Gilbert the alien came from the planet Drill and first turned up on the Millennium Dustbin - the space ship which took Get Fresh presenters Gaz Top and Charlotte Hindle (daughter of Madge Hindle, of Nearest and Dearest, Coronation Street and, more recently, Barbara) to various locations around England and the rest of the UK.
From "Look-In", May, 1987. The identity of the new "special guest presenter" is a secret. Who is he, she or it? We could never have guessed!
Gilbert made his Get Fresh debut at the start of the second series in May 1987, and was set in motion by Michael Forte, the producer. Inspired by Fungus The Bogeyman, he contacted Fluck and Law, the Spitting Image creators, and asked them to come up with an original creation with the same capacity to endear and disgust. Original Gilbert certainly was - though his lips had come from a mould previously used for the Spitting Image Ringo Starr puppet and other Spitting Image puppets were "cannibalised" during his creation!
The responsibility for creating Gilbert's voice and personality was given to impressionist Phil Cornwell (he was told he could say what he liked, but NO swearing!), and the puppeteers were John Eccleston and Richard Coombes.
The snotty green alien was part of the new breed of non-cute TV puppets that emerged in the 1980s. Think of Gilbert's earthly cousins on Spitting Image. Think of Roland Rat. You get the idea?
Gilbert added an anarchic edge to Get Fresh, coming out with several controversial utterings. Legend has it that he once told the drummer from Aswad to "skin up", and viewers strained their ears to hear Gilbert's background babble whilst others spoke in the foreground.
Gilbert say: "Did you know that the Atlantic Ocean is over four times bigger than it is?"
Aside from all these fascinating facts and miraculous memories, three things are plain:
1) Gilbert was at the peak of his popularity in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
2) Gilbert had a very runny nose.
3) Gilbert was very original, very funny and very snotty indeed.
In "Sons and Daughters", Beryl Palmer was searching for her double, a woman called Ruby Hawkins (both parts were played by Leila Hayes). Ruby was later murdered and Beryl posed as her to bring the killer to justice.
Another Aussie soap, "Richmond Hill", was showing at 2pm, and "Jimmy's" (7pm), the documentary set in St James' University Hospital, Leeds, had come to the final episode of its present run - it was described in the "TV Times" as "the series which proves that real life is far more gripping than fiction."
In 1988, Gilbert spun off from Get Fresh into his own series, Gilbert's Fridge. Around the World Wide Web, Gilbert's Fridge is sometimes listed as being first broadcast in 1989 - but the TV Times page shown above, dated November 1988, places the series in its rightful year.
In a viewers' question-and-answer session with Phil Cornwell on BBC Online a few years ago, the subject of Gilbert cropped up twice. Phil told us that Gilbert was now retired and living in a small box - "in Scarborough or somewhere like that", and that he and Gilbert were still the greatest of friends and loved each other very much.
Of Gilbert's attitude to celebrities appearing on the show, Phil said:
"I was basically given carte blanche and I was told I could say what I liked. I made it up as I went along. I have very fond memories of having a go at pop stars of the day and trying my best to puncture a few egos. Somebody should have punctured mine!"
"How far to Hitchin? It's Hitchin I'm missin'...
How far to Hitchin? It's Hitchin I'm missin'...
How far to Hitchin? It's Hitchin I'm missing...
How I remember that song!
A kids' show? Nah, I was 23 at the time and thought that Gilbert's Fridge was brilliantly weird.
I still wonder why Gilbert took a load of dead fish, including Petula and Susan, on holiday to Benidorm with him. Susan never was much fun.
Charlotte Hindle, Gilbert's old pal from Get Fresh, also appeared in the holiday sequences, coping with Gilbert's sunburn, the aroma of dead fish and an unscrupulous admirer.