Christine Glanville interview

Simon Archer

Watching Thunderbirds on the TV is a new experience for Christine Glanville, chief puppeteer for the block-buster 32-episode series. It's the first time she's seen it! All that she saw of the series at the time were the 'rushes', the raw footage minus sound, music or explosions. "I never got to see the finished shows at the time," she explains, "but I can now say that they are very, very good. Much better than I ever thought they might be." Like many of her colleagues from the Sixties, Christine lives in rural Buckinghamshire, a short distance from where our Supermarionation heroes were created. She nostalgically recalled her role in the Anderson puppet productions recently when she invited me to her comfortable village home.

Christine Glanville sitting next to two Lady Penelope puppets and a Parker puppet
Christine Glanville [1924 – 1999] surrounded by some of the puppets she made during her career

From Twizzle to Terrahawks, from Cliff Richard and The Shadows to Dire Straits, this former Halifax lass was there — closely involved with the creation, production and bringing to life of many of the Anderson screen stars. "As a child, I was always interested in anything to do with art. I used to make peep shows with theatrical scenes in shoe boxes, with a hole in the front and coloured tissue paper on the top and, of course, little cut-out characters."

Christine was an only child, with imaginary playmates. "I had my quota of those. Not that I was ever deprived of friends. The house was often crawling with children! I didn't like stories or anything of that sort, but I did draw a lot." On leaving school at 14, she went to art college because, she said, "there wasn't anything else that I could do!"

With the outbreak of war and just one year into her studies, Christine was evacuated. She returned to find that her teachers had been called up and this lead to yet another move to a different college for a further year. "My parents didn't believe that I was getting a good enough grounding in drawing and took me away from there. I was then evacuated to Halifax, my birth place. The art school there was very good, and I gained excellent training in anatomy and life drawing."

It was only a short time later that Christine's father became ill and this meant another move, this time to Toynbee Hall, in London's East End. "This was a brilliant place and I learnt as much there as I've ever learnt anywhere. So you see, my education was quite a hotch-potch, but that was the war. I was very lucky to get the education under the circumstances."

Christine's next move was into the ATS. Throughout her war service she studied art and was stationed at Elstree Studios. This was to be her first contact with the film industry. "We used to eat in the set for the film Jamaica Inn, which I liked the idea of." Christine was offered a job by a member of the educational department at Elstree when the war was over, but, suprisingly perhaps, she didn't follow the offer up. "I ended up in the film industry anyway so I must have been fated it was the way I had to go!" Posted to Didcot, Christine worked with a group of four others, building and touring army exhibitions up and down the country. "I had a very weird war effort, aside from the art training!"

Later Christine worked on the setting up of a de-mob centre at Olympia. "The general we reported to believed that we were not getting enough publicity for our work and decided to stage an outdoor exhibition in a car-park at Croydon!" The team set about building a miniature African village to increase public awareness of the remote jungle activities of this particular section of the British Army.

On leaving the Army, Christine had visions of becoming a commercial artist, but the newspaper industry had not recovered from the war years, and, as was the case with so many industries, jobs were kept open to those who had been on war service. While Christine was away, her parents had become interested in puppetry and had met the owners of a puppet theatre in Chiswick. It was here that the young ATS girl began what was to become a career in a world of miniature people. "It was a professional theatre, although it didn't make much money. But, I realised that there was a lot more to puppetry than I originally thought as my parents were only amateurs. "I stayed with the theatre for two years. The puppets were wonderful. John Bickedyke, the owner of the Ebor Marionettes, as they were called, was a professional sculptor and his wife, Dot, was a brilliant operator. Working with their puppets and staging plays and variety shows was a very, very good training. Dot was one of the best operators at the time."

The next perhaps logical progression for Christine was to start making puppets herself. Watching over her father building his own puppets at home in the evenings, she would often challenge his efforts. One day he decided that he couldn't take any more criticism from his daughter and snapped '0K, if you think you can make them any better — then go ahead!' Christine was soon to prove the better modeller and her father conceded victory. "I made a number of puppets and, rather then leave them hanging on our picturerail, I started staging childrens' shows."

