The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson – Forthcoming from Network

gerry

Due for release at the end of March is The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson, a grab-bag containing several pilots which never went to a full series, plus Space Police (an early incarnation of Space Precinct).  Also included are some interesting-sounding special features, details in the blurb below.

An alien being chooses two children to assist him in improving the Earth…

A spaceship on a scientific mission is flung into the far reaches of outer space…

A police lieutenant fights organised crime on a distant planet…

…these are The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson!

Creator of the legendary Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson scored incredible successes throughout the 1960s and ’70s with Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space: 1999 and other series which appealed to both children and adults alike. Not all his ideas, however, went to a full series and this set contains the 1970s pilots for both The Investigator and The Day After Tomorrow, as well as the 1986 pilot for Space Police, which was eventually reworked as Space Precinct nearly a decade later. Alongside these rare and much sought after programmes, this collector’s set also includes:

Here Comes Kandy and You’ve Never Seen This – Gerry’s earliest work, from 1955

Image galleries for all three pilots

New transfer of remaining film elements for Space Police, alongside the 1992 “Reloaded” edit and test footage

Dick Spanner, PI – an unscreened episode with accompanying image gallery

Blue Skies Ahead and an accompanying Blue Cars advert, made by Gerry in partnership with Nicholas Parsons

Advertisements

Archive Television Musings YouTube channel – Derek Meddings talks about Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet

I’ve just created a YouTube channel, where I’ll post, from time to time, some interesting clips and programmes from my archive of VHS recordings from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

First up is a nice little piece on Derek Meddings from 1995, where he discusses his work on Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

Gerry Anderson’s Into Infinity (The Day After Tomorrow) to be broadcast on BBC4 – 9/11/14

into infinity

Gerry Anderson’s Into Infinity (also known as The Day After Tomorrow) is to receive a rare television screening.  BBC4 will broadcast it on Sunday, 9th November at 10:50 pm.

Since the DVD has only been made available to Fanderson members, this terrestrial outing is very welcome.

Into Infinity was written by Johnny Byrne, directed by Charles Crichton and was originally broadcast on BBC1 in 1976.  Planned as the pilot of a possible series, it featured some familiar names from previous Anderson ventures, such as Nick Tate and, as narrator, Ed Bishop.  Brian Blessed, a guest star from Space 1999, also features.

Post Space 1999. Anderson was to find funding for his projects hard to come by, so Into Infinity never got beyond the pilot stage.  But it’s certainly an interesting curio that’s worth a look.

EDIT – it will shortly receive a wider DVD release, see here for details.

Filmed in Supermarionation (Network Blu Ray/DVD Review)

super

Filmed in Supermarionation is a glorious two-hour documentary from director/producer Stephen La Rivière which tells the story of how a small company based in Slough were able produce some of the most iconic children’s television series of all time.

Central to the story, of course, is the late Gerry Anderson.  Happily he’s well represented throughout the documenatry via an extensive interview.  Also present is Gerry’s ex-wife, Sylvia, who was a key figure in the sucess of AP Films/Century 21, not least for voicing Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds.  Sadly, the divorce of Gerry and Sylvia was very bitter, which meant that during Gerry’s lifetime she was persona non grata – so it’s good to have her contribution appreciated here.

Apart from Gerry and Sylvia, there were a whole host of unsung heroes who brought these shows to life and celebrating their work was one of the main reasons why Stephen La Rivière wanted to make this documentary.  Many of the surviving creative team have been interviewed (others who have passed on, like Barry Gray and Derek Meddings, are represented by archive footage) and there’s some lovely moments – such as when a group of puppeteers return to the location of the studio in Slough to be confronted with a immaculate recreation of a studio set, complete with puppets.  Also very touching is the moment towards the end, when David Graham (the voice of Parker) takes a moment to thank his wooden friend for making such an important contribution to his career.

Amazingly, Parker and Lady Penelope hardly look a day older than when we first met them in 1964.
Amazingly, Parker and Lady Penelope hardly look a day older than when we first met them in 1964.

Filmed in Supermarionation is presented by Lady Penelope and Parker (voiced, as in the original series, by Sylvia Anderson and David Graham). This allows a few affectionate jokes to be made, as well as giving us the chance to see Parker turn up in some odd places (on the set of Captain Scarlet, for example).

