Winter has well and truly arrived, and as we huddle in our homes for warmth we can at least enjoy some classic winter-themed episodes from around the Anderson universe – if only to remind ourselves that no matter how cold we might feel, some of our favourite Anderson heroes have had it worse! Here are five of our favourite winter-themed episodes for you to check out!
Fireball XL5 – The Day The Earth Froze
A dramatic crash landing by Fireball XL27 opens this episode, after the craft strays too close to the ice planet Zavia and its inhabitants open fire with a coma ray. The XL5 crew are deployed to investigate, only to find themselves up against a weapon capable of deflecting the sun’s rays – and making things just a little bit chilly on Earth!
This episode scores high for making the immediate threat not only against the XL5 crew (who face quite the ordeal in escaping from the alien base) but against the entire Earth, with some beautiful model effects scenes showing Space City under a blanket of snow (as well as the opening sequence involving XL27). As dastardly as the aliens are, and as wonderful as the effects look, this episode is also packed with some lovely character moments. Steve Zodiac, Matt and Venus are as heroic as ever but there’s also something deeply poignant about seeing the Space City regulars back on Earth facing what seems to be the inevitable end. After thirty-something episode of grouching and grumbling it’s rather touching Commander Zero and Lieutenant 90 putting aside their differences in the face of certain death while Eleanor Jonathan and Zoonie shiver in a pile of coats and blankets behind them – and Jock is mentioned as working tirelessly off-screen trying to fix the heating!
Stingray – Pink Ice
Another branch of the World Security Patrol faces the threat of global freeze-up, as the WASPs investigate the sudden appearance of mysterious devices released by an underwater craft that pump a strange pink slush into the world’s oceans – which soon turns to ice, trapping shipping and Stingray alike! Once again the success of this episode comes from the unexpectedly global nature of the threat, even if much of that threat is conveyed by a map informing us that pink ice is spreading all around the world.
Regardless, the episode does an efficient and effective job of conveying the ice as a threat, particularly in how quickly it can work to immobilise a craft from the moment the story begins. By taking the one environment in which Stingray is in her element, and turning it into a pink frozen waste in which she cannot function at all, we see the extent to which the team back at Marineville (and, in this episode, at World Security Patrol headquarters) can be just as important to the story as her crew normally are. While some might find the lack of explanation as to just who is causing all this rather disappointing (in fact we don’t get to see the crew of the enemy sub at all), it does help to reinforce the show’s central premise; that the ocean is a big place, full of mystery and (often) danger!
Thunderbirds – The Cham Cham
While The Cham-Cham would no doubt be a standout episode of Thunderbirds no matter where it was set, the mountain resort setting of the Paradise Peaks hotel makes this an exceptionally pretty episode of the series. Beautiful winter scenes are a highlight throughout the story, including Penelope and Tin-Tin on skis, Parker the human snowball, and the world’s longest cable car run. Yet unlike the frozen wastes of other snow-themed episodes, this episode pulls off the impressive feat of making Paradise Peaks feel like an exceptionally welcoming and cosy environment – that is, when the manager of the house band isn’t trying to murder you!
Although the inventive spy story is undoubtedly one of the episode’s greatest strengths (even if it is light on rescue action until Thunderbird 2 arrives to look especially beautiful near the very end), that inventiveness is matched by the spectacular visuals – as well as a standout musical score from Barry Gray which presents multiple variations on the popular song Dangerous Game. The Cham-Cham finds all members of the Thunderbirds production team working at the very height of their powers, and the winter setting makes for a beautiful environment in which to showcase them.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons – Avalanche
Captain Scarlet has no shortage of excellent stories that feature a winter-themed setting, from the doom-laden and atmospheric Shadow of Fear to the tense Noose of Ice, but Avalanche earns a spot on this list for telling its story on a much larger and more action-packed scale. Once again the harsh winter environment is presented as a dangerous threat to human life, as the snows of Northern Canada become the home for the Frost Line Outer Space Defence System – a network of bases incorporating sealed air conditioned domes that (in theory) should be keep the personnel inside warm and safe. Shane Rimmer’s script however allows the Mysterons to make efficient use of those sealed environments in their latest plan of revenge, as they take over the maintenance man responsible for keeping them running smoothly and send him from base to base to brutally murder the personnel there – and all without even firing a shot.
It’s also one of the few episodes of the show to give a starring role to Lieutenant Green, and features one of the show’s more successful Mysteron agents – with Eddie the truck driver racking up more than three hundred kills to his name over the course of the episode!
New Captain Scarlet – Storm at the End of the World
One of the darker episodes of New Captain Scarlet (both figuratively and literally), this story finds Captains Scarlet and Blue on the trail of yet another Russian Druzynik tank that has been hijacked by the Mysterons – only to find themselves falling into a Mysteron trap in the Alaskan town of Ragnarok. The town, and its inhabitants, have been destroyed and reconstructed by the Mysterons in order to dig out a meteorite carrying a deadly spore capable of destroying all life on Earth – and this time, even all of Scarlet and Blue’s ingenuity may not be enough to save the day!
From the shockingly brutal opening scene in which the Ragnarok townspeople are indiscriminately massacred in order to be reborn as servants of the Mysterons, to Scarlet and Blue’s desperate escape from the mine workings and more than one “oh no, we’re too late!” moment that still carries genuine weight even for those who already know how the story ends, Storm at the End of the World is one of the many highlights of New Captain Scarlet – and just for once, it really does feel as though not everyone will make it out alive this time…
If you haven’t seen the episode, you can check it out on YouTube right now!
Those are just five of our favourite winter or snow/ice-themed Anderson episodes – but have we missed one of your favourites from this list? Let us know which one and why you think it’s a classic in the comments below!