It was through a puppeteer friend, Joy Laurie, that Christine was introduced to Gerry Anderson in the late Fifties. Joy had experience of TV work and whenever she needed extra help, she called on Christine. In 1957, she worked on her first Anderson production Twizzle, the story of the young lad with the extending legs. "The puppets were quite good at the time. But, even though Joy had TV experience, the puppets themselves were made for stage use. When the audience is sitting 40ft away, there is less need for attention to detail. You don't see all the subtleties of carving. There was less attention to detail for close-ups,so they were not that well finished off — they didn't have to be."

Filming took place in a large mansion, now converted into flats, on the flood-threatened banks of the river Thames at Maidenhead. While the studios were located in a large ballroom, the various offices and cutting rooms were located upstairs. One greenhouse formed the workshop, while another formed the scenery store.

Christine took over Joy's role for the next series, Torchy the Battery Boy. Now she was responsible for building the puppets, a process that took place in the garage of her parents' home. "I like to think that these puppets were more advanced than their predecessors. Gradually we were introducing more detail. The heads were better finished, even though they were made from plastic wood and in some cases papier-mache! My father did the basic cutting out of the wood. I finished the heads off and my mother dressed them in the kitchen."

The eyes and lips of the early TV puppets were operated by thumb movement. It was during this series that Gerry Anderson devised the method of using automatic lip-sync and two unimportant characters were made to try this out. Christine recalled with a wicked giggle the search for a suitable material to cover the gap between the lip and the chin of the puppets. "We considered leather to begin with, but then decided that rubber would be ideal, but we couldn't find any thin enough except the obvious choice: condoms!" Her father was despatched on a shopping spree around the chemists of Maidenhead for a big supply of the vital component. But, the idea didn't work. The paint would not adhere to the rubber. So, it was back to the drawing board!

By this time, the TV puppeteers had recognised that they were pioneers in their work. Predecessors like Muffin the Mule were simply stage performances filmed for TV. Now television puppets had arrived. The work of Gerry and his team was quite different in many other ways too. "Gerry is a film man. He thought of everything in film terms. This was the difference. All the feature film techniques, cuts, close-ups were used. We were very conscious of this." Twizzle was the most memorable of the first two Anderson productions for Christine. "Having moved from stage work straight to television, I was so impressed with everything. The volume and quality of the scenery used was amazing. The amount of hardboard that was cut up without too much worry impressed me! The amount of time spent on a shot to someone who is fairly new to the business was quite startling. The fact that you could cover up your mistakes and do it again was a bonus. When you are working in the theatre and you make a mistake, everyone sees it. By the time it came to Torchy, we accepted it all."

Christine and Mary Turner operate on a puppet
Christine and college Mary Turner operate on a puppet from Four Feather Falls

With Gerry's next series, Four Feather Falls, came further technological advances for the puppeteers with the introduction of lip-sync to control the mouth movements and dialogue of each puppet. "This was very good for us puppeteers. It meant that we didn't have to concentrate on the spaces between the dialogue and didn't have to learn the dialogue quite so much. At the expense of the action, we could concentrate more on the puppet movement." Monitors were also introduced for the puppeteers to follow the movements of the characters on strings six feet below them. "After a few days we had got accustomed to the new technique. It was so much easier than peering over the bridge with no view of the puppets' faces. It's much easier to find eyelines this way." Christine is not ashamed to admit to prefering to see the action reversed on the monitor screens, a policy adopted for all future Anderson productions.

The puppeteers had little say in the creation of the individual puppet characters. For the early productions they were presented with drawings by a cartoonist, following a brief from the 'bosses'. Four Feather Falls was primitive but very good in Christine's view. "It had a lot of character. Each episode contained a song, presented differently each time." No Western is complete without a horse or two. Working with a four-legged puppet was a nightmare for the puppeteers. "It was awful. None of them walked properly. It was not easy coping with four legs instead of two. They were very difficult to work, except when Tex Tucker was seen on horseback and the close-up only showed the body of the horse which rocked gently." Christine was undeterred by any competition, such as The Woodentops, at the time. Simply because she didn't own a TV set at the time. "I didn't know what else was on."

The significant move into science fiction delighted Christine. "It was a great thrill to move to fantasy as this is what puppets are good at. They are very good at doing things that humans can't do. Speaking purely as a puppeteer, science fiction seemed a very good choice. It was getting away from stereo-type acting." AP Films' big space adventure began in 1961 with the launch of Supercar. For chief puppeteer Christine Glanville and her growing number of colleagues, the move deeper into the world of fantasy was met with great excitement.

