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John Nathan-Turner in September 1986
12 August 1947|
|Died||1 May 2002
Brighton, East Sussex, England
|Partner(s)||Gary Downie (long-term partner, ?-2002; his death)|
John Nathan-Turner (12 August 1947 – 1 May 2002) was the ninth producer of the long-running BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, from 1980 until it was effectively cancelled in 1989. He was the longest-serving Doctor Who producer.
Early life 
Born Jonathan Turner in Birmingham, he adopted the double-barrelled stage name of John Nathan-Turner to distinguish himself from an actor of the same name. He was educated at King Edward VI Aston, where he showed an early interest in acting and theatre.
Joins BBC 
He joined the BBC as a floor assistant in the 1960s, and first worked on Doctor Who in 1969 as part of the floor crew at the time that the series was recorded in Studio D of the Lime Grove Studios. His first story was The Space Pirates in 1969, in which he was credited as John Turner.
Work under Graham Williams 
He later served as production unit manager under Graham Williams from 1977 to 1979. He accepted the position of producer for Season 18, the last that featured Tom Baker's portrayal of the central character, the Doctor. He subsequently cast the next three actors to play the role: Peter Davison (1981–1984), Colin Baker (1984–1986) and Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989 & 1996).
Nathan-Turner's experience under Graham Williams helped form his views for the future of the series. He strongly felt that many people, both within the programme and in the viewing public, no longer took Who seriously. It was also generally agreed that Tom Baker had been allowed too much influence of the direction of the series and that Williams was not willing to confront him. Nathan-Turner, along with the new Script Editor, Christopher H. Bidmead, decided that Baker needed to be reined in and work more co-operatively. For Nathan-Turner's first season in charge of the show, former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts was asked to return in the role of Executive Producer, and acted as an advisor for Nathan-Turner in this period.
Series overhaul 
Nathan-Turner decided to begin a sweeping overhaul of the series, replacing the original theme music with a more up-to-date electronic beat. He also introduced revamped title and credit sequences, featuring a new face shot of Baker (the original having been taken in 1974). He commissioned costume designer June Hudson to make a new outfit for Tom Baker, giving her carte-blanche (even giving permission to remove the trademark scarf if she liked, which she only gave a new burgundy and purple colour pattern instead). He did, however, insist that question marks be added to the costume.
Nathan-Turner had no writing experience and as a result, choosing stories was left largely to script editors. Nathan-Turner's first major story influence was bringing back the Master, the logistics of which he left to Bidmead to deal with. After Nathan-Turner's first season in charge, both Bidmead and Letts left the series. Letts was never replaced in Nathan-Turner's time in charge of the show, while Bidmead was briefly replaced by Antony Root, and then more permanently by Eric Saward, who was script editor for much of Nathan-Turner's time in charge of the show.
By the end of Season 19, Nathan-Turner decided that the series would benefit by re-using earlier villains and characters — Earthshock enjoyed considerable acclaim with the return of the Cybermen. Season 20 saw the return of Omega, the Mara, the Black Guardian, and the Brigadier. The re-use of classic villains often proved complex for both script editor Eric Saward and the writers. Nathan-Turner, however, was largely focused on generating publicity for the series and snagging well-known stars. He also wanted to avoid using directors and writers from the previous periods, the few exceptions being directors Graeme Harper, Pennant Roberts and writers Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes.
The fans 
Nathan-Turner's tenure coincided with a period of large growth in the show's fan base in the United States, thanks to repeated showings on affiliates of the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Nathan-Turner was a familiar face among the many Doctor Who celebrities who made spot-appearances during PBS pledge drives in support of more Who in America.
Richard Marson's book The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner (2013) alleges inappropriate behaviour, the preying on male teenage fans, by Nathan-Turner, and his partner Gary Downie, during his period as producer of the series.
Controversial changes 
Nathan-Turner made a number of controversial changes to the series. In Season 19, he had the sonic screwdriver destroyed in The Visitation. (Eric Saward, who wrote the story, initially only meant to remove it for a single episode as he thought that the Doctor "had an entire cabinet full of them".) Early in his producership, BBC controllers moved the show from its Saturday evening slot to air on Monday and Tuesday of each week. Despite a degree of outrage, it did not damage the Series's viewing figures. He also oversaw the removal of K-9 from the series — though he did commission the pilot of K-9 and Company. He even decided for the TARDIS to lose its iconic police box shape during a story (Attack of the Cybermen), though its familiar interiors — modernised in high-white — were more heavily used than at any time since the 1960s, giving the (now multiple) companions an on-screen home.
