The World of Supermarionation


"Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons"


Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Tony Barwick
Peter Curran
Leo Eaton
Alan Pattilo
Shane Rimmer
David Williams

Directed by

Brian Burgess
Leo Eaton
David Lane
Robert Lynn
Alan Perry
Desmond Saunders
Ken Turner


Barry Gray

Episode Count


Running Time

25 minutes aprox


ITC Entertainment

Original Run

September 29, 1967 – May 14, 1968

With “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”, Gerry Anderson fifth series, the art of Supermarionation took an expensive quantum leap forward in terms of sophistication.

Set in the year AD2068 as Earth's elite Spectrum force, operating from a floating control centre called Cloudbase, (another incarnation of Anderson's unified world security organizations), are bought into action when war is declared on the planet by the Mysterons following an ill conceived and unprovoked attack on one of their installations during an exploratory expedition on the planet Mars. The invisible aliens would kill and then re-animate their victims as their own agents of death and destruction, their main champion being the leader of the Mars expedition, Captain Black. Only Captain Scarlet is impervious to their influence, this plus the fact that he is indestructible makes him Earth's best defense and the Mysterons immortal enemy.

As one might expect there was one eye heavily focused on merchandising, and along with their different colored uniforms the Spectrum agents packed hardware aplenty. Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles, Maximum Security Vehicles and Angel Interceptors all found their way onto the toy shelves, with the SPV becoming Dinky's best seller of all time.

What differentiated Scarlet most from Anderson's earlier series was the decidedly darker tone of the scripts. The puppets were made to look like the actors who supplied their voices and were also given a full biographical background -both Lt. Green and Captain Grey had previously been assigned to WASP, the organization that ran the “Stingray” project. In many respects the underlying atmosphere was tinged with a degree of futility, as each new gambit in the Mysterons on-going "war of nerves" served to highlight their ultimate superiority over the much less advanced - and hardly blameless in the first place - humans. When the Anderson team formed the core for their first foray into live action television, “UFO”, they would recycle many of these elements.

Anderson overcame the 'big headed' look that had become the trademark of his puppets by placing the machinery that operated the eyes and mouth inside the body, thereby making them far better proportioned. In many respects far less dated than the mighty “Thunderbirds”, Captain Scarlet continued to be indestructible thanks to occasional re-runs and the power of home video to the end of the millennium. And then a whole new version, using state-of-the-art CGI graphics was produced for television for broadcast in early 2005. Almost forty years after his first encounter with the Mysterons, Captain Scarlet was reporting for duty once again. "S.I.G."

Voice Cast
Francis Matthews as Captain Scarlet
Ed Bishop as Captain Blue
Donald Gray as Colonel White, Captain Black & the Mysterons
Cy Grant as Lieutenant Green
Jeremy Wilkin as Captain Ochre
Gary Files as Captain Magenta
Paul Maxwell as Captain Grey
Charles Tingwell as Dr. Fawn
Liz Morgan as Destiny Angel, Rhapsody Angel & Harmony Angel
Janna Hill as Symphony Angel
Sylvia Anderson as Melody Angel
Lian-Shin as Harmony Angel (“The Launching”, billed for most episodes)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.





The Mysterons

Captain Black destroys an alien city on Mars, unleashing the horror of the Mysterons. Can Spectrum save the World President from assassination? And why does the Mysteron reconstruction of Captain Scarlet return to life after falling 800 feet to its death? 


Winged Assassin

Scarlet's first assignment with his powers of retro-metabolism is to protect the Director General of the United Asian Republic from assassination at the hands of the Mysterons. 


Big Ben Strikes Again

Can Spectrum locate a hijacked atomic device and save London from total destruction?


Point 783

The Supreme Commander of Earth Forces is targeted by a seemingly invincible, renegade super weapon.



The hunt is on to apprehend Captain Black after he unwittingly becomes a radioactive hot spot.


Operation Time

Crucial Mysteron weaknesses are revealed when a leading brain surgeon is killed and reconstructed by the Mysterons to murder a top army general. 


Renegade Rocket

A nuclear rocket vanishes from radar. Will the correct self-destruct code be found before the mystery target is annihilated?


White as Snow

Colonel White himself is targeted by the Mysterons. 


Seek & Destroy

When the Spectrum Angels are threatened by the Mysterons, reconstructed Angel fighters menace Scarlet, Blue, and Destiny. 


Spectrum Strikes Back

Two brilliant devices are created to counter the Mysteron threat — but will the delegates at the conference survive a deadly trap? 



A series of crippling attacks on Frost Line Outer Space Defense bases sees Captain Scarlet and Lieutenant Green race to stop the Mysteron assailant before a belligerent general starts an interplanetary war with Mars.


Shadow of Fear

A powerful Himalayan observatory receiving precious photographs of Mars comes under attack from a reconstruction of one of the resident astronomers. 


The Heart of New York

Professional bank-robbers try to get the Mysterons to work for them after the aliens target New York City.


Fire at Rig 15

The source of all Spectrum's vehicle fuel is threatened when a demolitions expert contracted to put out an oil rig fire is killed and reconstructed by the Mysterons. 


The Launching

The President of the United States is seemingly threatened with assassination. 


Lunarville 7

Scarlet, Blue and Green investigate strange signals emanating from the far side of the Moon and discover a second Mysteron complex under construction.


The Trap

A summit of top military commanders is secretly a Mysteron ruse to eliminate the best minds of Earth's armed forces.


Model Spy

A French intelligence agent posing as a fashion designer is kidnapped by Mysteron reconstructions of his own models.


Crater 101

Scarlet, Blue and Green return to the Moon to destroy the second Mysteron complex. They are able to return the heart of the complex — a crystal pulsator — to Spectrum.


Special Assignment

Captain Scarlet turns double agent to thwart Mysteron plans to destroy the whole of North America.


Place of Angels

A vial of a lethal new virus is stolen from a maximum-security laboratory. Scarlet must stop the Mysteron agent before the Los Angeles water supply is polluted with the contents.


Dangerous Rendezvous

For the first time, Spectrum is able to contact the Mysterons using the strange properties of the crystal pulsator recovered from the Mysteron complex on the Moon. But can Scarlet defend Cloudbase itself from obliteration?


Expo 2068

Scarlet must neutralize a stolen nuclear reactor before total devastation is brought to the Atlantic Seaboard of North America.



A series of hovercraft accidents in the Australian outback means that Scarlet and Blue must expose the traitor before he can strike again.


Flight 104

Scarlet, Blue, a top astrophysicist and two journalists find themselves trapped on an airliner under Mysteron control.


Noose of Ice

An underwater Arctic mine extracting a rare metal to be used in Earth's return to Mars is terrorized when its heating elements are sabotaged and the surrounding water threatens to freeze and crush the tower.


Codename Europa

Three of Europe's leading politicians are targeted by a reconstructed electronics professor. 


Flight to Atlantica

Captains Blue and Ochre go on a mindless destructive spree of the world's biggest naval complex after drinking drugged champagne. 


Treble Cross

A test pilot survives a car accident engineered by the Mysterons and helps Spectrum in an attempt to capture Captain Black. 


Attack on Cloudbase

The Mysterons themselves arrive on Earth to destroy Cloudbase. 


The Inquisition

Captain Blue is drugged and wakes up three months later on Cloudbase facing questioning from a man claiming to be from Spectrum Intelligence. 



Spectrum must protect a South American irrigation plant from attack by an orbiting spacecraft taken over by the Mysterons. 



Gerry Anderson was devastated when Lew Grade refused to fund a second series of “Thunderbirds” -but it presented him with the opportunity to abandon the disproportionate heads of previous series in favor of perfectly proportioned puppets. With a budget of £1,500,000 for the series filming began on Monday 27th January 1967. Each episode took two weeks to shoot.

During filming of “Captain Scarlet”, Anderson was also filming the second “Thunderbirds” movie, “Thunderbird 6” and this caused delays to the 'Scarlet' shooting schedule. Therefore, instead of completing all 32 episodes in eight months the last episodes were not in the can until the end October 1967.

It was Anderson's idea to name the cast after colors, with the colors indicating each character's personality. Hence Captain Black was the traitor, Colonel White the upright commander and Scarlet the dynamic action hero. Actor Francis Matthews voiced Captain Scarlet in a deliberate imitation of Cary Grant. "It wasn't exactly what we were looking for," explained Anderson. "But it sounded great so we used it."

Another departure from previous Anderson series was the opening titles which took on a more sinister atmosphere. "The titles on the series were always devised by me," he recalled in an interview. "When it came to Scarlet I was frightened people would say "Oh, it's the same old crash, bang, wallop stuff again." So I made a conscious effort to do something totally different. I don't think I necessarily did the right thing."

"Joe 90"

Joe 90

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Tony Barwick
David Lane
Donald James
Shane Rimmer

Directed by

Peter Anderson
Leo Eaton
Brian Heard
Alan Perry
Desmond Saunders
Ken Turner


Barry Gray

Episode Count


Running Time

25 minutes aprox


ITC Entertainment

Original Run

September 29, 1968 – April 20, 1960


Gerry Anderson's ninth consecutive TV puppet series and the sixth in the ever expanding Supermarionation stable, “Joe 90” marked the beginning of a conscious change of style and pace towards the more realistic sophistication of character design and technique which had begun with “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”.

