The daughter of the couple who created Thunderbirds is threatening legal action against ITV over millions of pounds in lost royalties.
Dee Anderson claims her stepfather Gerry Anderson woefully undervalued the hugely-popular puppet series when he sold the TV rights in 1962.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline Dee, 68, says the deal made the TV company ‘millions of pounds’, but left her family, including her mother and co-creator Sylvia, seriously out of pocket.
Dee said: ‘I want retrospective action over the deal. ITV made millions of pounds from something my mother helped create but she’s received barely anything.
‘She was kept out of any negotiations purely because she was female and never got the recognition she deserved.’
Sylvia Anderson and her husband Gerry Anderson were the original creators of Thunderbirds
Gerry (pictured in 2005) died in 2012 aged 83. He sold the TV rights to Thunderbirds in 1962 for £110,000. His stepdaughter Dee Anderson, 68, claims he woefully undervalued it
Dee’s mother Sylvia Anderson, who produced the series and was the voice of Lady Penelope, was cut out of the deal before her acrimonious divorce from Gerry, according to Dee
The classic British series centred around the missions of the International Rescue team who were based on the fictional Tracey Island, where they kept their fleet of Thunderbird machines
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson turned Thunderbirds into a global phenomenon which spawned spin-offs including Captain Scarlet.
The classic British series centred around the missions of the International Rescue team who were based on the fictional Tracey Island, where they kept their fleet of Thunderbird machines.
Sylvia, who voiced the show’s legendary character Lady Penelope, was the creative force, while Gerry was known for his technical brilliance and also looked after the business side.
Despite Thunderbirds’ huge popularity, Gerry sold the rights to ATV, which later became ITV, in 1962 for a paltry £110,000, despite receiving bigger and more lucrative offers elsewhere.
Dee Anderson is fighting ITV over the deal to sell the Thunderbirds’ TV rights in 1962
He later sold the rest of their production firm AP Films to British production company ITC and ATV for just under £15,000 in 1975 – shortly after his bitter split from Sylvia, without her consent.
The former couple finalised their divorce in 1981 and while Sylvia spent the rest of her life struggling with money, even remortgaging her house in Bray, Berks, Gerry lived comfortably in his Oxfordshire cottage with third wife.
She also claims Sylvia was not credited on any further Thunderbirds-related material in a bid to ‘airbrush’ her from the show’s history.
In her complaint, Dee’s lawyer told MailOnline that they want the deals investigated because, they say, Gerry didn’t have the authority to sell the TV rights without Sylvia’s consent.
Dee revealed MP Lisa Cameron is set to raise her complaints against ITV in Parliament in a bid to gather support and encourage ITV to look into the origins and morality of the deals, as so far, her calls have been ignored.
Dee said: ‘I first came across this when the 1975 contract surfaced in 2013 and my mother’s name had a line through it which Gerry’s had marked with his initials. That’s when I suspected something wasn’t right.
‘She was the creative force and most people know that in the industry, and now suddenly she’s not there.
‘People come up to me and say you’re Gerry Anderson’s daughter but they don’t mention her.’
Dee believes Sylvia was a victim of ‘sexism’ in the TV industry back in the 1960s, whose rights were totally ignored by bigwigs.
She explained: ‘My mother was a pioneer of women in television, she was one of the first and yet, they’re not valuing that. The whole deal was set up for Gerry who was part of an old boys’ network.
‘My mother was totally creative so she didn’t really have a business head and wasn’t included in any of the conversations, but she could have been.
The show made character Aloysius ‘Nosey’ Parker (left) Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (centre) and Virgil Tracy (right) from the Thunderbirds team
Sylvia, who passed away in 2016, four years after her ex-husband, saw out her days struggling financially, having to re-mortgage her house and not benefitting from the Thunderbirds deal
‘I believe this sort of behavior was rife in the industry back then and I hope this will encourage other women, who worked on the creative side, to come out and make a stand against being mistreated.’
Dee recalls how Sylvia, who passed away in 2016 – four years after Gerry died, lived out the rest of her life in sadness that her Thunderbirds legacy was never fully recognised, and how her former husband’s name is solely synonymous with the brand.
As well as having her name missing from the credits of Thunderbirds’ DVDs, she was also ignored by the Royal Mail who released a special 2010 stamp collection to mark the 50th Anniversary of ‘Gerry Anderson creations’.
Dee alleges Sylvia’s face was on one of the stamps, having seen the original illustrations, but she did not make the final cut.
She added: ‘Since the split, I saw her go downhill. That’s when she realised she wasn’t going to get anything at all.
‘It affected her career. She tried to do movies but it was difficult to get them off the ground because she was stonewalled again. And she wanted to fight ITV but she didn’t have the money.
‘I look back now and I can see exactly what she was going through because it must have been devastating for her. That’s why I’m not going away, I will stay until something is resolved. I think about her every day.
‘She had no help, she was mistreated and it was total abuse. It was bullying and because she was female. The whole thing stinks about that time.’
An ITV spokesman said: ‘ITV has been engaged in a prolonged dialogue with Dee Anderson and her legal advisors over the course of the last three years or so.
‘At all times we have sought to understand the basis for Dee’s concerns and provided responses to her and her legal advisors, and we remain open to continuing this dialogue.’
Gerry’s estate has been contacted by MailOnline.