Gerry Anderson

As a film geek there are names in the credits of films that I look out for, that I know can usually be trusted to deliver stuff that I’m going to enjoy (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Edgar Wright, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Smith, John Ford, Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter)  but when I was a kid I didn’t know about any of this, in fact there were only a handful of actors I recognized (chiefly John Wayne, and the Bonds). But there was one name in the credits that I took notice of and I knew that he was almost guaranteed to deliver some quality entertainment.

Gerry Anderson.

Gerry Anderson in 2000

Gerry Anderson was the creative genius behind a string of awesome TV shows. Several of which were made using the puppetry technique which was given the rather hyperbolic name of “supermarionation”.

These shows from the 1960s experienced something of comeback when I was a nipper and I fell in love with the shows, I’d spend hours watching the dashing Troy Tempest exploring the deep sea aboard Stingray or Captain Scarlet fighting the creepy Mysterons.

Stingray! Stingray!

Stingray! Stingray!

But by quite a margin my favourite was Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds blew my mind.

THUNDERBIRDS

Every week the Tracy brothers would use their awesome high-tech ships to save people in disasters, often caused by their sneaky nemesis The Hood. It was a brilliant show, and had it all in terms of child friendly entertainment- danger, cool machines and vehicles, explosions and in Lady Penelope a weirdly attractive aristocratic puppet.

The characters may have been simple, but it was still an awesome show and still entertaining. It’s also a testament to Anderson’s skills that a show which captured the imagination of kids in the 1960s (Scott Tracy was my Mum’s first crush) and still worked 30 years later on kids who had greater choice, yet even with more channels the cream rose to the top and it became just as successful as the first time around. Two different generations and both were captivated by his work.

One birthday pretty much all my gifts were Thunderbirds toys- action figures, their ships, all that jazz, and it was a really great birthday.

Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner cemented herself in my affection by building a replica of Tracy Island on the show, and the Beeb got bombarded with requests for the factsheets to make it (yes, this was pre-net so you had to get instructions mailed to you) but I never had to make it because my Nan, the legend, got me one of the proper ones and it was amazing.

Later on I’d discover that his reputation as “the puppet guy” irked Anderson a little, and he did do some live action work including Space 1999, which as a full blown teenage sci-fi geek I’d really get into when they ran repeats on TV.

But he will mainly be remembered for those puppet shows, and I think that’s a hell of a legacy for somebody to have, bringing that kind of enjoyment and joy to that many people.

So, when I heard Gerry Anderson had passed away earlier this week I was saddened by the news, as this was a dude who contributed a lot to my childhood and who was an extremely talented and creative guy.

Anderson got me into science fiction and his shows have really stuck with me. To this day if someone tells me there’s only 30 minutes left of something I feel the urge to respond with “Anything can happen in the next half hour!” from Stingray and part of me still wants my own Thunderbird 2.

thunderbird2

Also, the theme tune to Thunderbirds is one of the most inspiring themes ever recorded, to the extent that if I ever undertake anything really difficult I’m going to have it playing in my head.

So, if there is an afterlife I just want to thank the dude. Cheers, Gerry, you rocked!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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