Trying to make sense of Black Rock Laboratory

The fictional base in the Nevada desert for the team in Gerry Anderson’s Supercar TV series is called Black Rock Laboratory. For 3D modellers it is a nightmare as many of the sets used in the TV series are separate filmed elements and do not sit well together or fit sensibly into the external envelope for the lab. The lab exterior only appeared as a drawing in series one.

BRL-Sketch

This was replaced by a miniature model built by Derek Meddings in series two. The series two model added an extra concrete reinforced blockhouse on one end, and it might be that Derek did this to house the control room which protrudes beyond the roll up garage door as seen from the inside of the hanger.


Colourised-Black-Rock-Lab


Mick Imrie built a 3D model of the core Supercar hanger part of the lab interior to try to make sense of this… and Austin Tate built a simple exterior model to fit this in. The lab is arranged in 5 segments: two contain living accommodation, then two over the Supercar hanger floor area with roof door overhead, and then a final segment over the control room. There is a block of smaller rooms along the front of the lab and a separate smaller building with the radar dish on top.

Images of the Interior Looking Towards the Control Room

Images of the Control Room Position and Roll Up Garage Doors

Some TV images do allow (with a bit of imagination) for an interpretation that the “internal” roll up garage door leads to an area that is still within the lab space and is not directly to the outside. And that the outside door is different to the inside one…

Unfortunately external plants show in the image from the outside viewpoint, as confirmed by a wider shot in the Runaway Train episode.

Assumptions for Modelling of Black Rock Laboratory

  1. The Supercar hanger area is very well shown in the TV series and if at all possible its visual appearance and layout ought to be preserved.
  2. That means that the Control Room is within the floorplan of the main laboratory rather than being housed in the blockhouse added for season two.
  3. That also necessitates a double garage door arrangement.
  4. The door to Beaker’s Laboratory appears to lead directly outside unless an extended lab space of approx. 1.7m single storey area is added behind the lab.

Trying to Make Sense of This

The sets used for filming were often separate or rolled into position depending on the camera angle. So, of course there are a number of problems with the Black Rock Lab layout as used in our models to date…

  1. From an inside view of the lab, the roll up slatted “garage” doors are flush with the front of the control room, whereas on the exterior they are situated on the end wall.
  2. If the control room is set where shown in the TV stills, then the interior part of it cannot sit back into the blockhouse, which would have made some sense as a protected location.
  3. Dr. Beaker’s lab door is alongside the high voltage equipment area, but that would lead directly outside the lab. The “Laboratory” door would have to lead to a corridor width passage behind it and then access to the right to a room alongside the control room for this to make sense.
  4. Position of the elevator must be in corner somewhere to the left of the AVGAS hose door, but it does not show in TV stills showing the control room wall. Perhaps it could be there but hidden by the “internal” roll up garage door when that was closed.
  5. The elevator shown in “Tracking of Masterspy” and “Talisman of Sargon” shows an indicator for 4 levels whereas the lab is a 2 storey building over a basement area. Masterspy also appears to come DOWN from Level 3 which he refers to as the “gallery” when he steals into the Lab.
  6. After the “Rescue” episode Jimmy Gibson is shown in a bedroom that looks out through the double doors under the gallery to the Supercar hanger floor area, whereas in other episodes a corridor is behind those double doors.

Revised Black Rock Laboratory Plan

Firstly lets change our current 3D model to more closely resemble tge season two model by repositioning the blockhouse more centrally on the end wall and making its floor plan square, and widen the block of bedrooms or offices at the front of the lab a little to allow space for a corridor. And show a possible area where the basement sits (in red). Some adjustment to the radar/communications block upper structure and the upper windows in our original 3D model building also needs to be made.


The main externally visible change is the addition of approx. 1.7m of extra space for Dr. Beaker’s Laboratory at the back of the building.

Seeking to Explain the Control Room Placement and “Garage” Roll Up Doors

We have to accept there are multiple (non-exclusive) possibilities here:

  1. The TV stills show the control room front flush with an internal garage door, and fairly close to the nose of Supercar in the hanger. This would imply that there are two sets of garage roll up doors separated by one unit of the 5 unit laboratory. That would be enough space to park a pickup truck, and tyre marks are shown in outside views going into that space.
  2. The blockhouse addition was probably meant (by Derek Meddings in season two) to house the control room interior, so the control room is really set back one whole lab unit. There is then just a single garage door.
  3. The blockhouse should not be there at all and was a continuity mistake!
  4. The blockhouse was a later addition to house Dr. Beaker Experiments and to provide a playroom for Mitch!