Gone were the overtly hi-tech hardware and more traditionally epic heroics of previous Anderson outings, to be replaced by the smaller scaled secret agent adventures of a bespectacled nine-year-old schoolboy named Joe McClain, who was the adopted son of brilliant electronics genius, Professor Ian McClaine, creator of the BIG RAT device, (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer), a technologically sophisticated device which recorded the brain patterns and special skills of one person and transferred them to another. At the suggestion of Shane Weston, Deputy Head of the World Intelligence Network, McClaine subjected Joe to the BIG RAT treatment, successfully transferring to the boy the specialist knowledge and attributes of an appropriate highly skilled adult, thereby making him WIN's "Most Special Agent".

At the outset of each mission, Joe would be placed in a special chair that rose up into a circular cage which revolved as the BIG RAT tape containing the chosen specialist's brain patterns was run and fed directly into the boy's mind. Once the transfer was complete, Joe would don a pair of 'electrode glasses' to trigger the new knowledge housed within him. Over the course of the series, his missions called upon him to adopt the personas of such diverse experts as an astronaut, test pilot, racing driver, aquanaut, computer boffin and a brain surgeon.

Among the well known vocal talents behind the characters were those of TV's original “Maigret”, Rupert Davies, and Keith Alexander, the voice of another 1960s puppet celebrity - Topo Gigio. Clearly the most child oriented of the latter Anderson Supermarionation series, “Joe 90'”s' appeal with the adult section of the audience which had been captured by “Thunderbirds” and its follow up series “Captain Scarlet”, suffered from the decision to make the all important central character a child. While still enjoyable and technically accomplished, ultimately 'Joe 90' is remembered as one of the Anderson stable's lesser series.

Voice Cast
Len Jones as Joe McClaine
Rupert Davies as Professor Ian McClaine
Keith Alexander as Sam Loover
David Healy as Shane Weston
Sylvia Anderson as Mrs. Harris

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.





The Most Special Agent

Professor Ian "Mac" McClaine completes his work on the revolutionary BIG RAT, to the interest of his friend (and WIN agent) Sam Loover. Introducing the McClaines to WIN, commander-in-chief Shane Weston contrives a mission in which Joe 90 steals a new Russian fighter-bomber to prevent an arms race between the East and West. 



Joe attempts to thwart a lethal arms runner.



Joe must stop the organization responsible for the kidnapping of two electronics experts before time runs out for him and his father.


Operation McClaine

When a specialist brain surgeon is injured in a plane crash, it is up to Joe to save the life of an ailing novelist.


Three’s a Crowd

Joe intervenes when it seems that there is more to Mac's new girlfriend than meets the eye.


International Concerto

A top WIN agent finds his cover broken. Joe must take on his persona as a famous pianist if the agent is to escape his captors.


Big Fish

A submarine has unwittingly malfunctioned in enemy waters and Joe must remove it to prevent political carnage. 


The Unorthodox Shepherd

Joe, Mac and Sam investigate unusual disturbances surrounding a church crypt. 


Relative Danger

Joe is brained up with the skills of a top explorer to save three miners jeopardized by their own explosives test. 


Business Holiday

Strange happenings during the McClaines' holiday are connected to the need to destroy a rogue government's new military base. 


King for a Day

Joe poses as the heir to a Middle Eastern throne as WIN tries to rescue the real prince from kidnappers allied with a jealous regent.


Double Agent

Joe is unintentionally given the brain pattern of a double agent for a mission to protect top-secret WIN cipher codes. 


Most Special Astronaut

Joe ventures into space to save two astronauts stranded on a space station with a dwindling air supply. 


Arctic Adventure

A nuclear bomb must be discreetly removed from the Arctic wastes of the Eastern Sector to avoid a world war. 


The Fortress

Joe is assigned to rescue a fellow WIN agent from an impregnable stronghold before his captors force him to divulge top-secret information.


Project 90

Criminal masterminds uncover the McClaines' involvement with WIN and kidnap Mac for further information.


Colonel McClaine

Equipped with the knowledge and experience of an army driver and explosives expert, Joe is assigned to transport a dangerous chemical across Africa.


The Race

Joe is given his father's brain pattern and they share a dream, revolving around a madcap rally race from London to Monte Carlo.


The Professional

Using the brain pattern of a convicted safe-cracker, Joe infiltrates a castle to retrieve a dictator's ill-gotten gold bullion.


Lone-Handed 90

While the BIG RAT is out of action, Joe dreams of life as a sheriff in the Wild West.


Attack of the Tiger

Joe pilots a new fighter-bomber to destroy a nuclear weapons base before a device is placed in orbit to hold the world to ransom. 



Joe takes the place of an injured test pilot to demonstrate a new hypersonic fighter, only to find himself in mortal danger. 



A pair of convicts break out of a Canadian jail and threaten to kill the country's prime minister unless they are given a hefty ransom.


Mission X-41

Assuming the skills of a leading virologist, Joe tries to steal the antibody for a deadly virus before it can be used to attack the West.


Test Flight

Joe tries to find out whether the crash of a prototype spaceplane was an accident or sabotage. 


Child of the Sun God

Several of the world's leading statesmen have been left paralyzed after being attacked with poison darts known to have been used only by a lost South American tribe.


Trial at Sea

With the brain pattern of a terrorist, Joe has little time to prevent the destruction of a new transatlantic hoverliner. 


See You Down There

An exploitative businessman is compelled to change his ways after he is bewildered by Joe 90's multitude of brain patterns.


The Birthday

Joe reaches his tenth birthday, and celebrates with his friends as they reminisce over his many adventures.


Viva Cordova

Joe must act as a bodyguard to a new, democratic president to prevent his assassination at the hands of the country's former dictator.


Following “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”, “Joe 90” was purposely conceived and developed to be a different kind of Supermarionation series, placing the narrative emphasis less on action, advanced technology and visual effects and more on characterization and plotlines subscribing more to the spy thriller genre than science fiction. Co-creator Gerry Anderson explained, "The show majored on its characters, which I thought were all very good. The puppets had become so lifelike, I now strongly believed that they could carry the action without the usual massive assistance from futuristic hardware." Explaining his inspiration for the series, Anderson recalls his pre-Supermarionation days when he served as an assistant editor for such films asThe Wicked Lady” and handled recording tape on a daily basis. While pondering on the blanking and re-use of such tape, Anderson made a connection to the human brain's electrical activities, explaining, "I read somewhere that the human brain is controlled by electrical impulses and how thoughts are stored electronically. I started toying with the story potential of a process that would allow the recording of brain patterns and transferring them to another brain. I was really likening it to magnetic recording, where material could be stored or transferred to another tape." When it came to naming the lead character and, from that, the name of the new series, Anderson recalled that on his previous production, “Fireball XL5”, the surname "Ninety" had been an early proposal for Colonel Steve Zodiac, and selected it for the schoolboy who would be the next protagonist. The script for the pilot episode was written by Anderson with his wife, Sylvia, as was the custom for each new puppet series that the couple developed.

"The Secret Service"


The Secret Service

Created by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Tony Barwick
Pat Dunlop
Bob Kesten
Donald James
Shane Rimmer

Directed by

Peter Anderson
Leo Eaton
Brian Heard
Alan Perry
Ian Spurrier
Ken Turner


Barry Gray

Episode Count


Running Time

25 minutes aprox


ITC Entertainment

Original Run

September 29, 1968 – April 20, 1960

The eighth and final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service” incorporated footage of live actors for distance shots at the behest of Anderson, who wished to compensate for the inadequacies of the Supermarionation format (such as the difficulties of inducing effective movement in the puppet characters) and increase its realism. Originally, it was intended to make the series live action, but production costs prohibited this. The Secret Service” remained Anderson's last puppet series until the 1980s, when he produced “Terrahawks” using the "Supermacromation" technique.

Episodes depict the adventures of Father Stanley Unwin, the parish priest of a rural English village, who was voiced by and resembled the real-life comedian of the same name. Affecting the appearance of an eccentric middle-aged cleric, Unwin moonlights as a secret agent for BISHOP, a top-secret arm of British Intelligence (in full, British Intelligence Service Headquarters, Operation Priest) based in Whitehall. Answering to his superior, codenamed "The Bishop", Unwin resides at his vicarage with Matthew Harding – another agent who, when not assisting the Father on his missions, adopts the manner of a simple gardener. Supporting characters include Blake, a junior BISHOP operative, and Mrs. Appleby, Unwin's ageing housekeeper, who is unaware of Unwin and Harding's involvement with British Intelligence.

Prior to the events depicted inThe Secret Service”, pioneering scientist Professor Humbolt perfected the Minimiser, a device capable of shrinking people or objects to one third of their original size. Following Humbolt's death, it passed into the possession of Father Unwin, who conceals his deceased parishioner's parting gift inside a large Bible. The regular target of the Minimiser is Harding, whom Unwin reduces to a height of two feet (0.6 m) so that he can infiltrate situations to which no full-size person could gain discreet access. In this manner, the puppet interacts with life-size sets and live actors whose faces are excluded from the shot. The Minimiser is also used to shrink enemy agents, bringing them down to Harding's size.

When miniaturized, Harding is transported in Unwin's adapted briefcase, which is fitted with equipment such as a periscope, stores other gadgets as required, and can open from the inside. Unwin's hearing aid is in fact a transmitter that allows covert communication with Harding, who wears a corresponding unit. The Father's preferred means of transport is Gabriel, a repainted and revamped 1917-issue Ford Model T that can travel at speeds in excess of 50 mph (80 km/h). If enemies, police or other authorities challenge Unwin, the Father spouts a form of nonsensical gobbledygook as a smokescreen to confuse the opposition and cover for Matthew.

