Nation with a Dalek (left)
|Born||Terence Joseph Nation
8 August 1930
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
|Died||9 March 1997
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Genres||Science fiction, comedy, horror|
|Notable work(s)||Creating the Daleks for Doctor Who, as well as the TV series Survivors and Blake's 7|
Terry Nation (8 August 1930 – 9 March 1997) was a Welsh television writer and novelist. He is best known for creating the villainous Daleks for the long-running BBC science-fiction TV series Doctor Who in 1963. Nation was also the creator of two series, Survivors and Blake's 7, in the 1970s.
Life and career
Born in Cardiff, Nation initially worked in comedy, entering the industry in 1955 after a (possibly apocryphal) incident in which Spike Milligan bought a sketch that he had written because he thought that Nation appeared hungry. During the 1950s, Nation worked with John Junkin and Johnny Speight for writers' agency Associated London Scripts, where he collaborated on hundreds of radio plays for comedians such as Terry Scott, Eric Sykes, Harry Worth and Frankie Howerd.
His career break came in 1962, when he was commissioned to write material for Tony Hancock – first for Hancock's unsuccessful series broadcast on Associated Television in 1963, and then his stage show. Although Nation accompanied Hancock as his chief screenwriter on tour in 1963, Hancock would regularly neglect Nation's scripts in favour of recycling his old material. Following an argument, Hancock fired Nation.
Prior to this, Nation had declined an offer from scriptwriter David Whitaker to write for a new science-fiction programme that was entering production at the BBC; Whitaker had been impressed by a script that Nation had written for the ABC anthology series Out of this World. Now unemployed, and with a young family to support, Nation contacted Whitaker and accepted the offer, writing the second Doctor Who serial, The Daleks (also known as The Mutants and The Dead Planet). The serial introduced the eponymous extraterrestrial villains that would quickly become the series' most popular and enduring monsters, and resulted in a major merchandising success for the BBC.
Having risen in the public consciousness, Nation went on to contribute further scripts to Doctor Who. In 1965, Nation and Dennis Spooner co-wrote the 12-part serial The Daleks' Master Plan, after which Nation, who still held the copyright to the Daleks, attempted to launch a Dalek spin-off TV series in the United States. Various other Dalek tie-in material appeared, including comic strips in the children's weekly TV Century 21 and annuals; such material was frequently credited to Nation, even when written by others. During this time, Nation also worked in commercial TV, contributing scripts to series such as The Avengers, The Baron, The Champions, Department S, The Persuaders! and The Saint.
Survivors and Blake's 7
In the early 1970s, following a long absence from scriptwriting, Nation returned to writing the Daleks for Doctor Who. After his contract was renewed, the BBC commissioned Nation to create a new science-fiction drama series. First broadcast in 1975, Survivors is the post-apocalyptic story of the last humans on Earth after the world's population has been devastated by plague. Although the series was well received, Nation's creative vision conflicted with that of producer Terence Dudley, and the final two seasons were produced without Nation's involvement.
Meanwhile, screenwriter Brian Clemens claimed that he had related the concept for Survivors to Nation in the late 1960s, having registered it with the Writers' Guild of Great Britain in 1965; Nation denied the allegations. Although the case was ultimately brought before the High Court, both sides withdrew from the proceedings after their legal costs mounted.
The production of Nation's next BBC creation, Blake's 7, experienced fewer problems. This series follows a group of criminals and political prisoners who are on the run from the evil "Terran Federation", piloting a stolen spaceship of unknown origin. Running for four seasons from 1978 to 1981, Blake's 7 acquired a worldwide fan following, and proved especially popular in Britain. Although Nation scripted the whole of the first season, his creative influence subsequently weakened, with script editor Chris Boucher supervising the production of the later seasons. In the 1980s, Nation attempted, without success, to secure funding for a fifth season of Blake's 7.
During the 1970s, Nation wrote a children's novel for his daughter Rebecca (after whom he named the character of Rebec in the 1973 Doctor Who serial Planet of the Daleks) titled Rebecca's World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet, as well as a novel based on Survivors.
Later years and death
In 1980, Nation moved to Los Angeles, where he developed programme ideas and worked for various production studios. Little of his work from this time was as successful as that of his earlier period in Britain. He penned scripts for the TV series MacGyver, in addition to A Masterpiece of Murder and A Fine Romance.
Nation suffered from poor health in his final years, and died from emphysema in Los Angeles on 9 March 1997. Shortly before his death, he had been collaborating with actor Paul Darrow on another attempt to revive Blake's 7.
- The House in Nightmare Park (1973, producer)
- Survivors (1976, ISBN 0698106644)
- Rebecca's World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet (1978, ISBN 0903387069)
- Bignell, Jonathan and O'Day, Andrew: Terry Nation, p. 21, Manchester University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-71906-547-7.
- Barker, Dennis. "Obituary: Terry Nation – The Man who Invented the Daleks". The Guardian, 13 March 1997.
- Oliver, John. "Nation, Terry: 1930–1997". British Film Institute Screenonline.
- Tarrant, Graham "Obituary: Terry Nation", The Independent, 13 March 1997.
- Turner, Alwyn W.: The Man Who Invented The Daleks : The Strange Worlds of Terry Nation, London: Aurum Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84513-609-3.
- Terry Nation at the Internet Movie Database
- Terry Nation at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Terry Nation at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Terry Nation at the Museum of Broadcast Communications