RIP Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson, who died at Christmas, was a major part of my childhood. As noted science-fiction author Alastair Reynolds said on Twitter, Anderson created a future that seemed believable and lived-in. He filled the loosely-linked universes of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet with vast engineering projects, all lovingly created in miniature, then frequently blown to bits at the end of the episode. And it was all made in my home town of Slough, in an industrial unit so anonymous nobody is now completely sure which one it was.

It’s remakable how well his 60s work stands the test of time, and has been proved by the number of times it’s been repeated to enthrall new generations. Compare it with the cardboard and plasticene of Dr Who from the same period, for example. And it’s all from an age where children’s TV weren’t just glorified toy marketing campaigns. I don’t think there ever were toys made of half the machines from Thunderbirds.

And we mustn’t forget Barry Gray’s magificent scores, which I’m sure had an effect on my taste in music over the following decades. How many other TV series had incidental music still memorable after 40 years?

So farewell Gerry. You were someone who knew how to capture the imagination of every seven year old.

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5 Responses to RIP Gerry Anderson

  1. Stefan Jones says:

    The earliest memory I have of watching a specific TV show: Fireball XL-5, playing on a B&W set in my parent’s home in Bethpage, LI, around 1964. Can’t say I recall any of the plots, but I remember that swell chunky-finned spaceship with the detachable front, and the robot.

    Stingray . . . that was a big deal for me a few years later, but I don’t remember much about it other than the fact that it involved a mermaid. I bought the model kit (“As seen on TV!”) . . . perhaps one of the first I bought and built. (Odd little memory . . . the kit came with a tube of glue! A little aluminum squeeze tube full of odd yellowish ichor.)

    But boy-oh-boy, the one Anderson show that really punched my ticket was Thunderbirds. I totally flipped over that one. It played on weekend afternoons, sometimes as a full hour show, sometimes split into half-hour episodes. But the time slot made it vulnerable to preemption by ball games. Life as a wee geek was tough back then.

    I had my mom sew my an International Rescue sash and cap from this blue burlap material . . . an extra set for a friend down the street.

    The “Dinky Toy” versions of the models weren’t available in the States, but a high-end toy shop in the next town carried snap-together plastic toys (not really models) with electric motor drives. I begged my parents into getting my Thunderbird 1 and Thunderbird 3 . . . I really wanted Thunderbird 2 but never managed to snag it.

    Captain Scarlett played in the States as well. It was pretty grim and scary, what with people getting killed and replaced.

    Sigh. Anderson’s live-action stuff. Back in the 70s, between Star Trek getting cancelled and the advent of Star Wars, new SF was hard to find on TV, at least compared to today. So I eagerly glommed every episode of “UFO” and “Space: 1999.” But I was also reading grownup SF, and as slick as they were visually it was becoming apparent to me that Anderson’s shows were kind of shabby when it came to scientific plausability.

  2. ***Dave says:

    I have fond, fuzzy memories of both Stingray and Fireball XL-5 as a kid, and much clearer memories of my beloved Thunderbirds. I drew endless pictures of all the craft — and the detail applied not just to the core vehicles but all the “guest appearance” craft, land or water or air-based, was always just wildly cool.

    Yes, in that great desert of TV SF post-”Star Trek” I, too, glommed onto UFO and Space: 1999 (better rendition of the main title for S.1 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLAsBzOOhLQ ). I drew endless pictures of Eagles and UFOs, too.

  3. Tim Hall says:

    Thunderbirds was the high point, and not just because it first showed when I was at the most impressionable age. The production values were a significant step up from Stingray (They were big-budget stuff for TV in those days), and hour-long format allowed greater depth in storylines, and the whole thing just had an exuberant sense of excitement.

    You’re dead right about Captain Scarlet being much, much darker.

  4. Michael Orton says:

    I don’t know why I was unable to see many episodes of Captain Scarlet. Apparently they had a continuing story line which I never noticed.

    But in terms of “darkness” UFO was the greater offender: every episode ends on a low note of some sort. Despite having an interesting concept, and tech I found attractive, I like my entertainment to end on a high note.

    Space 1999 was too off the wall to interest me at all.

    Joe 90: well of course I liked that at the time.
    Thunderbirds: an all time classic.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    Never saw that many episodes of UFO. Can only assume it was scheduled against something on BBC1 (Much like Space 1999 used to clash with Dr Who).

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