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Nation, Terry

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: Author, Theatre, TV.

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(1930-1997) UK author of television screenplays and other works, latterly resident in the US. He has the distinction of exercising a formative influence on three major sf series, Doctor Who (1963-current), Survivors (1975-1977) and Blake's 7 (1978-1981).

Nation began his writing career producing comedy material, for Tony Hancock among others, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also produced other work, including adaptations of sf stories such as Philip K Dick's "Impostor" (June 1953 Astounding) and Clifford D Simak's "Immigrant" (March 1954 Astounding) for the Television Anthology Series Out of This World. This drew him to the attention of David Whitaker, the first script editor of the fledgling series Doctor Who. Nation wrote The Daleks (1963-1964) – originally titled The Mutants – the second storyline in the show's run, and the one that cemented its appeal. The Daleks, thanks both to Nation's script and their distinctive design by Raymond Cusick (1928-2013), became one of Doctor Who's most iconic features. Nation scripted several subsequent Dalek adventures, but after Whitaker's The Evil of the Daleks (1967), the creatures were absent from the series for some while, as Nation tried to generate US interest in a series featuring them. When this effort failed, the Daleks returned to Doctor Who, their appearances including Nation's definitive origin story Genesis of the Daleks (1975). His last script for the series was Destiny of the Daleks (1979). With David Whitaker, Nation had also written the stage play The Curse of the Daleks (first performed 1965), which by omitting other television series elements such as the Doctor and the TARDIS seemed intended to establish personal control over his Dalek creation. The one-page Daleks strip that ran 1965-1966 in the weekly UK Comic TV Century 21 was credited to Nation but written by Whitaker.

Nation's Post-Holocaust series Survivors (1975-1977) shared many of its behind-the-scenes staff with Doctor Who, but was solidly in the tradition of British writers such as John Wyndham. It was perhaps guilty of being a Cosy Catastrophe made after the critiques of it by the likes of J G Ballard, but was successful enough to last for three series. A 2008 remake of the same name credited Nation's tie-in novel Survivors (1976), rather than the original series, as an influence. The novel reworks the first half of series one and then veers from the televised storyline to depict a broader post-holocaust canvas than possible with BBC budgetary limitations, following the efforts of some British survivors to relocate to the more hospitable climate of Mediterranean Europe.

Blake's 7 (1978-1981) was originated around the same time. Nation wrote all thirteen episodes of the first series, but his influence faded over time, and it was the script editor Chris Boucher who was responsible for the devastating finale of its fourth and final series. Nation's premise – "The Dirty Dozen in space" – endured from start to finish, though, as did a certain adult pessimism about the effectiveness of rebellion against an all-powerful Galactic Empire.

As a storyteller, Nation tended to the traditional, and also to the repetitive – as his sympathetic biographer Alwyn Turner admits. Certain motifs recur in his work: the effects of radiation, the deadly Alien jungle, the lone inventor. Yet he was also one of the most successful and influential creators of his era. There was a certain naive simplicity to his work, also on display in his standalone novel Rebecca's World (1975), a fable of Ecology. He was surely, along with Gene Roddenberry, one of the most successful translators of pulp sf ideas for a mass audience. [GS]

Terence Joseph Nation

born Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales: 8 August 1930

died Los Angeles, California: 9 March 1997



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