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The Secret Service

The Secret Service

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The Secret Service is a British children's
Children's television series
Children's television series, are commercial television programs designed for, and marketed to children, normally scheduled for broadcast during the morning and afternoon when children are awake. They can sometimes run in the early evening, for the children that go to school...

 espionage
Spy-fi
-Definition and characteristics:It often uses a secret agent or superspy whose mission is a showcase of science fiction elements such as technology and ideas used for extortion, plots for world domination or world destruction, futuristic weapons, gadgets and fast vehicles that can travel on land,...

 television series, made as a Century 21 production for ITC Entertainment
ITC Entertainment
The Incorporated Television Company was a British television company largely involved in production and distribution. It was founded by Lew Grade.-History:...

 and broadcast in 1969. Created by Gerry
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson MBE is a British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving specially modified marionettes, a process called "Supermarionation"....

 and Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Sylvia Anderson , born 25 March 1937, is a British voice artist and film producer, most notable for collaborations with Gerry Anderson, to whom she was married from 1962 to 1975....

, with David Lane
David Lane (director)
David Lane is a British television and film director, best known for his association with series produced by Gerry Anderson's AP Films.Lane directed several episodes of the Thunderbirds television series, including "Attack of the Alligators!", as well as the two cinema films Thunderbirds are GO and...

 and Reg Hill
Reg Hill
Reginald E. Hill was a British television producer and was most prominently associated with the work of puppet animator Gerry Anderson.-Professional life:...

 as producers, it succeeded earlier Century 21 productions such as Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds (TV series)
Thunderbirds is a British mid-1960s science fiction television show devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and made by AP Films using a form of marionette puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation"...

and, in a manner similar to its predecessors, presented characters as marionette
Marionette
A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations. A marionette's puppeteer is called a manipulator. Marionettes are operated with the puppeteer hidden or revealed to an audience by using a vertical or horizontal control bar in different forms...

 puppets in a filming technique dubbed "Supermarionation
Supermarionation
Supermarionation is a puppetry technique devised in the 1960s by British production company AP Films. It was used extensively in the company's numerous Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced action-adventure series, the most famous of which was Thunderbirds...

". The eighth and final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service incorporated footage of live actors
Live action
In filmmaking, video production, and other media, the term live action refers to cinematography, videography not produced using animation...

 for distance shots at the behest of Anderson, who wished to compensate for the inadequacies of the Supermarionation format (such as the difficulties of inducing effective movement in the puppet characters) and increase its realism. The Secret Service remained Anderson's last puppet series until the 1980s, when he produced Terrahawks
Terrahawks
Gerry Anderson & Christopher Burr's Terrahawks, simply referred to as Terrahawks, was a British science fiction television series produced by Anderson Burr Pictures and created by the production team of Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr. The show was Anderson's first in over a decade to utilize...

using the "Supermacromation" technique.

Episodes depict the adventures of Father Stanley Unwin, who was voiced by and resembled the real-life comedian of the same name
Stanley Unwin (comedian)
Stanley Unwin , sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, "Unwinese", referred to in the film Carry On Regardless as "gobbledegook".Unwinese was a mangled form of English in which many of the...

. The parish priest of a rural English village, Unwin also works undercover as a secret agent
Secret Agent
Secret Agent is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young...

 for BISHOP, a covert branch of British Intelligence that combats international criminal and terrorist threats. With junior operative Matthew Harding as his assistant, the Father answers to his superior in London – codenamed "The Bishop" – as he would in his clerical profession. When faced with the challenge of infiltrating hostile situations to gather intelligence, Unwin and Matthew deploy the "Minimiser", a gadget that shrink
Resizing (fiction)
Resizing , is a theme in fiction, in particular in fairy tales, fantasy, and science fiction.- Early instances in fiction :...

s Matthew to a fraction of his normal size for the purposes of conducting secret reconnaissance. Meanwhile, Unwin's nonsensical gobbledegook is used to perplex opponents.

Filming commenced at the Century 21 Studios in Slough
Slough
Slough is a borough and unitary authority within the ceremonial county of Royal Berkshire, England. The town straddles the A4 Bath Road and the Great Western Main Line, west of central London...

, and on location
Filming location
A filming location is a place where some or all of a film or television series is produced, in addition to or instead of using sets constructed on a movie studio backlot or soundstage...

 in England, in August 1968. However, Lew Grade
Lew Grade
Lew Grade, Baron Grade , born Lev Winogradsky, was an influential Russian-born English impresario and media mogul.-Early years:...

, Anderson's financial backer, cancelled
Cancellation (television)
In television, cancellation refers to the termination of a program by a network, typically because of low viewership and/or unfavourable critical reviews. Another reason why television programs can be cancelled is to make room for new television programs...

 production on The Secret Service in December 1968 during a preview screening of the pilot, declaring that the "Unwinese" dialogue would preclude successful distribution in the United States
Television in the United States
Television is one of the major mass media of the United States. Ninety-nine percent of American households have at least one television and the majority of households have more than one...

. Filming ended in January 1969 upon completion of the thirteenth episode, and the series aired in three broadcasting regions of the United Kingdom from September. Critical reception to The Secret Service has been mixed: verdicts range from the "forgotten gem" to the "one flop
Box office bomb
The phrase box office bomb refers to a film for which the production and marketing costs greatly exceeded the revenue regained by the movie studio. This should not be confused with Hollywood accounting when official figures show large losses, yet the movie is a financial success.A film's financial...

