As we’ve discussed previously, many of the classic Anderson shows were first broadcast in an order that was wildly different from that in which they were produced. Although for the most part these shows were produced as standalone episodic series with little in the way of a developing narrative, small connecting threads of continuity did nevertheless develop over time, and can be rewarding for longtime fans to spot when watching these series in production order.
Unfortunately, those fans can sometimes struggle when watching the shows in their original UK broadcast orders, which often seem to have been devised by pulling some later (and therefore assumed to be ‘better’) stories to the front of the run to hook viewers, burying some earlier ‘weaker’ episodes by showing them near the end, and showing the rest in whatever random order seemed best. And, even into the 1980s, repeat runs of the shows were still being shown in seemingly random orders that made no sense to long-time viewers.
While some Anderson series don’t really suffer from being watched in random order (as long as you watch the first episode first), the small but significant connecting threads of continuity in Stingray were completely shredded by the order in which the episodes were first shown in the ATV London region back in 1964. Here are six times Stingray’s crazy UK broadcast order made no sense – and one time it accidentally did!
Marina is squatting in someone else’s house
A touching subplot in Count Down, the 9th episode of Stingray to be produced, shows the Marineville family banding together to give new recruit Marina her own apartment. Subsequent episodes return to this apartment, as she hosts a dinner party there in the episode The Man from the Navy and we also see her bedroom in The Cool Cave Man, Invisible Enemy and Marineville Traitor.
Unfortunately, Count Down was among the episodes pushed to the end of Stingray’s original UK broadcast run, airing as the show’s 32nd installment – meaning that Marina wasn’t assigned her own apartment until almost the end of the series rather than early on, after such episodes as The Man from the Navy, Invisible Enemy and The Cool Cave Man had already aired. There isn’t even wriggle room to claim that perhaps in UK broadcast order they’re redecorating her old apartment in Count Down or moving her from one to another; the episode makes it very clear that she didn’t have her own place until the end of the story. Just whose apartment she was actually sleeping and throwing parties in previously during the UK broadcast order must therefore remain a mystery.
Troy Tempest subconsciously knows about people he hasn’t met & events that haven’t happened yet
In the episode Tom Thumb Tempest, Troy has a dream in which Stingray becomes trapped in a fish tank in an elegant room at which Titan is soon to be hosting a dinner party. On the guest list are several notable villains from previous episodes, including Nucella from Emergency Marineville – a sensible callback, since that episode preceded this one in both production and UK broadcast order.
Also on the guest list is Gadus, with Troy helpfully filling in his backstory for those viewers (and Marina) who may have forgotten him; “he kidnapped Admiral Carson and Millie, and we had to go and rescue them!” Gadus was the villain of the show’s 4th episode in production order, Hostages of the Deep – but unfortunately in broadcast order Gadus had yet to appear in the series, since Hostages of the Deep was the 37th episode to air, so there’s really no reason Troy’s dream should include details about something that hasn’t happened yet. Granted this is all a dream (and a particularly crazy one at that) so nitpicking anything regarding this episode is all but pointless – but the UK broadcast order does rather suggest that Troy Tempest can subconsciously predict future events!
Stingray can safely travel miles beneath the seabed – until it can’t!
After Stingray is almost destroyed by the pressure of a subterranean sea in The Big Gun, Commander Shore delivers a stirring speech to Troy and Phones reviewing the events of the episode and highlighting weaknesses in their operations. “Stingray must be prepared to go even deeper than the deepest ocean!” he declares, implying that Stingray’s hull will be strengthened to ensure that she’ll never again be at risk from pressure damage no matter how deep she dives.
Subsequently produced episodes subtly hint that this work was indeed carried out offscreen, as Stingray is assigned to explore another Subterranean Sea just half a dozen episodes after The Big Gun, and later finds itself pulled beneath the ocean bed and down to the bottom of a volcano in Deep Heat. In neither episode does any character appear concerned about the tremendous pressure involved; in fact, in Deep Heat, Commander Shore actually says “thank goodness we know Stingray can stand that water pressure!” – all but confirming that Stingray’s near-destruction from The Big Gun cannot be repeated.
The UK broadcast order threw all of that out of the window by showing The Big Gun *after* Subterranean Sea and Deep Heat – which makes Shore’s declaration of preparing Stingray for extreme depths a little redundant when she’s apparently survived two previous such missions totally unscathed!
Say hello, Oink goodbye
Oink the seal was introduced in Sea of Oil, the third episode of Stingray to be produced. Making brief appearances up until episode 14 in production order (The Invaders) before disappearing from the series forever, the original UK broadcast order spread Oink’s sporadic appearances across a wider span of episodes – but managed to mangle his introduction to the Stingray crew quite impressively in the process.
