maxwell). The principle villian of the piece is Titan, ruler of Titanica, with his Aquaphibian henchman underwater, and surface undercover agent and Peter Lorre wannabe X2-Zero.
Although not quite as polished as Thunderbirds and with some decidedly corny dialogue at times, there is nontheless plenty of fun to be had here, and not just from a nostalgia point of view. I personally preferred the more light-hearted episodes, such as The Loch Ness Monster and the very funny Stand by for action. The later episodes where the characters were better established tend to be the better ones. Other high points? Definitely the wonderfully sixties "Marina" theme song. Low points? Probably Marina's irritating pet seal Oink has to be a front runner.
Although I was always more of a Thunderbirds kid rather than Stingray, it's nice to see all these shows again. All thirty-nine episodes clock in at a massive sixteen and a quarter hours. So sit down and enjoy a big chunk of sixties kids television at its best.
Filmed in "Videcolor", this was a significant show for colour as previously mentioned. The early episodes actually have the first few seconds in black and white, before switching to colour. The remastering job is very good indeed, with vibrant colours and only occassional print damage, which is perfectly forgiveable. One of the problems of making the picture quality too good is it actually makes the wires more visible!
Unlike Thunderbirds where the discs featured a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track, here we only have mono. But obviously that's what the original track was, and often fake 5.1 tracks don't add much to the mix. So the end result is good quality - for mono. There are a couple of problems here and there - notably a few minutes during the middle of the episode A nut for Marineville suffers from distorted background noise, but generally this is good quality for what it is.
Supplemental material is spread across all five discs of the set although disappointingly the extras start well on the early discs but dwindle away to almost nothing by the time you get to the fifth and final disc. But first a word about the menus. A good amount of effort has been made to make some nice computer animated menus but they don't quite work as well as they should. When a disc is started you are presented with an episode list to choose from (see above). Nothing wrong with that, but all you get from there is a scene selection menu for the episode, and to start it you need to select chapter one (of four). So it's both awkward to use and forces to you read the chapter titles before you watch an episode.
The actual extras themselves are as follows:
Disc 1 extras
The memorabilia section explains what the TV 21 audio adventures were all about, and includes some zoomable pictures of the cover art from these. Following on is an actual TV 21 audio adventure which has dialogue printed in the booklet so you can participate!
The character biographies section has all the info you will ever need about the various characters in Stingray, even including that annoying seal, Oink.
We also have a Gerry Anderson commentary on the Stingray episode, the first of two commentaries in this set. It's a mixture of screen specific comments about this opening episode, along with technical details about production of the show in general. It's interesting stuff, and Anderson takes it all very, very seriously.
Disc 2 extras
The memorabilia section includes Stingray in TV Century 21, which starts as text information about the TV Century 21 comic magazine, following on with examples of covers. As this was done in a newspaper style, the pictures allow you to zoom in to read some of the articles.
The TV memorabilia section includes two items. Firstly a sketch from the Des 'O Connor show which featured the Stingray puppets, and second is the French TV version of the end credits. If you thought the English end credits were so very sixties, these are a cut above. Well worth checking out.
The Stingray walk-through is a brief "fly-by" of the inside of the Stingray craft, as recreated in the CGI used for the menu system.
Finally there is another TV 21 audio adventure.
Disc 3 extras
The memorabilia section on this disc has three parts. Firstly the Stingray merchandise section points out that Anderson was the first outside of the USA to do promotional merchandising. This goes on to show examples from around the world. The unseen material is a strange unaired episode involving flashbacks and recollections from the characters. It's unfinished, as the flashbacks are not actually included, but it's interesting from a completist point of view. Finally the TV adverts section includes an ad for Gerry Anderson based ice lollies, and includes the classic line "the first ice lolly especially for girls". How times have changed...
The second commentary of the set is included here, with a Gerry Anderson commentary for the episode Standby for action. As before, it's a mixture of general production points (for instance, how to do wire removal long before the days of CGI) and screen specific items about this particular episode (who Johnny Swoonara really is). Worth a listen.
Another TV 21 audio adventure is included here.
Disc 4 extras
Only a single supplement here, which is Original Publicity. This is a selection of pictures of publicity material from the time, with the usual ability to zoom in and read the detail of the text.
Disc 5 extras
By the time we get to the last disc all we have is a brief behind the scenes stills gallery. This comprises of a few black and white photos of Anderson and others at work on the Stingray set. Whereas on the earlier discs there were navigation buttons and zoom facilities, here the pictures just advance by themselves with varying degrees of success depending on your player. This definitely looks like a rush-job afterthought.
Any Gerry Anderson fanatics - or people (of my age) who want to revisit their childhood, will want to invest in the Stingray collection. The picture quality has been remastered to a very good standard and the sound is good for its age. The extras are reasonable, even if they tail off towards the end of the set. Buying the box set rather than the discs individually gives you nothing more than the cardboard box to keep the discs in, so shop around and you may find that you can get the individual discs cheaper than the box.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 20:28:18