70’s UK TV – Part 3 – Watching Gerry and the Model Makers whilst eating Cigarettes

You couldn’t leave the 70’s Sci-fi behind without a final delve into the world of Gerry Anderson. A lot of my childhood was spent sat in front of various black and white and colour TV sets watching the various worlds created by Gerry Anderson both live action and Supermarionation.

By the time I was old enough in the early 70s to watch shows, most of them had already been cancelled and he had moved on to newer live action shows like UFO and Space 1999. So on TV at the time was a plethora of shows that would grab my eye whenever they appeared on screen.

The Supermarionation shows, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and Joe 90 were staples of my TV watching habits split between home and grandparents households.

I remember watching Stingray on a large (relatively) black and white TV at my grandads whilst eating dinner off a small foldable table. If I wasn’t eating proper food I would be eating large amounts of sugary sweets I would buy from the corner shop just over the road. This was when I was given some pennies to spend and I could make my way over and buy them without help.

Sour fish, jellies, candy cigarettes (usually with footballers or Tom and Jerry on the box), Pink Panther chocolate, Opal Fruits, Texan Bars, Bar Six and the odd Curly Wurly for desert.

Oh, and sometimes those TUC cheesy biscuits and Lemon Puffs. It was all good.

OOoh. Lemon Puffs. I can taste them now. In face I did as I found some in “Marks an Mosainescos”…. šŸ™‚

Tuc Cheese Sandwich? Well I had to buy some of those too.

There was also those sheets of rice paper or coloured potato starch paper.

I also remember my favourite sweets, chocolate candy cigarettes.

Chocolate cigarettes were my all time favourites before it became a bad idea to encourage kids to start smoking.

This was at the time when it was just leaking through to the general population that smoking was bad for you and your unborn kids if you smoked whilst pregnant. Don’t do it!

These chocolate cigarettes were released in boxes that you would unwrap just like a standard cigarette packet with plastic wrap, and paper seal on the top.

Inside were the chocolate sticks wrapped in edible paper.

You had two choices with the paper. You could unwrap the paper and eat it on it’s own, maybe pretend its real paper, by writing something on it and you would then eat the soft chocolate stick separately. This option would extend the enjoyment of your cigarette.

The other option was to eat the cigarette just like a real one, but this time, when you moistened the paper around the chocolate stick it would go transparent. Delicious.

Horrid US candy cigarette equivalent

I do remember getting the odd chocolate cigar for Christmas. I loved these things. I don’t know why they decided not to make them anymore. Killjoys.

Anyway, Stingraaaaay, Stingray, da, da, daaar, dat, darrrr, dat!

Most of my memories of Stingray were watching it on that black and white TV so the limited colour scheme didn’t really bother me. I recall watching that and a show called Vicky the Viking.

Very bizarre, and originally a German production called Wickie. One thing I couldn’t understand at the time was that whether Vicky was a boy or a girl. It doesn’t really matter, but either way he was either a young boy hanging out with rough Vikings doing the usual pillaging or whether they had a 9 year old girl amongst their ranks. Vicky is in fact the son of Halvar the chief of the village, it probably would be more interesting if Vicky was actually a girl in a male dominated tribe.

Honestly even though I do remember watching Stingray when it was on, it wasn’t my favourite Gerry Anderson production.

Captain Scarlet was my jam.

It seemed more serious and adult, but it didn’t seem to be on TV as much as Thunderbirds, Stingray and Joe 90.

Made following Thunderbirds in 1967 it was shown occasionally on TV. By the mid 70s there was a lot of Supermarionation to be shown on TV including some live action TV series like UFO and Space 1999. I didn’t watch some of the other shows including the Secret Service and The Protectors. So, UFO, Space 1999, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray were always somewhere on TV to watch.

I was aware of Fireball XL5 but as that was made in black and white it didn’t really interest me… unless I was watching stuff on a Black and White TV.

The idea of the indestructible man seemed to be common, with my continuing interest in the Six Million Dollar man any TV show featuring a character with super powers appealed.

With Thunderbirds and Stingray the characters tended to interact with their surrounding by the infamous bouncing walking. The puppets would bounce around the marvellous sets arms outstretched. That was unless they did some closeups of hands operating machinery or feet walking around.

I watched Thunderbirds and was more interested in the vehicles than the storylines. The sets, models and scenery were fantastic. Having seen the full size puppets at various exhibitions it’s scary the actual size that FAB 1 the pink car

By the time they hit Captain Scarlet most of the scenes featuring the characters tended to be sitting or standing to give it a more realistic feel without using real actors.

The whole storyline was based on accidentally destroying a mars base of the Mysterons a race of beings that can regenerate matter. Scarlet accidentally got killed and inherited the powers and became the hero of the story. Captain Black was taken over by the Mysterons due to his involvement and part of the team that accidentally destroyed the Mars base which regenerated. All very convoluted. Each episode started with the Mysterons saying they were going to attack earth or kill someone and most of the time Scarlet is critically injured and gets better by the end of the episode. They had support from the all female Angel jet squadron. All great fun.

The Mysterons themselves don’t actually appear. You simply hear the iconic voiceover and the projection of two circles across the scene. SIG – Spectrum Is Green.

The vehicles were interesting including the SPV – Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle in which the driver sat backwards and the maximum security vehicle. Bothe of these Dinky Toys were quite popular and I remember owning one of each.

Not sure about the Angel Interceptor.

Derek Meddings was the creator of the various models used through most of the Gerry Anderson productions, many of which were blown up in spectacular fashion. He was also well know for providing models for the James Bond films including the famous underwater base in The Spy Who Loved Me, plus submarines and the Lotus Espirit.

Following on the heels of Scarlet, Joe 90 (68-69) was another of the Supermarionation shows I would watch. The idea of a 9 year old boy given the powers and knowledge of scientists and spies really appealed to me. Joe had a special pair of glasses which would allow him to access the skills and knowledge. I related with a nine year old that had to wear glasses as that was about the same time that I had to start wearing them.

Brain Surgeon, Scientist, spy he had everything whenever he needed it due to the transfer device known as BIG RAT. (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer). Basically a cool spinning ball featured in the titles.

Joe could also operate a vehicle. A bizarre looking car which Had a huge twin jet engine in the middle of the body. Yep. I remember having one of those at some point.

The wheels folded back and the spring loaded wings would pop out the side.

So top of my Gerry Anderson TV was Scarlet, followed by Joe 90 and Thunderbirds with Stingray in last place. Weird how food and TV connect.

Overall, great models, sets and the music by Barry Gray. We shall discuss more about music in another blog.

See you soon. Find those Lemon Puffs and Tuc cheese.


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