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Thunderbirds (TV Series 1965–1966) Poster

(1965–1966)

Trivia

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The Thunderbirds' radio code "F-A-B", meaning "message received and understood", didn't stand for anything, it was just supposed to sound "hip". In fact, when asked what it stood for, Gerry Anderson once replied, with some bemusement, "Fab," as though it were obvious. Later, due in part to fan-submitted stories, F-A-B came to mean Fully Advised and Briefed, in keeping with P-W-O-R (Proceeding With Orders Received), a similar radio confirmation code in the series Stingray (1964).
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On the Christmas episode "Give Or Take A Million", there are calendars indicating that Christmas day is a Sunday, which it actually will be in 2067, when the episode is set.
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Only two episodes were made in which Virgil's vehicle, Thunderbird Two, was not involved in the story's primary rescue - "Terror In New York City" and "The Imposters". "Terror In NYC"'s non-use of Thunderbird Two was forced because the episode was originally made as a half-hour show; when Sir Lew Grade of ITC demanded the series be remade in one-hour format, AP Films had writer Alan Fennell write in the subplot where Thunderbird Two is mistaken for an enemy bomber and attacked by a US warship; ironically, this helped make the episode the one most fondly remembered by original fans of the show. It also explains why this episode needed two directors (David Elliott and David Lane).
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To add to the timelessness the "Thunderbirds" series, great attention was paid to the smallest detail. For example, none of the cars had registration plates giving away the date.
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Lady Penelope's unique pink Rolls Royce is based on the same twin front-wheel-steering Bedford coach used in the escape scene of The Italian Job (1969).
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Although never stated directly in any episode, according to Gerry Anderson this series takes place in the same "universe" as Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967) and Stingray (1964). Several marionettes were modeled after the actors providing their voices.
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The faces of the Tracys were composites of those of famous actors: Whlist Virgil is an older-looking Alan and Gordon a younger version of John.
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Lady Penelope was once described as "an advertisement for British fashion", by The Sunday Mirror newspaper.
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When the launch sequence of Thunderbird 2 was shot, pilot Virgil Tracy was shown being taken to the craft in civilian clothing. When the completed sequence was cut together, he was seen to have mysteriously gained a uniform. To provide continuity, a scene was later shot and added showing his uniform appearing in the cockpit.
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According to "Guinness World Records 2008", the character of Jeff Tracy holds the record for the "Highest Earning TV Character", said to be worth an estimated $US50 billion; assets included maintenance of Tracy Island, all the Thunderbird machines, and so on.
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Issue 65 of "Thunderbirds - the Comic" revealed the Hood's real name as Belah Gaat.
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Lady Penelope's stately home is modelled on Stourhead House, Wiltshire, England. There is an commemorative plate on display there acknowledging this.
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Gerry Anderson would take the sets/props/etc. and have them "dirtied up" and made to look worn and damaged before filming, giving them a more realistic appearance. This technique was later used extensively by George Lucas in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
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Three Thunderbirds story scripts originally owned by Alan Pattillo ("The Cham-Cham", "Give Or Take A Million" and "Alias Mr. Hackenbacker"), were sold at auction in Melbourne, Australia, for AU$150.00 each on 12 August 1990.
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David Holliday was the only American actor cast for any voice roles. Apart from Virgil Tracy, Holliday provided the voices of just three "guest" characters during the series.
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The only time Rolls-Royce has officially sanctioned the use of its famous vertical grille and "Spirit of Ecstasy" was on Lady Penelope's pink six-wheel Rolls.
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The series was released on Blu-Ray in 2008, but this release quickly came under fire for cropping the shows to a 16:9 aspect ratio, so as to "enhance" the episodes for widescreen televisions.

