The World of Supermarionation

Productions

"Four Feather Falls"

 

Four Feather Falls

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Barry Gray

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Barry Gray
Arthur Provis
Phillip Wrestler

Directed by

Gerry Anderson
David Elliot
Alan Pattilo

Composers

Barry Gray

Episode Count

39

Running Time

13 minutes aprox

Distributor

Granada

Original Run

February 25, 1960 – November 17, 1960

 

Four Feather Falls was the third puppet series made by Gerry Anderson, who had previously worked with Roberta Leigh on her two puppet series, “The Adventures of Twizzle” and “Torchy the Battery Boy” (to make it clear, the two series do not technically qualify as Supermarionation as the puppets were just typical puppets with the mouths moved manually). The series was the first to use Anderson’s Supermarionation technique (although the term wasn’t canned until “Supercar”), albeit in a prototype form.

Whilst working on Roberta Leigh’s “Torchy the Battery Boy”, Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis of AP Films, decided that they wanted to branch out and produce a puppet series of their own creation. With £6,000 in the bank and an idea given to them by their music composer, Barry Gray, they set about making a pilot episode for a western called “Four Feather Falls”. However, fearing that Leigh would find out and cancel their contract for ‘Torchy’ and withhold payment, they began creating the puppets and sets for their new series under the utmost secrecy.

At this time, the owners of Islet Park, the mansion that AP Films rented to use as their film studios, offered to sell them the property for £16,500. Realizing that this was a fantastic asking price from a buyer’s point of view, Anderson would have readily accepted. But Provis thought it too much of a gamble and wouldn’t agree to the purchase. Anderson was understandably frustrated at Provis’ reluctance to expand the company and eventually the pair decided to part company. In the event, they broke without acrimony, and Provis later joined forces with Roberta Leigh and together they produced another children’s puppet series called “Space Patrol”

The pilot episode of “Four Feather Falls” was "in the can" by April 1959. Set in Kansas at the end of the 19th Century where pioneers of the West have settled into the frontier town of Four Feather Falls near Silver City, the series was intended to be a Western with certain fantasy elements. Tex Tucker is crossing the desert in company with his faithful dog, Dusty, and preparing to ride into town on his trusty steed, Rocky, when the trio come across a small lost Indian boy, Makooya –the son of a powerful chief called Kallamakooya.

After rescuing the boy they arrive at a watering hole only to discover that it has run dry. But Kallamakooya appears to them in a cloud of smoke and uses his mystical powers to replenish the waterfall before rewarding Tex for saving his sons life by presenting him with four magic feathers. The first two feathers give both Dusty and Rocky the power of speech (although only Tex can understand them), whilst the second two feathers bring Tex’s guns to life, enabling them to swivel and shoot of their own accord whenever danger threatened.

Tex arrives at Four Feather Falls to take up the post of Sheriff, using his unique abilities to protect the townsfolk from rustlers, robbers and swindlers –especially two desperate Mexican bandits called Pedro and Fernando. Meanwhile, our hero becomes a firm favorite with the law-abiding citizens of Four Feather Falls who include Grandpa Twink and his grandson Little Jake, saloon owner Slim Jim, telegraph operator Dan Morse, bank manager Marvin Jackson, store owner Ma Jones and Doc Haggerty –all of whom are happy to take time out to listen to one of Tex’s songs.

Voice Cast
Nicholas Parsons as Tex Tucker
Denise Bryer as Ma Jones & Little Jake
David Graham as Grandpa Twink, Fernando & Big Ben
Kenneth Connors as Rocky, Dusty & Pedro

Episode Listing

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

 

How it Began

Sheriff Tex Tucker arrives in Four Feather Falls.

2/25/60

 

Kidnapped

Sheriff Tucker must solve a kidnapping.

3/3/60

 

Pedro has a Plan

Pedro has a great idea, but will it all go wrong?

3/10/60

 

Pedro’s Pardon

Pedro is pardoned by Tex.

3/17/60

 

A Close Shave

Tex Tucker has a close call.

3/24/60

 

Indian Attack

Four Feather Falls is attacked by a group of Indians.

3/31/60

 

Sheriff for a Day

Tex takes a day off, but who will be the sheriff?

4/7/60

 

Dusty Becomes Deputy

Tex promotes Dusty to the position of deputy sheriff.

4/14/60

 

Gunrunners

Tex encounters a group of gunrunners and it's his job to bring them in.

4/21/60

 

Trouble at Yellow Gulch

Tex experiences a spot of bother at Yellow Gulch.

4/28/60

 

Frame Up

Can Tex discover who really committed a crime?

5/5/60

 

Gold Diggers

Tex encounters some gold diggers.

5/12/60

 

Gold is Where You Find it

Tex and the gang go looking for gold.

5/19/60

 

Trapped

Tex and the gang become trapped in a dangerous situation, but can they save themselves?

5/26/60

 

The Best Laid Plans

Even the best plans can go wrong.

6/2/60

 

Escort

Pedro and Fernando pose as sheriffs so they can steal a shipment of gold.

6/9/60

 

The Toughest Guy in the West

A reward is offered for the capture of Indian Jack.

6/16/60

 

Ghost of a Chance

Marvin Jackson is trying to sell the Eureka Silver Mine, but the main buyer, Harman, pays Pedro and Fernando to pretend to be ghosts to bring the price down.

6/23/60

 

Gunplay

Two cattle rustlers challenge Tucker to fight without his magic guns.

6/30/60

 

A Lawman Rides Alone

As Tex prepares to take a criminal to court, Big Ben plans a jail break.

7/7/60

 

Jailbreak

Pedro helps Tex capture some criminals in return for the reward money.

7/14/60

 

A Little Bit of Luck

Tex is away visiting family, but in his absence crime runs out of control.

7/21/60

 

Land Grabbers

The Circle Z Ranch is under siege from Morg Fenton and Big Ben, but Tex discovers it is outside his area of jurisdiction and cannot help defend it.

7/28/60

 

Once a Lawman

With the townspeople unhappy with Tex's dealing of a spate of robberies, Tex turns in his badge.

8/4/60

 

Election Day

Usually Tex is the only one to run for the post of sheriff on election days, but this time Pedro makes a bid for the position.

8/11/60

 

Gunfight on Main Street

Tex's old friend arrives in town looking for two criminals. Tex helps him, but they end up in a dangerous showdown on Main Street.

8/18/60

 

A Bad Name

Big Ben needs Tex's help after being falsely accused of stealing cattle.

8/25/60

 

Horse Thieves

Pedro and Fernando steal all of Four Feather Falls' horses and Tex is unable to pursue them until new horses arrive.

9/1/60

 

The Ma Jones Story

Ma Jones falls a scam and is almost swindled out of her shop.

9/8/60

 

Bandits Abroad

Fernando bears a striking resemblance to another master criminal, so Pedro comes up with an idea to get the reward money for capturing him.

9/15/60

 

A Cure for Everything

A medicine man arrives in town claiming to have a cure for everything and almost puts Doc Haggerty out of business before he discovers the true source of the medicines.

9/22/60

 

Teething Troubles

Rocky gets toothache but won't let Doc Haggerty remove it.

9/29/60

 

Buffalo Rocky

When several horses are stolen, the only suspects seems to be a buffalo...

10/6/60

 

Safe as Houses

A stranger arrives in town claiming to be able to sell things to people they didn't even know they wanted.

10/13/60

 

First Train Through

The railroad finally comes to Four Feather Falls connecting it to Dallas, however someone keeps sabotaging the tracks.

10/20/60

 

Fancy Shooting

The 'fastest and bestest in the westest' arrives in town, worrying Tex that he will attract other gunmen to the town.

10/27/60

 

Happy Birthday

The townspeople plan a party for Tex's birthday.

11/3/60

 

Ambush

The train from Dallas is robbed of $10,000.

11/10/60

 

Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Tex takes part in the rodeo against Silver City's best rider, Bart Stevens.

11/17/60

 

Production
"Four Feather Falls" was AP Films’ most ambitious project to date; with much more detailed sets than used in ‘Twizzle’ or ‘Torchy’. The puppets became more sophisticated, too. Anderson and his team experimented with electronics to match the puppets mouth movements to the dialogue. The head of the puppet was fitted with a solenoid connected to a tungsten wire 1/5,000th of an inch thick and pulses were fed down it from a tape recording of the actors’ voices. When each shot was ready, a switch was thrown and the pulses of direct current went out onto the stage, up the bridge and into power lines running in front of the puppeteers. It was important that the operators didn’t touch these wires by hand because they had around sixty volts running through them. By the time the current reached the puppets head it was reduced to about twelve volts, which was just enough to activate the mouth movements. The puppets were made one-third life size with the puppeteers on a bridge eight feet above the set. The horses moved by being pulled along on a trolley which meant the viewer never saw their feet when they were moving. The electronic lip synch mechanism had, according to Gerry Anderson, about a 90 per cent success rate.

The original puppets produced for the series were made by Christine Glanville and had papier-mâché heads. Because they were stationary, the viewer could not tell which character was talking unless its puppet moved up or down. This was unsatisfactory to Anderson, and the papier-mâché heads were replaced with hollow fibre glass heads with rods inside which could move the eyes — though the puppets could not blink — and wires which with a 12 volt current could move the mouths.

