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Unfilmed scripts & failed pilots – the lost worlds of Gerry Anderson!

Between 1957’s The Adventures of Twizzle and 2005’s New Captain Scarlet Gerry Anderson produced 18 television shows, all of which still enjoy varying degrees of popularity to this day. Along the way however he also co-wrote several unproduced feature film scripts, devised television concepts that would go unrealised, and worked on various one-off television projects; some of which made to screen, and one or two that he decided that the world would be better off never seeing!

The story of why some of his unrealised concepts never saw life on screen or why several of those that did were ultimately abandoned has long been of interest to Anderson fans, and with several of them now finding a new lease of life in novel and audiobook format – most recently with this week’s launch of Five Star Five The Doomsday Device, now available to order from the Official Gerry Anderson Store – it’s time to uncover the lost worlds of Gerry Anderson!

The Investigator (1973)

Devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and shot on Malta between seasons 1 and 2 of The Protectors, The Investigator was an attempt to revive Supermarionation in the form of a twenty-five-minute pilot film that would follow in the footsteps of The Secret Service by being another hybrid of puppetry and live-action.

The titular character of the Investigator was a benevolent emissary from an alien planet who has arrived on Earth hoping to ‘make your world a better place’. After encountering two human teenagers named John and Julie he promptly reduces them to one third normal size (i.e. puppet scale) and gives them a car and a boat so that they can carry out ‘missions’ for him while he just hangs around in a cave being vaguely mysterious.

The Investigator was devised by the Andersons to show to their friend George Heinemann, then vice-president of children’s programming at NBC, in the hopes that he might commission a full series. As things turned out however, Heinemann would never see the finished pilot – because everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Anderson on The Investigator. Bad weather ruined more than one day’s shooting, and the radio-controlled car used by the story’s main characters would often receive signals from overflying aircraft that could send it speeding out of control to mow down unsuspecting passers-by. Anderson and his team ultimately returned to England without having shot all the material they’d planned to and had to cobble together the final product with what they had. The results impressed no-one, and the Andersons shelved the finished pilot.

However, even if everything had gone to plan, The Investigator was a strange idea to begin with, and John and Julie’s first ‘mission’ – stopping a minor league villain from stealing an art treasure – does little to establish a credible format for a television series. Despite the voice talents of Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson and Shane Rimmer the episode is also lacking in likeable characters, and the John and Julie puppets have an oddly unsettling quality – particularly during night-time location filming! A curious last gasp of Supermarionation from the Andersons, The Investigator is available on The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD collection – so perhaps you can judge its merits (or lack thereof) for yourself!

The Day After Tomorrow (1975)

The Day After Tomorrow, also known as Into Infinity, first aired on NBC in 1975, and then the BBC the following year. In this one off 50-minute television special, the crew of the lightship Altares consisting of pilots Captain Harry Masters and his daughter Jane, plus scientists Tom and Anna Bowen and their son David, make history as they travel to Alpha Centauri before choosing to push forward into deep space. In true Anderson fashion disaster follows as an accident with the ship’s photon drive sends the Altares out of control, beyond all known reference points. With a return to Earth no longer an option, the Altares is now lost in space and in surprisingly frequent danger from a variety of space phenomena.

Gerry Anderson was commissioned to produce The Day After Tomorrow at the request of NBC’s George Heinemann, who was preparing a series of one hour television specials aimed at a teenage audience under the umbrella title of Special Treat. This series would include a variety of documentaries, animated versions of classic literary stories, and action adventure shows with an educational theme. Looking for someone to create a special that would explain Einstein’s special theory of relativity and other space phenomena in an exciting way Heinemann pitched the idea to Anderson, who then set to work with Space:1999 script editor Johnny Byrne to create the story.

