Supercar (TV series)
Supercar was a British children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis' AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. Thirty-nine episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV and in the US in syndication (the first Anderson series to be shown overseas) debuting in January 1962. The series uses Supermarionation, based on the complex and difficult Czech style of marionette puppetry. The creation of the show was credited to Gerry Anderson and Reg Hill, but it incorporates elements of Beaker's Bureau, a series proposed to the BBC by Hugh Woodhouse that was never produced. Anderson would later claim that the whole point of having a series based on a vehicle was to minimize having to show the marionettes walking, an action which he felt never looked convincing.
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||39 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||25 mins approx.|
|Production company(s)||AP Films|
|Original release||28 January 1961 –|
29 April 1962
|Preceded by||Four Feather Falls|
|Followed by||Fireball XL5|
The plot of the show centred around Supercar, a vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft invented by Prof. Rudolph Popkiss and Dr. Horatio Beaker, and piloted by Mike Mercury. On land it rode on a cushion of air rather than wheels. Jets in the rear allowed it to fly like a jet and retractable wings were incorporated in the back of the car. Retrorockets on the side of the car slowed the vehicle. The car used "Clear-Vu", which included an inside television monitor allowing the occupant to see through fog and smoke. The vehicle was housed in a laboratory and living facility at Black Rock, Nevada, U.S. In the show's first episode, "Rescue", the Supercar crew's first mission is to save the passengers of a downed private plane. Two of the rescued, young Jimmy Gibson and his pet monkey, Mitch, are invited to live at the facility and share in the adventures.
The series inaugurated what became an Anderson trademark: the launch sequence. With the exception of The Secret Service, all of his series until Space: 1999 included these – in Supercar's case, the charging and firing of port and starboard engines, the activation of an interlock, the opening of (overhead) hangar doors, and finally the vertical take-off.
Series history and production
After Granada Television failed to renew Four Feather Falls, its creator Gerry Anderson approached Lew Grade of ATV. He asked Anderson to reduce the budget by half. After working through the night, Anderson returned the next morning, with the budget reduced only by a third. Grade commissioned the series immediately.
The music for the series was composed and conducted by Barry Gray. The opening and closing theme song vocalist for the first season was Mike Sammes; for the second season Sammes's vocal group The Mike Sammes Singers re-recorded the theme.
There were two working models of Supercar, which was designed by art director Reg Hill. The larger hero model was made of lightweight wood and Plexiglass (Perspex), and measured about five feet (1.5 m) in length. It was built by Laurie Barr of Aeronautical and General Modelmakers Ltd. (now Mastermodels). The smaller model, used in distance shots, was about nine inches (23 cm) in length and was sculpted by Slough craftsman Bill James. Fans such as Austin Tate have speculated that Hill was inspired by the 1954 Ford FX-Atmos concept car.
As photography on the series was getting under way, creator Gerry Anderson wed production assistant and voice actress Sylvia Thamm. After a brief mid-day ceremony the couple returned to the studio to help complete the opening title sequence.
Many of the first 26 scripts for Supercar were written by brothers Hugh and Martin Woodhouse, at the rate of one complete "shooting (camera-ready) script" per week; this was done by the brothers to fit Anderson's (and Grade's) cost, and production schedule.
Anderson always claimed that he invented a futuristic vehicle as an excuse to reduce the amount of walking the marionette puppets had to do, which could never be made to look realistic. This was taken to its conclusion in Captain Scarlet, in which the marionette puppets are almost never seen walking.
The complete series is available on DVD in the United Kingdom, Australia, and North America, where it has been issued twice.
Cast and characters
Cast of characters
- Michael "Mike" Mercury: test pilot of Supercar (voiced by Graydon Gould).
- Professor Rudolph Popkiss: co-inventor of Supercar with Dr. Beaker (voiced by George Murcell in season 1 and by Cyril Shaps in season 2).
- Dr. Horatio Beaker: co-inventor of Supercar with Professor Popkiss (voiced by David Graham).
- James "Jimmy" Gibson: a young boy who lives with his brother (voiced by Sylvia Anderson, credited as Sylvia Thamm in Season 2). After Mike and Supercar save his life, he joins the Supercar team.
- Mitch the Monkey: Jimmy's pet monkey (voiced by David Graham).
- Masterspy: a foreign spy (voiced by George Murcell in season 1 and by Cyril Shaps in season 2). He is obsessed with getting his hands on Supercar. By the second episode, he is already an old adversary of Mike Mercury and team.
- Zarrin: Masterspy's henchman (voiced by David Graham).
- Mr. Harper: a posh English criminal (voiced by George Murcell).
- Ben Judd: a not so posh Cockney-speaking criminal (voiced by David Graham).
Other recurring characters
- William "Bill" Gibson: Jimmy's elder brother (voiced by David Graham). He owns his own shipping business and can pilot a plane.