Following the example of Roberta Leigh’s previous stories, Anderson decided to include a number of songs in the show. Michael Holliday was a popular recording artist who had a voice very similar to Bing Crosby. He had enjoyed chart success with a number of singles, the most popular of which was ‘The Story of My Life’, a Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition that had topped the UK singles charts. He cost Anderson £2,000 of his £6,000 budget for the pilot but Anderson ensured he got his money’s worth by signing Holiday to a contract that resulted in six songs for the series: ‘Four Feather Falls’, ‘The Phantom Rider’, ‘The Rick-Rick-A-Rackety Train’, ‘Happy Hearts and Friendly Faces’, ‘My Home Town’, and ‘Two Gun Tex of Texas’, which was used to close each episode. Contrary to popular belief, ‘Four Feather Falls’ was not the show’s theme song and only appears in a few episodes when sung by Tex. Michael Holliday was a much troubled star, and after his career took a downturn in the early 1960s he committed suicide, his body was discovered at his Surrey home on October 29th 1963 – he was 34.

Four Feather Falls’ harmonica player was Tommy Reilly, a leading classical performer who had established a recording career in the 1950s at Parlophone where he was teamed up with a young producer named George Martin. Reilly soon became much in demand for radio, television and films and recorded themes for "The Navy Lark", "Dixon of Dock Green", "Last Of The Summer Wine", "The Singing Detective" and "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines" and "Midnight Cowboy", (both of which he scored). He was awarded an MBE in 1992 and passed away in September 2000, aged 81.

Anderson took the pilot to Granada Television who commissioned 34 episodes. But that pilot was the last filming AP Films did at Islet Park. Gerry wanted larger premises and with Arthur Provis now gone he decided to go ahead with the expansion of the business. As a result of this he took a lease on a former warehouse at Ipswich Road on the Slough Trading Estate, just four miles away. Les Bowie, an SFX man who Gerry Anderson had tried to entice to AP Films previously, had up to that time occupied the building. When Bowie declined the offer to join AP it was he who suggested Derek Meddings for the job. The benefit of Anderson taking over this place was that it needed very little work in the way of adaptation, was about four times larger than Islet Park and boasted space for offices, two cutting rooms, a screening theatre, special effects and stage areas, an area for set construction and a small reception area.

As mentioned previously, the idea for “Four Feather Falls” came from music composer Barry Gray, who also wrote the first episode. Anderson later admitted that he didn’t credit Gray as series creator for no other reason other than he did not know such a title existed. “It’s difficult to imagine,” said Gerry Anderson some years later, “but we were desperately naïve in those days.” Gray’s original idea was to be called 'Two Gun Tex Tucker.' The original setting was in the fictional wild-west town of Spelltown, Kansas. Tex Tucker was a lawman renowned for being able to hit two flying nickels with a double gun draw. He was aided by his obese assistant Buster and the story included two other characters called Slim Jim and Jake Jollymop. These ideas were later refined and the story was renamed 'Two Gun Tex Of Texas.' Jake was replaced by Timothy Twinkle known as Ole Twink, the town’s oldest resident, and the town was now known as Four Feather Falls. An element of fantasy was introduced for the first time, and Tex’s dog, Dusty, and his horse could both converse with him due to the town’s magical properties. Martha Lollipop was the storekeeper and she was assisted by Red Feather of the Kiowa tribe. The town’s doctor was Angus McDougall, known to residents as Jock the Doc, and he was also the storyteller for each episode. Other characters that didn’t make it into the final version were Merry Myrtle, Mary Lou, Big Chief Four Feather and Saucy Sal.

The first episode of “Four Feather Falls was shown in the UK just two days after Gerry Anderson’s previous series “Torchy the Battery Boy” had begun in the London area. It debuted on Thursday 25th February 1960 at 500pm and featured on the cover of that week’s edition of TV Times. With the success of “Four Feather Falls” to add to Anderson’s impressive CV of children’s puppet series, AP Films fully expected Granada to ask for more. Instead he recalls that on delivery of the last program he was handed a check and met with stony silence. Anderson felt this was a great shame because he and his crew had already worked out a concept for their next series. They even had a name for it....

"Supercar"

 

Supercar

Created by

Gerry Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Thamm
Reg Hill
Hugh Woodhouse
Martin Woodhouse

Directed by

David Elliot
Bill Harris
Alan Pattilo
Desmond Saunders

Composers

Barry Gray

Episode Count

39

Running Time

25 minutes aprox

Distributor

ITC Entertainment

Original Run

January 28, 1961 – April 29, 1962

 

Although Gerry Anderson's involvement with the creation and production of television puppet series had already commenced some five years earlier, 1962 saw Anderson's company, AP Films, release a new series which was fated to be the first true step on the former film cutting room assistant's pathway to legendary status. The series in question was “Supercar,” and with its premiere both Anderson's long and incredibly fruitful association with Lew Grade's ITC company, and the process known as Supermarionation, took centre stage for the first time.

The genesis of Gerry Anderson's relationship with the already hugely successful Grade, which was to culminate in the realization of “Supercar” and its money-spinning line of descendants, began when Frank Sherwin Green, an old friend of Anderson's working at Beaconsfield Studios, introduced the financially troubled producer to Connery Chapel in the hope that he could provide help in keeping the seriously ailing AP Films in business. In exchange for a number of shares in AP, Chapel arranged what was to prove a fateful meeting between Anderson and the then Deputy Managing Director of the Independent Television Company ATV.

A genuine business genius, with his finger almost supernaturally on the pulse of popular taste in the entertainment field, Lew Grade was quick to see the possibilities in the young producer's new concept, and placed an immediate order for an initial twenty-six thirty minute episodes. The deal was closed and “Supercar” entered production.

The first in what was destined to be a long parade of versatile, technologically superior craft, foreshadowing the later 'Stingray' and the fabulous 'Thunderbirds' craft themselves, 'Supercar' was equipped, ready and able to travel over everywhere and anywhere, be it on land, both on or under the sea, as well as through the air. The regular cast of early animatronic actors included square-jawed heroic test pilot, Mike Mercury, Supercar's endearingly dotty father-like inventor, Professor Rudolph Popkiss -a comically accented mid-European scientist, Popkiss' assistant Dr Horatio Beaker -the bald, stammering British scientist, Jimmy Gibson -a ten year old rescued following a plane crash, and his extraordinary pet Mitch, a talking Monkey. On the lawless side, chief villain was Masterspy, and his accomplice Zarin, along with their British counterparts Harper and Judd.

Simplistic and quaintly primitive when compared with Anderson's later Supermarionation series, "Supercar" nevertheless possesses an enjoyable quality of good natured entertainment, and much more importantly, the first evocative hints of the world-spanning, breathtaking adventure and excitement which was destined to become both the Gerry Anderson trademark and the promise of pleasure for millions.

Voice Cast
Graydon Gould as Mike Mercury
David Graham as Dr. Beaker, Mitch, Zarin & Bill Gibson
George Murcell as Professor Popkiss & Masterspy
Sylvia ‘Thamm’ Anderson as Jimmy Gibson
Cyril Shaps as Professor Popkiss & Masterspy (Season 2)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

Rescue

Astronaut Bill Gibson and his younger brother Jimmy, along with their pet chimpanzee, Mitch, find themselves stranded at sea following the crash of their aircraft, Falcon 25. With Navy rescue out of the question due to heavy fog, the opportunity arises for Mike Mercury to give Supercar a test run.

1/28/61

Amazonian Adventure

Dr. Beaker and Mike are taken prisoner by a tribe of headhunters while searching for a plant to cure an illness affecting Mitch.

2/25/61

The Talisman of Sargon

Masterspy plans to steal an ancient jewel.

2/11/61

False Alarm

A plan devised by Masterspy to steal Supercar fails.

2/4/61

What Goes Up

When a military operation dubbed 'Operation: 4th of July' fails, Supercar has to blow up a balloon carrying a dangerous load of rocket fuel.

2/18/61

Keep it Cool

Masterspy steals Supercar's fuel, but overlooks the fact it has to be refrigerated.

3/11/61

Grounded

Supercar takes to the road to catch a thief.

3/4/61

Jungle Hazard

Masterspy tries to cheat Dr. Beaker's cousin out of a plantation.

3/18/61

High Tension

Masterspy kidnaps Dr. Beaker and demands Supercar as ransom.

3/25/61

Island Incident

The deposed leader of Pelota enlists Supercar's help to bring peace

4/1/61

A Little Art

Mike and Dr. Beaker try to find a forger's plates- if an art dealer and a criminal don't find the plates first.

4/29/61

Ice-Fall

Dr. Beaker is trapped in a cave.

4/8/61

The Tracking of Masterspy

Masterspy finally manages to steal Supercar, but he doesn't keep it for long.

7/15/61

Phantom Piper

Supercar flies to Scotland to investigate a 'Phantom Piper'.

4/15/61

Deep Seven

Supercar is trapped by a mine underwater.

5/13/61

Pirate Plunder

The Supercar crew sets a trap for a modern-day raider of the high seas

4/22/61

Flight of Fancy

Jimmy dreams of using Supercar to save a princess.

5/6/61

Hostage

The two-bit criminals Judd and Harper hold Mike captive

5/20/61

The Sunken Temple

Spyros, the bandit, tries to keep Supercar from discovering his submerged secret.

5/27/61

Trapped in the Depths

A bathyscaphe is trapped in the deepest point in the Pacific.

6/10/61

Crash Landing

Mitch gets a girlfriend when engine trouble forces Supercar down in the jungle.

7/8/61

The Dragon of Ho Meng

Supercar is flying in a typhoon but Mike decides to land on an island near the Chinese border.

6/17/61

The Lost City

Supercar is diverted to the Amazon by a Professor Watkins, who intends to launch a flying atomic bomb, and the target is Washington.

6/3/61

The Magic Carpet

Mike and the crew thwart a nefarious plan to steal the throne of a remote Asian nation.

6/24/61

The White Line

Supercar heads to London to help Scotland Yard solve a series of bank robberies.

8/6/61

Supercar “Take One”

Dr. Beaker films Supercar in action, and receives illegal footage of secret organizations.

