Author: Alwyn W. Turner
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; Reprint edition (April 1, 2013)
The Daleks are one of the most iconic and fearsome creations in television history. Since their first appearance in 1963, they have simultaneously fascinated and terrified generations of children, their instant success ensuring, and sometimes eclipsing, that of Doctor Who. They sprang from the imagination of Terry Nation, a failed stand-up comic who became one of the most prolific writers for television that Britian ever produced. Survivors, his vision of a post-apocalyptic England, so haunted audiences in the Seventies that the BBC revived it over thirty years on, and Blake’s 7, constantly rumored for return, endures as a cult sci-fi classic. But it is for his genocidal pepperpots that Nation is most often remembered, and on the 50th anniversary of their creation they continue to top the Saturday-night ratings.
Yet while the Daleks brought him notoriety and riches, Nation played a much wider role in British broadcasting’s golden age. He wrote for Spike Milligan, Frankie Howerd and an increasingly troubled Tony Hancock, and as one of the key figures behind the adventure series of the Sixties – including The Avengers, The Saint and The Persuaders! – he turned the pulp classics of his boyhood into a major British export. In The Man Who Invented the Daleks, acclaimed cultural historian Alwyn W. Turner, explores the curious and contested origins of Doctor Who‘s greatest villains, and sheds light on a strange world of ambitious young writers, producers and performers without whom British culture today would look very different.
This book follows Terry Nation as he evolves from a budding stand up comedian to television script writer, eventually writing scripts for what would come to be one of my top favorite television shows of all time, Doctor Who, and creating one of the most iconic alien races in scifi history, the Daleks. To read the description of how he came up with the design is definitely one of the highlights of the book and I won’t spoil it for you.
I’m sure most of the children watching Doctor Who when it aired in the 1960s failed to pick up on the political innuendo as much as I did watching it twenty years later when I was a child, but it is interesting to see how much the politics and pop culture of the time mixed with Doctor Who. I would have loved to experience that. When the Daleks were first shown to me it was awesome, no doubt, but it was the 1980’s in America and I was most likely either watching the episode on Beta Max or watching it in an Oklahoma library auditorium reserved by regional Doctor Who fans for the purpose of a viewing before they got to trading copies of their episodes for ones they didn’t have like trading cards. When the Daleks first came on screen in Britain in the 1960s the mania that followed momentarily topped The Beatles. THE Beatles. That is completely mind-blowing since we’ve only recently seen mainstream Doctor Who discussion and merchandising stateside since the reboot happened in 2005.
It didn’t just baffle me. It baffled Terry Nation himself who couldn’t possibly understand what the fuss was all about. While the Daleks are clearly the phenomenon that put Terry Nation on the map, the Daleks don’t barely make up 50% of the book, and I suppose that’s fine, but the majority of the rest of the book is lost on me since I haven’t heard of or seen half the British television shows that are mentioned, and the ones I have heard of I’ve heard of in name alone.
Regardless of having not heard of these shows the book goes into great detail on The Saint, The Avengers, Survivor and Blake’s 7. All of which I actually would like to check out now that I’ve read this book.
If you’re a fan of classic Who, then this book will be worth the read. If you haven’t really gotten into classic Who then I invite you to check out some of those (make them Dalek episodes) before you read this book. I will admit that though I do have a newly peaked interest in his other shows (like I mentioned), reading the sections about them was rather dry without having anything to reference.
The book isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of any of the shows I’ve listed, you’ll enjoy it. Terry Nation really is quite a fascinating person with his early interest in comic books, through his British television experience all the way to his later work on the American television show MacGyver.
I give Terry Nation – The Man Who Invented the Daleks Four Out of Five Stars.
Terry Nation – The Man Who Invented the Daleks is available on Amazon. Here’s a link!