Daily Archives: 12/26/2012

Master of Puppets

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Well, this is certainly news that I didn’t want to read today – Gerry Anderson, tv Sci-Fi pioneer and beloved icon of British nerds, has passed away at the age of 83.

I’m not sure how much Anderson’s career resonates with American readers, but to British nerds of a certain age Anderson’s marionette-powered sci-fi action adventures were a regular and welcome injection of derring-do and thrilling storytelling on kids’ tv before the era of on-demand tv and internet made finding such gems somewhat easier.

Captain Scarlet

If I throw out some titles – “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet“, “Stingray“, “Space: 1999“, “UFO“, my personal favourite “Terrahawks” – you might get an idea of what I’m talking about.  Yep, mostly marionette-driven, mostly irony-free adventures which seemed like they came from a different time even when I was watching them as a kid.  But they were arguably key in getting me into the kind of sci-fi adventures that I grew to love – this was a time when you couldn’t see Star Wars whenever you wanted (VHS wasn’t yet remotely affordable), and any TV show which took you into space, under the sea or into uncertain alien territory was like delicious catnip to a youthful Fluffrick.

I suspect that most younger readers might have only encountered “Thunderbirds” through the enjoyable but not entirely successful live action Jonathan Frakes film from 2004, which at least managed to keep the best things about the show – the epic-in-scale, perilous rescue missions, largely eschewing violence as a solution to problems, even going so far as to find actors to play the Tracy brothers who were somehow less convincing than their marionette counterparts – and boasted one genius performance from Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope.

Anderson died peacefully at noon today – he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease since 2010.  And his brand of energetic, breathless storytelling will be deeply missed.

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