The documentary proceeds in strict chronolgocal order, so the first hour or so is devoted to the early series, such as the two made with Roberta Leigh (The Adventures of Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy) before moving onto Anderson’s early solo efforts, such as Four Feather Falls, Supercar and Fireball XL5.  For those waiting to get to the likes of Thunderbirds, this may feel slightly drawn out, but personally I enjoyed the detail on these earlier, and to me, less familiar series.

Both Stingray and Thunderbirds are well covered, with the largest section of the documentary concentrated on Thunderbirds.   This isn’t surprising, since it was clearly the peak of Supermarionation and the pride felt by those who worked on it comes over very well.  Captain Scarlet is dealt with quite quickly (although there’s some more material contained in the deleted scenes package) and after a brief look at Joe 90 (with its slightly sinister theme of brainwashing a nine-year old child each week) and the frankly bonkers The Secret Service (a lovely anecdote from Gerry who describes how aghast Lew Grade was at the gibberish-speaking Stanley Unwin!) the story comes to a sad end as the company is sold off and the sets and puppets are broken up and chucked into skips.

But while the company came to an abrupt end, the programmes they made still endure today and this is down to the group of men and women who constantly sought to innovate and experiment.  The effects in an average episode of Thunderbirds wouldn’t look out of place in a feature-film and that was always a hallmark of AP Films/Century 21.  Filmed in Supermarionation, with its interviews, archive footage and re-creations is able to explain how they made it all happen.

Also on the disc is twenty minutes of deleted scenes, two short featurettes (three to four minutes each) which look at the modelwork created for the documentary, home movie footage featuring Gerry and Sylvia in America, archive behind-the-scenes material from Tomorrows’ World, Something for the Children and Parade as well as a brtief clip of the Lord Mayor visiting a fairly life-size Thunderbird 3.

Thunderbirds titles in HD

Network continue to count down to Filmed in Supermarionation, due later this month, by releasing HD versions of the titles of various Anderson shows on their YouTube page.  More details can be found here. Below are HD titles for Thunderbirds.

Below are some previews of Filmed in Supermarionation.

In other Thunderbirds news, the Guardian has a very positive review of the new ITV remake. It’s due for broadcast in 2015 and features, amongst others, David Graham reprising his role as Parker and Rosamund Pike as the voice of Lady Penelope. It can be read here.

UFO watch (Episode 26 – The Long Sleep)

long sleep

Written by David Tomblin
Directed by Jeremy Summers

The Long Sleep is an oddity amongst UFO stories – as it’s able to be dated quite specifically.  We’re told that ten years have elapsed since Straker accidentally knocked down Catherine (Tessa Wyatt) and that it happened in 1974.  So the present day events occur in 1984.

After Catherine was hit by Straker’s car, she’s remained in a coma, until now.  Just before she lost consciousness she mentioned flying saucers, so her case-file is reactivated now that she’s woken up.  Straker feels a sense of responsibility, even though there was no way he could have avoided the collision, so he visits her in hospital to hear her story.

Ten years ago, Catherine had run away from home and met up with Tim (Christian Roberts).  The two of them then hitched a lift into the country and found a place to sleep – a deserted farmhouse.  Tim offered Catherine a couple of pills, promising her that they weren’t addictive.  But what occurred was a trip that was certainly bad for both of them.

One of the most striking things about the flashback scenes is that up until they take the drugs, all of the action set in 1974 is sepia toned.  Once they’re under the influence, there’s a sudden explosion of colour and everything slows down slightly – which effectively indicates the effects of the trip.  Things take a turn for the worse when they discover two aliens in the farmhouse’s basement, doing something with a strange object.  In their altered state, Catherine and Tim don’t realise the danger they’re in and they take part of the alien’s device.  Still under the influence of the drugs, Tim jumps off the roof and is apparently dead, whilst the aliens attack Catherine.

When she wakes up, the picture has turned back to sepia, indicating that the trip is over.  Dazed and confused, she sees the aliens drag Tim away and she staggers out of the farmhouse.  After an encounter with a truck driver who clearly had unhonourable intentions, she runs away from him and is mown down by Straker’s car.

Her story of the alien’s device is enough to convince Straker that it was a bomb.  This is a little bit of a leap, it has to be said.  Another unanswered question is why they haven’t come back to prime the bomb or replace it with another one.  What convinces Straker that it is a bomb is the time-frame – several days before Catherine’s accident there was an Earthquake in Turkey which killed 80,000 people.  Straker’s convinced that the Earthquake was caused by an alien bomb, and that there’s a similar device in England, waiting to do the same.  Again, this requires something of a leap of faith and also poses the question as to why the aliens wish to destroy large parts of the Earth, something they’ve previously never done (with the exception of Destruction).

