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Growing up with UFO!

Okay, so it's not "growing up with UFOs", more like the UFO TV series of 1970... but if you're happy with my nostalgic ramblings about the old live-action Gerry Anderson series, read on...

Those of a certain age might well experience melancholic thoughts of watching intricate models explode when the shows Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Joe 90 are mentioned in conversation. However, these were primarily puppet-based shows and therefore realism gave way to something approaching Punch & Judy shows at the end of the pier, even though the storylines weren't exactly always fit for kids. Death and destruction were at the heart of most shows, but personally, what freaked me out as a child were the oversized puppet heads that dominated Fireball XL-5, Stingray and Thunderbirds. That, and the dancing walks induced by the puppeteers, probably scarred me for life somehow. I was much fonder of Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, because the characters' heads were in proportion - and therefore it was easier to suspend disbelief and pretend they were human.

The live-action UFO series (two seasons beginning in 1970) sat much better with this kid plonked in front of the family's first-ever colour TV set. The hardware shown on screen - tracked vehicles, sub-launched aircraft and Moon-based interceptors - seemed more "real" and plausible (although the Moonbase interceptors looked a lot more streamlined than they'd need to be in outer space!). The enemy - the UFOs - looked the part with their glittering, spinning, alien-ness, and that sound - I can hear it in my head straight away when I think about it.

The modelmakers had gone as far as to make the hardware looked "used", but not neglected. No pristine looking starships made of white armourcrete here. Everything was suitably weathered.

Whilst some of the storylines seemed a tad on the hokey side, most were decent enough, with a good mixture of live-action performances mixed with modelwork, action and explosions. Some of the characters had very little to do (hello, Ayshea!) apart from pushing buttons and relaying messages, but there were always lots of folk wandering around the nerve centre of Earth's defences against the UFO menace - situated, believe it or no, underneath an office block in London which housed a film studio company.

Both seasons appear to be available on YouTube, and I'd recommend checking out some of the episodes for their sheer inventiveness. Just not the first one. It's pretty dull, too much live-action and not nearly enough things blowing up...

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