7/1/61

The Runaway Train

Masterspy sabotages a prototype atomic-powered diesel train on its journey from London to Brighton in England in a bid to assassinate a VIP passenger. Dr Beaker and the rest of the Supercar team have been invited to drive the train, but will they be able to stop the sabotaged engine before the vehicle crashes into a station at the end of the line? 

2/2/62

Precious Cargo

A little French girl escapes her tyrannical guardian in a crate of wine bound for Black Rock.

2/1/62

Operation Superstork

Mitch sets a balloon adrift.

2/18/62

Hi-Jack

A Boeing 707 is hijacked- with Dr. Beaker, Jimmy, and Bill trapped in it.

2/25/62

Calling Charlie Queen

Mike and Dr. Beaker are the first victims of a madman with a bizarre plan.

3/4/62

Space for Mitch

Mitch launches a space capsule- with him in it.

3/11/62

The Sky’s the Limit

Masterspy storms Black Rock in an attempt to steal Supercar, which disappears... Quite literally too...

4/1/62

70-B-Lo

Professor Popkiss comes down with appendicitis. After the operation, Mike has to fly to the Arctic to get the closest blood donor who has Professor Popkiss's blood type.

3/25/62

Atomic Witch Hunt

The Supercar team stops a gang that has planted nuclear bombs across the country.

3/18/62

Jail Break

Dr. Beaker saves the day when Mike is forced to help a notorious criminal escape prison.

4/8/62

The Day Time Stood Still

An alien drops by on Mike's birthday.

4/15/62

Transatlantic Cable

Masterspy and Zarin tap a telephone cable that runs across the Atlantic.

4/22/62

King Kool

Mitch switches places with a musical gorilla.

4/29/62

 

Production
There were two working models of Supercar, the larger hero model was made of light-weight wood and Plexiglas (Perspex) and measured about five feet in length. The smaller model, used in distance shots, was about nine inches in length. The vehicle was designed by art director Reg Hill at a cost of one thousand pounds; a small fortune at the time, especially for a company in such dire financial trouble. In fact money was so tight at that time that the company had to resort to using 1500 empty egg cartons, stuck on the walls of its new studio in a disused factory in Slough, as soundproofing. Nevertheless, despite all the problems which come with the production of any new series “Supercar” went on to vindicate Grade's initial faith in the project by a becoming both a personal triumphant success as well as a sound investment for ITC. Its thirty-nine episodes ultimately went on to turn the financial tide for Anderson, selling to more than one hundred stations in the lucrative U.S. markets and more than forty more countries worldwide.

As photography on the series was getting underway, creator Gerry Anderson wed production assistant and voice actor Sylvia Thamm. After a brief mid-day ceremony the couple returned to the studio to help complete the opening title sequence.

Many of the first 26 scripts for “Supercar”  were written by brothers Hugh and Martin Woodhouse, at the rate of one complete 'shooting (camera-ready) script' per week, in order to fit Anderson and Grade's cost and production schedule.

Anderson always claimed that he invented a futuristic vehicle as an excuse to reduce the amount of walking the puppets had to do, which could never be made to look realistic. This was finally taken to its conclusion in Captain Scarlet”, in which the puppets are almost never seen walking.

"Space Patrol"

 

Space Patrol

Created by

Roberta Leigh
Arthur Provis

Written by

Roberta Leigh

Directed by

Frank Goulding

Composers

Roberta Leigh

Episode Count

39

Running Time

25 minutes aprox

Distributor

National Interest Pictures

Original Run

July 5, 1963 – June 11, 1964

 

In 1963, another Supermarionation series was produced, this time; it was made by Anderson’s old colleague, Roberta Leigh along with Anderson’s former business partner, Arthur Provis. The Series was on a notably tighter budget than Anderson’s series, in which the series quite often had to compensate with stock footage and block editing (footage filmed at various stages and edited later on, which isn’t uncommon in a lot of films). The series was a great leap in mature themes from Leigh’s previous puppetry based series, “The Adventures of Twizzle”, “Torchy the Battery Boy” and “Sara & Hoppity”.

The series follows the actions of an interplanetary police force in the year 2100, and focuses on the crew of Galasphere 347 under the command of the heroic Captain Larry Dart. The crew includes elfin Slim from Venus, gravel voiced, sausage-mad Husky from Mars, and the Martian parrot Gabbler (a Gabblerdictum). Providing technical support is Irish genius Professor Haggarty. Keeping them all on a tight rein are Colonel Raeburn and his super-efficient Venusian secretary, Marla.

Although compared (and often confused) with the Gerry Anderson productions, “Space Patrol” stands out on its own. This is mainly due to the boldness of a few creative choices. The only music involved is extremely avant-garde, being made by Roberta Leigh herself using electronic equipment she bought from a local store after asking an assistant for anything that made interesting noises. In fact it was F.C. Judd who was responsible for creating all the electronic music for the series; he was an early British electronic experimenter, amateur radio expert, circuit designer, author and contributor to many wireless and electronics magazines from the 1950s to the '90s.

Voice Cast
Dick Vosburgh as Captain Larry Dart & General Smith
Ronnie Stevens as Slim, Husky, Professor Haggarty & Joe
Libby Morris as Marla, Cassie (Series One) & Gabbler
Murray Kash as Colonel Raeburn
Ysanne Churchman as Marla & Cassie (Series Two)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

The Swamps of Jupiter

Captain Dart and his crew are sent to investigate the loss of contact with a scientific base on Jupiter and encounter Martian fur trappers who are killing the local Loomi creatures for their heat-retaining skins.

10/31/63

The Wandering Asteroid

The Space Patrol crew accept a dangerous mission to destroy an asteroid deflected from its orbit by a cometary collision and heading directly for the Martian capital Wotan.

7/5/63

The Dark Planet

Professor Haggarty and his daughter Cassiopeia are baffled by a plant sample from Uranus with a mind of its own! Following the disappearance of a 20 strong survey team on Uranus, Colonel Raeburn dispatches the Space Patrol crew to locate larger versions of the plant, where they discover the adult specimens of the plant are far from friendly.

7/12/63

The Slaves of Neptune

The crew of the Galasphere are sent to solve the mystery of a spaceship sending colonists to Pluto which disappeared near Neptune. On approach to Neptune Dart, Slim and Husky fall under the hypnotic influence of Neptunian overlord Tyro who is using his powers to trap Earth colonists as slaves.

7/19/63

The Fires of Mercury

Professor Haggarty's device for translating the language of ants also converts heat waves into radio waves. Marla realizes that this might provide a way of transmitting warmth from Mercury to the Colony on Pluto, where freezing conditions worsen as the planet nears the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun.

7/25/63

The Shrinking Spaceman

When the Galasphere crew are sent to repair the sonar beam transmitter on the asteroid Pallas. Husky succumbs to a mysterious shrinking disease after cutting his hand on a rock. Keeping him in suspended animation Professor Haggarty attempts to find a cure.

8/1/63

The Robot Revolution

When an undersea eruption at the Atlantic sea farm damages robot workers, Space Headquarters is overrun by the rampaging machines, determined to seize control of the city.

8/8/63

The Cloud of Death

A cloud of metallic particles plunges the Earth into darkness. The work of Neptunian leader Tyro, he threatens to freeze the Earth unless Raeburn agrees to send human slaves to work for them.

8/15/63

The Rings of Saturn

Observing Saturn, Dart and his crew notice a meteor shadowing the Galasphere. On discovering it is actually a Saturnian spacecraft, Dart makes contact and bring a tape of Saturnian language back to Earth for decoding. When contact is finally made with the planet it transpires that Dart has inadvertently offended the Saturnian by pricking leaves of their sacred tree.

8/22/63

Volcanoes of Venus

A virus is paralyzing areas of Venus. Raeburn learns that Slim's uncle Gallia intends to seize power by releasing a powder that causes the paralysis into the air. Slim is sent to Venus to investigate, but contacts Space Headquarters to announce that he has changed allegiance and will assist his uncle...back to his mother ship.

10/3/63

Mystery on the Moon

From a base on the Moon, Berridge threatens Space Headquarters with destruction by laser beam unless Raeburn agrees to send him a freighter full of gold. Dart is sent to Moon Station One to investigate and discovers an artificial crater.

10/10/63

The Miracle Tree of Saturn

A fungus is destroying crops at an alarming rate. By chance Professor Haggarty discovers a cutting from the Saturnian's sacred tree on Raeburn's desk destroys the fungus and Dart is dispatched to Saturn to obtain further supplies. However, their plan has been overheard by an unscrupulous technician.

10/17/63

The Forgers

Colonel Raeburn is baffled by a sudden influx of forged currency while investigating what appears to be a disease killing the vegetation on Mars. Dart and Husky stumble across the source of the forgeries...

10/24/63

The Planet of Thought

Tyro has come to Earth with a view to joining the UGO but is sidetracked when he catches sight of Marla. Using his hypnotic powers, Tyro returns to Neptune with Maria where he makes her his princess. Dart follows them to discover a way to break the spell.

11/7/63

The Glowing Eggs of Titan

Husky's discovery of a luminous egg of the Saturnian moon of Titan could prove to be the solution of the Martian energy crisis. While Dart and his crew are on an egg gathering mission, Slim falls and damages his air line. As he waits to be rescued he hears a strange humming

7/5/63

The Planet of Light

Dart and Slim are invited to the planet of Lumen. On their arrival Dart's oxygen cylinder is pierced. The planet's only oxygen comes from blister plants in the "cave of death". Dart and Slim must find the plants before dawn, or risk being boiled alive in the heat of the Sun...

