Tracy Island

J. Lester Novros II

of all Supermarionation series, Thunderbirds is arguably the most emblematic. Not only was it the only one that merited 50 mins episodes, it could also boast on having the best machines, the most exciting story lines and a whole host of characters easily identified with. But its single outstanding feature has to be International Rescue's secret base, Tracy Island. Designed by Derek Meddings, with its hidden launch facilities for three of the five IR rescue craft and the outrageous ways of reaching those, it appeals mightily to juvenile (and, in many cases, adult) imagination.

Tracy Island
Tracy Island, somewhere in the Pacific

And it is exactly this system of moving walls, chutes and settees that has given rise to much speculation: how do all these facilities fit in the villa itself, how do they connect to the all important lounge and how do they relate to each other and the various launch bays. As a dedicated Supermarionation scholar, I have tried several times in the past to come up with a plausible arrangement only to get stuck each time. And then – thanks again to the persistent collecting efforts of Theo de Klerk – I discovered a little known cutaway drawing (little known to me at least) in the 1967 British Thunderbirds annual as well as a number of well thought–out illustrations in one of the more obscure Japanese Supermarionation books, the 1996 Twin Star Thunderbirds Final.

As you can see below, the cutaway drawing does a remarkably good job at fitting all the launch accoutrements in the available space without violating what is seen on the screen (though I have my doubts about the rather superfluous spiral in Thunderbird 2's chute) and the artist even took into account the problem of getting rid of the exhaust fumes the Thunderbird 1 and 3 rocket engines would produce on launch.

Tracy Island cutaway drawing
Tracy house
Retractable patio swimming pool through
which Thunderbird 1 takes off
Thunderbird 1 launch bay
Thunderbird 1 descending ramp
Secret door in cellar leads
to double lift-shafts giving
access to underground bays
Access to underground bays
Chute from lounge which carries
Virgil to Thunderbird 2
Shaft down which settee [see above]
carrying Alan descends to the trolley
Surface path to Round House
Round House which conceals the
open top of Thunderbird 3's silo
Fuelling and maintenance bays
Exhaust fume duct from base of silo
Tunnel containing light
railway carrying trolley
Explosives store
Service tunnel
Maintenance bay
Thunderbird 2's hangar
Cliff House concealing door entrance
Runway with take-off ramp set in the end
Continuation of hangar with
access to the workshop
Corridor to one of the power houses from which
an inspection tunnel leads to the blast duct
Inspection tunnel
Blast duct
Power houses
Tracy house
Round House which conceals the
open top of Thunderbird 3's silo
Cliff House [see right]
concealing door entrance
Thunderbird 1 at the top of the ramp
Swinging wall section
Tilting picture
Settee which descends through the
floor en route for Thunderbird 3
Portraits of the Tracy boys
At suitable points around the summit of the
island, rock pinnacles have been removed and
radomes looking exactly like the removed rock,
substituted. Under these radomes are housed
radar and TV cameras, and all the antennae
required to maintain contact when a rescue is
in progress. Others are early warning devices
for detecting alien craft approaching the
island, so preserving international Rescue's

Technical specification originally published in Thunderbirds 1967 Annual

Tracy villa

Tracy Island lounge drawing
illustration from the Japanese 'Thunderbirds Final' book

Then there is of course the villa proper, housing the all important lounge, with its many special features the very nexus of the organisation. As a result of that pivotal role, most of the scenes on the island are situated in the lounge and so it lends itself well for an attempt at more extensive documentation. Enter the Japanese fan contingent. As you probably know, Japan has always had a huge Supermarionation fanbase and, as a consequence, the country is a fertile source of specialist publications, chockful of pictures rarely seen elsewhere. One of those, the 1996 Japanese Thunderbirds Final book, published the two illustrations reproduced at left, an artist's impression of the Tracy Island lounge and a floorplan of the Tracy villa, based on a similar map seen in the Day Of Disaster episode. (the floorplan drawing's caption to see the original.) They depict what may be considered as accurate a representation of the situation as can be gleaned from the series' many scenes set in the lounge. Canon, in other words. Or at least a very well thought-out extension of it.

Tracy Island lounge floorplan
Thunderbird 1
launch silo
the boys'
hazmat room
stairs to swimming pool
Tracy Villa
Tap the labels on the map to see the illustrations
Thunderbird 1 lauch silo
still from the episode Trapped in the Sky
Jeff's bedroom
still from the episode Duchess Assignment
Brains' laboratory
still from the episode Sun Probe
the boys' bedrooms
still from the episode Terror in New York City
Brains' hazmat room
still from the episode Danger At Ocean Deep
Tracy villa hall
still from the episode Security Hazard
Tracy villa library
still from the episode Sun Probe
Tracy villa lounge
stiched stills from the episode Atlantic Inferno
Day Of Disaster floorplan screenshot
the floorplan as shown in the Day Of Disaster episode
Tracy Island lounge floorplan – illustration from the Japanese Thunderbirds Final book based on the villa floorplan from the Day Of Disaster episode
Tracy Villa
the labels at left to see the illustrations

Obviously, this is all conjecture on the part of the authors of the Japanese book. Nowhere is it corrobrated in any episode that Jeff's bedroom is indeed where it is on this map, the authors simply sought out episode still frames that fit the situation [and I added my own speculation for the hall area]. But the connected illustration shows a plausible explanation. Using a map that originiates from one of the episodes.

Further speculation

switch panel
the communicator on Jeff's desk used to contact other rooms in the house

That leaves the many other tantalizing glimpses of the villa's interior that are offered by the television episodes such as Brains' lab, the library, adjacent to the lounge, and even the kitchen features in a suprising five episodes. One of the most interesting clues is no doubt the communicator panel on Jeff's desk that appears in Operation Crashdive where he uses it to summon Scott, Virgil and Gordon to the lounge from what is presumably the 'games room'. A few of the labels such as 'pool' and 'laboratory' are familiar but it hints at many other rooms in the house that are never seen on TV. What to think of items like 'dining', 'music' or even 'cinema'?

As can be seen on the floorplan above, there is no way these 'extra' rooms can be fitted in. However, the designer of the villa took this into account since, according to an outside shot from The Impostors, the building has three floors. It should be obvious then that these rooms are located on the floor below the lounge. And that does fit in with what we get to see on screen: in at least one episode [ Cry Wolf] there is the suggestion that the two floors are connected by an elevator leading to the kitchen, located behind Penny's 'talking portrait' which puts the kitchen below the lounge. Assuming that the dining room is located next to the kitchen for convenience, that places it to the right since the whole house is basically built around Thunderbird 1's storage bay.