DOCTOR WHO Dalek Week - An appreciation of Terry Nation

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Tom Pheby pays tribute to the man who invented the Daleks, Terry Nation.


There was always a sense of excitement inside me when I saw Terry Nation accredited as the writer of an episode of Doctor Who. After all this Welsh born former stand up comedian had given us the Daleks, the 'bug eyed monsters' who helped generate Dalekmania up and down the country when they first appeared in December 1963.

But Dalekmania almost never happened as Nation had initially declined the offer from Doctor Who script editor David Whitaker to write for, what was described as, 'an exciting new science-fiction programme'. However, some time later Nation found himself unemployed, and with a young family to support, so he got back in contact with Whitaker and accepted the offer. The script he turned in initially went under the name The Mutants - we would all come to know it as The Daleks.

Terry Nation once claimed that he came up with the name "Dalek" after seeing a set of encyclopedias with one volume spanning the section of the alphabet from Dal - Lek. However, he later admitted that this was simply a good story for the sake of the press, and in fact he had just made up the name.

Flash forward with me to 1975 when as part of the twelfth season of Doctor Who Nation gave us, in my opinion his finest moment, Genesis Of The Daleks, and their creator Davros.


Nation had been asked by the BBC to write a new Dalek story, but producers Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks turned down the script he submitted because they felt that it was a rehash of other previous shows. Undeterred, Nation started over and penned a story that would become one of his finest works, and one that would arguably define Tom Baker's scarf wearing Doctor.

In Genesis Of The Daleks, Nation managed to write a dark and sinister plot with characters to match (although the story was diluted slightly by those in charge and rewritten in parts). As Davros, Michael Wisher delivered a chilling but measured performance, which would set a bench mark and would never be forgotten in the mind of fans. On paper this super nemesis hardly raised a shiver, limited movement of claw like hands and a large eye, plus he was mounted on an electric scooter that barely reached walking speed. I feel Wishers portrayal enhanced the character, but it was Nation script that gave us this magnificent foe.

How did Terry Nation manage to perfect some of the best moments of Who throughout the long running series? As well as creating the Daleks who should have been no more scary than the pepper pots they were allegedly based on? It would seem that Nation was ahead of his time, almost writing mini screen plays, and had the budget been greater I'm sure the bulk of his work would be more acclaimed than it already is.

Nation would go on to pen Blake's Seven and Survivors, both with cult followings, but he is certainly synonymous with the best of Doctor Who and arguably no writer has come close to the creations he fashioned from his fertile mind. Nation's work seemed to have a distinctive style, a more grown up approach to the series which was more suited to its adult audience than that of the children it was supposedly aimed at.


Nation wrote 10 stories for Doctor Who throughout the 1960s and 70s, they are: The Daleks, The Keys of Marinus, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan (episodes 1-5, 7 and the prologue episode, Mission to the Unknown) Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, The Android Invasion and Destiny of the Daleks.

Without doubt Terry Nation took Doctor Who to new levels of excellence and I for one can't wait to finish this and watch Genesis Of The Daleks all over again with a suppressed boyish glee. What recent Who has lacked, if anything, is new villains of this caliber. But it's hardly easy to create foes of this quality and fans yearn for the next big thing, in my opinion the Weeping Angels are as intimidating as an intergalactic sowing circle!

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