There has long been a debate among hardcore series fans over the birth order of the Tracy sons. There are those who believe it to be Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon and Alan. There are also some who believe it’s Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan – with Virgil and John being the two who change positions. You will see from the references below that the problem is even more complicated that than, with several other variations as well! Your researcher hopes to return to this knotty problem at a later date, to investigate it in more detail. So much conflicting canon, so little time…
From the TV Series and the Movies (Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6):
|The Canon Fact||The Source|
|Scott is the eldest according to the series, as this is why Jeff leaves him in charge when he goes on holiday to Bonga Bonga||Atlantic Inferno|
|Though no specific age is given, Alan is too young to go to the Folies Bergère with Scott and Virgil [Ed. Note: no amount of Googling has helped us figure out what the age limit for this venue is, as they sell children's tickets so...]||The Perils of Penelope|
|Possible hints to birth order are given throughout the series in the order the boys are shown in the opening credits (Scott/John/Virgil/Gordon/Alan), or the order of portraits on the wall in the lounge (John/Scott/Virgil/Alan/Gordon).||Multiple episodes|
|The first pages of photographs in Jeff’s pocket album are Scott/Virgil/John when he's leafing through it to take an incoming transmission||Thunderbird Are Go|
|The ITC notes produced for publicity purposes when the series was first released list the boys in order of their Thunderbird craft. Scott is described as the eldest, but no placings are provided for any of the others||ITC programme notes|
|Profiles of Scott (aged 30), John, (25) and Alan (19). (Virgil/Gordon not listed at this time)||Fennell, Alan, Editor, 2066 (1966), Comics Issues #83, #88 & #89 TV Century 21.|
|Profiles of each of the boys list their ages as Scott (26), Virgil (24), John (22) (sic), Gordon (22), Alan (21). - In this it would appear that John and Gordon are twins!||(1966), Thunderbirds Annual. City Magazines Ltd.|
|This is the first time we are given birthdates for the boys (listed in order of their TB craft)|
Scott, born April 4th, age 30
Virgil, born August 15th, age 27
Alan, born March 12th, age 19
Gordon, born February 14th, age 22
John, born October 8th, age 35 (sic) - This one clearly shows John as much older than Scott, which contradicts the series directly
|'Thunderbirds Are Go' Exhibitors' Campaign Book 1966|
|Scott is the eldest. Excerpt: "Scott…went into the hangar…Vigil and Gordon, the oldest of his four brothers."||Theydon, John (1966), Calling Thunderbirds. Titan Books Ltd. p.5. ISBN 1-85286-161-4|
|Scott and Virgil are the two eldest. Excerpt: "Jeff is sitting in the lounge with Brains "...and the two eldest of his five sons, Scott and Virgil..."||Jennison, John W. (1966), Operation Asteroids . World Distributors (Manchester) Limited. p. 11|
|No dates or ages given, but Alan is listed as the youngest, with Gordon as his ‘next eldest brother’.||(1967), “Graphology - The Tracys Write Character,” Lady Penelope Annual . Century 21 Publishing Ltd.|
|Lists boys in order Scott/Virgil/John/Gordon/Alan but no dates or ages given.||(1971), Thunderbirds Annual. City Magazines Ltd. ISBN-10: 0723500924|
|Profiles of the boys in age order Scott/Virgil/Alan/John/Gordon (sic) - And in this one note that Alan's the middle son!||Thunderbirds Holiday Special ,1971, Polystyle Ltd.|
|Shane Rimmer: "I got a call saying ‘Do you want the part of Scott Tracy?’ …. There was David Graham, Ray Barrett, Matt Zimmermann – he was a Canadian – and an American boy who played the number three son." - This references David Holliday, the only American in the voice cast, who voiced Virgil in Season 1.||Interview with Shane Rimmer in issue 4 of 'S.I.G.' magazine (Apr 1982)|
|This article set the show in 2026, so back dated their ages from that date, using the ages given in the TV21 comics quoted above, rather than the 1966 annual |
Scott, born 4th April 1996, aged 30
Virgil, born 15th August 1999, aged 27
John, born 8th October 2001, aged 25
Gordon, born 14th February 2004, aged 22
Alan, born 12th March 2007, aged 19
|de Klerk, Theo, “Thunderbirds All Series Guide,” Supermarionation is Go #10, Spring 1984.|
|Scott born 14th April 1996, aged 30|
Virgil 15th August 1999, aged 27
John, 28th October, 2001, aged 25
Gordon, 14th February 2004, aged 22
Alan, 12th March 2005, aged 21
|Marriott, John (1992), Thunderbirds Are Go! . Boxtree Limited.|
|Timeline and profiles of each give birth dates/ages|
Scott born 14th April 1996, aged 30
Virgil 15th August 1999, aged 27
Alan, 12th March 2005, aged 21
Gordon, 14th February 2004, aged 22
John, 28th October, 2001, aged 25
