This was perhaps when I got a lasting taste for Barry Gray's wonderfully compelling, massively over-orchestrated, theme tunes. I loved the space ship launch, shown in the clip above (repeated as 'stock footage' every episode); and the Robbie the Robot character.
But Fireball XL5 didn't get into my 'real life' - the first to do that was Stingray.
Was there ever a more exciting intro for a 5 year old? Those massed drums! The stentorian announcements!
Alas, the show itself was rather slow-moving - even for those days - but the villains were creepy enough, with their fish-shaped submarines. A school book has survived in which, as an infant, I drew a picture of this show.
Stingray also led to one of my favourite and most-treasured Christmas presents ever:
Next came Thunderbirds, and my enthusiasm became extreme. Me and my friends got into trouble wearing our 'uniforms' to school - each of them improvised using various elements - mine was based on Boys Brigade regalia.
A Thunderbirds puppet, showing the uniform
A Boy's Brigade uniform such as I wore in emulation
And there was more. My introduction to the next Gerry Anderson was... interesting. One Sunday afternoon I picked up a comic which informed me (in a 'News Report) that the world was under sustained attack from Mars, by some aliens called the Mysterons.
It seemed so serious and urgent that I wanted (I still recall the moment) to run straight to my father to find out more, and what we should do.
Then I gradually realised that this was a fiction linked to a new Gerry Anderson puppet show: Captain Scarlet. I soon became absolutely crazed about this new show, engaging in considerable role playing at school and in the holidays; and buying an excellent waterpistol, and an annual.
Here are biographies of the beautiful and contrasting Angels, pilots of the anti-Mysteron air force (with a peculair focus on their colleges and qualifications - Symphony had seven degrees from Yale, no less! - despite being only about 26 years old):
The puppets were now becoming quite realistic, and Captain Scarlet's arch enemy was the extremely sinister Captain Black - distinctly Gallic and 'existential'-looking, with his five o'clock shadow and leather jacket (only the smoking Gitanes were missing):
After Captain Scarlet I began to become more of an adolescent; but as my younger brother grew up I came to enjoy Joe 90, with its grossly improbable situation (Father uses his 9 year old son for dangerous espionage operations, by giving him the brain-waves of various experts).
Again a marvellous Barry Gray opening builds anticipation. Here the first episode set-up segues into the normal theme tune:
My final Gerry Anderson experience was the live action series UFO - with yet another great theme sequence and montage (more Alfie Pugh here).
By this time I was in my mid teens, and Lt Ellis on moonbase (played by Gabrielle Drake) certainly had something to do with my regular viewing.
Better than a puppet!