Home Article Fathers of the Anderson universe (part 3)

Fathers of the Anderson universe (part 3)

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Continued from part 2

Since 1983’s Terrahawks flipped the standard Anderson family setup completely by removing all the fathers and presenting a pair of single mothers in Zelda and Cy-star, plus Stew’s widowed mother Mrs. Dapples, it would be almost twenty years following Into Infinity before we next saw fathers in a family unit on an Anderson show, with 1994’s Space Precinct. Despite not always being suitable for a family audience, the series threw a spotlight on the families of the regular characters – and the role of fathers particularly – far more prominently than any Anderson production before it. The show’s main character, Lieutenant Patrick Brogan, was often seen juggling his responsibilities as a father with his duty as a police officer – which sometimes proved to be the same thing when his family were targeted by his enemies. While the Brogan family scenes were generally among the show’s less popular moments, usually holding up the action for often pointless detours or needless histrionics, it was in the moments where his family were directly threatened that his role as a husband and father proved genuinely dramatic. In episodes such as Body and Soul, The Forever Beetle or Smelter Skelter, he is laser-focused on dealing personally with threats against his son and daughter, sometimes to the point of taking action he would normally never even contemplate. In quieter moments at home with his children we do see glimpses of a more appealing family dynamic than the show generally chose to present us with (particularly during discussions of such thorny topics as racism and religion), and one which makes Brogan’s anguish when he isn’t there to protect them from the uglier side of the new world he has brought them to all the more believable.

Elsewhere among the Space Precinct regulars we have two other fathers in Captain Podly and Sergeant Fredo. In The Witness Fredo’s young daughter Estes is tormented by telepathic visions while studying for her telekinetics exam, but (in keeping with the show’s unfortunate tendency to present its alien races as basically the same as humans no matter how different they look from us) the series missed a chance to explore what fatherhood means to an alien race. Fredo is understandably deeply concerned for Estes’ wellbeing, but he and his wife come off a little pushy in their expectations for their daughter’s exam performance. Having previously established the alien nature of the Tarn reproductive process in Divided We Stand, it would have been nice to have seen that alien quality developed further when it came to their actual parenting.

No more alien, but far more interesting, was Captain Podly’s relationship with his adult daughter in the two-parter The Fire Within. First mentioned in the episode Flash, young Samina Podly was so inspired by her father’s work as a police officer that she grew up to follow in his footsteps, and although Podly accepted her career path he remained understandably concerned for her wellbeing. When Samina disappears while on an undercover assignment, and all evidence points to her murder, Podly’s grief at the thought of her death drives the character first to desperation then to a pitiful acceptance, and Jerome Willis’ performance of that acceptance is easily the most affecting bit of acting ever seen on the show. Although they are eventually reunited at the end of the story, Podly’s concern for Samina throughout the story shows that a father’s responsibilities to their children never truly end, even when they reach adulthood.

The idea of fatherhood being a source of pain for our heroes made a return with two episodes of New Captain Scarlet. In Heist, Colonel White’s daughter Victoria is kidnapped by associates of Captain Black, with the aim of blackmailing the Colonel to help them hi-jack a bullion shipment. Unlike UFO and The Protectors, Heist presents the Colonel’s family as accepting of the fact that his work is vital to the Earth’s security, even if it means he doesn’t get to see them all that often. Despite the distance between them, the Colonel is quite clearly prepared to put everything on the line to get his daughter back, and is only saved from having to go through with the hijacking thanks to her timely rescue by Scarlet and Blue. However, he is clearly quite prepared to throw away his career in order to save her, as he makes clear to his officers; “each of us fights to save our family and our friends. Without those we love, what sense is there in anything we do?”

“Daddy…”

An earlier episode, The Homecoming, put Lieutenant Green through similar emotional turmoil when her father, Commander Lewis (long since presumed dead in a lost space mission) returns to Earth – under the control of the Mysterons. When the inevitable reveal of his true nature comes as he puts the Mysterons’ latest plan for destruction into operation Green is understandably horrified, and although Captain Scarlet is able to intervene to save her the Mysteron agent isn’t easily defeated. After injuring Scarlet, it falls to Green to deal with him – yet in one of the most heartbreaking moments of any Anderson series, Lewis is able to regain control of himself long enough to beg his daughter; “Promise me you’ll kill this thing inside me!” As the Mysterons reassert their control of her father, Green resolves herself to what needs to be done – and carries out his last request. Notably, Commander Lewis was the only Mysteron replicant (aside from Scarlet and Black) who was able to shake off their control just long enough to allow his original human persona to reassert itself, if only for that one devastating moment – no doubt due solely to the strength of his love for his daughter.

From the traditional 1960s television trope of a single father raising his large family alone (albeit with the bonus of high tech bases and exciting vehicles thrown in), to the difficulties of balancing their careers with their family life, and even to surprisingly darker places in later years, the Anderson shows presented a range of settings and stories that allowed many concepts surrounding fatherhood to be explored over the years. Often these were secondary to the main action, but the familiar trend of strong likable father figures undoubtedly did much to make viewers warm to the shows they appeared in – by making them feel that they too could be part of such an incredible family as the Tracys, with a dad as cool as Jeff!

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