Puppets puppets puppets with ‘Stingray’

Stingray (1964)

“Anything can happen in the next half hour!”

Following the success of the science fiction adventure series Fireball XL5, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s next production was an undersea epic with hints of what was to come. In the near future the world is policed by orld Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), a high-tech operation that guards the undersea world from aggressors. The pride of the organization is a sophisticated ultra-modern sub called Stingray. When the crew of the super submarine encounters an undersea race of aquaphibians bent on the destruction of the human race, a prolonged war ensues.

In the realm of Supermarionation, Stingray is an odd one, somewhere between Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds with its combination of high adventure and action mixed with the backdrop of an organization not unlike International Rescue. The puppets are a bit more detailed than what was on hand for Fireball XL5, and it’s in color as well, the first regular color series of its kind in the U.K. It’s also the first of the Supermarionation programs to really impress viewers with explosions and other special effects that would become a hallmark of such series, thanks to future James Bond effects man Derek Meddings.

The cast (I get a kick out of the way the puppets are introduced by their character names as if they were real people rather than the voice actor) consists of the square-jawed Troy Tempest and his co-pilot ‘Phones.’ The crusty Commander Sam Shore is in charge of the operation including his daughter Atlanta who of course longs to be held in Troy’s arms (but who wouldn’t? Just look at him). When a mute aquaphibian named Marina renounces her people and joins their ranks, an awkward love triangle is formed.

I’m honestly not sure which is weirder, the fact that one of the puppets is mute or that there is such a thing as a puppet love triangle. But Marina is such a mysterious beauty that the end credit sequence is devoted to her. Yes, at the close of each episode, viewers were lulled into a lovelorn state by the strings of “Aqua Marina.”

The plots of these programs are surprisingly mature, including the love triangle previously mentioned, yet it is also wistfully juvenile and fun. The villains are constantly coming up with new plots to destroy the people of Marineville and get Marina back, but it’s all just so very silly. One sequence showing the elaborate surveillance systems of aquaphibians goes on for ages and is basically just a phone call to see what’s going on. The attention to detail and ingenuity in set and prop design is maddening. It’s basically a Bond film done in miniature.

Click on the image for more astounding Gerry Anderson cutaways!


Troy Tempest, surrounded by enemies

The alluring Marina

A stepping stone toward Thunderbirds, Stingray is often overlooked in the annals of Supermarionation programs, but it is well worth a visit. A roaring success, Stingray also spawned a couple of audio adventures and original novels. Much like Fireball XL5, it expanded into a weekly comic strip in Countdown that established its own mythology.

A mad mix of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Thunderbirds, Stingray is one of the good ones.

Stingray – Complete Set

Supermarionation Cross-sections: Revealing the Secrets of the Craft, Machinery and Settings of Gerry Anderson’s Top Series

4 thoughts on “Puppets puppets puppets with ‘Stingray’

  1. Stingray is in my opinion the best of Gerry Anderson’s shows.

    Is it me or is it so much more edgy than the rest? The stories are bonkers, but it feels like it is constantly being set up. And the relationships between the characters are so adult. Just watch the episode ‘The Man from the Navy!’

    It’s also hilarious to watch a children’s show in which the characters are constantly smoking, drinking and gambling!


  2. “Marina, Aquamarina, what is this Strange Enchantment I feel, whenever you’re near?”! Who can forget Titan (who really should’ve been called Triton but never mind ;)), the all-but-incomprehensible Aquaphibians, and the Peter Lorre-like Agent X20? Fabulous. But what’s all this about puppets? They Are Real! Ahahaha! (Men with Butterfly Nets Appear).
    As for Matthew C’s comment above, I really can’t see Stingray as edgy! Now, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, *that* was quite edgy, creepy, and fantastic… And as for the non-Supermarionation UFO… Organ-snatching Aliens, a Top Secret somewhat fascistic Alien-Fighting Organisation whose base is under a film studio, and more psychedelic weirdness than you’d expect – unusual show.
    I never *could* understand why Troy Tempest preferred Marina to Atalanta though, the puppet er man has no taste.


    • Is Captain Scarlet edgy? It’s very dark, but it’s plots are very simplistic and it is quite lacking in adult themes. There is none of the surprisingly adult human drama that you get in Stingray.

      Does Troy prefer Marina to Atlanta? He seems quite unable to decide between either of them and has dates with both. I really liked Treasure Down Below, in which Marina plays Troy and Phones off against each other, in the knowledge that Troy is doing the same to her with Atlanta.


  3. Yes, well that’s not *edgy* is it? Captain Scarlet is more “edgy” (you’ll have to forgive me, I don’t like that term) in its obsession with *death* which you don’t get with Stingray, also the theme of Body Snatchers-style infiltration is the motor behind Scarlet which lifts it above Stingray. Scarlet’s plots may or may not be simple but the “darkness” you mention is pretty much a synonym for “edginess” anyway. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a value judgment, I enjoy them both (and Treasure is excellent!) but Stingray “edgy”? Nah. As for the relationship between Troy and Marina/Atlanta even as a child I thought Troy came across as an ass (which is arguably as indicative of the time – or possibly Gerry Anderson?! – as the cold war touches in both series).
    I really think talking about “darkness” as being different to “edginess” is mere semantics, any series that begins with a conflict beginning because of a tragic human mistake qualifies as “edgy” (even if the Mysterons are portrayed as unqualified monsters ever after) while the arguable “edginess” of Treasure comes from its cinematic inspirations (though there *I* can be accused of employing semantics… Heh)


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