...Much of his television writing was already enjoying a new lease of life on DVD, while even the few surviving episodes of a neglected comedy series, Floggit’s, when rediscovered by BBC radio in 2009, were re-broadcast, more than half a century after they first aired. The appeal was not simply one of nostalgia, for his creations continued to inspire new interpretations. The Doctor Who episode that the Radio Times was promoting, ‘Dalek’, saw some significant additions to the mythology he had left, and it was followed in 2008 by a remake of his 1970s series Survivors.
Meanwhile, 2010 saw an American reworking of And Soon the Darkness, a film he had co-written forty years earlier, and reports of a continuation – or possibly a revival – of another show from that decade, Blake’s 7, appeared in the press on a regular basis for many years. Indeed that series remained familiar enough to be lampooned in the cinema short Blake’s Junction 7 (2004), starring Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook and Johnny Vegas. Clearly this was a body of work whose resilience transcended its origins in what, at the time of its creation, was thought of as the transient, even disposable, world of the broadcast media.
Beyond his most celebrated work in Doctor Who, Survivors and Blake’s 7, Nation’s list of credits was equally impressive. He wrote dozens of episodes for action adventure shows such as The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders!, The Baron, Department S, The Champions, The Protectors and MacGyver. He adapted some key science fiction works for television, among them the first ever screen version of a Philip K. Dick story. And he wrote for many of Britain’s most celebrated comedians, including Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd, Ronnie Barker and Eric Sykes.
There was too a disparate collection of one-off pieces for cinema and television, some of which remain fondly remembered in certain circles, even if they didn’t command huge audiences (The Amazing Robert Baldick, The House in Nightmare Park, even What a Whopper), as well as a children’s novel, Rebecca’s World, that retains a devoted following. And on at least one occasion he claimed that a largely forgotten television play, Uncle Selwyn, had given him more pleasure than anything else he’d done.
The overwhelming majority of that writing came in the twenty-five years from 1955 to 1980, an era that has come to be regarded as the golden age of British television. Nation was present at the outset, as the dominance exerted over popular culture by the cinema and radio began to fade in the face of the new medium, and his contributions were to help define the period and establish the shape of the entertainment industry. If he is remembered chiefly as a writer of popular science fiction (‘I will always be Terry “Daleks” Nation,’ he acknowledged towards the end of his life), that does scant justice to the breadth and diversity of his writing...
published by Aurum Press
© Alwyn W Turner 2011