Philip Hinchcliffe

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Philip Hinchcliffe
Born Philip Michael Hinchcliffe
(1944-10-01) 1 October 1944 (age 69)
Occupation Television producer

Philip Hinchcliffe (born 1 October 1944) is a British television producer, who brought shows including Private Schulz and The Charmer to the screen, probably best known for producing BBC television series Doctor Who from 1974-1977. With the death of Barry Letts in October 2009, he and Derrick Sherwin are the only producers of the classic series of Doctor Who who are still alive.

Background and early work[edit]

Hinchcliffe was educated at Slough Grammar School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied English Literature. After a brief period working for a travel company and then as a teacher, he joined Associated Television in 1968, writing episodes for shows including the soap Crossroads (1970), then script editing the sit-com Alexander the Greatest (1971-2), children's adventure series The Jensen Code (1973), and children's drama series The Kids from 47A (1973).

Doctor Who[edit]

In Spring 1974, at the age of 29, he was approached by the BBC's head of serials to take over as producer on Doctor Who, his first full production job, initially trailing and then succeeding long-serving producer Barry Letts. Although he trailed Letts on Tom Baker's first story Robot, he was first credited on The Ark in Space. Throughout his first year he was mostly producing scripts that had been commissioned by the previous production team prior to their departure and it was not until a year later that Hinchcliffe's full influence came to bear, with Planet of Evil in late 1975 — Tom Baker's second season in the title role of the Doctor.

Hinchcliffe, together with script editor Robert Holmes, ushered in a change in tone for the television series. The series became darker and more adult than previously, with a gothic atmosphere influenced by the horror films produced by Hammer Films. This horror influence is especially evident in serials like Planet of Evil, Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius, The Hand of Fear and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, all of which have content which directly recalls well known horror novels and movies.

Hinchcliffe was reluctant to use characters and monsters from the series' past; the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Sontarans only appeared once during his tenure, and these stories were commissioned by Barry Letts. The Master and the Time Lords returned for one adventure, The Deadly Assassin, at the suggestion of script editor Robert Holmes, but were portrayed very differently from their previous appearances. The character of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce were written out of the series.

During Hinchcliffe's tenure the programme achieved the peak of its popularity and he produced more episodes to achieve more than 10 million viewers than any other producer in the series' history; only during the "Dalekmania" spell of the mid-Sixties had the series gained comparable popularity in the public consciousness. However, the BBC had received complaints from Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, that the series was unduly frightening for children and could traumatise them. The NVALA had been critical of the series since the beginning of the 1970s and the complaints reached their height in the Hinchcliffe-produced The Deadly Assassin, where an attempt is made to drown the Doctor at the end of an episode. While the BBC publicly defended the programme, after three seasons Hinchcliffe was moved onto the adult police thriller series Target in 1977, and his replacement Graham Williams was specifically instructed to lighten the tone of the storylines. The classic series never again achieved such consistently high viewing figures after Hinchcliffe's departure.

Hinchcliffe also wrote several novelisations of Doctor Who serials for Target Books, adapting The Keys of Marinus, The Seeds of Doom, and The Masque of Mandragora.

Subsequent career[edit]

After Doctor Who Hinchcliffe worked on numerous series, single dramas and films including Target, Private Schulz, The Charmer, Take Me Home, Friday on My Mind and many others. He stepped down from the producer role in 1995, after working on the feature films An Awfully Big Adventure starring Hugh Grant and Total Eclipse starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but was engaged as an Executive Producer by Scottish Television from 1998 to 2001, overseeing series including Taggart and the John Hannah episodes of Rebus, and one-off dramas including The Last Musketeer with Robson Green.

Hinchcliffe has made numerous appearances on DVD releases of Doctor Who serials made under his producership. His most notable appearance is in Serial Thrillers, a documentary included in the Pyramids of Mars DVD release, focusing on his three-year reign as producer in some depth, examining what made the show so successful during that period. Most recently, an interview titled "Life After Who" was included on the "The Android Invasion" DVD release, where daughter Celina Hinchcliffe takes her father on a trip down memory lane to recall his distinguished career in British television and film after his work on Doctor Who.

Personal life[edit]

Hinchcliffe has a daughter, Celina Hinchcliffe, who was born in 1976 and became a television presenter. She fronted news programmes and sporting events for the BBC and now works for Sky News.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Barry Letts
Doctor Who Producer
1975–77
Succeeded by
Graham Williams