Tribute to Gerry Anderson

It was a very sad time for fans of classic television when it was announced that the famous producer and director Gerry Anderson had passed away on Boxing Day.

For those children growing up in the 1960s Gerry was very much associated with classic puppet shows such as – Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and The Secret Service. All of these series have been released on DVD at some point over the years with Thunderbirds also meriting a bluray release. Gerry Anderson had not originally intended on being a maker of puppet films but when novelist Roberta Leigh approached his recently formed production company with an idea for a TV puppet show – The Adventures of Twizzle- Gerry Anderson agreed to make the series for her.

It was a success. He also collaborated with her on her next series, Torchy the Battery Boy, although he left after completing the first season. Gerry and his excellent production team then made the puppet Western series Four Feather Falls which starred the voice Nicholas Parson as Tex Tucker. Although sadly only one episode of Twizzle survives the other series mentioned above are all available on DVD. In more recently times Gerry always hoped to make a new series of Thunderbirds which was perhaps his best known series but sadly this was not to happen. Instead a rather disappointing feature film directed by Star Trek – The Next Generation actor Jonathan Frakes was produced instead. However Gerry did get to revive Captain Scarlet as his final TV series. This time he used CGI and although New Captain Scarlet was extremely well made and enjoyable, ITV rather wasted the show in a poor timeslot which meant that it never made the impact that the original did.

Every Gerry Anderson fan has their own particular favourite series. For me it has to be U.F.O. (Unidentified Flying Objects). This was a twenty six episode season of of shows to fill a one hour timeslot which was made in two recording blocks. As a result of the break between blocks some of the cast changed and the second group of episodes had a more adult feel to them compared to most of the early ones. As a result. in its original transmission in the early 1970s some of the episodes were shown after eleven o’clock at night. The series was about a secret organization hidden under a film studios called S.H.A.D.O.

The organization was under the control of the ice cool Commander Straker played by Ed Bishop and its purpose was to deal with the various unidentified flying objects which were making their way to earth. The aliens who controlled them wanted among other things to harvest human organs. Straker and his team wanted to find out as much as they could about these aliens and stop their nefarious plans. What was particularly interesting about the series was that it had a soap opera element to it which the new producers of Doctor Who introduced to that series when it returned in 2005. Straker had to make huge personal sacrifices to do his work as was vividly illustrated in the excellent episode A Question of Priorities. The series is anything but a straightforward aliens versus humans series and amongst its standout episodes for me are Confetti Check A.O.K., Timelash, and Subsmash. However for me all the episodes have something to offer.

The series is exceptionally well made with excellent model work and would look particularly good if it was to be released on bluray. A second series was proposed but when America decided that they wanted no more episodes then the proposed revamped second series had some more alterations made to it and it became Space 1999 which lasted for two completely different seasons. It was some time later that Gerry returned to series television with Terrahawks. Through the years Gerry also produced other series such as Lavender Castle, Space Precinct, Dick Spanner and the early 1970s series The Protectors , but sadly none of these are as well loved as his earlier works. This great film producer and director will be much missed as he was regularly in contact with his many fans through the years. However he leaves behind him a library of TV episodes which can still be enjoyed by the whole family today.

IAN K