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Anderson legends: The life and work of Shane Rimmer

Shane Rimmer was born Shane Lance Deacon in Toronto Canada on May 28th 1929. As a young man he got his start as a disc jockey on the radio station CKLB Oshawa working alongside Paul Summerville and Johnny Wacko, and soon the three friends joined forces as a cabaret act; The Three Deuces. The group toured extensively in England before going on to the Palace Theater in New York, but when they eventually went their separate ways Shane began to pursue his newfound passion; acting.

His first Canadian television work came in 1957, with, amongst things, a role in an episode of Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans. He continued working in Canada for the next few years on stage and screen, and got his first taste of voice work in 1958 when he re-voiced the lead character in the English dub of the very first Mexican sci-fi movie The Day the Sky Exploded.

Shane emigrated to London in the late 1950s, and as was the case for many of the Canadian, American and Australian voice actors who worked on the various Gerry Anderson series this move proved extremely lucrative. In 1963 he landed the regular role of Russell Corrigan in the BBC soap opera Compact, while his first major big screen appearance came in 1964 when he played Captain Ace Owens in Dr. Strangelove. He also continued his singing career performing in various clubs around the country, while occasionally releasing some of his songs on vinyl. It was while on a club tour that he was invited to audition for a role in the next series to be produced by the AP Films team, and he was very quickly hired to provide the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds.

Shane voiced the character in all 32 episodes of the series and both big-screen feature films, with his dynamic voice heightening the tension superbly in moments of extreme drama, but his contributions to the series also extended beyond providing the voice of Scott. Towards the end of its run Shane contributed the idea for the episode Ricochet to writer Tony Barwick, and also wrote new recap introductions when the episodes were split into two-parters for transmission in America. Following completion of Thunderbirds Shane was invited to write a script for Century 21’s latest television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and the result was the episode Avalanche, which set Captain Scarlet and Lieutenant Green on the trail of a Mysteron agent attacking military bases in Shane’s home country of Canada. Avalanche was so well received that Shane was invited to write two more episodes of Captain Scarlet, plus six episodes of Joe 90, and one episode of The Secret Service. He also wrote the publicity booklet for Captain Scarlet, as well as several stories for the Joe 90 Top Secret comic, and provided occasional uncredited guest voices in both Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.

In 1967 he first appeared in the world of James Bond when he had a brief uncredited appearance in You Only Live Twice. He would appear in a larger but similarly uncredited role in Diamonds are Forever, and voiced the character of Hamilton in Live and Let Die in 1971. By 1968 he had also begun appearing regularly in Coronation Street as American GI Joe Donelli and continued in the role up to December 1970, when Joe committed suicide just a few days before Christmas.

The Protectors – Zeke’s Blues

In 1969 Gerry Anderson switched from puppets to live action with his latest series, UFO. Shane appeared in the first episode as a SHADO pilot, and would then don an alien spacesuit for the second episode, but an attack of claustrophobia meant that that would be the first and only time he would do so. He returned to the series for one final appearance as a CIA agent in the episode Confetti Check A-OK. Shane also made a guest appearance in The Protectors episode Vocal in 1971, and the same year was reunited with fellow Supermarionation voice artist David Healy in Element of Risk, an episode of The Persuaders!. It was while working on The Persuaders! that Shane began to shadow series star Tony Curtis, as Curtis was scheduled to appear in an episode of The Protectors that Shane had been asked to write. When Curtis became unavailable to play the part, Shane stepped in at the last moment to star in his own story, Zeke’s Blues. He made one final contribution to The Protectors by writing the very last episode of the series, Blockbuster.

In 1973 Gerry Anderson made one final ill-fated attempt to revive Supermarionation with a 25 minute pilot film, The Investigator. Shane worked with him and Sylvia on developing the story, and also provided the voice of John, one of two schoolchildren reduced to puppet-size by an alien being called the Investigator, as part of his vague to plan to make the world a better place. The results were less than spectacular, and Anderson was so disappointed that he refused to show the finished film to potential investors.

Space:1999 – Space Brain.

Later that year Shane travelled to Munich to deliver a particularly intense performance as coach Ace Logan in the cult sci fi movie Rollerball, and could then be heard in several episodes of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s latest big budget sci fi series Space:1999, including Breakaway, The Last Enemy and The Testament of Arkadia. He didn’t get to appear on camera however until the episode Space Brain where he got to utter one of the more infamous lines in his career (“You must not touch my brain!”), before disappearing under a torrent of alien foam.

