Terrahawks was a puppet-based science fiction television series created by Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr. It ran for three seasons between 1983 and 1986 comprising a total of 39 25-minute episodes. Set in the year 2020, the series followed the adventures of the Terrahawks, a taskforce responsible for protecting Earth from invasion by a group of extraterrestrial androids and aliens led by Zelda. Like Anderson's previous puppet series, futuristic vehicles and technology featured prominently in each episode.
Gerry Anderson was best known for his Supermarionation TV series of the 1960s, which made use of electronically augmented marionettes. Terrahawks was his first puppet series since The Secret Service in 1969, and used latex muppet-style hand puppets to animate the characters, in a process Anderson dubbed Supermacromation. The absence of strings allowed for much smoother movement of the puppets, making the illusion of them walking, which had been a source of frustration to Anderson during his Supermarionation series, more realistic.
The series is set in the year 2020, after an alien force has destroyed NASA's Mars base and Earth is under threat. A small organisation, The Terrahawks, is set up to defend the planet. From Hawknest, their secret base in South America, they develop sophisticated weapons to prepare for the battles to come.
Terrahawks was less straight-faced than any of Anderson's previous series, featuring a wry, tongue-in-cheek humour as well as dramatic jeopardy. The series premise has many similarities with Anderson's previous series Thunderbirds and, to a lesser extent, Captain Scarlet.
Terrahawks (technically, the Earth Defense Squadron) is an elite task force that protects Earth from alien invasion.
- Doctor "Tiger" Ninestein (real first name unknown): The team's leader, so named as he is the ninth clone created by Dr. Gerhard Stein. Somewhat bloodthirsty, his first reaction to alien contact is often to blast it out of the sky. In between alien attacks, he's often seen trying (and failing) to beat the high score on his favourite video-game. Ninestein's catchphrase is, "I have a theory...", and when frustrated he often cries, "Flaming thunderbolts!" If he is killed, he can be replaced within 24 hours by another of the nine clones; his nickname of "Tiger" comes from the myth of cats similarly having "nine lives".
- Captain Mary Falconer: Battlehawk's pilot. She acts as Ninestein's second-in-command, weighing his offensive tendencies with her own regard for the value of life...whether in regards to one of Zelda's henchmen, or to the Zeroids.
- Captain Kate Kestrel (real name: Katherine Westley): The pilot of the Hawkwing fighter aircraft, Kate is also an internationally famous pop singer. Her record company is "Anderburr Records" - a portmanteau of "Anderson" and "Burr".
- Lieutenant Hawkeye (real name: Hedley Howard Henderson III): The Hawkwing's gunner. Due to a track-and-field accident, his eyes have been replaced with micro-computers that enhance his targeting abilities. When given an order, he always replies "aye-aye" as a pun on his name.
- Lieutenant Hiro (full name unknown): The commander of the Spacehawk, Hiro keeps a large collection of flowers to which he gives names and reads poetry. His thick Japanese accent is sometimes a source of humour.
- Zeroids: Spherical robots that perform ground operations and serve as the firepower for the Spacehawk. There are two leaders among the Zeroids who exhibit human-like capacity for thought and emotion (much to Ninestein's annoyance); Sergeant Major Zero (voiced by Windsor Davies), commands the Zeroids stationed on Earth, while Space Sergeant 101 directs the Zeroids stationed aboard Spacehawk. Other Zeroids are given distinct personality traits of their own, such as Dix-huit (French for the number eighteen), who speaks French and has a handlebar moustache, and 55, who bobs up and down in rhyme. They can increase their mass (becoming as heavy as a black hole), which allows them to perform devastating body-crash manoeuvres. This is often accompanied by a cry of "St-roll on!"
- Colonel Johnson (first name unknown): The head of WASA (World Aeronautics & Space Administration). Ostensibly Terrahawks' co-director, his authority is constantly overridden by Ninestein.
- The Battlehawk - A heavy-duty carrier aircraft which transports the Zeroids, the Megazoid-manned Battletank for heavy support, and other auxiliary equipment. The Battlehawk is hangared directly below the Hawknest mansion; the building opens out to allow the Battlehawk to launch and land.
