back to article Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet creator Gerry Anderson dies at 83

Gerry Anderson, creator of classic children's television shows like Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, has died at the age of 83. Anderson, in conjunction with his then-wife Sylvia, pioneered the use of puppets that had solenoid motors built into them to move the eyes and mouth – later dubbed supermarionation. The wires …


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  1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    I only saw the Captain Scarlet reboot last year but boy, what a nostalgia trip. It was the sort of thing the original Scarlet wanted to be.

    Shame the broadcaster cocked it up...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and the Thunderbirds I saw first time round, Space 1999 watched on Sunday afternoons together with the series (not film) Logan's Run.

      Wish I could revisit that innocence as everything today is now is so matter of fact.

    2. Captain Scarlet

      CGI Reboot

      Never mind the reboot, always wanted the original series completed :(

      What happens to me now??

  2. Haku

    I never 'got on' with Thunderbirds

    But thought Captain Scarlet was great and did enjoy Space: 1999 & Terrahawks.

    *raises a pint (on a string)*

    Thanks for making some great tv, Mr Anderson.

    1. Captain Scarlet

      Re: I never 'got on' with Thunderbirds

      I also thought Captain Scarlet was great, probably a little to much :S

  3. banjomike

    Four Feather Falls, a puppet Western that didn't catch on

    Yes it did. There were more episodes of Four Feather Falls than there were of Thunderbirds.

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: Yes it did

      Yet Thunderbirds has been frequently repeated in various countries right up to the present day, while Four Feather Falls doesn't seem to have been repeated anywhere in over forty years.

      1. tirk

        Re: Yes it did

        B&W vs colour is an enormous factor in determining what gets repeated though.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: Yes it did

          Colour was a pretty bold step in the UK (given the UK did not have a colour TV channel until BB2 launched in 1967 or 8)

          Walt Disney did the same early on. It's kept the re-run fees rolling in ever since.

          RIP Gerry. You made some terrific TV.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Four Feather Falls, a puppet Western that didn't catch on

      I've never heard of this, but its was before my time,

      I supose this may because this news hack is a yank, but he mentions the BBC once, but never once a mention that all that work was paid for by ITV under the control of Lew Grade.

      Plus where is the UFO series, that was the first show to use actors with the pupetry/models only used for the real SciFy vehicles (plus the real gas turbine car for the main star, later purches by DLT).

      There was an excellent documentary a year of two back covering the whole history of the Andersons, and the creation of all these shows. It was part of a 50 year celabration or something, with a bit of luck it will be repeated soon as a tribute to this wonderful story teller.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Four Feather Falls, a puppet Western that didn't catch on

        I was wondering where the references to UFO were - in my mind the best of Gerry Anderson's real-actor series. Far better than the hippy-dippy surreal plotlines of Space:1999 (though the Eagle transporters are one of my favourite Anderson tech creations).

  4. eurobloke

    RIP Gerry Anderson

    I probably like many others think that Gerry was one of Britain's great television sci-fi creators, and is amazing that such a programme like Thunderbirds don't date and bring joy to those who could be his grandchildren.

    A plaque outside Slough Trading Estate, perhaps?

    GO - because Thunderbirds are!

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: RIP Gerry Anderson

      An important part of any 40-50 year olds childhood

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Extend that a bit: I'm 60, and you could probably go a bit further!

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: RIP Gerry Anderson

      I hum (to myself) the theme from Thunderbirds when opening the roller door at work to take the van out.

      The next time it will be a more sombre arrangement.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thunderbird one

    Immediate Launch

  6. edge_e
    Thumb Up

    anything can happen

    in the next half hour

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: anything can happen

      "in the next half hour"

      And almost anything did.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    Left out...


    1. AndrewInIreland

      Re: Left out...

      And UFO

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Left out...

        "And UFO

        About as much like a childrens TV show as South Park-The Movie (released as a U in Spain, because it's a cartoon)

        There was but you don't want to find out what it is.

    2. Thomas 4

      Re: Left out...

      Was "Z-cars" one of his or was it just from the same era?

      1. frank ly

        @Thomas 4 Re: Left out...

        Z-cars was a police drama series, using real actors (and real cars). It's funny how things melt and run together with the passage of time :)

        I remember watching it in black and white, 405 lines. Ah, when I were a lad .........

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: using real actors (and real cars)

          Z-cars... ok... But Dixon of Dock Green? Surely that was supermarionation?

    3. Identity

      Re: Left out...

      and Space Precinct

    4. Sim

      Re: Left out...

      and The Secret Service

  8. Vulch

    Donald and Walter Tracy

    What did they do to get written out of the series?

