In a week when some more familiar celebrities passed away — Jack Klugman and Charles Durning were certainly more famous — it might get lost in the general press that Gerry Anderson died Wednesday at the age of 83. But for some of us, if he wasn’t exactly a superstar, he had a pretty big impact, creating some of the most memorable and enduring shows of our childhood, namely:
“Thunderbirds are go!” They sure were.
Today, Supermarionation looks cheesy, but to a kid growing up in the ’60s… okay, it still looked cheesy, though like a better, lip-synced, no-hands-visible version of when we played with action figures ourselves. But Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5 were like Intro to Action and Sci-Fi 101 for generations, and Thunderbirds even had a proto-nerd in Brains, the stammering, glasses-wearing genius. Plus, of course, there was the lovely Lady Penelope, “London Agent.” The Thunderbirds were an international rescue squad (the Tracy boys all had the same names as real astronauts) and Fireball XL5, with Col. Steve Zodiac at the bridge accompanied by Dr. Venus, was part of the World Space Patrol. Star Trek (and Anderson’s own Space: 1999) came later; for a lot of kids, the herky-jerky marionettes of Gerry Anderson, seen early on Saturday mornings in blurry black-and-white, were their introduction to a genre.
I trust the flags on Tracy Island are flying at half-staff today.