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ThunderbirdsThunderbirds is a 1960s British science-fiction television series, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, filmed by their production company AP Films and distributed by ITC Entertainment, which was produced using a mixed method of marionette puppetry and scale-model special effects termed "Supermarionation".

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Following the earlier Supermarionation productions Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray, the series is set in the 21st century and follows the exploits of International Rescue, a secret organisation formed to save people in mortal danger with the help of technologically-advanced land, sea, air and space vehicles and equipment, launched from a hidden base on Tracy Island in the South Pacific Ocean. The main puppet characters are multi-millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, the founder of International Rescue, and his five sons, who pilot the craft of the Thunderbirds fleet. Periodically re-aired since its original 1965–66 broadcast, Thunderbirds has influenced numerous TV programmes, films and advertisements, has been followed by three feature-length films and a stage play, and has inspired various merchandising campaigns.

The events of Thunderbirds start in 2065, as confirmed in the producer-written scriptwriters' guide. Co-creator Gerry Anderson envisioned a setting of "100 years in the future" – a date supported by visual evidence in the episode "30 Minutes After Noon", and by contemporary tie-in media, such as the Thunderbirds strip in the comic TV Century 21 and the Century 21 mini-album "Thunderbird 3" (in which narrator Alan Tracy explicitly states that the year is 2065). The events of the first film sequel, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), occur in 2065 and 2067, and those of the second, Thunderbird 6 (1968), in 2068; the setting of the final TV episode, "Give or Take a Million", is Christmas 2067. The Zero-X spacecraft that appears in Thunderbirds Are Go returns in the first episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, which is also set in 2068. However, some Thunderbirds episodes suggest, either visually or verbally, other settings: 1993 vintage champagne is referenced in "Alias Mr. Hackenbacker", and according to a calendar on Tracy Island, the events of "Give or Take a Million" take place in December 2026.

The series follows the adventures of the Tracy family, headed by multi-millionaire American astronaut Jeff Tracy (one of the first to land on the Moon) and comprising his five sons: Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John – all named after one of the Mercury Seven astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper and John Glenn. Unknown to the world, the Tracys front International Rescue, a secret organisation dedicated to the preservation of human life, aided by a collection of highly-advanced land, sea, air and space rescue vehicles headed by a five-machine fleet known as the Thunderbirds.

With Jeff's elderly mother, the scientist and engineer Brains (birth name unknown, although he occasionally assumes the alias "Hiram K. Hackenbacker"), and the manservant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin (Alan's romantic interest), the Tracy family reside on a remote, un-charted island in the South Pacific Ocean (called "Tracy Island" in tie-in media, although not in the series itself), where their machines' secrets may be prevented from falling into the hands of criminals, spies and other unscrupulous persons jealous of International Rescue's technological superiority. Tracy Island's ulterior purpose is not visible from the air, since International Rescue's vehicles are launched from subterranean hangars accessible only via launch tubes concealed inside the Tracy Villa lounge. Visitors to the island remain ignorant of the Tracys' covert double life thanks to a security initiative known as "Operation Cover-Up", which erases what little evidence is outwardly visibile of International Rescue's presence.

Although the organisation's objectives are strictly humanitarian, International Rescue's operations are sometimes necessitated not by misadventure, but by deliberate sabotage that endangers human life. For missions entailing criminal investigation, or requiring military intelligence, it incorporates a worldwide network of undercover operatives, headed by English aristocrat Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and her Cockney butler and chauffeur Aloysius "Nosey" Parker. Based at Creighton-Ward Mansion in Kent, Penelope and Parker's primary mode of transport is a heavily-armed, amphibious, pink, customised Rolls-Royce called FAB 1. Foremost among International Rescue's enemies, meanwhile, is the criminal mastermind The Hood (named, like Tracy Island, only in tie-ins). Operating from an ancient temple in the Malaysian jungle, and possessing powers of hypnosis and voodoo-like dark magic, as well as being a master of physical disguise, the Hood exerts a strong telepathic influence over his estranged half-brother, Kyrano. Exploiting his sibling's weak-mindedness and inside knowledge of the International Rescue organisation, he regularly manoeuvres the Tracy brothers into rescues that unfold according to his own villainous designs; this gives the masked Hood opportunities to spy on the Thunderbirds machines and, by selling their stolen secrets, become rich.

International Rescue's radio code, "F.A.B." – defined by the Collins English Dictionary as "an expression of agreement to, or acknowledgement of, a command", – was not conceived as an acronym. When asked what the "initials" stood for in 2000, Anderson responded: "... absolutely nothing! ... The abbreviation "fab", as in "fabulous", was all the rage and I just changed it a bit." In tie-in media, the expression has been interpreted as "Fully Advised and Briefed", in a manner similar to "P.W.O.R." ("Proceeding With Orders Received"), a radio confirmation code used in Stingray, and "S.I.G." ("Spectrum Is Green") and "S.I.R." ("Spectrum Is Red"), affirmative and negative codes used in Captain Scarlet.

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