Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Terry Nation (born August 8 1930, Cardiff, Wales, UK; died March 9 1997, Los Angeles, California, United States) was a British television screenwriter and is probably best known for creating the Daleks for the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who. He also created his own science-fiction shows, Blake's 7 and Survivors.
Nation initially worked in comedy, finding a way into the industry in 1955 after a - possibly apocryphal - incident when Spike Milligan bought a sketch he had written because he thought Nation looked hungry. His big break came in the early 1960s when he was commissioned to write material for the hugely popular stand-up comic Tony Hancock, initially for Hancock's new television series and then later for his stage show.
Nation accompanied Hancock as his chief scriptwriter on tour in 1963, but after a row with his employer with Hancock continually falling back onto his old material and not using Nation's scripts, the writer was fired. Before this he had turned down an approach from David Whitaker to contribute to a new science-fiction series that the BBC was setting up, Whitaker having been impressed with a script Nation had written for the sci-fi anthology series Out of this World on ITV. However, now he was jobless with a young family to support, Nation contacted Whitaker and took up the offer of work, writing the Doctor Who serial The Daleks (aka The Mutants) for the BBC. The serial introduced the eponymous creatures that would become the show's most popular monsters, and was responsible for the BBC's first merchandising boom.
Such is the popularity of the Daleks that Nation is to this day frequently incorrectly credited as the creator of the Doctor Who. The series was actually created by committee, but BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman is regarded as being the nearest to a creator.
Nation suddenly found himself a telefantasy writer at the centre of a media frenzy, and went on to contribute several further scripts to Doctor Who. He also worked for the more financially rewarding commercial television companies, contributing episodes to such shows as The Avengers, The Baron , The Persuaders and The Saint.
In the early 1970s, after a long absence, Nation returned to writing Dalek serials for Doctor Who, and this renewed contact led to a BBC commission for him to write an entire sci-fi drama series, Survivors. Debuting in 1975, it was a post-apocalyptic tale of the few remaining humans following a devastating plague. The show was well received, however Nation's vision for the it conflicted somewhat with that of producer Terrance Dudley - two further seasons of Survivors were produced without Nation's involvement, but were much less successful than his next BBC sci-fi creation, Blake's 7.
Blake's 7 was a story of a rag-tag group of criminals on the run from the sinister Terran Federation in a stolen alien space ship of unknown origins. It ran for four seasons from 1978 to 1981, earning a huge following in the United Kingdom and remembered still as one of the best science-fiction series ever to have been screened on British television. Nation wrote the entire first season of the show, although his input decreased as time went on, the overall direction eventually being controlled by Script Editor Chris Boucher, with Nation not writing at all for the fourth and final season. After its conclusion, however, he did attempt to find funding for a fifth season later in the 1980s, to no avail, and planned with star Paul Darrow for how the series might still be revived shortly before his death.
In the late 1960s Nation had attempted to launch the Daleks in a series in their own right in the United States, and although his attempts were unsuccessful, he did find himself increasingly working in that country and eventually moved there. Probably his most remembered work for American television was as a contributor to the series MacGyver. He was still living in America when he died of emphysema in 1997.
Nation did little work outside of television, although in 1976 he did pen a children's novel, Rebecca's World, written especially for his daughter Rebecca. Although often derided by modern critics as an overly simplistic and repetitive writer who got lucky with a BBC staff designer's vision for a name in his script for The Daleks, Nation was an incredibly versatile scriptwriter who wrote for many different kinds of shows with great success for several years. He did like to poke fun at his success on occasion, however, once describing himself to an interviewer as "a hack".
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