While Gerry Anderson was busy convincing TV mogul Lew Grade that he should take up the new series, there was a period of several months when no work came out of the Slough puppet studios in Ipswich Road. Christine filled her time by travelling to Germany to work on puppet cabaret shows. "I don't have any particularly exciting memories about Supercar, apart from the fact that it was a much bigger series than the one before, Four Feather Falls. Each series was more ambitious than its predecessor and Gerry used to push us, and still does today. He would present a challenge and we simply had to solve it. He is never interested in a negative comment like 'A puppet can't do this or that movement', we just had to find a way. With film this is usually made possible, by cutting around a problem and making use of all the appropriate film techniques".

With Supercar came special effects of a more dramatic nature. Derek Meddings' task was now extended to produce igniting engine jets, together with one or two explosions! "Although special effects was another department, there were times When we got covered in dust and dirt operating the puppets." With Fireball XL5 came a new challenge for the puppeteers. Among the star characters was Robert the Robot, a transparent android, voiced by Anderson himself, that proved a headache for its operators. "'Robert' was impossible to work. The puppet didn't have enough weight or balance to start with and he had a lot of plastic parts, in fact his head was made from a transparent disposable tumbler! The design made the joints difficult to operate and his head would move all over the place. Perhaps it didn't really matter for a robot!" Jet scooters were used extensively in Fireball XL5 to overcome the puppet walk problem. "Sometimes, when the puppets 'walked', they just ambled along too slowly!"

Christine is very fond of the puppets from this series as they were caricatured. "There was all sorts of situations that they got themselves into. One episode portrayed a dream sequence and a circus that the characters became involved with. I'll always remember how nice this was to make. But there was one awful puppet in the cast, a fictitous animal that was Venus' pet. It was really ugly, nothing appealing about it whatsoever." Christine made the puppet of Venus and had to produce several versions, spending many late nights in the workshop. Following a piece of advice from her father, Christine based the head of Venus on one of the bosses. After five weeks of sculpting and resculpting the co-stars' head finally received managment approval!

Titan from Stingray
Titan from Stingray

Christine was also involved in making some of the puppet heads for Anderson's next series Stingray. "I made Atlanta, Titan and his assistant Agent X20 which was based on the actor Claude Raines. I had a young Laurence Olivier in my mind when I made Titan — the eyelids for example. I loved making that character."

Christine remembers spending a particularly long time creating Titan's face, an exercise all the more memorable as it ended in disaster. "The head went through into the wardrobe department to Betty Coleman. As I was coming out, I heard a crash, and I stood there as everyone went silent, they knew a disaster had just occurred." Christine turned back towards the wardrobe department to hear a timid voice call out her name. Betty had dropped the newly finished head of Titan on the floor. His face was cracked, the metal holding the lip pivot in position had broken away, and the small piece of leather under the mouth was cracked. Everyone stood stock still as a speechless Christine, who was not known for raising her voice in anger, pursed her lips and said "It's 0K". She picked up the pieces and headed back to her desk to start all over again.

Christine also enjoyed making Agent X20 as she always liked making the villains. It was associate producer Reg Hill who suggested to her that she base the character's head on Claude Raines, placing particular emphasis on the star's bulging eyes. "Claude Raines was much more attractive than this character though!" Mary Turner produced the heads for Troy Tempest and Marina and John Brown made the head of Troy's side-kick Phones.

Stingray was the first series to be filmed in colour for television. "Gerry has had a lot of 'firsts' you know, and he never gets any credit for it. It's a typical British thing," Christine commented with genuine regret. Using colour gave the puppeteers much more scope with their creations. With no reference to gauge the new technique within the UK, Reg Hill took a test sample of the film to America to test the colours on the US system. In the event the colours were incorrect. The pioneering team had used too many different colours on the sets. Time was spent repainting all the miniature sets. "It was still only a preparation period, so it didn't really matter too much that we'd got it wrong. But we soon got it right".

