Non-Fiction Reviews


Gerry Anderson: The authorised biography

(1996) Simon Archer & Stan Nicholls, Legend, 15.99, pbk, 228pp. ISBN 0 09978 141 7

Gerry Anderson (along with H. G. Wells and Arthur Clarke) turned me on to science fiction at the age of six. More importantly he turned on a couple of generations of kids, and continued to entertain, as they became adults still young at heart, with his TV puppet series such as Supercar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet in the 1960s and the mixed live actor and model series UFO and Space 1999 in the 1980s, through to Space Precinct in the 1990s. This biography reveals if not all, an awful lot. Something unusual for an authorised biography, as the subject usually unduly censors prior to endorsement. However we do discover why you must not mention Sylvia in front of Gerry, or be likely to expect the majority of your rewards in working with the man in forms other than money.

What comes across is a simple man who is somewhat naive, not very good at business, and more interested in the look of things and gadgetry than SF concepts and the human dimension. Consequently he was always being bullied by those who commissioned him, people who invariably knew less about SF than even he did (and he failed to understand Asimov's criticism of his work). All of which meant that finance for much of his work was tight and some of his best work failed to be built upon; witness the cancellation of the second series of UFO for the barely credible, and less complex , and Space 1999, and even that series' own denigration in its second season, which Gerry himself regrets.

What a service it would be if Thunderbirds returned, or even if there was a UFO movie set a couple of decades after the series... One can but dream.

Jonathan Cowie


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