Terrance William Dicks
14 April 1935
|Died||29 August 2019 (aged 84)|
|Alma mater||Downing College, Cambridge|
|Known for||Doctor Who TV scripts, novelisations and novels|
Terrance William Dicks (14 April 1935 – 29 August 2019) was an English author and television screenwriter, script editor and producer. In television, he had a long association with the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme's script editor from 1968 to 1974. The Doctor Who News Page described him as "arguably the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who". He later became a script editor and producer of classic serials for the BBC.
Dicks wrote many children's books during the 1970s and 1980s. He also maintained his association with Doctor Who by adapting televised stories into novelisations for Target Books and in later years contributing to many documentaries and DVD commentaries for the series.
Born in East Ham, Essex (now part of Greater London), Dicks was the only son of William, a tailor's salesman and Nellie (née Ambler), a waitress. His parents later ran a pub, the Fox and Hounds, in Forest Gate. He excelled in English at East Ham Grammar School and consumed literature ranging from classics to pulp thrillers and adventure stories. He won a scholarship to study English at Downing College, Cambridge, and later performed two years of National Service in the British Army with the Royal Fusiliers. Following his discharge from the armed forces, he worked for five years as an advertising copywriter, and started to write radio play scripts for the BBC in his spare time.
His breakthrough into television came when friend Malcolm Hulke, whom he met when he rented a room from him, asked for his help with the scripting of "The Mauritius Penny", an episode of the second series of ABC's action-adventure The Avengers, for which Dicks was awarded a co-writer's credit. Dicks went on to co-write a further two Avengers episodes with Hulke: the second, "Intercrime", was later re-worked for the sixth and final series.
In 1968, Dicks was hired as assistant script editor on the BBC science-fiction TV series Doctor Who. He was appointed head script editor the following year and earned his first writing credit for the programme when he and Hulke co-wrote the 10-part serial The War Games, which concluded the series' sixth season and the Second Doctor's (Patrick Troughton) tenure. The serial introduced the concept of the Time Lords and initiated the Doctor's exile to Earth, which would be a major theme of the Third Doctor's tenure. Dicks had, however, been the uncredited co-writer of the earlier serial The Seeds of Death (1969), having extensively re-written Brian Hayles' original scripts.
Dicks formed a highly productive working relationship with incoming Doctor Who producer Barry Letts, serving as script editor on all of Letts's five seasons as series producer from 1970 to 1974. During his tenure as script editor on Doctor Who, Dicks oversaw a number of additions to the series' mythology that still exist in the modern era, including the following:
During Dicks' tenure, the series also delved into social and political concepts. Sometimes these were straightforward and other times they were metaphors. Concepts and topics included the respect for all life (The Silurians), Great Britain joining the European Economic Community (in metaphor in The Curse of Peladon), apartheid (The Mutants), global pollution (The Green Death) and equality for women (with the inclusion of Sarah Jane Smith as companion).
In 1972, Dicks embarked on a parallel career as an author with the publication of his first book, The Making of Doctor Who (a history of the production of the TV series), which was co-written by Hulke.
After stepping down as script editor, Dicks continued his association with Doctor Who, writing four scripts for his successor, Robert Holmes: these were Robot (1975, Tom Baker's first outing as the Fourth Doctor), The Brain of Morbius (1976, for which Dicks was credited under the pseudonym Robin Bland after his displeasure at Holmes' re-writes prompted him to request that it be shown "under some bland pseudonym"), Horror of Fang Rock (1977) and State of Decay (1980).
State of Decay was in fact a re-written version of a story originally titled The Vampire Mutations, which had been due for production during season 15 until the BBC decided that the vampiric theme would clash with the plot of its new adaptation of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, which was due for transmission at roughly the same time, and replaced it with Horror of Fang Rock. His final Doctor Who script was The Five Doctors (1983), a feature-length episode for the programme's 20th anniversary.
His other work for Doctor Who included two stage plays, Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday (1974) and Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure (1989), and an audio drama for Big Finish Productions titled Comeback (2002), which was the first to feature former Doctor's companion Sarah Jane Smith in a significant capacity. He went on to contribute several additional scripts to Big Finish including audio adaptations of his two-stage plays, a Sixth Doctor-era story for the "Companion Chronicle" range, and a Bernice Summerfield story, in 2011, which was the final script of his career.
The first serial aired after his death, the 2020 Thirteenth Doctor-era story "Spyfall", was dedicated to him.
Dicks contributed heavily to Target Books' series of novelisations of the Doctor Who TV serials, writing 67 of the titles published by the company. As Dicks explains in an interview in the documentary Built for War (included on the 2006 DVD release of The Sontaran Experiment), he served as the unofficial editor of the Target Books range. In this role, he would attempt to enlist the author of the original scripts to write the novelisation whenever possible, but if they refused or had other commitments, Dicks would usually undertake the work himself (although he also recruited other writers, including former Doctor Who actor Ian Marter and former series producer Philip Hinchcliffe).
