but they reflected the world of the 1960‘s.
The ‘reality ' of Andersons~ programmes was perhaps most creatively exploited in the comic TVJI. More a newspaper than a comic. each edition carried under a ‘dateline‘ exactly a hundred years
ahead satellite reports (in the form of
comic strips) on the activities of Anderson‘s creations. 'l‘he front was a full colour tabloid front page with a news story hot off the satellite (nicely anticipating Iiddie Shaft by a couple ofdecades the front page was Anderson‘s own idea — ‘I had the devil‘s own job getting the News of the World people w ho published under the more respectable name of (in .lluguzmey to agree to it‘l. Ft'refial/ was followed by the exploits ofa sisterorganisation HASP (World Aquanaut Security Patrol) with Stingray and its crew of ( ‘aptain 'l‘roy 'l‘empest. Phones and in a non-speaking role. .‘ylarina. 'l‘he background to the adventures were rather more developed. btit essentially this was the same sort of show as fire/MIL only the hardware and the locations changed. However. with the next series by this time the new ‘( iei'ry' Anderson was eagerly awaited each year -r what had still been seen as only slightly extraordinary children‘s shows suddenly exploded into an international phenomenon.
Thunderbirds are Go!
Lew ( irade who had announced after l‘fft’f’tlf/ Xi." had been sold to the American network that he w as buying Anderson's company. took the decision part way through the filming of Stingrays successor that the episode lengths should be extended from half an hour to art hour.
It was a remarkably astute decision which probably ensured beyond doubt the success of 'l'lztuidt'rbinls'.
(‘hildren‘s television had seen nothing like it before. It was an unparallelled ratings triumph and a spectacular financial success. ’ll '2/ came into its own as the periods most popular comic. btit this was only one aspect of a huge merchandising boom that pttt [IV/lelltft'er/‘(fy' on everything from sweet cigarettes to breakfast cereals. and from pencil cases to wallpaper. 'l‘he appeal of International Rescue seemed universal; it was a format that allowed for any number of the tnost exciting action sequences, new rescue appliances each episode. and a new seriousness to the plots. characterisation and technology. 'l‘yvo feature films 'l'liimderbinfs are (it) and Thimde’rhinl Sit demonstrated not only the popularity of the series btit fully justified the extra length.
'l‘yvo series were made. then few (irade cancelled the show. and told
Anderson to make something new. ‘I
must say" I was shattered.’ Anderson admitted to me. though only with hindsight can the scale of the mistake be measured: like most other great men he did many things that were
right, and a few that were wrong.‘ It
l was the beginning of the end for the
golden age of Anderson animation. (ill/lldfll Sear/er followed. possibly the most exciting programme of all. and was a natural and fine culmination to tfie sei ies that ltad begttn with I'i'rt'btt/f. Where as VlflfUlift'lf’f/‘(h had retained some of the caricature about the puppets features. particlarly for the cameo roles of the villains or for l ..tdy l’eiiclopes btitlei‘. l’arker. ( 'aptain Scarlet opted for the nearest to naturalism a string puppet could manage. Anderson insists that this was more to do with another accident than anything else. Supcrmarionaisation. the famous technique which electronically allowed puppets lips to moy e as if they were actually speaking. had been so miniattirised that heads no longer had to dwarf bodies Naturalistic proportions lead to naturalism in all departments locked into a w at of may es with the .‘ylysterons. Spectrum carried on the battle across the yy little sef‘tes although the format i'ey cited to the half hour. Anderson believes that had ( iii/mun Scar/er and later programmes.lot' ‘Jf/arid Secret .S't'rt'rt‘t' been allowed to run for an hour they could have been as successful as lfllUli/t'lflfl‘tfy. btif the continuous episodicstoryline of (tip/um Sear/er did at least allow for ‘artistic development. for the first time in individual episodes the ettemy cotild be allow ed to w iii. Anderson‘s move to liy c action programming was. for him. an opportunity not to be missed. feeling that he had actually saturated the market with puppet series. Anderson was able to cony irtce ( irade to let him direct real actors. for some. f 'l-() and Spine NW are the highpoints of Anderson‘s career. btit f'orothers he has still to prove that he can direct
live actors with half the ability he brought to puppets. liiit Space I‘M” should not be dismissed. 'l’hotigh a ratings flop in Britain it w as a cult success in America and Anderson blames the inability at the time of British companies to exploit world television markets foritsaxing though two sci ies were made.
