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Thunder In Paradise #8

I've just been watching Queen live at the Hammersmith Odeon on Christmas Eve 1975. It was wonderful. :) But for now we're not here to talk about Queen, for 'tis time for another episode of Thunder In Paradise.

I have no idea who wrote episode 1x11, "Nature Of The Beast" (I suppose I should have checked), but whoever it was deserves some kind of award for warped creativity. This one may just be about as mental as television gets, although undoubtedly not in whatever way you're thinking.

So, Bru is teaching Jessica a song, whilst playing a ukulele. Remember the uke, for it may be important later on. It's a bouncy sort of song, but when Spence comes along, he throws a hissy fit, for it is The Most Annoying Song In The World, and he doesn't want his daughter singing it. I can sympathise, actually. When this episode first aired, back in the mid-nineties, I wound up singing that blasted song for the rest of the weekend. The guy I was living with at the time threatened to feed me the three piece suite if I didn't shut up; and, to be fair, he had a point. So I can see where Spence is coming from. But I digress.

Elsewhere, there is a botanist. She's trying to obtain a sample of a rare orchid, only known to grow on one island; an island that, we later learn, the American military has banned anybody from going to. I'm not sure how or why the American military feel that they can do that re an island in international waters, but I'm not going to quibble. There's something else on the island, besides flowers and a highly excitable botanist. There is a Something. Some time later, when the botanist fails to return home, her father decides to hire Spence and Bru to go find her. Which is where the trouble starts, on all manner of levels.

The father's name is Dai Ri. He's another botanist. There's botanists aplenty in this episode, as Bru turns out to be one as well. Well, why not? He's qualified in everything else. Dai Ri is something else too, though. He's the very same Vietnamese officer who held Bru prisoner for an unspecified length of time during The War That None Of Them Are Old Enough To Have Fought In (otherwise known as Vietnam), and tortured him. Repeatedly. Yep, dear old Thunder In Paradise has taken it upon itself to do a PTSD episode. As if that isn't inadvisable enough on its own, wait until you see what that particular plot has been twinned with. Deeply upset, as one might well be under such circumstances, Bru grapples manfully with a truly appalling script, in an effort to be properly traumatised. As far as I can work out, from the bits of black and white footage that we're shown at random intervals (otherwise known as The World Of Semi-Naked Flashback!Bru), Dai Ri killed Bru's brother, and Bru went AWOL in order to exact his revenge. So far, so Arnold Schwarzenegger. Clearly it didn't go well, and we're shown a veritable barrage of Bru-in-a-cage, Bru getting the stuffing beaten out of him, and a freezing cold and desperately weak Bru singing to himself in an effort to stay conscious, as if he passes out, he drowns. So it's all cheerful stuff, then (although, it must be said, genuinely well performed by everybody). Meanwhile, back in the present, off the boys go to rescue our intrepid botanist friend, who is, of course, lost in a jungle. TV Law #79 demands that all shows featuring Vietnam vets will, at some point, have an episode where they end up in a jungle, just to be sure that they can have lots of flashbacks. Cue flashbacks, therefore, in between which the boys discover the other half of this week's plot. Yep, cast your minds back to earlier on, when the botanist was menaced by a Something. And what is this Something? Why it's an invisible alien monster of course. A giant, growling, blur of green light on the screen, that wibbles backwards and forwards, and blows trees up. For it is a scary invisible alien monster, and it won't let no damned tree look at it funny. No sir. It's at this point that Spence, staring thoughtfully into the undergrowth, announces that: "Things are getting strange." No, really Spence? You think?

