Terrahawks - Behind The Scenes Special
SPACEHAWK - Interview with designer/builder Philip D Rae
Back to TERRAHAWKS Selection Back to INDEX
Phil Rae has been a well-known figure in the Gerry Anderson fan community for over 30 years. A fan come model maker turned big-time collector; who is known around the World for discovering and acquiring rare and valuable film and television props.
He has also built 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 25 plus years for providing rare behind-the-scenes pictures - such as some of those on this website.

Left: Spacehawk concept design......... done after the model was built!

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 you a big fan of the Gerry Anderson shows?
Phil: Very much so, 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 it grew from there. I thought that they were all good but especially ‘UFO’ and ‘Space: 1999’ – it was after seeing 1999’ that I began building ‘proper’ models.
Then the Gerry Anderson display opened in Blackpool and 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!

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 paneling and how things looked and were built. This helped me to improve my own skills and start producing decent looking models for once.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Right: One of Phil's scrachbuilt spacecraft, shortly to become the basis of Spacehawk.

Later on I managed to gain closer access to the models and on one occasion I was able to take a moulding off the Eagle 3 nosecone. That moulding was used to create an Eagle beak, which I then leant to a chap in America at a convention years later. He then cast one side of it I believe, to produce two copies that could be stuck together, but the two halves would not match up properly. I think copies of that Beak – or modified version - have been in circulation for many years and it probably still appears on people’s Eagle replicas today.

Anyway I used to be such a regular visitor to the Blackpool exhibition that 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.

David: Is that how you first got into building models professionally?
Phil: No that was a bit later, I 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. But several months later Martin Bower phoned me to say that he was working on the series and that he had to build two moonbase models and 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 show after all. Shame I didn't get it back though.

David: Did this then lead to the work on ‘Alien’?
Phil: Yes, a while later I got a 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, all 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.

................................................Right: Phil at work on the large-scale Narcissus front section.

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: Ha! 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.

...................................................................................................... Far right: Phil in 'Alien' spacesuit shoot.

David: So how did the ‘Terrahawks’ job come up?
Phil: Well I had got to know Gerry through the Blackpool displays and knew
Steven Begg already. 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).

Left: Spacehawk version one - The main structure of Phil's initial Spacehawk build takes shape - with the help of vacuum cleaner parts and steel tube.
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.

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 3 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's 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.

Below: Studio technicians take photographs of the
Spacehawk model for publicity purposes.
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.

Right: The newly built Spacehawk model after delivery to the studios, still featuring the 'probes'.

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. (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 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 it 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.

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 started a long time ago with a letter writing campaign 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.

I remember a person asked for my advice years ago to verify and value a lot of ‘original studio models’ that he had bought. Obviously I was very excited at this news so drove off one night with my camera to visit the guy. (Phil shows me some pictures of a ‘Sky 1’ with massive comedy wings, a ‘Stingray’ that looks like a bubble bath container, and a blue box-like vehicle.)

David: Is that supposed to be a SHADO Mobile?
Phil: I think so. Unfortunately many people have no idea about what these things should look like and all sorts of rubbish gets passed about. I have numerous photographs around here of models described as ‘original studio model’ that clearly aren’t.

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)!

David: You ended up with them all anyway when you bought the 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. Of course today I pretty much have nothing really major left from that collection. I’ve got rid of quite a bit over the years due to changing life circumstances, but have no real regrets...you can't have everything
. 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.
Part of Phil's loft space in the early 1990s after buying the Alton Towers collection. Two 44" Eagles, two Altares, Swift, Superswift, Sky 1, Moonbase Interceptor, Hawks, Lunar Tanks, Spacesuits, Puppets, Moon buggy, Space Warp Derelict, Gliders, Ultraprobe, and much more........ a fans dream come true!

See HERE for more photos

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.
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: But of course people have copied those details for years, so they think its how it should be.
Phil: Yes, you see pictures of people’s replicas from all over the world with the painted panels copied from the model as it was, but it was all made up after the series ended. It’s the same for many of the other models too, like the Ultraprobe ship. A number of the models had repaints, they didn’t really need it in my opinion but someone must have thought it was a good idea.

David: You 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 huge Sky 1, big Moonbase Interceptor, big Angel Interceptor, Spacehawk and Captain Scarlet.... and a few smaller pieces.
Someone asked me if I would sell these items if offered a lot of money, but I probably would not as they are priceless. Money didn’t mean too much to me back then, when I had it it was just numbers. I used it to acquire the things that I really wanted, so I simply didn’t worry about it. Things are rather different now with Anderson stuff at a premium and sometimes changing hands for thousands of pounds. Oh, I also have some GREAT replicas made by the amazing David Sisson. I believe you have some too! (laughs)
Fortunately I still have what I believe is 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. I know you are a huge fan of '1999' and the truth is that if it wasn't for the likes of Martin Bower's amazing ships then that whole show could have been filled with alien craft like that blue lump from ‘Earthbound’ – God I thought that was dreadful!

David: So what’s next on the collecting front?
Phil: I'm always looking to acquire more items - 'Alien' and '2001' are my favourite films so I'm always on the lookout for items from those productions, and Gerry Anderson props of course. Indeed, I recently did a swap deal for one of the original small UFOs, Lt Green's pistol and The Hood's famous multi-wheeled truck, but to be honest I think I'm about done! .............. Until the next time that is!
Good stuff MUST still be out there! (laughs)

Left: Phil arrives at Bray Studios to deliver the Spacehawk model (1982).

Many thanks to Philip D Rae for the interview and use of his photographs.
Other photographs by Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd.
'Terrahawks' is copyright by Christopher Burr - No infringement of copyright is intended - non-profit fan interest site only.
'Terrahawks' is a Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr Production.

Article and other photographs David Sisson 2013