The castor way

Forget Davros, it was Terry Nation who created the Daleks. Kim Newman on the work of the `Doctor Who' writer who died last Sunday

Terry Nation did not create Doctor Who. Depending on who tells the story, that honour lies somewhere between BBC producers Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert and writers Anthony Coburn and EC Webber, all of whom pitched in on the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, broadcast in 1963. However, Terry Nation was the first writer who understood the potential of the show semi-accidentally developed as a "tea-time educational science fiction series". He was the man who created the Daleks.

The first serial ran an uninspiring course, with William Hartnell's crotchety Doctor, granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and two staid teachers - there to explain the history - helping cavemen make fire. Then Nation's seven-part serial The Daleks turned the fortunes and the intentions of the show around. Newman, with Reithian public service broadcasting in mind, wanted a science fiction series without "bug-eyed monsters". Nation, realising that the show's viewers wanted better bug-eyed monsters, introduced the most successful homegrown British monster since John Wyndham's Triffids.

The Daleks, fascist pepperpots trundling around a metal city on their nuclear-devastated homeworld Skaro, were often mistaken for robots but are actually early instances of what are now called cyborgs. They are mutated former human beings turned into rarely glimpsed tentacular blobs, encased in a mechanical armour-cum-weapons-system. At first, and on location shoots, they were hampered by the need for a flat surface to roll over, but later series either gave them more mobile slaves (the Robo-Men or the gorilla-like Ogrons) or turn the old joke about them not being able to climb stairs against the sneerers by hovering upwards.

With the introduction of the Daleks, Doctor Who became essential viewing. Children frog-marched around playgrounds with arms out and boxes over their heads squawking "ex-ter-min-ate!". My sister and I won a fancy dress competition as eight-year-olds by trundling around in cardboard armour. Other Who monsters were more frightening, but there was something oddly endearing about the Daleks.

Though he contributed a few non-Dalek stories to the series' lengthy run, Nation's major contribution remained the development of the monsters he had created. Others came up with the Cybermen, the Time Lords, regeneration, Unit and the Tardis, but the inhabitants of Skaro were Nation's province. Their greatest impact, making the cover of Radio Times and launching a wave of merchandising, came with The Dalek Invasion of Earth in 1964. Unsettlingly juxtaposed with the ruins of London, Daleks wander across Westminster Bridge or emerge from the Thames at World's End.

The most ambitious serial ever attempted by Doctor Who was The Daleks' Master Plan (1965-6), co-written by Nation and Dennis Spooner, a 13-part epic that spans space and time, and does its best to sum up everything the show had let slip about the Doctor's origins and intentions.

Though visually appealing, the Daleks are limited in their story potential. They bark, receive and obey orders, exterminate cringing victims (monochrome image flashes negative) and are constantly thwarted in schemes of universal conquest. Nation abandoned his monster children for some years, going over to ITC to work on such well-remembered Dayglo pulps as The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron and The Persuaders. When Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee faced the Daleks, other hands provided the scripts, until Nation was lured back for Planet of the Daleks (1973), a late-period Pertwee serial.

However, his masterpiece is Genesis of the Daleks (1974), a return to the original story, revising what we were told in 1963 by showing the mad scientist Davros - with his Dalek-skirted wheelchair, proto-Dalek artificial voice and a single mechanical eye in his forehead - in the process of developing a disability aid-one-man tank which is the prototype of the universe-threatening monsters.

There was one more serial - Destiny of the Daleks (1979) but Genesis was really the last of the Dalek stories. Again, other hands took over for other Doctors - accepting thankfully the gift of Davros, who gave the mechanicals some character at last.

In the meantime, Nation (originally a comedy writer for Tony Hancock) scripted the underrated Frankie Howerd horror comedy The House in Nightmare Park, and created two "grown-up" science fiction series for the BBC, Survivors - a "realistic" epic of the slow recovery after a plague has wiped out most of humanity; and Blake's Seven - a cynical Star Wars with washing- up bottle spaceships and an increasing dose of bizarre camp. In this phase of his career, Nation seems to have wanted to be Britain's answer to Glen A Larson, but a stubborn sense of gloom and grit resisted the bubblegum franchising of a Battlestar Galactica - at the end of Blake's Seven, the Evil Empire wins.

US post-war science fiction tended to be about the Cold War, with even the Klingons acting as much like Soviets and Mongol conquerors. In Britain, Nation was using World War Two - when the Daleks invade Earth, there are collaborators and a resistance movement, and the BBC loved filming on the real-life bomb sites still littering London in 1963 - and all his villains seem like Nazis in disguise. However, as revealed in the great moment when Tom Baker's Doctor refused to abort the genesis of the Daleks because their great evil would force the rest of the universe to co-operate, he was also canny enough to present anti-fascism as a muddling-through collection of grumpy, disparate factions. Maybe his greatest contribution was in teaching generations of children to resistn

Obituaries, page 18, main section

A nation remembers...

"Terry Nation's contribution to the series was the thing that made Dr Who, turning it from a Saturday tea-time programme into a national institution"

David Howe, author of Dr Who in the Sixties, Dr Who in the Seventies and Dr Who in the Eighties

"Simply a man of great imagination who knew how to tell a great story"

Verity Lambert, Dr Who producer in the Sixties

"Terry Nation made Dr Who the success that it became, he created the first British multimedia character, and what became known as `Dalek mania' "

Kevan Looseley, Who International,

East Ham, London

Compiled by Nick Edwards

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?