Stingray was one of Christine's favourite series. "The swimming sequences were lovely and the underwater shots were great to work on. I think it was perhaps because water is a natural element and this gave something to the models and puppets." Rarely were the puppets emersed in water, unless they were bobbing up and down on the surface for close-up shots. The majority of the underwater sequences were filmed through a thin tank expertly lit and filled with small exotic fish. "Making a puppet 'swim' was quite difficult because we did this with a high speed camera to give the feeling of weight." To film, for example, Marina's hair floating in water, the crew positioned a series of fans along the studio floor facing upwards. The puppeteer would then race along the bridge six feet above as fast as possible. The puppet action looked very uneven, but once the film was slowed down, the necessary effect was achieved. The major advancement in puppetry with the Stingray series centred on the much improved finish of the marionettes. Mohair was used for all the puppets' 'hair'. Real hair proved too course for the male characters and less easy to control.

Hot on the heels of Stingray came the blockbuster Thunderbirds, which to Christine and her colleagues at first appeared as just another space fiction series. They were unaware that it was going to turn into one of the TV success stories of the decade. "When we began to make the puppets, we believed they were better than the others had been, but even so we always got enthusiastic about a new project that we were working on. We were very aware that each series had to be bigger and better than the one before and we did try to achieve this. We didn't know that we had a success on our hands, it's the audience that tell you and that's not until you've started work on it, say five episodes in."

Christine Glanville and Wanda Brown on the Paradise Peaks hotel set
Christine and Wanda Brown prepare puppets for a scene in the Paradise Peaks hotel ballroom in the Cham-Cham episode

They were given six months to create the puppets prior to the start of filming. By this time, Century 21 had grown into a large organisation of at least six divisions. Naturally there were more people making puppets too. Mary Turner's assistant was Judith Shutt, and Christine's was initially Yvonne Hunter and later Wanda Brown. John Blundall and John Brown worked alongside ten others in the workshop assembling the bodies. The mechanisms for each puppet head and the hands were made by outside contractors.

Christine beams with pride when she admits to having created the puppet head of Scott Tracy. "By this time, we were looking for more natural faces, getting away from the earlier trend towards caricatures. We turned to film stars and in Scott's case, Sean Connery. It's very difficult to describe a face that has to be created from someone else's description. The only other way is to look at the actors' guide Spotlight and this is what we did." So, famous faces were chosen, not to copy but as types of faces. Sean Connery was the handsome, young hero of the early Sixties and a choice Christine was happy to copy! Alan Tracy was also modelled by Christine. This head was also based on a screen star who made his name in an American legal series. His name temporarily escapes her! Mary Turner made John Tracy, Gordon Tracy and Lady Penelope. John Brown sculpted Virgil Tracy, Jeff Tracy and the Hood, while Parker and Kyrano were created by John Blundall. Christine also made Tin Tin who was given an Eastern look. The Hood's extreme baldness gave more than a few headaches to the puppeteers. If a string broke, the replacement had to be tied off inside his head, and the join on the head had then to be sealed over with Plasticine, smoothed off and painted over. This character was one of the first to be operated from underneath, obviously doing away with the need for strings. It was much later in the production process that the puppeteers got sight of the scripts and were given an indication of what each puppet would wear.

Strange things used to happen to the Thunderbird puppets on some occasions after the studios were closed at night. We didn't always find the puppets hanging up where we had left them the next morning... "Something used to happen and we would find them in very compromising positions. I suspect Desmond Saunders!" she said with a wicked knowing look.

a technician uses a spray can to dull the strings of puppets representing Cliff Richard Jr. and the Shadows sitting on the bonnet of the puppet scale FAB1
a technician dulls the strings during the shooting of the dream sequence in Thunderbirds Are GO!

Actors and actresses were selected for the various characters' voices and the puppet operators would then interpret what they heard from each individual voice. The dream sequence in the first Thunderbirds' film Thunderbirds Are GO! was much another journey deeper into the world of fantasy for Christine. "I remember it took a long time to film the sequence where Cliff and the Shadows were perched on FAB 1 as there were so many puppets in such a confined space. We were positioned on the bridge and a section of the floor had to be taken out leaving us walking about on the girders."

Christine recalls one particular male puppeteer who had a great fancy for the girls. "It had taken an immense length of time to get these puppets in position and stuck down on the shiny vehicle and this chap comes up to the bridge and tickled one of the girls who lept up in the air with a scream!" Everyone looked in consternation as strings snapped around them under the force of the sudden movement and the finely positioned puppets slid off the pink Roller onto the studio floor below. The culprit, needless to say, faced the combined wrath of the entire crew who had seen all their work fall apart before them!