Catherine is more than a little surprised to be visited in hospital by Tim, who, like her, doesn’t look a day older.  Quickly, it becomes obvious that he’s under the control of the aliens and he injects her with drugs in order to discover where she hid the bomb’s priming device.  This then leads to a final example of Straker’s ruthless side, when he elects to inject her with the same drug so that they can discover the hiding place and attempt to get there before Tim.  Dr Jackson warns of the dangers to Catherine, but as so often before, Straker has to weigh one life against possibly losing thousands.

Tim is caught, the bomb is dealt with, but there’s no happy ending for Catherine.  It’s perhaps fitting that the last recorded episode of UFO ends with a shot of an anguished Ed Straker.  Once again he’s protected countless people, but in order to achieve this, sacrifices have had to be made.

And that’s it – the 26th and final episode.  If you’ve never seen it, UFO is a series that has plenty to recommend it.  There’s the odd episode that doesn’t work and some do have gaping plot holes, but the main cast are excellent and the model-work (supervised by Derek Meddings) is never less than first rate.  Let’s sign off with the Power Themes 90 remix of Barry Gray’s UFO theme.

UFO watch (Episode 25 – Mindbender)

mindbender

Written by Tony Barwick
Directed by Ken Turner

Mindbender might be my favourite UFO episode.  It’s certainly the most daring, as it comprehensively breaks the fourth wall.

A UFO crashes on the Moon and astronaut Andy Conroy (Al Mancini) retrieves a strange rock from the wreckage.  Once back at Moonbase, he starts to lose his grip on reality.  He’s an avid fan of Westerns, which may explain why he sees all of his colleagues turn into Mexican bandits.

Initially, he sees the bandits roaming Moonbase, which is odd enough but as he descends further into madness, to him Moonbase has become a dangerous Mexican town full of outlaws who he has to fight to the death.  During the scenes both Ken Turner’s direction and Barry Gray’s music offer numerous nods to the Spaghetti Westerns so beloved by Conroy.

UFO is the last place you’d expect to see a Western (except on the back-lot) and it’s this juxtaposition which is so startling.  Conroy is killed, but the mystery behind his madness remains unsolved.  The rock ends up back at SHADO HQ where it infects Beaver James (Charles Tingwell) who becomes convinced that SHADO has been infiltrated by the aliens.

It then finds its way into Straker’s office, and this is where the heart of the episode lies.  Straker and Henderson are having one of their usual arguments.  “Let’s get back to realities” says Henderson and immediately afterwards, somebody says “Cut and print”.

The camera pulls back to reveal that SHADO HQ is nothing more than a film set and Straker is actually Howard Byrne, the leading actor.  A dazed Straker exits onto the studio grounds and makes his way over to Theatre 7, where the rough-cut of his “show” is being screened.

There then follows a series of clips from Identified and A Question of Priorities.  This could be seen as a way of saving some money by recycling footage, but it’s a key part of the episode.  Straker is forced to watch the death of his son, whilst his co-star Mike (Michael Billington) leans over and tells him how it’ll make a great episode.

One recurring theme of UFO is how emotionally damaged Straker is, from both the break-up of his marriage and the death of his son, so it’s heartbreaking to see him have to relive those moments again.  Ed Bishop is wonderful here – he says very little, but you’re left in no doubt as to the impact these shots have.

But even when he’s driven to the point of madness, the steel-trap of Straker’s mind still functions and he works out a way to get back to reality.  He goes back into the office and repeats his argument with Henderson.  As he begins to take control over the situation, things start to return to normal and, in effect, the fourth wall (which was shattered) now reforms, ensuring that he’s back where he belongs.

It takes a certain amount of nerve to do a story like Mindbender, but it certainly pays off.  There’s a danger inherent in showing us “behind the scenes” as the camera reveals to us just how flimsy and small the sets are – Skydiver, Moonbase control, etc.  Of course, it’s also lovely to have this peek behind the scenes and understand a little about how the series was made.

Possibly there might have been a feeling that UFO probably wouldn’t be renewed, so they might as well go for broke story-wise.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad they did, as Mindbender not only works as a character piece for Straker, it also offers an ironic comment on the artifice of programme making.  Wonderful stuff.