As part of their two-day Out of the Ordinary auction beginning at 10am on Tuesday February 15th, Sworders auctioneers will be offering two lots of interest to Anderson fans, both from the collection of Supermarionation puppet sculptor Terry Curtis. One is a replica Captain Grey puppet built by Terry (not screen-used, although Terry did sculpt Grey’s original head for the Captain Scarlet television series), and the other is of a puppet that never appeared on screen. Named ‘the Atlantian’, this puppet was created for a potential Supermarionation series idea that never made it past the initial concept stage; Atlantis.
Atlantis was devised in 1968 by producer Des Saunders, with additional contributions from several members of Century 21’s Supermarionation team including Terry Curtis. With The Secret Service approaching its unexpected cancellation and pre-production work already well under way on the company’s first fully live action television series UFO, the writing finally seemed to be well and truly on the wall for the future of Supermarionation at the Slough-based studio of Century 21 Productions. However, many of the team that had brought those puppet adventures to life were keen to continue with them in the form of a new series. This would feature the main characters of a father, his adult daughter and two adult sons residing in the remains of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. The family would have various special powers including telepathy, teleportation, and the ability to control the sea, and would use them to assist people in trouble or foil various nefarious schemes.
Saunders asked Curtis to create a prototype puppet of one of the sons, modelled in a Grecian style. This ‘Atlantian’ puppet was produced without the full Supermarionation lip-sync mechanism, and was instead created as part of their joint pitch of the series to the Andersons following the end of The Secret Service. However, Gerry and Sylvia declined to take the project any further, preferring instead to focus their attentions on the live action world of UFO. Even if they had been particularly interested, it’s extremely doubtful that they would have been able to convince Lew Grade to commission another Supermarionation series following his cancellation of The Secret Service – and without his financial support, the series would probably never have entered production. As the days of Supermarionation at the Century 21 studios came to an end the Atlantian puppet remained with Terry Curtis, occasionally going on public display at various conventions.
Might be a blending of the underwater action of Stingray and the heroic rescues of Thunderbirds have proven a successful formula? It’s yet another ‘what if?’ moment in Anderson history we’ll never have an answer to, although objectively speaking the concept would certainly seem to have wider audience appeal and greater storytelling potential than The Secret Service – perhaps enough to have turned the ailing fortunes of the Supermarionation department around. Sadly, it was not to be – but we’re certainly hoping the Atlantian and Captain Grey puppets find a new home that will take good care of them following the Sworders auction!