Thunderbirds co-creator Sylvia Anderson dies

Anderson, who was also the voice of Lady Penelope, passed away after a short illness

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Thunderbirds co-creator Sylvia Anderson has died aged 88.

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The writer and producer, who was also the voice of iconic Thunderbirds character Lady Penelope, has passed away after a short illness, her family have confirmed. 

Describing her as “a mother and a legend,” her daughter told the BBC: “Her intelligence was phenomenal but her creativity and tenacity unchallenged. She was a force in every way.”

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Sylvia worked as a journalist before joining a TV production company where she met her husband Gerry Anderson (who passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2012). The couple then created the hit sci-fi puppets series Thunderbirds, which began airing on ITV in 1965. Anderson additionally looked after character development and costume design. 

She went on to work on Joe 90, Captain Scarlet and Stingray – and was head of programming for HBO in the UK, before voicing Penelope’s Great Aunt Sylvia, in the recent ITV revival Thunderbirds Are Go! 

“Sylvia Anderson is genuinely one of television’s legends,” Stephen La Rivière, the man behind 2014 cinema documentary Filmed in Supermarionation, told RadioTimes.com. “Along with Gerry she was responsible for a whole slew of big-hitting series that continue to be enjoyed decades later. It’s a testament to how well made Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet were that successive generations of children embraced these series, with no real comprehension that these were shows of another time.”

La Rivière – who also worked on crowdfunded project Thunderbirds 1965 which re-created the original craft and puppets for three new episodes – added: “She was a charming host and although the crew clamoured to hear her stories, she always managed to turn the conversation around to hear about you

“She gave her blessing to Thunderbirds 1965. Indeed, she called me up as soon as she heard the news – first to express her surprise, second to express her delight and third to say, ‘If you need anything at all, let me know.’ Her enormous contributions were often overlooked – but the tributes show that more people were aware of her importance in TV and film than perhaps she realised. 

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“Here on the Thunderbirds set [on the Slough Trading Estate, home of the original production], we’re very sad to say goodbye to her – but boy what a life she led. Co-creator of some of the most influential TV shows ever – and creator and voice of a character that can genuinely be called iconic, she really was FAB.”