Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Derrick Sherwin (The Times)

From The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search

2018-12-06 Times.jpg


Actor and television producer who transformed Doctor Who in the late Sixties with a gritty new story involving the Cybermen

In late 1968 a handsome actor who had appeared in television plays and written scripts for Z-Cars changed the fortunes of Doctor Who with gritty new stories that included the return of some of the show's most memorable enemy aliens, the Cybermen.

After working on the programme in a junior role for about a year, Derrick Sherwin was appointed as its script editor, which gave him the chance, working with the producer Peter Bryant, to write his own story. It was called The Invasion, and featured the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), which is commissioned to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats.

At the time viewing figures were in decline. According to Sherwin: "The series had become fanciful and gone heavily into monsters ... I felt the show had become a little too childish."

He found inspiration in the BBC archives where he studied the Quatermass sci-fi series, which had been popular in the Fifties. Its scripts were influenced by contemporary political events. "What we had to do with Doctor Who was to forget wobbly jellies," said Sherwin, "and create some reason for bringing the stories down to earth."

And so the UN taskforce, led by "the Brigadier", was born. The organisation would work with the Doctor and have a profound influence on the tone of the programme for several years. Its first mission was to combat the Cybermen, a race of robotic-looking cyborgs who had appeared in the series two years before, and were to become one of the Doctor's most persistent enemies.

Sherwin's influence continued when he became a producer. He oversaw the change from black and white to colour, as well as the casting of Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor.

Derrick George Sherwin was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in 1936, the only child of George Sherwin and his wife, Beatrice (nee Williams), who ran a pub called the Golden Fleece. The young Derrick spent most of his time outdoors to escape his smoky "home", but practised the piano in the bar at 6am each day.

He went to acting classes, had vocal coaching, dropped his Buckinghamshire accent, and won a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He later worked in rep as a scenic artist in his home town where he met his first wife, Jane Parsons, who was an actress.

His career was interrupted by National Service. He joined the Royal Air Force, then discovered he was colour blind, which meant that he could not fly. Instead, he worked in communications, but became bored and tried scriptwriting with an adaptation of Dostoeysky's The Idiot. He later wrote a play for television called Yob and Nabob, which was broadcast on Boxing Day 1965.

He had married Jane in 1956 and they adopted four children: Sam, who teaches English in Vietnam; Kate, who was a camerawoman for ITN; Benjamin, who died at six months; and Daniel, who also predeceased Sherwin. The couple were divorced in 1982 and he married again in 2013 after a dramatic change of career, meeting his second wife, Ingsumon, while running a bungee-jumping business in Thailand.

In the years after National Service Sherwin had worked as a stagehand and a lighting assistant before acting in low-budget movies at Merton Park Studios in Wimbledon. He was also chosen for roles in BBC plays including Raleigh in Journey's End in 1960.

Six years later he took a job as a writer for the football soap United! after refusing to sign a contract for a role as the star player because the script was so poor. He left Doctor Who with a reputation as a troubleshooter, and worked on other programmes including the detective series Paul Temple.

It was Doctor Who, though, which remained closest to his heart. On two occasions he tried to buy out the show and produce it independently, but failed. In the end, his last connection with the programme was an autobiography, published in 2015, which he called: Who's Next? The Man Who Took Doctor Who into a Golden Decade.

Derrick Sherwin, producer, writer and actor, was born on April 16.1936. He died of undisclosed causes on October 17. 2018, aged 82

Caption: Sherwin in 1966. Right: the Cybermen

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: (2018-12-06). Derrick Sherwin (The Times). The Times p. 58.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Derrick Sherwin (The Times)." The Times [add city] 2018-12-06, 58. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Derrick Sherwin (The Times)." The Times, edition, sec., 2018-12-06
  • Turabian: "Derrick Sherwin (The Times)." The Times, 2018-12-06, section, 58 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Derrick Sherwin (The Times) | url= | work=The Times | pages=58 | date=2018-12-06 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 March 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Derrick Sherwin (The Times) | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 March 2023}}</ref>