Shane Rimmer (1929- 2019): Cowboys and Space Stations

During the 1960s to the 1980s, if a television production required an American, there were two actors that usually got the gig: Ed Bishop or Shane Rimmer. It’s a little odd in Rimmer’s case as he was a Canadian: born in 1929 in Toronto.

However, Shane Rimmer made one achievement that Bishop didn’t (Big Finish notwithstanding): Rimmer appeared in Doctor Who, in the 1966 story The Gunfighters. He played Seth Harper; a gunman hired by the Clantons to help kill Doc Holliday, in a story based around the legendary gunfight at the OK Corrall in Tombstone, Arizona. I was lucky enough to have been taken to Tombstone, aged 13, and stood in the actual spot where this legendary gunfight occurred.

As with many of the stories from the 1960s, The Gunfighters is a purely historical. It’s not a particular favourite of mine as I can not shake the feeling that a British television production trying to do cowboys is a bit naff. Maybe I should give it a second chance as an older me might be a bit more appreciative.

But Rimmer is superb in it – a fact which comes as no surprise. Shane passed away on 29th March 2019 at the age of 89, and is survived by Sheila and their three sons, Damian, Ben and Paul, who our thoughts, of course, go out to. But you’ll certainly know Shane from more than just Doctor Who

A Rich Body of Work 

From a genre point of view, Shane Rimmer was involved in virtually every major franchise since the 1960s. He appears or lends his voice to four James Bond movies – You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me – the first three Christopher Reeve Superman films, Batman Begins, and Star Wars (when it was still called just Star Wars). It’s also worth mentioning a few of the ITC classics he graced such as The Saint, Danger Man, The Persuaders, and a voice dub in Jason King (the spin-off from Department S). 

Indeed, taking a look at his IMDb page, his list of television and film credits is mind-boggling; from Hollywood blockbusters to walk-ons in British sketch shows, via Coronation Street! It does make one wonder why Shane Rimmer wasn’t more of a household name, especially after a career that spanned seven decades. 

BUT… This all pales into insignificance because, for me, Shane Rimmer is synonymous with Gerry Anderson.

Out of this World 

Without a doubt, his most famous role is providing the voice for Scott Tracy, the pilot of Thunderbird 1. When I was a very small child, who grew up with the Anderson shows, it was quite a shock when I finally saw the real life actor with that same distinctive voice as Scott! Even as an adult, whenever Rimmer appeared on TV, his voice would instantly trigger memories of daring rescues and exclamations of “F.A.B!” – something that, as young children in the early 1970s, we shouted a lot in the playground, while all wanting to be the pilot of Thunderbird 1.

Thunderbirds was the first Anderson production that Rimmer was involved with, but he didn’t provide a lead in any other until he voiced the robot private investigator, Dick Spanner P.I. (1987). He also starred in the pilot episode of Space Police (1986), but the 1990s series that it developed into was without him.

From Thunderbirds onwards, Shane Rimmer was involved in practically every Anderson production, except Terrahawks and Into Infinity. He appeared, or voiced characters – often uncredited – in Captain ScarletJoe 90, UFO, The Protectors, and Space 1999

But it didn’t stop there as he got involved behind the scenes. He wrote three episodes for Captain Scarlet, six episodes for Joe 90, one for The Secret Service, two for The Protectors, and he provided the story for the only episode of The Investigator; a proposed puppet series that was never taken up. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is my favourite Anderson show, bearing in mind my avatar, but when watching one of my old Scarlet VHS tapes, I distinctly remember the double-take I did when I noticed Shane’s name under ‘Teleplay’ during Ron Emblerton’s beautiful end-titles paintings. An actor writing?!? 

Bygone Days 

Ultimately, for me at any rate, Shane Rimmer’s passing is more poignant as a marker for a bygone era… 

There have been many actors, actresses, comedians, and entertainers that were regular faces on television when I was growing up. Over the years many have disappeared and there are only very few of those faces still around. 

When it comes to Gerry Anderson, there are so few people left from its mid-1960s heyday it’s almost like a childhood link has been severed. Now that Shane Rimmer is gone, the only one I can think of who is left is David Graham, who voiced Parker. 

Rimmer is mostly remembered for providing the voice of a puppet. It doesn’t sound particularly astounding when it’s put like that. But when it’s pointed out that that puppet was Scott Tracey from Thunderbirds, it becomes pretty impressive. 

RIP Scott. F.A.B.