Many of the shows Gerry Anderson produced featured extremely imaginative visions of the future, buildings, vehicles, etc. Some of these, such as the Thunderbirds have gone on to become important icons of Sci-fi and even British culture. It’s hard to imagine that these things started out as just a concept on a sketch on a page.
In fact, it’s more than likely that the finished product is quite different from what they started with. At one point Fireball Xl5 was blue, TB3 had nose fins and Battlehawk had more curves than a tangled slinky.
Sadly very few of these original concepts survive as they where often discarded or used as set dressing. I have however picked 3 and I’ve attempted to bring them into context while trying to be as faithful to the original drawings as I can. Hopefully this will provide a look into an alternate universe where things turned out a little differently.
Or as it was known at this stage “Rescue 2” (Thunderbirds didn’t gain it’s title until later in the production). Unfortunately none of the original concepts for the Thunderbirds survive except for the final pass on TB3 (though TB1 and TB4 are visible in Brain’s lab in “Sunprobe”). This image was based on a sketch by Derek Meddings in the 90s, in an attempt to recreate his original concept and show how Thunderbird 2 started to take shape.
What stands out here is a far less fantastical design with fairly rudimentary turbine engines and a normal tail plane. The nose gave me the vibe that it was inspired by the “Hercules”, a Transport aircraft the RAF where using at the time, so that formed the basis for the detail on this picture.
I don’t think there will be any arguments to which is the more liked design, but it goes to show everything starts somewhere.
Another Derek Meddings design, this is one of several designs featured in Derek’s “21st Century Visions” book. Not too far removed from what we ended up with, but quite notable is the forward swept tail fin (similar to the Spectrum Jet’s) and the larger front intakes. The wings are also straight suggesting the possibility that they bend for landing like the final version.
This design really makes me think “Joe 90” probably as so many guest craft used the Angel cockpit on that show.
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Here’s one for Eagle fans. Legendary concept artist Chris Foss (Alien, Jodorowsky’s Dune) was one of the artists that provided concepts for Space 1999 and is generally considered one of the co-designers of the Eagle.
At this stage it was called the M.T.U (Modular Transport Unit) and Moonbase Alpha was “Moon City”. Presumably this was for an early piece of marketing art and quite possibly was based on the plans for the design at that stage.
This one really grew on me while I was working on it. There’s something about the orange nose piece that is so reminiscent of Chris Foss’s other work. Unfortunately the back is obscured by an astronaut in the painting, so I used a little creative license. Another Chris Foss picture of the Eagle, (looking a lot more recognisable) showed it with 3 Engines in a straight line, so I went for that.
Needless to say, this is only a small selection of 3 concepts – many more are out there. What Gerry Anderson concept designs would you like to see brought to life?
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