"The Secret Service" represents a departure from most earlier Supermarionation television series on account of its contemporary setting: the time depicted is the late 1960s, whereas most others are set in the 2060’s (Joe 90” being set around 2012). “Supercar”, produced from 1960, is an exception however and is set between 1960 and 1962. The events of the episodes "Errand of Mercy" and "The Deadly Whisper" are set on 3 February and 24 May 1969, respectively. However, Gerry Anderson biographers Archer and Hearn argue that the setting is ambiguous: while it is first suggested to be "sometime in the near future", it is also remarked of the set-up that "Morris Minors negotiate leafy country roads while space-age helijets patrol the skies." It is concluded that the production is so fantastic that it "isn't set in the real world at all."

Voice Cast
Stanley Unwin as Father Unwin
Gary Files as Matthew Harding
Jeremy Wilkin as the Bishop
Sylvia Anderson as Mrs. Appleby
Keith Alexander as Agent Blake

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.





A Case for the Bishop

Dreisenberg agents raid the Healey Automation plant and steal the KX20 computer. British Intelligence fears that the ambassador will attempt to smuggle the machine out of Britain, invoking his diplomatic immunity if challenged to ensure no resistance from the authorities. Father Stanley Unwin and Matthew Harding of BISHOP set off to recapture the device. 


A Question of Miracles

Explosions at desalinization plants in Africa and Burgossa point to sabotage. Father Unwin and Matthew travel to the one surviving installation at Port Trennick, but find themselves in a race against time to prevent its own destruction on account of a rigged underwater inlet. 


The Feathered Spies

The secret development of the new XK4 fighter aircraft has been jeopardized by De Groot, a master of industrial espionage, who has blackmailed ornithologist John Masden into attaching miniature cameras to his domesticated pigeons for the purposes of surveillance. Investigating, Father Unwin and Matthew uncover De Groot's ultimate plan to use the birds to bomb Crayfield Airbase. 


To Catch a Spy

George Gray, an inmate at North Exmanston prison, breaks out of his cell and contacts Sir Humphrey Burton, who has promised Gray a route out of Britain onboard a submarine. Father Unwin is tasked with intercepting the pair at Kew Gardens and apprehending with the help of the Minimiser. 


Last Train to Buffler’s Halt

In an operation to seize £1 million in bank notes being transported to London, the train loaded with the consignment is diverted to the disused Buffler's Halt Station. Assigned to protect the shipment, Father Unwin and Matthew help to subdue the criminals responsible. However, back up the line, stationmaster Albert Hobson realizes that he cannot stop the train, which is travelling at 80 mph.


Errand of Mercy

Suffering from heatstroke, Father Unwin rests at his vicarage. An article in a newspaper covering an epidemic in Africa prompts a surreal dream in which Unwin and Matthew are assigned to transport medicines to Bishopsville in an airborne Gabriel. After abduction at the hands of natives, Unwin saves himself and his accomplice from ritual sacrifice using his gobbledygook. 


Recall to Service

Father Unwin and Matthew investigate what appears to be a case of sabotage when the AquaTank, a computerized World Army super weapon, develops a mechanical fault. After NATO officials arrive to attend a demonstration of the AquaTank's capabilities, suspicion falls on Captain Mitchell as he commands computer expert Professor Graham to program it to fire on the delegates' bunker. 


Hole in One

When the G9 series of advance warning orbital satellites is sabotaged, the evidence leads to General Brompton, to whom Father Unwin passes on false intelligence during a golf match. Matthew spies on two of Brompton's henchmen, Kromer and Blake, and learns that the golf balls contain recording devices. The fate of the satellites rests on Unwin's success in scoring a hole in one. 


School for Spies

The sabotage of multiple military installations prompts The Bishop to contact Father Unwin. Tracking down Brother Gregory, a vicar involved in a car accident near the site of the latest attack, Unwin helps Matthew to slip into Brother Thomas' briefcase. Arriving at Pennydridge Seminary, Harding finds that the vicars are in fact mercenaries who answer to their own Archdeacon. 


The Cure

Racing to intercept international assassin Sakov, who has appeared at Greenways health clinic on the pretence of receiving therapeutic treatment, Father Unwin is unaware that the agent has designs on the new GK2 additive chemical, which if mixed with water produces a compound as combustible as high-octane fuel. 


The Deadly Whisper

Professor Soames has invented an ultrasonic vibrational rifle that is capable of obliterating armored vehicles. Criminal Mark Slater and his gang, who intend to shoot down an experimental aircraft using the weapon, threaten Soames' daughter, Anne. With the professor's assistance, Father Unwin and Matthew rescue Anne and set out to thwart Slater. 


May-Day, May-Day!

Father Unwin and Matthew are assigned to guard the King of Muldovia, who is in London to sign an oil rights convention. The Prince of Muldovia plots to overthrow the King, but his hitman is thwarted while making an assassination attempt on the monarch. Following this, the Prince conceals a bomb inside a toy bear intended for the King's son. 


More Haste Less Speed

Aristocrats Lord and Lady Hazlewell and their associate, Spiker, greet ex-convict Mullins at their manor. The deceased Lord Hazlewell Senior bequeathed to his children one of two plates with which to print counterfeit dollar bills. Mullins reveals that the second plate is hidden at Greenacre Farm. Father Unwin and Matthew join race to be the first to reach the prize. 


With the completion of “Joe 90”, which commenced transmission on ATV in September 1968, Gerry Anderson decided to produce another espionage television series. This would incorporate the plot device of a rural English village as the base of operations for the star secret agent, the local parish priest. Anderson selected Stanley Unwin to voice the lead character, which would be named after him, after encountering the comedian at Pinewood Studios as he completed dubbing work for the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang”.

In the 1940s and 50s, Unwin had developed "Unwinese", a nonsense language that distorted words and phrases into a form of gibberish that sounded unintelligible but which in fact retained some fragments of meaning. Recalling Unwin's radio and television performances, Anderson thought that the self-made language would suit the character of an eccentric undercover operative, and could produce humor if demonstrated to have a confusing effect on enemies. He elaborated, "As far as I was concerned, Stanley came first and then the idea had to accommodate him. It wasn't that the story called for someone who could speak gobbledygook, it was a question of how we could fit him into the storyline."

Due to the strange nature of the language, the Century 21 writers would brief Unwin on episode plots and then leave space in their scripts for the actor to draft all the Unwinese dialogue himself. Shane Rimmer, who scripted the episode "Hole in One", remarked that "A lot of [the Unwinese] you had to leave to [Unwin]. You gave him a line of patter that's going to work with what he does. Because he was such a bizarre character, you felt you could really go all the way with him: you could practically do anything."

The premise ofThe Secret Service” drew part of its inspiration from the “Joe 90” episode "The Unorthodox Shepherd", which features the character of an aged, deaf vicar who covers up a money counterfeiting operation on his church grounds. Archer and Hearn comment on the wider influence of “Joe 90” on its successor series, stating that “The Secret Servicecontinues the espionage theme of “Joe 90” in a range of adventures that depict a Britain under siege from despicable foreign agents intent on stealing its secrets."

Thirteen episodes were in the can when Gerry took the pilot to Lew Grade. All was going well until Unwin’s character started to speak-Grade shouted for the lights to go up in the screening room and stormed, “Cancel It! I don’t want any more made.” Objecting to the concept on the grounds that audiences in the United States would be confused by the Unwinese, Grade capped the production at the thirteen episodes that either had been completed or were in production at the time of the screening. And with that comment the Supermarionation productions of Gerry Anderson were bought to a close.

Anderson countered that a nonsense language such as Unwinese is inherently incomprehensible, and questioned Grade's reasoning for the cancellation, responding that "I chose Stanley Unwin because you are not supposed to understand Stanley Unwin, even if you're British. I thought if the Americans don't understand him either, what's the difference?"

However, Anderson conceded that Grade "was not a man you could argue with. If he said "No", you had to accept that he wouldn't change his mind."

"Star Fleet"

Star Fleet

Created by

Go Nagai

Written by

Go Nagai
Keisuke Fujikawa
Michael Sloan (UK)

Directed by

Michio Mikami
Noriyasu Ogami
Akira Takahashi
Lewis Eldman (UK)
Peter Marinker (UK)


Kazutaka Tazaki
Nakayuki Sakuraba
Paul Bliss (English)

Episode Count

25 (24 UK)

Running Time

22-26 minutes aprox


Fuji TV

Original Run

October 4, 1980 – March 28, 1981
October 23, 1982 - April 16, 1983 (UK)


“X Bomber” (Xボンバー, Ekkusu Bonbā), named “Star Fleet” for UK transmission, is a marionette tokusatsu TV series. It was created by manga master Go Nagai, and produced by Cosmo Productions and Jin Productions. The show aired on Fuji TV from October 4, 1980 (1980-10-04) to March 28, 1981 (1981-03-28), with a total of 26 episodes (including the pre-series pilot episode), and was billed in Japan as being filmed in "Sūpāmariorama" (スーパーマリオラマ), a puppeteering process similar to Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation works.

