“A beautiful island in the Pacific, secret base of International Rescue – so far, undetected. Outwardly, the luxury home of millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy.”
Most visitors to Tracy Island have no idea that it is anything other than the idyllic tropical paradise it appears to be, but the select few who know the island’s true purpose (including viewers of the Thunderbirds television series) are well aware that beneath the security façade of Operation Cover Up lies the headquarters of the International Rescue organisation!
To the outside world, the Tracy villa is the most prominent feature of the island. The largest surface structure on the island, the villa is surrounded by rocks to the rear of the building but is situated high enough to offer a spectacular view of the surrounding ocean. The interior decor design theme is largely oriental, as seen throughout the lounge and other rooms. The lounge is where many of the island’s residents can be found during the day, and it is from here that Jeff Tracy directs International Rescue operations from his desk in the corner of the room. On the opposite wall are five portraits of his sons (usually in their International Rescue uniforms, but these can be substituted for ‘casual’ portraits during Operation Cover Up) which act as direct videophone links to each of them during International Rescue operations. These screens have also demonstrated other uses, displaying a radar screen and a map of the villa on occasions.
This map seen in Day of Disaster is somewhat consistent with what little we see of the villa’s interior layout, including the lounge’s unnamed side room most prominently seen in Sun Probe, the hall from Security Hazard, and the patio veranda overlooking the swimming pool, although keeping the villa’s geography 100% consistent with this map from episode to episode would not have been a priority for the Thunderbirds creative team. It certainly doesn’t appear to include enough bedrooms for all the island’s regular residents (presumably more are located on the floor below the one shown on the map), although the only bedrooms we ever get to see on screen are Jeff’s, Virgil’s, Alan’s, and Tin-Tin’s (plus another in The Cham-Cham that might possibly be Gordon’s). Curiously for a villa that’s home to so many people, mention is only ever made of a single bathroom (although that doesn’t mean there aren’t more).
One notable room not featured on the map is the large kitchen area, seen in several episodes as the primary responsibility of Grandma Tracy – except for the nuclear-powered cooker, of course! Drinks are generally served by Kyrano, although surprisingly for such a large home meals are often shown being eaten in the kitchen rather than a separate dining room.
Recreational facilities around the villa include a games room, a shooting range (both seen in Operation Crash-Dive), a library, music room, and cinema. For those who fancy relaxing on the water (although not too far away from the island!) a pleasure yacht and a motorboat are also both available, as seen in 30 Minutes After Noon and End of the Road respectively. At least two personal jets are also stationed on the island, as Jeff Tracy takes one to Australia for his holiday in Atlantic Inferno while the red ‘Ladybird’ jet is also seen in The Cham-Cham and Give or Take a Million, in which it is used for a Christmas supplies shopping trip to the mainland.
A staircase descending from the first floor of the villa leads to the swimming pool, where the Tracy family and guests to the island spend much of their spare time. Situated over Thunderbird 1’s launch bay, the pool area has to be cleared in order to allow the pool to retract and the craft to launch.
Concealed immediately behind the lounge is Thunderbird 1 herself, which can be accessed via the revolving wall panel in the lounge before the rocket descends to her launch bay under the swimming pool. Access to Thunderbird 2 is attained either by the launch chute (concealed behind the painting of a space rocket) or by means of the passenger elevator. Although we see the elevator arriving in Thunderbird 2 several times in the series, we do not know exactly where in the villa passengers board it from.
Among the lounge furniture is a sofa large enough to seat three, located just in front of Jeff Tracy’s desk. This is the concealed entrance to Thunderbird 3’s launch bay, triggered by buttons on the desk, and as the sofa descends vertically to the bay a second sofa rises to replace it. Although access to Thunderbird 3 would seem to be of vital importance to International Rescue’s operations this sofa can apparently be removed or relocated if needed, since it tends to move around the lounge during episodes that don’t feature Thunderbird 3.
Thunderbird 2’s launch bay is concealed behind the cliff face at the end of the runway (the palm trees along which can famously fall backwards if needed), and contains the giant International Rescue transporter plus the conveyer belt of six pods it uses during rescue operations. Close by are vehicle bays for the pod vehicles (as seen in Cry Wolf), suggesting that despite appearances (and occasional dialogue) each pod is not kept permanently supplied with the same equipment – with the exception of Thunderbird 4 being permanently stationed in Pod 4, of course! In Sun Probe we see Brains selecting individual cases of equipment from an unknown room on the island before having them sent on to the pod “via the automatic beltway”, suggesting that some degree of planning and preparation has to go into the selection of rescue equipment.
Directly overlooking the runway and the door to Thunderbird 2’s hangar is a structure known as the Cliff House, a two-storey building presumably containing more guest rooms as well as a room known as ‘landing control’, where emergency measures can be deployed to assist aircraft in distress. The cliff house also houses an experimental testing facility seen in City of Fire, as well as a sick room for medical emergencies as seen in the same episode. The balcony overlooking the runaway allows an excellent view of launches and landings, although the Tracy family seem to prefer to be standing alongside the runway itself when saying goodbye to a departing friend. At the far end of the runway from the cliff house (which can be lowered to launch Thunderbird 4) is a staircase leading down to a jetty.
Thunderbird 3’s launch bay sits directly below the Round House, about which little is known since the interior of the building never appeared on television. Likely used as accommodation for visitors to the island, the Round House was a single storey building when it first appeared in Sun Probe but had gained a second interior storey by the time of the Thunderbirds are Go movie. Connecting all hangar bays and vehicle docks around the base is an observation vehicle known as the monocar, which runs along a single track overlooking each bay (which presumably features stations to allow passengers to board and exit the vehicle as needed).
Several episodes of Thunderbirds feature a laboratory where Brains is often to be found hard at work, although the inconsistencies between each appearance of ‘the lab’ suggest that there could be more than one. Presumably several of the rooms we see during the course of the series are concealed below ground (along with many other facilities vital to the base’s operations), although Edge of Impact and Give or Take a Million suggest there are at least two labs within the villa itself.
Communications with Thunderbird 5 are maintained via an aerial mast located somewhere on the island (as seen in Attack of the Alligators!) although far enough away from the Tracy villa that it requires an aircraft to reach it if maintenance is needed. Some Thunderbirds fans have suggested that this aerial is stationed on nearby Mateo Island, mentioned in background material to the series for many years as being a secret International Rescue maintenance facility and supply complex, but Mateo was never mentioned on screen and the aerial’s exact location is difficult to ascertain.
Various areas of Tracy Island have been renovated or redecorated over the years that International Rescue has been operating, including parts of the vehicle hangar bays and the villa lounge itself, and no doubt will continue to be refined in order to best serve the needs of the organisation. However, Tracy Island has so far proven itself to be the ideal cover for International Rescue’s activities – as well as a wonderful home for those who live there!