Just to make sure that the past isn't outdone by the present, though, way back in Flashback Land Spence turns up. Literally. In fact he pops up from somewhere underwater, next to Bru's cage. At this point in history, the boys are not yet friends, although it turns out that Spence knew Bru's brother. After hearing about a rogue SEAL (snicker), he set out in pursuit, because going rogue ain't the SEAL way, man. Spence has a quite extraordinary approach to dealing with half-dead, heavily traumatised torture victims, by the way. I'm fairly sure that the guidebook doesn't advise holding a knife to their throats and looking sinister. Anyway, with Spence's help, Semi-Naked Flashback!Bru is able to escape, whereupon he spontaneously grows a shirt, which is quite an impressive trick. Shame that David Banner never learnt that one. A lurking Vietcong, perhaps jealous of such magical prowess, tries to shoot him, but Spence, because he is a Hero, leaps in front of the bullet. He then picks Bru up and hurls them both into the river, and they float off down it, with Bru singing his little song to keep them both awake, and consequently alive. It's a barrel of laughs, this stuff, isn't it. Which makes it all the more bizarre when we're suddenly thrown forward again into the nineties, where Spence and Bru have found the botanist, and amidst vast swathes of fabulously gratuitous exploding, get her into Thunder, which has now grown a medical bay. I swear the inside of that boat gets bigger every week. They hurtle off away from the island, but – oh no! – the invisible evil alien monster has hitched a lift, and begins to blast its way inside. The rocking of the boat causes Bru's ukulele to fall loose from its shelf, and the monster reacts in horror to the sound. It's something acoustic, reckons Bru, whose Super Science Powers have a remarkable ability to spring to the defence of a flailing script. Consequently he heroically grabs his Ukulele Of Death, and begins to strum. It's not often that you see a man using a ukulele to defeat an invisible alien; especially when the programme he's doing it in is simultaneously attempting a serious plot about torture, trauma and forgiveness. On reflection, there's probably a reason for that. As the alien falls overboard, having been beaten back by the Deadly Ukulele Of Doom, the boys explodify it with a burst from the engines. Then they go home, where the Formerly Evil Botanist Of Great Bru Torture presents the gang with a new orchid hybrid, which he's named after Bru's brother. Although it does seem a bit odd to me that, in an episode about forgiveness, nobody ever gave a thought to forgiving the alien. I mean, give it twenty years, and they might have decided that they quite like it, too. Then Spence and Bru sing The Most Annoying Song In The World with Jessica, because apparently it's been forgiven as well.

So there you have it. I have no idea what the moral of this one is. Probably "Under no circumstances ever try to combine a story about torture, war, death and forgiveness, with a story in which a computer geek wins the day by twanging a ukulele at an invisible alien". But then, if Thunder had followed that advice, I wouldn't have this episode. And I love this episode. So there.

A highly excitable botanist...

... and her formerly evil father.

Semi-Naked Flashback!Bru. In a floaty cage.



The footprints of an evil alien monster.

An evil alien monster, in one of its slightly less invisible phases.

Semi-Naked Grimy Flashback!Bru.

Spence models the world's silliest pair of binoculars.

The first meeting of Our Heroes.

Spence's unusual approach to putting the prisoner at his ease.

Stop looking at the camera, Spencer.

No, really, stop it. You're freaking Bru out.

Apparently the reason Spence rescued Bru was for a make-out session.
Note Bru's shirt, which has magically appeared from nowhere.

Rescuing Botany Girl, whilst simultaneously blowing up the entire world.

Fabulously improbable interior shot, with new medical bay. You've got to love that boat.

Oh noes! The alien is aboard!

Bru and his Magic Shirt attempt to shoot Dai Ri, but can't. This is because Bru is a Good Guy.

Bru is either scared of the invisible alien, or of the script. The jury's out on that one.

With Spence shot, and Bru already weak and injured, the boys float away down the river.

Spence is unimpressed by the suggestion that they sing The World's Most Annoying Song in an effort to not die.
Don't worry, boys. Twenty years from now, your traumas will be accorded proper respect by the writers.

One man. One alien. One super ukulele.

Aw. Although I think you're supposed to go into the sunset, guys, not past it.

Careful with that, Jessica. You never know what it might do.


Next time on Thunder In Paradise, Hammerhead is back. I suspect there may be wrestling.


( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 27th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
this episode is a bit like Magnum PI--on acid--crossed with the Care Bears.
Nov. 28th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
That's not a bad analogy, now you come to mention it.
Nov. 29th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
This episode sounds awesome...and of course you have a most hilarious way of expounding it. Looks like great drama from Chris Lemmon.
Was it really Vietnam?? Must have been. Why does Hollywood insist on putting these young guys in Vietnam? Like Jon-Erik's Cover Up, his character, Mac Harper, was a former green beret before he turns Model/CIA 'outrider spy/bodyguard to the photographer...I can buy that he was a green beret, but not, at 26 and a 1/2, a green beret in Nam!!
Nov. 29th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
TV loves Vietnam vets, I guess, no matter how absurd. In The A-Team, Face had to have been a green beret as a teenager. Now, I know that he was a supposed to be a conman, but to con yourself into that?!
( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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