    I think tomorrows DVD fare is decided though...

  9. BozNZ

    Three cheers

    The guy was an inspiration to anyone who grew up in the 60`s or 70's

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A truly inspirational guy.


  11. Thomas 4

    Can somebody call the Mysterons please?

    Got a little job for them. Hell, they brought back Captain Black, they should be cool with bringing back the creator of their universe.

  12. Nordrick Framelhammer

    And another genius is lost to us.

    RIP Gerry Anderson

    Thank you for the decades of entertainment you gave all children, from a kid who never quite grew up,

    1. NogginTheNog
      Thumb Up

      Re: And another genius is lost to us.

      I really really really want to upvote this twice! Is that possible??

      1. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: And another genius is lost to us.

        Upvoted it again for you :-) Now can someone upvote it again for me?

        And I'd extend the 'age of influence' to 80s kids too :).. so far we have everyone from 30 to 70... any advance?

  13. DrXym


    Captain Scarlet forever

  14. mickey mouse the fith

    very talented guy, r.i.p.

    I always thought the puppets looked crap, but the modelwork was superb.

    I loved the designs of things like the passenger planes in thunderbirds, and the futuristic buildings and vehicles in captain scarlet.

    Didnt he do a liveaction series called space cops or something in the mid 90`s? It had roy shneider in it and loads of animatronic aliens.

    1. Fibbles

      Re: very talented guy, r.i.p.

      Space Precinct perhaps?

      Anyway, RIP Mr Anderson. Who'd have thought two circles of light shone on a wall could be so menacing?

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: very talented guy, r.i.p.

      The puppets were advanced for their time, look at the quality of the Captain Scarlett ones compared to Fireball XL5.

      The airliner is Fireflash

      1. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: very talented guy, r.i.p.

        Ah yes, one of my first memories of Thunderbirds :-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: very talented guy, r.i.p.

      "I loved the designs of things like the passenger planes in thunderbirds, and the futuristic buildings and vehicles in captain scarlet."

      To my mind one of the best industrial designers ever. Even today what sane person doesn't want their own roadworthy SPV?

    4. jubtastic1

      Re: very talented guy, r.i.p.

      Space 1999 Eagle was probably the best toy I ever had, hardy little thing as well, survived many a crash landing on passing planets.

  15. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Captain Scarlet

    My childhood was complete watching Capt Scarlet and Thunderbirds.

    Strings? What strings?

    Thanks Mr Anderson, along with Apollo, you helped make me love all things sciency and spaceage.

  16. EL Vark


    Launch Interceptors and forever praise his name. RIP, Gerry.

  17. SAWolf

    Caught his work in the USA. A brilliant man, whose shows helped to guide me into Naval Aviation and multiple disciplines in the Sciences. Loved the airborne carriers in Captain Scarlet and the infrastructure of ALL his shows.

  18. Kharkov

    Spectrum is NOT green.

    RIP Gerry.

    You were an inspiration

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spectrum is NOT green.

      Looking on the bright side, the Legend will live on for many years yet. I can't think of many people of his contemporaries who have left that sort of deeply loved legacy.

      Like many others I shall raise a glass to his memory.

  19. SteveCo

    RIP Gerry

    Angel One - Immediate Launch.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gerry Anderson is go(ne)


    Also, does having fantasies about Lady Penelope break any of the extreme porn laws because if they do I need locking up.

    1. Joe Harrison

      L.P. was nothing...

      ...compared to Marina

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: L.P. was nothing...

        I always preferred Atlanta.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: L.P. was nothing...


        Looking back, I'm sure many men now realise that Marina is the ultimate fantasy girl... after all, what man hasn't dreamt of a woman who doesn't speak and never has to come up for air?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gerry Anderson is go(ne)

      "fantasies about Lady Penelope"

      I can recommend the CGI Captain Scarlet for that sort of thing, with a rather eye catching scene of Destiny heading for the shower.

      And personally I thought the CGI CS was very much better than the critics thought - great sound, fabulous vehicles, and good editing. A worthy update in many ways, and a pity it wasn't more successful.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Gerry Anderson is go(ne)

      "does having fantasies about Lady Penelope break any of the extreme porn laws "

      It does.

      In fact even Marina breaks the cartoon porn law.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: Gerry Anderson is go(ne)

        "does having fantasies about Lady Penelope break any of the extreme porn laws "

        It depends.....

        Did you find the sex scene in team america erotic?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    He did Terrahawks too?

    I loved that show!

