Big Finish: Thunderbirds: OPERATION ASTEROIDS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Thunderbirds: OPERATION ASTEROIDS Review

Matthew Kresal catches up with International Resceue.
For those of a certain age, just mentioning Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Thunderbirds offers an exciting whiff of nostalgia. For this reviewer, it takes one back to my teenage years nearly two decades ago when re-runs of the series on TechTV (as it then was) introduced me to the series as part of my discovering what my British colleagues would call Cult TV. It was with great excitement that Big Finish, teaming up with Anderson Entertainment, began producing audiobooks based on the series of tie-in novels published in the 1960s. Perhaps none has been on the scale of April's release of Thunderbirds:Operation Asteroids, available on download from Big Finish.

It's worth a mention that, like Terror From the Stars and Stingray's Operation Ice Cap before it, this release isn't the standard sort of audio drama listeners might expect going into it. Operation Asteroids is more in the vein of the enhanced audiobook format that Big Finish employed in their Doctor Who - The Lost Stories releases featuring the first three Doctors. On the one hand, it features narration and description to fill in more visual moments. On the other hand, it has dramatized scenes featuring both sound effects and a score. The result is a cross between the audiobook and audio drama formats, offering a best of both worlds approach to bringing the story to life.

Adapted by Ross Arrowsmith from the novel by John Theydon (which the internet tells me was a pseudonym for the prolific John William Jennison), it's a story both in keeping with the TV series while also far grander in scope than it ever achieved. With a storyline involving International Rescue operating off-world and the Hood getting involved (as he is wont to do, of course, being the Hood!), it's a plot with a range that takes it from the Australian outback to Tibet and literally out of this world. It's an action-packed tale full of chases, fights, and scenes of peril that would have been intriguing to see realized in Supermarionation and with Derek Meddings's legendary model work. Arrowsmith and director Samuel Clemens strike a nice balance between prose and dramatized sequences, suiting the action and narrative alike.

It's also neatly realized as a production. After two previous Thunderbirds audiobooks, much of the cast has nicely settled into their roles by now, showing respect for the original and capturing their spirit. They include ever-reliable Jon Culshaw as Tracy family patriarch Jeff and burglar turned butler Parker, Genevieve Gaunt as Lady Penelope and Grandma Tracy (the latter offering her some delightful comedic moments), Justin T Lee as Scott Tracy and the Hood, and Wayne Forester as Brains. Beyond the cast, the sounds of the series are there, too, with Joe Kraemer's music magnificently pastiching the scores of the original series and the sound design of Toby Hrycek-Robinson bringing the worlds of the piece to life.

Thunderbirds: Operation Asteroids is a joyous listen. Indeed, the highest compliment I can pay this release as a reviewer is to say that there were times I could close my eyes and imagine it unfolding in Supermarionation. And with a full-cast release due out later this month from Anderson Entertainment and Big Finish, there's rarely been a better time to say "THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!" and give this audiobook a listen.

Thunderbirds: Operation Asteroids is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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