Thunderbirds are Go(ne): A Tribute to Gerry Anderson

By Zack Smith

My reaction to first seeing the “Supermarionation” puppet shows of the late Gerry Anderson was probably the same everyone else had – “Dude, what the (bleep) is this?”

And like everyone else, I couldn’t look away.

Anderson, who passed away recently, left behind a legacy of some of the weirdest and most wonderful shows for younger viewers to ever grace the small screen – a world of toys come to life.

Though his work was more popular in its native United Kingdom, there is still many a Baby Boomer and their progeny who can recall coming across the likes of Thunderbirds, Stingray or Captain Scarlet one Saturday morning.

You couldn’t miss them. Anyone who’d ever seen PBS knew about children’s shows with puppets, but Anderson’s were different – they blew up things. Lots of things.

And like the Muppets or Romper Room, you didn’t care if you could see the wires and strings moving the puppets hands, or hauling the rockets across the sky (or sky-like backdrop). In a way, it made it seem all the more impressive, because it wasn’t a cartoon – it was “real,” actually happening right before your eyes.

Though Anderson’s heyday as in the 1960s and 1970s, his shows had a way of showing up on reruns in syndication at some ungodly hour, or on some cable channel, such as the Saturday morning lineup of the early years of the SciFi (now Syfy, sigh) Channel.

Once you saw one, it stuck in your head. Here was a sub, jumping out of the water, followed by a giant fish! Jets launching from a top-secret fortress in the sky! Heroes with names like Steve Zodiac! Troy Tempest! Lady Penelope, whose high-tech Rolls-Royce was so cool it didn’t matter if it was pink – she OWNED it.

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