    RIP Gerry, thank you

    (We need an RIP icon...)

  22. peter 45


    Joe 90........NHS glasses... OhGodOhGodOhGod

    I thought I had left those memories behind

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joe 90

    I thought that he was currently in charge of Sunderland FC.

  24. Walt Leipold

    "Ready, Venus?"

    "OK, Steve."

    "Right. Let's go!"

    Fireball XL-5 was the *best* show in the universe! (At least to my seven-year-old eyes back in 1962.) But I was convinced that "supermarionation" had something to do with cooking (because, you know, "marination"...).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2nd generation

    My father had watched the Thunderbirds and during my teens we watched several episodes together. It was ok, but very dated from a 80s perspective so to say. Now I'm just happy that I got my dose of Thunderbirds.

    But speaking of marionettes and such; does the name "Star Fleet" ring any bells? And no; this has nothing to do with Star Trek (this series was around way before that), this is all about X-Bomber; the space ship constructed in secret on moon base and the last line of defence between Earth and the alien invaders of the Imperial Alliance.

    A puppet series which ran for approx. 25 episodes, obviously inspired by series such as Thunderbirds.

    So yeah; the legacy which was left us maybe even greater than you imagine!

    1. Rob

      Re: 2nd generation

      If that's the one where the ships combined into a huge robot, then yes I do, I still have a puzzle of the ship and the alien ship. The only reason I kept it was I was worried I would forget it. That, Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Terrahawks etc all set me on a path for being a sci-fi addict.

      1. Lord Voldemortgage

        Re: 2nd generation

        Brian May (and friends, including Eddie van Halen) did an EP based around Star Fleet.

        I feel sorry for the generation that only had Power Rangers and missed out on Anderson's creations and the shows they inspired.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: 2nd generation

      "And no; this has nothing to do with Star Trek (this series was around way before that),"

      It does, but no, the original Star Trek dates from the early 1960's, Star Fleet dates from roughly the mid 80's. I always thought it was inspired by the Transformers figures around then but anyone in that area would have found it hard to miss the impact of one (or other) of his series.

      IIRC Star Fleets creator was also behind The Equalizer (not sure if before or after).

    3. mickey mouse the fith
      Thumb Up

      Re: 2nd generation

      "does the name "Star Fleet" ring any bells? "

      With spacefaring pirates, complete with galleon shaped space cruisers with masts and cannon.

      They even fired off broadsides at each other, absolute class.

      Loved that show as a kid, it looks quite ropey now though.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: 2nd generation

        "does the name "Star Fleet" ring any bells? "

        No, but the name Quasimodo does

  26. Pat O'Ban

    F.A.B. S.I.G. R.I.P.

  27. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    If you want to know where the models came from...

    ...then this web site will give you a hint...

  28. hugo tyson

    Inspirational sci-fi

    ....and let's not forget Lt.Ellis played by the lovely Gabrielle Drake.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of their time

    Lady Penelope and Parker always remind me of Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. They are contemporary creations - a consequence of the 1960s' zeitgeist?

  30. MJI Silver badge

    So many iconic designs

    Eagle Transporter

    FAB 1

    Thunderbirds 1 -5




    Fireball XL5

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: So many iconic designs

      SHADO Interceptor

      SHADO Modile Unit

      SPV, MSV, & SPC

      God I wanted those toys so much.

      I did have an Angel Interceptor Airfix model

      1. Fink-Nottle

        Re: So many iconic designs

        I still have a scar where the fin on the Dinky SPC sliced my foot open ...

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: So many iconic designs

        A rubber-band driven Stingray was my favourite bath toy. I also had Thunderbirds 1 2 3 4 which I think came as snap-together kits.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So many iconic designs

        I had the SHADO Mobile Unit as a kid, but my favourite model was always the SkyDiver.

        PS: While checking my memories/spelling using google I found someone on amazon trying to flog this for £286!

    2. SteveCo

      Re: So many iconic designs

      I was always partial to that big aircraft (Fireflash I think) which was shown in multiple episodes. I saw the one where it had to land on the moving platforms (the pilot episode I think) and was hooked from then on.

      Such a cool design with it's drop wings, although I doubt it would be able to fly in real life!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    After complaining about the bland content of my video library my young godson gave me a list of his top 20 DVDs - mostly of action movies.

