Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Discuss: Thunderbirds

Karen: Thunderbirds are go! And so are we -who has something to say about this Gerry Anderson TV series?


Edo Bosnar said...

Maybe I shouldn't comment on this, since I never actually watched the show on TV (it was never aired where I grew up, or at least I wasn't aware of it). I had heard of it before, and watched clips of episodes on YouTube, and I have to say, I find those marionettes a bit creepy. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to this as a kid - I think it might have frightened me.

david_b said...

Edo.. Perfect lead-in for my comments.. I vaguely remember seeing the marionettes once or twice as probably a 5 yr old, and they WERE creepy. I recall still having some nightmares about their stare. Suffice to say, folks seeing this can see the signature of their later shows like UFO and 1999 with the wonderful yet sophisticated music and expensive effects.

Some early, snarky criticisms regarding Space:1999 were the Andersons should have used these marionettes in the first year of the show -- They had more personality.. ("Ouch")

There's still a great fanbase for these earlier Anderson outtings, but I was not a fan until Space:1999 (and later UFO, when I saw the episodes online..).

J.A. Morris said...

I never saw this show until the early 80s, when HBO or Cinemax showed a Thunderbirds TV movie edited from several episodes. I thought it was kind of cool, certainly entertaining, but not something I would need to revisit on DVD.
Of course the whole novelty of "action/adventure show...starring marionettes" was the only thing that made it interesting(if you weren't a little kid). I never understood the point of making a live action adaptation of 'Thunderbirds'. And the box office returns of that flop show that I wasn't alone in thinking that.

Anonymous said...

I never saw Thunderbirds during its original run. AFAIR, it was not carried on any local stations in our area, although I had heard of it somehow. I finally saw it in reruns in the 1990's and liked it. It had a nostalgic appeal for me, even though I had not seen it before. That's because it reminded me of the other Gerry Anderson marionette shows that I HAD seen. I was a big fan of Supercar and Fireball XL5 when I was five or six. The puppets did not creep me out when I was a child, which seems odd, considering that I was a wimpy kid and easily scared.

Anonymous said...

hideous creepy marionettes poor acting nice models utterly awful typical british sci fi

Karen said...

To the previous Anonymous (and I assume it is the same person who posted yesterday and other times, based on the writing style) -is there anything you DO like?

Inkstained Wretch said...

Well, I cannot add anything since I never saw the show. It never aired anywhere that I knew of when I was a kid and none of the local video stores had episodes available either.

I understand that Team America: World Police was inspired by it but since I didn't like Team America, I was never moved to search it out.

Garett said...

I came across this show once in the '90s, and was mesmerized by it. What was I watching? It was late at night, and they seemed so real...were they puppets? Or something more?? : )

Steve Does Comics said...

Over on this side of the pond, Thunderbirds is something of a national institution and I loved it as a kid.

I had a Thunderbird hat and a Thunderbird annual. I saw one of the two Thunderbird movies at the cinema. Knowing that Thunderbirds was going to be on TV when I got home was the only thing that got me through Thursday afternoon French lessons with my sanity intact.

I remember, about ten years ago, there was a huge pre-Christmas demand for model Tracy Islands and the shops ran out of them. So the children's TV show Blue Peter (another national institution) showed everyone how to make one for themselves using papier maché and various household items.

The feature was a great success, until it became clear the papier maché was like paradise to flies and, all round the country, the home-made models soon erupted with maggots.

I like to think International Rescue soon saw them off.

Favourite Thunderbirds ep has to be the one with the giant alligators that were clearly just baby alligators let loose on a load of models.

Steve Does Comics said...

Of course, having said all that, I did prefer Captain Scarlet.

david_b said...


Thanks for your wonderful insight. It's always more enjoyable and keen to receive the non-American view on what we all here saw as 'UK imports'.

Watching some documentaries on the Andersons has really nurtured my appreciation of Sylvia's creativity, noticeably missing when she severed ties with the production company in '75. She had such an artistic zeal in all aspects of those productions. I'd like to read her memoirs 'Yes M'Lady' one of these days soon.

Retro Lad said...

