In December 2000, television historian Jaz Wiseman was searching a film vault in London for material that could possibly be included on Carlton Video’s then-upcoming DVD release of Stingray. The archive’s computer records on the series produced a mysterious search result; a film reel simply named Stingray – Japanese Linking Material.
Having been hired by Carlton as their advisor on all things ITC-related, Jaz was by now used to the vault’s contents not matching their computer records 100% – but to his astonishment the film reel was exactly where it was supposed to be, and upon playing it he was further amazed to discover Stingray footage that was not part of any known episode, which had never been seen before – and which even long-time fans were completely unaware of!
Running just over four minutes long, the footage featured Commander Shore in his apartment playing films of four Stingray missions (i.e. old episodes) to his friend Admiral Denver; the pilot episode, An Echo of Danger, Raptures of the Deep, and Emergency Marineville. Featuring the original voice cast of Don Mason, Robert Easton, Lois Maxwell, Ray Barrett and David Graham, and written and directed by Alan Pattillo, the material had apparently been shot in June 1964 for a compilation film intended to be shown to Japanese television executives during a visit to the AP Films studio to help encourage them to purchase the series. Seemingly never completed, the footage had instead been shelved until its rediscovery over thirty years later.
The material was found just in time to be included on the UK Stingray DVD release in 2001 (albeit too late to include any explanation of what it actually was) and the news of its discovery was first broken publicly in issue 41 of the Fanderson magazine FAB. The obvious question now was; when might the material be edited into an actual completed episode?
In 2007, BBC Wales and Granada International provided the answer in the form of The Reunion Party, edited by Andy Walter and produced by Jeff Simpson, and first broadcast on BBC 4 on January 2nd 2008 as part of their evening of programming celebrating the life and work of Gerry Anderson. Produced as a thirty-minute episode rather than a movie-length compilation, and cropped into a 16:9 aspect ratio instead of the show’s original 4:3, the episode played several times that year on both BBC 4 and BBC 2. To fit the timeslot the linking material into and out of Raptures of the Deep was removed, thereby dropping that flashback from The Reunion Party entirely, and additional music (in the form of a cover version of March of the Oysters) was added over most of the linking scenes.
Network’s recent Blu-ray release of Stingray also included the first-ever home media release of The Reunion Party among the set’s special features (as well as the original unedited linking material), using the 2007 BBC 4 edit as a template but now restoring the episode to its original 4:3 aspect ratio in full High Definition. Again Raptures of the Deep was omitted, as was the additional music that had been added to the linking scenes for the BBC 4 version, and several other smaller edits were made to make the episode flow more smoothly.
The rediscovery of the Japanese Linking Material back in 2000 was an incredible archive find (particularly so since it was something we never even knew existed to begin with) and its metamorphosis into The Reunion Party gave us, to all intents and purposes, a genuine fortieth episode of Stingray – even if it was the show’s second clip show episode!