The Puppet Master Has His Strings Cut



Farewell, then, to Gerry Anderson, the hero of any boy born after the war. The creator of Supercar, Fireball XL5 (1962), Stingray (1964), Thunderbirds (1965), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967) and Joe 90 changed puppetry from Muffin The Mule-type shows to something any kid with an interest in Eagle cutaways could get their teeth into. Chief among these was Thunderbirds, the pop-art SF rescue vehicle show obsessed with mechanics and sleek engineering that became a worldwide hit. The heroic Tracy brothers took their names from American astronauts, and saved monorails and jets from crashing over 32 double-length episodes while Lady Penelope and her cockney butler Parker bombed around Monte Carlo in a pink Rolls Royce.

Anderson’s shows created merchandising here at a time when it was virtually unheard of, and the shows have never really been off the air, with a successful big screen puppet outing following. Despite this, he did badly out of his creations thanks to avaricious TV companies, and never received his due. Worse still, just when the taste for Thunderbirds had returned to a new peak in the 1980s, Working Title managed to screw up the franchise by handing the big budget live-action movie version to Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek, who turned in a kiddie action film that made the former puppets appear more animated.

With their large heads and peculiar way of walking, the characters were much loved and parodied, on stage, on TV and here by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, but their legacy was mishandled and they never returned, although the music was superbly remixed in a series of dance-floor tracks.

9 comments on “The Puppet Master Has His Strings Cut”

  1. Mike Cane says:

    Seriously, me, a guy from America will be the first one to mourn his loss on a British blog?

    He meant a lot to me. His productions were all grade-A (despite some of their scripts, cough cough Space Precinct and Terrahawks) and were perfectly synced with the rising Space Age of the time. He showed a bright and wonderful future and helped kids to dream of a better world. He never got his due right! R.I.P., Gerry.

  2. Cat Eldridge says:

    If you count Thunderbirds as science-fiction, this was the fifth genre film that Frakes directed. He is much better known now as a director of both films and series than he is for his Trek work. i.e. the just cancelled Leverage series owes much of its look and story to his direction.

  3. admin says:

    He’s still a shit director.

  4. Mike Cane says:

    That Thunderbirds movie didn’t understand Thunderbirds to begin with. The Tracys were all assholes. The Tracys are not assholes.

  5. Jozafeen says:

    “the hero of any boy born after the war”

    Oh Christopher, how unexpectedly sexist of you!

  6. John Howard says:

    Jozafeen, how can admin be called sexist? He mentioned Lady Penelope didn’t he?? And how come the female lead got to be a “Lady” not just some leather wearing, judo chopping, sixties boy fantasy anyway??? It must have been because the lady had class.

    Everybody I knew wanted to be Gerry Anderson. The only thing stopping us was not having his talent. Ah well, we could dream and stick bits of wood and plastic together instead.

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    A nice orbit in the NYT.

  8. jan says:

    You know everybody raved about Thunderbirds but i preferred Stingray where all the characters were far more detailed and each had a backstory i loved that series. i actually wanted to be Marina and think i fancied Troy Tempest from a very early age!!
    And the quality of the Stingray stories was superb do u remember PINK ICE and the episode where the main 4 characters went to Loch Ness and found the monster was a fraud. DO u remember Tom Thumb tempest where Troy falls asleep when he is waiting for a mission call out and and dreams Stingray is in the fish tank. And i’m not sure if its Tom thumb tempest where Marina talks really gr8 series. i can actually recall many more episodes but u r probably all a kip by now i just reckon that if Disneyland was translated into a British theme park it would be for us ANDERSONLAND
    Did u know that Stingray was actually the first British tv show filmed in colour cos it was sold to the states? And that Derek Meddings an absolutely iconic figure in setting up massive sci fi sets -working on James Bond movies and many others actually learnt his trade with Anderson out at Slough? U know many years ago i was tempted to make a bid for the Marina puppet when it was auctioned in London i didn’t of course but sort of wish i had it went for about £12,000 which does n’t seem so much now!! SUPERMARIONATION Wonderful i loved it o someone is approaching with my medication best go Happy new year to you all ….! Marina Aqua Marina why don’t u say that you’ll always stay close to my heart

  9. jan says:

    I had to add this to the above i just had to i won’t be complete if i don’t. Atlanta Shore the puppet character from Stingray who was in love with Troy Tempest who was himself madly in love with Marina the mermaid (me) was voiced by Lois Maxwell the actress who played the origianal original Miss Moneypenny ………….there i ‘ve got it out of my system HAPPY NEW YEAR have a ball in 2013 !! Best wishes jan x

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