I have fond childhood memories of watching 'Thunderbirds' first time around, in the 60s. I assumed at the time that it must be an American show, as America was where everything cool or glamorous came from, or so it seemed from my vantage point in the North of England (Swingin' London, it wasn't!)
The voiceover artists helped to fool me in that regard. That same handful of actors turn up again and again in the Connery-era Bond movies - they had the market sewn up as North-American actors resident in the UK.

I can't say that I ever found the marionettes creepy, but I was frightened by 'Captain Scarlet', because there was a lot of murder in that show, and even the hero was a reanimated corpse. (Shut up! I was six years old, alright? :-) ) Did Captain Scarlet make it across the Atlantic? Maybe not, judging by the comments on the limited exposure to Thunderbirds. How about 'Fireball XL5' or 'Stingray'? There were others, too.

Bringing it back to comics, I was an avid reader of British weekly 'TV21', which consisted mostly of strips based on Anderson shows. It also ran features like timelines linking different series, character backstories, and vehicle diagrams, all of which fed my nascent hunger for continuity. If you care to google 'TV21' plus 'Thunderbirds' or the name of most any other Anderson show, you can see some nice comic art.

OK, that's enough wallowing in Century 21 for now- back to, um, the Twenty-first Century. Where's my jetpack? I was promised a jetpack by now.....

Retro Lad

Anonymous said...

"Captain Scarlet" and "Stingray" were shown on American TV in syndication in the late 1960's. I remember seeing them on Saturday afternoons. And I remember that Captain Scarlet was considerably more violent than the earlier Anderson marionation shows.

Anonymous said...

I think Fireball XL5 was shown on an American network (CBS?) in the early 1960's. The other Anderson shows were all syndicated in the US, so distribution may have been spotty, accounting for the comments that "it wasn't shown in our area."

david_b said...

Retro Lad:

You reminded me on the character voices.., I was honored to meet Shane Rimmer at a Tampa 1999 con a few years back (Barry Morse's last con appearance..), who voiced characters on Thunderbirds, Scarlett, did a 1999 episode, and now narrates the Anderson documentaries. He played minor roles on several of the Bond films back then.

A super nice guy, he came with his wife and they spent a great time at the beach the day before the con started (sort of an incentive for his wife to say yes, I heard). Anyhow, he also was one of the bomber crewmembers on 'Docter Strangelove', so I got to ask him how it was to work with 'movie greats', like Peter Sellers, Slim Pickens, and of course, Kubrick himself.

Cooler still, I got to sit on a couch next to him that evening with the attendees and watch a 30yr old Space:1999 episode he was featured in.

THAT was surreal.

Anonymous said...

I first heard about the Thunderbirds on the playground in second grade in the early 70's. It sounded so strange that I doubted it even existed. But one day at 3:30 I took a chance and turned the channel from whatever cartoon I was loyal to.

Wow, what a weird world I was exposed to. I came in on the 2nd of a two-parter, with these puppets with cool voices trying to help somebody with their mole machine. When I caught it the next day, and saw all those cool vehicles in the opening, I was hooked.

Two weeks later, it was gone, replaced by Stingray. I followed that one too. But Thunderbirds now had a mystique for me, and I would search them out. Stingray was eventually replaced by...Captain Scarlet! Now that was exciting stuff! Murder, mayhem, guns, cool vehicles, eveyone's name is a different color, and alien invaders.

These shows were syndicated in SF-Monterey, Ca in the year or two between Lost in Space and Star Trek. They were all we had. We knew how goofy the puppets were even as 2nd graders, but we also recognized these shows as exciting transmissions from some strange parallel universe. Kind of like seeing your first Japanese show.

A friend of mine went to England back then, and came back with a die-cast Thunderbird Two toy. The middle popped out with Thunderbird 4 inside. I eventually traded him something for it. It's mine, mine, mine!

James Chatterton

Steve Does Comics said...

James, I too had that Thunderbird 2 toy.

Sadly, I lost its Thunderbird 4 down the back of a cabinet and never saw it again.

When I was about four, one of our neighbours had a battery-powered Thunderbird 4 that worked underwater. When he demonstrated it, in his bath, I was astonished to discover there were battery-powered toys that could work in water without blowing up.