" of the Anderson series. Commentators have questioned Anderson's decision to hire Unwin, arguing that the humour that the Unwinese generates is too weak to sustain interest, although the scripting of the supporting characters has been praised.

Plot


The Secret Service follows the adventures of Father Stanley Unwin, the parish priest of a rural English village. Affecting the appearance of an eccentric middle-aged cleric, Unwin moonlights as a secret agent
Secret Agent
Secret Agent is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young...

 for BISHOP, a top-secret arm of British Intelligence (in full, British Intelligence Service Headquarters, Operation Priest) based in Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

. Answering to his superior, codenamed "The Bishop", Unwin resides at his vicarage with Matthew Harding – another agent who, when not assisting the Father on his missions, adopts the manner of a simple gardener. Supporting characters include Blake, a junior BISHOP operative, and Mrs Appleby, Unwin's ageing housekeeper, who is unaware of Unwin and Harding's involvement with British Intelligence.

Prior to the events depicted in The Secret Service, pioneering scientist Professor Humbolt perfected the Minimiser, a device capable of shrinking
Resizing (fiction)
Resizing , is a theme in fiction, in particular in fairy tales, fantasy, and science fiction.- Early instances in fiction :...

 people or objects to one third of their original size. Following Humbolt's death, it passed into the possession of Father Unwin, who conceals his deceased parishioner's parting gift inside a large Bible. The regular target of the Minimiser is Harding, whom Unwin reduces to a height of two feet (0.6 m) so that he can infiltrate situations to which no full-size person could gain discreet access. In this manner, the puppet interacts with life-size sets and live actors whose faces are excluded from the shot. The Minimiser is also used to shrink enemy agents, bringing them down to Harding's size.

When miniaturised, Harding is transported in Unwin's adapted briefcase
Briefcase
A briefcase is a narrow box-shaped bag or case used mainly for carrying papers and other documents and equipped with a handle. Lawyers commonly use briefcases to carry briefs to present to a court, hence the name...

, which is fitted with equipment such as a periscope
Periscope
A periscope is an instrument for observation from a concealed position. In its simplest form it consists of a tube with mirrors at each end set parallel to each other at a 45-degree angle....

, stores other gadgets as required, and can open from the inside. Unwin's hearing aid
Hearing aid
A hearing aid is an electroacoustic device which typically fits in or behind the wearer's ear, and is designed to amplify and modulate sound for the wearer. Earlier devices, known as "ear trumpets" or "ear horns", were passive funnel-like amplification cones designed to gather sound energy and...

 is in fact a transmitter that allows covert communication with Harding, who wears a corresponding unit. The Father's preferred means of transport is Gabriel, a repainted and revamped 1917-issue Ford Model T
Ford Model T
The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

 that can travel at speeds in excess of 50 mph (80 km/h). If enemies, police or other authorities challenge Unwin, the Father spouts a form of nonsensical gobbledegook as a smokescreen to confuse the opposition and cover for Matthew.

The Secret Service represents a departure from most earlier Supermarionation
Supermarionation
Supermarionation is a puppetry technique devised in the 1960s by British production company AP Films. It was used extensively in the company's numerous Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced action-adventure series, the most famous of which was Thunderbirds...

 television series on account of its contemporary setting: the time depicted is the late 1960s. Supercar
Supercar (TV series)
Supercar was a children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis's AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. 39 episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV and in the US in syndication...

, produced from 1960, is set between 1960 and 1962. The events of the episodes "Errand of Mercy" and "The Deadly Whisper" are set on 3 February and 24 May 1969, respectively. However, Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson MBE is a British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving specially modified marionettes, a process called "Supermarionation"....

 biographers Archer and Hearn argue that the setting is ambiguous: while it is first suggested to be "sometime in the near future", it is also remarked of the set-up that "Morris Minor
Morris Minor
The Morris Minor was a British economy car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948. Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured between 1948 and 1971...

s negotiate leafy country roads while space-age helijets patrol the skies." It is concluded that the production is so fantastic that it "isn't set in the real world at all."

Episode list

|Title |Writer(s) |Production no.

Production


With the completion of Joe 90
Joe 90
Joe 90 is a late-1960s British science-fiction television series documenting the exploits of a nine-year-old boy, Joe McClaine, who embarks on a double life as a schoolboy turned spy when his scientist father invents a pioneering machine capable of duplicating and transferring expert knowledge and...

, which commenced transmission on ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

 in September 1968, Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson MBE is a British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving specially modified marionettes, a process called "Supermarionation"....

 decided to produce another espionage television series. This would incorporate the plot device
Plot device
A plot device is an object or character in a story whose sole purpose is to advance the plot of the story, or alternatively to overcome some difficulty in the plot....

 of a rural English village as the base of operations for the star secret agent
Secret Agent
Secret Agent is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young...

, the local parish priest. Anderson selected Stanley Unwin
Stanley Unwin (comedian)
Stanley Unwin , sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, "Unwinese", referred to in the film Carry On Regardless as "gobbledegook".Unwinese was a mangled form of English in which many of the...

 to voice the lead character, which would be named after him, after encountering the comedian at Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios is a major British film studio situated in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, approximately west of central London. The studios have played host to many productions over the years from huge blockbuster films to television shows to commercials to pop promos.The purchase of Shepperton...

 as he completed dubbing work for the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car is a children's book written by Ian Fleming for his son Caspar, with illustrations by John Burningham...

