|Phil D Rae - Collector
There are a great many Gerry Anderson fans around the World and quite a few of us have really big collections of books, magazines, DVDs, models, puppets, and props. These can be toys, replicas, or if we are really lucky original studio items. We might at times look at our collections and proudly think that they are really impressive. But there is one person, who for a long time, set the bar so high that everyone else still seems like beginners in the Gerry Anderson collection stakes, because at one time or another he pretty much had it all - his name if you haven't heard is Phil Rae.
Phil Rae has been a well-known figure in the Gerry Anderson fan community since the early 1980s, when Gerry Anderson fans first started to come together and talk about their passion, aided by the new Fanzine 'S.I.G' (by David Nightingale & Brendan Sheehan) and the formation of the Gerry Anderson appreciation Society, 'Fanderson'. But whilst most of us were just simply making model kits, painting our own art, collecting toys and magazines, Phil was a fan already turned professional model maker and serious collector of original props who had a working friendship with the man himself, Gerry Anderson. He was also building up a massive photographic archive, a result of which his name has appeared in the credits of a great many books and magazines over the last 40 plus years for providing rare behind-the-scenes pictures - such as some of those on this website. His collection went up steadily from there until the early 1990s when in an amazing turn of events he pretty much had the vast majority of known original studio props when he bought the entire Gerry Anderson exhibition (that had initially started at the Blackpool Golden mile in the mid 1970s,) from the owners of Alton Towers, and then proceeded to cramp it into the family home in Preston!
|Phil displaying his collection over the years, with Gerry Anderson and Ed Bishop (centre).|
when exactly did your interest in the worlds of Gerry
Phil: I vaguely remember seeing some of the early shows like 'Torchy' and 'Four Feather Falls' but they were a bit before my time. It was 'Supercar' that I really remember watching and that started my interest in Gerry Anderson productions, and I enjoyed all the ones that then followed with Captain Scarlet being a favourite. I also have very fond memories of buying the TV21 comic, with those lovely photographic covers. Which unfortunately my mother made me throw out years later, but not before I managed to cut all the pictures out!
David: When did you first
get interested in building models?
David: Were the
Gerry Anderson shows inspiring you to build the models?
My modelling up to that point had been rather limited, although at the time I had been using the film 2001 (which to this day I consider to be a high point in the film industry) for some guidance I could now see actual FX miniatures. So I used to go over to Blackpool very regularly and take photographs, and look at every detail so that I could then come home and copy the panelling, and how things looked and were built. This helped me to improve my own skills and start producing decent looking models for once.
|Above left: Phil's early model making efforts came to the attention of local newspapers and television stations. Above right: One of his own designs which eventually ended up being rebuilt as part of Spacehawk, for the Terrahawks television series.|
Didnt you first meet Gerry at the exhibition?
Phil: Yes, he would occasionally visit Blackpool to see how the exhibition was doing and one day I got a message telling me when his next visit would be, so I arranged to be there with some of my things (issues of TV21 and other collectables) in the hope of showing them to him, which I managed to do. The result of that was he wanted me to get him the same sort of things because he amazingly had none. Being a bit cheeky I suggested that we could do an exchange, my small collect for an original model - which we ended up doing to my amazement. So thats how I got my first original prop, the small Hawk model from the Space:1999 episode Wargames.
This was followed by Gerry giving me a 22 Eagle Transporter and so my collection began to grow especially as I was making my own models too. This was also helped by a writing campaign, as I started sending letters to all the people that worked on the shows just asking them if they had anything. The response was not great, for every ten letters I sent I would be lucky to get one response but I did find a few items. And also people started coming to me too, asking for my advice or information, or actually offering me stuff.
The 22" Eagle and small Hawk models given to Phil by
Gerry Anderson, and the badly damaged Moonbase
Interceptor from the Dinky factory. Phil's early
collection also consisted of some of the earliest known
surviving AP/Century 21 props, models from the Thunderbirds
television series. Small version of the Ocean Pioneer,
Hover Bus, and a transport vehicle that was adapted in Captain
Scarlet to secret VIP transporter 'Yellow Fox'.
Later he was able to add the only known surviving Angel Interceptor, seen here with Gerry Anderson.
