It’s not the same without you. We really miss your comments. :-( In the meantime we’ve been forced to ponder an even more profound question: what happens when a strain of fandom simply dies out?
Imagine the death of a language…or a tribe or species. An entire mode of thought, a way of life, a strand of DNA…gone forever. Such was the idea that came over us yesterday when we were desperately Googling to find a picture of the Thunderbirds.
Thunderbirds are Go. You know, the wacky puppets. JEFF TRACY AND HIS FIVE SONS. According to Wikipedia:
Set in the 21st century … the show depicts the adventures of the Tracy family, which consists of millionaire former astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons: Scott (pilot of Thunderbird 1 and principal rescue co-ordinator), Virgil (pilot of Thunderbird 2), Alan (astronaut in Thunderbird 3), Gordon (aquanaut in Thunderbird 4) and John (principal duty astronaut on the space station Thunderbird 5) – each named after a Mercury astronaut – Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper and John Glenn, respectively. Together with Jeff’s elderly mother called Grandma, the scientific genius and engineer “Brains”, the family’s manservant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin, the Tracy family live on a remote, uncharted Pacific island. They are, in secret, the members of International Rescue, a private and highly-advanced emergency response organisation, which covers the globe and even reaches into space, rescuing people with their futuristic vehicles, the Thunderbirds.
Thunderbirds was an example of “supermarionation” — a technique pioneered by producer Gerry Anderson, which meant shooting puppets in front of miniatures. Anderson and wife Sylvia would go on to make CAPTAIN SCARLET and the “live” action : 1999 (above) which substituted Martin Landau and Barbara Bain for puppets in a very convincing fashion.
The spirit of the Thunderbirds lives on with music like The Go Team and perhaps even The Klaxons, but it’s actually the vehicles from Thunderbirds which are most admired by nerds — the models were very detailed and the curvy shapes seem to have a kind of timeless appeal to toy techies. We are old enough to have seen the show during its actual tv airings: the stilted puppets and resulting British boy’s own adventure aura was a bit off putting, but we were both disturbed and attracted by the freaky big eyed puppets. It was never a favorite like SPEED RACER, but it had its moment.
So yesterday, there we are trying to find a picture of the THUNDERBIRDS to illustrate our “tech team” post because nothing says “tech team” like Thunderbirds — TEAM AMERICA was a full-on take off on supermarionation and that “America Fuck Yeah” vibe is very much part of the original, which, coupled with these awkward dorky looking puppets just says…humor.
So there we are. It’s the internet. We’re used to finding what we want within about ten search results. But a Google image search turns up lots of pictures of aeroplanes and some stills from the horrible live action Thunderbirds movie…but very very little from the show.
Now this is odd. Normally anything even vaguely Nerd-centric, the internet is all over. Nerd knowledge is in very real danger of overcoming actual knowledge. For the nerd proof of this check out the article Wikigroaning on somethingawful.com which compares the entries on say, “lizards” with the one on “dragons” and finds out which Wikiers are more interested in. A more scholarly variation of this can be found here: What is Popular on Wikipedia and Why? Or put it this way: the average Radiohead album gets as much analysis on Wikipedia as something like, say, the Yalta conferenceand way more than the SALT Treaty. So sci-fi puppets, a slam dunk, yes?
But as we’re searching, the Thunderbirds are proving to be…obscure. The top-ranked pages are hosted on Geocities, a sure sign of cobwebsites, and link after link comes up dead. We’re looking at ancient pages in futura bold with that starry background. It’s like we took a step back in time to 1997 when fanatics were just coming out of the woodwork and enshrining their obsessions for the very first time.
Maybe we just weren’t looking in the right place, but it was like the whole race of Thunderbirds fans had…died out. Like the Shakers or something. It was scary! Were there no DVDs? No revivals?
Or perhaps even more sinisterly…are Thunderbirds fans just not internet savvy? Could that even be possible????
Perhaps they were all rendered sterile in some kind of radioactive explosion??? Or was the show just unavilable on DVD? But…NO! There’s a 12-dvd complete set available. That isn’t the answer. So why? WHY?
WHY ARE THE THUNDERBIRDS DYING OUT ON THE INTERNET????
Maybe it’s just because the show is old. Or perhaps….it is an evolutionary dead end, an appendix, a Neanderthal, a Commodore 64. Perhaps there is something that the vast hive mind of the Internet is just not interested in despite its nerdy basis. Perhaps… not… all… knowledge… is… equal.
Maybe that thing is…puppets. When did The Go Team last put out an album, anyway?
We don’t know.
But we are frightened.