« TV Shows - Terrahawks / An Introduction to Terrahawks
Terrahawks is one of those shows where it's difficult to know what to make of it. Terrahawks was made in 1983; quite some time after Captain Scarlet and UFO and it inherits some of the dark and slightly-bland seriousness from those shows. After all, Terrahawks also inherits from those series, the premise of the secret military force, defending the Earth from aliens. At the same time, it began to introduce some wacky, bizarre and humorous elements, not all of which carry over particularly-well into the present day. The show was televised in 1983 and was never shown on television again. Despite this, the show has, like Star Fleet, a smaller following than Thunderbirds and yet its followers are very passionate about it.
My First Impressions of Terrahawks
I first saw Terrahawks when I was little through my parents renting for me the handful of volumes of Terrahawks on VHS that our Global Video store in Ashington had available. I saw Star Fleet in just the same way and both shows were very memorable and had a definite impression on me. I had sketchbooks that I filled up with drawings of spacecraft and other vehicles from the both Star Fleet and Terrahawks. I remember finding it quite a scary show then, particularly on account of Sram and other monsters that featured in the show. Much later on, I caught the DVD and more recently, the Blu-ray releases. While I find the show enjoyable, I don't get the same degree of enjoyment from it as I do from Star Fleet. Gerry Anderson was quoted some years ago as saying that Terrahawks was his least favourite of the shows that he made, and by some degree. At the time, I felt that the remark was a bit harsh and I was sad that he didn't hold his work in higher regard. Looking at the show now in 2018, and in higher definition than ever available before, I think I can see what he means.
I think one reason that the show hasn't aged well is that the special effects are not as consistently well done as Thunderbirds, which was made about 20 years earlier. This was mostly due to the fact that the show was made on a much tighter budget by a smaller number of people that weren't as experienced. Methods such as the weathering and dirtying of the models that were well-established as early as when Stingray was made in 1964, weren't adopted until very late in Terrahawks' pre-production. As a result, the photographs of clean, featureless ship models, that were used as references for toys and merchandise, were missing decals, panel lines, scorch marks near the engines etc. This was said to have a negative impact on the quality of the Terrahawks toys that were produced. In one later episode, the makers decided that they would like to make an episode that was an homage, referencing the 1978 series Battlestar Galactica. This was done within the budget of a single Terrahawks episode; a show whose budget was much smaller than Galactica's in the first place. When you combine the remarkable work that went into creating big-screen effects on a small, small-screen budget with the overall weirdness of the episode, the result is about as good as you might reasonably expect; very impressive in some ways and weird and slightly awkward to watch in others. The puppets, which were made completely differently to those in Thunderbirds, looked strange and were seemingly filmed very close-up, which exposed their weirdness even more. Watching some scenes can be weirdly disturbing and psychadelic.
Terrahawks' characters are a bit of a mixture. The only really likeable human character is Hawkeye because he's friendly, cheerful and full of rhyming responses. Zelda, the leader of the aliens is entertaining when scolding her minions and remonstrating with the earthlings; similar to Cmdr Makara from Star Fleet. The same actress; Denise Bryer voiced both characters in the shows' English-language versions. That leaves the zeroids, who are rolling, spherical robots, used by the Terrahawks in great quantities as footsoldiers. In charge of them is Sergeant Major Zero (voice by Windsor Davies). He is the most entertaining character and basically rescues the show on his own. Space Sergeant 101 is Zero's deputy in charge of the legions of zeroids on-board the space station; Spacehawk. Dix-Huit, complete with french accent programming is the griper in Zero's platoon. I almost forgot about the hapless civilian character; Stu Dapples. His reactions to the events unfolding around him are pretty good. In one scene, Stu is on the phone with Dix-Huit, trying to speak to Hudson. Unknown to Stu, Hudson is a talking Rolls-Royce that is presently in the car wash. Dix-Huit tells Stu "He is in the shower! He will get back to you, but first, his body must be waxed and polished". That maybe gives you and idea about how crazy the show is.
If you've not seen the series, based on what I've said above, you might be wondering what the point of watching it might be. Anyone that ever watched an episode of Thunderbirds knows that the most important thing about any Gerry Anderson show is the hardware. In this show, the vehicles are the stuff of Thunderbirds but stretched to the limit of credulity. The ships, the robots, the launch sequences all sit right on the border between brilliance and craziness ...
