Supermarionationing Again

26 06 2016

I got involved, a year or so back, as one of thousands of backers for a crowdfunded project to recreate, in such faithful detail as to be indistinguishable from the original, an iconic 1960s TV show: Thunderbirds. Puppets, strings, elaborate miniatures, explosions, stunt human hands, all carefully replicated. And for the audio (and, therefore, for the storylines): three original Thunderbirds EPs (‘Introducing Thunderbirds’, ‘The Abominable Snowman’, and ‘The Stately Homes Robberies’) which used all the appropriate voice actors but which had never previously featured as content on the TV show itself. This combination of original audio and an all-puppet cast ensured that, provided due diligence was taken, the episodes could perfectly match the original show, five decades on—something that would plainly not be possible for any show involving live actors.

Thunderbirds1965lrg

So far as I know, the three episodes resulting from the ‘Thunderbirds 1965‘ project aren’t yet available for general release; I hope this changes soon. I can report that Stephen La Rivière and his crew (including 1960s veterans of the original production team, director David Elliott and puppeteer Mary Turner) have done a sterling job in reproducing a rather niche televisual art form. To give some sense of the flavour of their work, I can point you towards the documentary which was made about the project. It is extraordinarily well done, and beautifully respectful of the original show. If I have a quibble, it is that the storylines of the new episodes are not particularly strong—but that, I think, is a problem of the limitations of the original EPs (which were never intended as actual episodes), and no fault whatsoever of their new adaptation. It’s just wonderful to see those strings being pulled again after fifty years.

It’s tantalising to note, too, that a similar scenario—the existence of original ‘Century 21’ EPs representing audio-only versions of unfilmed TV episodes—provides the material for new episodes of Thunderbirds‘ Supermarionation stablemate Captain Scarlet (four new episodes, or at a stretch, perhaps five) and Stingray (perhaps three episodes, but I’m not sure how many of the EPs represent unfilmed content). There’s also an EP in which Fireball XL5—which was before my time—recreates the Apollo program …

We may not have seen the last of Supermarionation.

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