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Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner

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ONE lonely Dalek feebly points his ray gun down the drive of Terry Nation's Elizabethan estate in Kent. Relic and outcast, he guards the grounds while Nation, his inventor, soaks up the money the Daleks made him.

Scriptwriters are seldom celebrated. But Terry Nation is one of the exceptions. Careful to avoid artistic annihilation by his own invention, he moved on from mutants to [?] television series like "The Avengers," "The Saint", "The Persuaders" and recently "The Survivors."

"But I'm dogged by success," he says mournfully, clanking a tall glass of vodka. "We have to keep spending money because it keeps coming in. If we didn't I'd stop working. Then I'd be hell to live with."

Kate, his wife, nods vigorously. "I have to threaten him with things like. 'if you don't finish that series I'm going out to get a Nordic sauna'."

Money used to mean a big pot of pennies and a trolley of drinks one guest could polish off in half-an-hour. That was after unsuccessful spells in his father's South Wales furniture firm and jokes which sank through the boards of the clubs where he told them.

It meant a poverty-stricken flat in London and woebegone pleas for comedy script work, answered at last by Spike Milligan and the Goons.

Launched on the BBC script circuit, things perked up. His jokes were good on paper as long as he wasn't telling them. Tony Hancock became a particular friend.

At first Terry Nation turned down "Dr. Who." Then he thought again. and fathered the Daleks. who cascaded money like sinister fruit machines.

Life had suddenly happened. They had made it. He sold Daleks to the Americans and walked in to New York's lushest restaurant one night with Kate beside him in white mink. knowing they were millionaires.

"I've never felt so terrible in my life. It was black. Suicidal. The awful dead-end of achieving what you wanted."

Now they enjoy money casually and immediately. lavishing it on the huge, rambling country house they adore.

"I refuse to insure possessions, though. They're just now worth it. Nothing material is irreplacable and you find you're working like a dog to pay twice for everything."

Being millionaires lasted one night. Now he writes to live, and it's unpredictable. If the BBC like it, they drink vintage. If they don't they still drink vintage, laugh at fate and go on working.

Plots have poured from Terry Nation over the years. "They come because they have to; I'm hired to write."

Thrillers have a crossword fascination for him. He writes himself into a corner and then tells himself: Solve that! He never knows how a plot will develop and often sets himself an impossible opening situation without the faintest idea of how he will finish it.

"The Survivors" was different. He had things to say. Eleven million viewers thought so, too.

He's a modest 006Dan, passionate about his family and writing better. A Welshman with Burton's looks and a sensitive soul.

Breaking new ground is vital to him. A novel about "The Survivors" has started it, and a children's book, written for his daughter, continues it.

"I wanted to give her a pretty book. After all, what can a father give his daughter, if he's a writer, but a book?" "Rebecca's World" (G. Whizzard-Andre Deutch, £2.75) is a giggly-scared story about a little girl mysteriously transported to a distant planet.

"I never make concessions for writing for children. They don't like it. But they do like to be sacred as long as they're safe and secure. It's like going to a funfair and being frightened on the big wheel."

Or creeping downstairs in the underground chapel, a game that Becky and her little brother Joel play when no-one is looking.

Terry is probably upstairs in his panelled study banging words on a typewriter, trying out the dialogue on himself, of watching the trees through leaded windows while a Vaughan Williams record plays.

Thus does Nation speak onto nation.


Caption: Terry Nation, the TV writer who created the Daleks and other successful series, with his daughter Rebecca, for whom he has written a book.

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

  • APA 6th ed.: Turner, Francesca (1975-09-11). Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner. Belfast Telegraph p. 10.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Turner, Francesca. "Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner." Belfast Telegraph [add city] 1975-09-11, 10. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Turner, Francesca. "Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner." Belfast Telegraph, edition, sec., 1975-09-11
  • Turabian: Turner, Francesca. "Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner." Belfast Telegraph, 1975-09-11, section, 10 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Terry_and_the_Daleks%E2%80%94or_how_to_write_yourself_into_a_profitable_corner | work=Belfast Telegraph | pages=10 | date=1975-09-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 September 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Terry and the Daleks—or how to write yourself into a profitable corner | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Terry_and_the_Daleks%E2%80%94or_how_to_write_yourself_into_a_profitable_corner | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 September 2019}}</ref>