My adventures into television seem in retrospect to have been a privileged excursion into an enchanted world akin to Dorothy’s journey to the Land of Oz. It didn’t feel like that at the time, of course, only the passage of years has given it all a sense of having once visited a fabulously colourful place crammed with amazing people, like Terrance Dicks, and unbelievable sights.
It began when, as a writer, I had my first novel ‘Square One’ published in 1968, in the same list as ‘The World Is Full Of Married Men’ by Jackie Collins. Here was my first taste of celebrity, meeting Ms Collins as a fellow author with the same publisher. Then, as part of my book’s publicity I was interviewed on BBC’s recently-formed Radio One by a young Irish DJ called Terry Wogan. My book caught the attention of a chap at BBC TV, who said they were looking for trainee script editors to come in on a 6-month attachment.
Terrance Dicks, Script Editor
That chap was Terrance Dicks, the now-legendary script editor of Doctor Who. On my first day, in summer 1969, I reported, with haircut and smart suit, to the Doctor Who office at the BBC’s Union House overlooking Shepherd’s Bush Green, and was introduced to producer Peter Bryant and the pretty secretary, Sandra, who looked in astonishment at this businessman lookalike.
“The suit will have to go,” said Terrance, with a grin. “And grow your hair a bit.”
As if to keep the surreal sensations going, Terrance walked me round the corner to the old Gainsborough Film Studios on Lime Grove, and I was on the Doctor Who set, with Tardis and all. Memory has it that Patrick Troughton was there, and I was introduced to him. This will have been around the time the final episode in which he appeared (‘The War Games’) was aired, so his presence at this point is enigmatic. Perhaps he had come to collect his things. Certainly I had no foreknowledge that a new incarnation of The Doctor was imminent, and that the programme’s next transmission would be in colour.
Spearhead From Space
So I was there in the office when the writer, Bob Holmes, came in. “Let’s call it ‘Spearhead From Space’,” Terrance suggested, “till we think of something better.” Next thing I heard was my comedy hero from radio days, Jon Pertwee, was to be the next Doctor. When filming began, the exteriors were shot first, with the expectation that the interiors would be done in the studio. But when studio technicians went on strike for more pay for handling the new colour equipment, producer Derrick Sherwin decided to shoot all four episodes on 16mm colour film at the BBC training base at Evesham.
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