I am going for the moment with (1) and (4)!

Supercar Annuals – More on the Position of the Blockhouse

In the Supercar Annuals, EVERY image of Black Rock Lab that shows the blockhouse has it positioned to the extreme right hand edge of the end wall, not in the middle as in the Derek Medding’s studio model. But the images also add an extra “segment” to the lab and also extra bedrooms along the block of rooms at the front.

Interesting, MOST interesting… if it was in that position it could be that it directly is alongside Dr. Beaker’s lab in the back corner of BRL.. and there could be the experiment observation hatchway through to it from the lab end wall? But I am sticking with the Derek Medding’s model position for the blockhouse as centred on the end wall.

Seeking to Explain the Position of Dr. Beaker’s Laboratory

This is a tricky one. The door as it sits alongside the High Voltage zone would appear to lead directly outside. There are two possibilities perhaps:

  1. The door leads to an external room. Unfortunately the series two model seen from the back does not show this clearly, though many of the images of the back side of Black Rock laboratory are in deep shadow!.
  2. The door is misplaced and actually stands inwards a little (corridor width) and then the Laboratory itself opens to the right off that entry space and is placed alongside the control room.

After consulting with Mick Imrie, I am going with (1)!

There is a TV screen shot of the laboratory door partially open where it seems that there is a narrow corridor snd wall immediately behind the door, rather than the main laboratory space opening out immediately behind that.

Seeking to Explain the Room behind the Double Doors under the Gallery

The double doors might open onto a corridor that runs to the side rooms and in some way to the kitchen/lounge areas. A further set of double doors aligned with the hanger bay ones would allow Jimmy after his rescue to see through when both sets are opened.

There is likely a corridor behind the double sliding doors across which another set of double doors gives access to a room that may be a guest bedroom and/or infirmary.

Jimmy being in the “bedroom” that looks out to the hanger floor in the first Rescue episode might be explained by that being an infirmary or guest bedroom and not Jimmy’s allocated bedroom after he joins the team! We see a TV monitor in the room on which Mike shows Jimmy Supercar in the nearby hanger before opening the double doors to show him the actual craft.

The rooms alongside the lab in the single storey may all be bedrooms as the lights all come on in all four rooms one at a time when the team is disturbed one night (episode 70-B-Lo). Popkiss’s room light is already on first, so his bedroom is at the left of the block of bedrooms.

Seeking to Explain the Elevator Levels

Is this a plausible explanation of the 4 levels shown on the elevator indicators?

  • Level 1 – basement (partial floorspace of lab only) where safe is. Assume its an area where AVGAS tank is under the AVGAS door, boiler room, mechanical workshop and storage.
  • Level 2 – hanger floor level
  • Level 3 – mezzanine level within garage area to access gantry
  • Level 4 – engineering position to locate lift a metre or two above highest normal level for elevator repairs

In the episode “Tracking of Masterspy” Masterspy (dastardly man that he is, and due to careless BRL team security) had snuck in through the outer garage doors and had already taken the lift to the “gantry” level (level 3) at that end of the lab (Masterspy refers to it as the “gallery”) to spy on the team from behind the (closed at the time) inner garage roll up doors to wait for the plans in the briefcase to be brought over by Jimmy before he re-enters the elevator to descend to the hanger floor “ground” level (level 2) as Jimmy approaches it!

Seeking to Explain the Position and Use of the AVGAS “Door”

The red AVGAS panel in the corner of the laboratory hanger floor has on it the SAVGAS fuelling hose and valves. The panel looks like a door, but with no handle. It does not match up with any external door in the lab, so it must just be a panel attached to the wall.

Seeking to Explain the Upper Storey Windows Slats

The external appearance of the window slats appear narrower than those on interior hanger bay views.

To reconcile these, the outside appearance could be designed to offer sun protection to the interior by using a outer beam that has a tapered shape which is wider on the outside and is narrower at the inner side to leave an opening there between beams that is wide enough to match the larger internal window glass panel.

Speculation on the “Garage” Area

Assuming that the lab has two roll up doors, and inner one and the external one, we can speculate on what is in that space… especially as TV episode camera angles don’t show its upper parts.