11/21/63

Time Stands Still

Stolen art treasures are being transported into space. Raeburn suspects that Venus millionaire Tara is behind the thefts, but his palace is too well guarded. Professor Haggarty develops a watch that speeds up the wearer's reaction sixty times which enables Dart to sneak into the palace unnoticed.

11/28/63

Husky Becomes Invisible

When Dart is sent to Mars to find the eggs of the Aba bird to help find a cure for a condition known as the "floats", he calls on Professor Zeffer who has discovered that his new star-measuring apparatus can make objects disappear.

12/5/63

The Walking Lake of Jupiter

Scientists Dr Brown and Dr Smith discover that water from a Jovian lake has the power to cause inanimate objects to move as if with a life of their own. Dart arrives to witness the phenomenon. and ends up on the trail of the unfortunate Dr Brown, whose spacesuit has become energized by the Jovian water.

12/12/63

The New Planet

Galasphere 347 is in deep space. After a comet collides with the ship Dart and his crew discover a new planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. Touching down in the dense forest, Dart and Slim meet one of the planet's giant inhabitants.

12/19/63

The Human Fish

The Tula Fish in the Venusian Magda Ocean are evolving at an extraordinary rate and attack fishermen. The Galasphere crew are sent to help and discover that building materials, routinely dumped may be the cause of the Tula's accelerated evolution.

12/26/63

The Invisible Invasion

On Uranus, the Duo's are planning to seize power on Earth by taking over the minds of everyone at Space Headquarters, including Colonel Raeburn. The one person seemingly unaffected by the Duo's power is Professor Haggarty, who is installed beneath his electronic hair-restorer!

1/2/64

The Talking Bell

On a hunting trip, Raeburn and Haggarty encounter a soft, bell-shaped object with a single extendible leg. It is a visitor from another planet, but Raeburn has accidentally shot its space vehicle down with his 12-bore! Dart is assigned to return "Mr Bell" to his mother ship.

1/9/64

The Buried Spaceship

"Operation Ice Cube" is put into action when Marla suggests moving ice through space as a solution to a drought problem on Mars. Galasphere 347 is sent to assist but develops a fault in the Meson Power Unit forcing the craft to land for repairs...

1/16/64

Message from a Star

Signals from Alpha Centauri suggest intelligent life but it would take a Galasphere 3,000 years to cross the immense distance. Irya, a being from the planet Delta, teleports himself to Earth to fit a special power unit to the Galasphere, enabling it to travel as faster-than-light speeds. Professor Haggerty, however, has reservations about making the trip

1/23/64

Explosion on the Sun

An explosion on the surface of Sun causes a temperature rise on Earth and Venus. The Venusian president is contacted by Dr Duncan, who has been causing the explosions by firing a freighter of beryllium into the Sun. He threatens to release further charges unless Earth and Venus send weapons and robots to Ganymede.

1/30/64

The Unknown Asteroid

The problem of dwindling supplies of Plutonite is solved when an asteroid made of the material is discovered. But before Raeburn has managed to secure the asteroid Miga, a wealthy Venusian has taken possession and intends to sell it. Raeburn reluctantly agrees to the asking price and sends Dart to complete the transaction.

3/19/64

The Evil Eye of Venus

Professor Borra of Venus has invented a mechanical eye which can destroy any ship constructed of metal alien to Earth, Mars or Venus. The demonstration is impressive but what will happen when a Galasphere constructed from metal mined from Pluto comes within range?

3/24/64

Secret Formula

Exploring the Silver Forest of Venus, Husky becomes trapped in the web of a Spirigum Spider. Haggarty manages to free him and discovers that fragments of the web act as a truth drug. Raeburn, meanwhile, is offered the formula for Kinotine, which has the ability to store heat indefinitely. Kinotine’s inventor, Dr. Mason will donate the formula but when a call is received from Kolig, head of Mars’s largest chemical plant, offering the formula for sale, Raeburn suspects foul play.

4/2/64

The Telepathic Robot

Haggarty invents a robot that responds to thoughts. Dart tests the range of telepathic thought in space and investigates a new planet near the sun unaware that the Neptunian’s have encamped there. Only Haggarty’s new robot escapes the Neptunian’s hypnotic influence.

4/9/64

Deadly Whirlwind

To halt a virus destroying Martian vegetation, Dart is sent with a spray that is deadly to all forms of life except those native to Mars. When the spray comes into contact with a whirlwind the chemical is rushed into space and is soon on a collision course with Earth.

4/16/64

The Jitter Waves

A strange jittering is affecting the city and other Earth locations. Haggarty discovers, by chance, that the jittering is caused by radio waves emitted by Uranus, where the Duos are once again planning an invasion.

4/23/64

Sands of Death

Tyrig plans to use a nerve gas to seize power on Mars. Raeburn discovers that Tyrig and his men have set up base on the Martian moon Phobos and Dart is sent to investigate. Dart and his crew are captured by Tyrig, who wants to use the Galasphere to spread the gas. Refusing to co-operate they are placed in a dungeon which slowly fills with sand.

4/30/64

The Hairy Men of Mars

The Galasphere’s Meson unit malfunctions and lands in the unexplored Tuhera jungle. Dart and Husky leave to fix the problem. When Husky fails to return, Dart follows and is captured by a giant primitive man. Husky speaks with the giant in their native language and they are set free. They return to Earth with some Martian fruit which makes hair grow – the perfect solution to Haggarty’s problem.

5/7/64

The Grass of Saturn

Saturn has a new leader. Riga is succeeded by his brother Simba and whilst Dart is en route to investigate, Riga launches rockets, destined for Earth containing Saturnian grass seed – which absorbs oxygen and emits carbon dioxide.

5/14/64

Forcefield X

The Neptunian’s create a forcefield around the Earth containing particles with strong electromagnetic properties. The field begins disrupting electricity supplies causing a complete blackout.

5/21/64

The Water Bomb

The Galasphere is sent on a rain making mission to Mars with a cargo of oxygen and hydrogen – the very ingredient escaped criminal Marog requires to complete his bomb under construction at his Phobos hideaway.

5/28/64

Destruction by Sound

Raeburn is contacted by Yria from Alpha Centauri who is seeking help to destroy an evil computer superbrain which is attempting to take over the planet Delta.

6/4/64

The Shrinking Gas of Jupiter

On a mission to Jupiter, Slim disappears in the swamps. Raeburn orders Dart and Husky to leave but trouble with the Galasphere’s primary drives gives Dart an excuse to resume the search only to find that Slim has shrunk to dwarf-like proportions.

6/11/64

 

Production
Filming, after the initial pilot, started at Saint Michael's Church Hall in Northwold Road, Stoke Newington. While the building still exists, it is no longer linked to the church and is used as a community centre for pensioners. However, filming moved to another, larger premises - a church in Harlesden High Street - later on, possibly during or towards the end of the first production block. This would remain the puppet studios for the duration of the series and beyond, often being referred to as 'NIP (National Interest Pictures) Harlesden'.

As Roberta Leigh recounts in her interview for Network Video, in order to reduce costs all the scenes on one set were shot in blocks then the end results were edited together. This is not unusual in the production of a film, nor of individual episodes of any one series, but for an entire series to be filmed this way would have proved a logistical nightmare with regard to editing.

The original Associated Rediffusion London region screening order echoes the production with all 13 episodes of the first block screened before the Series 1A episodes. For this reason we have adopted this order for the episode guide, although we realize this is not a definitive production order. One quirk of this order is the placing of “The Swamps of Jupiter” at the end of the first block but it is generally accepted, being expanded from the pilot film, that this was the first episode and intended as such. However, it may indicate it was completed until later in the first production block.

The series was also sold abroad to America (under the name Planet Patrol to avoid confusion with a homegrown TV series), Canada and Australia, maintaining its popularity overseas but afterwards vanishing into obscurity. Lacking the backing of a major company like ITC (who financed and distributed the Anderson series), publicity seemed very limited and the production company Wonderama disappeared shortly after, fating the series to little more than a memory. A handful of edited episodes sold commercially on Super 8mm were all that was available in the pre-video days.

During 1997, creator Roberta Leigh was contacted by Tim Beddows of Network Video with a view to releasing the series on video. The series was already presumed lost at this point, even by Leigh herself, but by chance it was discovered that she had the entire series as 16mm prints in a lock-up. Despite their scratched and grainy condition, they were of sufficient historic interest to warrant a DVD release. Selected episodes were issued on DVD in 2001, and the complete series was released in 2003 on Region 0 discs. Also included in the DVD are Leigh’s only survived episode of “The Adventures of Twizzle”  - “Twizzle & Footso” and her failed 1964 pilot for a puppet series titled “Paul Starr”. Among those, also included is the live action pilot of “The Solarnauts” and the first episodes of “Sara & Hoppity”, “Wonder Boy & Tiger”, “Send for Dithers” and the animated “The Adventures of Mr. Hero”. This complete collection, which has now gone out of production is highly sought after, often fetching over £300 at the online shopping sites. In 2010, Network had re-released the DVD set for a limited time for a less inflated price range. Two episodes (“Mystery on the Moon” and “The Robot Revolution”) have survived from the original 35 mm prints and are available on Blu-ray Disc along with “Paul Starr”.

"Fireball XL5"

 

Fireball XL5

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Alan Fennell
Anthony Marriott
Dennis Spooner

Directed by

Gerry Anderson
David Elliot
Bill Harris
John Kelly
Alan Pattilo

Composers

Barry Gray

Episode Count

39

Running Time

25 minutes aprox

Distributor

ITC Entertainment

Original Run

October 28, 1962 – October 27, 1963

 

Following the exploits of Colonel Steve Zodiac as he piloted the 300ft rocket propelled spaceship Fireball XL5, this puppet series captured the imagination of the public at a time when the space race between the USA and Russia was at its height. Although they'd had a previous hit with "Supercar", this was the series that established creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson as major players in the world of television.