.

In the 1940s and 50s, Unwin had developed "Unwinese", a nonsense
Nonsense
Nonsense is a communication, via speech, writing, or any other symbolic system, that lacks any coherent meaning. Sometimes in ordinary usage, nonsense is synonymous with absurdity or the ridiculous...

 language that distorted words and phrases into a form of gibberish
Gibberish
Gibberish is a generic term in English for talking that sounds like speech, but carries no actual meaning. This meaning has also been extended to meaningless text or gobbledygook. The common theme in gibberish statements is a lack of literal sense, which can be described as a presence of nonsense...

 that sounded unintelligible but which in fact retained some fragments of meaning. Recalling Unwin's radio and television performances, Anderson thought that the self-made language would suit the character of an eccentric undercover operative, and could produce humour if demonstrated to have a confusing effect on enemies. He elaborated, "As far as I was concerned, Stanley came first and then the idea had to accommodate him. It wasn't that the story called for someone who could speak gobbledegook, it was a question of how we could fit him into the storyline."

Due to the strange nature of the language, the Century 21 writers would brief Unwin on episode plots and then leave space in their scripts for the actor to draft all the Unwinese dialogue himself. Shane Rimmer
Shane Rimmer
Shane Rimmer is a Canadian actor and voice actor, probably best known as the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds.He has mostly performed in supporting roles, frequently in films and television series filmed in the United Kingdom, having relocated to England in the late 1950s, initially performing...

, who scripted the episode "Hole in One", remarked that "A lot of [the Unwinese] you had to leave to [Unwin]. You gave him a line of patter that's going to work with what he does. Because he was such a bizarre character, you felt you could really go all the way with him: you could practically do anything."

The premise of The Secret Service drew part of its inspiration from the Joe 90 episode "The Unorthodox Shepherd
The Unorthodox Shepherd
"The Unorthodox Shepherd" is the 13th episode of the British Supermarionation television series Joe 90. It was the eighth episode to be produced. Its original UK air date was 22 December 1968 on ATV Midlands...

", which features the character of an aged, deaf vicar who covers up a money counterfeiting operation on his church grounds. Archer and Hearn comment on the wider influence of Joe 90 on its successor series, stating that The Secret Service "continues the espionage theme of Joe 90 in a range of adventures that depict a Britain under siege from despicable foreign agents intent on stealing its secrets."

Puppets


Following Joe 90, Anderson had originally intended to discontinue the use of Supermarionation
Supermarionation
Supermarionation is a puppetry technique devised in the 1960s by British production company AP Films. It was used extensively in the company's numerous Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced action-adventure series, the most famous of which was Thunderbirds...

 puppets altogether. However, due to the higher prospective production costs of filming a new series completely in live action, he decided to compromise between the advantages of both options and mix the two formats. On the nature of the puppets, which had incorporated natural human anatomical proportions since Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, often referred to as Captain Scarlet, is a 1960s British science-fiction television series produced by the Century 21 Productions company of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, John Read and Reg Hill...

, Anderson stated that a progression in sculpting techniques had resulted in "imitations of human beings" that rendered his series "like live-action shows but with unconvincing actors".

Recording live actors for long shot
Long shot
In photography, filmmaking and video production, a long shot typically shows the entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings...

s solved a problem that all previous Supermarionation productions had entailed: that of inducing realistic movement from puppet characters. Century 21 had experimented with filming special effects in live settings for its 1968 film, Thunderbird 6
Thunderbird 6
Thunderbird 6 is a 1968 British science-fiction and adventure film written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, directed by David Lane and produced by Century 21 Cinema...

. "The Unorthodox Shepherd" had incorporated similar filming techniques: a church at Harefield
Harefield
Harefield is a village in the London Borough of Hillingdon in northwest London, England. It is situated on top of a hill, northwest of Charing Cross, near the Greater London boundary with Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the north...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 had doubled as the principal setting, the villain represented on location footage by a full-size mannequin based on a Supermarionation puppet. La Rivière notes the contrast between the mixing of formats for The Secret Service and the procedure adopted for earlier Supermarionation series, which had only used live-action shots for situations such as the operation of machines (for which a brief shot of a living hand would often be inserted).

New puppets created for The Secret Service were limited to the characters of Father Unwin (which sculptor Mary Turner based on the likeness of Stanley Unwin), his ageing housekeeper Mrs Appleby (which Christine Glanville
Christine Glanville
Christine Glanville was a British professional puppeteer and spent most of her working life on television programs produced by Gerry Anderson....

 based on the appearance of her mother) and The Bishop. Other characters were portrayed by "revamp puppets" that appeared in the earlier Anderson series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Joe 90. For example, the Harding puppet made its first appearance in the Captain Scarlet episode "Treble Cross
Treble Cross
"Treble Cross" is the 21st episode of the Supermarionation television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. It was first broadcast in the UK on on ATV Midlands, was written by Tony Barwick and directed by Alan Perry....

", while the Captain Scarlet
Captain Scarlet (character)
Captain Scarlet is the fictional main character in Gerry Anderson's British Supermarionation science fiction television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and its CGI remake Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet....

 marionette itself starred as Blake. La Rivière refers to the Unwin puppet in particular as "one of the most impressive artistic feats" produced at the Century 21 puppet workshop, describing the accuracy of the likeness as "uncanny".

