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Phil D Rae - Collector Extraordinaire

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).
David: So when exactly did your interest in the worlds of Gerry Anderson begin?
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?
Phil: I started when I was quite young, I remember building models in my basement when I was about 10-years-old. Hacking and cutting up lumps of waste timber to form crude models, such as the Zero-X. I also built the usual Airfix models and made my own designs from bit and pieces.

David: Were the Gerry Anderson shows inspiring you to build the models?
Phil: Well I always thought of the models and special effects as the big reason to watch the programs, to be honest the characters were not the best and with the puppet shows then even the characters where ‘models’ of a sort. All the classic 1960s designs inspired me but especially ‘UFO’ and ‘Space: 1999’ – and it was after seeing 1999’ that I began building ‘proper’ models. The biggest inspiration though was when the Gerry Anderson Space City exhibition opened on the Blackpool Golden Mile 1977. I was able to come over and visit on a regular basis – it was amazing, I mean I never even thought that I would ever see an original model let alone own one. The TV shows seemed so fantastic and you assume that it all happens far away and that a young boy from Preston isn’t going to experience it, but then all of a sudden all these amazing props are just 20 miles away!

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.
David: Didn’t 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 that’s 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.

Above: 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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.

David: So how did end up on ‘Alien’?
Phil: I actually got another call from Martin saying that he was working on ‘Alien’ and the budget and workload had just gone up and so they needed more model makers urgently, was I interested? So I packed in my job and went straight down there. Actually I had already been down there the previous month, just looking around, and had done 'a little bit’ of work on a model. I had been standing next to part of a model and couldn’t resist asking to do a bit of detailing, so they let me stick a few bits on (laugh).

David: You worked on the Narcissus didn’t you?
Phil: Yes, the main shape of the model had been built by Martin Bower and others, and the rear end was detailed to match the live-action set which I have to say I didn't think looked very convincing. It seemed a bit primitive to my eyes, like it hadn't been thought out by a proper model maker/designer.
The front half was just blank Perspex at that point and needed completely detailing, painting and weathering which I was given to do. At first they had a chap from the design office (who was helping us) working on it as well. So I was on one side adding detail and he was on the other side adding different stuff and ignoring what I was doing - I mean what do you think that results in? You would have a model with two different looking halves! So I just suggested to Martin that it probably wasn’t going to work and one of us should do it alone and luckily he decided to pick me. So I just got on with it, doing my own stuff and making it look as good as I could in the time-scale. I also built a detailed interior for it but that was discarded and is not seen in the movie.

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 didn’t fit into what I had already built - as obviously being square the top edges wouldn’t 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 didn’t you?
Phil: Yes but my scene was cut out. Ridley wanted to do a scene where the characters are walking away from the Nostromo whilst showing the spaceship in the background. Being a bit short I could fit inside one of the small spacesuits, which is all they had to hand, and I was asked to go on set with a girl from the production office likewise kitted out (they had small-scale suits for child performers to wear to make the giant Nostromo leg set and Space Jockey sets look even bigger). Of course in the first take I start walking in slow-motion like I’m in low-gravity and the director, Ridley Scott, shouts ‘Stop, we’re not on the bloody Moon now you know’, or words to that effect! (laugh).The scene isn't lost though as it appears in the extras on one of the DVDs.

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!
Luckily they found a new place and we all helped to move the exhibits and set up the interior displays at the new site. My skills as a draughtsman helped me to draw up all the plans, and make sure all the best items would fit in to the new venue which was a fair bit smaller than the last place. Of course not everything did fit, and Gerry allowed people to have the odd item or two. I got the small Altares and Ultraprobe ship, a 4" moonbuggy, and a spacesuit for that reason and partly because they were also in a poor state to display.

David: Wasn't 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'.
Phil: The exhibition only lasted a year at the Pleasure Beach and obviously I was very interested to know what was going to happen to the models and puppets after that. I kept in contact with Gerry and he wrote to say that he and Keith were going to have a meeting with the owners of another venue, which turned out to be Alton Towers. When they finalised the deal to move to that site Gerry couldn't give me Captain Scarlet, but he did give me a 44" Eagle!

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' came about?
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?
Phil: Well they started to give me a basic description, the idea was that there was this big front-end to the vehicle that would all open up, and then all these gun type things could unfold and come out – and I said ‘In two weeks - NO WAY!' (laugh).

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!
So I looked around my model collection and there was a couple of old models that I had previously made which could work. So I took these models apart and rebuilt them into one model – the Spacehawk, as you know it today.

Above: Spacehawk under construction and delivered to the studio office.
See
SPACEHAWK PHOTO PAGE HERE
David: So 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.
Oddly enough I think I was responsible for the Terrahawk craft being orange and silver, because a short while after I delivered it to the studio Ian Scoones rang me to ask what specific colours I had used.

David: Did the model get altered at all?
Phil: When I delivered the model it had a cluster of probes extending off the front of the three side modules, which I thought looked really aggressive. I’d first built these using some left-over probes from ‘Alien’ but had swapped them for some kit parts – good idea really as those ‘Alien’ bits are worth a fair bit today! Anyway the SFX director at the time was Ian Scoones and he just didn’t like the probes, so he stripped them off for filming, although they do appear on the prototype toy so the Japanese people obviously saw it with them on.