Working long hours, day in day out, conjures up a mental picture of Christine and her colleagues standing with their backs arched, delicately holding the puppets in position on the set below waiting for the action to begin. But this was not always the case. Up on the bridge, the puppeteers used long bits of wood which rested on top of the lip sync wires carrying the current to operate the mouths, to hang the puppets on between shots. Every now and again the atmosphere would become tense on the studio floor. "Very often it would simply depend upon who was directing. If he had a calming influence it was 0K, but if he was tense and getting messages through from the top office like 'You're not shooting fast enough!' he may not have liked that. Very often, if we got tense, we would end up giggling and before long find ourselves in a helpless state on the bridge!"

Even though Thunderbirds was the Big One for the audience, for Christine it was just like any of the earlier shows in production. "We didn't know it was going to be the success it turned out to be. It surprises me still today that it has been such a success. Christine never saw series the first time around. Having worked on the show all week, her weekends would be spent away from a television screen. She's seeing them now for the first time, so what is her verdict? "They're very, very good. Much better than I thought they were!"

set of puppet scale boat in a waterfilled trough surrounded by cameras, lights and personnel with the puppeteers on the bridge above the set
Christine on the puppeteering bridge during the shooting of Attack of the Alligators!

Many of the people who worked on Thunderbirds pinpoint the same episode as one that stood out above the rest – Attack of the Alligators!, where live alligators were used on the set – the first time that Gerry Anderson had mixed puppets with live animals. There are several different stories circulating of the filming of the reptiles that no doubt would make good after-dinner tales if a reunion were ever to take place among the film crew. Christine still laughs today over the problems they had retrieving Lady Penelope's left leg from the mouth of one of the beasts on the set! "It probably had a sore mouth afterwards as it refused to let go of her! The alligators must have had an awful time of it, lying in the studio tank which was filled with all sorts including dirty paint water, oil and soapy water, to make it look swampy."

Christine was not involved with the filming of the second International Rescue film Thunderbird Six as she was busy with a new team of puppet heroes led by Captain Scarlet. The objectives didn't change with the new series from those of any of its predecessors. Techniques in production were to be improved upon wherever possible and Gerry Anderson's own bug-bear, the puppets, didn't escape the process. The most significant change, and probably most apparent to the viewer, was in the size of the puppets' heads and hands. In a bid to make the marionettes more realistic, these features were, for the first time in a Supermarionation production, sculpted in scale with the rest of the puppets' bodies.

Christine was responsible for making the five glamorous female fighter pilot puppets the Angels. "I particularly remember making Destiny Angel and based her appearance on Ursula Andress. Another was based on the famous model Jean Shrimpton." Fellow puppeteer Mary Turner created the puppet of the show's star Captain Scarlet and sculptor Terry Curtis made Captain Blue.

Christine Glanville adjusts a fixed puppet dressed in a military uniform
Christine positions a puppet for the Spectrum Strikes Back episode of the Captain Scarlet series

Operating puppets with smaller and lighter heads was not easy for the puppeteers perched 6ft above on the specially made bridge. "Gerry always wanted to make live action films and he thought that making the puppets more and more life-like would achieve his goal," says Christine. The puppets' mouth mechanisms were now smaller and governed the size of the head. Even so, the solenoid had to be located in the body which, in turn, made it heavier than the head. Trying to turn the puppet heads was no easy task. As they were so light, they were unable to swing round under their own momentum. "We couldn't turn, or in fact animate them at all well. If you look at a photograph of the figures on the set, they look very good, as they did in Joe 90 too. You have to look closely to see if they are real or not as the proportions are so accurate. But they didn't work like people, they still worked like puppets. To get the puppets to turn their heads, more often than not in a close up, a member of the team would stand just out of shot with their fingers just above the puppet head twisting the wires to get the head to turn round. To add to the challenge, as the wires were 'live', the floor puppeteer with this task would insulate the head wires with gaffer tape to prevent themselves from being electrocuted! We just couldn't get the heads to turn with that length of string. They had their problems," she added, staring at the floor.

