R.I.P. TV Producer, Writer Roberta Leigh

Roberta Leigh – obituary

Fiftysomething women who were little girls in the early 1960s will probably remember Sara and Hoppity (1962-63), a 50-episode television series about a little girl and her mischievous doll with one leg shorter than the other. Men of a similar vintage will recall Space Patrol (1963, Planet Patrol in America), a 39-episode science fiction series incorporating elements of Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation techniques. It sold around the world, achieving the highest ratings of any children’s show up to that time, and even featured on the cover of Variety magazine.

Planet Patrol, as it was called in the U.S., was — still is — a trip.

When I saw it as a kid, I thought it was a Gerry Anderson production and was disappointed by the poor design. Seeing it as an adult, I marvel at how much more adult the stories were and how they tried to adhere to actual science. And the music itself, not at all like the orchestral Barry Gray, was arguably ahead of its time and had to have been influenced by Delia Derbyshire (who orchestrated the original theme for Doctor Who).

She was basically the “mother” of Gerry Anderson. He produced for TV her puppet shows well before he did his own. He’d probably argue that working for her “typecast” him. But it launched him on his legendary career and led him to create immortal TV series.

After the break, the first episode of Planet Patrol.

Bonus: Roberta Leigh with a color pilot and more advanced puppets, Paul Starr:

(I would swear Barry Gray did the music for that, uncredited!)


Space Patrol fan site

At past blogs:

Rare 1960s TV: Space Patrol
YouTube: Gerry Anderson’s Very Rare Torchy

Same-day update: Thanks to the Internet Archive, the very detailed fan site that used to exist for Space Patrol.

Second same-day update: It’s been bugging me that I wrote this post without reading the entire obituary first. If you didn’t click through to read it, do it. Read all of it. She was one hell of a talented woman with a career that puts many men to shame. She broke ground in many different fields and it seemed she had her fingers on the pulse of things and had success after success. If she was alive and young today, you’d be reading glowing profiles of her genius as someone with success after success in the field of tech startups. I’ve read the obit more than once and I sit here still amazed. Read it. Be amazed too.

1 Comment

Filed under R.I.P.

One response to “R.I.P. TV Producer, Writer Roberta Leigh

  1. Glinda Harrison

    Lovely piece, Mike. Back in the day, Roberta Leigh was one of my favorite Harlequin Romance writers. She was indeed a very talented, amazing woman.

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