Doctor Who writer and script editor

Born: April 14, 1935;

Died: August 29, 2019

TERRANCE Dicks, who has died aged 84, was one of the most influential writers and script editors during the original 26-year run of Doctor Who, helping to create the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey in the first capacity and the Doctor’s arch-enemy The Master in the second.

To many aficionados who swarmed to fan conventions, he was the public face of the production team, known as “Uncle Terrance”. He was also credited with generating a passion for reading among children with his novelisation of more than 60 stories from the cult BBC sci-fi series.

Dicks joined the programme in 1968 as assistant script editor and became a fully-fledged script editor a year later, staying in that role until 1974 and contributing significantly to other writers’ stories. He also helped to steady the ship following a turbulent time of constant changes of producer and script editor.

His first credit as writer – jointly with Malcolm Hulke – was the 10-part 1969 story, The War Games. It was significant for being Patrick Troughton’s swansong as the second incarnation of the Doctor and for introducing the Time Lords, from his home planet, Gallifrey, the idea of producer Derrick Sherwin. They remained an element that continued into the programme’s 21st-century revival.

“They would pop up mysteriously, bully the Doctor, give him some instructions and pack him off during the time when we were gradually getting him away from Earth,” said Dicks about his continuing stint as script editor alongside the next producer, Barry Letts. The pair were instrumental in steering Doctor Who through a crucial period of change. After Jon Pertwee became the third Doctor, they introduced The Master, a renegade Time Lord initially played by Roger Delgado, in Terror of the Autons (1971), written by Robert Holmes.

Dicks continued writing for the programme but handed script-editing duties over to Holmes after bowing out with Pertwee’s final story, Planet of the Spiders (1974), and having been consulted by Letts on the casting of Tom Baker as the next doctor.

Between 1974 and 1980 he scripted four stories for Baker before his own swansong, the 1983 20th-anniversary special, The Five Doctors, with Peter Davison (the latest incarnation) being joined by previous ones.

Terrance William Dicks was born in East Ham, Essex (now London), the son of William, a tailor’s salesman, and Nellie (née Ambler), a former waitress. The couple later ran the Fox & Hounds pub, in Forest Gate, while their son was growing up. On leaving East Ham Grammar School, he won a scholarship to study English at Downing College, Cambridge, in 1954, then – after national service in the Royal Fusiliers – became an advertising agency copywriter.

A friendship with Hulke, an established writer whom Dicks regarded as his mentor, led to the pair co-scripting four episodes of the telefantasy series The Avengers between 1962 and 1969. “It turned out I had a ghastly talent for doing soap operas,” said Dicks, who, like Hulke, wrote for Crossroads. “It was never very good. It was very cheap, but people loved soap opera.”

In 1965, Dicks wrote on spec a BBC radio comedy script, The Lonely Hearts, starring Harry Fowler as Joey Green, who ran a marriage bureau. The following year, he was commissioned to turn it into a six-part sitcom, Joey, set around a London East End market and including Alfie Bass as a café owner, alongside traders and small-time spivs and crooks.

In 1968, another former Crossroads colleague, Sherwin, who was then working on Doctor Who as a script editor and writer, invited him to join the programme.

Dicks also script-edited another sci-fi series, Moonbase 3 (1973), his and Letts’s creation. Later, they resumed their script editor-producer partnership on classic serials: Stalky & Co (1982), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982), Dombey & Son (1983), Jane Eyre (1983), Goodbye Mr Chips (1984), The Invisible Man (1984) and The Pickwick Papers (1985). Dicks took over as producer of the serials, making Oliver Twist (1985), Alice in Wonderland (1986), Brat Farrar (1986), David Copperfield (1986), The Diary of Anne Frank (1987) and Vanity Fair (1987).

He also scripted two Doctor Who stage plays, in 1974 and 1989. With Hulke, he wrote the book, The Making of Doctor Who (1972). Penning the programme’s spin-off novels led him to write his own fiction, including The Mounties trilogy (1976),The Baker Street Irregulars series (1978-87), featuring a juvenile Sherlock Holmes, Star Quest (1978-81), about three cousins caught up in galactic events, the Sally Ann series (1987-90), about a ragdoll, and 18 Adventures of Goliath stories (1984-92), about a golden retriever. He also wrote the 12-part The Unexplained (1999-2001), on subjects such as the Bermuda Triangle.

Dicks is survived by his wife, Elsa (née Germaney), whom he married in 1963, and their children, Stephen, Jonathan and Oliver.