|(1992), The Official Thunderbirds Annual . Grandreams, Ltd./ITC Entertainment Group. ISBN 0-86227-953-4.|
|Uses Scott/Virgil/John/Gordon/Alan order.||Fennell, Alan, “The Complete Thunderbirds Story” Thunderbirds: The Comic 1993-1994, Fleetway Editions, Ltd., ITC Entertainment Group, Ltd.|
|Scott born 4th April, 2039, aged 26|
John born 8th Oct 2040, aged 25
Vigil born 15th Aug 2041, aged 24
Gordon born 14th Feb 2043, aged 22
Alan born 12th Mar 2044, aged 21
|Bentley, Chris (2000), The Complete Book of Thunderbirds . Carlton Books, Ltd.. ISBN 1-84222-092-6.|
|Scott born 4th April, 2039|
John born 8th Oct 2040
Vigil born 15th Aug 2041
Gordon born 14th Feb 2043
Alan born 12th Mar 2044
|Levene, Lesley, Editor (2000), Thunderbirds Annual 2001 . Carlton Books Ltd.|
|Lists boys in order Scott/Virgil/John/Gordon/Alan but no dates or ages given.||Bentley, Chris (2003), The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN-10: 1903111412|
|In his Ask Anderson column in this issue of the Fanderson magazine, Gerry Anderson responded to a question about the boys’ birth order with this reply:|
"I always intended for Scott to be the eldest – to be first on the scene, to take control of incidents, to deputise for his father. We also made it quite clear that Alan was the baby of the family – hot-headed and immature on occasion.
Other than that we didn’t, to my recollection, make any specific reference to the birth order during the production of the series. Any additional information from comics, novels etc is pure conjecture on the part of the respective author, I’m afraid, so believe whatever you want to believe."
|FAB News #58 Nov 2007|
|In a departure from our standard procedure in the Canon Foundry of not commenting on the sources, here we post a message from Chris Bentley, who tries to explain how the whole tangled mess arose. |
//The main problem with the relative ages of the Tracy siblings is that the original 1960s Century 21 publications offered up conflicting information on that score - possibly as a result of mis-communication, possibly as a result of printing errors.
In the TV episodes we are only ever told that Scott is the eldest and Alan is the youngest of the five brothers. Jeff Tracy's pocket photo album in 'Thunderbirds Are Go' arranges Scott, Virgil and John in that order, strongly suggesting that Virgil is the second oldest and John the third, which would then logically make Gordon the fourth brother. Yet the portraits on the wall in the Tracy lounge show the brothers in the order (reading left to right) John, Scott, Virgil, Alan and Gordon - fine for International Rescue business but a rather odd arrangement for the purposes of operation cover-up. Then the opening titles of each episode introduce the brothers in the order Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon, Alan. Why? Logically they should be presented either in age order (as film-maker's shorthand to impart that information to viewers) or in Thunderbird vehicle order. Obviously it's not the latter, so maybe the brothers *are* being presented in order of age?
The biographies in the 1966 Thunderbirds Annual should give the definitive answer, although things are confused by a misprint. The 'Profile of International Rescue' spread on pages 10 and 11 presents Jeff and the boys in the order Jeff, Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon and Alan. It would seem that this was the intended age order of the brothers, but the text gives their ages as: Scott, 26; Virgil, 24; John, 22; Gordon, 22; Alan, 21. John and Gordon are apparently twins! However, the character profiles on the 'Graphology' pages of the 1967 Lady Penelope Annual states that Gordon is Alan's 'next eldest brother' - if Gordon and John are twins, why isn't John Alan's next eldest brother too? Clearly John's age in the Thunderbirds Annual was supposed to read '23', not '22'.
Another primary official source is the 1966 'Thunderbirds Are Go' Exhibitors' Campaign Book. Here the brothers are listed in Thunderbird vehicle order, but their ages and birthdates are given as: Scott, born April 4th, age 30; Virgil, born August 15th, age 27; John, born October 8th, age 35; Gordon, born February 14th, age 22; Alan, born March 12th, age 19. So here John is the eldest, and is five years older than Scott! Again, it appears that John's age was a misprint and was supposed to read '25', not
Profiles of some, but not all, of the Thunderbirds characters were published in 'TV Century 21' comic in 1966. There Scott's age was given as 30, John was 25 and Alan was 19. Much later on, in 1969, some more profiles listed Scott as 31, Virgil as 28, John as 26, Gordon as 23 and Alan as 20. As those profiles simply added one year onto the ages of Scott, John and Alan given in the earlier profiles, we can logically assume that, had Virgil and Gordon appeared amongst the TV21 profiles in 1966, they would have been listed as 27 and 22 respectively.
