Television director
Born: March 17, 1942;
Died: November 15, 2016

KEN Grieve, who has died aged 74, was a Scottish director who worked on some of the most popular television shows of the last 40 years. It was Grieve who directed the 1970s opening titles of Coronation Street that featured the cat curling up on a roof; he also directed the Doctor Who story Destiny of the Daleks, which featured the return of the famous baddies after four years, along with their creator Davros.

In his long career, he also directed the Jersey detective drama Bergerac, The Bill, Peak Practice, Poirot, Casualty and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as well as some series that have been relatively forgotten including The Omega Factor, a cult BBC Scotland drama about a mysterious government body that investigates paranormal phenomena.

Born in Edinburgh, Grieve first trained as a cameraman before moving into directing and landing his first job on Coronation Street in 1974. Over the next two years, he directed 42 episodes of the soap during what fans consider one of its golden periods. He then moved to the BBC to work on The XYY Man, a short-lived drama about an ex-burglar who works for the British Secret Service, before landing the job with BBC Scotland on The Omega Factor in 1979. Filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow and featuring Louise Jameson, it centred on a journalist who possesses untapped psychic powers and comes to the attention of Department 7.

The same year, Grieve worked on his only Doctor Who story, Destiny of the Daleks, although he found the experience frustrating because of the budget and big holes in the script, which he and the script editor Douglas Adams had to make work for broadcast. Grieve and Adams, who was also the writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, struck up a friendship which was to last for the rest of Adams’s life and started with an impromptu and drunken visit to Paris.

Adams recalled the incident for a documentary about Doctor Who. “I was sitting in my office at the BBC feeling a little miffed, because everyone else was gallivanting off in Paris and I was by myself, and this wild Scottish ex-hippie came into the office and said ‘Where is everybody?’, and I said ‘They’re in Paris’. He said, ‘Well I need to talk to the producer’, I said ‘Why’s that?’, he said, ‘I’m directing the Dalek story, and there are some problems I want to talk about’.

“This was Ken Grieve, who is one of the world’s most stupendous and marvellous p*** artists, and I said, ‘Well you can’t talk to them, they’re in Paris’, he said, ‘Why don’t we go to Paris?’ So we got our passports, went down to the airport and jumped on a plane.”

Grieve and Adams then drank through the night, found a flight home and arrived back at the BBC at 9am, feeling a little worse for the wear. “Somebody said, ‘How are you? Do anything interesting last night?’,” said Adams, “And I said ‘Oh, it was one of those nights, 4am you start wondering how you’re going to get back to England’.”

As for working on Doctor Who itself, Grieve found it a frustrating experience. “You have to remember that we’re talking about 1979 and technology did not exist – CGI didn’t exist,” he said. “At the time, we were all working our absolute damnedest to create a reality for the show. Everybody was trying their best to make these things work and tell a story.”

Destiny of the Daleks turned out to be Grieve’s only work on Doctor Who but he did go on to direct many other British programmes until his retirement in 2009 after directing Law and Order: UK. In his later years, he also taught at the National Film School and the Manchester Film School.

He died in Edinburgh and is survived by his partner Jane, his four children and three grandchildren.