I read on Tor.com that television writer, producer, and supermarionation pioneer Gerry Anderson died last week.
His name may not mean much to modern audiences, but Gerry Anderson was beloved among science fiction fans of the 1960s-1980s — and boy, did we love him. He had a long and fruitful career, especially with science fiction-themed children’s shows such as Fireball XL5 (1962), Stingray (’64–65), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (67-68), Joe 90 (68-69), and his biggest success, Thunderbirds (1965-1966).
Most of Anderson’s TV shows were co-produced with his wife, Sylvia Anderson. They were married from 1960 to 1981. Sylvia frequently directed the overdub sessions for the supermarionation programs, and even provided the voices of many characters, including Lady Penelope of the Thunderbirds.
Thunderbirds may have been his biggest success — and the defining kid’s show for an entire generation of science fiction fans — but there was nothing that could get my young heart rate up like the opening credits for Joe 90.
Gerry’s television career culminated in Space: 1999, the groundbreaking science-fiction television series that was the last Gerry and Sylvia Anderson co-production, and the most expensive series produced for British television up to that time. It ran for two seasons, from 1975 to 1977, and starred Martin Landau, the painfully wooden Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, and (in season two) Catherine Schell as Maya, the shape-changing alien hottie.
While it had an original premise and showcased enough intriguing plotlines to captivate its teenage fans, Space: 1999 is primarily remembered today for the superb results of effects artist Brian Johnson, whose detailed model work was hugely influential on Alien and other films that decade. His work was so impressive that George Lucas visited Johnson during production and offered him the role of effects supervisor for Star Wars. He later received an Academy Award for his work on The Empire Strikes Back.
Gerry Anderson continued to work well into the last decade; his New Captain Scarlet premiered in the UK in February 2005, and was said to be the most expensive children’s programme ever made in the UK. He died peacefully in his sleep on December 26, 2012 at the age of 83.