Set one hundred years into the future (2063) XL5 patrolled and protected sector 25 of the solar system on behalf of World Space Patrol, run by Commander (Wilbur) Zero, who was based at WSP headquarters on Earth's Space City. Situated on a Pacific island, Space City was purely a scientific establishment with revolving skyscraper, control tower, laboratories, communications centre and rocket controlled launch site. Completely self contained, the XL5 ship, one of many patrolling the different space sectors, had living quarters for the crew with an ultra-modernistic lounge, observation window, a laboratory for research and an "astroscope", which enabled its crew to see in any conditions. It had a nose cone (Fireball Junior), which detached itself from the main part of the rocket and was able to make planetary landings whilst Fireball itself remained in orbit. Part of the equipment used in the show included a set of air cushioned "Jetmobiles" which were able to travel across any type of terrain, either on land or sea.

Accompanying Steve Zodiac were Professor Matthew (Matt) Matic, a navigation mathematics genius, who had his own navigation bay on the ship. Also on board was attractive blonde, Venus, a continental accented doctor of space medicine, with her own laboratory on the craft. Another of the regulars was Robert the Robot, a transparent mechanization and automatic pilot of the ship, who could walk when controlled by sound waves. He did however have one eccentricity: If his orders were changed or anything went wrong, steam would come out of his electronic head! Among the many other characters who came into the stories from episode to episode was a lovable monkey-like creature called Zoonie of the Lazoon race.

Voice Cast
Paul Maxwell as Colonel Steve Zodiac
Sylvia Anderson as Dr. Venus
David Graham as Professor Matic, Zoonie & Lieutenant Ninety
Gerry Anderson as Robert the Robot
John Bluthal as Commander Zero & Jock Campbell

Episode Listing

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

Planet 46

Fireball XL5 intercepts a planetomic (sic) missile sent to destroy Earth. On Planet 46 Steve and Venus are captured by the Subterrains –who promptly launch a second missile, with Venus on board! 

10/28/62

Hypnotic Sphere

Robert the Robot saves the day when the rest of the crew is thrown into a trance by a hypnotic sphere which has been spacejacking freighters.

10/13/63

Planet of Platonia

While bringing the King of the Plantium Planet to Earth for trade talks, the Fireball crew foils a bomb plot by the king's aide, Volvo, to kill his ruler and plunge the two planets into war. 

1/20/63

Space Magnet

The Solars have their own use for our Moon. 

10/27/63

The Doomed Planet

The investigation of a flying saucer leads to Steve Zodiac attempting to save a planet which has broken out of its orbit and is on a collision course with another planet.

11/4/62

Plant Man from Space

Prof. Matic's old friend, Dr. Rootes, attempts to conquer Earth using an invasive species of alien plant life –which promptly runs amok!

11/18/62

The Sun Temple

On Rejusca, Steve and Zoonie must rescue the much-captured Venus from sun worshippers who intend to make a sizzling sacrifice of her to their solar deity.

12/2/62

Space Immigrants

The Mayflower III, piloted by Venus, is carrying pioneers to a new planet. But the indigenous Lillispatians have objections to their world being colonized! 

11/11/62

Space Monster

Zoonie's talent for mimicry gets the Fireball crew out of a tight spot when they investigate the disappearance of the XL2 and find themselves menaced by a space monster.

1/6/63

Flying Zodiac

Steve nearly falls victim to sabotage at a Space City circus as part of a complicated scheme by Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy to help alien nomads take over Earth. And then Venus wakes up... It was only a dream!

12/23/62

Spy in Space

Espionage at a fueling depot, courtesy of the notorious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy. Venus is held hostage yet again!

11/25/62

XL5 to H20

Fireball responds to an urgent distress call from the last two survivors of a planet menaced by a weird fish man armed with a poisonous smoke gun.

12/9/62

Space Pirates

The Fireball crew gets entangled in a complicated game of bluff and double bluff in order to outwit a gang of space pirates plundering freighters from the mineral-rich planet Minera. The final plot twist is that the whole saga is a bedtime story told by Venus to Cmdr. Zero's son, Jonathan!

12/16/62

The Last of the Zanadus

Zoonie falls sick –a victim of a plot by the evil Kudos, lone inhabitant of the planet Zanadu, to destroy all Lazoons with a deadly virus. Can Fireball XL5 obtain the antidote in time? 

1/13/63

Space Pen

Posing as criminals, the Fireball crew head for the prison planet Conva in pursuit of two Space City raiders, only to end up in Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy's lethal water chamber!

12/30/62

Convict in Space

Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy issue a fake distress call. But this time a convict being transported, not the XL5, is their primary target... 

2/10/63

Wings of Danger

While investigating strange signals coming from Planet 46, Steve Zodiac is unknowingly poisoned by a robot bird equipped with deadly radium capsules. Swift surgery by Venus saves his life, but the bird is waiting to "pounce" again...

2/3/63

The Triads

Steve, Venus, and Mat encounter Graff and Snaff, a couple of friendly giants, on Triad –a planet three times the size of Earth– and help them in their efforts to explore space.

1/27/63

Sabotage

A neutron bomb (sic) is planted on board the XL5 and the crew is kidnapped.

10/20/63

Prisoner on the Lost Planet

Answering a distress call from uncharted space, Steve finds himself on a misty planet dominated by a giant smoldering volcano –where he meets a beautiful Amazonian exile who threatens to activate said volcano if she is not helped to escape!

3/3/63

Flight to Danger

To win his astronaut's wings Lt. Ninety must complete a solo orbit of the moon. But disaster strikes when his rocket catches fire, and he is feared lost... or is he?

2/24/63

Space Vacation

A well-deserved vacation on the opulent planet of Olympus turns into a frenzied race against time when the crew becomes embroiled in a bizarre interplanetary feud.

2/17/63

Mystery of the TA2

When the crew finds the wreck of a spaceship that disappeared decades before, their search for the lost pilot, Col. Denton, leads them to the planet Arctan –where they discover Denton living quite happily as king of the Ice People.

3/31/63

Robert to the Rescue

Steve, Mat, and Venus are imprisoned on an unknown world by two Domeheads, Magar and Proton, who propose to wipe their Earth memories and keep them there forever. Before being brainwashed, Steve cleverly orders Robert the Robot to rescue them... with curious results!

3/17/63

The Forbidden Planet

Prof. Matic's newest invention, the Ultrascope, obtains the planet Nutopia –never before seen by eyes from Earth, and reputed to be the perfect planet. But Nutopians have an invention of their own... a matter transporter!

3/10/63

The Granatoid Tanks

Scientists on a glass-surfaced planet radio for help when they are menaced by six Granatoid tanks. Fireball XL5 responds but is powerless to halt the assault. Fortunately, a stowaway proves to be of unexpected help!

4/21/63

Dangerous Cargo

On a mission to destroy an unstable ghost planet, Steve and Mat set explosives in a mineshaft –only to find themselves trapped by the Subterrains!

3/24/63

1875

Matt Matic's new time machine whisks Steve, Venus and Cmdr. Zero back to the Wild West of 1875, where Steve becomes Sheriff and Venus and Zero are bank robbers!

4/14/63

The Robot Freighter Mystery

Steve Zodiac resorts to subterfuge to prove that an unscrupulous pair of space salvage contractors, the Briggs Brothers, are sabotaging robot supply freighters so that they can pick up the pieces.

4/28/63

Drama at Space City

Jonathan Zero's highly unauthorized midnight exploration of Fireball XL5 turns into a terrifying adventure when the ship launches and catches fire!

4/7/63

Whistle for Danger

A plant disease has wiped out all vegetation on the jungle planet of Floran. The Fireball XL5 explodes an Ellvium bomb to eradicate the disease and restore the plant life –but the inhabitants are suspicious of their motives and imprison Steve, Mat and Venus in a 100-foot-tall (30 m) tower.

5/5/63

Faster than Light

An out-of-control Fireball breaks the light barrier only to emerge in a sea of air.

6/2/63

The Day the Earth Froze

Icemen from the planet Zavia deflect the sun's rays, sending the Earth into a deep freeze.

6/9/63

Invasion Earth

A strange cloud hides an invading alien fleet.

5/26/63

Ghosts of Space

Steve and a geologist attempt to solve the manifold mysteries of the seemingly deserted planet Electron, which is replete with electric rocks and weird, poltergeist-like happenings.

10/6/63

Trial by Robot

Robots have vanished from four planets –and the disappearances are linked to visits by a famous robot scientist, Prof. Himber. When Robert also goes missing, Steve and Mat undertake the three-month journey to Planet 82, only to be put on trial by the mad professor –the ruler of his kidnapped robot race!

5/12/63

A Day in the Life of a Space General*

Lt. Ninety is promoted to general, but his erratic command wreaks havoc. A cascading series of disasters reaches its spectacular climax when Fireball XL5 itself crashes into Space City. What a nightmare... which is exactly what the hapless Lt. Ninety is having!

5/19/63

Space City Special

Astronaut of the Year Steve Zodiac needs all his skill to talk Venus down after she takes over the controls of a supersonic airliner whose pilot has been sent into a trance by Subterrains.

6/23/63

The Fire Fighters

Fireballs are plunging to Earth from a mysterious gas cloud in space. Steve and his crew must contain the cloud before it reaches the atmosphere. Their plan goes smoothly until a technical fault forces Steve to complete the work by hand.

6/16/63

 

* This episode was colorized for the Blu-Ray release of the series as a special feature.

