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ANDERSON, GERRY
(1929– ). British tv and film producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Animated tv series created and produced: The Adventures of Twizzle (Roberta Leigh credited as producer) (1958); Torchy the Battery Boy (Leigh credited as producer) (1959); Four Feather Falls (1960); Supercar (co-created with Reg Hill) (1961-1962); Terrahawks (1983-1986); Dick Spanner, P.I. (1986); Lavender Castle (1999); Captain Scarlet (2005).

Produced: "Into Infinity" (1975), episode of NBC Special Treat; Invaders from the Deep (animated film) (David Lane 1981); Space Precinct (tv series) (1994-1995); Stingray: The Reunion Party (documentary) (John Kelly and Allan Pattillo 2008).

Animated tv series created and produced with Sylvia ANDERSON: Fireball XL-5 (1962-1963); Stingray (1964-1965); Thunderbirds (1965-1966); Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968); The Secret Service (1969).

Animated tv series co-created with S. Anderson:  Joe 90 (1968-1969); The Secret Service (1969).

Live-action tv series created and produced with S. Anderson: UFO (co-created with Hill) (tv series) (1970-1973); Space 1999 (tv series) (1975-77); The Day after Tomorrow (pilot only) (1976).

Animated films produced with S. Anderson: Thunderbirds are Go (Lane 1966); Thunderbirds Six (Lane 1968).

Wrote: "The Mysterons" (1967), episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons; "Operation McClaine" (with David Lane) (1968), episode of Joe 90; "Expect the Unexpected" (two-part episode) (1983), episode of Terrahawks; Space Police (co-written with Tony Barwick; also provided music with Christopher Burr) (tv pilot) (1987); "The Lost Starfighter" (with Chris Trengrove and Chris Bowden), "A Stitch in Time" (with Bowden), "Collision Course" (with Trengrove), "Brightonia on Sea," "The Traitor" (with Rodney Matthews), "Lost in Space (1999), "The Legend," "Diamonds Aren't Forever," "Galactic Park" (with Craig Hemmings), "Wearizy," "Supernova," "Interface" (with Hemmings), "Birds of a Feather…" (with Matthews) (2000), episodes of Lavender Castle.

Wrote with S. Anderson: "Flight of Fancy," "The Lost City," "Supercar Take One," "Crash Landing" (1961), "The Runaway Train," "Precious Cargo," "Operation Superstork," "Hi-Jack," "Calling Charlie Queen," "Space for Mitch," "Atomic Witch Hunt," "70-B-Low," "The Sky's the Limit," "Jail Break," "The Day That Time Stood Still," "Transatlantic Cable," "King Kool" (1962), episodes of Supercar; "Planet 46" (1962), "Space Monster" (1963), episodes of Fireball XL-5; "Stingray" (1964), "A Nut for Marineville," "Aquanaut of the Year" (1965), episodes of Stingray; "Trapped in the Sky" (1965), episode of Thunderbirds; Thunderbirds Are Go (animated film) (Lane 1966);  "The Most Special Agent" (1968), episode of Joe 90; Thunderbird Six (animated film) (Brian Burgess, Robert Lynn, and Ken Turner) 1968); Journey to the Far Side of the Sun [Doppelganger] (co-written with Donald James and produced with S. Anderson) (Robert Parrish 1969); "A Case for the Bishop" (1969), episode of The Secret Service; "Identified" (with Tony Barwick) (and directed) (1970), episode of UFO.

Wrote with Pauline Fisk; "In the Beginning," "Flower Power," "The Twilight Tower," "High Moon," "Double Cross" (1999), episodes of Lavender Castle.