Spectrum is green
l loyy ey er. experiences such as producing the non science fiction series li/lf' l’l'rllt't‘fr try for ( it‘atle. where he was presented w ith a four paragraph outline and y irttially' told to make it or else. and on another occasion was told by ( irade that the second lead would be played by Ny‘ree Dawn l’ortcr despite the fact it had been written for a man. obviously soured his attitude to liy e action. After a ‘disastri ttis diyorcc'.
and a period in his life that must have
brought personal and professional Anderson left A l‘\' itist before the rici'iiiiariiotis break tip of the company . worked on a y ariety of protects and w as part of’a consortitiitt that failed to win the 'l'\' South franchise he has now remarried and is back making puppet shows.
'l’he new production company. a fortti i totis saly aging of the franchise bid. Aiidci‘soirlitir‘i‘. has brought two series of '/t’m1/it1w'/ti to fly and a third is on its way. lll style and puppet technology it is very different to the shows of the late sixties. .lim llenson with his .‘yftippet family is for the moment at least the undisputed ntimberoiie iii television ptippctecrs. and techniques hay c changed. ‘f 'ntil recently. puppets on wires seemed very sophisticated btit people wouldn‘t tolerate them
3.5;? "fit-r t P g . today .‘ Anderson admits and .I q‘ .E'm gfir‘. ~ . ‘i'l'i'r‘fi‘fr’rftasiii 5'1 ‘,;;<+..,._ 3:770; -. w ‘” ~ Wl’fﬂh‘ff‘f
.. f: If- ‘. E3;
. eti'T-iiérei 13::
l'erm/ittw'ky tises sophisticated gloy e puppet engineering. l ecfiiticafly . he feelsthe secondsei'ieswas much better than the first; ‘I was y isitiiig ("ape ( 'aiiaveral and they told me that they couldn‘t launch a Saturn l'iive rocket any more because the technology is gone. the people are gone. the factories hay e been shutdown. lit the same way when I came to make lt'l‘l’tlfltllt Ax l found the machinery no longer existed.~
But the end ofthe Saturn l‘iy e could also be sy nibolic of a wider change. When the shuttle bleyy tip it sc rved only to remind tisol how ordinary the space programme has become. Anderson seems well aware that he is now producing films for a different generation; 'Science fiction is not as much ftiii as it used to be a computer is a little black bo‘. you carry around in your pocket. it used to be a room filled with wheels and flashing lights. We aircraft pt‘ttlec‘fetl litf‘ ll‘tc ltlftit'e klflll‘l look that much different to the ones fly me today . l didn‘t want to get iiito heavy science fiction. so l started to think more in terms of'scieiice fantasy f
Anderson‘s new pri igraiitme is a popular. successful show, bitt that special period that produced such involy eitieiit w ith ( iei'i‘y Anderson‘s ftittire world. iii an era of teley isioii innocence. cant be recreated. Anderson is modestly toticlied by the devotion of his fans after at one time thinking it was almost a disease with some ofthem. btit then finding their support ofenoritioits practical value in a particularly bad moment fit his life. he has been as loyal to them as they are to him.
('tirrently Anderson is making a pilot fora new show . .S/iiti‘i' l’r l/ft e. which will combine puppets with liy e action. (‘ould tltcre perhaps after all be a new type olmaiioiiette magic for the mid l‘fisris'.’