The shows produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were consistently a showcase for some of the greatest artists and technicians to ever have worked in the British film industry, but every so often little mistakes slipped through here and there – and for fans, the fun comes in spotting them! Here’s a collection of ten of our favourite mistakes, accidents and blunders to have made their way into our favourite shows – how many of these have you spotted over the years?
Four Feather Falls – Ambush
As with many episodes of Four Feather Falls Ambush features one of Tex Tucker’s songs, The Rick-Rick-a-Rackety Train, but in this episode we actually see not only the famous train itself but also the “funny old fireman” in the engine cab shovelling coal. Unfortunately, tragedy soon strikes as the fireman’s hand suddenly disconnects at the wrist and flies out of shot, still holding the shovel. He watches it go with the forlorn look of a man who a) doesn’t have any more hands to lose, and b) will probably have to pay to replace that shovel out of his own wages.
Thunderbirds – The Duchess Assignment
Among the familiar puppets playing passengers we see waiting at London Airport to board the Fireflash flight to New York in this episode is the puppet who previously played Fireflash Captain Hanson in the episodes Trapped in the Sky and Operation Crash-Dive. Although dressed in civilian clothes and evidently a passenger, we soon see Hanson in his familiar uniform and at the controls of the Fireflash itself via reused footage from Trapped in the Sky as the plane takes off.
Although the Hanson puppet was likely just randomly grabbed off the peg to appear in a crowd scene, the reuse of footage from the first episode does give the impression that either Hanson boarded with the passengers and got changed in the cabin, or he thought he was a passenger and nobody had told him he was actually meant to be flying the plane. Either scenario is amusing.
UFO – Close Up
Even the best of the best can make a mistake, but few actors can cover a flubbed line as well as Ed Bishop does in the UFO episode Close Up. While giving a presentation Straker introduces his audience to a diagram of the standard version of the B-142 space probe, and with the vehicle established his next scripted line involved explaining that a modified version of the probe will be launched to investigate the alien homeworld. “Now I propose to launch a standard, or a modified, B-142 space probe,” says Straker, with Ed Bishop saying the scripted word ‘modified’ so casually and credibly that it entirely distracts the viewer from the fact that he accidentally just repeated the word ‘standard’ by mistake.
New Captain Scarlet – multiple episodes
In the first episode of New Captain Scarlet the Mysteronised Captain Scarlet attempts to destroy Skybase by powering down its engines, prompting a message on Lieutenant Green’s computer screen as the base begins to fall out of the sky; ENGINEERING EMERGENCY.
Surprisingly this text made multiple return appearances throughout the rest of the series, usually during scenes set in Colonel White’s office in which Lieutenant Green’s screen was visible in the background. Although sometimes flopped to disguise the words, there’s no ignoring the fact that Skybase apparently suffers multiple catastrophic engineering emergencies throughout the entirety of the series (right up to the last episode produced, Grey Skulls) and nobody appears to be doing anything about it!
Joe 90 – Splashdown
Faced with armed terrorists looking to hijack his plane, Captain William Barry can only watch helplessly as co-pilot Frank Caspar is shot with a tranquiliser pellet. His response? “Bill!”, forgetting that that’s his own name and not his friend’s. To be fair this isn’t made obvious until the final scene of the episode, where Professor McClaine reads about the hijacking in a newspaper and mentions the names of both the plane’s captain and co-pilot. It’s always possible the newspaper report got the names the wrong way round, but far funnier to assume that Captain William Barry just shouts his own name whenever confronted with stressful situations.
Terrahawks – Terratomb
While high definition restorations of Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 have revealed multiple instances of puppets getting a helping hand from a floor puppeteer, the Terrahawks puppeteers managed to remain off-camera for the most part – although given their close proximity to the puppets they too ran the risk of accidentally appearing on camera from time to time, as Christine Glanville did when she made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance while operating Zelda early in the episode Terratomb.
Captain Scarlet – Manhunt
He may be indestructible, but Captain Scarlet’s incident reports (such as the one seen following his mission to Australia near the beginning of the episode Manhunt) contain so little information as to be comparable to a child’s ‘wot I did on holiday’ school report – particularly given the appalling grammar on display to boot.
Regardless, Colonel White is unusually full of praise for both Scarlet and Blue – prompting the pair to thank him using each other’s voices before the episode thankfully transitions to a location populated by competent people. The world is safe in their hands, alright.
Space:1999 – Voyager’s Return
A scuffle between Jim Haines and Ernst Queller results in the latter being hurled into a pile of electrical equipment, which then explodes and throws Queller to the floor. As Haines looks down at Queller’s body in horror, we do have to ask one question about this scene; who does this hand in the background belong to?
While obviously that of an on-set effects technician in some way responsible for handling the explosion effect, it’s much more fun to search for an in-universe explanation as to why somebody or something might have been hiding behind that table.
New Captain Scarlet – The Homecoming
It’s an emotional moment as Lieutenant Green is reunited with her long-lost father Commander Lewis in the Skybase sickbay – but the reunion is short-lived. As Colonel White, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue turn to leave, we can see through the window behind them that Green has totally disappeared and that Lewis is now back to reading the same magazine as he was before she walked in.
Space:1999 – The Bringers of Wonder
One of many additions made to the second season of Space:1999 was the Moonbase Alpha Status Report, a log entry recorded by Helena Russell in most episodes that included a specific date on which that episode was set. The two-part story The Bringers of Wonder throws up an amusing inconsistency with the show’s chronology, as part 1 is set 1912 days after the Moon left Earth orbit (December 7th 2004) and part 2 is set 2515 days (August 2nd 2006) – in other words, twenty months after part 1.
Whether this is down to a mistake by the script department or Doctor Russell herself is uncertain, but if we were to be daft and have some fun by accepting these dates as absolutely correct then it does mean that Koenig was about to be smothered by a jelly monster as part 1 reached its cliffhanger conclusion – then calmly left Medical Center and went back to work for nearly two years before remembering about the whole ‘jelly monster about to kill me’ thing and went rushing back again to deal with it. We can’t even claim that a time warp occurred between the two episodes, since (again according to Helena’s logs) all six remaining episodes of the series produced after this two-parter take place during the apparent twenty-month gap between parts 1 and 2 of The Bringers of Wonder.
Those are just a few of the most fun on-screen mistakes we’ve spotted from around the Anderson universe – but do you have any favourites we’ve not included here? Let us know in the comments below!