The success of “Star Wars” and “Thunderbirds' longstanding popularity inspired producer Kimio Ikeda of JIN Productions to try combining Lucas' space opera approach with the Andersons' marionette techniques to offer what he hoped would be a fresh alternative to the plethora of SF anime on Japanese TV. Despite “Thunderbirds' success, no Japanese company had tried emulating Supermarionation, as the Andersons had branded their high-tech marionettes which utilized electronic solenoids to synchronize the puppets' lip movements to pre-recorded dialogue tracks. "In Japan, it seems like people were allergic to Supermarionation dramas" comments Ikeda. "I planned this project as a new genre of Supermarionation."

He faced an uphill struggle. Supermarionation is an expensive business. Unlike other genre productions, you not only have to spend money on models and special effects, but also on manufacturing your actors! Back in the sixties each “Thunderbirds” puppet cost in the region of £250, a single episode £22,000; luckily the Andersons had the financial backing of Lew Grade's massive ATV/ITC empire. Lacking such a wealthy backer, Ikeda realized that his financial gamble would need a big name to lure in viewers and contacted veteran manga and anime 'bad boy' Go Nagai to flesh out his vision.

"Because it seemed like an interesting idea, I took the job", says Nagai, adding "I've always liked SF, you see." Hardly a revelation to his hordes of fans. Though he enjoys a colorful reputation for the sexual and violent excesses of works like “Devilman” and “Violence Jack”, Nagai's more enduring legacy to Japanese SF is probably revolutionizing the country's fascination with robots. His 1972 manga/anime series “Mazinger Z” introduced the concept of the robot as a vehicle, often with a symbiotic relationship with its pilot. Up till then, robots had either been sentient characters in themselves, like Tezuka's “Tetsuwan Atom” (“Astro Boy”), or simple remote controlled 'toys' like Yokoyama's “Tetsujin 28-Go” (“Gigantor”). Nagai gave us the robot as dream machine: shiny and sexy, its sleek curves and wicked-looking fins concealing an arsenal of ultra-cool weapons, the robot equivalent of coveted 50s American automobiles. Kids throughout Japan vicariously piloted “Mazinger Z” via die-cast toys, and ushered in a decade in which anime was dominated by candy-colored super-robots. Years before “The Transformers”, Nagai set another trend with 1974's “Getter Robo”, the first transformable combining mecha, an element he would incorporate into Ikeda's puppet project.

The story begins just outside our solar system as a massive alien cruiser arrives from the Thalian Zone, destroying an Earth scout ship without provocation. The year is 2999, and the solar system has just seen the end of Space War 3. The alien cruiser sweeps through Earth's defenses and, hovering directly above Star Fleet Command, issues an ultimatum - hand over the F Zero One (F-01) or face destruction.

Fortunately Star Fleet's last hope, the X-Bomber, manages to repair the damage it suffered as the alien cruiser's forces attacked and lures the cruiser away from Star Fleet Command. X-Bomber's advanced weapons beat off the cruiser, but the question it asked remains - what is the F-01? When a mysterious space sailing ship appears near Pluto and is attacked by the alien cruiser, Star Fleet Command recognizes that there is more going on than they realize.

Over the course of Star Fleet's 24 episodes a complete story is played out, something that set it apart from Gerry Anderson's shows and makes it more reminiscent of modern shows like “Babylon 5”. In the style of the old “Flash Gordon” serials, each episode ended with a hint at what would be following in the next. This isn't uncommon with Japanese shows, but was certainly something different for British television of the early 80s.

Voice Cast (Japan)
Yuzuru Fujimoto as the Narrator
Toshio Furukawa as Shiro Ginga
Shigeru Chiba as Bongo Heracles
Naoki Tatsuta as Bigman Lee
Mikio Terashima as Dr. Benn & Professor Ginga
Mami Koyama as Lamia
Yūji Mitsuya as PP Adamsky
Hidekatsu Shibata as General Kuroda
Norio Wakamoto as Captain Custer
Hideyuki Tanaka as Officer A
Masaharu Satō as Officer B
Katsuji Mori as Captain Halley
Rihoko Yoshida as Bloody Mary
Reizō Nomoto as Captain Kozlo
Banjō Ginga as Emperor Gelma
Kenichi Ogata as Professor Gedora

Voice Cast (UK)
Jay Benedict as Shiro Hagen
Constantine Gregory as Barry Hercules
Mark Rolston as John Lee
Peter Marinker as Dr. Benn & Narrator
Liza Ross as Lamia
John Baddeley as PPA
Kevin Brennan as General Kyle
Garrick Hagon as Captain Carter & Captain Halley
Denise Bryer as Commander Makara
Sean Barrett as Captain Orion
Al Matthews as Professor Caliban & Professor Hagen (uncomfirmed)
Jacob Witkin as the Imperial Master

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size. Originally Shane from sfxb forums took screenshots from the Japanese DVD for my use here. However since then I've taken shots from the French DVD which is of best possible quality for the series. To see the images he took, click here. His episode 18 screenshot is there, albeit remastered in photoshop by myself to fit with the others





Scramble X-Bomber

2999: a gigantic Imperial Alliance battlecruiser wipes out the EDF's Pluto Alpha Base and heads for Earth. General Kyle orders X-Bomber to intercept it but the craft is only 90% complete and not up to the task. Badly damaged in the ensuing battle, it crashes on the Moon.

10/11/80 (JP)
10/30/82 (UK)

Super Powerful Imperial Alliance Fleet

Unable to gain contact with the crash-landed X-Bomber, Lamia attempts to reach the ship and help the crew, but comes under heavy attack from Imperial Alliance fighters.

10/18/80 (JP)

Find F-01

The Imperial Alliance lay siege to Earth Defense Forces, demanding the handover of the “F-Zero-One”. The crew of X-Bomber battle against time to repair their ship before Star Fleet Command is destroyed.

10/25/80 (JP)

Wipe Out the Transport Fleet

When transport cruisers mysteriously disappear en-route to rebuild Pluto Alpha Base, X-Bomber is assigned to defend the next convoy of ships.

11/1/80 (JP)

The Mysterious Ship Skull

Shiro, Hercules and Lee search Pluto for the lost Captain Carter – their former tutor at the academy. Meanwhile, Lamia receives a summons from a mysterious sailing ship, “The Skull”

11/8/80 (JP)

X-Bomber Goes Forth

X-Bomber’s new mission to seek out the Skull is put on hold when the Imperial Alliance renews their assault on Earth.

11/15/80 (JP)

Mortal Combat in the Gravity Graveyard

Trapped in a black hole and rapidly losing power, the crew of X-Bomber desperately fight a losing battle against Commander Makara’s forces.

11/22/80 (JP)

An Attack Beyond Tears

X-Bomber seeks shelter on the planet Aloria, unaware of its deadly secret

11/29/80 (JP)

Target: the Captain

Commander Makara and Captain Orion are summoned back to their home world by the Imperial Master. Charged with their continuing failure to defeat X-Bomber and capture F-Zero-One, they face trial and execution.

12/6/80 (JP)

Galaxy Adrift

Responding to a summons from the Skull, the crew of X-Bomber find themselves trapped by a ruthless new Alliance Commander – one with a disconcertingly familiar voice.

12/13/80 (JP)

Farewell the Eternal Battlefield

Shiro, Hercules and Lee investigate a distress call from a devastated planet of war, however their new enemy is not far behind.

12/20/80 (JP)

Our Mortal Enemy is Captain Carter

Enraged by Captain Carter’s latest attempt to destroy X-Bomber from within, Shiro faces his former mentor in a dual to the death

12/27/80 (JP)

Battle to the Death: X-Bomber v. the Imperial Alliance

Facing the dawn of a New Year (?) alone in deep space, Shiro, Hercules and Lee reminisce over the events of the war with the Imperial Alliance and the fate of Captain Carter

1/3/81 (JP)

Lamia: Girl of Destiny

Lamia is summoned once again by the Skull, but wary of another Imperial Alliance trap, Dr. Benn refuses to let her go.

1/10/81 (JP)

X-Bomber: Death on Planet M

Lamia begins exhibiting supernatural powers and tries to convince the skeptical crew of X-Bomber that the Imperial Alliance has launched an all-out assault against them.

1/17/81 (JP)

Lamia Kidnapped

With X-Bomber badly damaged and the crew unconscious, Lamia fights to avoid capture by hordes of Imperial soldiers boarding the ship.

1/24/81 (JP)

Asleep in the Ice Prison

While the crew struggles to repair the stranded X-Bomber, Lamia learns of her heritage and the secret of F-Zero-One

1/31/81 (JP)

Commander Makara’s Promotion*

Returning to the Alliance Base, Makara and Orion are promoted and get drunk celebrating. Meanwhile Halley continues to try and contact Lamia, but the extreme cold of her prison is getting to her and her thoughts are becoming weaker.

2/7/81 (JP)
N/A (UK)

Destroy the Prison Planet

As time rapidly runs out for Lamia, the crew of X-Bomber and their new ally Captain Halley try desperately to trace her whereabouts.

2/14/81 (JP)

F-01 Assassination Plot

Commander Makara employs vicious new measures to destroy Lamia, with fatal consequences for one of the X-Bomber crew.

2/21/81 (JP)

M13: Full Frontal Attack Begins

Shiro meets a face from the past when X-Bomber lands on the planet Callinean. In the meantime, the Imperial Alliance prepare for an onslaught against the peace loving inhabitants of the planet.