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 wasn’t. 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 size.
I did actually leave part of the model loose on its central support pipe, the idea being that they could motorise that part and have it rotating during the shoot to add a bit of action, but they never bothered with that plan.

Above: Phil's post-production 'pre-production sketch' for Spacehawk. Delivering the model and displaying it.
David: What scale was the model supposed to be?
Phil: I don’t 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 that’s 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'?
Phil: Well, simply, I'd already done quite a few blueprint drawings for my pal David Nightingale's 'SIG' magazine and he asked me if I would do it. I went down to Bray (studios) to photograph and measure all the main craft, so the results are pretty accurate. I have to say that they were a real chore to do, especially Spacehawk which was a nightmare trying to reproduce all that detail and I fudged it a bit.

David: Yes I noticed the remark on the blueprint – ‘details omitted for clarity!’
Phil: Yes (Laughs)

David: I understand you were also offered a job on the show itself.
Phil: Yes, that's so. Gerry was searching around for someone to head up the model department and asked me if I would do it. By that time (1982) I had a very young family and had resumed my career in architecture, and in any event felt that I didn't have sufficient experience to take on such a responsibility so I declined. Later, when I saw the fantastic model work that Nick Finlayson and his troops did I figured it was probably a good decision...I would probably have got fired (laughs).

David: What did you think when Spacehawk appeared on screen?
Phil: I thought it looked all right actually – I never really liked the previous old models before, as I just saw them as a bunch of old plastic margarine tubs and disposable razors stuck together, but the Spacehawk looks OK. But even if some of the crew did refer to it as the 'Razor-hawk' (because of all the Bic razors I'd used) I still realIy wish I hadn't used the Tie Fighter wing panels ...as they are just too obvious!

David: How much did you get paid for it?
Phil: I’ve still got the bill in a pile over there actually, in fact they only rented it off me for a sum of about 370. I didn’t want to sell it to them as I know what happens to movie props and I so I wanted it back.

David: I’m surprised that you managed to get it back safely.
Phil: Well I kept an eye on the production and when they stopped filming I rang Gerry and said that I would like to come down and pick it up – I told him that I would ‘refurbish it’ and prepare it for the next series, if they actually had one, because there was talk of it happening. So I just drove down there and grabbed it quick, but of course while I was there I saw all the other models lying about and so later I rang Gerry and asked what was happening to them? He basically said that if I wanted them then I could have them all - just ring Bob Bell to arrange it. So I rang Bob and talked to him and remember asking him ‘How big a van should I bring?’ (laugh)
Anyway I hired a van and drove down there with a friend to help me carry them all and surprise, surprise, the models had gone! There were just a few bits of scenery left and that was about it – so I have no idea where the models are today, someone must have a few, probably the people who last worked on the show.

Above: Phil's loft in the early 1990s after buying the Alton Towers exhibition - SEE LINK HERE for photo tour.
David: Rather disappointing but you have managed to get a few models in your time.
Phil: Well I’ve 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 couldn’t 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. I’ve 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 collection!
Phil: Yes I had been keeping an eye on it for years and kept on writing letters to them asking to possibly buy some of the models. In the end I got a reply asking me to visit and when I got there found out that they intended to dump the collection, as they weren’t interested in having it anymore because Gerry Anderson shows were ‘old hat’ and the public weren’t bothered – this of course was just before the massive ‘Thunderbirds’ revival! They didn’t want to sell just one model, but all of it in one single go!
So I took out a loan, which was a big thing for me as I had a wife, young kids and a steep mortgage at the time, and just started shipping all this stuff to my house – and there was loads of it.

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 years.
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.

David: And your TV appearances of course, I thought you were pretty good on 'Noel's Addicts'.
Phil: Until the question 'What does B.I.G.R.A.T. stand for?' How was I supposed to know that! (LOL)

Of course today I pretty much have nothing left from that collection. I’ve 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 you’ve 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 it’s originality’!
Phil: Well that’s all bollocks because it had been totally repainted after the show ended (apart from the undercarriage), that’s 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. It’s 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 didn’t 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 don’t need restoring. But the first one had been buggered about with, mostly by people who didn’t 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 - I’ve 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.
Phil: Yes, much of it has now gone sadly to pay bills etc, but I still have the big Moonbase Interceptor, Spacehawk and Captain Scarlet.... and a number of other pieces, like my replica '2001' helmet and Mark Knopfler puppet from the Thunderbirds/Dire Straits video.

David: Are you a Dire Straits fan, or is it just because of the puppet aspect?
Phil: I am a big Dire Straits fan and it was a thrill to be partially involved in the production of the video. I supplied Alan Tracy's body so that it could be copied to create the new puppet bodies, made by Barry Davies, and I provided some reference photographs to aid in the building of various sets. I was also able to go down to the shoot and ended up with the finished puppets!

Above: Phil chatting to Gerry on the Thunderbirds inspired Dire Straits video shoot for the song 'Calling Elvis'.
David: So what’s 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!
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Many thanks to Philip D Rae for the interview and use of his photographs.
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Article and other photographs David Sisson 2020