- The Terrahawk - A flying command centre which can detach from the main body of the Battlehawk.
- The Hawkwing - A fighter aircraft with a separate over-wing which can be released to act as a flying impact bomb. The Hawkwing launches along a narrow tunnel which leads under the ocean. An mechanically-generated vortex pushes the water away from the tunnel exit allowing the aircraft to leave.
- The Treehawk - A single-stage-to-orbit spaceship which transports personnel to the Spacehawk. The Treehawk is so named because the exit to its launch pad is disguised as a tree, which opens out to allow the craft to leave.
- The Spacehawk - An orbital battle station, that provides the first line of defence against an attack. It is armed with several batteries of Zeroids.
- HUDSON (Heuristic Universal Driver with Sensory and Orbital Navigation) - Dr Ninestein's personal motor car (although Kate actually seems to get the most use out of it), HUDSON is a heavily modified Rolls-Royce which possesses artificial intelligence and is painted in a very special colour - chameleon - effectively equipping him with active camouflage.
- The Battletank - a large tank manned by two Megazoids (large Zeroids) who are apparently built into the structure of the vehicle. The Battletank is transported aboard the Battlehawk and has a flip-up rollbar which allows it to be quickly airlifted out of battlezones.
- The Overlander - an automated all-terrain vehicle similar to a rail-free train with multiple, articulated sections that brings supplies to Hawknest.
- Spacetank - A large, powerful vehicle the Terrahawks had built to use in their sneak attack on Zelda's home base. It is ostensibly based on the technology used in the Overlander supply vehicle.
- The Groundhawk - A ground vehicle used by the Terrahawks to investigate a bomb in "Child's Play". As it only appears in this episode, little is known about it. It resembles a construction vehicle and has a variety of sensor equipment.
- The Hawklet - Carried by Spacehawk, it is basically a more-maneuverable and better-armed version of Treehawk.
- MEV (Martian Exploration Vehicle) - used once in a raid against Zelda's "Android City" on Mars. Possibly borrowed from Spectrum, since a craft of the same name was used to destroy the Mysteron City in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
- Big White One - a combination space-dreadnought/aerospacecraft-carrier that dwarfs even Spacehawk. Commanded by General "Rip" Cord in a near-catastrophic attempt to obliterate Zelda with a thermonuclear missiles. The name comes from "The Big Red One", a nickname for the 1st Infantry Division of the United States.
The Terrahawks used a numeric code as shorthand during broadcasted communications.
- Ten-zero: Negative.
- Ten-ten: Affirmative.
- Ten-twenty: Location.
- Ten-thirty: Stand by.
- Ten-forty: Emergency.
- Ten-fifty: Launch.
- Ten-sixty: Hawkwing rendezvous
- Ten-ninety: Mayday.
- Ten-ninety-nine: Full mobilisation.
- One-zero: Top secret.
Robots ("androids") from the planet Guk rebelled when their creators and masters deteriorated into a state of apathy. Zelda and company are modelled after the oldest and wisest citizens of their planet, explaining their grey hair and wrinkled skin.
- Zelda: The main villain of the series, Zelda is the wicked and scheming would-be conqueror of Earth. She has power over matter, allowing her to enlarge or reduce the size of her spaceships, or to teleport her servants to and from Earth. "Zelda reclaims her own," was frequently said when Zelda teleported a defeated minion back to the Mars base.
- Cy-star: (pronounced "Si-ster") Zelda's "sister" is not very bright, but is endlessly bubbly and optimistic. Frequently she gets so excited her hair slides around her head, leading Zelda to shout in one episode "One of these days I'm going to nail that to your skull!"
- Yung-star: Zelda's "son", Yung-star is, like his "aunt," not very intelligent (he mistakes the term "nincompoop" for a compliment), but he's also cowardly, lazy and greedy, although he is occasionally sent to accompany a monster. His catchphrase, uttered slowly in a revolting guttural voice, was "Great Steaming Lava!".
