It’s been nearly thirty years since Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 began a spell of being repeated nationally in the UK.
With these repeat broadcasts came a fresh new line of merchandise for those four series.
While I like all the Supermarionation shows, I do have a particular fondness for Stingray, and can still remember watching the first episode when it was first broadcast in 1964.
So, consequently, I was pleased that Matchbox released this line of Stingray action figures and play sets from the famous sixties TV series following on from the success of the initial BBC UK television repeats beginning with Thunderbirds in 1991. This had prompted Matchbox to produce what became a very successful new Thunderbirds toy range in 1992, including the sell-out Tracy Island.
It transpires that in 1990, BBC Radio 5, adapted and transmitted eight of the Century 21 Records Thunderbirds audio dramas. This proved a success and the BBC decided to acquire the rights to show the TV series on UK television.
BBC 2 began broadcasting the series in September, 1991, and over its first run the series was watched on average by six million viewers. The BBC, knowing they were on to a good thing, repeated Stingray shortly after.
New toys, books and comics began to appear, with Matchbox releasing a twin pack die-cast Stingray and Terror Fish.
The two die-cast toys, although small are reasonably accurate, and relatively robust, apart from the little clear plastic periscope on Stingray which is prone to being broken off. The weak points on the Terror Fish are the plastic fins.
The bubble-packaging shows the classic pose of the craft leaping out of the ocean.
The carded back has brief descriptions of both Stingray and the Terror Fish, plus a photo of the rest of the range.
The Marineville Headquarters: This action play set features Marineville Tower with a removable top, showing the control room. Everything is a passable, but not particularly accurate representation, of the Tower and the surrounding base. It can slide down into its underground silo, just like in the show, and the two detachable Hydromic Missiles can emerge from their silos ready to defend the base. As it’s very much a toy, I would have expected the missiles to have been spring-loaded, but I imagine health & safety rules might have scuppered that!
The separately supplied small die-cast Stingray can berth behind the opening ocean door waiting to launch, which for tiny fingers could be a fiddly operation. Just for the record, in the TV series the ocean door slides down; on the toy for practical reasons, it pushes up.
One thing that the toy suffers from is the colours fading over time from blue to a sea green. Apt, I suppose. Old Stingray toys from the sixties don’t seem to have this problem.
Matchbox produced a range of Stingray action figures, although not as many as Thunderbirds, with just five in the set. All are very nicely detailed, with fairly good facial representations, and all come with a small accessory. The card back has a brief description of the character.
Captain Troy Tempest with hand gun accessory. It certainly has a passing resemblance to the puppet. He’s even got that one raised eyebrow.
Commander Sam Shore in his hover-chair; the chair is a dark blue plastic, rather than light & dark green as in the series. The figure of Commander Shore figure is just a torso, presumably for production reasons, and comes with hand gun accessory.
Marina, the girl from the sea: As Marina is wearing her seaweed dress, she has limited articulation. She also comes with a hand gun. I think I’d have preferred a different accessory, though, maybe a little figure of Oink the seal.
Titan, the evil Sea lord: He comes minus his cloak, which makes him look a bit half-dressed to me, but again, probably down to production reasons. He comes with a nicely detailed aquaphibian rifle, presumably for added play value. I don’t recall him using a rifle in the series.
Lieutenant ‘Phones’ Sheridan: Again, the figure actually looks like Phones and has a different rank insignia on his cuffs, when compared to the Troy figure. He naturally comes with a set of hydrophones. I note that this figure seems to have been added a little later as it doesn’t appear on the full range photo on the card backs.
I would have liked to have seen a few more figures- Atlanta, X-20, and an Aquaphibian; and maybe at a push, Lieutenant Fisher.
For the figures, Matchbox produced a large Stingray action submarine. The toy is 13” (330 mm) long and fits two of the figures, by removing the detachable cabin cover.
Actually, it fits two figures that can bend their legs, so Marina and Commander Shore are out.