- Felicity Beaker: Doctor Beaker's cousin (voiced by Sylvia Anderson). She owns her own estate in Africa, but only appears in two episodes.
Casting the characters
The cast for Supercar was put together weeks before shooting was to commence. The lines were recorded in the rushes theatre, which was transformed into a recording studio. Lines were recorded on a Sunday (once every month), because the studio was on a trading estate, meaning Sundays were the quietest days of the week. The recording sessions typically took place between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., during which time the cast, along with the sound engineers, would try to get through at least three scripts.
Canadian actor Graydon Gould (The Forest Rangers), who voiced Mike Mercury despite never auditioning for the part, was offered it whilst doing a stage production that was shown on television. In an interview Gould recalls that, without owning a car, getting to Slough was difficult because "Sunday transport is about half of what it normally is" but because he had a wife, a two-year-old child and a three-bedroom apartment, he was grateful for the money. Sylvia Anderson directed the sessions and helped Gould with his accent; he recalls, "she would point out when my Canadian accent was slipping through".
David Graham voiced three characters for the series: Doctor Beaker, Zarin, and Mitch the Monkey. He also voiced the recurring character of Bill Gibson. He had previously worked on the series Four Feather Falls where he had shown his ability to provide a variety of different voices. Graham had based his voice for Dr. Beaker on veteran actor Felix Aylmer, while he also spent a day at London Zoo watching monkeys at the Monkey House, trying get a good interpretation as to how Mitch should sound.
George Murcell voiced Professor Popkiss and Masterspy for the first season. He had previously worked for AP Films when playing the character Diamond in the low-budget B-Movie Crossroads to Crime alongside David Graham. Graham believes that because of his voice quality, Gerry thought he would make a good Masterspy, while Gould remembers Murcell doing "all the European voices". Murcell left the series after 24 episodes, which explains why he, and Popkiss do not appear in the last two episodes of the first series.
Sylvia Anderson, then Sylvia Thamm before her marriage to Anderson, was credited as "voice direction", and voiced Jimmy Gibson and all female characters in the series; however, she was not credited for the first series. Originally Sylvia was not to voice Jimmy, but she was given the opportunity when Gerry was not happy with the original voice of Jimmy that had already been recorded. This marked Sylvia’s first involvement in voice acting.
Cyril Shaps was brought in to voice Professor Popkiss and Masterspy for the second season. David Graham was a friend of Shaps and suggested him for the part when Murcell left. At the time Shaps was performing in the West End play The Tenth Man, which Graham and the Andersons went to see.
Supercar debuted in the U.S. on WPIX, a local station in New York, on Saturday 6 January 1962 at 6:30 pm. The station's EVP and general manager, Fred M. Thrower, reported to ITC that after four weeks the show "has solidly established itself as the number one program in its time period and the number one weekend children's show in New York among all local children shows in this market" with an average ARB rating of 15.2. A year later, Supercar had been sold into 140 U.S. and 49 foreign markets for $1.9 million in total sales, guaranteeing production of a second series of shows.
Supercar was the first Gerry Anderson series to be adapted as a comic book in America, with the Gold Key company releasing four issues between November 1962, and August 1963. In the U.K., comics based on the series were drawn by H. Watts and Bill Mevin.
In 2013, the society released a second limited-edition disc, this one completely devoted to the series.
- The Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide, A. Pirani, Titan Books Ltd, 1989
- Supercar: Origin, in Supercar section at aiai.ed.ac.uk Accessed 9 January 2018
- La Rivière 57.
- Full Boost Vertical – The Supercar Story (DVD Documentary). Swinging Star Productions. 2004.
- Clark, Mike (19 July 2003). "Graydon Gould "Mike Mercury" Part One" (Doc). Retrieved 24 February 2018.
- Marriott 60
- Bentley, 47.
- Bentley, 38.
- La Rivière 65.
- Television Mail, 23 March 1962
- Broadcasting, 21 January 1963
- Supercar (1962) comic books, at mycomicshop.com Accessed 9 January 2018
- La Rivière, Stephen (2009). Filmed in Supermarionation: a History of the Future. Neshannock, Pennsylvania: Hermes Press. p. 185. ISBN 1-932563-23-7.
- Bentley, Chris (2003). The Complete Gerry Anderson: the Authorised Episode Guide. London: Reynolds and Hearn. pp. 38, 47. ISBN 978-1-903111-97-0.
- Marriott, John (1992). Thunderbirds Are Go!. London: Boxtree. p. 60. ISBN 1-85283-164-2.
- Supercar on IMDb
- Supercar ITC Video Trailer on YouTube
- Gerry Anderson's Supercar
- Yahoo Supercar Group "Black Rock 1" (for Fans of Gerry Anderson's "Supercar")
- The Unofficial Supercar Screensaver and Desktop Themes Homepage