The Man Who Invented the Daleks

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from Chapter Six: DALEK INVASION

...In March 1964, Nation was commissioned to write ‘The Return of the Daleks’, which became ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, and in May that year he signed a contract, through a writer and editor named Jack Fishman, with Souvenir Press for a book to be titled The Daleks Book, for which he received a £300 advance.

The fact that he was able to do such a deal, without the involvement of the BBC, reflected an anomalous arrangement that was to prove highly beneficial. The corporation had for many years relied on an internal script department which employed writers directly, so that, for example, Nigel Kneale was a salaried employee of the BBC at the time he wrote the original Quatermass stories; consequently he didn’t benefit as he might have done when they were remade by Hammer Films, since the copyright didn’t reside with him.

But part of Sydney Newman’s reforms included the closing down of the script department in June 1963, with writers henceforth contracted on a self-employed basis. The early script commissions for Doctor Who were among the first under this new system, and the rules were not yet set in stone, as Beryl Vertue at Associated London Scripts was to discover. ‘I was a new agent,’ she remembered, ‘I was learning. All these contracts had a copyright clause, and I used to think, well, they’ll never sell this, so it was a clause I used to run a pen through. And I must have done it on Terry’s contract as well.’

The consequence, unintended by the BBC and unexpected by ALS, was that the copyright position of the Daleks was left entirely unresolved.

At the time of the first serial, this seemed of little relevance to anyone; during the run, the BBC even turned down an approach for licensing from an entrepreneur named Walter Tuckwell, on the grounds that the creatures were due to be killed off at the end of the story.

But as the Dalek craze took off, and as more and more companies began to turn up on the corporation’s doorstep looking for merchandising rights, it rapidly became clear that some agreement had to be reached. In March 1965 R.J. Marshall, assistant solicitor at the BBC, wrote to Beryl Vertue stating: ‘My instructions are that the Corporation recognises ALS Management Limited (on behalf of Mr Terry Nation) as having interest in the merchandising proceeds on the grounds not of joint copyright but of goodwill.’

His draft for this letter had specifically referred to ALS having ‘a fifty per cent share in all merchandising proceeds’ and, although this didn’t appear in the version that was sent, it became the basis on which all future deals were made; the Daleks became the de facto joint property of the BBC and of Nation. As Nation was later to point out: ‘we were breaking new ground in many ways...’

published by Aurum Press
© Alwyn W Turner 2011

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