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Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour

Michael Shamash


In the 1960's it seemed that the hope for the future would be technology. We had the first men in space and the rocket. We witnessed the cold war technology race. Technology entered our lives in a way that no one could have imagined. This was reflected in children's television and in particular the high-tech puppetry of Gerry Anderson.

In a series of ever more technologically sophisticated programmes this north London born film producer created a line of puppet series of which the most famous were Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. However, in some ways the most interesting series was Stingray, set in the underwater world of the future, Marineville. The moment Stingray opened with its tantalising opening lines, "Anything can happen in the next half hour" I was hooked. Stingray not only had the hardware it also had heart.

What made me, as a young child with an impairment, identify with this programme, was that two of its central protagonists were disabled. The Commander of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, (WASP), Sam Shore was a wheelchair user and the beautiful Marina was unable to speak. These characters were central to the plot, not merely peripheral characters and their impairments were a given, part and parcel of the plot structure.

In this paper I would like to look at the dynamics of this fascinating series and suggest that Marineville was the original home of the social model of disability. I would also put this series in a historical context. Furthermore, I would like to suggest reasons why this was never attempted again within children's television in general and puppetry in particular. I would like to claim Stingray for the canon of disability art. This paper is humorous in its subject matter and serious in its analysis of the representation of disability in children's television.

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