Terrahawks - Behind The Scenes Special
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TREEHAWK - Concept designs and final SFX model photos

Spacehawk was the Terrahawks first line of defence against attack from Zelda and her followers. It was a powerful spaceship in almost constant orbit around the planet Earth, manned by Zeroids under the control of Lieutenant Hiro.

However in order for him to actually get to this spaceship he had to have another vehicle, a small spacecraft designated Treehawk...... so named because it launched out of a very large tree!

Left: Treehawk preproduction sketch by Steven Begg.

Right: Designer Steven Begg came up with a number of different ideas, including this one that has a certain '2001' type feel.


Steven Begg: This Treehawk painting was actually a secondary school art project, but Gerry Anderson needed concept art really quickly for a pitch with the Japanese backers, and Martin Bower was off the project at that stage so all his initial designs were gone. So I sent it down to him and he liked it for a while - but when we got down to the real designing it was changed.

Obviously having to launch out of a tree trunk restricted the design, so resulting in streamlined thin-bodied vehicle.
Above: A more flat-sided nose section similar to the Battlehawk, but very similar to what ended up on screen.

Once the final design was agreed by Producer Gerry Anderson and Special Effects Director Ian Scoones a blueprint was drawn up by Art Director Gary Tomkins.

From these plans Peter Tilbe produced a wooden pattern (yellow shape far right) from which the final fibreglass model could be cast.

The final model as seen during the series, looking far grubbier than its original finish. Series SFX Director Steven Begg commented that the models began to look far more realistic thanks to the accumulation of damage and repair work during film production.

One major continuity error was that the craft was designed as a one-man vehicle, with the model having a single figure in the narrow cockpit. The puppet set matched this in the first episode with the Lieutenant Hiro character sitting in a very small tight fitting set with his head almost touching the canopy. But this was then completely changed to allow for two characters to sit comfortably side by side in a massively enlarged space, when clearly there is no room for this to happen unless the scale of the vehicle was radically altered.


Right: Continuity poloroid taken on the puppet set during 'Happy Madeday' episode.

Of course if we are to start nitpicking (which I often do) there is also the major plot-hole problem of how other characters can always jump into Treehawk and fly up to visit Hiro in Spacehawk - when he is already up there with Treehawk ready to fly down and visit them! There would have to be at least two craft to logically explain this.

Below: The Treehawk model being filmed in the episode 'Happy Madeday'. This episode featured the wing section unfolding from the hull and a nice close-up shot of a retro-engine flame effect. The unfolding wing was obviously a major design element to this craft, but this would be its only real appearance in the series. Afterwards it would be glimpsed in repeated stock footage, where it could be seen retracting for landing back at base.

At approximately 23 inches in length this was the only major model of the craft to be built. There were no larger close-up sections required, and only one other very small prop was needed to represent the craft at very far distance (docking with Spacehawk etc).
Small metal hooks can be seen embedded in the models surface for the attachment of support wires.
The four conical outer engine bells are from the solid rocket boosters of the Airfix Space Shuttle kit, with some decals being sourced from the Airfix 1/24th scale Harrier model.

Below: Original small Treehawk model
The Launch Tree

Above: Designs for the unfolding tree that the vehicle launches from. This appears to be a fairly early design as the Treehawk is still looking like Steven's original painting, however it closely resembles the finished eight-segmented model. I do like the twin guide-rails that protrude upwards, pity they didn't appear in the show as they make it look a bit more realistic and business like.

The Tree under construction - most of which still survives to this day, although a fair bit of its foliage has fallen off.

My thanks to Steven Begg for providing his preproduction artwork for this article.
Thanks also to Philip D Rae and Gary Tomkins for the use of their photographs.
'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.

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Article David Sisson 2014

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