We think everyone can agree that one of the most exciting parts of a Gerry Anderson series was the thing you’d see every week: the opening titles. Gerry and his teams were experts at crafting exciting title sequences that would bring you into the world of the characters you were about to watch.
We’ve selected our top 10 Gerry Anderson title sequences, counting down from 10 to 1 below. Do you agree or disagree with our selection? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this post.
Here’s our countdown – scroll down to see where your favourite is!
10. Space Precinct
In 1994, Gerry Anderson released Space Precinct. It was his first live action series for nearly 20 years, was the most expensive TV show to be produced in the UK at that time, and was his first time partnering with a new musical collaborator – Crispin Merrell. In the tradition of so many shows before, the theme music was grand and exciting, and the series saw the return of the wonderfully exciting ‘this episode’ rapid montage.
9. Fireball XL5
Fireball XL5 was Gerry Anderson’s last black and white production. The series is also the first to make the titles a real ‘launch’ into the episodes themselves. Taking time to ramp up the excitement while our heroes, Steve Zodiac and Doctor Venus, make their way into Fireball XL5 (on hoverbikes, of course – stairs and ladders are so 20th century) ready for launch. Barry Gray’s magical music gets our adrenaline oozing before we get to see XL5’s glorious launch. And although it may leave you wondering ‘what happens to all those old launch trolleys?!’, you can’t deny that it also gets you in the mood for some good old-fashioned (science fiction) space adventuring!
8. New Captain Scarlet (2015 Version)
Here’s the ‘newest’ set of titles in our countdown – for two reasons. Firstly they’re from Gerry Anderson’s own reimagining of Captain Scarlet. The 2005 CGI series was one of his proudest achievements and was produced using all the latest technology including motion capture. But really, these titles are even newer. For the recent release of Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet in HD Anderson Entertainment commissioned a brand new set of opening titles to be put together. These new titles – created in line with Gerry Anderson and the original production team’s wishes – are faster paced, and feature clips from throughout the 26 episode series.
During production, budgetary and scheduling issues meant that the team had to stick with opening titles that were almost entirely cut from the opening two episodes of the series – where many technical issues were being dealt with, and where the quality of the outputted episodes was not at its peak. Gerry Anderson was desperate to create new opening titles, but the team ran out of time and had to settle for the titles they made from those first two episodes. Anderson Entertainment’s new titles were created to fulfil one of Gerry Anderson’s final wishes – and we’re extremely proud of the results.
7. Joe 90
As with so many of our top 10 Gerry Anderson title sequences, this is one of Barry Gray’s brilliant pieces of work. The Joe 90 theme, with its funky sixties vibe, and unsung ‘Joooooooe Nine-ty’ melody is an essential part of the mix. But the visuals of the BIGRAT and the surrounding laboratory are so beautiful and visually striking… it’s almost hypnotic.
6. Captain Scarlet
‘Why is Captain Scarlet not higher up the list?!’ we hear you cry. Well… obviously because it’s got such great competition from other shows, but also because the opening titles to this series were quite a departure from everything that came before. The slow, spooky pace. The introduction of the threat from the Mysterons. It doesn’t have any of the pace and excitement of its predecessors, Thunderbirds and Stingray, and yet… there’s something amazing and iconic about the way it’s done. The opening sequence takes itself so seriously, it sets a new bar for Gerry Anderson productions going forward.
Of course, each episode was rounded off with the brilliant song from The Spectrum, and the beautiful Ron Embleton paintings of Scarlet in various perilous situations… in combination, these might place Captain Scarlet higher in our list, but based on openings alone, it sits happily at number 6.
Try to explain UFO’s world to the uninitiated and you realise how strange it was… with Harlington Straker studios being a cover for SHADO’s underground base monitoring inbound UFO traffic and trying to prevent aliens harvesting our organs, the intro needed to set up everything about the world fairly quickly. And by Jove, doesn’t it half do that?
The fast cuts, with barely perceptible on-screen text declaring the year ‘1980’, really makes you sit up and pay attention. Combined with the energy and vigour of Barry Gray’s score, UFO marked another change of pace in the Gerry Anderson universe. It was Gerry Anderson’s first live-action series, and judging by the opening he was clearly out to make a statement.
4. Space: 1999 (Season 1)
Some consider Space: 1999 to be the bigger brother of UFO. Created from the skeleton of a proposed second series of UFO, and starring Mission Impossible pairing Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, Space:1999 had a touch of Hollywood glamour about it – despite being made in Berkshire in England.
These titles feature Barry Gray’s brilliant mixed of grandeur – with timpanis and orchestra giving us a spectacular opening, and funk – once the guitar lead line comes in. The editing shares some DNA with UFO, but we see a return to the ‘this episode’ teaser element here, which we think is a hallmark of a strong Gerry Anderson title sequence. There’s a huge amount squeezed in to these titles – with highlights being the chair-turns for Martin and Barbara, and Brian Johnson and his team’s splendid model work.
To contain one culturally-absorbed phrase is something, but Stingray features two phrases that have been repeated ever since. “Stand by for action!” and “Anything can happen in the next half hour”, delivered by Commander Sam Shore, are bold statements – but justifiably included. From the Terrorfish chasing Stingray as they both jump out of the water, to the explosions, and Stingray’s launch we think this became the template for the very best of all the Gerry Anderson title sequences.
Fast-paced, with exciting shots, and toe-tapping music, we think Stingray is more than worthy of third place in our top 10.
This will make half of you very happy, and the other half very cross. Terrahawks is one of the most divisive shows in Gerry Anderson fandom. But the title sequence is unarguable special. Hand animated by Kevin Davies, with a score by Richard Harvey, it neatly tells the story of the Terrahawks in the most 80s way possible.
Despite looking like retro computer animation, the whole sequence was painstakingly created frame by frame by Kevin, to give the look and feel of a Tron-like computer-animated-sequence. Combined with Richard’s heroic score, jam-packed with 1980s synths like the Roland JP-8 and 100M, the result is one of the most-loved Gerry Anderson title sequences ever created. In fact, it’s our most-viewed video on the Gerry Anderson YouTube channel!
So, love or hate the show – you’ve got to appreciate those titles.
“Perfect” is an overused word these days, but when it comes to Gerry Anderson opening titles, we think Thunderbirds is about as perfect as you can get!
The initial countdown sequence was a stroke of genius – following on from the launch elements shown in Fireball XL5 and Stingray, but this time perfecting it into 15 seconds of material that most people recognise immediately.
Barry Gray’s orchestral stabs from the countdown lead neatly into the fast-paced ‘this episode’ montage, which got your adrenaline going with new, exciting material before we get into the main event: The Thunderbirds March. Probably Barry Gray’s best-known, and most-loved pieces the March has an attitude of pomp and ceremony that we don’t see in any other Gerry Anderson title sequences. The introduction of our key characters and vehicles happens at a relatively leisurely pace, but the combination of the visuals and music makes you sit up, pay attention, and prepare to call International Rescue.
Your top 10 Gerry Anderson title sequences?
So, there’s our top 10. But what did you think? What are your top 10? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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