Nathan-Turner's changes to the programme were initially well received by Doctor Who fans, to whom he extended an unprecedented degree of welcome. Editors of non-professional magazines or "fanzines" were granted interviews by Nathan-Turner in the Who production office. Although he did not divulge the contents of forthcoming storylines in such conversations, he spoke in-depth and at length about his approach to producing the show.
Ratings decline 
Supporters of Nathan-Turner's reign argue that the producer was not solely to blame for the series' decline in ratings, and that blame should instead be levelled at the hierarchy at the BBC, funding issues, ratings calculation methods, the decline of in-house drama production, and the decision to schedule the series opposite the popular ITV soap opera Coronation Street.
Following the difficulties of Season 23, some believe that he in fact was growing tired of the programme. In a documentary about the 'end' of the series, some people claimed that Nathan-Turner approached the BBC about leaving the series, but had been told that if he left, the series would be cancelled. Some even state that despite the controversy, Nathan-Turner was likely the only element left holding the suffering series together for its last three seasons.
Criticism of Nathan-Turner's production of Doctor Who ranged from including too many back-references, to the casting of guest stars from light entertainment. He was criticised for choosing Bonnie Langford as a companion and criticised for choosing companions because of "gimmicks", such as the character of Tegan Jovanka (an Australian flight-attendant) in the hope of getting more popularity for the show, with viewers in Australia. This was also true for the American character Peri Brown (in an attempt to endear the show more to the US).
Peter Davison has claimed that Nathan-Turner's decision to introduce an American companion in an attempt to appeal more to the American market was one of his reasons for leaving the role, because he felt it was wrong for the series, and he realised the series was out of his control, and he could do nothing about decisions he disagreed with.
Nathan-Turner also received criticism, including from former series producer Barry Letts, for introducing question marks to the Doctor's costume during his time as producer of the series. Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy have all admitted they were never completely happy with their costumes in the series.
Some fans[who?] feel the quality of the series was improving up until its cancellation in 1989 although ratings were around all time lows. Nathan-Turner also helped introduce the character of Ace at the end of Season 24. By the end of Season 26, Nathan-Turner was aware that the show would likely not return the next year and asked Cartmel to add more weight to the conclusion of the final story, resulting in the Doctor's speech at the end of Survival.
After Doctor Who 
Nathan-Turner continued to be involved in Doctor Who-related events: these included the show's 20th Anniversary celebrations at Longleat in 1983. After the series ended in 1989, and until shortly before his death, he would go on to produce and write several Doctor Who videotape documentary releases during the early 1990s: The Hartnell Years, The Troughton Years, The Pertwee Years, The Tom Baker Years, The Colin Baker Years, Daleks: The Early Years, Cybermen: The Early Years, and a special release of the unfinished story Shada.
Nathan-Turner also co-wrote the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, and co-presented the BSB 31 Who programmes during their 1990 Doctor Who Weekend. He made his final contribution to the series when he appeared in a retrospective on the 2001 DVD release of Resurrection of the Daleks.
He was in poor health in the last year of his life. He contracted an infection and died of liver failure just over a year before the announcement by the BBC that the show would be revived, with new episodes to air beginning in 2005. He was survived by his long-term partner, Gary Downie, a production manager on Doctor Who. Downie died on 19 January 2006. Downie spoke, in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, of his time with Nathan-Turner.
- Doctor Who - The TARDIS Inside Out (May 1985, Picadilly Press Ltd., by John Nathan-Turner and illustrated by Andrew Skilleter, Paperback; October 1985, Random House Childrens Books (library), Hardback)
- Doctor Who: The Companions (November 1986, Picadilly Press Ltd., by John Nathan-Turner and illustrated by Stuart Hughes, Paperback; January 1987, Random House Childrens Books (library), Hardback)
- JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner By Richard Marson (May 2013, Miwk Publishing Ltd.)]
- BBC (3 May 2002) Doctor Who producer dies BBC. Accessed 15 August 2008.
- "Death of former Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner" (Press release). BBC. 2002-05-02.
- Matthew Sweet "JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson – review", The Guardian, 22 March 2013
|Doctor Who Producer
Peter V. Ware (as title)
Philip Segal (as showrunner)