    That "Team America: World Police" was obviously a homage to Thunderbirds surprised me. The pr0n scene caused much mirth. It reminded me of that 1970s homage to the 1930s "Flash Gordon" - replete with smoking firework spaceships and incongruous settings. The title "Flesh Gordon" neatly conveyed the plausibility of it being the director's cut rescuing scenes previously left on the cutting room floor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Homage

      "obviously a homage to Thunderbirds"

      I think paying homage involves respect. There's been a lot of Gerry Andersen ideas that have resurfaced in a number of Hollywood movies of late, invariably handled poorly.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Homage

        I think paying homage involves respect.

        I think TA:WP displayed as much respect toward Andersen's work as Parker and Stone[1] are capable of. And whatever you might think of the story, it was a substantial technical achievement - there were clearly a lot of people who cared about their craft working on it. They could have taken the cheaper and easier route of simply doing the whole thing in CGI with a marionette look.

        [1] I don't know about Brady; I've never seen an interview with her, for example, while I have caught a few with Parker & Stone over the years.

  32. Portent

    5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are gone!

    I have so many happy memories of Joe 90, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Space 1999 from my childhood on Saturday mornings.

    5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are gone! :(


  33. Jude Bradley

    UFO sadness,

    Sadly, the sururving cast are gettng smaller and smaller.

    Delores Mantez (Lt. Barry) also passed away this year.

    Up there with Cmdr Straker,Col. Foster,and Col. Freeman

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: UFO sadness,

      It seems about the only one left is Benedict Cumberbatch's mum.

      One of the most entertaining characters from UFO is the sinister doctor played by Vladek Sheybal as the foreign accented Dr "Jackson"

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Big Brother

        Re: UFO sadness,

        "One of the most entertaining characters from UFO is the sinister doctor played by Vladek Sheybal as the foreign accented Dr "Jackson""

        You can kind of guess where he got his degree (although what its in is a bit hazy).

        The last doctor you'd ever want to visit.

        Not of course that you'd remember afterward....

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Tribute Joke (pretend to be ten again before reading)

    Parker! Take off my coat!

    --- yes, m'lady.

    Parker! Take off my blouse!

    --- yes, m'lady.

    Parker! Take off my skirt!

    --- yes, m'lady.

    Parker! Take off my bra!

    --- yes, m'lady.

    Parker! Take off my knickers!

    --- yes, m'lady.

    And, Paker!

    --- yes, m'lady?

    I don't want to catch you wearing them again.

    1. gaz 7

      Re: The Tribute Joke (pretend to be ten again before reading)

      Pass the mindbleach....

      Was going so well until the last line

  35. This Side Up

    The name lives on

    Virgin Trains' Class 57 rescue locomotives (for rescuing failed Pendolini) are nicknamed "Thunderbirds".

  36. Captain Hogwash

    surely Japan...

    Is the supermario nation.

    1. Random Yayhoo

      Re: surely Japan...

      Well done Captain. And @Walt Leipold:

      "Fireball XL-5 was the *best* show in the universe!" --- Surely that.

      Finally, on Team America... what, no takers yet?!! Sigh, all right then, for you Gerry...

      "I'm so lonely..."

  37. Dr_N

    Big loss for UK Sci-Fi.

    Even now the spaceship and aircraft model designs hold their own with the best CGI can offer.

  38. David Robinson 1

    What, no mention of Dick Spanner? It used to be shown as part of Network 7 (remember that?) on Channel 4. Very surreal and plenty of sight gags in the background.,_P.I.

    1. Rob


      I had almost forgotten about that series, used to watch it when I got home from the pub along with all the other late night channel 4 Friday stuff before waking up at 3am thinking I really must get to bed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > What, no mention of Dick Spanner?

      I managed to find a "totally legitimate" Dick Spanner DVD on eBay several years back which turned out to be better than the chopped around official release. I don't think "surreal and plently of sight gags" quite covers the brutal and sustained pun assault that this show delivers.

      You should be able to find it lurking around on youtube; it's very much worth looking up.

  39. TseTT

    Angel Interceptors

    Am I on my own if I admit that I have, err I mean had, a crush on the angel interceptors pilots?

  40. expat jan

    And between Stretchy arms and Thunderbirds was...

    Torchy! Torchy the battery boy.

    My rich uncle bought us a (black and white, of course) TV in 1962, so I was plugged into children's programming every day after school. But, of course, Captain Scarlet was the best - Thunderbirds was too slow and Stingray too scary (can't remember why) and Joe 90 I never watched - no technology.

    Strings - there weren't any, were there? Maybe they're not visible with 405 lines.

    but thank you Gerry Anderson for enriching my life and giving a window to new futures.

  41. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    And so another part of many peoples childhoods disappers

    RIP Gerry.