Voice cast


With the exception of Unwin, all voice actors cast for The Secret Service had contributed to earlier Supermarionation
Supermarionation
Supermarionation is a puppetry technique devised in the 1960s by British production company AP Films. It was used extensively in the company's numerous Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced action-adventure series, the most famous of which was Thunderbirds...

 series. The Secret Service starred:
  • Stanley Unwin
    Stanley Unwin (comedian)
    Stanley Unwin , sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, "Unwinese", referred to in the film Carry On Regardless as "gobbledegook".Unwinese was a mangled form of English in which many of the...

     as Father Stanley Unwin (aged 57), a parish priest based in rural England who carries out top-secret missions for BISHOP (British Intelligence Service Headquarters, Operation Priest). Due to the realism of the costume that he wore for live-action location filming, members of the public would often confuse Unwin for a real vicar during production on The Secret Service. While driving home from one shooting session in costume, he once found himself "held up because the driver in front had stalled his caravan. Seeing my clerical garb he said: 'So sorry, Father. I'm in trouble.'"
  • Gary Files
    Gary Files
    Gary Files was born in Melbourne, Australia and is an Australian-Canadian actor, writer and director who has resided in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has lived in Australia since 1976.-Early life:...

     as Matthew Harding (aged 28), a BISHOP agent paired with Unwin, who serves as his accomplice on assignment and as gardener of the vicarage in public life. Files retained fond memories of his time on The Secret Service, stating that he enjoyed voicing the character of Harding more than the character of Captain Magenta
    Captain Magenta
    Captain Magenta is a character in the 1960s Supermarionation television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. He is a senior officer of the Spectrum organisation, but seldom leaves Cloudbase....

     on Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
    Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
    Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, often referred to as Captain Scarlet, is a 1960s British science-fiction television series produced by the Century 21 Productions company of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, John Read and Reg Hill...

    . He made significant contributions to Harding's characterisation, conceiving the rural accent of Unwin's assistant himself: "It just seemed so right for the character. Then once I had the voice, the rest of Matthew followed."
  • Sylvia Anderson
    Sylvia Anderson
    Sylvia Anderson , born 25 March 1937, is a British voice artist and film producer, most notable for collaborations with Gerry Anderson, to whom she was married from 1962 to 1975....

     as Mrs Appleby (aged 55), the housekeeper of Unwin's vicarage, who remains ignorant of Unwin and Harding's secret double life.
  • Jeremy Wilkin
    Jeremy Wilkin
    Jeremy Wilkin is a British actor, possibly best known for his contributions to the television productions of Gerry Anderson....

     as The Bishop (aged 52), a high-ranking figure in British Intelligence, director of BISHOP and superior to Unwin, based in Whitehall
    Whitehall
    Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

    .
  • Keith Alexander
    Keith Alexander (actor)
    Keith Alexander is a British actor and voice actor.Alexander's television credits include Softly, Softly , The New Avengers , Minder and The Day of the Triffids...

     as Blake, a cautious junior agent of BISHOP, who has speaking roles in three episodes ("A Question of Miracles", "Last Train to Bufflers Halt" and "The Cure").


Supporting character voices were provided by all the regular cast (with the exception of Unwin) in addition to David Healy
David Healy (actor)
David Healy was an American-born actor who starred in many British and American television shows. His credits include voices for the Supermarionation series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and The Secret Service, as well as parts in UFO, The Troubleshooters, Randall and Hopkirk , Space...

 and (for the final episode, "More Haste Less Speed") David Graham
David Graham (actor)
David Graham is a British character actor and voice artist. Born in London, after a period in the R.A.F as a Radar Mechanic he trained as an actor in New York but has worked mainly on British television series....

.

Filming


Filming commenced on 20 August 1968 after a summer of pre-production
Pre-production
Pre-production or In Production is the process of preparing all the elements involved in a film, play, or other performance.- In film :...

. Director Ken Turner
Ken Turner (director)
Ken Turner is a British television and film director and screenwriter who has worked extensively on series created by Gerry Anderson....

, who headed the location unit, recalled that The Secret Service became a complex series to shoot because it incorporated three design elements (studio puppet filming, studio special effects filming and live-action location filming). In a reversal to the practice used on earlier Supermarionation productions, location filming needed to be completed first before work could start at the Century 21 Studios. Turner elaborated, "We felt that somebody had to take the location stuff by the balls, get it shot and then hand it over to the director to fit his puppet stuff in. I suppose that seemed a bit back to front but with that programme it was what worked out best."

On the complications that emerged from filming, producer David Lane
David Lane (director)
David Lane is a British television and film director, best known for his association with series produced by Gerry Anderson's AP Films.Lane directed several episodes of the Thunderbirds television series, including "Attack of the Alligators!", as well as the two cinema films Thunderbirds are GO and...

 remembered his experience on the series as "an absolute nightmare" due to the various scales used: "You can imagine the problems. You're shrinking [the Matthew Harding puppet] to puppet size on a puppet set and then you're having to build it in live-action size for the puppet because he's supposed to be a small man in a full-sized environment. And then you're using the 'shrunken' puppet in a full set."