Anonymous said...


I've still got the main body of T-2 in a box somewhere. Not only is Thunderbird 4 long gone, but so is the entire middle section, and the plastic legs. Hmm, it's actually more like Thunderbird 1-1/2.

I suffered through about 5 minutes of the remake movie on Youtube. As far as films go, it's up there with the Spirit.

James Chatterton

vancouver mark said...

The "5-4-3-2-1-Thunderbirds are Go!"" countdown at the start of each show was the most exciting moment of every week when I was five or six years old. I was enraptured by Thunderbirds, my first favorite TV show.
The marionette puppets didn't freak me out, I thought they were cool. Even as a pre-schooler I understood that the vehicles, sets and puppets were all basically awesome arts-and-crafts projects, which just added to the special quality of the show and made it unlike anything else on TV.
One of my favorite childhood mementos is a drawing I did at five years old, of a very scribbley Thunderbird 3 racing towards a big orange sun.

Thunderbirds was unlike many childhood favorites in that once it got cancelled it was never shown again, up until the 90s when it was finally rerun on a cable channel. It felt very strange to see it again 25 years later!

It's also funny to remember how much I loved "UFO" when it came on in 1970 or 71. I had no idea that the same people were involved, I just knew I loved it, and now have the (somewhat more mature and recognizable) drawings of Interceptors and Skydiver to show for it.

Karen said...

I'm not sure what station showed this but I do recall watching it at an early age. My brother, who is 6 years older than me, was a fan of Fireball XL5 and probably the reason I saw Thunderbirds. The marionettes were at times disturbing but they cool vehicles and effects outweighed that for me. And yes, I liked UFO as well! Perhaps we need a Discuss post for that too.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm not so much a Thunderbirds fan as I am a fan of Captain Scarlet. This one is spectacular as they took pains to make it seem a touch more serious and less bouncy. The marionettes are fun, but hard to take seriously sometimes, but in Scarlet they don't come across that way so much.

Rip Off

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I saw this series in it's syndicated run on American TV. Usually it was on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. I loved the music in it and wish I could have gotten a DVD of the sound track. The orchestra music did a lot to help the tone of the program.

The puppetry and models by the Anderson's were brilliant. You'd never ever see the likes of that in American TV. I soon grew out of them, however they do hold a lot of good memories. I wish the movie directed by Johnathan Frakes (Captain Riker) fared better. I heard it was good but not a block buster the producers expected.

I wish there were more wholesome entertainments like this one. Surprisingly enough this isn't in reruns on Saturday Mornings on the Sy Fy Channel. They used to play it on Sat. Mornings when the channel first started.

How I miss them. There needs to be something like this on TV again, more than ever.

Anonymous said...

I loved Thunderbirds when I was a kid ( although Captain Scarlet trounced it!), but, much like the Daleks, I think you had to see it as a kid to have any kind of a relationship with it as an adult. The Daleks still send a shiver up my spine now, but only because I cowered behind the sofa when I was five. I imagine if I came to Dr. Who now, I would find the Daleks utterly ridiculous.

What was great about Thunderbirds was the models...not just the kit that the Tracey family had, but the Crablogger, the Sidewinder all the things that got conveniently imperilled and from which people needed spectacularly unlikely and dangerous rescuing.

Something I remember as very prescient was Rick O’Shea (geddit?) the space DJ. He was a pirate DJ on a space station that was falling into the sun, but somewhere in that episode they mention that a terrible problem in the year 2065 is that there are so many ancient and knackered satellites orbiting the planet that lumps of them keep falling to earth. In 1966, there were only a few dozen satellites (as opposed to the 3,000 + we have now...that we know about...) so it was a clever extrapolation considering we didn’t even know if we’d ever walk on the moon at that point.

Captain Scarlet was the pinnacle. They had learned how to do everything by then. Great sets, superb models and vehicles, lots of murder and mayhem, great credits and...am I imagining this? ....somewhat of a sexual frisson between the Captains and the Angels? The only things that never made sense was that the Mysterons had the power to annihilate us at a stroke, but chose a ‘war of attrition’ instead. Errrm...why?


Related Posts with Thumbnails