Last week the sad news that producer Gerry Anderson had died aged 83 was announced by his son Jamie. Here we celebrate the man who gave us a host of memorable series including Thunderbirds, Stingray and Fireball XL5 with a photo special.
It all began with The Adventures of Twizzle with 51 of the 52 episodes made reportedly missing currently from the archives, followed by Torchy the Battery Boy and the still fondly remembered Four Feather Falls, (pictured below in a ITC-Granada sales promotion).
Early programmes such as Twizzle, Torchy and Feather Falls were produced for ITV companies in London and Manchester with Rediffusion, ABC and Granada commissioning puppet programming for the children’s output.
It was the association with ATV Network, broadcasting in London at weekends on ITV and the Midlands during the week, which lead to some of Gerry’s most famous works. For ATV, and sister company ITC Entertainment, a successful run of television hits were created. The first was Supercar running for two series and nearly 40 episodes.
This was swiftly followed by Fireball XL5 running for 39 episodes from October 1962 to October 1963. The series also spawned a chart hit with the theme tune’s catchy lyrics, “I wish I was a space man. The fastest guy alive. I’d fly you round the universe, In Fireball XL-5…” proving popular. The HMV Record, sung by Don Spencer, peaked at number 32 with a total of twelve weeks in the UK charts. It first hit the top 40 in March and re-entered the top 50 in June 1963.
By 1964 ATV had bought out AP Films as a wholly owned subsidiary of the ITV broadcaster. The first show by AP Films under ATV’s ownership was Stingray which was also the first British programme specifically for children to be produced in colour. (Below an ITC promotion card for Stingray). The show gave the still often quoted, “Anything could happen in the next half hour!”.
In 1964 plans began to create a series around an ‘international rescue’ organisation. The result was Thunderbirds airing from 1965 to 1966 with two series and a total of 32 fifty minute editions. The series continues to prove popular with repeats and it even spawned somewhat unsuccessful movie versions in the sixties and a 1982 Japanese ‘remake’. (Below a ‘cast photo’ an ITC montage and some stills from the series.)
More success followed with Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons in 1967 and Joe 90 in 1968.
Gerry’s next television series was The Secret Service which mixed live action with Supermarionation puppetry. The show wasn’t deemed successful and ended after 13 episodes.
In 1969 it was fully live action as Anderson’s UFO went into production. The series, despite not using puppets, carried on the escapist space tone and special effects. The show ran for 26 fifty minute episodes.
It was a new direction altogether with ITC’s The Protectors starring Robert Vaughn, Tony Anholt (Pictured) and Nyree Dawn Porter. The series ran for two runs and spawned a top 40 chart hit with Tony Christie’s Avenue and Alleyways the full version of the catchy theme music.
A second series of UFO was abandoned in 1974, however elements from the planned production were taken into another outer-earth drama experience. The production for ATV-ITC became noted as the most expensive television series ever made in at that time in the genre. Space 1999 ran from 1975 through to 1977 across two seasons starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.
There were of course many other programmes over the years including Terrahawks (pictured below in a launch promotion), Space Precinct and a remake of Captain Scarlet. However the classic ITC era will for most be Gerry Anderson’s best loved works.