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STINGRAY
The Complete Series

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creator:  Gerry Anderson
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  See Review
Length:  1014  Minutes
Release Date:  December 31, 2002

“Gentlemen, it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that this was no normal act of war. It is clear that some evil and mysterious force is working against us. This is a job for the WASPs.”

Episodes ***

In historical perspective:  without Stingray, the Thunderbirds might not have ever been go, and 1999 might have been just the year everybody panicked about a silly computer bug.

Stingray was creator Gerry Anderson’s pioneering television show that combined his process of Supermarionation with models, special effects, and fun-for-the-whole family science fiction storytelling.  It may not have been remembered as fondly as Thunderbirds, but fans of that hit show would be miss in not checking out the underwater adventures of the WASPs. 

Yes, I chuckled when I wrote that as much as you did reading it.  But WASP in this case stands for World Aquanaut Security Patrol, who serve underwater to protect the entire world from the Aquaphibians, a race of warriors led by the evil Titan, who uses mechanical fishes and other devices in attempts at world conquest.

The star vessel of the WASPs is, of course, Stingray, led by Captain Troy Tempest and Lt. George Lee Sherdian, better known as ‘Phones’.  When called into action by WASP leader (still laughing at that name) Commander Shore, the atomic powered sub and its team spring into action.

The adventure begins in the self-titled pilot episode, which introduce us to the WASP team as the Stingray crew prepare to investigate an attack on a Security Patrol submarine by…you guessed it, a giant mechanical fish.  Troy and Phones come face to face with Titan, and voila, a series is born!

Those familiar with Thunderbirds will easily recognize Gerry Anderson’s components here, from the blend of action and sci-fi to the often hoaky futuristic dialogue, not to mention, the marionette characters that inhabit his world!  All 39 broadcast episodes are included here in this five disc set, restored to original color glory (though for some reason, the shows were originally televised in black and white).

Some of the highlights include the Stingray team seeking out the legendary “Loch Ness Monster”, the movie crew who tries to replace Troy with an actor while harboring ulterior motives in “A Call to Action”, and even a trip to Casablanca in “Treasure Down Below”!

Overall, I enjoyed this preliminary effort from Anderson, though I have to say, the Thunderbirds are still number one in my book.  But this inventive underwater adventure proved that he had a solid creative vision that would eventually lead him onto dry land and bigger and better things. 

Video ***

A&E has taken care with these old 60s shows, and have brought them to DVD in full color glory.  For the most part, these episodes look quite good, with bright, natural coloring and sharp, crisp images.  A few darker segments lose some minor definition here and there, and occasionally exhibit a little more grain, but these are fairly few and far between.  Overall, it’s safe to say these shows probably haven’t looked this good since they were first released (and then, in black and white!).  Fans should be pleased.

Audio **1/2

I admit, I’m a little spoiled by A&E’s fantastic 5.1 remixes for their Thunderbirds releases.  For Stingray, we get standard stereo tracks only.  They sound perfectly good…clean and well presented, with clear dialogue and even a fair amount of dynamic range to accentuate the action…but man, wouldn’t you have loved hearing those rear channels kick in and the subwoofer giving the explosions their extra kick?  Oh well…

Features ***

A&E has assembled a nice array of extras for Stingray fans, starting with a brand new 20 minute featurette “The Thing About Stingray”.  Gerry Anderson also lends an audio commentary to both the pilot episode and “Stand By For Action”, a French end credit sequence, production stills, and a bio on Anderson himself.  The menu screens are a nice additional touch!

Summary:

With Stingray, Gerry Anderson and his Supermarionation puppets took charge of the undersea world a few years before his Thunderbirds came to the rescue everywhere else.  This attractive box set from A&E gives you all the original episodes, looking and sounding better than ever, with a nice smattering of extras to boot.  Fans of Anderson owe it to themselves to check this one out!