Terry Nation (August 8 1930 – March 9 1997) was a Welsh television screenwriter.
He is probably best known for creating the villainous Daleks in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who. Nation also created two science-fiction shows - Survivors and Blakes 7.
Born in Cardiff, Wales, 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. During the 1950s, Nation worked for Associated London Scripts alongside Johnny Speight and John Junkin where he worked on hundreds of radio scripts for British comedians including Terry Scott, Eric Sykes, Harry Worth and Frankie Howerd. 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 Hancock continually fell back onto his old material and didn't use Nation's scripts. The two rowed and Nation 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 science fiction anthology series "Out of This World" for ABC. Now jobless and with a young family to support, Nation contacted Whitaker and took up the offer, writing the second ever Doctor Who - "The Daleks" (aka "The Mutants"). 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. Today, the Nation estate jointly owns the copyright to the likeness and characters of the Daleks with the BBC (this is largely credited to Nation's then-agent, Beryl Vertue, who negotiated these terms while working at Associated London Scripts).
Such is the popularity of the Daleks that Nation is to this day frequently credited as the creator of Doctor Who, including a famous mistake in an edition of Trivial Pursuit. 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. Various Dalek spin-off material appeared, including a comic strip in TV Century 21 and annuals. Often the material was credited to Nation, even if written by others. He and Dennis Spooner co-wrote the 12 part story "The Daleks' Master Plan", after which Nation attempted to market the Daleks in the U.S.
He also worked for the more financially rewarding commercial television companies, contributing episodes to such shows as The Avengers, The Baron, The Persuaders, The Champions and The Saint. In the late 1960s Nation attempted to launch the Daleks as a series in their own right in the United States.
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 create a new science fiction drama series. First broadcast in 1975, Survivors was a post-apocalyptic tale of the few remaining humans, the population having been devastated by a plague. The show was well received, but Nation's vision for it conflicted with that of producer Terence Dudley and the other two seasons were produced without his involvement.
His next BBC creation, Blake's 7, was even more successful. The show told the 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. Nation wrote the entire first season of the show. 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 attempted unsuccessfully to find funding for a fifth season later in the 1980s.
Nation did little work outside of television, although in 1976 he did pen a children's novel for his daughter Rebecca: Rebecca's World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet, and a novel based on the show Survivors.
1980s and 1990sEdit
In 1980 Nation moved to Los Angeles, California where he developed program ideas and worked for various studios. Little of his work in this time was as successful as his original period in the United Kingdom. He contributed to the American TV series MacGyver, in addition to television series such as A Masterpiece of Murder and A Fine Romance.
Nation suffered ill health in his later years, and died from emphysema in Los Angeles on March 9 1997. Shortly before his death he was working with star Paul Darrow on another revival attempt of Blake's 7.
- Survivors (ISBN 698106644) (1976)
- Rebecca's World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet (ISBN 0903387069) (1978)
- Tarrant, Graham. Obituary: Terry Nation. "The Independent". Thursday March 13 1997 (page 18).
- Barker, Dennis. Obituary: Terry Nation – The man who invented the Daleks. "The Guardian". Thursday March 13 1997 (page 17).
- Oliver, John. Nation, Terry: 1930-1997. "British Film Institute Screen Online"