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Stingray (TV show)

Cover from Stingray
DVD box set (2001). Note
Stingray submarine beneath logo.
Cast, L to R: Atlanta, Troy,
Marina and Phones.

Stingray is a children's puppet television show, made by Sylvia and Gerry Anderson. An AP Films production for ATV and ITC Entertainment. 39 half-hour episodes, 1964 - 1965. Originally screened on ITV in the UK and syndication in the US. Scripts by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Alan Fennell, and Dennis Spooner. Music composed and conducted by Barry Gray. Special Effects Director Derek Meddings.

Stingray was the first Supermarionation show to be filmed in colour, and also the first in which puppets had interchangeable heads with different facial expressions.

Supercar had featured a vehicle that could travel on land, sea and air, and Fireball XL5 featured a spaceship. The next logical step was a series about a submarine, although this presented a number of technical challenges.

For scenes where model submarines or puppets were seen underwater, they were actually floated on wires through a dry set, but the camera filmed them through a narrow water tank containing air bubbles and fish of different sizes (giving the impression that they were at different distances from the camera), thereby convincingly creating the illusion that the models or puppets were underwater. This was enhanced by the use of lighting effects which gave the impression of shafts of light refracted through the surface of the sea.

Scenes on the ocean's surface were filmed using a large tank that was filled with water dyed blue. To prevent the edges of the tank from showing it was deliberately overfilled so that the water would constantly spill over the edges and conceal them. These techniques were so successful that they were also used in Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

Story and Characters

"Stand by for action! We are about to launch Stingray! Anything can happen in the next half-hour!" These words, accompanied by a montage of action scenes, get each episode off to a rousing start.

Stingray, a highly sophisticated submarine built for speed and manouevrability, is the flagship of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, a 21st Century security organisation based at Marineville, located somewhere near the west coast of the United States. In case of an attack the entire city can be lowered into the ground on hydraulic jacks. Marineville is 20 miles (32 km) inland, and Stingray is launched through a tunnel leading to the Pacific Ocean. "Action Stations", "Launch Stations" and "Battle Stations" are sounded not by sirens but by recordings of Native American-style drumming (composed and recorded by series composer Barry Gray).

The pilot of Stingray is the square-jawed Captain Troy Tempest (modelled on James Garner), accompanied by Dixie navigator "Phones", so called because of his skill at interpreting hydrophone bleeps. (His real name, George Sheridan, is referred to in the show's publicity but never actually spoken). Troy and Phones board Stingray by sitting in their command chairs, which are lowered into the submarine on long poles. They take their orders from the crusty, wheelchair-bound Commander Sam Shore, whose daughter Atlanta Shore is also a WASP operative and enamoured of Troy.

During the course of the series Stingray encounters lots of underwater races, hostile and otherwise. In the pilot episode Stingray is attacked by the forces of King Titan of Titanica (modelled on Laurence Olivier), and Troy and Phones are captured. They are rescued by Titan's slave girl Marina (modelled on Brigitte Bardot), a beautiful mute young woman who can breathe underwater. Troy is immediately smitten with Marina, and Atlanta becomes jealous. Meanwhile Titan swears revenge for Marina's betrayal. Marina becomes a regular member of Stingray's crew, and later acquires a seal cub called Oink, who features in a number of episodes.

Many subsequent episodes involve Titan's schemes to destroy Stingray and Marineville. These often fail due to the incompetence of Titan's surface spy, Agent X Two Zero (modelled on Claude Rains, but sounding like Peter Lorre).

Voice actors

In addition to the 39 television episodes, three original "audio adventures" featuring the original voice cast were released on EPs during the show's British run. These were later reissued on tape, and are included on the British DVD box set of the series.

One of these audio episodes reveals that Marina is not actually mute at all. She and her people have been cursed by Titan; if any of them speaks another will die. They are not certain if this is true, but none of them dares find out, and so for years they have lived in self-imposed silence.

Stingray represented a breakthrough from Fireball XL5 both in terms of special effects techniques and storytelling. The love triangle between Atlanta, Troy and Marina is a surprisingly mature development for a children's show, and is even reflected in the closing credits where Troy sings "Aqua Marina" while Atlanta gazes wistfully at Troy's photograph.

Some feminists have complained about the inclusion of a mute and apparently subservient female character, but in fact Marina is no shrinking violet. She is tough and resourceful and quite capable of making her own decisions, even if she cannot voice them.