  • The space between the roll up doors provides enough space to garage a pickup truck. This is necessary as we don’t see the team’s truck parked outside in any TV episode.
  • The clearance available allows Supercar to be pushed out on roller skates with wings retracted, though Supercar’s wings are also removable to make it narrower for such manoeuvres if necessary.
  • The elevator shaft is positioned just inside the inner door. Hence the reason it is not seen in camera angles from the Supercar hanger floor.
  • There is likely a heavy lifting hoist and pulley mounted on a track on the ceiling of the garage area. This is used to load or unload heavy equipment from the pickup truck.
  • There is likely a floor lift that can lower or lift large items to or from the basement.
  • There is a garage gantry that can bridge between the elevator level 3 position and a doorway that leads to storerooms that sit above the control room and adjacent areas. This gantry is often not visible in scenes that show the garage area as it retracts telescopically and hinges up to fit against the elevator shaft when not in use… allowing full headroom clearance out through the garage when necessary. Note that Masterspy refers to this garage gantry as the “gallery” when he sneaks into the lab via the garage and elevator.

Speculation on the Tanks and Pipework at Back of Lab

At the back of the season two model there is a storage tank spaced well away from the main body of the lab, connected by pipework in a girder arrangement to the lab at the level of the building eaves. This could be AVGAS fuel, but it comes in high up, rather than near the inner lab door that has the AVGAS hose. Heating fuel would likely come in at a lower level or feed a boiler in the basement. Could this tank and pipework be related to air conditioning and/or fire protection?

Speculation on the Basement

The basement is referred to as “downstairs” from the Supercar hanger level and there is a safe down there. Some ideas for that level besides the safe could include an AVGAS storage tank under the AVGAS hose door, boiler room, mechanical workshop with heavy machinery tools and storage.

Speculation on the Pickup Truck


The truck is probably meant to look like a 1960 US vehicle. Mick Imrie thought that the small model shown on an exterior shot of Black Rock lab may be a Land Rover.

For colour, Ford Pickup truck colours from around 1960, especially early 1960s pastel colours, may be appropriate as its MEANT to be a US (Nevada) pickup. Land Rovers tend to be sludgy colours and often blue or green.

Maybe something like the Ford Tidewater Aqua (Ford 1960), Ford Waterfall Blue (1956) or Land Rover Marine Blue (1958-1971) could be the colour.

Speculation on the “Communications Block”

The separate building with the radar on the roof probably houses communications and computer equipment related to the radar, radio, telemetry and high bandwidth Clear-Vu links. Computers would be old style 1960s mainframes and tape drives. Power generation units for the whole laboratory and cooling units would also be needed for such equipment. A storage tank is located under the colonnade at the side of the building, which may house fuel for power generators.

Some Experiments with the 3D Black Rock Lab Model in OpenSim

The following images show Interior Rollup Garage Door closed and Interior Rollup Garage Door open with Elevator Position and Gantry in its retracted and folded up position and when unfolded and telescopically extended…


Following images show the area of the basement (terrain removed) and Dr. Beaker’s Lab Door access to his Laboratory which partially occupies the space next to the Control Room and a short extension outside (approx 1.7m extra depth) the main hanger wall line (with windows similar to the front block rooms)…


The Lab exterior therefore might look something like this (note the upper windows need better modelling to be similar to the Season two model)…


Visit Black Rock on OSGrid (with a free virtual world avatar) at hop://login.osgrid.org:80/Black%20Rock/128/128/22/

FAB98 Graham Bleathman Black Rock Lab Cutaway

Graham Bleathman produced one of his wonderful watercolour cutaways of Black Rock Lab in Fanderson’s FAB98 (July 2021). Not surprisingly we had a good exchange of information and ideas, along with input from Mick Imrie, during its preparation…

My own revisions to this to change a few details to fit with the notes in this blog post is shown below…

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3 Responses to Trying to make sense of Black Rock Laboratory

  1. bat says:

    Other Supercar fans have speculated on the layout of Black Rock Laboratory.

    Rob Haeuser on his Black Rock One web site…
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/BR1.html
    has a proposed layout for the main floor of Black Rock Lab…
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/Images/Miscellaneous/BR1_Ground_Floor.PNG

    There is a multi-level proposed layout at:
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/Images/Miscellaneous/
    See the various images with names Floor_Plans_BR_*
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/Images/Miscellaneous/Floor_Plans_BR_Ground_Floor.jpg

    “Greg” also made a layout suggestion at:
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/Images/Greg/Greg-black_rock.jpg

    There are many good TV screen shots of Black Rock Lab and interior rooms in
    http://www.mapperguru.com/BR1_Archive/Images/Black_Rock_One/

  2. bat says:

    Graham Bleathman produces wonderful cross sections for Gerry Anderson craft and locations…
    http://www.grahambleathman.co.uk/Cross-sections.htm

  3. bat says:

    This is a blog post that tries to make sense of Tracy Island in Thunderbirds….
    https://www.gerryanderson.co.uk/thunderbirds-all-about-tracy-island/

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