Amazon Review “The Protectors”

(I make no secret of the fact that I am a fan of Sir Gerry Anderson’s work, both live-action shows like UFO and the Supermarionation programs like Thunderbirds.  The following is a piece I wrote for Amazon reviewing one of his lesser-known productions)

We don’t go out to eat often but when we do there is always a lively discussion involving restaurants and menu selections. My Beautiful Saxon Princess is a gourmet, savors her meals and is quick to try new tastes. To me food is fuel and I’m not one to experiment –when I acquire a taste for something like a cheeseburger I’ll order it quite often and feel no need to change.

It’s a similar situation with The Protectors, a Gerry Anderson production that offered neither marionettes nor nubile young women wearing purple wigs and silver suits seemingly applied with spray paint – it’s definitely an acquired taste. Starring Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter and Tony Anholt, The Protectors is one of that vanished breed of television programs that the British did so well: The half-hour action adventure series. It ran from 1971 to 1973 and  chronicled the activities of a loose network of agents that travelled across Europe fighting crime, defeating terrorism and generally being twentieth century Lone Rangers.

With only 22 minutes to work with there wasn’t much time for character development, though we did know that Harry Rule (Robert Vaughn) still cared very much for his ex-wife, Nyree Dawn Porter’s Contessa enjoyed the privileged life of widowed nobility but also held a very subtle candle for Harry Rule, and Tony Anholt managed to show loyalty and likeability though the façade of Paul Bouchet’s Gallic pride. Despite their brevity the stories were engaging , with occasional innovations in plot and camera work that were pioneering for early Seventies. For example the  pilot episode involved sky-diving but there were some interesting shots made via car mirrors that focused your attention in a very effective albeit low-tech manner.

If I had a complaint it would be budget. Sir Gerry wasn’t given much to work with and money was cut even further with the second series, causing the loss of the strength and wit of the Contessa’s chauffer Chino (played by Anderson regular Anthony Chinn).  Directors were also careful with location shooting, limiting Continental segments to Copenhagen, Paris, Venice, Malta or coastal Spain. At  each of these locations the crew would film exterior footage for several episodes then they would fly back to London for interior filming and editing. To the producers’ credit they spaced the shows out avoiding back-to-back adventures in the same city, but on a rainy day you can zip through your DVDs and piece together what was shot when. I particularly enjoyed the location shots as they let me see the real Europe rather than an idealized version as portrayed in shows like The Avengers that were tailored to appeal to what Americans thought the UK was like rather than how it really was.

So now we’re down  to my regular closing question: Does The Protectors consist of the finest visual literature?

No.

Is it fun?

That would be a resounding, echoing “YES” – but a qualified “yes”. The Protectors might not be everyone’s favorite, but if you have an appreciation for well-written short form video, a desire to see an honest glimpse of Europe forty years ago, or have a hankering to hear Robert Vaughn  deliver dialog in the way only he could, then The Protectors is the cheeseburger for you.

(Episodes of The Protectors are available from Amazon in both DVD and streaming format. YouTube clips are pretty sparse but I managed to find one episode – not my particular favorite of the lot but enough to give you an idea of what the series is like.)

Steve Zodiac w/ Thruster Pack

2017-08-04 XL5 Thruster Pack

My latest effort at re-designing Fireball XL5 involves the Thruster Packs used for either EVA outside of the ship or movement around a planetary surface.

Clunky technology is one of reasons I love Gerry Anderson’s work. The shows have vehicles and equipment that look futuristic but are in fact usually manifestations of a mature (dead-end) technology that will be tossed aside when the Next New Thing comes along. Think 8-track tape players or RCA Selectavision. The Hawker Hurricane vs. the Spitfire. – the  sort of thing I’ve referred to as “technodork” in other writings.

The search for a functional reason for those pointy-shouldered uniforms has bedeviled me since  1963 but other than aesthetics their main value was ease of construction and tailoring.   I left the pointy shoulders off the regular duty uniforms but incorporated them into the thruster pack design as a multifunctional breastplate of sorts  with concealed  mounts for accessories, mounting brackets for  propulsion units and foldable wings for fuel economy . It also provides  measure of protection while looking suitably “outer space-y” with the pointy shoulder features.

…now if I can just figure out how to make those “oxygen pills” work.

The Triads

2017-08-02 The Triads

No, this has nothing to do with Chinese street gangs. It’s the name of an episode of FIREBALL XL5, a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation production  that was my favorite TV show when I was in fifth grade. One of my more self-indulgent pastimes has been a re-design of the visual aspects of the show – this image depicting  a scene from The Triads, an adventure set on a world where everyone and everything is three times larger than their counterparts on Earth.

Strictly speaking the alien that Venus is trying to avoid is much larger than 3X normal, but the drama involved with this huge hand groping for our beautiful doctor of space medicine was just too good to pass up.