Locations used in filming included a manor house at Burnham
Burnham, Buckinghamshire
Burnham is a village and civil parish that lies north of the River Thames in the South Bucks District of Buckinghamshire, and sits on the border with Berkshire, between the towns of Maidenhead and Slough. It is served by Burnham railway station in the west of Slough on the main line between London...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, which doubled as Unwin's residence. Centre Point
Centre Point
Centre Point is a substantial concrete and glass office building in central London, England, occupying 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1, close to St Giles Circus and almost directly above Tottenham Court Road tube station. The site was once occupied by a gallows...

, a tower building located on Oxford Street
Oxford Street
Oxford Street is a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster in the West End of London, United Kingdom. It is Europe's busiest shopping street, as well as its most dense, and currently has approximately 300 shops. The street was formerly part of the London-Oxford road which began at Newgate,...

 in London, appeared as British Intelligence Headquarters, while Horse Guards Parade
Horse Guards Parade
Horse Guards Parade is a large parade ground off Whitehall in central London, at grid reference . It is the site of the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour, which commemorates the monarch's official birthday, and Beating Retreat.-History:...

 in Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 represented the base of BISHOP. The hospital at which Unwin visits Brother Gregory in the episode "School for Spies" was in fact Wexham Park Hospital
Wexham Park Hospital
Wexham Park Hospital is an NHS hospital at the northern fringe of Slough, Berkshire, part of the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.The hospital opened in 1965 in a "countryside" setting....

 in Slough. The exterior of Century 21 Studios themselves, located on the Slough Trading Estate
Slough Trading Estate
The Slough Trading Estate founded in Slough, Berkshire in 1920, was an early business park in the United Kingdom. According to the estate's owners and operators, SEGRO , Slough Trading Estate consists of of commercial property in Slough and provides of accommodation to 500 businesses and has...

, appeared as the Healey Automation plant in the pilot episode, "A Case for the Bishop".

Effects


Due to the 1960s setting of The Secret Service, Derek Meddings
Derek Meddings
Derek Meddings was a British television and cinema special effects expert, initially noted for his work on the "Supermarionation" television puppet series produced by Gerry Anderson, and later for the 1970s James Bond films and the Superman film series.-Early years:Both Meddings' parents had...

 and the technicians of the special effects department received few commissions for scale model
Scale model
A scale model is a physical model, a representation or copy of an object that is larger or smaller than the actual size of the object, which seeks to maintain the relative proportions of the physical size of the original object. Very often the scale model is used as a guide to making the object in...

s of vehicles that appeared futuristic. This left Unwin's vintage Ford Model T
Ford Model T
The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

, Gabriel, as their main project, in addition to rendering vehicles and settings common to the decade in miniature and producing the optical enlargement and miniaturisation effects for the character of Harding. Wag Evans manufactured a full-size and two miniature versions (the last of differing scales) of Gabriel, fitting the larger car with belt-driven electric motors, a folding roof, upholstered interior, and a remote control mechanism.

Evans remembered that the location filming involving Gabriel, conducted in and around Burnham Beeches
Burnham Beeches
Burnham Beeches is an area of 220 hectares of ancient woodland, located close to Farnham Common, Burnham and Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire. It is approximately 25 miles to the west of London, England.-Preservation:...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 in the autumn of 1968, proved to be arduous due to the low levels of light. On occasion, just two minutes of new footage would be recorded at each session. On the subject of the remote-control steering, he stated, "I remember standing out of shot and having to 'drive' [Gabriel] down the road while it was out of view. Often I didn't know where it was, or where and when it had stopped." A location unit member would be on hand to stop the car with a large cushion if it went out of control.

Music


Composer Barry Gray
Barry Gray
Barry Gray was a British musician and composer who is best known for his work for Gerry Anderson.-Life:...

's opening theme music
Theme music
Theme music is a piece that is often written specifically for a radio program, television program, video game or movie, and usually played during the title sequence and/or end credits...

, his first Supermarionation contribution since Stingray
Stingray (TV series)
Stingray is a children's marionette television show, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment from 1964–65. Its 39 half-hour episodes were originally screened on ITV in the UK and in syndication in the USA. The scriptwriters included Gerry and...

to include vocal cues, is a chant incorporating church organ and percussion accompaniment. Imitating the nuances of Bach
Bạch
Bạch is a Vietnamese surname. The name is transliterated as Bai in Chinese and Baek, in Korean.Bach is the anglicized variation of the surname Bạch.-Notable people with the surname Bạch:* Bạch Liêu...

, Gray developed his initial concept into a three-part fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

. He initially approached the Swingle Singers to provide the chant, but the fee demanded would have placed considerable strain on the music budget. Seeking out an alternative, Gray hired the Mike Sammes Singers, who had provided vocals for the Supercar
Supercar (TV series)
Supercar was a children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis's AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. 39 episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV and in the US in syndication...

theme and produced an impression of the Swingle Singers' tones under his direction. Archer and Hearn cite the opening and closing theme music, recorded in a four-hour studio session on 16 October 1968, as "a glorious piece of choral lunacy".

Both the opening and ending credits sequences incorporated shots of The Church of St Michael and All Angels in High Wycombe
High Wycombe
High Wycombe , commonly known as Wycombe and formally called Chepping Wycombe or Chipping Wycombe until 1946,is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. It is west-north-west of Charing Cross in London; this figure is engraved on the Corn Market building in the centre of the town...