On balance, allowing for the misprint in the 'Thunderbirds Are Go' Exhibitors' Campaign Book, it would appear that the official Century 21 biographies, formalised for the release of the feature film, intended the brothers ages to be given as: Scott, 30; Virgil, 27; John, 25; Gordon, 22; Alan, 19.
This also seems to have been the conclusion drawn by Theo de Klerk for the 'Thunderbirds All-Series Guide' in 'S.I.G.' issue 10 (1984), as he listed the characters with those ages in his biographies there. He also listed the birthdates given in the Exhibitors' Campaign Book, but retconned the birth years to fall in line with a 2026 setting for the TV series. This was the first published source to place Thunderbirds in that time period – all earlier Century 21 material indicated a mid-2060s setting.
The 'S.I.G.' guide (rather than any of the 1960s material) was the sole source used by John Marriot for his book 'Thunderbirds Are Go!' in 1992. He used the same 2026 setting and all of the birthdates created by de Klerk, making that the first book to retcon the date to 2026. John Peel's 'Thunderbirds Files' (1986) and Adam Pirani's 'The Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide' (1989) both stuck with the 2060s setting, but neither gave any details of the brothers' relative ages apart from Scott being the eldest and Alan the youngest.
Then along came Carlton in 2000. For the character profiles in their lavish official style guide, they returned to the 1966 Thunderbirds Annual for the ages of the brothers and revived the original 2065 setting, but they also wanted to use the birthdays from the Campaign Book and that caused a problem.
Assuming that John and Gordon are not twins, for John to be the middle brother he had to be 23 and that would make his birthdate October 8th, 2042. But if Gordon is 22, his birthdate would be February 14th, 2043 – an impossibility if Mrs Tracy had only given birth to John four months before! Logically, for John to be born on October 8th (going by the spread of ages given for the other brothers in the Thunderbirds Annual), he could only be the second eldest brother with a birthday in 2040, making him 25. No other year would fit with the October 8th birthday unless he was either older than Scott or younger than Alan, and that would have contradicted what is seen on screen. There would only be 10 months between him and Virgil, but that wouldn't have been impossible for Mrs Tracy (difficult maybe, but not impossible, and Virgil could always have been born a few weeks premature).
Since that also tied in with the order in which the siblings appear in the opening titles of the TV series, it was decided that that was how the brothers' relative ages would be presented in the style guide, to which all merchandisers and affiliates (including Fanderson) now had to adhere.
By the time I was invited to write 'The Complete Book of Thunderbirds' for Carlton, the style guide was already at an advanced stage of production. I argued that the ages given in the 1966 Annual should be ignored in favour of those suggested by the movie Campaign Book and TV21, but it was too late to change it. We were all obliged to toe the official line which placed John older than Virgil. In hindsight, I suppose I could have simply bypassed the issue in my book and made no reference to the brothers' ages at all, but since it didn't contradict anything that you see on screen, and since none of the original Century 21 text had categorically stated that Virgil was the second oldest brother, it seemed entirely reasonable to make that conclusion from an amalgamation of the various sources.
However, readers of the most recent edition (2008) of my 'The Complete Gerry Anderson - The Authorised Episode Guide' may have noticed that I have been able to revise the character list in the Thunderbirds section to reflect what I understand was Gerry and Sylvia's original intention (now confirmed by Gerry and, apparently, Sylvia too): that John is the middle brother and Virgil is second oldest. Carlton is long gone so we no longer have to follow the letter of their style guide.
|This message originally appeared in post #4660 to the Fanderson yahoo group website, posted 23rd April 2010, and has been reproduced here with his kind permission.|
|Hi there Chris|
I¹m just putting together the birth order page for the canon foundry. I noticed in your final paragraph that you mention that // I have been able to revise the character list in the Thunderbirds section to reflect what I understand was Gerry and Sylvia's original intention (now confirmed by Gerry and, apparently, Sylvia too)//
This contradicts Gerry¹s answer to Sereena’s question in ask Anderson (FAB news Nov 2007) where Gerry states // we didn¹t, to my recollection, make any specific reference to the birth order during the production of the series. Any additional information from comics, novels etc is pure conjecture on the part of the respective author, I¹m afraid, so believe whatever you want to believe.//
Do you have a more recent statement from Gerry that I can add to the file to clear up this final point?
I probably could have made that a bit clearer but it was actually Gerry's response to Sereena in FAB that I was referring to, and the 'confirmation' on Gerry's part was more by way of a confirmation by inference: his answer to Sereena confirmed that the order in which the brothers appear in the opening titles (Scott, John, Virgil) *wasn't* deliberately meant to reflect the birth order, thereby inferring that the other birth order (Scott, Virgil, John) indicated in the original official spin-off material is the correct one.
|Extracts from correspondence 1st-3rd May 2010|