Another change in the operation of the puppets, first introduced in Thunderbirds, was more widely used in this series. This involved working them, literally by hand, glove puppet-style, from beneath the set, thereby doing away with the strings. "I had this idea of having them worked this way as there was always the difficulty of hiding a hole in the top of an aircraft canopy from the camera. So I suggested the puppeteers work from underneath and the reply came 'Don't be ridiculous, it's a silly idea! We've never done it that way before, etc, etc'. So in the end I took a puppet head and staged a crude mock-up, placing it in a cockpit. A camera was turned on in the hope that Gerry would see it on the monitor in his office." The ploy worked and the new technique was put into regular practice in scenes involving puppets in vehicles. "We then found that we could get much more interesting angles on the craft," she added. "Gerry is always very good at getting something new and different, but regarding this technique, it was something that some of us at Century 21 had known about previously as we were familiar with operating marionettes, which were fashionable at the time."

From Captain Scarlet, Christine went on to work on the next series Joe 90. "By this time, the puppets were only assembled in the workshop, but we didn't do any of the modelling because it had become so high-powered that they didn't have time for a preparation period. In this series we had just the self same problems that we had with Captain Scarlet. Joe himself was particularly bad because he was so small, a tiny figure."In none of the puppet productions was any puppeteer singled out to operate specific puppets. "I don't know why," recounts Christine. "The puppets would be brought across the stage to the puppeteers on the bridge on a long prodder and whichever puppeteer happened to be the first one in line would take it and set down in readiness for rehearsals to begin."

Christine has very special memories of the final Supermarionation series The Secret Service. The puppet character of the housekeeper, Mrs. Appleby was based upon the exact appearance of her own mother. Today, a photograph of the puppet sits on large glass shelf in her lounge.

With the last of the puppet series completed in 1968, Christine found her eleven year run with AP Films and Century 21 Productions had come abruptly to an end. "I have always been a pessimist and at the end of each series I thought 'Well, this is it, no more work!' so I accepted this. I did feel a sense of relief though, because it had been a long period, like working in a factory, albeit a fantasy factory and I felt after such a long time that it would be quite nice to do do my own thing and create some characters of my own."

It took Christine a year to get back in business again, this time with Century 21 puppeteer Rowena White. Together they worked for a year on a touring puppet show, Aladdin. "It was really hard work and we thought that if we could work so hard for someone else for so little money, that we'd be better off working for ourselves." Christine and Rowena were joined by puppeteer David Ross to form their own company called Stage Three. By this time, Mary Turner and John Read had formed their own film company, Cinemation, and Christine, Rowena and David joined them to work on a Rupert the Bear TV show, followed by The Munch Bunch and later the pilot film for another show, Space Pirates. Stage Three toured UK theatres with a stage version of Rupert the Bear and were on the road for around ten years. It was now the early Eighties and Gerry was starting work on the production of Terrahawks. "By this time, I was fed-up with touring and was very glad when Gerry asked me to join the team on his new series."

In the intervening years, when Anderson was missing from our screens, several new puppet programmes such as Jim Henson's The Muppets Show had become established household names. "They had a lot of character and were very lively puppets and, of course, they were worked from underneath," says Christine. "I think Gerry felt he couldn't go back to the rather stilted, quiet, marionette-style of puppetry."

Terrahawks took the same route, with the puppet characters being operated from underneath in a 15ft square pit specially prepared under the intricate sets. "This was the beginning of a different style of puppetry for us. We weren't trying to follow Jim Henson, I hasten to say, but he had introduced something different and that was moveable faces. Rubber had become the in-thing" Christine continues. "And also, if you are working a puppet from underneath, you have a lot more control over it." As the series progressed, the stories improved in quality and the puppets' characters developed more humour. "The revamp puppets made towards the end by Richard Gregory were really excellent. We learnt a lot during the course of that series," she reflects.

Characterisation became more important with Terrahawks as the puppeteers were able to add an extra dimension themselves, by moving their hands inside the rubbery heads and controlling their features. "We each had our own characters. So, I had the puppet Mary Falconer, which was a hard one to work as the mouth was too small, making it difficult to open. Jan King operated Tiger Ninestein and Zelda's sister Cystar. Tina Werts had Zelda, Stew Apples and Lieutenant Hiro." Christine also had Yungstar, son of Zelda, who was her favourite to work. But she was faced with a dilemma. How would she make the legless character walk? Her solution was to give him a limp. "Whenever I worked him, I limped myself to get the hesitation in his walk. In fact, I did this with all the puppet walks, lame or otherwise! "He was a loveable rogue, not a baddy as his intentions were good. He was under the influence of his mother."

