STANDBY for action.

Lady Penelope has called Parker to prepare the Rolls and Troy Tempest, Joe 90 and the Tracy boys are all on the case.

But the man behind them all has turned to the ultimate force for good in a bid to retrieve a missing marionette - readers of the Daily Echo.

The creator of Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Fireball XL5, got in touch to report the loss of Dick Spanner PI, a robot detective launched on to the nation's screens in 1986.

The pint-sized PI was last seen in the possession of a Channel Four props assistant called Clive and believed to be from Bournemouth.

Gerry Anderson, the man who's pulled the strings of puppetry's biggest stars since the 1960s, fears that while Captain Scarlet may be indestructible, the missing puppet may be at risk.

Dick Spanner was last seen 20 years ago. Now the 78-year-old puppet master is calling on Echo readers to perform an international rescue.

"If your readers could track it down for me I would be very happy indeed," said Mr Anderson.

The creator of Supermarionation, a technique that synchronised the puppets' mouths with recorded dialogue, has a huge collection of his carved creations at his home.

"Throughout my career there were a great number of characters made for my puppet shows. I know where all of them are but the Dick Spanner figure is the only one missing and I really hope it's lying around somewhere," said Mr Anderson.

A similar plea in the national press failed to unearth the missing marionette.

Now Gerry is hoping that a more local appeal and the offer of a reward will locate the stringed sleuth. "It would mean so much to Gerry to have a complete collection of his life's work," said a spokesman for the puppet master.

But Echo readers should be warned - spotting a wooden television celebrity with skin the colour of varnish may be harder now than it was in Lady Penelope's day.

But anything can happen in the next half hour. apparently.