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"The tyres were exploding!"*
Actor Shane Rimmer died on Friday, a man whose distinctive voice impacted on the childhoods of at least two of us here. Camus offers a brief but heartfelt remembrance and appreciation of a busy and talented performer.
 

A few days ago we lost actor Shane Rimmer. This sad event may not mean much to you. Apart from the sound of my parents, his was the primary voice of my childhood. In the 1960s there was only one way to control the media you avidly consumed. You had no say in what movies were shown and no control over the television or radio schedules. But if you had a sizeable box with a revolving plate on which you placed vinyl discs and listened to them via a diamond stylus' contact with the disc's A and B-side's grooves, you had a modicum of control. OK, so vinyl is back in a big way so you didn't need all that detail, mea culpa. Yes, discs by the Beatles and the Monkees were the turntable's most frequent visitors but there was one single that was played so many times, long excerpts of it were irrevocably implanted into my memory, scenes and sounds I can still recall today, over fifty years later. "Nothing can save us short of a miracle…" "That's just what you might get." Played at an LP's speed, (33 1/3 rpm, thereby essentially doubling the single's maximum playing time to 21 minutes) this little dark circle of adventure was thrilling beyond a small boy's fervent imagination. The records were audio distillations of Thunderbirds episodes with narration by members of the cast. The very first released, based on the opening episode Trapped in the Sky, was narrated with enthusiastic gusto by Canadian born, London based actor Shane Rimmer also known as Thunderbird One pilot Scott Tracy. His voice mesmerised me. It was a sound that inspired absolutely pure childlike wonder. It wasn't so surprising that the actor had nestled into my mind having performed in person in James Bond movies and even the original Star Wars.


Shane Rimmer and 21 Minutes of Adventure


I suspect his voice also made me fall for America as a concept in such a profound way. Yes, Rimmer was Canadian but his voice work represented what the United States of America could be, that space-race potential of pro-humanity and pro-future gung-ho-ness that was un-ironically optimistic and confident. As a child growing up in the UK, the US represented everything that that little boy felt could be achieved and should be achieved. America was Britain with the stabilisers off, daring to go forward with verve and imagination. It made me fall in love with the US and despite its current and faintly ridiculous presidential woes, I still adore the potential of the country and many of its citizens. Hi, Sue! Against conventional wisdom, hindsight is not and is never 20-20. There are too many hidden unknowns for that to be true but if I could have distilled what America meant to me as a small boy, I would be bathing in everything the Stars and Stripes utopia could offer. As patently absurd as it sounds, Shane Rimmer's voice opened up that world to me. The beautiful connection that fate often impresses upon us meant that my experience working on the film The Right Stuff put me in contact with the man who played the astronaut character Scott Carpenter (played by Charles Frank), one of five upon whom the Thunderbirds pilots' names were based. Fate can be playful as well as inscrutable. In short, Shane Rimmer's voice represented an innocence that is still startling in its blue remembered clarity.

Shane Rimmer, F.A.B. and R.I.P.

 

To listen to that magical 20 minutes of excitement, here's the link… "The strain on the elevator cars was colossal!"

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8hHPfr4di0

And for real Thunderbirds fans, here's a 5.1 Dolby remix/scrubbed up version of the opening and closing theme. Just magical…

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__8f-HDai64

And for Stingray fans…

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgkk-MMif-4

Shane Rimmer
28 May 1929 –
29 March 2019

Selected filmography
Armchair Theatre (TV)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Danger Man (TV)
Doctor Who (TV)
Thunderbirds (TV)
Thunderbirds Are GO
You Only Live Twice
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (TV)
Thunderbird 6
Joe 90 (TV)
UFO (TV)
Diamonds Are Forever
Live and Let Die
The Protectors (TV)
Rollerball
Space: 1999 (TV)
Twilight's Last Gleaming
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Silver Bears
The People That Time Forgot
The Spy Who Loved Me
Julia
Warlords of Atlantis
Superman
Hanover Street
Secret Army (TV)
Superman II
The Dogs of War
Reds
Gandhi
The Hunger
Superman III
The Holcroft Covenant
Dreamchild
Out of Africa
A Very British Coup (V)
Coronation Street (TV)
Lipstick on Your Collar
Batman Begins

See all of Camus' reviews and articles