On one occasion, he enlisted Robert Holmes to novelise his script for The Time Warrior, but when Holmes gave up after writing only one chapter, it was left to Dicks to complete the work. Dicks would have better success in recruiting the original writers for the later Doctor Who serials, and was required to adapt only one Sixth Doctor story himself (The Mysterious Planet; he again replaced Holmes, who had died in 1986). Dicks' name appears on the cover of no Seventh Doctor novelisations. His plans to publish a novelisation of his stage play Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure were not realised.
As of September, 1980, Terrance Dicks' Doctor Who novelisations had sold three-and-a-half million copies and had been translated into ten different languages.
During the 1990s, Dicks contributed to Virgin Publishing's line of full-length, officially licensed, original Doctor Who novels, New Adventures, which continued the series' storyline following the TV cancellation in 1989. Dicks wrote three Doctor Who novels for Virgin, and continued to write occasionally for the franchise after BBC Books assumed the licence in 1997. He wrote the first of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, titled The Eight Doctors, which was, for a time, the best-selling original Doctor Who novel. World Game, featuring the Second Doctor, is set during the so-called "Season 6B". Later contributions to the range were the Quick Reads books Made of Steel and Revenge of the Judoon, both featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones.
His final Doctor Who short story, "Save Yourself", was published posthumously by BBC Books in October 2019.
A compilation of his work chosen by fans entitled The Essential Terrance Dicks Volumes 1 & 2 was published in August 2021.
Dicks also wrote for the ATV soap opera Crossroads. He co-created and wrote for the short-lived BBC science-fiction TV series Moonbase 3 (1973), and wrote for the ITC science-fiction series Space: 1999 (1976). During the early 1980s, Dicks served once more as script editor to producer Barry Letts on the BBC's Sunday Classics strand of period dramas and literary adaptations.
When Letts returned to directing in 1985, Dicks succeeded him as the producer of the Sunday Classics, overseeing productions such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Vanity Fair, before retiring from the BBC in 1988 to resume his career as a novelist.
It was through his work on Doctor Who books that Dicks became a writer of children's fiction, penning many successful titles during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, he wrote a trilogy for Target Books, The Mounties, concerning a Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruit. They were followed from 1979 to 1983 another trilogy, Star Quest, which was later re-printed by Big Finish Productions.
Beginning in 1978, Dicks penned The Baker Street Irregulars inspired by the Sherlock Holmes characters; the series eventually ran to 10 books, the last published in 1987. In 1981, he commenced work on a series of six children's horror novels with Cry Vampire. In 1987, Dicks started a new series for very young children titled T. R. Bear, resulting in a further seven books. There followed the Sally Ann series, about a ragdoll, Magnificent Max, about a cat, and The Adventures of Goliath (Dicks' longest series, at 18 books), about a golden retriever. Another five books concerning a St. Bernard dog make up the Harvey series.
Jonathan's Ghost and its three sequels were published in 1988, and the three-part MacMagic series followed in 1990. The Littlest Dinosaur was published in 1993 and The Littlest on Guard in 1994. Other works that Dicks published in 1994 include Woof! The Never Ending Tale, the Cold Blood series and the Chronicles of a Computer Game Addict series (both in four parts). Between 1998 and 2000, Dicks penned Changing Universe trilogy. In 2000 and 2001, Dicks produced the 12-book series, The Unexplained.
As well as his numerous fictional works, Dicks also penned several non-fiction books for children, including Europe United, A Riot of Writers, Uproar in the House, A Right Royal History and The Good, the Bad and the Ghastly.
Dicks lived in Hampstead, London. In 1963, he married Elsa Germaney, a teacher and later a Quaker recording clerk. They had three sons: Stephen, Jonathan and Oliver.
Dicks died in London on 29 August 2019 after a short illness.
Most of Dicks' Doctor Who novelisations incorporated the prefix "Doctor Who and..." before the title, as did most of the series' novelisations prior to 1981. Several of his novels were subsequently re-printed in omnibus editions, such as The Adventures of Doctor Who and The Dalek Omnibus. In the late 1980s, Star Books issued "2-in-1" collections of selected Target Books novelisations, which included several of Dicks' works.
Writer, 5 episodes:
Writer, 35 episodes (1968–1969; 1974–1977; 1980, 1983):
Script Editor, 156 episodes (1968–74):
Co-Creator and uncredited Script Editor, 6 episodes:
Writer, 1 episode:
|The Classic Serial||
Script Editor, 134 episodes (1981-8):
|Doctor Who: Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans||
|Doctor Who: Mindgame||
|Doctor Who: Mindgame Trilogy||