Production
Like their predecessors in “Supercar”, the puppets for “Fireball XL5” had fibre glass heads which contained solenoid cells to automatically control their lip movements as they reacted to the vocal pitches of the human voices speaking their words, which were pre-recorded and played back from the control room of the studio where filming took place.

This was the first and last Anderson creation to feature a character voiced by Gerry Anderson himself, the robot's electronic voice being achieved via the use of a device which was based on an artificial larynx. However, Anderson had to press his mouth very close to the device making it impossible for him to pronounce the letter 'h'. This gave Robert a very distinctive catchphrase "On our way 'ome".

This being the most elaborate Anderson series to date, the talented backroom crew created a Special Effects studio which was added to the existing one, and it was here that Space City was built, enabling close-ups to be shot of the spaceships being fired from their rocket bases and returning safely to land. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson wrote the opening episode with the remaining thirty-eight being penned by Alan Fennell, Anthony Marriott and Dennis Spooner. (Fennell went on to edit the superior Anderson based comic TV21, which featured XL5 and was accompanied by stunning artwork). The theme to Fireball, sung by Don Spencer was released as a single in 1963 and spent a total of twelve weeks in the charts, reaching its highest position (32) on 23rd March. The series was screened in the USA on the NBC Network.

As was to prove to be the case with all of Anderson's Supermarionation output, “Fireball XL5” refined and built upon the techniques of its predecessors to give it a gloss and sophistication, which was essential to its audience success. Much more importantly, the series was also yet another inexorable step closer to the imagination gripping success which would prove to be Gerry Anderson's greatest triumph: a series named...”Thunderbirds.”

"Stingray"

 

Stingray

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Alan Fennell
Dennis Spooner

Directed by

David Elliot
John Kelly
Alan Pattilo
Desmond Saunders

Composers

Barry Gray

Episode Count

39

Running Time

25 minutes aprox

Distributor

ITC Entertainment

Original Run

October 4, 1964 – June 27, 1965

 

Gerry Anderson’s third venture into Supermarionation, and his first to be filmed in color (even though it could only be shown in black and white on its first run in the UK), “Stingray” was possibly the first puppet series to win the appreciation of an adult audience, and laid down a winning formula that would be fully realized in Anderson’s next series...”Thunderbirds.”

Stingray was a high-tech, atomic powered, super-sub armed with sting missiles and captained by Troy Tempest. As was the norm with Anderson heroes, Tempest's physical appearance was modeled on a favorite movie actor of Gerry Anderson's wife -in this case James Garner. Based in Marineville at the headquarters of WASP (World Aquanaut Security Patrol), the crew of Stingray came under constant threat from Titan, lord of the underwater city of Titanica, who was the leader of evil Aquaphibians, (the humans were dubbed 'Terrainians') a submerged race of people who roamed the deep sea in their mechanical Terror Fish crafts, that were able to fire missiles from their gaping fish mouths. On land, Titan’s agent was Artura, code named X20.

Accompanying Tempest in Stingray were co-pilot George 'Phones' Sheridan (nicknamed so because he was in charge of the ships hydrophone sonar system) -and Marina, the green haired daughter of Emperor Aphony of Pacifica. Marina was captured by Titan during a raid on Pacifica and enslaved for a year. She was rescued by Troy Tempest and Phones after helping them escape from captivity and impending execution. Like all her people, Marina was unable to speak, communicating with her own kind by means of mental telepathy, and with others by sign language. The crew received their orders from Commander Shaw, who was crippled in a sea battle and confined to a hoverchair. Shaw was based at Marineville headquarters where he was ably assisted by Sub Lt Fisher and his own daughter -Atlanta, who was voiced by Lois Maxwell, the actress who starred in the original James Bond series of movies as Miss Moneypenny.

The series drew its crossover audience thanks to superior model work by the ever-improving AP Films Company, and it’s fast paced action packed storylines. There was also an unrequited love triangle, with both Marina and Atlanta vying for the attentions of Tempest. This greatly enhanced the appeal of the show to the adult section of the audience by introducing an undercurrent of emotional sophistication to the series beyond anything previously seen in what was still widely considered, at the time, to be strictly a children's genre.

With “Stingray”, Anderson's Supermarionation and near filmic storytelling techniques took another step nearer to the culmination of sophistication which would ultimately be displayed in ”Thunderbirds.” Exciting, expertly produced, and vitally important for paving the way to an adult acceptance of this type of entertainment, “Stingray”  can now be seen as an important evolutionary step for Gerry Anderson's unique brand of televisual entertainment genius.

Voice Cast
Don Mason as Troy Tempest
Robert Easton as Lieutenant Phones & Surface Agent X-2-Zero
Ray Barrett as Commander Sam Shore, Lieutenant Fisher & King Titan
Lois Maxwell as Lieutenant Atlanta Shore
David Graham as Oink
Gary Miller as Troy Tempest (singing voice)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

Stingray

When a World Navy submarine is mysteriously destroyed, Troy and Phones are assigned to investigate. However, they are captured by the Aquaphibians and sentenced to life imprisonment in the undersea penal complex of Aquatraz by Titan of Titanica.

10/4/64

Plant of Doom

Outraged that his slave Marina assisted Troy and Phones in their escape from Aquatraz, Titan plots his revenge by ordering surface agent X-2-Zero to deliver a toxic plant to her father.

5/23/65

Sea of Oil

While probing the destruction of an oil rig with Troy and Phones, Atlanta is captured by undersea warriors.

5/16/65

Hostages of the Deep

An aquatic alien kidnaps a World Navy admiral and his wife.

6/13/65

Treasure Down Below

When Stingray becomes trapped in a whirlpool, the crew must face off against undersea pirates.

3/14/65

The Big Gun

After Stingray destroys two attacking submarines, Troy, Phones and Marina stumble across their source - the underwater city of Solarstar. Will they be able to foil the Solistans plot to obliterate the West Coast of America?

1/24/65

The Golden Sea

Titan hears of the work of scientists converting sea minerals to gold and plans to sabotage their efforts.

6/6/65

The Ghost Ship

Commander Shore and Phones are held hostage by a plundering villain. Will Troy find a way to rescue to his friends before he is forced to destroy Idotee's antiquated Spanish galleon with them inside?

10/18/64

Count Down

Agent X-2-Zero masquerades as a teacher for mute people in a plot to destroy Marineville, leaving Marina in mortal danger.

5/9/65

The Ghost of the Sea

Commander Shore relives the ordeal that left him paralyzed when construction on a new mining rig is completed.

1/3/65

Emergency Marineville

A series of unsuccessful missile attacks against Marineville leads to the Stingray crew needing to sabotage the culprits' attempt to evade WASP's interceptor rockets.

10/11/64

Subterranean Sea

The Stingray crew brave the perils of a newly-discovered underground sea when their leave is cancelled.

10/25/64

The Loch Ness Monster

Troy, Phones and Atlanta are sent to Scotland to solve the mystery of Nessie once and for all.

11/1/64

The Invaders

The Stingray crew is captured by undersea villains and interrogated for information on Marineville's defense systems.

4/18/65

Secret of the Giant Oyster

Troy is assigned to recover a beautiful pearl from the seabed, but the task is not as straightforward as it seems.

4/11/65

Raptures of the Deep

Troy's dwindling air supply causes him to fall unconscious while on a rescue mission. Delirious, he dreams about life in a fantasy world where his friends are his loyal servants.

11/29/64

Stand by for Action

Agent X-2-Zero poses as a film director in his latest scheme to eliminate Troy.

3/21/65

The Disappearing Ships

Three disused freighters disappear in mysterious circumstances before they can be destroyed.

4/4/65

The Man from the Navy

Agent X-2-Zero sabotages a Navy Captain's test missile by loading it with real explosives. With the officer facing a court-martial at the hands of Commander Shore, it is up to Troy to prove the man's innocence.

11/15/64

Marineville Traitor

All the signs point to Commander Shore after an essential component vanishes from Marineville Control.

6/20/65

Tom Thumb Tempest

Troy falls asleep in the Standby Room and dreams about shrinking in size and witnessing a meeting between the undersea races in which they finalize their plans to destroy Marineville.

2/28/65

Pink Ice

Stingray becomes ensnared in a patch of pink slush created by an unidentified vessel.

3/28/65

The Master Plan

Troy is poisoned by Aquaphibians and the sole owner of the required antidote is Titan - who demands Marina in exchange for saving Troy's life.

5/30/65

Star of the East

An Eastern dictator called El Hudat wishes to join the World Aquanaut Security Patrol - but kidnaps Marina after he is overthrown in his home country.

2/14/65

An Echo of Danger

Agent X-2-Zero plots to damage Phones's reliability by creating false underwater soundings.

11/22/64

Invisible Enemy

Troy and Phones save an unconscious man - unaware that he is trying to leave Marineville open to attack by subduing personnel with a self-induced hypnotic trance.

2/21/65

Deep Heat

Venturing into the base of a volcano to investigate the disappearance of a robotic probe, Troy and Phones are captured by two survivors from a ruined city.

2/7/65

In Search of the Tajmanon

Troy and Phones encounter an old enemy when they try to find the submerged temple of Tajmanon in Africa.

12/13/64

Titan Goes Pop

Agent X-2-Zero kidnaps a pop star visiting Marineville and brings him before Titan as hostage.

12/6/64

Set Sail for Adventure

Admiral Denver decides to sail an old galleon across the Pacific and back again to Marineville to witness how the sailors in the old days travel the seas without modern-day technology. But when a storm injuries the Admiral and gives him amnesia, he orders guns to be turned at Stingray.

11/8/64

Tune of Danger

Agent X-2-Zero makes plans to ruin a jazz group's performance in Marina's father's home undersea city with a bomb.