See LINK HERE for photos of Thunderbird models......................
................................................ for Angel Interceptor See LINK HERE
|David: So was
this about the time you got the job on Alien?
Phil: No that was later, I had started to get a bit of publicity on my own, Local lad building spaceships sort of thing in the local news and this led to me appearing on the children's television series Magpie. While I was in the studio Vic Hughes, the producer of The Tomorrow People, came down from his office and had a look at my models and said these are better than anything we have and do you want a job on the new series? Obviously I jumped at the chance and said yes and they said that they would get in touch - unfortunately they never did.
However as I used to be such a regular visitor to the Blackpool exhibition I got friendly with one of the workers there (Mark Harris) and one day he told me that Martin Bower, the guy who built many of the Space: 1999 effects models, was coming over to visit. So I arranged to be there to see him and chat, we got friendly, and he came over to see my models. He thought they were good and several months later Martin phoned me to say that he was now working on the The Tomorrow People and that he had to build two moonbase models but didnt have the time to do it, so he sub-contracted me to build a moonbase - so I did end up building something for the television show after all. Shame I didn't get it back though!
At about the same time I also appeared on another local TV program and that resulted in a call from Dinky Toys with the possibility of doing some design work for them. This also didnt actually materialise, but knowing of my passion for Anderson models they did let me have an old original Moonbase Interceptor miniature from the series UFO. This had been sent to them from the film studio to help in producing, or promoting, their range of 'UFO' toys. It had been in one of their workshops for many years and was badly damaged with the rear engine and half the underside missing. Initially I displayed it in pieces but as my modelling skills improved I was able to restore it and it is one of my best pieces.
how did end up on Alien?
worked on the Narcissus
|Above Left: Phil working on the big front section of the Narcissus lifeboat. Above Right: Wearing a 'kids spacesuit' for an unused shot.|
|After that I was asked to build
the front section of the ship in a much larger scale for
a forced-perspective shot. I think Nick Allder (Special
Effects Supervisor) just sort of held his hands up and
said make it this kind-of-size as they were going to use
rear-projection to put the actors in the windows.
My first thought was bugger, how am I going to reproduce all the detail I'd just done at such a large scale! Anyhow, the basic shape was mainly formed using Perspex sheeting again, which at the time was glued together using chloroform. This was with simple butt joints, the two pieces of plastic simply glued together one against the other with no chamfering, so I then glued plastic tube along the inside edges to give more support. While I was doing this Nick walked in and went up to the model, which was standing on end pointing upwards, and just grabbed the centre retro-engine section and picked the whole thing up and held it horizontally in front of him, reviewing the angle for the required camera shot. I just stood there in a panic, as unknown to him this whole flimsy model was just being supported in mid-air by a tiny bit of glue around the engine. I expected the whole thing to just crash to the ground in pieces, so when he finally left I quickly ran over to it with a tub of car filler and just packed in as much of this stuff as I could, all around the insides to strengthen it up. (laugh)
Anyway, later as I was detailing the model Nick arrived with two television monitors and announced a change-of-plan, as they were going behind the windows instead of using rear-projection screens. So I took these monitors and placed them up against the model and surprise, surprise, they didnt fit into what I had already built - as obviously being square the top edges wouldnt go inside the model. So I had to get the drill out and then start drilling pieces out of the model to install these monitors. As a result the edges do actually protrude from the craft so I got some kit parts and panels and detailed them to blend them into the design, which you can see in the movie although it is probably not noticed.
Of course, I worked on other stuff too, such as the enlarged Nostromo nose-section and engine room but it was really nice to be so involved with one of the main ships, and all such a great learning experience too. In the end I was very privileged to work on what turned out to be such a prestigious movie
David: You almost
appeared in the film didnt you?
|The World of Space exhibit at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach|
|David: So what
did you do after Alien?
Phil: I was only on Alien for about 4 months, then I came home as I had decided not to continue with the model making as a job, although I did get an offer shorlty afterwards I passed on it, as I didn't see it being a proper full-time career. So I came home and took up my normal career in architecture, which allows me to enjoy the model side as my hobby.