2/28/81 (JP)

M13: A Battle with No Tomorrow

As war rages on the planet Callinean, the crew of Dai-X face their toughest battle yet – defending the Royal palace against the latest Alliance weapon.

3/7/81 (JP)

Board the Imperial Alliance Mothership

Learning of the Imperial Master’s plan to assault the Earth, the crew of X-Bomber begins a hurried journey back home. However a defeated Commander Makara and Captain Orion are not far behind and will do anything to regain their honor.

3/14/81 (JP)

The End of Earth

Despite the Imperial Master’s attempts to stop them, X-Bomber continues on its journey back to Earth.

3/21/81 (JP)

A New Beginning for the Galaxy

At the dawn of the year 3000, the crew of X-Bomber face the final battle against the Imperial Master, and learn the power of F-Zero-One.

3/28/81 (JP)
4/16/83 (UK)

*Episode 18 is the third flashback episode of the series. During editing of the English dub, the producers were as evidently tired of it as the viewers were so decided against bothering to dub the episode. The part where Makara and Orion visit the Imperial Master however was added to episode 19 (which took place as episode 18 in English) in the series. It seems all non-Japanese versions of the series do this. The episode’s Japanese title was "buradi marī shōshin!" which translates to “Bloody Mary’s Promotion” which in the English title would logically be “Commander Makara’s Promotion” because of character name changes.

Nagai also set his fertile imagination to inventing a varied puppet cast: "I took extra care in establishing the personalities of the characters. Unless the personalities of each and every individual character are clearly defined, the story becomes difficult to follow because there are so many characters appearing." Nagai sketched out time-honored archetypes: a naïve youth, a cantankerous fighter, a loveable clown, a beautiful princess and a wise mentor. Throw in a big walking carpet and a cute robot and it all sounds disturbingly familiar.

Senior director on the series, Michio Mikami was a board member of Cosmo Productions, the company hired by JIN Pro to film the series and provide its special effects. Initially unenthusiastic about the technical difficulties involved, Mikami eventually agreed to come on board and was determined to "make something even better than “Thunderbirds”  - no mean feat, considering his team would be tackling cold techniques which the Andersons' effects team had refined through trial and error over a decade!

Following the Andersons' model, Mikami split his staff of around 60 into two units, one for effects work, the other for puppets. (In comparison, over 250 people worked on “Thunderbirds”.) While the model effects were relatively straightforward, the puppets presented a much more specialized challenge. During their 12 year career in puppet production, the Andersons had evolved through two basic techniques: from 'wire' marionettes operated from a gantry above the set to the opposite end of the spectrum (excuse the pun) introduced in “Captain Scarlet”, rod puppets operated from beneath; in effect a more complex version of hand puppets. This offered a solution to the visible 'strings' which the team fought hard to disguise. Used to great effect on Jim Henson's “Sesame Street” and “The Muppets”, the technique also echoes Japan's traditional bunraku puppet theatre in which the characters are operated by 'unseen' black clad puppeteers. Though the Andersons still used wire marionettes, the rod puppets reflected their desire to push puppetry ever nearer realism. The early caricatured puppets of “Stingray” and “Thunderbirds” were replaced with human-proportioned versions, effectively rendering the technique redundant in favor of live actors. In much the same way, given the limitations of the puppetry, X-Bomber's story might have been better served as an anime; but had it gone down that route, would it ever have stood out from its contemporaries?

Mikami opted for rod puppets, but wisely went for a caricatured look, playing up the strengths of manga stylization. "We decided to make them out of rubber", he says. "It was hard to get their mouths to move. It took about half a year to make the dolls. It was really onerous." The resulting technique was imaginatively dubbed 'Supermariorama', but while titles may change, the limitations of puppetry don't. Natural looking movement remains a real challenge: "We had to put everything we had into it, just to produce a puppet-like, jerky movement," laments director Akira Takahashi, who describes the process as "trying".

Walking is notoriously difficult, which first prompted Gerry Anderson into the science fiction genre. He reasoned that flying vehicles and futuristic moving walkways would alleviate the problem. Rod puppets like those of "X-Bomber" rarely exist from the waist down except for special versions used in publicity photos. "The puppets were supported on rods, there was a thin cord running through the rod, and that's how the puppet was operated," remembers Mikami, "so, when we made them walk they had a tendency to goose-step!" which might have been taking the fascist overtones of the series' villains, the Gelma Empire, a little too far!

The solution was to keep walking to a minimum, using a combination of moving back projected scenery and the occasional brief glimpse of real legs. One problem that united the scriptwriter, technicians and directors of X-Bomber was getting the puppets to express emotions, something the Andersons achieved to a degree with interchangeable heads: frowning, smiling , etc. For whatever reason, probably spiraling production costs, X-Bomber didn't go down this road with the unfortunate exception of a brief scene in episode five in which the crew sport grotesque 'laughing' heads that actually make them look as if they're screaming in agony. The Andersons made exactly the same mistake in the feature film "Thunderbird 6". Wisely, neither team repeated the disaster. Scriptwriter Fujikawa attempted to solve the problem via a different route. "I decided to make their lines as long as possible" he says presumably to give the voice actors more room to emote!

As effects work continued, including the construction of some seriously massive spacecraft models (up to 4 meters long), Kimio Ikeda faced the age-old producers' dilemma of balancing imagination against money. "I'm constantly worried about production costs," he said. "In the case of X-Bomber, it costs about 12 million yen to make one film. Now, that's tough." Someone was happy though: director Takahashi. "I got to spend a lot of money on the sets for the interior of the spacecraft. Fortunately, I was able to build the sets I really wanted. Normally, in television, not a great deal of money is spent on the interior sets."

“X-Bomber” premiered on Japanese TV on Saturday October 11th 1980 at 6 p.m, with disappointing results; according to The Japanese Encyclopedia of the 80s, it was cancelled after only twelve episodes! Ikeda's reaction was philosophical: "I was quite sad. I thought that if the program proved popular, we could establish a new genre. It's a shame things didn't work out as planned." Though the series won some devoted fans; Fujiwara fondly recalls fans turning up at his house for a chat about the show! it failed to make enough of an impression to survive. Critically, perhaps, it failed to generate the deluge of merchandising that keeps many Japanese series afloat, though it did inspire some beautiful die cast and plastic versions of X-Bomber and Dai-X by Takatoku Toys, which today fetch high prices on the collectors' market.

It also spawned an “X-Bomber” manga, serialized in Monthly Shonen Jump, though this wasn't, as might be expected, drawn by Go Nagai, a factor which undoubtedly did little to ensure its survival. Naoki Urahara's artwork had something of Nagai's crudeness, but little of his dynamic energy.

Dubbed into English by Leah Productions, “X-Bomber” relaunched as “Star Fleet”, which can, with pride, claim to be one of the least altered Japanese TV imports. Name changes aside, there is little to differentiate eastern and Western versions. Even the familiar Japanese 'next episode' tag trailers survived the 'versioning' process. The English dubbing cast contains some spooky echoes of X-Bomber's influences: Denise Bryer, who obviously had a whale of a time voicing the slinky Commander Makara, first worked with Gerry Anderson in 1956 on his first puppet series, “The Adventures of Twizzle”. From “Star Fleet” she moved straight into voicing another over-the-top villainess, the Android space witch Zelda in Anderson's critically mauled 1983 return to puppetry, “Terrahawks”. Possibly to rest her vocal cords, she also provided the more refined tones of plucky yet demure heroine Mary Falconer. Further entwining the fates, Lamia and Captain Carter were voiced by husband and wife team Liza Ross and Garrick Hagon, who have since tackled more demanding Japanese dubbing on the notorious “Urotsukodoji III”! Hagon achieved a certain immortality by playing Biggs Darklighter, aka 'Red 3' in “Star Wars: A New Hope”.

While “Star Fleet” didn't exactly shake up the blandness of 80s children's TV, it did offer a refreshing change. Perhaps the most famous of the fans it won over was Queen's lead guitarist Brian May, who watched the show with his son and was struck by its English theme song composed by Moody Blues keyboard player Paul Bliss. Gathering together a few industry friends including Eddie Van Halen, May played around with arrangements of the theme during jamming sessions. Though not intended for commercial release, May later had a change of mind, realizing the 'Star Fleet Project' as a single, 3-track mini album and video, which used FX footage from the show. "I love the series," he told Guitar Player magazine, "it blows my mind!"

“X-Bomber's” limited Japanese merchandising seemed like an avalanche compared to the meager offerings in the U.K., which amounted to a poorly illustrated 1984 annual and a few jigsaw puzzles; but something of a first was a black and white comic strip serial in Look-In, which could be considered the only 'English manga' to date. Energetically scripted, probably by house writer Angus Allan, the strip ran for 27 weekly installments and showcased the beautiful artwork of Mike Noble. During his four decades in the British comics industry, Noble tackled TV tie-ins as diverse as “Star Trek”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Kung Fu”, “Popeye”, “The Man from Atlantis” and “Robin of Sherwood”. He also had plenty of prior experience breathing life into TV puppets while painting strips based on the Andersons' “Fireball XL5”, “Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons” and “Thunderbirds” spinoff “Zero X” for the revolutionary 60s comic TV21. As with these shows, Noble was able to fully exploit the dynamic potential of “Star Fleet” denied by the limitations of its puppets.

