Puppets should all be strung up


I AM not so sure that modern technology and advanced filming techniques have necessarily made television programmes more enjoyable. I am thinking here of the new Thunderbirds series currently showing on television.

Technically it is light years ahead of the early puppet shows on TV that themselves were hailed as milestones in animation technology. This new applied science was called ‘Supermarionation’ and we had the likes of Four Feather Falls, Supercar; Fireball XL5 and Stingray hitting our screens.

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Then their creator Gerry Anderson upped the game again with the amazingly popular Thunderbirds – you could barely see the strings on those suckers – and my own favourite, Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons.

With the latter, here at last were puppets that looked close to being human and did not have oversized heads perched on their arthritic looking bodies. The reason for those disproportionate craniums, I later found out, was that they carried solenoids in order to be able to lip-sync the voices.

With the advance in electronics and miniaturisation, this problem was overcome with the Captain Scarlet series. So good was the modelling in fact, that the young spotty girl living next door to us thought that the puppet character Captain Black was an absolute doll. I felt the need to point out to her, that’s exactly what the git was.

It was easy to see why these new groundbreaking children’s programmes were so popular because they superseded such puppet series as The Adventures of Twizzle; a double jointed little oik who could extend his arms and legs and open a door in Bristol while standing in Swindon. Also Torchy the Battery Boy who sported a lamp in his head that shone a magic beam. Poor old Torchy’s batteries gave out after 52 episodes but then, this was in the days before Duracell Plus.

The sad part is that I can actually remember all this stuff.

Sadder still, is the fact that I can scroll back even further to the days of Muffin the Mule and The Flowerpot Men, but in my defence hastily add that this was enforced viewing as a mere toddler when my Mum would take me next door to watch their OXO cube sized television.

Muffin was a very lucky mule; if a real horse looked that knackered he would have long since been sent to the glue makers. And interestingly his presenter, Annette Mills, was auntie to Hayley.

Bill and Ben progressed into politics of course and formed a coalition government with Weedy Ed still squeaking away between them.

So yes, the new Thunderbirds series will undoubtedly be popular with the young generation, but for us old hands you can’t beat the original.


  1. I am also in that age bracket when there was such a thing as black and white TV, the test pattern and programming that ended at a decent time to go to bed.
    I will admit that I did watch childrens hour…”Are you sitting comfortably?..Then I’ll begin”..I wasn’t sitting comfortably but the old girl just carried on….But I didn’t really care, I was transfixed by that fuzzy window into the magic world.

  2. Remember all these so vividly. Remember when I was a Royal Marine that no one dare mutter a word whilst Magic Roundabout was on. Sad or what!!


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