|Terrahawks - Behind The Scenes
television series Terrahawks began with an alien space
fleet attacking a NASA installation on Mars, and then
landing to claim the planet for themselves in order to
launch attacks against the planet Earth.
This fleet consisted of
seven vessels that could interlock to form one giant
structure, which was controlled from the central
spider-like Hub by the evil queen Zelda.
publicity information the six other spaceships were
Shark, Rhino, Ice-Box, and Phantom
|Fin took centre stage in the
first episode as it has the ability to alter its size,
and has an invisible force field.
Dog is a space cruiser with
very heavy power capacity.
Shark has underwater capability,
and contains many other smaller craft.
Rhino is able to transport many
vehicles to other planets and launch numerous ZEAFs.
Ice-Box is Zelda's laboratory, and
contains the cryogenic chamber that is full of alien
Phantom is a metamorph vehicle,
able to change shape into different ridged structures.
|This all sounds
very interesting but sadly the people who actually built
the models, and the SFX director who shot them, weren't
actually told about any of it - so this is possibly just
complete invention by the publicity department!
This means that we really aren't sure which vehicle is
which, unless someone has a special guide to hand?
|Above: Two of Steven Begg's initial design
drawings for the alien fleet.
Begg: I absolutely don't know their names, as I
believe that it was all invented by Gus Ramsden who was
Ian Scoones assistant at the time. I'd concocted the
initial designs, but they were superseded by Gus, John
Lee and Steven Woodcock's ideas, which was fair
enough.... I think they possibly thought of some sort of
Transformers type stuff for the ships which we never
|Above: One of the surviving effects models,
slightly restored as some of the side fins were missing.
29" length. Courtesy Bob Bailey
Woodcock: Zelda's ships weren't named when John
and I were involved, apart from the Dog and Rhino. The
name Dog was a workshop nickname that we gave it, and
that was one of the models that I made. The Rhino was one
of John's, and I believe that it was the only one ever
named in a script.
I also believe the Dog was later used by Steven Begg
in a low-budget sci-fi B movie starring, of all
people, Mark Hamill. Years ago I remember seeing it on a
video cover somewhere on the web, and I'm sure that
he told me it was also used with another of the Zelda
ships for a shot in film Aliens.
|Above: The 'Dog' model modified for filming
on Aliens. Together with 'Fin' they appear early
on during the Gateway Station scene.
Lee: The construction technique for the Zelda
fleet was something Steven Woodcock and I came up with
early on in the build period - and have to say have not
seen since. The fleet of ships were obviously intended to
appear as massive as possible, which was difficult in as
much as the length of each ship was approximately 2
6. The main reason they were so small was because
when the fleet was docked together, around the central
hub, it became a single model that was around 8 feet in
diameter. If that were any larger we would have struggled
to fit it onto the shooting rostrum on the FX stage,
which looking back was quite small. Also, the fleet had
to be seen in its entirety on the opening couple of
episodes and stock shots. After that, the ships were
mainly shot separately and double exposed into scenes
together, so larger individual models would have been a
from an initial series of storyboard type concept
sketches that Steve Begg drew up, and as long as we kept
the basic outline shape we were free to block out the
ships and detail as we saw fit.
I made the Rhino,
Fin, and one that was fabricated with both horizontal and
vertical panels, and Steven Woodcock made the others.
we saw them as giant floating alien cities so rather than
using the more obvious plastic kit detailing, we came up
with a system which used off-cuts of 3,6, and 8mm Perspex
pieces. These were cut en-mass into irregular but
right-angled shapes which were then put partly through
the bandsaw to nibble off corners and cut slots which
when glued together in a modular perpendicular fashion
gave the impression of tower blocks of detail.
worked really well when contrasted against other areas of
the ships which were actually quite sleek. Steven and I
would spend a while making boxes full of these components
and when we had enough would dip into the box and detail
as needed. By treating it as an assembly line worked well
too and made us more efficient. It was a quick way to
make something which would have looked very different if
fabricated from kit parts. It also used up all the
odd shaped Perspex off cuts.
addition to making the ships, we also came up with the
painted finish too. On completion I would spray the whole
ship matt black, then mix up a number of different shades
of metallic / pearlescent greens and blues, and
then proceeded to airbrush them in varying stages of
opacity until I achieved a layered finish which in places
still retained the black undercoat. When lit on the stage
they sort of came out of nowhere against the darkness of
|Above: Steven Woodcock with one of
his model ships
at the Terrahawks Convention, October 2013
we would attach 3m reflective strips and panels
which reflected the light source directly back to
the camera. The only down side that I can recall
was that the ships were slightly heavier than we
would have liked due to the Perspex, but as most
of the shots were rigged on rods onto a model
mover we got away with it!
Spaceships built by John Lee
for PROFILE PHOTOGRAPHS
Spaceships built by Steven Woodcock
for PROFILE PHOTOGRAPHS
It was always the intention that we would make
larger versions of each of the six designs, but
due to time restraints etc this never really
happened. I know Steve Begg, who had by that time
taken over from Ian Scoones as the FX director,
really wanted this. I did however make a really
large-scale section of the Rhino ship and one
side which featured a tower block detail, as well
as making a large close-up porthole detail which
featured Zeldas cubes being deployed.
particular piece was one of my favourites as it was so
original and different to any of the other Terrahawk
models. I used all sorts of different plastic
textured sheet material, including shower screens, ripple
sheet plastic, and other textured fabrics. I also
detailed with strands of hot melt glue which gave a real
I was all the time trying to emulate the detail which is
visible on the derelict ship from Alien which I
found very inspiring (and still do).
........................................................................ Right: Rhino
|The six spaceships
built by John and Steven were in fact replacements for a
previous set that were deemed to be unacceptable for the
series. As they both explained (at the Terrahawks
convention in 2013) the SFX director of the time, Ian
Scoones, told them to closely copy Steven Begg's basic
sketches with little modification or improvement. Then
these more simple shapes were covered in a shimmering
reflective material that would give the illusion of the
vessels appearing to almost materialise, or alter form,
in front of camera as they approached from deep space.
(One of these designs can be seen in the group shot on
their interview page, model is far left). These designs
were eventually ditched in favour of John and Stevens new
models, however the central docking ring with Zelda's
hovering command ship remained, and the finished model
closely resembles the design sketches.
Steven Begg artwork for Zelda's central control vessel.......... Below:
Peter Bohanna details two different scale models of the
|Below: Filming a low-angle
shot of the model for episode two.
photographs by Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd.
Explosion shot courtesy of Fanderson
My thanks to Steven Woodcock for his photograph
My thanks also
to Steven Begg for fishing out his designs and 'Aliens'
Thanks also to
Bob Bailey for the loan of the existing spaceship model.
is copyright by Christopher Burr
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interest site only.
'Terrahawks' is a Gerry Anderson and Christopher