Gerry Anderson: Master in Miniature Part Four (Mania.com)

By:Jeff Bond
Date: Friday, January 03, 2003

Gerry Anderson has a track record that would make any self-respecting TV producer shake in his boots: 17 television programs, virtually all of which now rate as cult successesfrom the lavishly produced space adventure Space: 1999 and the cult favorite UFO to the "Supermarionation" of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Today we continue our exclusive interview with this legend of genre TV.


In 1969

The high tech spaceships from Gerry Anderson's UFO.

Gerry Anderson finally got what he wanted: the chance to apply his amazing production techniques to a feature film, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun or Doppelganger as it was known in Britain. Unfortunately, even this opportunity had its downside. As the self-explanatory title notes, in the film Roy Thinnes plays an astronaut who takes a spacecraft to explore a mysterious newfound planet orbiting exactly on the other side of the sun from Earth. But when he arrives there his superiors are waiting for him on what appears to be Earth, demanding to know why he turned around without landing on the alien planetin fact, he's on an exact duplicate of the Earth where everything is the same, but reversed.


"When Roy Thinnes goes off to the other planet and seemingly turns back, everything is the same except he sees everything in reverse, and all the lettering he sees is in reverse," Anderson remembers. "The BBC ran it on television and unlike today where everything is run on tape, this was being run on film through a telecine machine. So here's the telecine operator, bored out of his mind, and he's occasionally looking at the screen, and all of the sudden he sees everything in reverse, so he quickly flops the picture over. Nobody watching the movie understood what it was all about!"


Doppelganger's elaborate

UFO: SET 1

production, with futuristic cars, spaceships and aircraft, formed the basis for the subsequent production of UFO, a cult series about a secret organization called SHADO that defends the Earth from an insidious invasion of alien spacecraft.


"When we made UFO, we were so far ahead of everyone else in the business technically that we wired up the whole studio and on my desk I had a monitor and an audio link to the stage, so I'd watch the shooting from my desk and if I saw a setup that maybe I didn't like I'd put a key down and talk to the director. And the art department and makeup and wardrobe all had monitors and they had their schedule so they could see when they were finishing a scene on the set and they knew when they had to hurry to get on the stage. It was an amazing system."


UFO's 1969 production design featured a fantastic array of defensive vehicles and characters who were as carefully designed visually as any of Anderson's puppet creations. Ed Bishop played Commander Ed Straker, who ran the SHADO organization from beneath a feathered, platinum blonde wig, and actress Gabrielle Drake became a cult sensation as Lt. Gay Ellis, who ran the show's military base on the moon in a silver jumpsuit and a purple wig.


"People did

JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN (aka DOPPELGANGER)

look on the purple wigs as fashion even though I designed it as part of a uniform," Anderson says of the show's design. "In all of my shows I think the audience just accepted the fact that they were looking at a glimpse into the future. Of course, I had a vision of the future which turned out to be quite wrong. I thought people were going to live in stainless steel houses, everything was going to be spotlessly clean, food was going to be wonderfully, hygienically prepared, disease would have disappeared. Didn't turn out like that! But I have to tell you that I've made now 17 television series and some 600 episodes, and in the whole of that time I've only received one nasty fan letter. It said, 'Dear Mr. Anderson, I think your shows are a load of crap.' I've been very lucky in that people have always accepted the stuff in good grace, and instead of criticizing what they saw on the screen the tendency was to say, 'Well, that's how things are going to be in the future.' It's quite untrue of course, but that's what they thought."


Be sure to check back for the final part of our exclusive interview with Gerry Anderson.



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.