12/27/64

Rescue from the Skies

Troy must be lowered onto Stingray from the air after Agent X-2-Zero plants a bomb on the craft's hull while a lieutenant uses it for target practice.

1/10/65

The Cool Cave Man

While asleep, Troy dreams of a meeting between him and a group of undersea cavemen who have looted the cargo of a vessel ferrying radioactive material.

1/31/65

A Nut for Marineville

An eccentric professor is brought in to develop a super missile which is Marineville's only hope of destroying an indestructible undersea craft.

4/25/65

Trapped in the Depths

An insane professor kidnaps Atlanta and steals Stingray with the intention of destroying Marineville

5/2/65

Eastern Eclipse

Agent X-2-Zero frees the wicked former dictator El Hudat from the Marineville brig by replacing him with his twin brother.

3/7/65

A Christmas to Remember

While Troy decides to help the orphaned son of a dead WASP aquanaut at Christmas, Phones is captured by an enemy warrior and forced to lay a trap for his comrade.

12/20/64

The Lighthouse Dwellers

Troy and Phones investigate after a signal from a disused lighthouse confuses a pilot and causes him to crash his aircraft.

1/17/65

Aquanaut of the Year

Troy is amazed to receive the prestigious "Aquanaut of the Year" award and sits before an audience while a selection of his adventures are recalled as flashbacks.

6/27/65

The Reunion Party

The cast, joined by Admiral Denver, review some of Stingray's most dangerous missions. A feature-length clip show episode, created by AP Films for Japanese television executives in 1963, comprising four complete episodes ("Stingray", "An Echo of Danger", "Raptures of the Deep" and "Emergency Marineville"). Rediscovered in 2001; A condensed version, which excludes the material from "Raptures of the Deep" was edited and screened as a segment of "Gerry Anderson Night" on BBC Four. Created in collaboration with BBC Wales.

1/2/08

 

Production
“Supercar” had featured a vehicle that could travel on land, sea and air, and “Fireball XL5” had featured a spaceship. The next logical step was a series about a submarine, which presented a number of technical challenges.

Scenes featuring model submarines or marionettes underwater were actually filmed on a dry set, with the camera looking through a narrow water tank containing air bubblers and fish of different sizes to simulate perspective, thereby creating a convincing illusion that the models or puppets were underwater. This was enhanced with lighting effects that gave the impression of shafts of light refracted through the surface of the sea.

Scenes on the ocean's surface were filmed using a large tank filled with water and blue dye. To prevent the edges of the tank from showing it was deliberately overfilled so that the water would constantly spill over the edges and conceal them. These techniques proved so successful that they were also used for underwater scenes in “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” and “Joe 90”.

The show's 39 episodes were filmed as three blocks (or series) of thirteen episodes each, as ITC boss Lew Grade was accustomed to ordering further batches of 13 shows each as need demanded, as he had done on the earlier Anderson shows “Four Feather Falls”, “Supercar” and “Fireball XL5” (all of which also ran to 39 episodes).

"Thunderbirds"

 

Thunderbirds

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Tony Barwick
Martin Crump
Alan Fennell
Alan Pattilo
Donald Robertson
Dennis Spooner

Directed by

Brian Burgess
David Elliot
David Lane
Alan Pattilo
Desmond Saunders

Composers

Barry Gray

Episode Count

32

Running Time

50 minutes aprox

Distributor

ITC Entertainment

Original Run

September 30, 1965 – December 25, 1966

 

In 1965 co-creator/producer Gerry Anderson crossed the invisible creative line between children's and adult's television entertainment with the premiere of the 32, hour long episode’s of an action adventure series named “Thunderbirds.”

The seventh and latest of Anderson’s AP Films/Century 21 filmed puppet series, “Thunderbirds” near cinematic mixture of superb special effects and miniature sets, (provided by future Academy Award Winner, Derek Meddings), a stirring and instantly recognizable music score from the brilliant Barry Gray, allied to John Read and Reg Hill’s ground-breaking team of "Supermarionation" puppeteers, created a near future world of excitement and danger which enthralled the viewing public from the outset and remains a major hit to this day.

The show’s central premise was stunning in its simple and economical effectiveness.

Operating from their base located on an isolated atoll in the Pacific, Millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons, Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan, formed the core of the altruistic secret organization "International Rescue".

Dedicated to the preservation of life in situations beyond the resources of conventional rescue techniques, IR, with its fabulous, technologically advanced fleet of Thunderbird craft, engendered a cross-generational legion of avid followers, which belied the fiberglass reality of its cast of ‘actors’.

By its end in 1966, “Thunderbirds” had become something of a national institution. The Tracy’s, along with the likes of such characters as their London based agent, Lady Penelope, and her shifty Cockney chauffeur, Parker, had gained a place in the collective consciousness that has endured to this day.

An ill-conceived and poorly executed big budget live action Hollywood movie version, made some forty years later, only highlighted the sheer quality of the original and affirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt that without the creative genius of Anderson behind it, 'Thunderbirds The Movie' was but a pale imitation of an outstanding TV series. A great pity as the original concept remains as fresh and vital today as it was over four decades passed as is clearly evident by the periodic reruns the series enjoys on our television screens, never failing to win a new legion of fans who will happily respond to each rescreening with a resounding "F-A-B!"

Voice Cast
Peter Dyneley as Jeff Tracy
Shane Rimmer as Scott Tracy
David Holiday as Virgil Tracy
Ray Barrett as John Tracy & the Hood
David Graham as Gordon Tracy, Brains, Parker & Kyrano
Matt Zimmermann as Alan Tracy
Sylvia Anderson as Lady Penelope
Christine Finn as Tin-Tin & Grandma Tracy
Jeremy Wilkin as Virgil Tracy (Season 2)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.

 

Screenshot

Episode

Description

Airdate

Trapped in the Sky

The Hood, a mysterious Malaysian criminal who possesses strange telekinetic power, has learned of the creation of International Rescue, and the Fireflash, on its maiden flight from London to Tokyo, is sabotaged by him to draw the Thunderbirds out. With the Fireflash unable to land, International Rescue must emerge for the organization’s first mission. 

9/30/65

Pit of Peril

In the African jungle, the US Army is testing a new all-terrain Sidewinder vehicle when the ground gives way and it falls into a blazing pit with a three man crew trapped inside – 300 feet below ground. After two failed rescue attempts, the Army must call the help of International Rescue

10/7/65

City of Fire

The world's tallest tower catches fire and International Rescue are called to rescue a family trapped in the basement, and must do so with an experimental cutting gas that knocked Scott and Virgil unconscious in testing.

1/6/66

Sun Probe

A spaceship and its crew find themselves on a collision course with the Sun and Thunderbird 3 is called out — but winds up needing to be rescued itself when it becomes trapped in the Sun's gravitational pull.

12/9/65

The Uninvited

While returning home after a mission, Scott is attacked by mysterious fightercraft and is shot down. Two archaeologists find him and send him on his way only to become trapped in the Pyramid of Khamandides

12/2/65

The Mighty Atom

The Hood plans to lure out the Thunderbirds vehicles by means of an emergency at an atomic irrigation plant in the Sahara Desert, subsequently photographing them with a disguised miniature camera. This is the only episode to feature all the Thunderbird craft. 

12/30/65

Vault of Death

Safecracker Parker demonstrates his ability to break into the main vault at the Bank of England, the vault being only protected by an ancient combination lock. This causes the bank's board to design an entirely new vault with electric controls and a massive impenetrable door. An employee at the Bank of England is accidentally locked in the new vault and must be rescued before all the air is pumped out, a task made more complicated by International Rescue's inability to use the Mole due to the underground cables around the bank.

12/23/65

Operation Crash-Dive

A series of Fireflash disappearances leads to Thunderbird 4 being called to save a crew trapped on the seabed.

12/16/65

Move – And You’re Dead

After Alan Tracy returns to motor-racing, his rivals decide to remove the competition by placing a bomb on a bridge which will explode if Alan and Grandma try to escape.

2/10/66

Martian Invasion

The Hood arranges for a mishap with explosives during the filming of a science fiction movie, leaving two of the actors trapped in a cave. When International Rescue arrive to make a rescue attempt, the cameras are still rolling as The Hood makes another attempt to obtain footage of International Rescue in action. 

3/17/66

Brink of Disaster

A crooked investor tries to recruit Lady Penelope into aiding his scheme to build a cross-country monorail. When Penny informs Jeff, he investigates, but he, Brains, and Tin-Tin find themselves trapped onboard a new, fully-automated monorail train speeding towards a stricken bridge with the now-terrified investor. 

2/24/66

The Perils of Penelope

Lady Penelope goes on the trail of a kidnapped scientist, only to find herself in mortal danger from the megalomaniac determined to use the expert's work for his own evil ends. 

10/14/65

Terror in New York City

Thunderbird 2 is put out of action by a high-speed Navy warship firing anti-air missiles after the Navy warship mistakenly identifies the Thunderbird craft as a hostile aircraft. Thunderbird 2 takes a hit, injuring Virgil, who nonetheless is able to nurse the damaged craft back to base. While Virgil recovers and Thunderbird 2 is fitted to a repair gantry, the Tracy family watch a broadcast of an operation to move the Empire State Building. The project begins successfully but suddenly the building collapses. Thunderbird 4 must hitch a ride onboard the Navy ship to find an underground river to reach a reporter and his cameraman — two men who had attempted to videotape Thunderbird 1 without permission — trapped below the wreckage. 

10/21/65

End of the Road

International Rescue's identity is jeopardized when a close friend of Tin-Tin, who recently visited the island, puts himself at risk in a bid to save his road-construction company's contract. 

11/25/65

Day of Disaster

The Allington Bridge collapses when a space rocket is transported across. International Rescue must save the engineers inside before the rocket launches from the riverbed. 