, Buckinghamshire, which doubles for Unwin's parish. A zoom shot established a backdrop of fields in the opening credits sequence, after which the superimposed title of "The Secret Service" descended onto the screen in a motion that drew inspiration from traditional images of angels descending from Heaven.

Further to the titles, Gray recorded incidental music
Incidental music
Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack"....

 for individual episodes in three additional four-hour sessions. For the first, held at the Olympic Studios
Olympic Studios
Olympic Studios was a renowned independent commercial recording studio located at 117 Church Road, Barnes, South West London, England. The studio is best known for the huge number of famous rock and pop recordings made there from the late 1960s onward....

 in London on 12 November 1968, an orchestra of 29 musicians played tracks to feature in the pilot episode, "A Case for the Bishop". Recording for "A Question of Miracles" ran on 11 December, at Gray's private studios and with eight musicians. The final session wrapped up the soundtrack on 10 January 1969. Due to the cancellation of The Secret Service, the soundtrack has received no commercial releases, although since 2007 it has been available on CD exclusively for members of Fanderson
Fanderson
Fanderson is the official appreciation society for the works of Gerry Anderson. It is a not-for-profit organisation endorsed by Anderson Entertainment Ltd, Gerry Anderson Productions plc and ITC Entertainment Group Ltd...

, the official Gerry Anderson fan organisation.

Cancellation


Lew Grade
Lew Grade
Lew Grade, Baron Grade , born Lev Winogradsky, was an influential Russian-born English impresario and media mogul.-Early years:...

, the ITC Entertainment
ITC Entertainment
The Incorporated Television Company was a British television company largely involved in production and distribution. It was founded by Lew Grade.-History:...

 financier, ordered Anderson to cancel production on The Secret Service during a test screening
Test screening
A test screening is a preview screening of a movie or television show before its general release in order to gauge audience reaction. Preview audiences are selected from a cross-section of the population, and are usually asked to complete a questionnaire or provide feedback in some form. Harold...

 of the pilot episode, "A Case for the Bishop", in December 1968. Objecting to the concept on the grounds that audiences in the United States would be confused by the Unwinese, Grade capped the production at the thirteen episodes that either had been completed or were in production at the time of the screening. Anderson countered that a nonsense language such as Unwinese is inherently incomprehensible, and questioned Grade's reasoning for the cancellation, responding that "I chose Stanley Unwin because you are not supposed to understand Stanley Unwin, even if you're British. I thought if the Americans don't understand him either, what's the difference?"

However, Anderson conceded that Grade "was not a man you could argue with. If he said "No", you had to accept that he wouldn't change his mind." Of Grade's decision, La Rivière conjectures, "No one knows what was running through [his] mind ... but given the ease with which the 'Unwinese' element could have been removed the series, it seems probable that he simply didn't like a lot of what he was seeing." In a move that would lead to the discontinuation of the Supermarionation format, Anderson and Grade coordinated to transfer most of the production staff from the Century 21 base at the Slough Trading Estate
Slough Trading Estate
The Slough Trading Estate founded in Slough, Berkshire in 1920, was an early business park in the United Kingdom. According to the estate's owners and operators, SEGRO , Slough Trading Estate consists of of commercial property in Slough and provides of accommodation to 500 businesses and has...

 in Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

 to Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios is a major British film studio situated in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, approximately west of central London. The studios have played host to many productions over the years from huge blockbuster films to television shows to commercials to pop promos.The purchase of Shepperton...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 for the commencement of filming on UFO
UFO (TV series)
UFO is a 1970-1971 British television science fiction series about an alien invasion of Earth, created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, and produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade's Century 21 Productions for Grade's ITC Entertainment company.UFO first aired in the UK and Canada...

, the Andersons' first full live-action series.

Having wanted to abandon puppet work and move into live-action, Anderson greeted the cancellation of The Secret Service with optimism, remarking of live actors, "I started to think: 'It's amazing! They speak! Their mouths are in synch with their words! And they can walk! And they can pick up things!'" After the Century 21 Studios closed down on 24 January 1969 on completion of the final episode of The Secret Service, "More Haste Less Speed", the special effects department expanded its workshops into the disused rooms in anticipation of new projects for UFO.

Broadcast


In the United Kingdom, The Secret Service aired only in the ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

, Granada
Granada Television
Granada Television is the ITV contractor for North West England. Based in Manchester since its inception, it is the only surviving original ITA franchisee from 1954 and is ITV's most successful....

 and Southern
Southern Television
Southern Television was the first ITV broadcasting licence holder for the south and south-east of England from 30 August 1958 until the night of 31 December 1981. The company was launched as Southern Television Limited and the title Southern Television was consistently used on-air throughout its life...

 broadcasting regions on its original run, appearing on Sunday afternoons on ATV at the regular time of 5.30 pm. In most other ITV regions, The Flaxton Boys
The Flaxton Boys
The Flaxton Boys is a British historical children's television series set in the West Riding of Yorkshire and covering a timespan of almost a century. The series was made by Yorkshire Television and was broadcast on ITV between 1969 and 1973, running for 4 series and 52 episodes, each of 30...

was broadcast in this time slot. Although repeats ran until 1972 on ATV and Southern, and until 1975 on Granada, the series has not been transmitted since and remains unsold to new broadcasters.