The 2015 Shout! Factory / Timeless Media Blu-Ray release does use the original 1.33 or 4:3 transfers.
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Gordon was the only character never to radio home base from any primary rescue he was involved in (viewers never see the 'flashing eyes' sequence from his picture portrait).
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Season 2 is only 6 episodes because ITV canceled the series when they were unable to gain wide US release. This would have been the only way to afford to produce such an expensive 1 hour series. They tried to show it in the US as two 30 minute episodes vs the 1 hour episodes as shot. Oddly, when shown in Los Angeles, it was shown in the late 60's on independent stations KTTV and later on KHJ as two back to back 30 minute episodes. This completely negated the need of splitting the original 1 hour episodes into 2 30 minute episodes.
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Each Thunderbirds puppet only had four teeth.
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After Lew Grade, head of ITC, viewed the pilot episode, he remarked, "That's not a television series! That's a feature film!"
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In addition to the close-ups with human hands, three episodes pioneered a technique in which a human hand appeared in the same frame as the puppets.
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Before recording for the second season was due to commence, David Holliday, the original voice of Virgil, had relocated to the United States, so Jeremy Wilkin replaced Holliday as the voice of Virgil for the second season and the two Thunderbirds movies Thunderbirds Are GO (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968).
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John Tracy's character design and mannerisms were a slightly altered redesign of Lt. Fisher from Stingray (1964). Gerry Anderson claims to have disliked the character's "all-American" quality, among numerous other reasons he has cited over the years, which is why John is so rarely seen in the series.
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According to Gerry Anderson in the 2005 "Top 50 Kids TV of all time" the show cost the equivalent of one million pounds an episode to make.
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This was producer Gerry Anderson's personal favorite out of all of his productions.
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A video game based off the show was made for the Super Nintendo/Famicom Entertainment System. However, it was only released in Japan, despite the shows U.K. origins.
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It was while the Round House (through which Thunderbird 3 would be launched) that Derek Meddings realized that the design of the building was just right for Thunderbird 5, the International Rescue space station. Unable to come up with a convincing design before now, this was the last of the five Thunderbird craft that he created. By adding aerials and transmitters to the Round House, he developed the series' most unusual and effective vehicle, although it was to play only a minor part in the finished program.
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Each episode contained 90-120 special effects, filmed at between 72 and 125 frames per second.
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Two vocal theme songs were considered before the famous march was chosen. One of these discarded themes, "Flying High" (performed by Gary Miller), can be heard at the end of the episode "Ricochet".
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The script for the first episode of Thunderbirds was dictated by Gerry Anderson to his wife in four parts at their home in Portugal.
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In order to increase the realism of the series, close-ups of real human hands were often inserted when a character is shown about to manipulate an object (i.e. open a drawer, cock a gun).
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Some of the guest characters were named after real people. For example: Lt. Bob Meddings (seen in the episodes "Trapped In The Sky") was named after Art Director Bob Bell and visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings. Dr. Korda (seen in the episode "Day Of Disaster") was named after Hungarian-born film producer/director Sir Alexander Korda; Lady Penelope's alter ego Wanda Lamour (from the episode "The Cham-Cham") was named after puppeteer Wanda Brown (née Wanda Webb).
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The Hood has never been referred to by any name on all but two episodes - "Martian Invasion", where he calls himself Agent 79 in his transmissions to General X, and "Edge Of Impact", where he gives his codename as "671" when he contacts General Bron. "Edge of Impact" is also the only episode in which we see the Hood acting with motives not involving International Rescue.
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Fenella Fielding was Gerry Anderson's first choice for the voice of Lady Penelope.
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When the initial concept for "Thunderbirds" was drawn up, it was agreed that Kyrano's daughter Tin Tin should have a "romantic interest" in Thunderbird 3 astronaut, Alan Tracy.
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According to Shigeru Miyamoto, famous video game creator, Thunderbirds served as a huge inspiration to a video game franchise he created called StarFox, to the point that the box art of the first game was a photo of puppet versions of the characters in the game.
