27 March 2019
Anything can happen in the next half an hour, as we remember the classic Gerry Anderson show.
We remember the classic Gerry Anderson show - Stingray.
After travelling into space for Supercar and Fireball XL-5, Gerry Anderson returned to Earth in 1964 for his brand new series: Stingray. Although, most of the action didn’t actually take place on terra firma… that’s because Stingray charted the underwater adventures of Captain Troy Tempest and the titular Stingray, which was a sophisticated combat submarine.
Stingray was the property of WASP, otherwise known as the World Aquanaut Security Patrol… what was it with the sixties and confusing acronyms? Set in the year 2065, WASP was headquartered at Marineville, somewhere in California. At the first sign of trouble, the HQ is lowered into underground bunkers where Stingray can be fired from a special tunnel that leads to the Pacific Ocean. Admittedly it might have been easier to build Marineville on the coast but that wouldn’t have resulted in one of Anderson’s famous convoluted launch sequences.
As with most of Gerry Anderson’s TV shows there seems to be an infinite amount of trouble on hand, so Stingray is often required to be shot into the murky waters of the Pacific. Most of the issues are caused by the Aquaphibians, an aquatic warrior race led by the tyrannical King Titan, who has ambitions to destroy Stingray and Marineville.
A lot of the action took place underwater, which left the production team with a problem – how could they effectively operate puppets in water? The answer was quite ingenious: everything was filmed on dry land but when they needed an underwater scene, the camera filmed through a narrow water tank containing air bubbles and different sized fish, with lighting effects to mimic shafts of lights refracting through the ocean surface. Clever stuff, eh?
The Stingray series is also notable because it was the first ever British television series to be filmed entirely in colour. Although when it was first broadcast in 1964, it was still shown in black and white because independent television in the UK didn’t commence colour transmission until November 1969… four years after Stingray had stopped being produced.
Lincoln International Remote Control Stingray
Unlike Gerry Anderson’s later projects, such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, toys were a little bit thin on the ground. Even compared to Fireball XL-5, there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of merchandising associated with the series… but those toys that were made are particularly special. The greatest, almost certainly, is the Lincoln International Remote Control Stingray. It featured a plastic replica of the underwater wonder with a remote control attached by a cord. The controller allowed you to move the vehicle forward or backward and there were also lights and a buzzer sound… probably to scare off those pesky Aquaphibians. However, whatever you do, don’t try and recreate your favourite Stingray scenes in the bath because this was purely a toy for landlubbers. If you’re keen to buy your own Stingray, then these remote control versions tend to trade for around £120.
Lakeside Toys All Steel Aquaphibian Terro Fish
Of course, if you’ve got Stingray then you really need something for Troy Tempest and his gang to fight against… and there’s really nothing better than the Terror Fish. The ‘fish’ wasn’t actually a fish at all and was, in fact, another mechanical submersible used by Titan and his cronies to thwart the plans of WASP. In the series it was only ever referred to as the ‘mechanical fish’ and only developed the ‘terror’ mantel in subsequent merchandise. First released in 1965, the Lakeside Terror Fish was friction powered so that when you pushed it along the floor, its eyes, mouth and tail all moved in a suitably menacing fashion. It’s an absolutely cracking toy and that’s certainly reflected in the price because it regularly changes hands for £300 upwards when in good condition.
Back to the good guys now, with the Fairylite Stingray. Similar to the previous Lincoln International version this is an all-plastic construction but doesn’t have a remote control, instead favouring a friction drive… so you’ll just have to rely on people power. Measuring a whopping 27cm long and first made in 1964, there are a few things to watch out for when buying the Fairylite example, firstly make sure the chrome periscope on top is intact and it’s got four chrome fins (two at the back and two on the sides). Loose examples of the Fairylite Stingray often crop up at toy fairs and auctions, with prices under the £50 mark.
However, if you’re looking for something very, very rare then try tracking down the Plaston Stingray, which has become almost legendary among collectors. Finished in dark blue and yellow, the model is a fairly accurate replica of the famous sub but it’s the box that’s really rare. You see, the cardboard box had cut out and keep stand-up figures of Troy Tempest, Phones, Atlanta, Commander Shore, etc on the sides and back. As a result most kids would quickly grab the scissors and start cutting. According to firebass.com there’s only a couple in their original boxes known to exist and even one in a replica box currently has an asking price of £850 on eBay.
Lone Star Stingray Gun
Replicas of Stingray itself are all well and good but what if you fancied stepping into the shoes of Troy Tempest himself and becoming a member of WASP? Well, luckily Lone Star had you covered with its take on a Stingray-themed gun. Sadly the only issue with Lone Star’s weapon is that it looks absolutely nothing like the pistol that appears in the show. Instead it’s a re-branded version of Lone Star’s generic ‘sci-fi gun’ that was also used to create a Dan Dare and Batman blaster. Still, it’s a nice toy if you’re not looking for something that’s screen-accurate.
Matchbox Stingray Action Submarine
Finally we close with some more modern toys. In 1992 the BBC re-released old episodes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray using new prints obtained from the master negatives. Incredibly, despite being nearly 30-years-old, the shows were a huge hit so toy firms were all clamouring to release new merchandise. In 1993 Matchbox released the most screen accurate replica of Stingray yet, with the correct colours, a lift off cockpit and even dual-firing Sting Missiles. This could be a toy to keep an eye on because those kids who originally played with it in the ‘90s are getting older and may be looking to re-purchase their favourite old toys. Even now, although some sell on eBay for the £20 mark, others in mint condition sell for upwards of £50.