David Sisson is well known in fan circles as “that bloke that makes the amazing Gerry Anderson replica props!”. Want to know what inspired David and how he started? Well here’s his guest blog. All images featured below are David’s replicas – NOT the originals.
“In the 1960s, when I was very young, television was rather more limited than the multi-channel, instant recording, big-flatscreen colour experience that I have become so use to today. There were only a couple of channels, and Black & White screens, but living in the Midlands with ATV television I did have a constant supply of Gerry Anderson programs to entertain me.
Most of the ‘kids shows’ at the time were simple cartoons which have never been of great interest to me, especially when some were so cheap that they couldn’t even animate anything, but simply resorted to moving cut-out drawings!
If the programs were made with real actors then they were usually actors that didn’t seem to be taking it very seriously whilst they stood in small cheap sets that looked like they were made from cardboard, and poor cardboard at that.
The other great idea from TV bosses is to make shows that feature child actors, because all children want to watch other children having fun – well actually no I didn’t. I wanted to watch real proper action heroes having serious adventures, with lots of real explosions, so it was a great thrill to discover programs like ‘Fireball XL5’, ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’.
These shows stood head-and-shoulders above every other program being made (although run close by several Irwin Allen fantasies) because they starred ‘proper’ serious actors, who always looked the part, had great outfits, and gave totally convincing performances – and somehow I never really seemed to notice that they weren’t real. In fact whenever I try thinking back to my childhood I can never remember actually thinking of them as puppets, but just as Steve, Troy, Virgil, Scott, Brains and of course the main man, Paul ‘Captain Scarlet’ Metcalfe.
Of course normally when you are a child you will only enjoy something for a short while, have the toys, stick posters on the wall, tell your parents it’s your favourite ever but then completely forget about it a year latter in favour of something new. As I grew up I left many childhood favourites behind, with many of my top toys ending up in the dustbin, but it was always very hard to grow out of Gerry Anderson programs because he too was growing as a television producer.
Had he simply churned out ‘Fireball’ type programs year-on-year I would probably have lost interest, but every so often an even better program would appear meaning that I was hooked all over again. As my expectations increased he delivered more, better looking characters, better stories, better vehicles, and better explosions! In fact it started to look so real that I do remember thinking that ‘Captain Scarlet’ was actually the type of show that my parents occasionally let me stay up late at night to watch, but luckily for me it was being shown during the early kids viewing slot!
Eventually of course I did start to get more interested in other television shows but then he hit us with ‘UFO’, a program that I remember describing to my Mum as ‘The most amazing’ program that I had ever seen in my life. She wasn’t too bothered by this grand announcement but she did mention a few years later that another of those ‘space-type-things’ was going to be on later in the week.
That night finally came and ‘Space: 1999’ appeared and blew my young teenage mind away, by the second commercial break I was already telling her that this was ‘The greatest’ television show I had ever seen in my life!
Again she didn’t seem too bothered by this and I simply got a ‘that’s nice, glad you like it’ reply, but she should have been more worried because what she didn’t realise was that her son had just been infected – infected by Sci-Fi, and thanks to Gerry Anderson my life would not be the same again.
I was now instilled with the lifetime desire to build Eagle Transporters, together of course with the nagging urge to wear a costume, as I turned from a normal person into a Sci-Fi Fan.
From that night on I started to build spaceships and immediately tried to build an Eagle from Balsa wood, with sadly disappointing results. Still it did look slightly better than the Dinky toy, which for some insane reason was painted Green!
More disappointment followed later when Airfix released the plastic model kit – a box that contained possibly the most inaccurate kit in all of human history – where not a single piece was actually the right shape or size!
Years later I would realise just how bad it was when I saw the original studio models on display in London, and just stood drooling over them for hours. Amazed by the quality I vowed to build myself a copy of the big Eagle model, but as I had no idea just how to do this I decided to practise by building some easier Thunderbird models instead, then Terrahawk models and Captain Scarlet models, and so it has continued to this day.
Happily years of experience have now left me with the ability to recreate many of the amazing Gerry Anderson vehicles to a pretty decent standard, and people often have the tendency to believe they are the real things. One of my greatest thrills was when Gerry himself asked to borrow a model for a Thunderbirds television advert, promising that he would look after it. My reply was ‘You can blow it up if you like Mr Anderson!’ because I felt that it would be an honour to have him destroy it on film!
I did of course finally build myself that promised Eagle copy but I was never completely satisfied with it, however on my 40th birthday I was able to swap many of my scratchbuilt creations for the original Eagle studio model, and so 27-years of effort finally paid off – I guess that you can realise a dream!”
You can see more of David Sisson’s replica Gerry Anderson props at his website.