Nation is one of the most consistent writers of British genre television,
having had a lasting impact on the development of science fiction
and action-adventure programs. Nation's contributions to such series
as The Saint, Doctor Who, Blake's Seven, The Avengers and
MacGyver, have built him an international fan following.
Ironically, given that most of his television credits were for hour-long
dramas, Nation got his start in comedy. At 25, he made his debut
as a stage comedian, receiving poor response. If his performance
skills were found lacking, his original material won an admirer
in comedian Spike Milligan, who commissioned him to write scripts
for the zany British comedy series, The Goon Show. Nation
soon was developing material for Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd,
Tony Hancock, and an array of other comic stars. In all, he wrote
more than 200 radio comedy scripts, before trying his hand on television
in the early 1960s.
of his first work was for ITV's Out of This World, a science-fiction
anthology series in 1962. The following year, Nation was asked to
write one of the first story-lines for Doctor Who, then making
its debut at the BBC. Nation's most important contribution to Doctor
Who were the Daleks, the most popular (and heavily merchandised)
villains in the series's history. Citing a childhood spent in Wales
during World War II, Nation has said that he modeled the impersonal
and unstoppable Daleks after the Nazis, seeing them as embodying
"the unhearing, unthinking, blanked-out face of authority that will
destroy you because it wants to destroy you." Nation continued to
influence the development of the Daleks across a succession of story-lines
and through two feature film spin-offs of the series, writing many
of the Dalek scripts himself while serving as technical advisor
on the others. He was subsequently responsible for the introduction
of Davros, the wheel-chair bound mad scientist who created the Daleks
to serve his schemes for intergalactic domination.
Building on his success at Doctor Who, Terry Nation created
two original science-fiction series: The Survivors, a post-nuclear
apocalypse story, and Blake's Seven, a popular series about
a group of freedom fighters struggling against a totalitarian multi-planetary
regime. Blake's Seven, which he initially proposed as a science
fiction version of The Dirty Dozen, remains a cult favorite
to the present day, popular for its focus on character conflicts
within the Liberator crew, its bleak vision of the future and of
the prospects of overcoming political repression, its strongly-defined
female characters, and the intelligence of its dialogue. The series
sought an adult following that contrasted sharply with the Doctor
Who audience which the BBC persisted in seeing as primarily
composed of children. Nation wrote all 13 of the first season episodes
of Blake's Seven and continued to contribute regularly throughout
its second season, before being displaced as story editor by Chris
Boucher, who pushed the series in an even darker and more pessimistic
contributions to the detective genre are almost as significant as
his influence on British science fiction. For a while, it seemed
that Nation wrote for or was responsible for many of ITV's most
popular adventure series. Terry Nation wrote more than a dozen episodes
of The Saint, the series starring Roger Moore as globe-trotting
master thief/detective Simon Templar. The Saint enjoyed international
success and was one of the few British imports to snag a prime-time
slot on American television. Nation served as Script Editor and
writer for The Baron, another ITV series about a jewel thief
which built on The Saint's success. He was Script Editor
for the final season of The Avengers, shaping the controversial
transition from popular Emma Peale (Diana Riggs) to the less-beloved
Tara King (Linda Thorson). He was Script Editor and Associate Producer
for The Persuaders, another successful action-adventure series
about two daredevil playboys who become "instruments of justice"
under duress. He also contributed regularly to ITV's superhero series,
recently, Terry Nation shifted his focus onto American television,
where he was a producer and writer for the first two seasons of
MacGyver, an original and imaginative series dealing with a
former Special Forces agent who solves crimes and battles evil through
the use of resourceful engineering and tinkering tricks. MacGyver
seemed to fit comfortably within the tradition of British action-adventure
protagonists whom Nation helped to shape and develop.
Most of the best known writers of British television are recognized
for their original dramas and social realism, but Nation's reputation
comes from his intelligent contributions to genre entertainment.
NATION. Born in the United Kingdom, 1930. Screenwriter for English
and American television; creator of the Daleks which helped popularize
Doctor Who, 1963; screenwriter for American and British television;
created The Survivors, 1975; created Blake's Seven,
1978, writing the entire first season and six later episodes, 1978-81;
1961-69 The Avengers
1962-69 The Saint
1963-89 Dr. Who
1964-65; 1968-69 The Saint
1969-71 The Champions
1971-72 The Persuaders
1975-77 The Survivors
1978-81 Blake's Seven
Color Him Dead
1986 A Masterpiece of Murder
1973 The House in Nightmare Park (also producer)
The Goon Show
The Official Doctor Who and the Daleks Book (with John Peel).
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet. London: G. Whizzard,
London: Futura, 1976.
Haining, Peter. Doctor Who, The Key to Time: A Year-by-Year Record.
London: W.H. Allen, 1984.
John, and Manuel Alvarado. Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text. New
York: St. Martin's, 1983.