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Gerry Anderson, who died yesterday at the age of 90, had never intended to work solely with puppets. His ambitions lay firmly in Hollywood, making Bond-style blockbusters with real actors and huge budgets.
It’s all there in the confident, strident music that permeates every Anderson production: these were never intended to be merely children’s entertainments in the vein of Muffin the Mule, these were proper action and adventure sci-fi movies that happened to be made with puppets. Or, as Gerry’s movie-referencing show titles preferred to put it, they were “filmed in Supermarionation.”
And let’s remember even James Bond films used models to simulate real action at the time.
So, in tribute to the passing of a giant of British broadcasting, here are five entire episodes of Gerry puppet magic:
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s first big hit show, and everything is already in place. The rockets, the music, the strange vehicles and amazing technology, the puppets and their enormous heads.
A consolidation of Fireball’s success, with submarines taking the place of rockets and an actual puppet mermaid called Marina.
The smash hit: Thunderbirds is the tale of International Rescue, a humanitarian organisation with the resources of Batman, the teamwork of the Avengers, and the uniforms of the Fantastic Four. Plus Lady Penelope, Parker and Brains and an amazing theme tune.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
You’ll notice the heads on the puppets are getting smaller and more to scale than before, and in true late ’60s style, the villains are psychedelic circles of light with doomy voices: Far. Out.
The story of a young man who uses his father’s brain transference invention thing (it looks like a big spinning metal orange) to suck up the knowledge of experts into his own mind, and go on adventures. To this day, the opening credits give me chills.
And that’s before we even consider the live action sci-fi wonderment of Space: 1999.
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic