It’s a safe bet that most people reading this site will have had some kind of attachment to Gerry Anderson’s puppet dynasty. As young as four or five, I thrilled to Stingray on video, while I received a frission of excitement every time I watched Captain Scarlet, being the most sophisticated, adult, brutal thing ever. And I pined for a Tracy Island playset, the official being too expensive and rare as hen’s teeth, whilst Blue Peter‘s build-your-own version was a lot of fuss just to send away for the instructions, in the days when you couldn’t just download them from the net.
What’s surprising, compared to shows of similar vintage and cult status, is that, while there have been odd books over the years, mostly episode guides, there’s nothing definitive chronicling the development of the company and productions, both behind the scenes, and reactions to them… until now.
Gerry Anderson shows have a fandom, but it’s largely very much a passive one, without the drive for new information, gossip and scandal that, say, Doctor Who fandom has had for the last 30 years.
Enter Stephen La Rivière, who spent five years poring through original paperwork, archive material, conducting extensive interviews with production members and actors, to piecing together the definitive Supermarionation story.
This is not a cheap book, in any sense of the word, but it earns its cover price. Tastefully-designed with clear text, it has a beautiful retro-style cover and is printed on high-quality, glossy paper.
Despite being incredibly detailed, it reads extremely easily. This is not a dry academic work, but an entertaining journey, with comprehensive footnotes, extensive quotes from interviews old and new, including new material from the major players, particularly Gerry and Sylvia, broken up with box-outs detailing, for example, CGI diagrams of the puppets, and a wealth of excellent photographs, many of which are extremely rare (the one on page 176 raised a dodgy smile.)
The more emotional side of production is handled sensitively but unsensationally, in the best possible way, particularly the story of Gerry and Sylvia’s split.
It would be nice if a hardback edition was available, but the nature of small press and budgets means that the large-format paperback is the only option. Other than that, for origins and alligators, budgets and break-ups, and solonoids and ever-shrinking heads, it’s pretty much an essential history and deserves a place on any television fan’s shelf.
Filmed In Supermarionation: A History Of The Future is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.