Home   News   Article

Uncovered: the Spitting Image puppets that never made it to the screen




Rare images of puppets from the original Spitting Image pilot show have been discovered by an archivist at Cambridge University Library.

And the pictures reveal that the first ever puppets for the television series looked nothing like the famous Spitting Image caricature style.

The pilot episode of the 1980s satirical puppet-led series was never shown on television and may be lost to history.

Copies of slides showing the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Copies of slides showing the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. Picture: Keith Heppell.

So, when archivist Sian Collins discovered the snaps in a box at the library – where the Spitting Image collection is held – she was thrilled.

Sian told the Cambridge Independent: “This could be the closest we get to what the pilot looked like and what really struck me was how different the puppets are – they are just very different to the style of the later Spitting Image puppets

“With some of them you are not quite sure who the people are – they look to me more like Punch and Judy.

“I’m currently transferring thousands of slides and transparencies of photographs from crates into boxes and it is taking a very long time, but I noticed some slides that were marked ‘Pilot’ and I felt really intrigued and very excited.

Copies of slides showing the puppets of the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles in the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. The puppets are very different from those on the final show. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Copies of slides showing the puppets of the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles in the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. The puppets are very different from those on the final show. Picture: Keith Heppell.

“I have been working with this collection for a little while now and I’m so used to the puppets that we saw on the show – but these were unlike anything I had seen before.”

Roger Law, one of the creative minds behind Spitting Image, handed over part of the programme’s archive to Cambridge University Library last year.

Roger, from Ely, attended the Cambridge School of Art – now part of Anglia Ruskin University – along with Peter Fluck, another co-creator of the series, who is from Cambridge.

Roger Law with the Spitting Image character of Maggie Thatcher as it was handed over to Cambridge University Library. This is the version seen on TV. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Roger Law with the Spitting Image character of Maggie Thatcher as it was handed over to Cambridge University Library. This is the version seen on TV. Picture: Keith Heppell.

Sian says: “It’s just wonderful to think that we still have a record of something that might be lost.”

All that was known to exist of the 1983 pilot show was a typed script as it was never broadcast. There may be a VHS video tape of the original but so far it has not been discovered. And Sian fears that even if it is found, the tape may have degraded and would be unwatchable.

Copies of slides showing the Queen's puppet in the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. The puppets are very different from those on the final show. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Copies of slides showing the Queen's puppet in the Spitting Image pilot, which was never shown. The puppets are very different from those on the final show. Picture: Keith Heppell.

“So far it’s just pictures of the royal family puppets, but I will be keeping my eyes open.”

Running for 18 series on ITV, Spitting Image was nominated for nine BAFTAs (winning two) and four International Emmys for its political and cultural satire.

It launched the career of numerous comedians, actors, satirists and voiceover artists, including Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse and Steve Coogan, and regularly attracted millions of viewers in the UK and abroad.



More by this author



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More