Supercar: The Complete Series – Review

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By @Roger Crow

Great TV doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes years of development to get a show right, and when it comes to making TV drama with a method as complex as using marionettes, it’s unlikely a team of creatives will get a winning formula straight away.–

While the likes of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were the winning trilogy that helped make Gerry Anderson’s name, the early stuff from his team is just as fascinating.

Following Four Feather Falls, the black and white Western series which seemed to inspire elements of Toy Story 2, there was Supercar, a kids’ series featuring many of the elements which Anderson later fine tuned to create TV gold. There’s the larger than life boffins who spent a lot of time sat at consoles, folks in need of rescue, and a hi-tech vehicle which ensured the hero didn’t have to walk too much (the bane of many a puppeteer’s life). It’s also interesting to hear some of the vocal talent who would become stars in later puppet series.

The first episode is mostly preamble as heroic Mike Mercury spends an age waffling on about his special vehicle while survivors of a plane crash bob about on the ocean in a life raft waiting for rescue.

The Professor (there’s always one boffin in Anderson’s projects) took five years to build the eponymous vehicle, and it feels like Mercury spends half that time discussing it.

Supercar The Complete Series – Review anderson

“Fascinating”

Obviously 1961 was a much simpler era, so the plot and script is basic at best, but it’s still light years ahead of many shows that were being made at the time.

The progenitor of Thunderbirds, Stingray and other Gerry classics is a fascinating curio which looks pretty good considering its age.

Episode one features commentary from the much missed Gerry, and there’s plenty of behind the scenes trivia, including the fact he got married to vocal artist Sylvia during the shoot. He spent his wedding night trying to get Supercar to emerge from the water apparently.

And while ep one might be a bit of a chore, with Anderson’s commentary it suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.

Vocal artist David Graham went on to become one of Gerry’s most reliable collaborators, most memorably as Parker in Thunderbirds. He also played Mitch the monkey, having spent a few hours at London Zoo, where he tried to match the sound.

Supercar The Complete Series – Review coverThere’s another nice story about Anderson recruiting the cleaner, who used to be an upholsterer, and became the props manager after crafting a scale sofa for the puppets.

“Stunning work”

Kudos also to Reg Hill for crafting the titular vehicle. Hill was also Anderson’s fellow producer, the man who worked on many classic Gerry projects, and also laboured on the early Superman films and Outland.

One of the most remarkable things about Supercar is the fact horizontal thrust comes from the engines but generates vertical take off. One of many things that folks have taken for granted over the years. After all, when you have a series this kid-centric, it’s little wonder the creatives took huge liberties with the tech side of things. That and the fact the budget and time were limiting factors.

It’s also good to hear the mighty Derek Meddings get some well deserved praise, years before his stunning work on later Anderson projects and the Bond epics.

I’ve no idea what today’s kids will make of it, but viewers of a certain age may get a little misty eyed over such a nostalgic slice of escapism.

‘Supercar: The Complete Series’ is released on Blu-ray by Network, £60

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