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Thunderbirds Thursday: The Supernatural Enigma of the Hood

Thunderbirds boasts a wonderfully memorable line-up of heroic space-age rescuers and spies as its ensemble line-up of protagonists, arguably lacking a single main character. From the head and founder of International Rescue to his five sons who each pilot the main Thunderbird craft, the aristocrat-turned-undercover operative and her faithful ex-criminal chauffer, Thunderbirds‘ much-loved line-up of heroes is countered by an eclectic rogues gallery of one-off villains.

At the centre of this ruthless array of saboteurs, enemy agents and hijackers is the Hood, master criminal of disguise and International Rescue’s arch nemesis. Brilliantly performed with bombastic aplomb by the talented Ray Barrett, the Hood’s hateful desire to seize the technological secrets of International Rescue for his own wealthy ambitions gives the series a powerful enemy force to reckon with.

In concept, the Hood is a sure-fire winner for the series. But in execution, doesn’t the Hood appear as a surreal addition to the series? Why and how does Thunderbirds‘ technologically utopian world, where the certainty of science and engineering reign supreme, find room for a villain with bizarrely supernatural abilities? This Thunderbirds Thursday, we’re looking at how the supernatural enigma of the Hood fits into the world of Thunderbirds!

A Supernatural Mystery

The Hood enters and exits Thunderbirds as an undeniable enigma. He only appears in six episodes, has a family connection to the Tracy’s manservant Kyrano which Kyrano himself appears oblivious to, possibly gets killed off in Thunderbirds Are Go, but then either reappears in Thunderbird 6, or else some previously unknown family member attempts to avenge him. His status as International Rescue’s main enemy provides many stand-out moments, including several climactic chase sequences in Trapped in the Sky and Martian Invasion. Beyond these, the Hood is responsible for one of Thunderbirds‘ shocking confrontations when he buries Brains up to his neck in scorching desert sands in Desperate Intruder.

Aside from these, there’s a level of disconnection between the Hood and International Rescue. They don’t appear to meet on a thematically equal footing. This apparent lack of cohesion is reflected in the Hood’s brief run of appearances throughout the series, as well as the lack of any genuine resolution between his efforts against International Rescue.

What does the Hood represent for Thunderbirds, then? Is he ultimately a hinderance on the series? A character who leans too heavily into fantasy territory for the series? Or rather, does his out-of-reach nature provide Thunderbirds with a beguiling sense of supernatural-flavoured mystery?

A Villainous Presence

The Hood’s most defining features are his preference for elaborate disguises and his hostile powers of extreme hypnotism. Totally in command of these powers, the Hood possesses the surreal ability to have his eyes light up and draw anyone in his gaze under his influence. It’s an aspect of his character that goes weirdly unhighlighted during the series’ events. It’s simply presented as being another element of his villainy, but it also makes him hugely noticeable amidst Gerry Anderson enemies.

Characters with magical abilities were nothing new for Supermarionation, but prior to Thunderbirds, such characters were generally aliens from outer space or under the world’s oceans. The Hood remains the only Supermarionation-era human character of Gerry Anderson’s body of work to boast strangely magical abilities. Granted, they’re used to unnerving effect, but doesn’t the Hood’s powers feel so jarringly out-of-sync for a series which places the white heat of technology firmly at its centre?

The Hood has his roots in Thunderbirds requiring something of a semi-regular villain to counter the heroes. The advanced nature of International Rescue’s life-saving technology naturally meant that the outfit has to live in secrecy and that nefarious individuals would want to acquire the outfit’s vehicles for destructive means, something Jeff Tracy explains himself in Trapped in the Sky. The Hood’s inception makes perfect sense here, but it’s all the more intriguing to think that his supernatural edge was an inspired afterthought.

If Thunderbirds champions the global benefits of a technologically advanced future-world, it perhaps makes perfect sense for the series’ main antagonist to be an individual who exists outside of these parameters. The Hood’s eerie persona as a master of disguise with hypnotic powers injects a menacing undertone into Thunderbirds – a villain who may not always succeed in capturing the Thunderbirds’ secrets, but who always slips back into the shadows, a lingering hostility for International Rescue which is never quite resolved.

Whether through purposeful design or happy accident, no aspect of the Hood is treated with concrete certainty. Somehow, he enters the series with knowledge of International Rescue’s existence before the organisation’s first mission. His criminal enterprise isn’t entirely restricted to the supernatural – the Hood operates out of a technologically advanced temple hidden deep within some undisclosed jungle. Appearing mostly as a lone wolf, Thunderbirds still utilises the Hood’s precious few appearances to maximum intrigue with Edge of Impact and Martian Invasion. In Edge of Impact, the Hood is shown to be willing to collaborate with other foreign enemies (for the right price!), whilst in Martian Invasion, we learn that the Hood could well be also operating for a much wider and far more elusive criminal network when he attempts to deliver footage of International Rescue to the mysterious General, and does so under another codename – Agent 79.

Once again, these aspects come and go without set-up or resolve in their respective episodes. They’re treated as everyday occurrences for the Hood, confirming that we can never truly know just how far the Hood’s status and influence in the criminal underworld reaches. The mysterious aura surrounding the Hood remains fully intact.

The Enigma Remains

Of course, the Hood’s dangerous hypnotic abilities could simply be a product of the continuing advances of Supermarionation technology. Having perfected the use of ‘smiler’, ‘frowner’ and ‘blinker’ puppet heads on Stingray, the inclusion of the Hood’s glowing eyes might simply be because A.P. Films’ puppet department could just… do it. A thrown-in facet of the puppet’s physical creation. Easier for a puppet’s eyes to light up than a human actor’s, after all!

Perhaps it’s the very fact that the Hood feels so inappropriate to the world of Thunderbirds is the reason he remains such an effective presence. Appearing in so few episodes ensures that he isn’t an overplayed character, whilst his infamously transcendent scowl ensures that he always leaves a lasting impression in each of his episodes.

Thunderbirds therefore finds room for mystical speculation within its world of scientific conviction, placing the emphasis on how these powers of unknowable origin are used for pure malevolence. There’s no character in Thunderbirds who can claim to be as hauntingly menacing as the Hood. His powers may present the series with some confoundingly unexplained mysteries, but viewed in the wider context of how the Hood functions as International Rescue’s primary villain, his phantom presence gains clarity. Those staring eyes, of which no-one is impervious to, serves as a concise visual encapsulation of the Hood’s enigmatic yet frightening impact.

Thunderbirds‘ ability therefore to carve out a space for a strong dose of dark fantasy amidst its high-tech sci-fi adventure is a welcome reminder of how the series can fold in multiple genres into its thematic wheelhouse. Whilst International Rescue can always be counted upon to save the day, those horrible piercing eyes may always be lurking where you least expect…

International Rescue’s adventures against the Hood continue in the full-cast audio drama Thunderbirds Versus The Hood! Download these exciting adventures from the pages of TV Century 21 now!

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Written by
Fred McNamara

Atomic-powered writer/editor. Website editor at Official Gerry Anderson. Author of Flaming Thunderbolts: The Definitive Story of Terrahawks. Also runs Gerry Anderson comic book blog Sequential 21.

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