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The Eye Spiders of Pergross -
From Kklak! issue 4, July 2001
You might think that Who fandom is full of sad people - but in my experience, compared to other fandoms, it seems to be remarkably mature and self-deprecating. After all, itís reached the critical stage of accepting that the series is rubbish. Coming from this environment, itís always a bit of a revelation to discover that other fandoms are still languishing at the stage Who fandom was at twenty years ago.
For several years and until quite recently, I was a member of Fanderson. (For far longer than I was ever in DWAS, in fact.) This could be an eye-opening and at times quite frustrating experience. The real problem is that Gerry Anderson fandom is essentially this large, unbending body with a limited set of opinions, defined by the editorial voice of the society magazine. Quite unlike the many-splintered nature of modern Who fandom, Fanderson really is the total extent of Anderson fandom. (The only exception being Space: 1999 - but more on that later.)
The basic mindset of Fanderson is that everything Gerry ever made is brilliant, except for a few isolated examples that the consensus of fandom says itís OK to hate. (Kind of like The Horns of Nimon or season 24 used to be regarded in Who circles...) Any deviation outside these parameters is met with ridicule. It was the editorís comments in response to letters that used to irritate me. One reader suggested he didnít like the Space: 1999 pilot episode, and was advised to keep such opinions to himself if he was going to that yearís Fanderson convention. If it had been me, Iíd have made a point of going, finding the editor and stuffing that issue down his throat.
I had the misfortune to be in Fanderson whilst Space Precinct was in production. Obviously, this was an exciting time for the society - the first new Anderson production to look forward to in nearly a decade. They gave it extensive coverage and really built it up. The editor, who had seen a preview of the first few episodes, told us all confidently that it would be the number one sci-fi show of the nineties. Well, it was never going to live up to the hype, was it? But even after Space Precinct came out, they refused to give it up. When SFX gave the show a bad review, they reacted as if there was a conspiracy against it and against Gerry. They couldnít just accept the patently obvious - Space Precinct got a bad review because it was shite.
But in actual fact, a lot of Andersonís series are shite. Theyíre very colourful and visually inventive, and have a certain kitsch nostalgia value, but they donít hold up as works of tv drama. There are a few exceptions (the pilot episode of Thunderbirds is an absolutely edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster ride that puts many movie thrillers to shame) but on the whole, you need to get to Captain Scarlet before thereís anything you can watch without cringing. Of course, to admit this would be to deny the "Gerry is God" attitude that pervades Fanderson.
Shortly before I left Fanderson, I was contemplating writing to the magazine and suggesting they grow up a bit. But then someone else wrote in with that very letter. The letters page was lively for the next couple of issues, all of the replies (those that got printed anyway) coming down in support of the editor and the society, and making comments of the "you donít have to join Fanderson if you donít want to" variety. The trouble is, you do. Unlike Who, where thereís a plethora of merchandise available, you only get Anderson stuff in the shops when the old series are re-run, and then usually only Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. None of the old UFO and Space: 1999 merchandise has re-appeared. So the fan club was often the only way to get hold of items of interest. The reason I joined originally was purely mercenary - they were producng a limited edition, members-only CD of Barry Grayís music from Space: 1999 and I wanted a copy.
Ultimately, I think my main problem with Fanderson stems from the fact that itís a Gerry Anderson appreciation society - whereas I donít necessarily appreciate him. Iím a fan of several tv programmes that he happened to make, notably UFO and the first series of Space: 1999 - but Iím just as ready to criticise when he does something bad. Andersonís in a unique situation. I donít think there are any other fandoms centred on an individual producer. There are X Files fans and probably Millennium fans, but Iíve never come across an actual Chris Carter fandom. There are Buffy fans and Angel fans, and indeed fans of both, but you donít get many Joss Whedon fans.
Which is why perhaps I feel happiest with Space: 1999 fandom. While
never much of a success in this country, ironically itís the only Anderson
show to pick up a fairly extensive following in Europe and America. This
means a whole fandom exists just for that one programme, divorced from the
need to place it into the context of a producerís body of work. There are
1999 fans whoíve never heard of Troy Tempest or Torchy the Battery Boy
(lucky them!) and that can be very refreshing. There are fans for whom Gerry
Anderson is just a name on the credits, which may be the best place for him...
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