Shortly after coming back I became involved with Gerry Anderson, Keith Shackleton and a team of local fans including David Nightingale (who had just started the magazine S.I.G) to move the Gerry Anderson exhibition from The Golden Mile Centre to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
The exhibition called
'Space City' had been set up in 1977 and had been very
successful, but the organisers of the venue decided to
have a change and get rid of it. This meant that Gerry
had to quickly move the exhibition somewhere else, or
store it in an expensive warehouse which they could not
afford, or just junk it all!
Gerry supposed to give you Captain Scarlet at some point,
I saw that Christmas card where he writes to tell you
that 'he won't forget your favourite puppet'.
It was actually at this point that some of us began to worry about ownership rights, as we had acquired various models and props through our involvement in the Blackpool displays, with us storing things at our homes that were gifts, or 'left-overs' from the displays, or considered 'on loan' to us. Being a bit paranoid about my collection I talked to David Nightingale about it, and then Gerry suggested that we write to him listing our items and he would give us his official authority to own them all, which was very good of him to do.
|Above: Sample of many letters from Gerry Anderson. Above right; Gerry gives Phil the original 22" Eagle filming model. Above centre: Gerry informing Phil of the meeting with the Alton Towers executive regarding the future of the exhibition, and saying that he won't forget Phil's favourite puppet - 'Captain Scarlet'. Above right: Gerry providing authority for Phil to own the original props.|
|David: You had
obviously become very friendly with Gerry Anderson, was
this how the job on 'Terrahawks'
Phil: Not quite, that was really Steven Begg, who became the special effects director on the series (I actually introduced Steven to Gerry during the Blackpool events). They were setting up the show and apparently the Japanese investors were flying over to look around in about two weeks time and I believe that all they had to show them were the Zeroids. Steven was the designer at the time and had worked on most of the Terrahawk craft except for the Spacehawk, so he offered me the job of building it as he thought that might be more up my alley with the kit-bashed look.
David: Did they give you
a description of the craft, what it was supposed to do,
or look like?
So I just asked them to send me the script
and I read through it and the basic idea was that Spacehawk
was a gigantic battleship, a huge destroyer type thing
like the Star Destroyers in Star
Wars. So I came up with an idea - actually an
idea that I had for a while so this was an opportunity to
finally build it - and so I went round the shops looking
for these vacuum cleaner plastic cases that I had seen
and bought a few, then came back and started assembling
this craft with the intention of cladding it all up in
kit-part detail. Well a week had gone by now and I
realised that this model was going to take me a lot
longer to build so I was completely stuck, how could I
build a complete spaceship in a week!
under construction and delivered to the studio office.
See SPACEHAWK PHOTO PAGE HERE
it was just these old models?
Phil: Well, it really is a kit-bashed thing, mostly from stuff made around 1977, but I stripped off a lot of the original detailing and re-did it.
For the kit spotters I can tell you that the front section was one "new" section and is basically three cut down Airfix Hercules fuselages, with some Airfix Space Shuttle and truck bits left over from 'Alien'. The core tube is basically Airfix Saturn V and Lunar Module with some plastic containers, a yoghurt pot, and disposable razors chucked in.
The rear "engine" is a tea dispenser...Auto-Caddy I think. The V-shaped wing sections are made from a plastic sunglasses stand, with Saturn V, and 1/24-scale Harrier parts. There are also a lot of railway tanker truck parts, and many, many other kit-part bits in there too. And more disposable razors too (laughs). Of course the whole thing was totally re-painted, and weathered.
I took it down to London on the Saturday and
the Japanese party arrived on the Monday, so it was a
pretty close thing. Even the paint was still wet; I mean
the model was such a rush job that I was still painting
it that morning, so by the time I got there it was pretty
much touch dry but still a bit tacky and smelly.
David: Did the
model get altered at all?
They also added the Scotchlite
reflective tapes to create the lights on the ship -
someone once asked me how I had done that thinking that
there was a light inside the model but there wasnt.
The people at the studio added those, they basically
stuck on strips of tape and then painted over them just
leaving small exposed areas to scale the lights down in
|Above: Phil's post-production 'pre-production sketch' for Spacehawk. Delivering the model and displaying it.|
scale was the model supposed to be?
