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Stingray - Complete Boxset (DVD)

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Genre: Television / Actors: Don Mason, Robert Easton / Director: Gerry Anderson / DVD Release Date: 2001

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      08.06.2012 22:23
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      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      Landmark science-fiction series, that isn't strictly for kids.

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      Background
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      "Stand by for action!" bellows the announcer, before a powerful underwater explosion fills the screen and pounding drums begin. From start to finish, each episode of Stingray lives up to its promise in the credits and is 25 minutes of action-packed adventure that never lags and never fails to entertain. Filmed in 1964, it was produced by Gerry Anderson - the genius behind Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet - and was a landmark for television, being one of the first to be produced in colour. While it was intended as a children's TV show, it is only as kid-orientated as Doctor Who, meaning that its enduring appeal lies in the fact that adults find as much pleasure in it as their younger counterparts.

      The show focuses on the crew of Stingray - a highly sophisticated submarine that works on behalf of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol - an organisation designed to protect the world from undersea threat. Afterall, in 2065, there are entire races of people found to be living on the ocean floor - many of which are hell-bent on the destruction of mankind through any means necessary. This idea forms the central theme to many of Stingray's adventures, as aquanaut Troy Tempest leads the fight against the hostile underwater races.

      Unless you are completely oblivious to the genius of Gerry Anderson, you should know that of course, the protagonists of the series are not world famous actors (although some provide voices!), but are in fact puppets. Having watched Stingray since I was a child, I have never really thought of them as marionettes. The detail in their faces (and the fact that they have multiple heads, to express different emotions), along with fantastic voice acting and characterisation mean that you soon even forget that they are puppets.

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      The Feature
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      As I have mentioned, I grew up watching Stingray. I recorded them off the television onto VHS, and played each episode over and over until the tape ceased to function. Purchasing the series on DVD as an adult, allowed for me to really appreciate the brilliance of Stingray, as it really has stood the test of time. I still found myself gripped by the series as if I was a child again, gasping for air during suspenseful moments of danger and smiling in wonder at the strange faces of the underwater aliens. For anyone who grew up watching the series, you get such a warm feeling of nostalgia when you revisit it.

      However, on a more serious note, you really get to appreciate just how intricate and masterful the storytelling is. Something which is severely lacking in today's television, let alone children's programming. The stories are fairly complex, and there several sub-plots co-existing throughout the series. For example, the love triangle between Troy Tempest, Atlanta and voiceless mermaid, Marina, is surprisingly mature for the target audience. Whereas some of Anderson's earlier work, you simply have to appreciate as time pieces -1950s and 60s nostalgia, the quality of the stories mean that 50 years on, you can still enjoy the series like any contemporary one.

      What never fails to astound me is the quality of the special effects. Derek Meddings pioneered countless new techniques in television production, which he would later use in the James Bond franchise. The series uses explosives and motorised models, which look far more realistic than any CGI that I have ever seen. The underwater scenes are all magnificent, and must have been painstaking to produce - allegedly the models and puppets were controlled behind a very narrow fish tank (filled with algae, and other sealife) which was deliberately turbulent, in order to make it seem as if the show was taking place under the sea. You could never tell.

      All 39 episodes are utterly awe-inspiring in terms of both effects and storytelling, and in my honest opinion, are some of Anderson's finest work (even better than Thunderbirds!).

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      Picture Quality
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      The best thing about this set is that the original film has been digitally remastered, to bring the picture quality to a level that really can do the monumental special effects justice. The DVDs do not disappoint. The picture quality is so good, that it shows up the DVD releases of programmes such as Friends or Charmed, which were aired in the 1990s! You really can't tell that the programme is 50 years old, what with its remastering - the only slight problem is that the quality is so good, that it makes the strings a tiny bit more noticeable.

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      Extras
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      Given that the series was produced half a century ago, it is not surprising that there are not extensive special features on the set. However, there is an effort to have some treats for the fans. For example, there is an audio commentary on the pilot episode from Gerry Anderson which is really illuminating regarding the production of the show itself. Moreover, there are four 20 minute long Stingray audio-books that were released on vinyl in the 60s, and provide additional adventures (with the original voice cast!) for you to enjoy. The crowning addition to the set, however, is the previously unseen 40th episode ('The Reunion Party') which was scrapped at the last minute, and remained entombed in a vault in the early 2000s. As someone who watched the show religiously when I was younger, I was naturally thrilled to finally watch the episode.

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      Conclusion
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      If you have kids, this is what you need to bring them up on. It is intelligent, action-packed adventure that never patronises its audience, and never fails to provide laughter and amusement. For big kids, like myself, it is an unlimited reservoir of nostalgia that will bring back great memories. These five discs house a masterclass in great storytelling and special effects that despite the passing of almost fifty years, have aged superbly.

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