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1001 Thunderbirds
Added on 20th August 2020

Directors Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
First shown 1965, AP Films, UK

'Thunderbirds are go!' The rallying cry of many children's adventure games in the 1960s and 70s.


Thunderbirds is a British science-fiction television series filmed with electronic puppets, a process known as ‘supermarionation’. Set in 2065, it features International Rescue, a top secret life-saving organisation run by ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy.

Operating from a South Pacific island, International Rescue sends supersonic aircraft and high tech vehicles to avert disasters and foil evil plots. The Thunderbirds are piloted by Tracy’s 5 sons – Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan – supported by engineer Brains, London agent Lady Penelope, and her wily butler, Parker.

Why we chose it

Thunderbirds is ranked high among the greatest children’s television shows of all time. Every episode begins with someone in mortal danger, requiring a daring and ingenious rescue full of action and suspense.

With its gripping storylines, lavish sets and convincing explosions, Thunderbirds took puppet shows to a new level. The opening count-down of the Thunderbirds preparing for take-off is hailed as one of the best title sequences and has inspired many imitations.

Set in a glamorous 1960s version of the future, Thunderbirds is dated yet still fun to watch. Many of its exciting inventions are now reality, but Thunderbirds are still go!

Where it came from

Writer and director Gerry Anderson was inspired by memories of his time in the RAF and named the Tracy brothers after famous astronauts. His wife Sylvia Anderson developed characters and costumes and voiced Lady Penelope.

Where it went next

32 fifty-minute episodes were filmed on a trading estate in Slough between 1964 and 1966. These were broadcast in 66 countries and are still being repeated. Despite its critical and commercial success the series was cancelled because it did not sell in the USA.

Thunderbirds appear in films, books, comics, a Japanese anime series, a new CGI series and as over 3,000 products.

Associated stories

Other Anderson classics include Supercar, Stingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Added on 20th August 2020

Directors Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
First shown 1965, AP Films, UK