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
David Graham
David Graham
unknown
voice artist
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
George Murcell
George Murcell
Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
David Graham
David Graham
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
John Bluthal
John Bluthal
headshot
not available
Don Mason
Lois Maxwell
Lois Maxwell
Robert Easton
Robert Easton
X 20
Ray Barrett
Ray Barrett
Peter Dyneley
Peter Dyneley
Shane Rimmer
Shane Rimmer
David Holliday
David Holliday
Matt Zimmerman
Matt Zimmerman
David Graham
David Graham
Ray Barrett
Ray Barrett
Christine Finn
Christine Finn
Francis Matthews
Francis Matthews
Donald Gray
Donald Gray
Liz Morgan
Liz Morgan
Cy Grant
Cy Grant
Charles Tingwell
Charles Tingwell
Ed Bishop
Ed Bishop
Lian-Shin
Lian-Shin
Jeremy Wilkin
Jeremy Wilkin
Janna Hill
Janna Hill
Gary Files
Gary Files
Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell
David Healy
David Healy
Len Jones
Len Jones
David Healy
David Healy
Rupert Davies
Rupert Davies
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.

A number of the pictures on this page appeared originally at the Supermarionation is GO! website