Phil: I dont really know just BIG. The model was 5-foot long! The idea was that it was so big that you would not be able to pick out the airlocks etc. They were just there somewhere in all that detail. I have a small ZEAF somewhere that I think scales quite well to it, but thats just my opinion and I kind of invented a scale when I drew up the Terrahawk blueprints that David Nightingale published.
I also quickly drew the supposed pre-production art which was needed for that project, but after the model was built! (laughs).
David: How did you end up doing the
'Official Terrahawk Blueprints'?
I noticed the remark on the blueprint
details omitted for clarity!
understand you were also offered a job on the show
David: What did
you think when Spacehawk appeared on screen?
David: How much
did you get paid for it?
David: Im surprised
that you managed to get it back safely.
|Above: Phil's loft in the early 1990s after buying the Alton Towers exhibition - SEE LINK HERE for photo tour.|
disappointing but you have managed to get a few models in
Phil: Well Ive been collecting models for many years, I still remember the thrill of getting my first original models during the time of the Blackpool displays. When we moved the display to the smaller site I couldnt really fit everything in so I made a case for leaving the small versions of the Ultraprobe and Altares out. I said to Gerry 'What shall we do with them?' and he said 'What do you want to do with them?' So I ended up with them (laugh)!
I also built up what I believed was the biggest Gerry Anderson photo archive in the World. Ive always been interested in the visual look of the shows and collecting photographs has always been as important to me as collecting models. The shows just look fantastic and the detail in the work is amazing. So in the 1980s I started selling officially licenced photos under the name 'Polly Products', which also gave me access to the ITC archive.
David: And then you went
off the deep end when you bought the entire Alton Towers
|Above left: Phil and Mick Hall appearing on 'Noel's Addicts' (1992). Centre: Newspaper article talking of Phil's appearance on T.V.AM's Saturday Wide Awake Club. Above right: Gerry Anderson and Richard Gregory borrow the puppet-sized FAB 1.|
|David: It has
allowed you to put on some big model displays over the
Phil: I have been displaying my collection for years, starting back at the earliest Fanderson events, and very big ones at times in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Newcastle. Even smaller ones at a local shopping centre and my kid's school, which you helped with.
And your TV appearances of course, I thought you were
pretty good on 'Noel's Addicts'.
Of course today I pretty much have nothing left from that collection. Ive slowly got rid of it bit by bit over the years due to changing life circumstances, but have no real regrets...you can't have everything. But I have always said that I was only the temporary custodian of it and there always comes a time when you pass it on to the next person. You of course have been quite lucky to be in the right place at the right time because you got the original 44 Eagle model and youve done a bang-up job on cleaning it up.
|David: The Eagle
does look nice today, although I have seen the odd
comment about the restoration destroying its
Phil: Well thats all bollocks because it had been totally repainted after the show ended (apart from the undercarriage), thats why when I got it there were no decals on it. The whole model had been re-sprayed white and all the detailing was different to what had appeared in the show. Its the same for many of the other models too, like the Ultraprobe ship. A number of the models had repaints for various public displays, they didnt really need it in my opinion but someone must have thought it was a good idea.
Luckily the 2nd and 3rd 44 Eagles are still in filmed condition and so they dont need restoring. But the first one had been buggered about with, mostly by people who didnt know what they were doing even I changed it and made mistakes, so it was in desperate need of restoration. I added the red rescue stripes because I liked them - Ive always thought the Eagle looked too plain in all white and the red stripes added colour and made it look more exciting. When I repainted the black windows I also painted the black right to the edge, which I should not have done.
David: You have sold a
fair bit of your collection over the years but you still
have your key items.
David: Are you a Dire
Straits fan, or is it just because of the puppet aspect?
|Above: Phil chatting to Gerry on the Thunderbirds inspired Dire Straits video shoot for the song 'Calling Elvis'.|
whats next on the collecting front?
Phil: I'm always interested in more items - 'Alien' and '2001' are my favourite films, but to be honest I think I'm done ..............unless I get some money to spend of course (laughs). Good stuff MUST still be out there!
Many thanks to
Philip D Rae for the interview and use of his photographs.
No infringement of copyright is intended - non-profit fan interest site only.
Article and other photographs David Sisson 2020