Directed: "The Twins Learn a Lesson," "King Dithers," "Torchy Returns to Earth," "The Building of Frutown," "Torchy and Squish," "The Naughty Twins," "Pom-Pom and the Toys," "Torchy and the Strange Animal," "King Dithers Goes Down to Earth," "The Hungry Money Box," "Topsy Turvy Land," "Bossy Boots Forgets to Be Good," "Torchy and the Broken Rocket," "King Dithers Loses His Crown," "Torchy Is Stolen," "The Moon Falls Asleep," "Torchy's Birthday," "Pilliwig Gets a Present," "Bad Boy Bogey," "Bossy Boots Goes to Topsy Turvy Land," "A Trick on Pom-Pom," ""Bossy Boots Is Taught a Lesson," "Torchy Is Saved at Last," "Torchy and the Man on the Moon," "A Bell for a Penny Farthing," "Bogey and the Statues" (1960), episodes of Torchy the Battery Boy; "Planet 46" (1962), episode of Fireball XL-5.

Sound editor (as Gerald Anderson): Devil Girl from Mars (David MacDonald 1954).

Provided voice for: Fireball XL-5 (uncredited) (1962-1963): Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968); "You Only Lick Twice" (2003), episode of Stripperella.

Appeared in documentaries: Doctor Who: Thirty Years in the Tardis (Kevin Davies 1993); The Space:1999 Documentary (Tim Mallett and Glenn Pearce 1996); Mr. Thunderbird: The Gerry Anderson Story (Christopher Skinner 2000); "Sex Machines" 2001), episode of SF: UKThe 100 Greatest Kids TV Shows (Sean Doherty and Mark George 2001); "TV Sci-Fi" (2000), episode of Top Ten; I Love Christmas (David Quantick 2001); TV's Greatest Cars (Nick Bray and Jon-Barrie Waddell 2004); "Zippy and George's Puppet Legends" (2005), episode of Favourtism; Stand By for Action (documentary miniseries) (Stephen La Riviére 2007); "Lenny Henry's Perfect Night In" (2007), episode of Perfect Night In; All About Thunderbirds (Jeff Simpson 2008).

 
Late one night, early in the 1990s, I stumbled while channel-surfing upon what appeared to be an episode of the worst science fiction series ever created. With a cast of normal-looking humans mixed with colorfully unpersuasive latex-masked aliens, the series apparently took place in a space station of the far future; but the script seemed to have been transcribed, line by line, from a routine American cop show of the 1960s. A powerful and respected, but secretly corrupt, man has committed a terrible crime; there is only one witness who can identify him as the perpetrator; to protect the witness, policemen take him to a seedy hotel on the poor side of town; the bad guy's henchmen find out where he is and try to kill him; the policemen get the wounded witness into their car, and a furious car chases ensues as they rush him to the hospital; and the witness finally arrives safely, so he can deliver his damning testimony in the nick of time just before the case against the bad guy is dismissed. Though the witness was a blue-skinned alien with a long tongue used for catching flies, and though the furious car chase involved flying cars, that hardly made any of this seem novel; and, while I watched with horrified fascination as this thinly-disguised fossil unfolded, I wondered: who on Earth would devote so much time and attention to a show's special effects while paying absolutely no attention to the quality of its script? But the show's closing credits revealed what I should have already guessed—that Space Precinct was a Gerry Anderson production.

If the nations of the world ever decide to stage Nurenberg Trials to punish the makers of bad science fiction film, Gerry Anderson will be the first defendant. Measured by the total length of terrible footage produced, he is surely the worst offender, far outstripping unworthy competitors like Irwin ALLEN, Larry BUCHANAN, or Glen A. LARSON.

As the first exhibits for the prosecution, there are his many science fiction puppet series—The Adventures of Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy, Supercar, Fireball X-5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90, Terrahawks, and Lavender Castle—and at least two puppet features, Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird Six. These are noteworthy only as cautionary examples of the need to properly match genre with subject matter. Stop-motion animation is a valid and potentially lively art form, as demonstrated by many examples ranging from George PAL's Puppetoons to Tim BURTON's The Nightmare before Christmas (1993); but using the technique to enact stories that could have been done just as well (if not as cheaply) with live actors provides the worst of both worlds: the animation must stay within the boundaries of pseudo-realism and hence quickly becomes uninteresting, and the literally wooden performances of the puppets deprive the story of any emotional impact. Why these programs have remained so popular for so long, providing Anderson with a steady source of income to fall back on after the inevitable failure of his ventures into live-action film, must forever remain a mystery, at least to non-British audiences.