Following its initial U.K. run, Star Fleet seemed to disappear into oblivion. All that remained to remind fans were two appallingly hacked-together compilation 'movies' first released in 1983, titled “The Thalian Space Wars” and “Space Quest for F-01”. In the US, 8 compilation tapes were released, which edited 3 episodes each of the 24, with lurid and irrelevant cover arts. These were cut up, but less drastically than the UK tapes. Canada got 4 tapes each containing two episodes from episodes 1-8, these were uncut and left in the original UK broadcast format with commercial title transition cards.

The online fanbase had traded digital transfers of these episodes, rather poor quality and as said before, cut up. Though some fans however proved to be lucky enough to have rare uncut tapes or recordings off TV. The series achieved a DVD release in 2009, with all 24 episodes remastered in their original form.




Created by

Lindsay De Plessis
Dirk De Villiers

Written by

Dr. Johann Beukes
Michael Drin

Directed by

Gavin Keyser


Tully Macallaugh
Eric Simon
Lloyd Ross

Episode Count


Running Time

25 minutes aprox


South African Broadcasting Company

Original Run

July 20, 1982-April 26, 1986


A rather important note is that little information exists on “Interster” online and I have been pulling my hair attempting to find further info. I apologize for any inaccuracy in this synopsis that may occur. I know that the Recent Andersonic Issue did an article on the series, accurately. Unfortunately I have no access to this article. If someone could do me the favor of sending me a scan on it, that’d be fine, as much as I really wouldn’t condone the piracy of it.

In the early 1980's, one of apartheid-era South Africa's ripostes to the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world on them was an investment in homegrown entertainment. An attitude of "whatever we are missing out on, we can do better" combined with a significant financial injection produced a number of films and television series with relatively high production values. The heights of which, are still being rescaled in some ways. The lifting of sanctions and the subsequent rescaling and reallocation of the previous financial investments as well as the access to a wider and richer international media has also called for a recalibration of so-called international standards versus the perceptions of yore. All the while South Africa strives for an identity and a best relative fit in terms of production for those stories yet to be told.

One of those productions was a television series called “Interster”. This was very much in the vein of Gerry Anderson's science fiction series of the 60's and early 70's featuring marionettes, such as “Thunderbirds” and “Captain Scarlet”. Set in a future Cape Town, South Africa (who had and still has no real space program to speak of) “Interster” was an inter galactic space trading company the apparent de facto centre of an international earth defense. No reference whatsoever is given to any super power nations as fortress South Africa alone defended all against a ruthless alien enemy. The show mirrored the real world political issues of international isolation facing Apartheid South Africa with the Earth being depicted as a galactic pariah of the "Interplanetary League" due to its cold war with the planet "Krokon". The villain in the series was depicted by Prince Karnati or his evil henchmen.

While the older Anderson puppet shows were used as a template, some other ideas seem to have been pilfered from the more recent “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” TV series. Characters like the robot Pikki seem a direct lift from “Buck Rogers” own Twiki and the female protagonist Lydia and paternal Professor Zed are also both eerily familiar. Technologically, Interster was understandably a good decade ahead of Anderson's marionettes, employing Apple II computer controlled servo-puppetry and silicon rubber based skins as well as a wig maker credit! Somehow in its search for realism and life like appearance the characters stumbled on their servos.

In the stories, the protagonists were concerned only with the defense of South Africa - the rest of the world was more of an abstraction. Interaction with the Centauri's was the primary interaction with South Africa.

The plot contained some content of interest to South African adults who could see the political connotations to some of the themes like political isolation and attack from outsiders as well as some characters. One character bore a remarkable resemblance to the then South African President PW Botha.

The series story arc and individual stories are unusually sophisticated for a children’s series, similar to “Star Fleet”.

Two DVD’s with the first 13 episodes have been released in South Africa in 2008. Other than that, the series seems to for the most have disappeared almost completely. Even with the DVD release, little information has surfaced other than the first two episodes uploaded online with English subtitles.

Voice Cast
Dawie Ackermann as Buks de la Ray
Piet Cillie as Lieutenant Adam Buys
Dawie Maritz as Professor Zed
Juanita Fourie as Lida de Villiers
Driaan Engelbrecht as Pikkie
Bruwer Engelbrecht as Gorman
Limpie Basson as Prince Karnati
Kobus Loubser as Manskap
Jan Lombard as Lieutenant Anna Redelinghuys

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.

Information/Titles on many episodes are unknown-but air dates are given from





Proxima Clash

Crown Prince Karnati of the alien Krokons has been detained on earth to ensure peace for mankind. However, when Dr. Gorman devises an evil plan with the Krokons to rescue Karnati, Captain Buks de la Rey's life is endangered. It might cost Buks and Adam their lives to stop the situation.



Dr. Gorman and Crown Prince Karnati have a crafty plan concerning Earth's new Starcruiser, the SK Woltemade - to hijack it and use it to obtain certain mineral rights. Pikkie, the robot, accompanies Captain Buks de la Rey on the dangerous space mission as a last resort, and ultimately saves the situation.



Dr. Gorman connives with neurologist Dr. Stolzberg to kidnap and brainwash flight controller Lida de Villiers. They replace Lida with a robot but Buks, Adam and Professor Zed realize that it is not her. Buks and Adam pursue Dr. Stolzberg and his kidnapped victim in Impala 1 and are just in time to save Lida. Stolzberg's space laboratory is destroyed in an explosion.



Captain Buks de la Rey, Lieutenant Adam Buys and Pikkie patrol an area of space because the Krokons are carrying out attacks in unmarked space vehicles. Dr. Gorman and Crown Prince Karnati of the Krokons are obliterating the Earth's frontier guards in order to expand their own territory. Buks and his crew, however, attack the Krokons' planet and wipe out the terrorist base.



When Professor Zed goes to visit the crew of security outpost 532, a red dwarf star causes the spacecraft he is on, the SK Woltemade, to lose power. Crown Prince Karnati strikes the powerless craft and takes Professor Zed prisoner. Karnati intends to force the professor to give him information important to the Krokons' future. However, Professor Zed frees himself from his binds and forces Karnati to take him back to Captain de la Rey, Lieutenant Buys and Pikkie, who have now arrived to help.


Nuclear Physics

Dr. Gorman reports the radioactive planet, Zemfon, to Earth and Buks, Adam and Pikkie are sent to investigate. A force-field from Zemfon forces Impala 1 to a standstill. Moota, Zemfon's peaceful leader, is grace of charge to the Krokons help but Buks and his crew make it safely back to Earth.



Lida accompanies Buks and Adam on a reconnaissance flight to Mars while Pikkie handles while the Earthbase flight control. Lida gets chance to control the Impala and even carry out the landing on their return to Earthbase. Gorman and Karnati plan to melt the Earth's north - and south - poles, and so take over the earth. During Buks, Adam and Pikkie's next trip to Proxima Centauri takes Gorman and Karnati take their chances and launch a missile to Earth. In the men's absence Lida gets chance to fend the attack off, and show her excellence in the task.



Increased activity around Pluto requires an investigation by Buks and his team. Near Pluto, they discover an abandoned Krokon craft and send Pikkie to take it back to Earth. Professor Zed sees the opportunity to use the craft to spy on the Krokons. Pikkie near Krokon wait a while Impala Buks and Adam their country and Karnati interception. When Buks and Adam catch Pikkie must be saved with the Impala.



Gorman convinces Professor Zed to send Buks, Pikkie and Adam on a reconnaissance flight to Zarok in response to a strange distress signal. The distress signal is a trap and the men of Interster are imprisoned by Prince Karnati of the Krokons. Karnati plans to convert Impala 1 into a nuclear bomb and fly it into the Sun with Buks, Adam and Pikkie aboard. Pikkie uses solar power and comes to the rescue.



A disguised Krokon ship nears the Earth to launch an anti-matter satellite. Pikkie sees through the disguise and the enemy is far wilder. Karnati and Gorman try again and Impala 1 is irradiated with the satellite's anti-matter. With the help of Pikkie, the process is reversed and Impala 1 and its crew return safely back to Earth.


Jupiter Star

Interster investigates strange activity near Jupiter, and find the Krokons want to turn the planet into a dwarf star - the additional heat will destroy mankind. Gorman and Karnati get instructions to place a bomb on Jupiter so the creation of the dwarf star can happen. However, Interster removes the bomb and thwart the alien's evil plan.



Karnati and the Krokons produce an artificial black star that holds great danger for the Earth. While visiting the Interster base, Gorman secretly hides the black star on Earth and the nucleus begins to devour the Earth. Pikkie realizes something is wrong, so Buks and Adam must use the experimental time machine to turn the clock back for the whole Earth.


Star Rain

Karnati and Gorman want to destroy mankind by magnetizing an asteroid belt and causing a destructive meteor shower. Gorman launches the satellite and Interster are informed of a strange situation in the area. When Impala 1 is sent to investigate, it is the trapped magnetic field and pulled down on Gorman's asteroid. Pikkie puts his life in danger to save Impala 1. The satellite is destroyed, and the Impala 1 crew rush home to save Pikkie.


