Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sylvia Anderson and Lady Penelope

Lady Penelope and cigarette
(probably not a Woodbine)
Sad to hear that Sylvia Anderson has died at the age of 88. Like many people my age, I loved the various TV series in Supermarionation (i.e. posh puppetry) that she and her husband Gerry produced for us in the 60s. My favourite was, perhaps predictably, Thunderbirds.

Thunderbirds included the posh, elegant and beautiful London agent of International Rescue, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, whose appearance was based on Sylvia herself (although that wasn't her idea); she also devised the character's personality and provided the voice.

When not defeating the baddies helped by her loyal chauffeur Parker, Lady Penelope could sometimes be seen smoking a cigarette in a long holder, which would have been viewed as a sign of sophistication at the time. Imagine if one of the heroes of a modern children's TV show was shown smoking: the knee-jerk, shocked reactions about the irresponsibility of sending all the wrong messages to impressionable young people, along with demands that the producer be sacked.

Sylvia was justifiably proud of the Lady Penelope character because, unusually for the time, she wasn't a wife or girlfriend tagging along behind the square-jawed hero; she was a leading character herself, a valued part of the IR team, and a good example for the girls who were watching. Although Sylvia has gone, we'll still have Lady Penelope for a long time to come, partly because her date of birth is 24 December 2039, and partly because Sylvia's creation was so memorable.

Here is the Thunderbirds theme tune, which for my money is among the best of TV themes, played extremely well by the Band of the Royal Marines. I do like hearing it; perhaps it takes me back to more innocent (and pre-beer) times.


  1. Agreed. It may be an age thing, but I always thought Thunderbirds was the cream of the crop from the Anderson stable.

  2. Very pleasant and engaging conversationalist. Met her on several occasions and she was uncannily like her puppet. Or I suppose, to be more accurate, the puppet was very like her.


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