A planned second series of Terrahawks did not materialise, which came as a great shock to the team. "It took us weeks to get over it," remembers Christine. "We certainly weren't expecting it." Today, Christine is quick to criticise those who 'Terrahawks wasn't a patch on Thunderbirds'. "Terrahawks was the same quality as say, Fireball XL5. Had we been able to go on, I think Terrahawks would have surpassed Thunderbirds. I think the pilot for Space Police was technically a great improvement on Terrahawks".

Christine recalls that, in conversations with her fellow puppeteers, the word 'if' would appear again and again, and it still does today!. "If Gerry does another series and if I am lucky enough to work on it, if we were to use everything that we have learnt, right from the very beginning, using every sort of puppetry that there is, then there's no stopping him. It's just a matter of convincing the people who have the money. "He did this with the Dire Straits pop video, using puppets and stop motion. If he used both of these techniques and glove puppetry, then there's no knowing what can be achieved."

a character from the Space Police series surrounded by Christine Glanville and two others
Christine prepares a scene for the pilot episode of Space Police

In 1985, Christine returned to Bray Studios near Windsor to work on the pilot of Space Police. "Gerry's theory, which in my view, by and large worked, was for the people who played the furry characters to operate the puppets of the same characters. Any characterisations were then consistent. My figure was Tom, a fat furry cop. I was very worried about it because, as a female playing a male role, I was worried about making him too camp!" she laughs. "I'm not an actress, in fact, none of us were. At least Tina was playing a female character!" A drama teacher coached the puppeteers in the necessary skills. Christine then studied actor Shane Rimmer's every move around the studio during rehearsals, in the hope that she might pick up a few tips from a professional. "Nobody laughed when they saw the rushes with Shane Rimmer, but when they saw me playing Tom everybody laughed and clapped! I was only copying Shane's movements," she says jovially.

A few years later, when Gerry Anderson was invited to join The Moving Picture Company as a director, Christine found herself working with him again on a number of TV commercials, including two for Swinton Insurance, featuring the return of Lady Penelope and Parker to our screens. This was followed soon afterwards by the Dire Straits pop video Calling Elvis. For the second time in her career, Christine was working with pop star puppets. The first time was in the film Thunderbirds Are GO! in which Cliff Richard and The Shadows appeared in a dream sequence. On neither occasion did she meet any of the real stars, although she nearly met Cliff back in the Sixties. "There was going to be a reception with sandwiches and wine after the shoot and Cliff was there," she recalls. "We went along only to find out that we weren't invited! The group was brought onto the stage where the puppets were hanging and all the puppeteers were in their finery, but none of them were asked through to the reception. We were cross at the time!" she laughs.

Christine Glanville in front of the newly constructed Tracy villa lounge set
Christine with one of the most popular attractions at the Thunderbird Exhibition at Wolverhampton; this formed the first reuniting of the Tracy brothers since the series was made back in the 60s

Recently, Christine has been busy assisting with the grand reunion of the Tracy family at the unique Worlds of Gerry Anderson exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and, prior to that the appearance of Lady Penelope, Parker, Brains and Jeff Tracy during the 26-venue talk series, An Evening with Gerry Anderson performed by Gerry around Britain and Wales. Wherever the International Rescue characters appear in public today, Christine is usually there, making sure they are looking immaculate for their audience, young and old. And her diary doesn't appear to be easing up. Recently, she accompanied Lady Penelope on two visits to the BBC TV Blue Peter studios, then they visited a young patient in Southampton General Hospital, and a few weeks later they were special guests at a rose show in Windsor. Oh, and then there's the story of the re-discovery of Virgil Tracy... And so it goes on, all going to show that she was, and is, one of the most loyal and hard-working members of Gerry Anderson's team.

So what if Gerry were to knock on her door with news that Thunderbirds, or anything else, were go? "It would be wonderful, absolutely wonderful!" she says with glee.

article originally appeared in Century 21 magazine #8, 9 & 10