With ‘Thunderbirds The Vault’ by Marcus Hearne, don’t expect pull-outs and such that have been with other vaults. However, there is a wealth of photos from all the Anderson shows, mostly obviously ‘Thunderbirds’, behind the scenes, production staff and merchandise. The only nuisance thing occasionally is having some photos overlaid with photos, especially with things like the Character Merchandise Sheet where info about FAB 1 is covered.
Just wandering through the photos will keep you going for quite a while before digesting the text, which explores how AP Films developed and the ambitions of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, along with Reg Hill and John Reed, created and made their mark on puppet shows that has never equalled since. Mind you, when the only alternatives were the primitive puppets on BBC’s ‘Watch With Mother’ and Roberta Leigh/Arthur Provis’ ‘Space Patrol’, there was hardly any rivals but it didn’t stop them improving with every series.
This book covers everything and everyone in some depth and mostly no holds barred showing the ups and finally the downs. The likes of Derek Meddings and Barry Gray get their own chapters and when Hearne got to the ‘TV21’ comic, I thought he was only mention some of the artists and missed out on Mike Noble, turning the page, he had two pages to himself. It’s a shame none of the comic artists had photos showing who they are but glad the puppet voices had them although I’m sure there could have been a better choice for Matt Zimmerman than a still from the ‘UFO’ episode, ‘Exposed’.
The look at the merchandise is a field day down memory lane, especially as I owned a lot of it at the time and indeed played heartily with it. In those days, there was no thought that it would be worth anything or it would last. Things like the stencil set would never last once it was painted through anyway. A few photos were missing like that of some of the Rosenthal friction toys. They should have asked me as I still own a boxed Thunderbird 5, whose ‘mystery action’ feature is the same as that of the Palitoy Dalek of the time where it would spin off in a different direction when it hits the skirting board. Not so good on carpet but good in the kitchen. I had to have a ponder on what was missed and probably the biggest was the Smith’s Crisps model kits of the Thunderbirds’ craft. It would also have been interesting to see the covers of all the Thunderbirds’ EPs but they do get a fair representation.
It’s a shame also that ‘Thunderbirds’ merchandise from abroad wasn’t covered as he’d have had a field day from Japan alone although I suspect this would have made the book much larger.
There’s a lot to learn from this book. I did suspect a while back about the similarities between the shape of the round house on Tracy Island and that of Thunderbird 5 and this is confirmed by a quote from Derek Meddings.
This doesn’t mean the book is perfect and there are some odd errors which should have been checked. Kyrano was only the Hood’s half-brother for instance. Although Scott was the co-pilot of Thunderbird 3, he never took any monthly duty on Thunderbird 5. I’m also not quite sure why he thinks there are passenger sections along the wings of the Fireflash, especially when the photos show otherwise. Likewise, the downing of one of the Fireflashs and loss of lives in ‘Operation Crash-Dive’ happened while International Rescue was operational. There are some instances when even they wouldn’t have been able to get there in time. It was ‘The Mighty Atom’s first nuclear fog that predated International Rescue becoming operational.
I do think that Hearne is looking at the ‘Thunderbirds’ reality unfairly comparing the 1966 version to where we are today. No creator in our SF medium has ever regarded themselves as seers and if you were to compare classics like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, they were pretty far off the mark on many things as well. Any show or film is a creation of its time with a guess at where the future is going.
Likewise, the number of fatalities in ‘Thunderbirds’ is actually rather high compared to what Hearne thinks. The number of times Scott in Thunderbird One pursues and shoots at the Hood, leaving when he thinks the villain couldn’t have survived is pretty high. The Hood himself has hardly walked away without killing someone in his plans neither. I could go on but I think Hearne dug his own hole here. If anything, he should have looked at why the Hood thinks photos of the Thunderbirds is more important when he had an opportunity to kidnap its inventor Brains in ‘Desperate Intruder’. Lest we forget, the villains in ‘Move – And You’re Dead’ would have succeeded in killing Alan and Grandma Tracy had IR not rescued them. As to the continuity glitch with Grandma moving to the island. Logistically, who’s to say her visits to the island until that story were just that and this was the time when she finally took up residence. With ‘Brink Of Disaster’, I fail to understand why Hearne thinks crooks can’t run businesses badly even in those days.
‘With ‘Day Of The Alligators!’, I don’t think Hearne has seen ‘Rebecca’ as it was this film that was referenced for the episode, not ‘Psycho’. In fact, Sylvia Anderson insisted upon it.
Although not entirely perfect, there is a lot more correct than wrong and Hearne thinks there will be further re-reprints so the errors above could always be corrected. ‘Thunderbirds’, like all of the AP/Century 21 products was a collaborative effort and I’m glad everyone had their talents displayed here. I’ll deny anyone who can’t come away with a smile on their face after looking at the photos or reading this book. ‘Thunderbirds’ is a legacy that still stands proud today.
(pub: Virgin/Ebury/Random House. 240 page illustrated indexed medium large hardback. Price: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-753-55635-1)
check out website: www.eburypublishing.co.uk