A wise man once said “Spin-off! Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?”, and while a spin-off series can sometimes be an utter disaster it often produces a show every bit as popular and successful as that which spawned it. Considering the relatively high number of television series and feature films carrying his name it’s perhaps surprising that no Gerry Anderson production ever produced a spin-off although several Anderson characters were considered for their own show over the years, including Maya and the Zeroids. Not the same show, obviously, although Maya and the Zeroids would quite possibly be the greatest series the 1980s never saw.
Speaking of great things, Brains has just perfected a detector to measure the spin-off potential of Thunderbirds characters – honest! – and we’re going to put it to use right now!
#5 – Jeremiah Tuttle and Ma
International Rescue’s Agent 47 and his mother only appeared in one episode of Thunderbirds, but remain a firm favourite with fans. Their wooden shack equipped with sophisticated communications devices, car fitted with a turbo-boost supercharger and exploding cans of beans seem to position them almost as a forerunner to the ‘spies hiding in plain sight’ idea that The Secret Service would later revisit, albeit more skewed towards American viewers. Would audiences have found these laid-back ‘hillbilly’ spies entertaining enough to support an entire series, or would it have proven that less really is more? Composer Barry Gray gave Jeremiah a catchy theme tune already, and sometimes a good theme tune is half the battle…
#4 – The London Airport crew
London Airport made several appearances in Thunderbirds and produced a handful of recurring characters. These included Commander Norman, Fireflash Captain Hansen and his co-pilot, and control tower operative Lieutenant Burroughs, plus several other memorable one-offs – but would they have been able to carry a show of their own? Their infrequent appearances on Thunderbirds suggests the APF team would have easily been able to come up with more airport-related drama, although given the often staggering level of incompetence frequently displayed by Norman and his team whenever they appeared it would seem strange to suddenly see them being able to cope with problems without the help of International Rescue.
Okay, so I mock Commander Norman, but this is a man who describes certificates of air-worthiness as a “formality”, who runs a civilian airport that is often used as a military testing site, whose boss struggles to remember people’s names and whose chief pilot proposes to deal with bombs via “violent maneuvers.” – their incompetence is so entertaining that I’m genuinely sorry we didn’t get to see them more often. There’s certainly scope to take a London Airport series in a more comedic direction but I’d prefer to preserve their original character as much as possible; a group of befuddled people trying their best and only occasionally succeeding.
But I made a not-entirely-serious opening titles sequence for their show anyway.
#3 – The Hood
Blending the often pantomime villainy of those Supermarionation antagonists who preceded him with the calculating ruthlessness of many that came after means that The Hood is perhaps the only Anderson villain who could feasibly have been spun off into his own show, perhaps becoming a lovable anti-hero of sorts. Whether the APF team would have felt comfortable creating a series starring a villain is doubtful – he would have had to win sometimes! However, his six Thunderbirds television appearances firmly establish that the character is involved in various successful criminal enterprises outside of his obsession with destroying International Rescue and it might have been fun to see more of those, although it almost certainly would have required giving him a partner to talk to.
#2 – Zero-X
The star spacecraft of the Thunderbirds Are Go! feature film did have an afterlife of sorts, as the MEV appeared in the very first episode of Captain Scarlet, albeit manned by different characters. We also have some idea of how a full Zero-X series might have unfolded thanks to the long-running Zero-X strip in the TV21 comic, but it would certainly have been nice to see Captain Paul Travers and his crew return for further screen adventures too. Again, their theme tune already exists, so.
Some might argue that a Zero-X series could only ever re-tread the path taken by Fireball XL5, but considering how much the APF team had refined their technique since Steve Zodiac’s day we would certainly have welcomed a slightly more sophisticated and serious take on the Supermarionation space opera format.
#1 – Lady Penelope and Parker
Another obvious choice for the top spot, but considering that certain later episodes of Thunderbirds (The Man from M.I5, Alias Mr Hackenbacker and Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday particularly) plus Thunderbird 6 almost feel like a Lady P spinoff already some might argue it was inevitable that the characters might have been seriously considered for their own series. Indeed, given how often attention was diverted away from International Rescue and onto Penelope’s spy adventures, it might even have been preferable to give Penelope her own show just to preserve the original Thunderbirds format while also giving her the chance to fully shine. Again TV21 and the Lady Penelope comic offer an interesting look at what might have been with her long-running comic strip, but given Sylvia Anderson’s enduring love for the character we’re certain she must have suggested the idea of a Penelope spinoff series at some point! Our only concern is that it might have lead to Parker being increasingly used as a comedic prop, if his role in Thunderbird 6 was any indication…
Those are our picks for 5 possible Thunderbirds spin-offs – but is there anyone you would have liked to see be given their own show? Let us know in the comments below!