David Maloney

Director of 'Doctor Who' chillers

Thursday 10 August 2006 00:00 BST

David John Lee Maloney, television producer and director: born Alvechurch, Worcestershire 14 December 1933; married 1960 Edwina King (died 2006; two sons, one daughter); died London 18 July 2006.

There were many ways to rattle Mary Whitehouse, who in 1964 started her campaign to rid television of sex, bad language and violence. The playwright Dennis Potter did it with The Singing Detective. The director Ken Loach provoked her fury with scenes of uninhibited factory women in the writer Nell Dunn's "Wednesday Play" Up the Junction, which the guardian of morals described as promoting promiscuity, although I recall Tony Garnett, Loach's producer, telling me just a few years ago that having Whitehouse "on the prowl" in fact provided an "added frisson" and guaranteed free publicity.

The television director David Maloney provoked her fury with a "crime" in the relatively uncontroversial area of science fiction. His skill at maximising the horror elements in Doctor Who, using devices such as slow-motion massacres, made the stories he worked on some of the most frightening in the programme's long history - and led to accusations that it was causing a bed-wetting phenomenon among the nation's young viewers.

This peaked with an end-of-episode cliffhanger in "The Deadly Assassin", a 1976 mini-serial starring Tom Baker as the Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, which showed his head being held under water in freeze-frame. Whitehouse complained that children would not know until the following week whether the Doctor survived and the power she held, as president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, led to the still shot being cut on repeat screenings and, within a year, a new producer instructed to tone down the storylines.

Having joined Doctor Who as a production assistant in 1965, when William Hartnell - the first incarnation of the Time Lord - was still in the role, Maloney moved up to direct episodes (1968-77), working on eight stories starring Hartnell's successors, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Most notable was 1975's "Genesis of the Daleks", which featured the programme's first freeze-frame cliffhanger. Both the new script editor, Robert Holmes, and producer, Philip Hinchcliffe - not keen on yet more Daleks stories and steering the programme towards gothic, psychological horror in the Hammer Films vein - wanted to explore a darker side of the writer Terry Nation's creations, showing their Nazi-like origins. The result was a tale in which the Doctor is taken back in time to Skaro to prevent the Daleks' development, during a long war between the planet's two humanoid powers, and moments of violence that included Tom Baker convulsed in pain as an electric fence sends a current through him. Mary Whitehouse described it as "teatime brutality for tots".

But Maloney welcomed the new regime's changes, replacing the opening meeting of the Doctor and a Time Lord in a serene garden, as in Nation's original script, with a no-man's-land ambush - a homage to the director Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal. More practically, having struggled with shooting the Daleks on location in "Planet of the Daleks" two years earlier, he organised the filming schedule so that they would appear only in studio scenes.

Maloney went on to become producer of another cult sci-fi series, Blake's 7, responsible for the first three series (1978-80) of Nation's new creation, about an exiled revolutionary (played by Gareth Thomas) who takes over an alien spacecraft, which he renames the Liberator, and leads freedom fighters against the corrupt and brutal Federation in the third century of the second calendar. It was a typical example of "clunky", low-budget sci-fi television, but the gritty storylines and political undertones gained it a loyal following. Indeed, Maloney became a regular guest at Doctor Who and Blake's 7 fan conventions.

Born in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, in 1933, David Maloney was brought up by his mother and, at times, was fostered after his parents split up. He boarded at the Blue Coat charity school in Birmingham, was evacuated to Staffordshire during the Second World War and passed the grammar school entrance exam.

On leaving school, he became a journalist on the Birmingham Evening Dispatch and, after National Service in the RAF, decided to follow his love of theatre and experience in amateur dramatics by switching to acting. He trained at Birmingham Theatre School and made his professional début with the West of England Theatre Company, based in Exmouth, Devon. He then worked in repertory theatre in Oldham, Sheffield and Chesterfield, where he met his wife-to-be, Edwina King, an assistant designer, and acted in a West End production of The Gazebo (alongside Ian Carmichael and Moira Lister, Savoy Theatre, 1961).

Seeing opportunities in television, Maloney joined the BBC, starting as a production assistant, then becoming a floor manager on series such as The Forsyte Saga (1967), before directing Doctor Who and the 10-part adventure series Ivanhoe (starring Eric Flynn as Sir Walter Scott's knight, 1970), The Last of the Mohicans (with Kenneth Ives as Hawkeye and John Abineri as Chingachgook, 1971), its spin-off serial Hawkeye, the Pathfinder (a BBC co-production with US television, featuring Paul Massie in the title role and Abineri again as Chingachgook, 1973) and Woodstock (based on another Walter Scott novel, 1973). He also directed episodes of Paul Temple (starring Francis Matthews as Francis Durbridge's crime-novelist, 1969-71) and the police drama Juliet Bravo (1982).

As a producer, Maloney resurrected When the Boat Comes In to make a final, fourth series in 1981, four years after James Mitchell's stories of the poverty-stricken North-east between the wars had seen the Tyneside shipyard trade unionist Jack Ford (James Bolam) leave for the United States. A more worldly wise Ford returned to Depression-hit Britain, on the run from the FBI, in the middle of the Jarrow marches.

In the same year, Maloney realised his ambition to bring to television Douglas Livingstone's new, six-part adaptation of The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham's classic science-fiction tale about the world being taken over by moving, flesh-eating plants. Starring John Duttine, this much-admired downbeat version - more faithful to the original novel than the melodramatic 1962 film - had been kept on the back burner for two years until sufficient financial resources became available, thanks to a co-production deal with Australian and American television companies.

Maloney also directed two "Play for Today" productions, Eve Set the Balls of Corruption Rolling and Aliens (both 1982), as well as Michael J. Bird's six-part thriller Maelstrom (1985), about a woman who inherits a farmhouse in Norway from a mystery benefactor. On initially being told that Maelstrom would be set in the small Norwegian port of Alesund, where he had by coincidence once holidayed, Maloney surprised everyone with the response: "I know the place."

He subsequently switched to the ITV company Central Television, directing documentaries about Mogul miniature paintings, kite flying in India and the chef Ken Lo's return to his native China, as well as another produced by Zia Mohyeddin, Art of Darkness (1987), which traced how British art-collecting in colonial times was paid for in part by the Caribbean slave trade. Maloney also directed when Mohyeddin was in front of the camera presenting the magazine programme Here and Now and acting in the soap opera Family Pride.

Anthony Hayward

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