 TBAGorman is captured.10/19/82
Buks and Adam have to relieve one of Earth's planets after it was annexed by Krokon.
TBAEarth gets trapped in time so that Krokon can get a good lead on its weapon production
The Krokons disguise a projectile missile as Halley's Comet in order to confuse the Earth defences.
TBAEarth is in danger again-this time from a gamma-ray satellite. 12/14/82
Buks and Adam use the Krokon's multi-laser weapon to their advantage
When the Krokons lead Buks and Adam into a black hole, they enter a universe where everything’s mixed: the Krokons are the heroes and Buks and Adam the villains.12/28/82
TBAThe Krokons attempt to engulf the Earth in flames with a giant magnifying glass 1/4/83
TBABuks and Adam are sent to destroy a Krokon settlement – with orders to destroy their own ship if they need to.1/11/83
Gorman escapes from prison and teams up with Karnati once again to destroy the earth. Our heroes manage to destroy Gorman's base, but not before Gorman and Karnati manage to get away.1/18/83
Gorman and Karnati return to earth and use stolen Interster equipment to build a secret base in the Namib.2/15/86
Gorman develops a proton ray to turn all of Earth's gold into lead.
TBAGorman is trying to make fake diamonds. Lt Anna Redelinghuys steps in to help Interster combat Gorman and Karnati.3/1/86
Gorman and Karnati almost manages to kill all the animals in the Kruger Park.3/8/86
While Buks and Anna are on Zarep, Gorman and Karnati plan an attack on Interster Base
TBA 3/29/86
TBA 4/19/86

The same team that produced “Interster” had cut their teeth in the late 1970s with “Liewe Heksie”, with the same sophisticated puppetry making its first appearance in the adventures of a well-meaning but absent-minded little witch. The internal-wiring puppeteers made their final work a set of musical crickets that played music for a children's program featuring two more puppets, Sarel Seemonster, a friendly sea monster which could blow steam from his nostrils, and Karel Kraai, a crow which was fully functional to the point of being able to remove his hat, for the children's TV program “Wielie Walie”, named for the first line of a traditional Afrikaans children's verse version of “Ring a Ring a Rosie”.

“Interster” was produced almost 10 years after the last Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series, “The Secret Service”, and almost 15 years after “Thunderbirds” and as a result was technically superior. The puppets were wired internally, and movable in a large range of motion, provided by Apple II Computer programmed and controlled servos. The models had a level of intricacy rivaling those in the “Star Wars” films, with the pyrotechnics requiring a special permit from the production crew. The puppets themselves eerily resemble the puppets of “Terrahawks”, with Buks de la Ray bearing strong resemblance to Tiger Ninestein and Lida to Mary Falconer.

The cockpits of the Impalas are noteworthy for including a fairly sophisticated wiring loom, including flashing lights and a complete fully functional TV screen which is able to display computer text. In addition, the pilots sit in a semi-reclining position, echoing the seating of the F-16 jet fighter.




Created by

Gerry Anderson
Christopher Burr

Written by

Gerry Anderson
Tony Barwick
Trevor Lansdowne

Directed by

Tony Bell
Tony Lenny
Alan Pattilo
Desmond Saunders


Richard Harvey

Episode Count


Running Time

25 minutes aprox



Original Run

October 3, 1983 – July 12, 1986

In the early 1980s, Anderson formed a new partnership, Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd, with businessman Christopher Burr. The new company's first production was based on an unrealized concept devised by Anderson in the late seventies for a Japanese cartoon series, titled “Thunderhawks”, which like many of Anderson’s late 70’s projects, had fallen through (though was reborn as (“Scientific Rescue Team Techno Voyager”, called “Thunderbirds 2086” in the US/UK market). “Terrahawks” marked Anderson's return to working with puppets, but rather than marionettes this series used a new system dubbed 'Supermacromation' which used highly sophisticated glove puppets – an approach undoubtedly inspired by the great advances in this form of puppetry made by Jim Henson and his colleagues.

Featuring  another reuse of the “Captain Scarlet”/UFO” formula, the series is set in the year 2020, after mankind had developed interstellar travel. After an alien force has destroyed NASA's Mars base and Earth is under threat. A small organization, The Terrahawks, is set up to defend the planet. From Hawknest, their secret base in South America, they develop sophisticated weapons to prepare for the battles to come.

The hero of the series was Dr Tiger Ninestein and the villain of the piece Zelda, Imperial Queen of the planet Guk. For the series a new style of puppetry was introduced, a sophisticated form of glove puppetry which was dubbed ‘Supermacromation.’ The absence of strings allowed for much smoother movement of the puppets, and could be used to more easily produce the illusion of the puppets walking. The necessarily static puppets of previous series had been a source of frustration to Anderson during his Supermarionation days.

Terrahawks was less straight-faced than any of Anderson's previous series, featuring a wry, tongue-in-cheek humor as well as dramatic jeopardy. The ensemble cast, with each member assigned a vehicle, had many similarities with Anderson's “Thunderbirds”, whilst the alien invasion plot was reminiscent of “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” and the live action “UFO”.

Voice Cast
Jeremy Hitchen as Tiger Ninestein, Lieutenant Hiro & It-Star (evil)
Denise Bryer as Captain Mary Falconer & Zelda
Ben Stevens as Lieutenant Hawkeye, Sergeant 101, Dix-Huit & Yung-Star
Anne Ridler as Captain Kate Kestrel, Cy-Star & It-Star (good)
Windsor Davies as Sergeant Major Zero

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.






Expect the Unexpected (Pt 1)

Zelda attacks NASA's outpost on Mars and establishes her home, then mounts an attack on Earth, forcing the Terrahawks into battle.


Expect the Unexpected (Pt. 2)

The Terrahawks struggle to defend against the aliens' strange powers, and find they may be forced to stop the attack at the cost of Ninestein's life.



Zelda defrosts one of her monsters, Sram, who unleashes his devastating voice against the Terrahawks.



The Zeroids find a huge gold nugget, which actually turns out to be a powerful bomb.


Close Call

The Overlander is hijacked, but the hijacker, a news reporter by the name of Darrel, is a potential security hazard for the Terrahawks.


From Here to Infinity

An old space probe approaches Earth, but the Terrahawks worry because it was never meant to return.


Space Samurai

Tamura, a Samurai warrior from outer space, forces Zelda and Ninestein to meet on neutral ground in order to settle their dispute peacefully.


The Sporilla

Zelda lures the Terrahawks to Jupiter's moon Callisto by ransacking a listening post there. Once they arrive, they find themselves being stalked by the fearsome Sporilla.


Happy Madeday

Zelda unleashes MOID, Master of Infinite Disguise, who kidnaps Hiro and impersonates him.


Gunfight at Oaky’s Corral

Ninestein enters an old-fashioned gun fight between one of Zelda's Cubes in the Arizona desert.


The Ugliest Monster of All

The Terrahawks find a teddy bear-like alien adrift in a space capsule and take him back to Hawknest. However, he is actually one of Zelda's monsters and begins to wreak havoc in the base.


The Gun

Yung-Star devises a way to make the Cubes more powerful by combining them. Zelda forms a group of them into a gun and threatens to destroy a newly constructed dam.


Thunder Path

Zelda gives Sram another chance to defeat the Terrahawks by sending him to hijack the Overlander, an automated vehicle that delivers vital supplies to Hawknest.


Mind Monster

The Terrahawks pick up a capsule in space containing only a strange vapor. However, it actually contains a gaseous monster that meddles with their minds.


To Catch a Tiger

Zelda lures Ninestein with the captured two-man crew of a commercial space transporter. When the Terrahawks electronically isolate themselves from after rescuing the men, Kate has to inform Ninestein that the mission to get him back is ahead of schedule.


The Midas Touch

Zelda sends one of her monsters to blow up the "Space Fort Knox" to cause economic havoc.


Operation S.A.S

Zero and Dix-Huit roll to the rescue after Kate Kestrel is kidnapped by Yung-Star and Yuri.


Ten Top Pop

Kate is taken hostage by Anderburr Records employee Stuart "Stew" Dapples, who is under Zelda's control.


Unseen Menace

MOID perfects the greatest disguise of all: the invisible man.


A Christmas Miracle

Zelda attacks Earth on Christmas Eve, convinced that the Terrahawks' guard will be down. However, Ninestein anticipates such a move, and all-out war erupts. Perhaps the Christmas spirit can even reach someone like Zelda...


Midnight Blue

While pursuing a ZEAF, Hawkwing flies too high and is marooned in space.


Play it Again, Sram

Kate Kestrel wins the world song contest and goes on to compete in the interstellar song contest. Zelda contends that as a resident of Earth's solar system she has a right to participate too, and challenges Kate to a sing-off on a neutral planetoid with her family and Sram as her band.


My Kingdom for a ZEAF

Zelda dispatches Yung-star and a new monster, Lord Tempo, to find the location of Hawknest. While traveling back in time to avoid Spacehawk, they pick up King Richard.


Zero’s Finest Hour

When the Terrahawks are rendered catatonic by space flowers, Zero is forced to battle for the cure on his own.


The Ultimate Menace

Zelda and the Terrahawks team up to stop Zyklon, a gigantic spaceship dedicated to destroying all life in the universe.


Ma’s Monsters

Zelda reflects on the exploits of her monsters, who have all failed to defeat the Terrahawks. She reveals she has a new store of frozen creatures with even deadlier powers. Cy-star has news of her own: she's having a baby.


Two for the Price of One

The aliens are preoccupied with the birth of Cy-star's child while the Terrahawks prepare to launch a sneak attack.


Child’s Play

It-star masterminds its first attack, attempting to destroy the Terrahawks with a bomb.


