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Saturday morning television would not have been the same without the weekly fix of Thunderbirds. Lucky for them we do not because the early stuff was hardly subject of legend, as I have to admit were some of the later stuff. Never mind all that, the middle period was the one that has created the legend. I begin the by focusing on the live-action series that they created before letting you loose on those classic puppet series.

People

Geo Bassett, Space 1999 [1976] is a set of 50 cigarette cards which were issued in conjunction with the British TV series Space 1999. Here is another date which is going to pass without success for the writers (in this case the Andersons). Written 1975-77 it focused on Moonbase Alpha. Due to an explosion of nuclear waste (it was being stored on the moon) the Moonbase becomes something of a wanderer in space. The set of cards was as disorganised as the series. The first three cards describe the main characters of the series helpfully explaining Professor Bergman has a mechanical heart which has left him all but emotionless (?) Time-warps are much in evidence the cast meet themselves (rather improbably) as a group of stone age men in one episode whilst on another card they met themselves from way into the future. The people that know about such things actually consider this to be the worst science-fiction series that has fallen of the drawing board. Certainly the set of cards keeps to the original plot of the series, basically none.

I have grown up to look as healthy as Captain Black

It has been said Gerry Anderson really wanted to direct James Bond movies, but this was just not practical. Instead he did puppet shows, far cheaper, more of them and often the acting was not as wooden. There was the added bonus it was on every week, not just at Christmas when presents got in the way.

Geo Bassett, UFO [1974] was a set of cards which paid homage to an earlier Anderson effort (1970-73) this was their first live-action effort (puppets being their previous cast). This series was set in the 1980's. By now aliens were infiltrating the Earth which had turned into something of a global government state. The costumes were based on horrible 1970's fashions extrapolated into the future, with the addition of purple hair.Barratt, UFO [1971] a series of 70 cards had made an earlier effort at explaining the series. What Anglo Confectionary UFO [1971] made of the series I do not know.

Puppets
Thunderbird 2, everyones favourite, ready to roll

The Andersons were also behind Thunderbirds a puppet series which ran 1965-6 and has been repeated ever since. It introduced us to International Rescue and Thunderbird 2 (the green one we all wanted. Strangely Dinky Toys did a blue version of this for reasons beyond reason). Barratt once more were quick of the mark with Thunderbirds [1967] & a second series in [1968].Somportex ltd went to town with three sets, Thunderbirds [1967]in coloured and different formats.

Gerry Anderson always had a problem making the puppets walk. If you get the opportunity to watch Thunderbirds particularly just see how little the people walk. They move constantly but usually in vehicles or moving walkways. In general the desk will move rather than the man. It gave it a futuristic feel, man had turned into a carcass that was just shifted by machinery from A to B.

Thunderbirds also gets a look in on a late arriving set from Topps, The very best of Stingray, Thunderbirds & Captain Scarlet [1993] this set cashing in on the revival of fortunes that 'supermarianation' had in the early 1990's. Stingray was the third Anderson effort and it originally ran 1964-5. This had the character of Troy Tempest, one of the best names in television, see also, Cadet Sweets, Stingray [1965] (I knew a chap called Storme Stevens at school. How I wished I had a cool name like him). We now have also been introduced to Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68). This was a favourite of mine, I consider it is partially why I have grown up to look as healthy as Captain Black. This was a rather darker series than the others attempted because death was a major part of the series. Captain Scarlet regenerated after death but obviously he did have to be killed before this miracle. It is also the subject of one of the most colourful sets of cards in .

The fact death was something confronted in every episode meant this would probably horrify the politically correct sensibilities of modern parenthood. The Andersons never spoke down to the audience, children were treated like adults in his world. Almost diametrically opposite to television output nowadays.

Captain Scarlet with Captain Black.

Anglo Confectionary, Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons [1967] dealt specifically with this most splendid of series.

Primrose Confectionary, Joe 90 [1969] was the last of the string puppet efforts by the Andersons and probably one of the least popular, Joe was just too good for most kids. It has a personal appeal because an accountant friend of mine is the spitting image of Joe 90 <g>. Indeed more Joe 90 than John Major (ex-prime minister of Britain). He also gets a set dedicated to him with Anglo Confectionary, Joe 90 [1968]. He is also the subject of a private joke because I walked away from an early Joe 90 doll, still in the box because I did not like Joe 90. Such is life.

Past glories

Let me turn back time for a moment; One of the earliest Anderson efforts was the Fireball XL5 series 1962-3. Pre Star Trek it had many of the seeds of space opera. Although puppets on a shoestring budget it was a great series. It included Robbie the Robot a great character if ever there was one. Como Confectionary, XL5 1st series [1965] immortalised the set for all of us that miss this too infrequently aired show. The theme tune was great. Interestingly the series only ran one full season and one part season but Como Confectionary, XL5 2nd series [1966] was produced anyway. This manufacturer had something of an obsession with the Andersons obviously and also produced, Adventures of Fireball XL5 [1965]

The Andersons had done a puppet series earlier entitled Supercar, (1961-2). The series was a considerable success and was sold in the US. Supercar could do many things. It travelled through the air and under the sea, sometimes Mike Mercury (they really had some good names.) was at the control and at others Mitch (a talking monkey.) It ran for 2 seasons totalling 39 episodes. Como Confectionary, Supercar [1962] were hot on the trail of the success, issuing two series. Well who else did you expect to do it :-)