Reception


Critical reception of The Secret Service has for the most part been negative. However, Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson MBE is a British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving specially modified marionettes, a process called "Supermarionation"....

 has ranked it as a favourite of all the series that he has produced. Leo Eaton, a director, has argued that The Secret Service is "just a bit weird", and stated that he did not consider Stanley Unwin's humour to be effective. Production manager Desmond Saunders
Desmond Saunders
Desmond Saunders is a British television director and film editor.He has a long association with producer Gerry Anderson, having served as a director for the series Supercar , Stingray , Thunderbirds , Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons , Joe 90 and Terrahawks...

 has referred to it as "strange. I suppose it was the gobbledegook and the mixture of live action with puppets. It never seemed to me to be a very good idea." Simon Wickes, examining the production of the series on the TVCentury21 website, deems the idea "very strange" and suggests that, for its main purpose, The Secret Service bridged the transition between Anderson's Supermarionation
Supermarionation
Supermarionation is a puppetry technique devised in the 1960s by British production company AP Films. It was used extensively in the company's numerous Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced action-adventure series, the most famous of which was Thunderbirds...

 series and his subsequent progression into live action. Kif Bowden-Smith of the Transdiffusion website concurs with this latter point, referring to the set-up mixing puppetry and live action as "an experimental format for the following live action series".
Anderson biographers Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn note a sharp divergence from earlier Supermarionation productions that stems from The Secret Service being less "American-orientated" and containing fewer action sequences. The series is referred to as the "most eccentric" of all Anderson's series up to 1969, and the fusion of puppets and live actors the "natural conclusion" to the Supermarionation technique. The writers bestow particular praise on the characterisation of the supporting character of Mrs Appleby, whose ignorance of Unwin and Harding's commitments to British Intelligence leads to moments of humour: for example, when Father Unwin speaks into his communications device disguised as a hearing aid
Hearing aid
A hearing aid is an electroacoustic device which typically fits in or behind the wearer's ear, and is designed to amplify and modulate sound for the wearer. Earlier devices, known as "ear trumpets" or "ear horns", were passive funnel-like amplification cones designed to gather sound energy and...

, the housekeeper deduces that the apparently senile vicar is muttering to himself. The episodes "A Question of Miracles", in which the miniaturised Matthew is dwarfed by articles of food and drink from a picnic basket, and "Last Train to Bufflers Halt", with its plot about an unstoppable train, are also lauded. Stephen La Rivière, author of Filmed in Supermarionation: A History of the Future, favours "More Haste Less Speed": describing the series finale as "wonderfully quirky" and "glorious", he views the plot concerning counterfeiting as reminiscent of the "gentler, earlier days of Supercar
Supercar (TV series)
Supercar was a children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis's AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. 39 episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV and in the US in syndication...

", also praising Keith Alexander
Keith Alexander (actor)
Keith Alexander is a British actor and voice actor.Alexander's television credits include Softly, Softly , The New Avengers , Minder and The Day of the Triffids...

 for his impression of an aged woman while voicing the character of Lady Hazlewell.

However, evaluating The Secret Service as a whole, La Rivière suggests that the premise of a secret agent masquerading as a priest while driving an antiquated car did not appeal to child viewers, and that older audiences did not see the "traditional espionage format" as original. For La Rivière, the blending of puppetry and live action "simply doesn't work. It requires more than the audience can give in terms of acceptance." In the case of "More Haste Less Speed", he notes that the character of Lady Hazlewell is portrayed in live-action distance shots by a stunt actor dressed in drag
Drag queen
A drag queen is a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature woman often for the purpose of entertaining. There are many kinds of drag artists and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in films to people who just try it once. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and...

 – an "unintentionally hilarious moment that illustrates beautifully why the live-action inserts didn't work." He further argues that the contrasting light levels of shots alternating between one format and the other shatter the illusion of "artificiality" that previous series had been able to produce due to the absence of live action.
La Rivière cites external influences that, in his mind, did not work in favour of The Secret Service, including the sustained viewer interest in previous Supermarionation productions as far back as The Adventures of Twizzle
The Adventures of Twizzle
The Adventures of Twizzle is the very first television show produced by AP Films and specifically Gerry Anderson, after being approached by author Roberta Leigh and her colleague Suzanne Warner. Sources vary as to who directed the series...

(1959) and the frequent repeat runs that such series received on ATV
Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

 throughout the 1960s: "... as with anything that is phenomenally popular
FAD
In biochemistry, flavin adenine dinucleotide is a redox cofactor involved in several important reactions in metabolism. FAD can exist in two different redox states, which it converts between by accepting or donating electrons. The molecule consists of a riboflavin moiety bound to the phosphate...

, the time must come when the audience is satiated and drifts away to something else." On the other hand, it is argued that, in light of the release of the 1969 film Doppelgänger
Doppelgänger (1969 film)
Doppelgänger is a 1969 British science-fiction film directed by Robert Parrish and starring Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Lynn Loring and Patrick Wymark. Outside Europe, it is known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, which is now the more popular title...

, a live-action production preceding the television series UFO
UFO (TV series)
UFO is a 1970-1971 British television science fiction series about an alien invasion of Earth, created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, and produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade's Century 21 Productions for Grade's ITC Entertainment company.UFO first aired in the UK and Canada...

, the Supermarionation format had become outdated. Archer and Hearn express similar concerns on the falling demand for new Supermarionation series in 1969, stating that Anderson and his team has become "a bit too successful" in producing a winning format.