In the initial UK broadcast order, Oink first appeared in the episode Loch Ness Monster (produced 11th but shown 5th), with no explanation of what he was or why he was even in Marineville. Viewers keen to discover his origin story would have to wait until Sea of Oil was broadcast as episode 33 in the UK, by which time it must have seemed as though the Stingray crew had lost their memories of him entirely as they (understandably) act like they’ve never seen him before when his introductory episode finally rolled around.
You could perhaps be extremely charitable and argue that perhaps, for broadcast order at least, the seal in Sea of Oil might not be Oink but a different seal entirely – but even so, would the Stingray crew really be so unlucky as to meet such an irritating creature not once but twice?
Titan takes months to notice things
The second episode of Stingray produced, Plant of Doom picks up very shortly after the events of the show’s first episode. Titan is furious at Troy Tempest for helping Marina to escape her former life as his slave in Titanica, and sets to work on a plan of revenge for her betrayal. With such a strong link to the first episode you might therefore expect that Plant of Doom would have been broadcast as the second episode in the UK – but back in the mid-1960s, intellects unsympathetic to terranean affairs inexplicably decided to broadcast Plant of Doom as episode 34.
Not only does this create such continuity issues as Atlanta’s sudden mistrust of her long-established good friend Marina, Plant of Doom’s position in the UK broadcast order makes Titan in particular look exceptionally slow on the uptake since it apparently took him 33 weeks to notice that Marina was gone – who was carrying out his instructions to her during that time?
Even when the episode first aired in 1965 there must have been many viewers who picked up on how needlessly disjointed the show’s narrative had unexpectedly become – and to make matters worse, the episode that aired the week after Plant of Doom was The Master Plan…in which Titan recaptures Marina and makes her his slave before she’s rescued by Troy Tempest and escapes once again. If Plant of Doom had to be shown so late in the run then the opportunity was there to make pushing it back make some kind of sense if it was a response to the events of The Master Plan – but unfortunately, the order we got just serves to make Titan look a bit thick.
Troy and Phones have such a great time at Marina’s dad’s house they forget where it is – and who he is
The daft positioning of Plant of Doom as episode 34 in the original UK broadcast order strikes again here, as Marina gets homesick following her liberation from Titanica and Troy and Phones struggle to ascertain where exactly her real home is.
Which is all well and good, if you ignore the fact that in the UK broadcast order they’d already visited it once before.
Tune of Danger, the second and final appearance of Marina’s father Aphony and their home city of Pacifica, was the 31st episode of Stingray to be produced but the 13th to air – making it look like Troy and Phones really weren’t all that impressed by the place in Tune of Danger when they return to it for the ‘first’ time in Plant of Doom.
And the one time showing Stingray in random order actually made sense…
Lieutenant Misen, the Marineville Traitor
The episode Marineville Traitor offers our heroes a terrifying scenario; a traitor in the ranks of Marineville! And (spoiler alert) just who does the titular traitor turn out to be? None other than Lieutenant Misen, trusty W.A.S.P. operative you’re probably struggling to remember because he hadn’t been in the series before – at least, not in production order. Thrown in jail at the end of the episode for his crimes, the Misen puppet then turned up in subsequently filmed episodes apparently still working for the W.A.S.P.s; attending Phones’ enquiry in An Echo of Danger, serving as a special messenger in Titan Goes Pop, and even working at World Security Patrol Headquarters in Pink Ice. While these later appearances were just a convenient reuse of a puppet wearing a W.A.S.P. uniform that nobody making the show at the time would have ever expected to be noticed, and obviously not meant to be the same character, searching for an in-universe explanation does rather give the impression that Misen was let off very lightly for conspiring with the enemy and attempting to murder Commander Shore.
That is, unless you watch Stingray in the original UK broadcast order, where Marineville Traitor was aired as the penultimate episode of the series…meaning that all Misen’s ‘subsequent’ appearances came before the reveal of his treachery and inadvertently gave his heel-turn in Marineville Traitor some actual weight. In the UK broadcast order, Misen really is the established presence in and around Marineville (if only through silent cameos) that that episode would have us believe him to be, infiltrating the highest levels of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol and gathering vital intelligence to pass on to his underwater employers.
Believe it or not there are even more discrepancies we could have talked about with Stingray‘s crazy UK broadcast order – but we’d like to hear from you! What are some of your favourite moments of an Anderson show’s internal continuity getting broken by being broadcast in random order? Let us know in the comments!