The faces behind the voices

the Supermarionation voice artists

J. Lester Novros II

from the very start of Supermarionation, a persistent rumour has been making the rounds stating in effect that the AP Films/Century 21 sculptors copied the facial characteristics of the voice artists to nail down the looks of many a protagonist from the series. However, when specifically asked about this, both Sylvia and Mary were most adamant in saying that sometimes a puppetface 'was loosely based on' a real-life person, or that that person's face 'was used as inspiration for' a puppet but never was a puppet's face directly copied from that of the voice artist.

When one cares to think about it, the logic of this is quite unescapable: the studio should have had as many voice artists as there were puppets [talking 'extras' included!], which it clearly didn't. Rather the contrary: a single voice artist would sometimes 'speak for' more than one puppet. If puppets had been based on the artists' faces, these should have looked alike as well. Parker, Brains and John Tracy are a case in point here: they were all voiced by David Graham and Parker's looks are quite unlike those of Brains or John. At the same time, Mr. Graham looks like neither of them so there goes your argument.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that Stingray's Atlanta Shore bears a more than passing resemblance to her voice artist Lois Maxwell, and Fireball XL5's Venus is more obviously based on Sylvia's features than Lady Penelope, while Captain Scarlet bears a close resemblence to his voice artist, as do both Captain Blue and Colonel White. Probably the most obvious similarity [in name as well!] of all is that between The Secret Service's Father Unwin and comedian Stanley Unwin.

On the other hand, Troy Tempest does indeed remind one of James Garner while both the Glengarry Castle caretaker Mr. Morton in the Captain Scarlet episode The Trap and Dr. Giordello in the Spectrum Strikes Back episode are both clearly dead puppet ringers for Robert Mitchum. This is supported by Sylvia's claims that, to guide the sculptors in character visualisation, she often provided them with pictures from current pop- or filmstars on which to base the puppet face. Captain Scarlet's Destiny Angel, for example, is said to be sculpted to look like Ursula Andress.

Having said all that, here is the [almost] complete gallery of voice artists and the main characters from each series they gave a voice so you can judge for yourself if the rumours are true. Some images are not up to snuff [and some could not even be located] — I'll rectify that in the future.

Graham Gould
Graydon Gould
Mike Mercury
David Graham
David Graham
Doctor Beaker
Zarin
unknown
voice artist
Bill Gibson
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Jimmy Gibson
George Murcell
George Murcell
Masterspy
Professor Popkiss
Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell
Steve Zodiac
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Venus
David Graham
David Graham
Professor Matic
Zoonie the Lazoon
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Robbie the Robot
John Bluthal
John Bluthal
Commander Zero
headshot
not available
Don Mason
Troy Tempest
Lois Maxwell
Lois Maxwell
Lois Maxwell
Robert Easton
Robert Easton
X 20
'Phones' Sheridan
Ray Barrett
Ray Barrett
Sam Shore
Titan
Lieutenant Fisher
Peter Dyneley
Peter Dyneley
Jeff Tracy
Sylvia Anderson
Lady Penelope
Shane Rimmer
Shane Rimmer
Scott Tracy
David Holliday
David Holliday
Virgil Tracy
Matt Zimmerman
Matt Zimmerman
Alan Tracy
David Graham
David Graham
Gordon Tracy
Aloysius 'Nosey' Parker
Horatio 'Brains' Hackenbacker
Kyrano
Ray Barrett
Ray Barrett
John Tracy
the Hood
Christine Finn
Christine Finn
Tin Tin
Grandma Tracy
Francis Matthews
Francis Matthews
Captain Scarlet
Donald Gray
Donald Gray
Colonel White
Captain Black
Liz Morgan
Liz Morgan
Rhapsody Angel
Destiny Angel
Sylvia Anderson
Melody Angel
Cy Grant
Cy Grant
Lieutenant Green
Charles Tingwell
Charles Tingwell
Doctor Fawn
Ed Bishop
Ed Bishop
Captain Blue
Lian-Shin
Lian-Shin
Harmony Angel
Jeremy Wilkin
Jeremy Wilkin
Captain Ochre
Janna Hill
Janna Hill
Symphony Angel
Gary Files
Gary Files
Captain Magenta
Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell
Captain Grey
David Healy
David Healy
Captain Brown
Len Jones
Len Jones
Joe McCLaine
David Healy
David Healy
Shane Weston
Rupert Davies
Rupert Davies
Ian McClaine
Keith Alexander
Keith Alexander
Keith Alexander
Stanley Unwin
Stanley Unwin
Father Unwin
Father Unwin
Gary Files
Gary Files
headshot
not available
Matthew
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Mrs. Appleby
Mrs. Appleby
Jeremy Wilkin
Jeremy Wilkin
headshot
not available
The Bishop

And now that we're on the subject, John Blundall – member of the original sculptor team and longtime Anderson associate – expressed himself on many puppeteering subjects in an interview published in the Supermarionation is Go! magazine. Here is a quote on designing Parker's and other faces. And here is an even more telling quote from the same interview, highlighting Mr. Blundall's opinion on the socalled 'perfectly proportioned' puppets.