    And for Captain Scarlet fan S.I.R.

    I'm off to raise a pint, but I'm not happy.

  42. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Down

    All wonderful stuff

    But a bit of a downvote for El Reg for even mentioning the risible 2004 Thunderbirds movie (directed by Jonathan Frakes of STNG no less) in the same article!

  43. markw:

    RIP Gerry

    And don't forget my childhood favourite SUPERCAR.

    Fire one... Fire two...........

  44. Marky

    Four Feather Falls

    Sorry can't agree with the statement Four Feather Falls didn't catch on. It was hugely popular amongst all the kids at school. They were all talking about the programme next day. I think what you should have said was it didn't catch on with marketing of toys and other franchises for extracting money from parents.

  45. Juan Inamillion

    Ah yes...

    and then there's the spoof version by Pete and Dud which I saw for the very first time this vey day... <sigh>

  46. JB

    Another one here who caught Thunderbirds in the 80s, usually a Sunday lunchtime on ITV. It was the modernist total faith in technology and its consequent fatal flaws that always intrigued me - monorails that couldn't stop, people getting trapped in hermetically sealed underground car parks, that sort of thing. How much less exciting the plots would have been if there had been adequate health and safety legislation in 2065!

    I always admired Gerry Anderson's faith in his projects, but somehow felt a little sorry for the way fashions in kids' telly had moved on and left Gerry behind. Not to detract from his many achievements though - his work will most definitely live on for many years to come!

  47. MontaraMike


    I remember growing up in the US watching the usual American CRAP they put on TV for kids. Then we got cable TV and got channels that showed Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, U.F.O. etc.. changed my life.

  48. DJ

    And now for something completely different...

    Thunderbirds + Mark Knopfler =

  49. Stuart Halliday

    Since when is a electromagnetic solenoid called a 'motor'?

    Let's try to be a tiny bit more technically accurate lads?

  50. Mark York 3 Silver badge

    Des O'Connor

    Somewhat scarred for life by the Pete & Dud, as it brought back memories of Des O'Connor in the bathtub with Stingray surfacing (amongst other things).

    Another chunk of my past detached like melting icebergs.

    RIP Gerry FAB.

    Explosion for Thunderbirds & Stingray obviously.

  51. Craig 28

    At 29 I remember loving all the marionette stuff while they were shown in the 80's, possibly early 90's too. I really do think he did a lot to get the science fiction ball rolling in general and I praise him for that, I also think the drydock/hangar for Stingray was a rather neat little system.

    As I've grown up though I've begun to find most of the mechanical sequences showing the people and/or vehicles getting ready to be a little cringe makingly detailed, not to mention including a few too many twists and turns that just add complexity. Couches turning into lifts and hooking onto a miniature rail system are great ideas in their own way but depositing the pilot straight into their seat is just a little too much for my personal suspension of disbelief. I also have to admit his obsession with the covert side of the organisations to be a little over done in a lot of ways, I could give it to him in some of the shows certainly but in almost every show is just a little much.

    Then again Star Trek did have all the deflector dish shenanigans...

  52. RAMChYLD

    I enjoyed Thunderbirds back in my secondary schooldays.

    RIP Mr. Anderson.

  53. stuartnz

    Never had the glasses

    But adored Joe 90 as a kid - it was my favourite of his shows, with Space:1999 probably runner-up. Naturally, for a high school friend with an IQ of 175+ AND the glasses there was only one nickname possible.

  54. John 62

    Thunderbirds movie

    The Thunderbirds live action film isn't that bad! *ducks*

    I'm not going to claim it's a masterpiece (the plot and Ben Kingsley(!) are a bit poor, and Ford should not have been involved), but it's a short, fun kids' movie where the kids save the day. And it has a great performance from Sophia Myles.

    Arguably, JJ Abrams ripped off Jonathan Frakes's work on this, because if I recall correctly, the plots of the two films have the odd similarity.

    It's definitely a shame the film wasn't better, though, because the universe is definitely at least as worthy of a successful franchise as something like the Pirates of the Caribbean.

    Finally, as I watched the film, I wondered about how acceptable something like International Rescue would be to our modern world of carbon obsession. Each of the craft would use an unimaginable amount of energy.

    1. John 62

      Re: Thunderbirds movie

      oops! that should have been more explicit that I thought JJ Abrams's Star Trek (2009) ripped off some of Thunderbirds.

  55. gerryg
    Thumb Up

    No one has mentioned the three hottest women on the planet

    step forward: Harmony, Melody and Rhapsody - surely the role models for Kelly McGillis in Top Gun

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