Remember When Princess Leia Held a Tortoise on Blue Peter?

Thunderbirds, Jon Pertwee, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher… Blue Peter has welcomed its share of geek faves over the decades

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher on Blue Peter
Photo: BBC

This week, the BBC announced the latest Blue Peter presenter – wheelchair racer Abby Cook – making her the 42nd presenter in the 65-year history of this wholesome children’s entertainment show.

Blue Peter is famous for being the longest-running children’s TV programme in the world, as well as for its iconic badge (which, if you’re lucky enough to be awarded one, gets you free entry to such wildly sought-after attractions like the British Lawnmower Museum), and its notoriously disastrous time capsules.

But in amongst the strange craft projects, ‘fun’ facts and sometimes controversial competitions, Blue Peter had some real geek gems:

Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill Met a Tortoise and Ate Star Wars Stew (1980)

Through a 2023 lens, this seems like a fever dream, but against the odds it all actually happened. To celebrate the release of The Empire Strikes Back, the Blue Peter team treated us to an appearance from R2D2, a strangely silent C3P0, ‘hairy old Chewbacca’ and Darth Vader. 

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Then the real fun happens: Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill do a charming interview while holding two of Blue Peter’s resident pets – a cat and a tortoise – and Carrie Fisher answers probing interview questions like ‘They’ve got some smashing personalities in the film, haven’t they, the robots?’ 

Perhaps the best part is when they wheel out a tray of ‘Star Wars stew’ – a delectable recipe from an 8-year-old fan with ingredients including ‘sausages, baked beans, chips, potatoes and cheese’. Sadly, the credits roll just as they dish out a plate to Darth Vader, so we never get to hear his verdict.

The Daleks Hated Their Dalek Birthday Cake (1966)

Valerie Singleton showed us how to make this slightly dodgy-looking dalek cake back in 1966, and the daleks made it clear how unimpressed they were with her creation when Blue Peter threw them a little tea party. If you’re keen to make your own wonky swiss-roll dalek, Blue Peter recreated the cakes back in 2007.

Thunderbirds FAB 1 Drove Into The Blue Peter Studio (1968)

This Blue Peter episode started in style when presenters Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes drove a fully-functioning replica of Lady Penelope’s famous FAB-1 Rolls Royce into the studio. This piece of Thunderbirds history sent kids bonkers with its very slow, VERY LOUD electric doors, rotating number plate and impressive maximum speed of 150mph. ‘Here’s one I made earlier’, indeed.

Jon Pertwee Rocked Up in The WHOMOBILE (1973)

After watching this clip it’s even more baffling that Doctor Who’s Whomobile never caught on. As Peter Purves observes, this three-wheeled tinfoil-toned behemoth has a ‘beautiful streamlined design’. It does a respectable 50 miles to the gallon, as Pertwee helpfully points out. And there’s even a postcard-sized television which – if you switch the little aerial on at the back – you ‘begin to almost get a picture’ on. TARDIS-shmardis! Although, considering Purves suggests you need a shoehorn to get into it, the Whomobile was definitely not bigger on the inside…

Anthea Turner Showed Us How To Make Our Own Tracy Island (1993)

When the BBC started showing Thunderbirds repeats in the nineties, a new generation of geeks went bananas for wooden puppet superheroes, and the gift at the top of every kid’s letter to Father Christmas in 1992 was a Tracy Island. High demand meant lots of disappointed children – but never fear, Blue Peter to the rescue! In probably their most famous DIY craft project, Anthea Turner showed us all we needed to make our very own Tracy Island was toilet rolls, tin foil, yoghurt pots, match boxes and papier-mâché. The results were genuinely genius, or – in the words of Brains – F.A.B.

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These days, Blue Peter is still a geek’s delight, with recent segments including a visit to the Minecraft HQ in Sweden and an Avengers makeup tutorial, so it’s nice to know that not much has changed in six decades.