Terrahawks - Behind The Scenes Special
SPACEHAWK - Interview with designer/builder Philip D Rae
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David: So how did the ‘Terrahawks’ job come up?
Phil: Well I had got to know Gerry through the Blackpool displays and knew
Steven Begg already. They were setting up the show and apparently the Japanese investors were flying over to look around in about two weeks time – and I believe that all they had to show them were the Zeroids. Steven was the designer at the time and had worked on most of the Terrahawk craft except for the Spacehawk, so he offered me the job of building it as he thought that might be more up my alley with the kit-bashed look.

Above left: Preproduction Spacehawk sketch that was actually done after the model had been built. Above Right, Phil's design for the new front end piece.

David: Did they give you a description of the craft, what it was supposed to do, or look like?
Phil: Well they started to give me a basic description, the idea was that there was this big front-end to the vehicle that would all open up, and then all these gun type things could unfold and come out – and I said ‘In two weeks - NO WAY!' (laugh).

So I just asked them to send me the script and I read through it and the basic idea was that Spacehawk was a gigantic battleship, a huge destroyer type thing like the Star Destroyers in ‘Star Wars’. So I came up with an idea - actually an idea that I had for a while so this was an opportunity to finally build it - and so I went round the shops looking for these vacuum cleaner plastic cases that I had seen and bought a few, then came back and started assembling this craft with the intention of cladding it all up in kit-part detail.

Above: Spacehawk version one - The main structure of Phil's initial Spacehawk build takes shape - with the help of vacuum cleaner parts and steel tube.

Phil: Well a week had gone by now and I realised that this model was going to take me a lot longer to build so I was completely stuck, how could I build a complete spaceship in a week!
So I looked around my model collection and there was a couple of old models that I had previously made which could work. So I took these models apart and rebuilt them into one model – the Spacehawk, as you know it today.

David: So it was just these old models?
Phil: Well, it really is a kit-bashed thing, mostly from stuff made around 1977, but I stripped off a lot of the original detailing and re-did it.

Above and Below: In desperation an existing model, that Phil had built in the mid 1970s, was stripped down and rebuilt as the basis for a new Spacehawk design.
Phil: For the kit spotters I can tell you that the front section was one "new" section and is basically 3 cut down Airfix Hercules fuselages, with some Airfix Space Shuttle and truck bits left over from 'Alien'. The core tube is basically Airfix Saturn V and Lunar Module with some plastic containers, a yoghurt pot, and disposable razors chucked in.
The rear "engine" is a tea dispenser...Auto-Caddy I think. The V-shaped wing sections are made from a plastic sunglasses stand, with Saturn V,  and 1/24 scale Harrier parts. There's also a lot of railway tanker truck parts, and many, many other kit-part bits in there too. And more disposable razors too (laughs). Of course the whole thing was totally re-painted, and weathered.
Phil: I took it down to London on the Saturday and the Japanese party arrived on the Monday, so it was a pretty close thing. Even the paint was still wet; I mean the model was such a rush job that I was still painting it that morning, so by the time I got there it was pretty much touch dry but still a bit tacky and smelly.
Oddly enough I think I was responsible for the Terrahawk craft being orange and silver, because a short while after I delivered it to the studio Ian Scoones rang me to ask what specific colours I had used.
Above and Below: Spacehawk as delivered to the studio, still featuring the probes.
David: Did the model get altered at all?
Phil: When I delivered the model it had a cluster of probes extending off the front of the three side modules, which I thought looked really aggressive. I’d first built these using some left-over probes from ‘Alien’ but had swapped them for some kit parts – good idea really as those ‘Alien’ bits are worth a fair bit today! Anyway the SFX director at the time was Ian Scoones and he just didn’t like the probes, so he stripped them off for filming, although they do appear on the prototype toy so the Japanese people obviously saw it with them on.

They also added the Scotchlite reflective tapes to create the lights on the ship - someone once asked me how I had done that thinking that there was a light inside the model but there wasn’t. The people at the studio added those, they basically stuck on strips of tape and then painted over them just leaving small exposed areas to scale the lights down in size.
I did actually leave part of the model loose on its central support pipe, the idea being that they could motorise that part and have it rotating during the shoot to add a bit of action, but they never bothered with that plan.

David: What scale was the model supposed to be?
Phil: I don’t really know – just BIG. The model was 5-foot long! The idea was that it was so big that you would not be able to pick out the airlocks etc. They were just there somewhere in all that detail. I have a small ZEAF somewhere that I think scales quite well to it, but that’s just my opinion and I kind of invented a scale when I drew up the Terrahawk blueprints that David Nightingale published.

I also quickly drew the supposed pre-production art which was needed for that project, but after the model was built! (laughs).

David: How did you end up doing the 'Official Terrahawk Blueprints'?
Phil: Well, simply, I'd already done quite a few blueprint drawings for my pal David Nightingale's 'SIG' magazine and he asked me if I would do it. I went down to Bray (studios) to photograph and measure all the main craft, so the results are pretty accurate. I have to say that they were a real chore to do, especially Spacehawk which was a nightmare trying to reproduce all that detail and I fudged it a bit. (laughs)

David: I understand you were also offered a job on the show itself.
Phil: Yes, that's so. Gerry was searching around for someone to head up the model department and asked me if I would do it. By that time (1982) I had a very young family had resumed my career in Architecture and in any event felt that I didn't have sufficient experience to take on such a responsibility so I declined. Later, when I saw the fantastic model work that Nick Finlayson and his troops did I figured it was probably a good decision...I would probably have got fired (laughs).

Above and Below: Studio profile photographs
Below: Spacehawk hanging in the studio model workshop (Picture Anderson Entertainment) The reflective tapes create the illusion of internal lights.
David: What did you think when it appeared on screen?
Phil: I thought it looked all right actually – I never really liked the previous old models before, as I just saw them as a bunch of old plastic margarine tubs and disposable razors stuck together, but the Spacehawk looks OK.
But even if some of the crew did refer to it as the 'Razor-hawk' (because of all the Bic razors I'd used) I still realIy wish I hadn't used the Tie Fighter wing panels ...as they are just too obvious.

David: How much did you get paid for it?
Phil: I’ve still got the bill in a pile over there actually, in fact they only rented it off me for a sum of about 370. I didn’t want to sell it to them as I know what happens to movie props and I so I wanted it back.

David: I’m surprised that you managed to get it back safely.
Phil: Well I kept an eye on the production and when they stopped filming I rang Gerry and said that I would like to come down and pick it up – I told him that I would ‘refurbish it’ and prepare it for the next series, if they actually had one, because there was talk of it happening

So I just drove down there and grabbed it quick, but of course while I was there I saw all the other models lying about and so later I rang Gerry and asked what was happening to them? He basically said that if I wanted them then I could have them all - just ring Bob Bell to arrange it. So I rang Bob and talked to him and remember asking him ‘How big a van should I bring?’ (laugh)

Anyway I hired a van and drove down there with a friend to help me carry them all and surprise, surprise, the models had gone! There were just a few bits of scenery left and that was about it – so I have no idea where the models are today, someone must have a few, probably the people who last worked on the show.

Below: Phil displaying his model having rescued it from the studio.

Left: Phil arrives at Bray Studios
to deliver the Spacehawk model (1982).

My thanks to Philip D Rae for the interview and use of his photographs.
Other photographs by Anderson Burr Pictures Ltd & Anderson Entertainment.
'Terrahawks' is copyright by Christopher Burr
No infringement of copyright is intended - non-profit fan interest site only.

'Terrahawks' is a Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr Production.

Article and other photographs David Sisson 2020