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The Complete Book of Thunderbirds by Chris Bentley

01/01/2011. Contributed by Neale Monks

Buy The Complete Book Of "Thunderbirds" in the USA - or Buy The Complete Book Of "Thunderbirds" in the UK

author pic

pub: Carlton. 127 page illustrated hardback. Price GBP 16.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-84442-454-5.

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For a show made more than forty years ago, 'Thunderbirds' remains remarkably popular. Like 'Doctor Who', it has carved out its own niche in British culture that goes beyond simply being a cult classic and it’s that broad market of adults and children that 'The Complete Book Of "Thunderbirds"' aims to please. For all practical purposes it's the official guide to the show, written by Chris Bentley, chairman of the Official Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society and with a foreword by 'Thunderbirds' co-creator, Gerry Anderson.

The book is divided into five sections, the first covering the nuts-and-bolts side of how the show was produced, from the original pitch through to the model-making and special effects. Though modern CGI technology makes Thunderbirds-style shows easy to make, back in the sixties the show was cutting edge and much of its charm relies on the truly beautiful models and miniature landscapes.

The second chapter looks at the fictional universe that 'Thunderbirds' inhabits, with in-depth reviews of the characters and the all-important International Rescue vehicles. Next up is the episode guide, including summaries, screenshots, voice cast lists and production data. The fourth chapter looks at the spin-off materials of the time, primarily comics, books and LPs.

In chapter five, Bentley takes the story forward, looking at how a TV show that ran for just two seasons went on to spawn live-action shows and cartoons, as well as countless toys and models, most notoriously perhaps, the Tracy Island playset featured on 'Blue Peter'. For good or for bad, the text ends just before the production of the 2004 'Thunderbirds' film, a film that was almost universally panned by critics.

Production values are very high and Carlton has done a great job presenting screenshots from the episodes themselves alongside behind-the-scenes photos, magazine covers and all the other bits of artwork. Bentley writes well and while there's a certain breathless adoration to the text at times, that's not entirely out of place given the affectionate tone he's clearly aiming for. On the other hand, the role of Sylvia Anderson is somewhat marginalised, despite the fact she was very largely the creator of the Lady Penelope character as well as one of the show's producers. It would also have been nice to have seen some more material on the popular and now highly collectible toys marketed alongside the show, such as the Dinky die-cast models.

Still, these are minor complaints and overall this is a great gift book, beautifully produced and filled with interesting information. Highly recommended.

Neale Monks

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This book has 72 votes in the sci-fi charts

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