1977 was a particularly busy year for Shane, beginning with his appearance in an episode of Anglia Television’s documentary series Science Report, titled Alternative 3. This edition looked at an ominous plot to relocate humanity to the Moon and Mars in the event of a cataclysmic disaster on Earth, and Shane played astronaut Bob Grodin, a man who claimed to have discovered a secret human colony on the Moon. This obvious hoax was due to be broadcast on April the 1st, which would have been fine…if it hadn’t been delayed by scheduling issues. When it was finally shown on June 20th the Anglia switchboards were jammed with calls from confused viewers demanding to know the truth – and despite all claims to the contrary, there are still those who believe that Alternative 3 was no mere TV hoax, but one small piece of a much larger real life conspiracy.

The Spy Who Loved Me.

Also in 1977 Shane returned to the world of 007 when he appeared as Commander Carter in The Spy Who Loved Me. Unlike his previous appearances in the series this was a major role, as Shane joined forces with Roger Moore in the movie’s final act to rescue Barbara Bach from the evil clutches of Curt Jurgens. Staying on the big screen Shane also played Hogan the pilot in the sequel to The Land that Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, and rounded out the year with a brief cameo as an engineer in what promised to be a unremarkable sci-fi movie, but one that would go on to change the face of cinema; Star Wars.

In 1978 Shane got attacked by an octopus in Warlords of Atlantis, worked with Harrison Ford in the movie Hanover Street, and starred with a young James Woods in the BBC TV movie Billion Dollar Bubble. He also made regular appearances in such hit late 70s TV series as Hadleigh, The Famous Five, and Return of the Saint. This run of success continued unabated into the 1980s, where TV highlights included guest roles in Partners in Crime, Phillip Marlowe Private Eye, and two appearances in Tales of the Unexpected. His big screen credits for that decade were no less impressive, including Gandhi, two Superman movies, and a major role in the 1985 Meryl Streep film Out of Africa.

In 1987 Shane was reunited with Gerry Anderson for not one, but two projects. The first of these was Space Police, a pilot in which Shane played Lieutenant Chuck Brogan of the New York Police department, now transferred to Precinct 88 on the planet Zar XL5. The show was a hybrid of live action, puppetry, animatronics, stop motion, and model work, with Shane stuck in the middle making a valiant attempt to hold the production together. When a full series of Space Police finally appeared on television in 1994, now reworked into Space Precinct, Shane was no longer part of the cast and the role of Brogan was now to be played by Ted Shackelford.

By way of contrast Shane was pretty much the entire cast of Dick Spanner, a stop motion spoof of the classic detective genre. Shane took on the lead role of robotic private eye Dick Spanner, and his voice was a perfect fit for the world-weary character as he navigated a bizarre city in a parallel universe not far from here. The following year Shane returned to Coronation Street for six episodes as the character Malcom Reid. Many loyal fans of the show still recognised Shane, despite it being nearly 20 years since the death of his previous character.

With so many TV and film appearances Shane rarely found time to lend his voice to radio productions, but in 1989 he was reunited with fellow Supermarionation voice artists Matt Zimmerman and Ed Bishop for the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of A Study in Scarlet. Indeed Shane and Ed often crossed paths throughout their careers; in 1996 they appeared together in a stage production of Death of a Salesman, and in 2005 Shane appeared alongside Ed in his final screen role in the BBC docudrama Hiroshima.

Shane continued working into the 21st century, including big screen roles in Batman Begins in 2005 and Dark Shadows in 2012. In 2010 his autobiography, From Thunderbirds to Pterodacytls, was published by Signum Books with an accompanying audiobook version from Big Finish. He also revisited his time on Doctor Who by recording a commentary for the 2011 DVD release of The Gunfighters, and reading the audiobook of the story’s 1983 Target novelisation in 2013. In 2014 his first novel, Long Shot, was published as an e-book on Amazon, and later that year he took over the recurring role of Grandpa Louie in the cult cartoon series The Amazing World of Gumball. He even returned to one of his classic Anderson characters one final time in 2017, for the animatic Dick Spanner adventure The Case of the Screaming Dame on the show’s DVD release.

At Andercon 2014.

Shane Rimmer passed away on March 29th 2019, at the age of 89. He had always maintained close ties to the Gerry Anderson universe, and made regular convention appearances into the last years of his life – to the delight of fans young and old. Despite an extensive career including roles in many popular television series and films, it’s his role as Scott Tracy for which he is best remembered, and it’s almost impossible to imagine International Rescue’s last minute heroics being anywhere near as exciting as they were without the unique voice of Shane Rimmer.

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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