Filmed at Pinewood Studios over ten days between the first and second season of Space:1999, the special does feel very much like its set in an alternate universe of that show – albeit one where the Moon never left orbit. The special’s tone and visual style is very similar, thanks in part to using many of the same production personnel including director Charles Chrichton, and several of the show’s actors. These included Alan Carter himself Nick Tate as Harry Masters, and 1999 guest actors Brian Blessed, Joanna Dunham, and Don Fellows. Many of the special’s props, set elements and costumes would later turn up in Space:1999‘s second season.

The Day After Tomorrow is also available on The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD, and of all the Anderson television pilots that never went to a full series this is the one that seems to have had the most potential, as the episode concludes on an open-ended note that does leave you wondering where a mini-series might have taken the Altares next. Although the original novelisation written to accompany the special back in the 1970s was never released, a brand new novelisation by Gregory Norris was publised by Anderson Entertainment in October 2017, with a sequel novel to finally continue the story being released in 2019.

Intergalactic Rescue 4 (1976)

Intergalactic Rescue 4 was one of two television concepts devised by Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger during the production of Space:1999 and both turned down by NBC. The other, Starcruiser, ultimately found an afterlife of sorts as both a model kit and a strip in the pages of Look-in comic. Intergalactic Rescue 4 however would have to wait a bit longer before seeing the light of day.

As with several unrealised Anderson projects Intergalactic Rescue 4 took the basic format of Thunderbirds and relocated it into a space setting, while also taking some inspiration from Supercar for its star vehicle Rescue 4. This combination spacecraft, aircraft, hovercraft and submersible could go anywhere and do anything that its four-man crew needed it to do as part of various rescue missions and special assignments.

Devised as a thirteen episode live action series, Intergalactic Rescue 4 would later find a new lease of life in novel format as IGR4: Stellar Patrol written by author Richard James. First released in November 2022 as a limited-edition hardback release and based on the show’s original episode concepts, Stellar Patrol is now available to order from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-book form, or in paperback from the Official Gerry Anderson Store.

Five Star Five (1979)

Although 1969’s Doppelganger (aka Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) was to be the final feature film produced by the Andersons Gerry himself continued to pursue and develop possible film projects into the next decade. These included 1969’s Youth is Wasted on the Young (co-written with Wilfred Greatorex), a treatment for the James Bond film Moonraker in 1970 (as the potential followup to George Lazenby’s 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and bearing no relation to Roger Moore’s later Moonraker adventure), political thriller Operation Shockwave (1978) and finally Five Star Five.

Of these four, Five Star Five has in recent years seen its profile raised thanks to a new series of novels released by Anderson Entertainment. Originally co-written by Tony Barwick, and taking heavy inspiration from both Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven, Five Star Five saw an unlikely group of heroes banding together to recover stolen plans of a scanner system that could be used to jam the defence system of the planet Kestra from the asteroid fortress of the evil Zargons.

Unlike the other failed feature film ventures mentioned above work on Five Star Five progressed for over two years, to the extent that budgets were allocated, studio space booked, and pre-production work was already well underway by the time the project collapsed due to financing issues that proved impossible to overcome.

However, that was not to be the end of the Five Star Five story! In 2019 author Richard James was asked to adapt the original Five Star Five script into novel form, which was published as John Lovell and the Zargon Threat. So positive was the response to that novel that a second has just been released – The Doomsday Device – proving that a good idea can’t ever be kept down. As a certain Lunar Commissioner once remarked, “the impossible just takes a little longer, that’s all!”

Space Police (1987)

The origins of what eventually became Space Precinct can be found in Anderson’s often frustrated attempts to sell Terrahawks to American broadcasters in the early 1980s due to a perceived lack of popularity of puppet shows in the States. This seemed to make little sense to Anderson considering the phenomenal global success of The Muppet Show and various other successful movies that incorporated puppets, such as Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back or the titular E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Eventually he hit upon the notion that the executives he had been negotiating with had been referring only to puppet versions of human characters…and that a production that used puppets only for bizarre alien creatures could potentially sell to America.

