It's almost half a century since Thunderbirds first took to the skies with International Rescue.

But co-creator Sylvia Anderson isn’t finished yet.

Fresh from encouraging a team which will reinvent the series on ITV next year, she is producing an animation for the first time with a new show called The Last Station.

Featuring contributions from Thomas Sangster (Game of Thrones), Janine Duvitski (Benidorm) and music by Cass Lewis (rock band Skunk Anansie) it will have ‘‘universal stories’’ and launch on her own internet station, www.glotime.tv

The 87-year-old is extremely active, rarely asleep before midnight and up by 7am at her riverside Berkshire home.

“It’s the way I’ve always been,” breezes the mother of two and grandmother of four. “I’d hate to get to 10am and think I’d wasted half a day.”

So what are the other secrets of her vitality?

“Nothing special... I don’t eat meat, haven’t done for a long time, and I like a hot chocolate.”

Several times during our interview, she tells me about her unwillingness to revisit the acrimonious break-up of her marriage to Gerry, who suffered from Alzheimer’s in his later years and died on Boxing Day 2012, aged 83.

“So much has been written... and I don’t like people speaking on my behalf,” she says of third party stories.

“If I went down the spite and anger route, I wouldn’t like myself.

“Gerry met someone working for us.

“I’ve got over all of that. I’ve had another life. It was all a muddle. I try to keep well clear of that. He wanted to come back but I had had enough and it’s all a long time ago.

“Thunderbirds was a very happy time.”

Gerry remarried but Sylvia didn’t.

The pair continued to go their own separate ways at Pinewood, Gerry working on shows like Space Precinct, Sylvia as the England-based original programming representative for US company HBO.

“I have a nice house, not too big, near to the Thames,” she says. “I like the garden and people come to visit me.

“And, because I love reading, the house is full of books. I love the smell of them and always have two or three on the go at once.”

Today, she is developing glotime.tv with Dee, her daughter who has a daughter of her own.

Her doctor son, Gerry Jr, lives in Tasmania and has three children aged six, eight and nine.

Once a pioneer, always a pioneer – and Sylvia is clearly still energised by her own remarkable creativity.

“Gerry did all the boys’ own stuff and I used to write the characters,” she says.

Sylvia Anderson, the original Lady Penelope, arriving for the Midlands premiere of Thunderbirds at the ICC, Birmingham.
Sylvia Anderson, the original Lady Penelope, arriving for the Midlands premiere of Thunderbirds at the ICC, Birmingham.
 

“A well known Hollywood director once said to me that you can have all of the explosions you want, but if people don’t care about the characters then what’s the point?

“People would write to me, saying they’d had a terrible childhood, but how much they’d enjoyed switching on at certain dates and times and that ‘what made my childhood bearable was watching your shows’.”

In the early days, she says the Andersons were both looked after – and then effectively sold down the river – by Lew Grade, the boss of ATV.

“As a writer and actor voicing the characters, I wasn’t worth a lot,” she admits.

“We had no choice but to sell the rights.

“Lew had been very good to us and we owe a lot to him. He gave us creative freedom and would say ‘so long as you do it right and show it to me when it’s finished’.

“But he was also a businessman. When Lew bought us out, he gave us the least money possible. And if you didn’t own the whole of ATV, you just had to go on to the next thing.

“Because I did a lot of the voices, I get some repeat fees, but it’s not huge. You just have the pleasure of knowing you’ve done something that people think is fantastic.”

Unlike Gerry, Sylvia gave her support to US director Jonathan Frakes’ 2004 film Thunderbirds, starring Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope, Ron Cook as Parker and Ben Kingsley as The Hood.

“I took it as a compliment (that they wanted to make it). Money didn’t come into it. They gave a lot of work to local artists, something to be very pleased about.

“The people making the new ITV version with a sophisticated form of puppetry are very nice. They bother to say ‘hello’ and ‘what do you think?’ So I like them very much.”

Looking back at the original shows, some of the puppet parts were made in Birmingham by John Blundell’s puppet workshop at the mac in Cannon Hill Park.

“Each puppet had a duplicate in case anything happened,” says Sylvia. “They would also need interchangeable heads, one to blink, to look sad, fierce and so on.

“We’ve never yet been able to produce a puppet that can stand, sit down and blink at the same time.”

One of the pleasures of her being at RAF Cosford this weekend will be to see the joy on people’s faces when they meet the Thunderbirds’ puppets.

“People will say ‘I didn’t think they would be that tall, or that small’,” she says.

“They are about one third life size.”

The only time Sylvia chastises me is when I joke about whether or not they will be coming along ‘with strings attached’.

“That’s sacrilege to say that,” she chides with a chuckle. “We had to give those puppets everything. They had to look absolutely right and be the best that they could be.”

Looking ahead to Glotime bearing fruit towards the end of the year, Sylvia adds: “There’s a lot of work to be done but it’s interesting.

“Animation is something I’ve never done before, because it was puppetry before. I am learning a lot.

“People still recognise me, I don’t know how, but they do.

“If anyone had said at the beginning that all of this would still be happening, I wouldn’t have believed them.”

* Cosford Flights of Fantasy – May 17 and 18 will include the chance to see puppets from Thunderbirds and Joe 90 as well as Captain Scarlet and his evil nemesis Captain Black plus Steve Zodiac, the heroic pilot of Fireball XL5. Also on display will be models, costumes, full sized vehicles and sets from the classic live action shows Space 1999 and UFO, with trade stands selling memorabilia. Sylvia Anderson will be joined by other special guests for talks and Q&A sessions. For further details call 01902 376200.