- It-star: Also known as "Goybirl", or "Birlgoy", It-star is a "baby" android mothered by Cy-star near the end of the series. It-star is a hermaphrodite with two minds and voices, a young girl's voice when "innocent", and a male voice with a German accent when plotting.
- Cubes: The aliens' answer to the Zeroids. They can combine into large constructs such as guns and force field cubicles. Their different sides are marked differently, indicating their different functions, such as one serving as a gun. Cy-star keeps one, Pluto, as a pet.
Zelda commands a fleet of large ships that combine into her headquarters on Mars, which are used for large-scale attacks. Most of the time, she sends her minions out in small warcraft called ZEAF
ighter)s. It is not entirely clear who usually pilots the ZEAFs; in some episodes Yung-star or the monsters are shown to pilot them, but in most instances the pilots are simply never shown.
- Zelda's "Hub" / Mothership
- Zelda’s command ship, which hovers above the grounded city of satellite ships. It is capable of traveling anywhere throughout the universe. It moves through space with its legs fully extended, and with its belly forward.
- Section that all six satellites, plus the mothership, connect to. It has six spidery legs which help dig in, when the entire fleet joins and becomes a city on the Martian surface.
- Satellite Ship #1 - Fin-class Cruiser
- Space Destroyer capable of altering its size, and of generating an extremely powerful invisible force field.
- Satellite Ship #2 - Dog-class Cruiser
- Space Destroyer with heavy power capacity.
- Satellite Ship #3 - Shark-class Cruiser
- This Space Destroyer has the ability to become sub-aqua, with numerous smaller bays containing a number of ZESAWs (ZEldan Sub-Aqua Warcraft).
- Satellite Ship #4 - Rhino-class Cruiser
- Space Destroyer and Transporter mainly used for travelling to Earth, where it lands and disgorges ground vehicles. Also carries a number of ZEAFs (ZEldan Aerospace Fighters).
- Satellite Ship #5 - Icebox-class Cruiser
- Space Destroyer used by Zelda as her laboratory and contains her cryogenic chamber.
- Satellite Ship #6 - Phantom-class Cruiser
- Metamorphic Space Destroyer. Can change into any craft or ridged structure.
Zelda possesses a collection of monstrous servants, kept in cryogenic storage until needed.
- Sram: A reptilian beast with a devastating roar, capable of shattering mountains and destroying Hawkwing's shots before they can get close enough to hit him. His blood gives off fumes that are highly toxic to human beings. In his first appearance Sram is quite articulate, but he does not speak in any further appearances. Sram appears in "Thunder-Roar," "Thunder Path," as Zelda's drummer in "Play it Again, Sram", a member of Zelda's war party in "First Strike", and an hallucination of him is seen in "Mind Monster".
- Sporilla: A savagely powerful beast that Zelda controls with a signalling device. After the device is destroyed, however, the Terrahawks find that the Sporilla is capable of halting speech and has no desire to fight them. Appears in "The Sporilla". In "Space Giant", another Sporilla appears.
- MOID: The Master Of Infinite Disguise. "I wear many faces, but have none of my own", he once said to describe himself. The Terrahawks seem to find him pitiable, and he seems to regret living a life of servitude to Zelda. Appears in "Happy Madeday", "Unseen Menace", briefly in "Play it Again, Sram" as Mozart, and a hallucination of him is seen in "Mind Monster".
- Yuri: A teddy bear-like creature the aliens find hideous and frightening. He possesses the power to mentally control metal. Zelda sometimes refers to him as "the furry Napoleon". He appears in "The Ugliest Monster of All", "Operation SAS", "Terratomb", and as a member of Zelda's war party in "First Strike".
- Lord Tempo: The master of time, Tempo can travel back and forth in time at will, and alter its flow locally. Lord Tempo appears in "My Kingdom for a ZEAF", "Time Warp", and as a member of Zelda's war party in "First Strike".
- Krell: The Krell is a hairy creature with an eyestalk that can fire a laser beam powerful enough to shoot down objects in orbit. It appears only in "The Midas Touch".