Inspired by the continuing popularity of American detective and crime shows, most notably Steven Bochco’s 1981 series Hill Street Blues, Anderson and his then business partner Christopher Burr devised a ‘Hill Street Blues in space’ concept that would allow real human actors to interact with a variety of alien creatures, many of whom would be realised in puppet form. The result was the 55-minute long pilot film Space Police, which entered special effects pre-production in 1984 at Bray Studios alongside Terrahawks. After a co-production deal with TVS for a 65-episode series fell through, Anderson and Burr decided to finance the pilot themselves and filming finally began in May 1986, with the episode starring Shane Rimmer as Lieutenant Chuck Brogan. Commander of the orbiting police station house of Precinct 44 East over the planet Zar XL5, Brogan’s crew were almost entirely non-human; a trio of catlike aliens named Tom Dick and Harry, the robotic Slomo, the super-sensory special operative Bats, and even the seemingly human Cathy Costello (Catherine Chevalier) who was later revealed to be some kind of robotic life form. These aliens would not only be realised by human actors wearing animatronic alien head masks, but also identical Terrahawks-style puppets capable of interacting with the story’s more outlandish alien guest characters (also realised via the same glove puppet style, here dubbed ‘Galactronic puppets’).

Finally completed in the first week of 1987, Anderson began shopping the pilot around to potential investors with the hopes of securing financing for a full series. However, despite generally positive response to the pilot (particularly when screen at conventions), this financial interest failed to materialise. Frustrated, Anderson then created an abridged version of the episode that ran for just twenty-five minutes – a more conventional length for a children’s television series – but this failed to attract investors.

Ultimately the Space Police pilot would be shelved until 1991, when Anderson collaborated with John Needham of Mentorn Films on a promotional film for the Birmingham Motor Show. Keen to work with Anderson on any projects he might wish to pursue, Space Police was dusted off and shown to them…with the result being strong interest and a desire to see the project move forward, and Mentorn entered a partnership with Grove Television to help raise capital to finance the series that would eventually reach our screens as Space Precinct!

GFI (1992)

Devised as a series of thirteen twenty-five-minute episodes GFI would have followed the adventures of G-Force Intergalactic, a rescue organisation led by Professor James Gee and featuring a crew of human, alien and robotic operatives. From their secret base Star City (concealed beneath an asteroid) the team attempted to keep the inhabitants of the Myson system safe from disaster and villainy!

First devised by Gerry Anderson in late 1991, GFI was to be the first cel-animation series he would create. Perhaps understandably given the success of Thunderbirds repeats at the time, much of the GFI concept was essentially ‘Thunderbirds in space’. However, only the second episode of the series (Warming Warning) was ever actually completed. Pre-production work (including character and vehicle design plus 3d model rendering) was carried out by the London-based Tomcat Animations, and then sent to Videofilm Corp. in Moscow for final cel animation.

However, when the episode was finally completed Anderson realised that the show’s scale and ambition vastly exceeded the production capabilities of the Russian studio. The animation quality was extremely variable, and the finished production was often noisy and ugly. Although scripts for later episodes had been commissioned and written (the last work from longtime Anderson writer Tony Barwick before his death in 1993) GFI was permanently abandoned, and Warming Warning has yet to see any broadcast or commercial release!

Five Star Five The Doomsday Device is now available to order in hardback from the Official Gerry Anderson Store, while Five Star Five John Lovell and the Zargon Threat is available in paperback and e-book formats via Amazon or CD and download audiobook format from the Official Gerry Anderson Store.

IGR4 Stellar Patrol is available in paperback and e-book formats via Amazon, or in paperback from the Official Gerry Anderson Store.

Into Infinity The Day After Tomorrow and its sequel novel Into Infinity Planetfall are both available in paperback and e-book formats via Amazon.

The Investigator, The Day After Tomorrow and Space Police can be seen on Network’s The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD plus streaming services Britbox and ITVX.

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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