Alan Pattillo (1929-2020)

Alan Hutchinson Pattillo was born on 17 July 1929 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Known for his work as a writer, director, script editor and film editor, he contributed to several of Gerry Anderson’s television series as well as a number of classic films.

Pattillo directed seven episodes of Four Feather Falls (all broadcast in 1960), 13 episodes of Supercar (1961-2) and 11 episodes of Fireball XL5 (1962-63). In the mid-Sixties, he directed 11 episodes of Stingray and tour episodes of Thunderbirds, including the opening instalment, Trapped In The Sky, thus helping to set the tone for the rest of the series. He was also script editor for 25 of the series’ 32 episodes. In Thunderbirds: The Vault (2015), Marcus Hearn refers to PattiIIo’s Thunderbirds episode as having “added sophistication” compared to other episodes of the series.

Pattillo was also credited as writer on seven episodes of Thunderbirds, The Trap episode of Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons (1967) and UFO‘s The Square Triangle (1970). His Thunderbirds episode Attack Of The Alligators! (1966) has been described as being “as fantastical as Thunderbirds ever gets” (Jack Knoll, reviewer for Outside the world of Anderson, he also provided the story for a 1967 instalment of The Avengers, The Bird Who Knew Too Much, starring Patrick Mac fee and Diana Rigg.

Offered the chance to direct the 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go, Pattillo declined. Quoted in Thunderbirds: The Vault, he recalled: “l’d had enough… Working with puppets is so limiting… Everything was a compromise. I also wondered whether it would really work on a big screen… I felt that the intimacy would be gone.” He also believed that TV helped viewers to overlook “the blemishes and the strings” and that a cinematic feature film would be less forgiving. He returned to the world of Gerry Anderson in the early 1980s, when he directed two episodes of Season One of TerrahawksExpect The Unexpected: Part 2 and From Here To Infinity.

In the world of film, Pattillo won an Emmy, shared with Bill Blunden, for ‘Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special’ for his work on All Quiet On The Western Front (1979), directed by Delbert Mann. He later worked as sound effects editor on Pink Floyd: The Wall (directed by Alan Parker and based on the group’s 1979 album of the same name) and associate editor on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982).

When Sylvia Anderson died in 2016, Pattillo spoke to the Aberdeen Evening Express and recalled that “She was very charming, and great fun… I very much enjoyed working with her, she was just delightful to work with.”

Alan Pattillo leaves behind a considerable legacy and his contributions form a sizable chunk of Gerry Anderson’s television output. A stylish director and an imaginative writer, Pattillo was a consummate professional who could be relied on to deliver the goods, but whose output was always interesting and not workmanlike.

Alan had been living with Parkinson’s disease for over ten years. He died on 16 January 2020, aged 90, and was cremated at Salisbury Crematorium.

Originally published in FAB 95.