My commutes to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona from my home in New Mexico give me great opportunities to listen to podcasts, audio dramas, and audiobooks. Recently, I listened to the second volume of Big Finish’s audio revival of Terrahawks, one of the puppet shows helmed by the the late Gerry Anderson. Like many of Anderson’s shows, Terrahawks told the story of the Earth threatened by an alien menace. In this case the alien menace comes in the form of a group of alien androids under the command of the witch-like Zelda. She has a “family” of androids including her son, Yung-star, her sister Cy-star, and Cy-star’s sometimes-son/sometimes-daughter, It-star. The titular Terrahawks were the organization that stood in the aliens’ way. They’re under the command of Tiger Ninestein and his first officer Mary Falconer. Other members of the team are Hawkeye and pop-star Kate Kestrel. The Terrahawks are ably assisted by an army of spherical robots known as Zeroids, whose personality drive Ninestein crazy. Like many of Gerry Anderson’s TV series, the show was performed with puppets, although the Terrahawks and their opponents were “glove” puppets rather than the more familiar marionettes of other shows. What’s more, while most of Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows were made for an audience of children, most were played “straight” and told serious adventure stories. Terrahawks took a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. The TV series ran for three seasons from 1983 to 1986.
The audio revivals were produced between 2015 and 2017 by Gerry Anderson’s son, Jamie Anderson. Freed from the constraint of visuals, he both ramps up the speculative elements and the humor, and overall, it works well. Volume 2 gives us eight new episodes of Terrahawks. The set opens with “Sale of the Galaxy” in which both Zelda and Ninestein are invited to appear on a deadly game show. The host is played by famous British host Nicholas Parsons, who was also the real-life husband of Denise Bryer, the actress who gave voice to Zelda and Mary Falconer. Jeremy Hitchens reprises his role as Ninestein from the TV series, including his signature exclamation, “Flaming Thunderbolts!” The second episode, penned by Chris Dale, is “The Trouble with Toy Boys” and it imagines a creepy ventriloquist dummy named Timmy who bears no small resemblance to one of Gerry Anderson’s original puppet stars, Torchy the Battery Boy. In “Return to Sender” we get a romance story for Sergeant Major Zero of the Zeroids as the robots contend with a NASA probe that has returned to Earth and isn’t all it seems to be. “Renta-Hawks” parodies perhaps the most famous Anderson puppet show by imagining the Terrahawks in competition with a team of handsome young men in rescue vehicles. Unlike the young men of the Thunderbirds, this global rescue organization charges for its services and the Earth government would like the Terrahawks to follow suit.
In the second half of the series, Zelda has gone missing and the Terrahawks are under the gun to cut their budget. When a probe lands deep in the heart of Texas, Mary and Kate are sent on a quest to deal with it. In “Lights, Camera, Disaster” by David Hirsch, It-Star hatches a plot to make the androids look good. He’ll write a movie with the androids as the heroes fighting the villainous Terrahawks. It all looks like ti might work until the producers get their hands on the script and start making changes! In “Count Anaconda’s Magnificent Orbiting Circus” Tiger and Mary are invited to a show only to find this is a circus you would rather run away from.
The set finishes with an epic hour-long finale, which is arguably the best episode of the set, “My Enemy’s Enemy” by Jamie Anderson. The Terrahawks learn Zelda’s location and learn that both Earth and Zelda’s family are under threat from a common enemy, Prince Zegar of Guk, who’s descended from Zelda’s creator. During the course of the story, we learn the backstory of Zelda, Cy-star, and Yung-star. After that, we’re treated to an epic space battle that will change the Terrahawks going forward.
Volume 1 of Terrahawks on audio felt like a continuation of the series. Volume 2 gave us more of a story arc. If you enjoy light-hearted science fiction where you care enough about the characters to feel invested in them, it’s well worth checking out the Terrahawks audio series. I look forward to seeing what they do with the third and final volume. You can find the second volume of Terrahawks for download at: https://shop.gerryanderson.com/collections/terrahawks/products/terrahawks-audio-drama-series-volume-two-download
Also, just a friendly reminder that May 4 is the last day you can get the Sci-Fi Exploration Storybundle with my novel Firebrandt’s Legacy along with nine other great books. Get all the details at: https://www.storybundle.com/exploration