Thunderbird 6 – Is the Black Phantom the Hood?

The second and final Thunderbirds feature film of the 1960s raised a question that is still debated among fans of the show (and its films) to this day; was the villainous Black Phantom, revealed halfway through Thunderbird 6 as the mastermind behind a plan to capture Thunderbirds 1 and 2, actually the Hood? Many say not – but almost as many say yes!

The Hood’s last known photo.

This debate has its origins in the Hood’s appearance in the first film, 1966’s Thunderbirds are Go, in which he is last seen aboard a speedboat heading for a rendezvous with an army helicopter, which then attacks FAB 1 before being shot down and exploding in the sea. “I don’t think there’s much point in looking for survivors, Parker,” declares Lady Penelope following the helicopter’s destruction. Many have taken this statement as definitive proof that there were no survivors to find and thus the Hood had finally been killed off…but considering nobody ever bothered to search for survivors following the many other vehicle crashes the Hood was involved with and survived (indeed, most of the episodes he appeared in feature such crashes), why should that one particular helicopter crash have proved fatal? Especially since it took place reasonably close to land…

The first – but not last – of the Hood’s many presumed deaths.

Now we come to Thunderbird 6, and the reveal of the Black Phantom’s face is certainly directed as a “Ah ha, it’s the Hood!” moment, from his dramatic turn to the camera and the accompanying ‘dun dun dun!’ music sting. There’s no denying that the Black Phantom in Thunderbird 6 is certainly a reuse of the Hood puppet at least, albeit now sporting hair that the original never had…except for all the times that the Hood wore masks which incorporated hair. The Black Phantom appears to employ a large number of henchmen to assist with his latest scheme, which the Hood had never been seen to do on television…but it did sometimes occur in novels and comic strips. And yet, if this is meant to be a different character from the Hood, why cast such an instantly recognisable puppet in the role of a villain whose goal is to capture Thunderbirds 1 and 2 – a scheme thoroughly consistent with the Hood’s established modus operandi? The fact that the Hood’s regular voice artist (Ray Barrett) wasn’t available to contribute to the film and the Black Phantom’s voice was instead provided by Gary Files only muddies the waters still further.

“I will avenge you, my brother/father/uncle/college roommate/friend of a friend…”

Some explanations provided by those who believe these to be two different characters hold more water than others. A never-before-mentioned relative, for instance, looking to take revenge for the Hood’s demise in Thunderbirds are Go is a more credible explanation than the notion that the puppet was only reused to ‘save money’; not impossible, but a bit weak considering that Century 21 had a large assortment of puppets to choose from and an entire department devoted to the design and construction of new ones. If they were able to create puppets for the impostor Captain Foster and the laughing head abominations that open the film, why not a new puppet for the Black Phantom if he really was intended to be a different character from the instantly recognisable Hood?

Ultimately, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to the debate, and it really makes no difference to your enjoyment of Thunderbird 6 whether or not the Hood and the Black Phantom are one and the same or not. Accounts from those who worked on the film regarding his identity are contradictory at best, while evidence supporting both the ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ camps isn’t really conclusive either way. It’s a question that will probably never have a definitive answer, but it’s fun to discuss various theories!

After all, it isn’t impossible that he was never on board that helicopter to start with…

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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