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A Entries
  Forrest J Ackerman
  Nick Adams
  John Agar
  Philson Ahn
  William Alland
  Irwin Allen
  Woody Allen
  Kirstie Alley
  Gerry Anderson
  Michael Anderson
  Sylvia Anderson
  Jack Arnold
  Isaac Asimov
(1929–2012). British tv and film producer.

IMDB credits 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.

Anderson has now been transported to the Great Space Precinct in the Sky, and hence cannot no longer been punished for his innumerable artistic crimes against humanity, which far exceeded the transgressions of other notorious producers of terrible science fiction television like  Irwin ALLEN or Glen A. LARSON. In fact, the British adults who grew up watching his series at the time when science fiction programs were scarce strangely showered the aging Anderson with great affection, perhaps mimicking my own inability to properly chastise Allen, the American producer that I grew up with. But just as British commentators may be best positioned to offer an objective commentary on Allen, perhaps only a brash colonial can provide an appropriately scathing analysis of his genuinely execrable output.

One must begin any assessment of Anderson with his many science fiction puppet series—The Adventures of  Twizzle (1957), Torchy the Battery Boy (1960-1961), Supercar (1961-1962), Fireball X-5 (1962-1963), Stingray (1964-1965),Thunderbirds (1965-1966),Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, (1967-1968), Joe 90 (1968-1969), Terrahawks (1983-1986), and Lavender Castle (1999-2000)—and as well as several feature films, some original, others compiled from series episodes. 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. Even if one takes the nostalgia factor into consideration, the enduring popularity of these programs—particularly, the Thunderbirds productions—remains a mystery, at least on this side of the Atlantic. The only thing one can say in favor of these puppet series is that puppets kept Anderson away from productions featuring human actors—which for the most part were even worse.

Anderson clearly longed for the greater prestige—and greater profits—to be garnered from such filmed dramas, but one cannot say that he had any aptitude for the form, based on the evidence provided by his three most spectacular failures. The film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969) 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 completely unwatchable Space: 1999 (1975-1977),  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 and various subordinates. And the aforementioned Space Precinct (1994-1995), while less scientifically ludicrous, was hardly any better.

Still, one could mount a defense of Anderson by citing these points. First, he initially became acquainted with science fiction by serving as the sound editor for the absurd and risible Devil Girl from Mars (1954), which may have provided him with an inaccurate impression of the maturity and intelligence that the genre demanded. And one cannot honestly claim that all of his works were terrible, since I actually remember quite fondly the early episodes of his other major series, UFO (1970-1973).  It had an intriguing premise—that a near-future world, having accepted that alien spacecraft were actually visiting Earth, would establish an agency to monitor and investigate these sightings; the special effects were impeccable; and even the acting was better that usual. But Anderson proved unable to imaginatively develop his story, as later episodes reveals that the aliens were People Who Look and Act Just Like Us, and the show slowed down to stupefied inertia as the aliens increasingly focused all of their energies on repetitive schemes to kill the show's hero, Stryker. (One episode was even given the wildly imaginative title of "Kill Stryker!" [1970]) In addition, Anderson's programs have consistently been praised for their stylish visuals, though by all reports this was mostly the work of his long-time collaborator Sylvia ANDERSON, and all of the program's eye candy, once fully appreciated after about ten minutes of observation, could do nothing to alleviate the mindrot of his consistently silly scripts.

Finally, British commentators might celebrate Anderson on purely nationalistic grounds: he long provided steady employment for scores of British actors and technicians, boosted the national income by regularly exporting his products to other countries, and heightened his country's visibility by offering a distinctly British vision of humanity's future. Yet like the original Doctor Who (1963-1989), Anderson's programs usually were more an embarrassment to the Mother Country than an affirmation of its virtues. And patriots seeking to celebrate British contributions to science fiction have no need to cite the works of Gerry Anderson, since there are many productions they can be justly proud of,  including Patrick MCGOOHAN's The Prisoner (1967-1968)—still the best science fiction series ever produced—the Quatermass serials, the original The Avengers (1961-1970), the radio and television The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, 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 was a man who had no ideas, was deathly afraid of ideas, and 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 divorce, one can deduce that their collaborations were largely Anderson's work, so he and he alone can properly be blamed for them.

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