- Cyclops: A black and red crawling creature with one giant eye. The cyclops absorbs metal. It appears only in "Space Cyclops".
- Captain Goat: A space buccaneer who captained a pirate radio ship. He appears in "Jolly Roger One".
- Cold Finger: An alien who is an expert at weaponising water and ice. His entire ship was made of ice.
Title sequence and end credits
The opening and closing sequences were created using hand-drawn cel animation
to imitate computer graphics
. The opening titles began with a Defender
-style computer game which is interrupted by Ninestein who declares an emergency. The remainder of the sequence features the key Terrahawks craft and their respective pilots. During the end credits, the Zeroid and Cube robots would often "play" noughts and crosses
) with each other, resulting in a different winner each week (the Cubes usually had to cheat and steal a Zeroid's position in order to win). The exception to this was the episode "A Christmas Miracle", which featured the song "I Believe in Christmas" as sung by Kate Kestrel played over a still of a Zeroid.
The original opening title sequence was used for both the United States and the UK versions of the series, but a different version of the end credits was produced for the US variant, featuring a Zeroid bouncing up and down next to one of Zelda's Cubes as a "Kate Kestrel" song plays. At the credit's conclusion, the Zeroid jumps off of the screen and crashes back down onto the Cube.
When the series was purchased for airing in Japan, the title and ending credits were replaced by an all-new anime-style sequence, the first highlighting the Terrahawks craft and the Zeroids, and the ending credits showcasing a lonesome spacesuited female remembering her life on Earth as Spacehawk flies over her. Despite the ending credits not making a lick of sense, these sequences were one of the most highly sought after of any Gerry Anderson production.
- The series' most prolific contributor, Tony Barwick, constantly used tongue-in-cheek aliases whenever he wrote a different episode, calling himself, for instance, "Ann Teakstein", and "Felix Catstein." The only episodes of the series not credited to pseudonyms ending in "-stein" are "The Midas Touch" (penned by Trevor Lansdowne and Tony Barwick, billed under his real name for the only time on the series) and the two-part opener "Expect the Unexpected" (scripted by Gerry Anderson).
- A fourth season would have developed the characters of Stew Dapples ("Stewed Apples") and Kate Kestrel further. This was explained in a documentary on the special features disc of the series, in the Gerry Anderson book "Supermarionation" and the Terrahawks DVDs. Two of the scripts were called "101 Seed" (a parody of the title "Number One Seed"), written by Anderson himself, and "Attempted MOIDer" by Tony Barwick.
- In the UK, six specially-prepared compilations of Terrahawks were released on video cassette, covering 24 out of 26 episodes from the first season. The first tape actually contained a few scenes in the premiere episode that had been edited out of the broadcast master due to time constraints (those scenes are not on DVD). The final volume, entitled "Zero's Finest Hour" had a smaller print run than the rest of the tapes, and was quite a collectors' item, with copies generally going for around £100 on eBay until the series began to be released on DVD.
- Unlike virtually all of Gerry Anderson's other puppet-based series, Terrahawks was not produced by ITC Entertainment. This meant that after Terrahawks repeats disappeared from UK airwaves in the late 1980s and the six compilation video tapes went out of production, the series was noticeably hard to find compared to Anderson's other series, most of which received a renaissance throughout the 1990s.
- In the episode "Play it Again, Sram," Kate sings a song called "SOS" that makes numerous references to Thunderbirds.
- The series is available on DVD in the United Kingdom and North America.
- The Dutch pirate radio station Radio Monique used a 2-minute custom edit of the Terrahawks theme tune as its signature music (1984 - 1987).
- Initially intended to air as the second episode (with the two part pilot counted as one singular story), "GO(L)D", which killed off the first of Ninestein's nine clones in an explosive trap, was aired as the series finale, meaning the Ninestein many viewers had watched for the entire series was murdered. The episode takes place before "Ma's Monsters" on the "Season Two" DVD collection as the twenty-fifth episode produced.
- "Cry UFO" is the only episode in which Zelda does not appear.