The first thing to greet any alien invader is SpaceHawk. This huge, orbital gun platform can be repositioned into any orbit and can travel to other planets in the solar system. For this reason, the Terrahawks have no moonbase or any other off-Earth, shown in the series, apart from a tracking station on Pluto. You would think that it would make sense for them to have more than one SpaceHawk though so that one can remain near Earth while the other carries out a mission. That being said, Spacehawk is so powerful and effective when engaged on its own terms that you can imaging that building a second ship would be hugely prohibitive. The enemy has a number of clever ways of getting around SpaceHawk. It would be a fairly dull show otherwise. They miniaturize their ships, manipulate time, hide in the shadow of civilian ships or use those ships like human shields etc.
For those eventualities, Hawkwing serves as their in-atmosphere interceptor. Hawkwing is comfortably the best ship in Terrahawks with a launch sequence that puts all Thunderbirds launch sequences in the shade. It launches down a long tunnel on a giant catapult arm that runs along a track on the ceiling. At the mouth of the tunnel, a giant rotor on a lake bed creates a vortex in the water and Hawkwing takes off through the vortex. The aircraft has two sections and two pilots. The two sections can separate and operate as independent aircraft. When the two aircraft are combined, the cockpit module from the rear section can be lowered into the front section via two mechanical arms. This allows the rear section to separate and be flown remotely, into the enemy and used as a giant cruise missile. The ship has two long particle accelerator guns in its nose section, a large plasma cannon that glows red when firing, as well as stingwing missiles and rocket pods.
The enemy occasionally manages to shield itself from HawkWing's attacks and, if they make it down to Earth, the BattleHawk is dispatched to investigate and clean up. The BattleHawk is hangared directly below the White House mansion and in order for it to launch, the house tilts forward, revealing the launch tunnel. The Battlehawk resembles to the X-Bomber from Star Fleet with its wings removed. It is streamlined but oddly brick-like at the same time. The bridge area of BattleHawk can separate and fly off on its own as its own ship called the Terrahawk. The idea of this is that the smaller Terrahawk can land more easily on a higher vantage points and direct any ensuing battle. Battlehawk has some interesting equipment onboard, including an extending excavator mechanism that is used to effect a cave rescue. The BattleHawk is presumably armed but never involves itself directly in the fighting. Whenever it needs defending, it drops the BattleTank.
The BattleTank is the best ground vehicle in the show because of how simple it is as a design. It is a wedge-shaped, tracked vehicle with a very low profile, that can absorb almost no end of punishment. It has no turret exactly. Instead, it has an 18-tube vertical launch system at the back that fires mortars or missiles at harder targets and those beyond line of sight. The BattleTank is controlled by two megazoids, which are dome-shaped artificial intelligence units, integrated into the top of the vehicle. The megazoids have two cameras and two laser machine guns for use on softer, closer targets. The idea presumably is A) that they can divide their fire between two targets, B) focus their monitoring within their own 180' zones and C) that the vehicle can continue to fight if one megazoid is damaged or destroyed. In one episode, the enemy attaches a bomb to Battletank, destroying it outright. There must be additional battletanks or the facility to manufacture more quickly, since Battlehawk is re-supplied with a replacement very quickly. In one (dream) episode, it is shown that there is more than one BattleTank and that they are capable of operating on the Moon. One of the tanks has the starboard megazoid replaced with a large orange turret with two powerful cannons, indicating that the vehicle is modular and customisable, according to mission requirements. This second Battletank lacks the recovery bar, since it was obviously intended to be used without Battlehawk, which flies only in-atmosphere. The heat exchangers behind the megazoid are also different. Go and enjoy David Sisson's behind the scenes images of the Battletank: The Battletank from Terrahawks
Treehawk shuttles personnel between Earth and SpaceHawk. It is also used for reconnaissance and for any space travel away from SpaceHawk. It launches as a single-stage rocket from a giant, artificial tree that splits several ways to reveal the launch silo. The ship has a dual laser turret that pops up from the top of the ship and can fire across a 360' arc. The ship has wings that pop up from the rocket's sides and extend as well as powerful retros for re-entry. A pair of skids extend from the underside, allowing it to land like a shuttle.
Hawklet is a small shuttle that partly replaces TreeHawk about two thirds of the way through the show. It's not clear why this was introduced since it is smaller, less impressive and apparently less capable than TreeHawk. It has no armaments that are demonstrated in the show.
Terrahawks have their own Martian Exploration Vehicle (not the same one from Captain Scarlet or Thunderbirds Are Go). This one is mostly yellow and orange and gets used a number of times in the series and is no less lethal than it's counterpart in Captain Scarlet. The vehicle is effectively a dropship with caterpillar tracks. It can also lift off and return to SpaceHawk under its own power. It has a mechanical arm that carries a manipulator claw and a powerful laser cannon that inflicts major disruption on Zelda's complex in the MEV's debut appearance....
Cool Ships - AS-5 Proteus
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