Science-fiction author John Peel
John Peel (writer)
John Peel is a British writer, best known for his books connected to several television series. He has written under several pseudonyms, including John Vincent and Nicholas Adams. He lives in Long Island, New York and his wife is a U.S...

, in his episode guide to the Supermarionation productions, labels The Secret Service "dismal", deeming the mix of puppetry and live action "completely pointless" and Stanley Unwin's recruitment not just "bizarre in the extreme" but also ill-considered, since his Unwinese "was hardly funny to most people (let alone children)." Addressing Lew Grade
Lew Grade
Lew Grade, Baron Grade , born Lev Winogradsky, was an influential Russian-born English impresario and media mogul.-Early years:...

's concern that an American audience would be left baffled by Unwin's mannerisms, Peel argues that the character was equally incomprehensible to British viewers. As with La Rivière, he perceives a lack of inspiration in the core premise, and also refers to the Minimiser as the "single gimmick
Gimmick
In marketing language, a gimmick is a unique or quirky special feature that makes something "stand out" from its contemporaries. However, the special feature is typically thought to be of little relevance or use. Thus, a gimmick is a special feature for the sake of having a special feature...

" of the series, which as a whole "marked the death knell of Supermarionation." It is Peel's opinion that each Supermarionation series following Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds (TV series)
Thunderbirds is a British mid-1960s science fiction television show devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and made by AP Films using a form of marionette puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation"...

"had made one mistake after another", so that "From the heights of Thunderbirds, the Anderson team had slipped to the depths with The Secret Service.
Supermarionation historians Chris Drake and Graeme Bassett suggest that "On paper, at least, the premise seemed irresistible", yet describe the combination of puppetry and live action as "uneasy". Prior to his death in 2002, Unwin himself praised the off-beat nature of The Secret Service, defending the inclusion of such elements as the Unwinese as "an attempt to add a new dimension to the puppet field ... It was a bit bizarre, but then aren't many new ideas a little odd at first?" On the subject of the cancellation, he suggested that "maybe it was a little bit before its time." Running contrary to La Rivière and Peel, John Walsh of newspaper The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

challenges the notion that the gobbledegook devalued the series, arguing that American audiences aside, "British audiences quite like not understanding things."

In an episode review published in the Andersonic fanzine
Fanzine
A fanzine is a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon for the pleasure of others who share their interest...

, Paul O'Brien suggests that the AquaTank plot of "Recall to Service" is "an obvious allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 about the hazards of complete automation
Automation
Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to reduce the need for human work in the production of goods and services. In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization...

", writing that the depiction of a military weapon gone rogue relates to instalments of earlier Supermarionation series such as Thunderbirds in terms of its subtext
Subtext
Subtext or undertone is content of a book, play, musical work, film, video game, or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds. Subtext can also refer to the thoughts...

, which warns of the dangers of over-reliance on technology. The crucial plot development of the episode occurs, according to O'Brien, "when Matthew switches the advancing AquaTank back to manual control – in other words the machinery is now subordinate to its creator once again, as it should stay." O'Brien directs criticism at the limitations of the puppet cast, arguing that the recurring absence of female characters leaves Father Unwin and Matthew members of an "all-male club". On the subject of Mrs Appleby, he writes that the one regular character of the opposite sex "contributes precisely nil to the plot."

Exploring cultural influences, historian Nicholas J. Cull
Nicholas J. Cull
Professor Nicholas J. Cull is a historian and the director of the Master's in Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California.-Biography:...

 cites The Secret Service as an "idiosyncratically British product" and, in reference to BISHOP, remarks that the series honours "the 1960s vogue for stories set in secret organisations with extravagant acronyms." He identifies inferences to the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, noting that Sakov in "The Cure" is Russian and concluding that The Secret Service is one of many Anderson series that "unashamedly capitalised on the Cold War cult of the secret agent whose skills defend the home from enemies unknown." Cull labels The Secret Service in general as Anderson's "one flop".

Other media


In 1969, author John William Jennison wrote two original novels based on the series – The Destroyer and The VIP – under the pseudonym "John Theydon". A&E Home Video
A&E Television Networks
A&E Television Networks is a U.S. media company that owns a group of television channels available via cable & satellite in the US and abroad...

 released the series as a two-disc Region 1 DVD box set on 30 December 2003. While the picture and sound of the episodes have been digitally remaster
Remaster
Remaster is a word marketed mostly in the digital audio age, although the remastering process has existed since recording began...

ed, special features include an audio commentary
Audio commentary
On disc-based video formats, an audio commentary is an additional audio track consisting of a lecture or comments by one or more speakers, that plays in real time with video...

 with producer David Lane
David Lane (director)
David Lane is a British television and film director, best known for his association with series produced by Gerry Anderson's AP Films.Lane directed several episodes of the Thunderbirds television series, including "Attack of the Alligators!", as well as the two cinema films Thunderbirds are GO and...

 for the pilot episode, "A Case for the Bishop". Network DVD
Network DVD
Network DVD is a DVD publishing company that specialises in classic British television. In particular, it has the rights to a number of well-known ITV programmes...

 followed with a Region 2 release on 20 June 2005. Bonus material includes audio commentaries from creator Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson MBE is a British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving specially modified marionettes, a process called "Supermarionation"....

 and PDF transfers of original script documents. The AllMovie website awards a feature rating of three and a half stars out of five.

External links