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Richard Branson is a great fan of the series and has named a fleet of rescue locomotives for Virgin Trains after the Thunderbirds craft. During one of Sylvia Anderson's many transatlantic trips, she was travelling in a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 airliner named after Lady Penelope. Unfortunately, the plane broke down and there was a long delay in LA. Mr. Branson did, however, give Sylvia complementary mileage for the delay.
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F.A.B stood for "Full Acknowledgement and Briefed." Gerry Anderson, the producer of the show was known for these obscure catch phrases these include P.W.O.R from Stingray (1964) (Proceeding With Order Received) and S.I.G (Spectrum Is Green") from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967). They all stand for "ten-four", "I copy" and "roger that".
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The five Tracy brothers were named after astronauts from the Mercury programme:
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The interlude music in this (British) series and some of the interlude music in the album "Days of Future Passed" are hauntingly similar. One could deduce that at least some members of British band The Moody Blues were fans of the show.
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In The Duchess Assignment, the painting of Alan by Virgil in the tag scene from Move and You're Dead is on display just before we are shown Portrait Of A Gazelle.
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Gerry Anderson was inspired to make a series about a secret rescue organization after hearing about a German mining disaster (Wunder von Lengede, which translates into "miracle of Lengede") in 1963.
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Thunderbirds is very popular with real-world scientists, inventors and engineers, much to Gerry Anderson's own surprise. Gerry had an interest in aircraft from his boyhood days as his brother Lionel was a pilot in the RAF during the World War 2. This interest took him to Feltham, England, where the Supersonic Aircraft "Concorde" was being built. A design engineer gave Anderson a tour of the facility. "I was dreading that he would ask me what work I did" recalled Anderson, "because here was state-of-the-art aircraft, supersonic, and here I was, a filmmaker of puppet shows." The engineer did, indeed, ask Anderson what he did for a living, but he remained evasive until he finally offered only that he was in film business and finally later that he was a producer. The engineer persisted. "Finally I mumbled Thunderbirds" says Anderson. The response was electric. "I was told. 'Don't move!' He ran upstairs and all of the designers came down with him. They talked with me for an hour. All of them were fans. They even had a theory that Thunderbird 2 would fly if it were built. Quite amazing. I thought they would all sort of laugh." When the Concorde made its maiden flight to Toulouse, France, to be unveiled, it was greeted by the Band of the Royal Marines striking up Barry Gray's Thunderbirds March.
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Lew Grade who commissioned (and later Cancelled) the show was the one responsible for failing to sell the series to the US. The three major US networks of the time - NBC, CBS and ABC - had all bid for the series, with Grade repeatedly increasing the price and trying to get the networks to outbid each other. When one of the networks, NBC, withdrew its offer, the other two immediately followed.
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Scott, Virgil and Jeff are the only characters to appear in all 32 episodes.
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The character of Lady Penelope's butler, Parker, was modeled on British 50s comedian Ben Warriss, who was Jimmy Jewell's comedy partner.
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Some facts not mentioned in the series is that:
  • Jeff Tracy's enormous wealth came from a successful construction company. Not from the fact he was an astronaut.
  • Jeff Tracy discovered his scientific engineer Brains in Paris where he was giving a lecture.
  • Kyrano and The Hood are half-brothers. He swindled Kyrano out of his inheritance a large fortune and a plantation in Malaysa.
  • Virgil has a degree in engineering from the Denver School of Advanced Technology.
  • Brains was raised an adopted child by a Cambridge professor.
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Sylvia Anderson created all the characters, down to the finest detail, even coming up with birth dates that astrologically corresponded to their personalities.
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Thunderbirds was the first of Gerry Anderson's puppet shows to be aimed at adults as well as kids. Michael Jackson and Tom Jones are fans.
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Gerry Anderson says he never watches any of his old shows even if he stumbles across them on TV.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

By the finale of the series and film "Thunderbird 6," Lady Penelope has lost both her famous car and her yacht. Parker gambled away FAB 2 in "The Man From MI 5", and FAB 1 was destroyed in the crash of Skyship One at the end of the second feature film Thunderbird 6 (1968).
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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