Next, the prosecution would present his work with live actors: the film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, which expends considerable effort in order to take viewers to the more boring and unimaginative alien world imaginable—an exact duplicate of our Earth. There is also, unforgettably, the execrable Space: 1999, with the Moon ludicrously drifting through space at non-relativistic speeds yet somehow managing to reach a different star system every week—a concept so insulting to the intelligence of viewers as to defy comment, and a flawed scenario unredeemed by its consistently idiotic scripts and inadequate, uninvolving cast led by the miscast Martin LANDAU and Barbara BAIN and various subordinates. And we cannot omit his most recent crime against humanity, the aforementioned Space Precinct.

Now, how might Anderson undertake to defend himself? Well, he might apologetically begin by noting that his first exposure to science fiction came as the sound editor for Devil Girl from Mars, indelibly imprinting upon him an inaccurate impression of the maturity and intelligence expected in science fiction films; but with many better examples available for viewing, this amounts to a claim of ignorance of the law, never a proper defense. He might also claim that not all of his work was completely execrable and screen a few early episodes of his other major series, UFO, which admittedly seemed promising at first, with its better-than-average acting and the intriguing mystery of space visitors periodically buzzing around Earth. Still, the prosecution could immediately respond by showing the rest of the episodes, when the aliens were revealed to be People Who Look and Act Just Like Us and the show slowed down to stupefied inertia as it became apparent that the aliens were not going to do anything other than engage in repetitive plots to kill the show's hero, Stryker. Finally, one might focus solely on these series' visual appeal, overlooking the fact that this was mostly the work of his long-time collaborator Sylvia ANDERSON, but even this line of defense would not be effective, since viewers can obviously derive all possible pleasure from the costumes and sets from watching ten minutes of a single episode of a series, yet Anderson insisted upon inflicting hour after hour of mindrot on his victimized viewers. The verdict must be: guilty as charged.

In light of his many crimes, it is dumbfounding to hear that Gerry Anderson was celebrated in the 1990s as the guest of honor at a British science fiction convention, when the fans should have been burning him in effigy, and that he has been the focus of laudatory documentaries and several websites paying loving tribute to the man and his work. One fears that the issue of Anderson's value has become mixed up with feelings of patriotism and a natural pride in all things British. Well. Perhaps Anderson has provided wholesome entertainment for young children, perhaps he has given jobs to some fine workers, and perhaps he has, by exporting his programs, helped to improve the balance of payments and all that. But rallying around this odious man only does a grave disservice to the many science fiction products that Britain can justly be proud of, including The Prisoner—still the best science fiction series ever produced—the Quatermass serials, The Avengers, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and several other programs unseen in America that I am sure, based on critical descriptions, are far better than anything Anderson ever produced. Let us face the unvarnished truth: Gerry Anderson is a man who has no ideas, who is deathly afraid of ideas, who has consistently employed futuristic settings and special effects only as gaudy ornaments to the hoariest, most imbecilic, and most cliché-ridden stories imaginable. Not really a producer of science fiction films, he is actually a vicious enemy of science fiction, and he should be recognized and condemned as such.

Note: from Supercar on through to Space: 1999, Gerry Anderson's then-wife Sylvia Anderson was regularly credited as a co-producer, writer of episodes, fashion coordinator, and puppet voice, as chronicled elsewhere; but since her contributions were as noted mostly in the realm of visual effects, and since Anderson soldiered on with identical ineptitude since their 1975, one can deduce that their collaborations were largely the product of Gerry Anderson, so that Sylvia Anderson might escape punishment at the trial by claiming in her defense, "But I was only following orders."

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