11/4/65

Edge of Impact

The Hood sabotages the new "Red Arrow" fighter aircraft program and its head of development – an old Air Force friend of Jeff Tracy – is dismissed and pays a visit to Tracy Island. During his visit the program continues and a second prototype crashes into a gigantic telerelay tower in England. International Rescue must save the engineers inside the tower before it collapses, all the while hiding their true identity while having to contend with powerful winds and driving rain at the tower.

10/28/65

Desperate Intruder

Brains and Tin-Tin embark on an expedition to retrieve treasure from Lake Anasta. The Hood has also set his sights on these riches and plans to put both Brains and Tin-Tin in grave peril.

11/18/65

30 Minutes After Noon

The Erdman Gang, an international criminal organization, has developed an ingenious method of getting their work carried out — an explosive bracelet which can only be removed at the designated target. A secret agent's attempt to infiltrate a scheme backfires as he is left in a plutonium store. International Rescue face a race against time to prevent a massive nuclear explosion.

11/11/65

The Impostors

A gang of criminals masquerade as International Rescue to conceal their theft of top-secret military plans. The worldwide manhunt for the treacherous International Rescue team means that the organization cannot operate until its name is cleared, a task made more difficult when one of the men involved in the search is accidentally launched into space with only three hours of air left.

1/13/66

The Man From MI5

A lethal organization steals top-secret plans. Working in conjunction with a British Secret Service agent, Lady Penelope must recover the stolen material to save the world from total destruction. 

1/20/66

Cry Wolf

Two Australian boys are playing their favorite game — "International Rescue" — when their "distress" call is picked up by John in Thunderbird 5. After a tour of Tracy Island and being ordered not to use their radio again they return home. The Hood then tricks the boys into an old mine shaft so he can steal secret photographs from the boys' father. This time their distress call is real, but now International Rescue won't believe them. 

1/27/66

Danger at Ocean Deep

When the Ocean Pioneer tanker mysteriously explodes, Brains sets about investigating the cause. With a little help from Lady Penelope, this is discovered to be a chemical reaction between the cargo of liquid alsterene and OD60 found in the sea. International Rescue set out to save the crew of the ill-fated Ocean Pioneer II. 

2/3/66

The Duchess Assignment

The Duchess of Royston has fallen on hard times and her friend Lady Penelope enlists the help of Jeff Tracy. The Duchess and her sole asset — Portrait of a Gazelle, painted by Braquasso — come under threat and it is down to International Rescue to save them both. 

2/17/66

Attack of the Alligators!

When a new growth hormone is accidentally released into a South American river, a house is besieged by alligators — now ten times their original size (filmed using live young crocodiles). Can International Rescue subdue the reptiles and save the people trapped inside before it is too late?

3/10/66

The Cham-Cham

When aircraft are shot down during live broadcasts of a particular tune, the boys at International Rescue suspect foul play. Tin-Tin and Lady Penelope (posing as mysterious singer Wanda Lamour) investigate, and find their lives in danger on an out-of-control ski lift.

3/24/66

Security Hazard

The Tracy family cannot help but reminisce about their many operations after a young boy infiltrates the island. They are nonetheless left with the problem that the boy knows their identity — until Jeff realizes they can use the boy's dreams to their advantage.

3/31/66

Atlantic Inferno

World Navy trials of atomic torpedoes inadvertently threaten the lives of the crew of the large offshore Seascape rig. Jeff, having been invited by Lady Penelope to join her on holiday in Australia, puts Scott in charge of IR and Alan at the helm of Thunderbird 1.

10/2/66

Path of Destruction

A new invention — the Crablogger (a largely automated logging machine which converts wood into fuel) — threatens to cause mayhem if it collides with a dam under construction after its crew collapses from food poisoning.

10/9/66

Alias Mr. Hackenbacker

The Skythrust, designed by Brains, falls into the hands of fashion madmen who take over the plane in order to steal a new French design from François Lemaire.

10/16/66

Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday

A malfunctioning solar reflector threatens an alpine town where Lady Penelope and Parker are on vacation.

10/23/66

Ricochet

A manned telecommunications satellite (which broadcasts a music program of which Tin-Tin is a huge fan) is disrupted by the detonation of a rogue unmanned space rocket and is set on collision course with a Middle Eastern oil refinery. 

11/6/66

Give or Take a Million

As Christmas festivities are being prepared at both Tracy Island and a local children's hospital which is expanding to include a new radiation therapy wing, a pair of criminals attempt to rob a high-tech vault filled with gold and $1,000,000 in money.

12/25/66

 

Production
The program was notable for the high quality of its miniature special effects. The effects supervisor on all of Anderson's shows from “Supercar” to “UFO” was Derek Meddings, who went on to produce special effects for the “James Bond” and “Superman” movies (Meddings won an Oscar for the first Superman film).

One of Meddings' most famous and ingenious creations was the so-called "rolling road" and "rolling sky" system. The Thunderbirds storylines called for a large number of scenes showing the Thunderbirds and other aircraft flying through the air, landing or taking off along runways, or motor vehicles travelling along roads. Meddings' team quickly discovered that the old method—pulling or pushing models across a static base or against a static background—produced very unconvincing results. Meddings came up with a novel solution to the problem, which he first used in the premiere episode, "Trapped in the Sky". For the famous crash-landing sequence (which so impressed Lew Grade), the Thunderbirds' remotely operated "elevator cars" had to be shown being maneuvered into position on the runway beneath the stricken Fireflash aircraft as it came in to land, so that the aircraft could touch down without extending its landing gear, which would have triggered a bomb hidden there by IR's nemesis, The Hood.

Meddings' solution was to construct a belt of canvas, stretched over rollers and driven by an electric motor. The miniature elevator cars were then fixed in position by fine wires on this "rolling road". The Fireflash model was suspended from wires above the elevator cars and it could be lowered onto the runway, creating a smooth and remarkably convincing descent effect. A similar roller system, painted with a sky background was built at right angles to the runway, and both roller motors were synchronized to provide a matching speed for both elements. When the lights and cameras were set up in the right position and the rollers were activated, the rolling road system created a very convincing illusion of movement. It also proved extremely helpful for the lighting and camera crews, since the miniature models did not move and were therefore much easier to light and shoot. The 'rolling sky' system proved equally effective for shots of flying aircraft. The illusion was enhanced by blowing smoke across the miniatures with a fan to simulate passing through cloud, and by joining the canvas belt at an angle to hide what would otherwise have been a visible seam. Unlike modern special effects, the model was still actually in front of the backdrop—at the time, this produced a more convincing (and far cheaper) effect than bluescreen technology. The 'rolling road' system was later used on several James Bond movies.

The team also quickly mastered the art of creating extremely convincing miniature explosions using materials including petroleum and fuller's earth. These were filmed at high speed, and when slowed down to normal speed they produced spectacular results. The team also became expert at creating a convincing illusion for rocket take-offs and landings. After an exhaustive search, they found a British firm that could make special thrustless solid-fuelled rocket canisters in different sizes, which burned for about ten seconds and which could be fitted inside the various miniatures to provide convincing rocket exhaust effects.

The show was praised for the exceptional quality of its miniature vehicles and sets. Some of the main Thunderbird vehicles were built by a professional model-making firm, but many others were custom-made by Meddings and his team from commercial radio-controlled motorized vehicle kits. Joining Meddings' team was Michael Trim, who became Medding's assistant to help design the fantastic craft and buildings of Thunderbirds. Meddings and Trim also pioneered the technique of 'customizing' models and miniature vehicles by applying pieces taken from commercial model kits, to add convincing surface detail, for example the giant air conditioning silos either side of Thunderbird 1 in the launch bay beneath the swimming pool were actually a 1960s periscope toy manufactured by Merit.

The Thunderbirds” miniatures were also 'aged' with paint and dust to create the convincing illusion that they were real, well-used vehicles. These techniques became standard practice in the special effects trade and were used to great effect in the building of the miniature spaceships and other vehicles for the first three “Star Wars” films.

Many of the effects team including Meddings and Brian Johnson became respected specialists in the film industry. Impressed by their work on the TV series, director Stanley Kubrick poached several of the Anderson effects team to work on his science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Thanks to a winning combination of engaging scripts, outstanding vocal performances from a talented ‘repertory company’ of actors, and character designs which rendered the all-important suspension of disbelief necessary for the viewing audience to invest a genuine emotional involvement in the pre animatronic leading players, the series spawned a merchandising industry the likes of which had previously been unknown outside of the mammoth Disney empire.

For Gerry Anderson, “Thunderbirds” (for good or ill), became the creative yardstick by which all his subsequent productions would be measured.

At the end of the production of the 22 episodes Gerry attended a meeting with Lew Grade, fully expecting to talk about the second series of "Thunderbirds". Instead, he was taken aback when Grade began the conversation with, “I think it’s time we made a new show.”

Gerry Anderson was totally unprepared for Lew Grade’s decision to drop "Thunderbirds" after just one season. It was, without any shadow of a doubt, a total bombshell: “All our planning was geared towards another series”, he told his biographer, Simon Archer.

The cancellation also came as a serious blow to the Century 21 Organization. Large amounts of money had been tied up in merchandising and a factory in Hong Kong had been financed to produce "Thunderbirds" toys in a significant quantity. But when the news broke that there would be no new series orders were cancelled all round the world. “We were caught with our pants down”, said Gerry. “We had a lot of merchandise aboard ships in transit.” Gerry claims that it was ‘a catastrophe’ that marked the beginning of the end. “The infrastructure was too big to sustain without a hit like "Thunderbirds". Eventually, large amounts of toys were simply dumped.” But Grade was adamant. Gerry had to come up with a new series.


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