Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Chris Boucher

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TV scriptwriter who introduced Doctor Who's popular companion Leela and did not always see eye to eye with Tom Baker

As a middle manager for Calor Gas in Essex, Chris Boucher was working in a mundane and unexciting world. So he invented another one.

Having grown up reading American pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction, in 1976 he submitted an unsolicited script to the producers of Doctor Who.

Titled The Day God Went Mad, it found the Time Lord — then in his fourth iteration and played by Tom Baker — in another galaxy assisting a race which had become enslaved to a supercomputer whom they worshipped as a god but which had turned vengeful.

Boucher's title was a little risqué for the BBC but the programme's script editor, Robert Holmes, liked what he read. Retitled The Face of Evil, it became one of the classic Doctor Who stories of the Seventies and introduced one of the Doctor's most popular companions, Leela.

The show's producer, Philip Hinchcliffe, and script editor, Robert Holmes, had conceived a character based on George Bernard Shaw's Eliza Doolittle, a "bright primitive" who would learn from the Doctor. Boucher came up with the idea of a. companion called Leela, played by Louise Jameson, a proud, strong, self-willed and occasionally violent woman who was meant to be a contrast to the "little screaming types" that had historically accompanied the Doctor on his time travels. Unbeknown to the BBC, Boucher had also based his character in part on the Palestinian terrorist and plane hijacker Leila Khaled.

Leela was originally intended to appear only in the four episodes of The Face Of Evil but was so popular with viewers that she was retained for Boucher's second story, The Robots of Death, which was even better. Heavily influenced by Isaac Asimov, it was chosen as the finest representation of the Tom Baker era in the British Film Institute's 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who. Another poll ranked it the sixth best story in the show's 60-year history. It was followed by a third story featuring Leela, Image of the Fendahl.

The shows Boucher scripted for Doctor Who pulled in audiences of 11 to 12 million, but he was still working for Calor Gas while writing them. It was not until the BBC offered him a full-time salaried post as the script editor of its new sci-fi series, Blake's 7, that he took the plunge and gave up the day job.

When the first Star Wars film was released several months before the first episode of Blake's 7 aired, he wondered if he had made the right decision. "Well that's us finished, we can't possibly match that, we're dead," the show's producer, David Maloney, told him morosely. It was, Boucher said, "like having an aircraft carrier land in the pond in your back garden".

In fact Blake's 7 was successful enough to run for four seasons between 1978 and 1981. Boucher stayed throughout and to the delight of film buffs he merrily threw lines borrowed from classics such as Casablanca, The Magnificent Seven and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid into the scripts. The series ended with a bang — literally, when in the last of the 52 episodes Blake, played by Gareth Thomas, was killed before his entire crew were exterminated by the forces of the totalitarian Federation.

Fans were outraged by this abrupt end, as Boucher found out when his mother-in-law mentioned to an electrician doing work on her house that her son-in-law worked for the BBC. "Oh that's good," he replied. "But I'd like to lay my hands on that bugger who killed everyone in Blake's 7." She wisely decided to say no more.

Boucher's third foray into sci-fi was less successful when he created the 1987 BBC series Star Cops, set in the near future when man had begun to colonise other planets and it became necessary to police the rest of the solar system. Despite great lines such as "Spacemen are ten-a-penny. What they need out there is a good copper," the series was poorly received and folded after nine episodes.

Chris Boucher was born in 1943 in Maldon, Essex, on the Blackwater estuary. His God-fearing parents sent him to church where he served as a choir boy. He later rebelled and became an atheist, although he insisted he was a liberal and tolerant one. "People are perfectly entitled to be as benightedly stupid as they wish," he said.

As an only child, he was "self-absorbed" and his solitariness made him a voracious reader, devouring the romantic stories in the women's magazines to which his mother subscribed before he discovered science fiction.

Educated at Maldon Grammar School, he fluffed his A-levels and took off on the overland route to India before eventually making his way to Australia, where he spent a year working on the railways and "drinking and carousing".

When he returned home, his father, who worked for Calor Gas, secured him a placement as a management trainee with the firm, which sent him to night school to get his A-levels then to Essex University to read economics.

On graduating he reluctantly returned to Calor Gas to "work off my debt", as he put it. He is survived by his wife Lynn and their three children, whose needs prompted him to take up writing as a sideline to make some extra cash.

He sent a few stories to the women's magazines his mother read but his break came when he sent gags to Braden's Week, a BBC1 series fronted by Bernard Braden and Esther Rantzen which humorously reviewed the week's events and was the predecessor of That's Life!

It earned him a retainer of £25 per week and he was soon writing gags for other TV comedians, including Dave Allen. After the BBC sacked Braden, Boucher turned to Doctor Who because at the time it had a reputation for trying out non-established writers.

He remained grateful to the programme, which he called "the beginners' slopes, where you were taught your trade". Much later he wrote four Doctor Who novels, all of which gave a prominent role to Leela, who remained his most potent creation. However, he did not always see eye to eye with Tom Baker, whom he described as "a big personality and a big ego to go with it, and from a writer's point of view a pain in the butt".

Outside the sci-fi stockade, he wrote episodes for the TV crime dramas Juliet Bravo, Bergerac and The Bill. Having started in comedy, all of his scripts in whatever genre were notable for the sly humour he insinuated into them.

"It has rather cruelly been suggested that I will cheerfully sacrifice plot and character in pursuit of a gag," he said. "It's a lie of course. I would only ever do so for a food gag."

Chris Boucher, television scriptwriter. was born on January 1,1943. He died of undisclosed causes on December 11, 2022. aged 79

Caption: Boucher wrote the character Leela as a contrast to previous companions

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  • APA 6th ed.: (2022-12-20). Chris Boucher. The Times p. 52.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Chris Boucher." The Times [add city] 2022-12-20, 52. Print.
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Chris Boucher | url= | work=The Times | pages=52 | date=2022-12-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Chris Boucher | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024}}</ref>