Jolly Roger One

Yung-star and It-star are sent with Captain Goat to run a pirate radio ship to lure the Terrahawks into a trap



Yung-Star runs away, but he is unknowingly carrying a 'bug' in the form of a powder inside him.


First Strike

An overzealous general seizes control of the Terrahawks to mount a direct assault on Zelda's Mars base. Ninestein makes futile attempts to warn him that Zelda and her gang of monsters are too powerful to engage in direct combat. Zelda readies a counter-strike team of Sram, Yuri, Lord Tempo and Yung-star.



Yuri seals Battlehawk inside Hawknest after Battletank picks up a bomb while investigating a ZEAF.



A statue of Yung-star is found at a museum on Earth.



Stew Dapples becomes the eyewitness to Zelda's latest plot when he sees a UFO.


Space Cyclops

Zelda sends a huge egg to the moon that hatches into a one-eyed monster.



Lord Tempo creates a time warp in order to slow down the Terrahawks' ability to react to a full-scale attack.


Space Giant

A pair of miners find and capture a Sporilla and take it back to Earth to sell to a shady sideshow owner. Once it's on Earth, Zelda uses her powers to enlarge the monster into an unstoppable giant.


Cold Finger

Zelda enjoins the help of Cold Finger, an alien who uses water and ice as weapons.


Operation Zero

Zero is feeling out of sorts and goes in for repairs, but makes a grim discovery; Zelda and her family have infiltrated Hawknest.


The series' most prolific contributor, Tony Barwick, constantly used tongue-in-cheek aliases whenever he wrote a different episode, calling himself, for instance, "Anne Teakstein," and "Felix Catstein” with the exception of “The Midas Touch,” as he wrote it with Trevor Lansdowne.

Gerry originally approached the former Supermarionation Effect Director Derek Meddings to do the special effects on the series but was astounded when Meddings turned him down with the curt response; “Gerry, you couldn’t possibly afford me!” Instead Gerry appointed Steven Begg as Special Effects Director and was very pleased with the result.

The problem with the earlier Anderson puppet shows was that the features of the characters faces were fixed solid. If a shot required a different expression to be shown on the puppets face, such as smiling or grimacing, a different head had to be created and shot. The new puppets had soft rubber faces and were manipulated by the puppeteer putting their hands through the neck of the puppet and into the heads. The puppets eyes were radio controlled and with all this going on it was necessary to make everything on a much bigger scale. The biggest puppet stood 30 inches tall.

The series also featured the customary Anderson hardware such as craft appearing out of secret bases and a group of droids known as Zeroids. Characters and vehicles were designed with a very conscious eye on the merchandising toy market. However, everyone involved in the show agrees that the series did not live up to their expectations.

In 1983 Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr met with US TV executives in order to sell "Terrahawks" to North America. The series had not been an immediate success when it had initially aired in the UK but after a slow start it began to receive a very respectable audience of around 9 million viewers, and that was enough for London Weekend Television, together with Japan’s Asahi Tsushin Advertising Agency and Anderburr Pictures (a company set up by Anderson and Burr) to finance a further 13 episodes on top of the original 26. Although changes in ITC’s management meant that Gerry no longer had the backing of Lew Grade, he quite naturally thought that the show’s healthy viewing figures combined with Gerry’s own reputation would be enough to land a deal. However, this proved not to be the case.

Disappointed and a little disillusioned, Gerry and Christopher returned home to the UK via Concorde, and on the flight discussed the type of show they could make that might get the American’s interested. It seemed that the objections against "Terrahawks" was that, according to the US execs, puppet shows were generally ill received by America’s viewing audience. This claim was hardly backed up by hard facts, after all the "Muppet Show" had been a huge success in the USA just a few years before and recent blockbuster movies such as "The Empire Strikes Back" and "E.T." relied quite heavily on both puppets and animatronics. No, the problem they decided was not with the puppets themselves but with the facts that the puppets were depicting human beings and US audiences preferred their puppets to be distinctly non-human.

Out of this was born an idea for a show that would use human actors for the human roles and puppets for the alien ones. A series which would be called "Space Police", which would prove unsuccessful with only a pilot episode. The initial outcome however was “Space Precinct” almost ten years later. Anderson and Burr would go onto create the stop motion “Dick Spanner P.I.” with Terry Adlam, which reused many props from "Terrahawks".

A fourth season would have developed the characters of Stew Dapples and Kate Kestrel further. This was explained in a documentary on the special features disc of the series, in the Gerry Anderson book "Supermarionation" and the “Terrahawks” DVDs. Two of the scripts were called "101 Seed" (a parody of the title "Number One Seed"), written by Anderson himself (as "Gerry Anderstein"), and "Attempted MOIDer" by Tony Barwick (alias in this case D.I. Skeistein).

“Terrahawks” and “Star Fleet” are quite often confused. During a phone interview with Andy Davis of in 2001, English director Lewis Eldman says that he received a phone call from Anderson himself asking questions about “Star Fleet”, obviously concerned that there would be competition with his return to puppetry. This incident was recounted on the “Star Fleet” DVD release in 2009, with Gerry Anderson himself admitting an appreciation for the series himself.

Gerry has admitted on record that he would much rather forget about the series, as it was created partly due to his bankruptcy in the late 70’s.

"Super Adventure Team"

Super Adventure Team

Created by

Dana Gould
Robert Cohen

Written by

Dana Gould
Robert Cohen

Directed by

William Bison


Eban Schletter

Episode Count

7 (including pre-series pilot)

Running Time

25 minutes aprox



Original Run

July 23, 1998 - August 27, 1998


"Super Adventure Team" (Abreviated "SAT") was a comedic parody of "Thunderbirds". Created by comedic writers, Dana Gould and Robert Cohen of "The Simpsons", the show is about the members of a high-tech action-adventure team, who spend more time dealing with assorted sexual exploits than they do saving the universe. The series was low budgeted, but even so the purpose of the series wasn't exactly getting everything right.

The team is led by the idiotic Colonel Buck Murdock, who manages to be the hero no matter how badly he screws up each mission. Murdock's love of adventure is matched only by his love for Talia Criswell. While Murdock and Talia are rolling in the sack, Talia's husband, the brilliant but clueless Dr. Benton Criswell, remains locked in a state of denial. Finally there is the trigger-happy, Murdock-hating Major Landon West and the sexually confused Chief Engineer Head.

The series puppets were meant to overly exaggerate the caricatured proportions of the puppets in "Thunderbirds". Many puppets were large foreheaded and bug eyed with very odd mouth movements. S.A.T. primarily used hands puppets with rod-manipulated arms. For shots requiring full bodies, marionettes were used. The TV series is pretty much the forerunner to the Supermarionation movie "Team America: World Police" in 2004.

The series was cancelled after 6 episodes a month after its first airing. It is rumored that Carlton International, who owns the rights to "Thunderbirds", had lashed at the vulgar nature of the series, thus quickly bought the series up and buried it to not be seen again. It is rather unclear if it is true... But they recon without the internet if it is. The series' six episodes have been posted online over the years in varied formats (some clean and some with logos). The non-profit (payment is for disc materials however) obscure television fan DVD site, timesforgotten, sells a bootleg DVD of the series in clean condition with an unaired pilot episode. The unaired pilot is basically the first episode but with cruder looking puppets and different voices for some, particularly Adam West as the voice of Buck Murdock.

Voice Cast
The characters were all voiced by popular comedians at the time, however all of these comedians used psuedonyms in the credits. The fake names are denoted behind the real name.

Wally Wingert (Grant W. Wyllie) as Colonel Buck Murdock
Paul F. Tompkins (Francis Mt. Pleasant) as Benton Criswell
Karen Kilgariff (Barbara St. Bill) as Talia Criswell
Daran Norris (James Penrod) as Major Landon West
Dana Gould as (Benjamin Venom) Chief Engineer Head
Tim Marx as Major Manfred Morton
Adam West as Colonel Buck Murdock (pilot)

Episode Listing

Note: Click on image for larger size.






Unaired Pilot

The pilot version is a test version of the first episode with the same plotline, however the main difference being the puppets, which look much cruder than the puppets used in the aired series (which are already crude looking). Famous actor Adam West is also the voice behind Colonel Buck Murdock as opposed to Wally Wingert.


President & the Volcano

When Air Force One crashes beside an active volcano, it's up to the Super Adventure Team to save the President. Unfortunately, everyone is tending to their own personal problems.


Kiss my Embassy

Terrorists take over a banquet at the Freedonian Embassy in Washington D.C. with a bomb threat. Buck, who's attending runs in fear, so it is up to the rest of the team to meet the terrorists demands: meet K.I.S.S


Velvet Tonsils 57

An alien named Yorgo threatens to destroy the world unless we hand over Velvet_Tonsils_57. The Team is dedicated to solving this mystery, except Head, who is acting very suspicious.


Too Cute to Kill

While celebrating 100 years without a catastrophe, New York is struck by a giant meteorite. Upon arrival, the Super Adventure Team is greeted by giant space kittens and space puppies.


Attack of the Scantily Clad Mole Women

After botching a mission in Tibet, the Team has to prove themselves in the simulator or be replaced. While the men get real simulations, Talia is given a simulation as a housewife.


Super Atomic Lincoln

Buck Murdock has been kidnapped by Crazy Barry. When the Super Adventure Team rescues him, they hold Crazy Barry in captivity back at the base.



Onto Movies & Pilots