Sanjeev Bhaskar on becoming the first new Thunderbirds puppet in 50 years

“Lady Penelope was a bit out of my league but I think I had a crush on Tin Tin. She was Asian in the broader sense”

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You never really grow out of Thunderbirds. It’s a generational thing, passed down from grandparents to parents to children. That’s why, even as ITV shows the CGI remake Thunderbirds are Go, enthusiasts have funded three new episodes produced in the original ‘look you can see the strings’ style. 

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Of course, new episodes mean new characters, which mean new puppets. Comedian and fan Sanjeev Bhaskar was lucky enough to be outfitted for his own supermarionnette, and answered a few questions about it for RadioTimes.com

Were you a fan of Thunderbirds growing up?

I was a huge fan. I had a models of TB1, TB2 and Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce… although all were broken by evil visiting kids.  

Did you have a crush on Lady Penelope?

Lady Penelope was a bit out of my league but I think I had a crush on Tin Tin.  She was Asian in the broader sense.

Did you have to model for your puppet?

I believe the model was made from referencing photographs.  Some would say it’s an improvement! I’ve been struck as to the similarities with Scott Tracy. The dimples probably.

There was a history of modelling puppets on actors and Ive been told that it’s the first new Thunderbirds puppet to be made in 50 years, so that is a massive honour.

Tell me about your character

I can’t say too much about the character but I can say that he is a contact of Lady Penelope’s, so is on the side of International Rescue. I’m not sure my puppet wears the IR uniform in the show but it was certainly exciting to see a picture of him in one.  

Why make new ‘old’ episodes when Thunderbirds Are Go has just been launched?

I’ve voiced a guest character in Thunderbirds Are Go and I think the new series is fun and appeals to a new generation. The original series is the touchstone for older viewers like myself, but I showed an episode to my 10 year old who loved it. 

Does the original still appeal?

I think it still appeals for a number of reasons. As puppets and models, everything is three dimensional, so you have natural perspective in every shot, which makes the world feel totally organic. Also one can see the craftsmanship that has gone into every shot, from the models, to the landscapes, to the puppets and their attire. Also, the explosions are real. That’s real fire etc. 

Do any elements of the show feel outdated?

There is an innocence about the old shows. And it’s certainly weird in this day and age to see all of them smoking! In these new/old episodes, the voices were done by a very small team, so some of the accents and characterisations are certainly ‘of their time’. But I read that as innocence and not mocking.

Finally and most importantly… Thunderbird 1 or Thunderbird 2?

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Thunderbird 1 when I was very young and Thunderbird 2 after I’d matured a bit. All those pods. I could imagine some of them had shops and perhaps a mobile disco.