Gerry Anderson has had a long, prolific and successful
career in television, creating some of the most interesting children's
programming of the 60's. Anderson realized that you could create
an exciting adventure show on a much smaller budget by using puppets.
The sets could be smaller, and much cheaper, but could still be very elaborate.
Using the knowledge that he gained working with marionettes on the series
Feathers Fall (a children's western,) Anderson created 'Supermarionation,'
a variety of puppet with very fine strings, remote controlled lips, and
life-like details. This new type of marionette first appeared in
his 1960 series Supercar.
One of the reasons for the show's success
was that Anderson understood the limitations of marionettes. It was
hard to make them walk realistically, and they couldn't manipulate objects
for example. He overcame these obstacles by creative editing and
close-ups of real hands flicking switches or operating tools. The
idea worked well, and Supercar led to other series, Fireball
XL5, and the aquatic Stingray. But it was his next series,
1964-66's Thunderbirds that would prove to be Anderson's biggest
hit, inspiring a line of toys, comic books, and other merchandise.
Constantly improving his puppets, his next series
would see even more lifelike details. The popular Captain Scarlet
and the Mysterons was followed by the not as successful Joe 90.
His last supermarionation series was 1969's The Secret Service.
Gerry Anderson then brought his unique vision
to live action shows. He created the cult classic UFO.
When UFO was not renewed for a second season due to the low ratings,
Anderson decided not to scrap the entire idea, but adapted it into the
1975 show Space: 1999, which ran two seasons. After this show's
run ended, Anderson turned his talents away from television and entered
the advertising field.
Anderson still thought of television, and was
convinced that the current generation would be just as entranced with a
fast action, futuristic, adventure show as the children of the 60's and
70's were. That thought led to a new series, and a new style of puppetry,
1983's Terrahawks. A&E has just released this entire series
on DVD in nice boxed set.
is 2020. Android forces led by the villainous Zelda have attacked
and captured a peaceful Earth research station set up on Mars. Originating
form the planet Guk, the androids were created to serve their human masters,
but soon became more intelligent than their creators. They revolted
and exterminated all of the life on Guk. Not content with that, they
roam space looking for more humans to kill. Finding the Earth, Zelda
uses the Mars base as her launching point for attacks on our peaceful planet.
The only thing standing between Earth and total destruction are the
Terrahawks, an elite fighting force created, and led, by the brilliant
scientist, Tiger Ninestien. The Terrahawks consist of several high
tech fighting vehicles piloted by top notch officers. The first line
of defense is the Spacehawk, sitting in Earth orbit piloted by Lt. Hiro.
There is also the Hawkwing, manned by the first-class aviator and pop star
diva Captain Kate Kestrel and Lt. Hawkeye. This vehicle is based
in an underwater hanger and every time it needed to launch, a whirlpool
is created so it can fly through the eye. The Battlehawk, crewed
by Ninestien and Dr. Mary Falconer, launches from an underground hanger
that is disguised as a mansion. The luxurious house opens up to allow
the Battlehawk to fly through. If that wasn't exciting enough, there
is the Treehawk that is launched from, well, a tree. Rounding out
the lineup sis the Terrahawk, the flying command center that docks on the
back of the Battlehawk.
Aiding these flying fighters are the zeroids, robotic ground troops
in the shape of large metal balls. They are commanded by Sergeant
Major Zero, and each is identified by number.
Each episode of Terrahawks involves Zelda coming up with a new way to
attack Earth, and it's up to Ninestien and his team to stop her.
The show has a lot in common with previous Gerry Anderson shows.
It was as if Anderson was trying to recreate his past successes by aping
them. Just like the Tracy's (the family that ran International Rescue
in Thunderbirds,) the Terrahawk group has five flying vehicles with
different abilities that launch from hidden bases, including a space based
observational ship. Captain Scarlet fought alien invaders from Mars
every week, while the Terrahawks fight android invaders from Mars every
week. There are many more similarities.
is that Terrahawks was not filmed in supermarionation as his other
puppet shows were. This time he used a new technique that was dubbed
'supermacromation.' Always trying to improve his puppets look, Anderson
decided that this time they would do away with the strings all together.
Instead of marionettes, they employed hand puppets with rubber faces.
This series just didn't work for me. While it did have the
cool models and props that we've come to expect from Gerry Anderson productions,
there are a lot of problems with it. The first and most glaring is
that the new puppets were much less effective than the previous marionettes.
The supermacromation puppets had oversized heads, and disproportionately
small bodies. The proportions were all wrong with the hands being too big
and the arms too long. Another disadvantage is that their arms could
not move, so most of the scenes involving the puppets had no movement aside
from an occasional turn to the head.
The series doesn't take itself seriously either, which makes it hard
for the viewer to suspend his disbelief. With Kate breaking into
song ever couple of episodes, and robots with French accents (not to mention
robots getting drunk after drinking champaign!) it's hard to see this as
anything but a children's show. Thunderbirds had some humor
in it, but there wasn't anything silly about it. Terrahawks
is very silly, which is not a good thing for a supposedly serious show.
The leader of Terrahawks, Tiger Ninestien (what a horrible name!) also
has a mean streak. I'm sure it was intended as being humorous, but
he constantly makes fun of Hiro's oriental accent. The first time
I heard Tiger pronounce the "l" in a word as an "r," I thought I misheard
it, or that it was an error. But he does it through the whole series.
Whether wishing Hiro a "good fright" before he takes off, or exclaiming
"Exactry!" he makes fun of his colleague in almost every episode.
Tiger's threats to dismantle Sergeant Major Zero come across as cruel also.
I just couldn't like the guy or get interested in the series.
Unfortunately, this set does not have a remastered 5.1 audio track like
Captain Scarlet. Even so, the audio was acceptable, but not a
great presentation. The stereo mix was not as dynamic as I would
have liked. The explosions sounded muffled, and the action sequences
lacked punch. The early synthesizer music that plays throughout the
show sound rather tinny and thin. But that was most probably how
it sounded when it originally aired. As I said, it's acceptable,
but the mix on Thunderbirds has spoiled me. There are no subtitles.
The video hasn't been restored either. There is a fair amount
of print damage, mainly dirt and specks, and the image is soft. There
is a good bit of grain present in the picture. The sky and other
large patches of color shimmer slightly due to encoding inaccuracies.
This was slightly annoying. The full frame picture is
very watchable, and it's not a horrible transfer, but not a great one either.
There are a few interesting extras included with this set, most of which
are included on the last disc.
Photo Gallery narrated by Steven Begg:
This is a nine minute reel of behind the scenes pictures narrated by effects
director Steven Begg. This was my favorite of the bonus materials
with this set. You can see people with the model hawk ships and get
an idea of how big they actually were. An interesting extra.
Photo Gallery with Tony and Bob Bell:
Mainly recent photos of the director and associate producer with captions.
Not very interesting in my opinion. There are photos of the pair
standing in a parking lot with the caption: "Bob and Tony stand were the
effects tank used to be." Yawn.
There are also several text pieces included: Terrahawks 10 codes,
Terrahawks history (a time line,) Character biographies, and Vehicle Tech
There are commentaries included on two episodes. Tony and Bob
Bell contribute one on "Gunfight at Oaky's Corral" which is mainly them
reminiscing about their time with the show. Not terribly interesting,
but worth listening to. Steven Begg's commentary on "From Here to
Infinity" was more technical, and much more interesting.
Though Terrahawks has the gadgets, puppets, adventure and science
fiction background that made Gerry Anderson famous, it is missing that
certain something that made his other series special. Die-hard
Anderson fans may want to pick it up, but if you are a more casual fan
who enjoyed Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet you should rent