Review: The Man Who Invented Daleks – The Strange Worlds of Terry Nation / Format: Paperback / Author: Alwyn W. Turner / Publisher: Aurum Press / Release Date: Jan 3rd
Were you to ask the man in the street “Who is Terry Nation?”, you'll probably be met with a blank expression. However, among those in the know, Nation is revered for creating one of the all-time great sc-fi baddies: the Daleks. The most recognisable characters in Doctor Who after the Doctor himself, they have appeared opposite all but one of the Time Lord’s incarnations on-screen and are responsible for generations of children running around barking, “Exterminate!”
However, we have so much more to thank Terry Nation for other than the Doctor’s most iconic adversary. Nation contributed to '60s classics such as The Avengers, The Saint and The Persuaders, whilst also writing for some of Britain’s most noted comedians, including Frankie Howerd and Tony Hancock. Meanwhile, series such as Survivors in the '70s and Blake’s 7 in the '80s have both enjoyed a cult following as a result of Nation’s creative imagination. What Alwyn W. Turner explores in his book The Man Who Invented the Daleks is the road which Nation followed to become such a crucial component of British television.
Meticulously researched, The Man Who Invented the Daleks explores not only Nation’s TV work but his life and his personality as well, both of which inevitably impacted on his career. This is demonstrated in the complications with his early writing partner, Dick Barry. Comedy writer Ray Galton, interviewed in these pages, suggests that Nation was extravagant and outward-going (apparently he would dress up like a dandy for work) and that this clashed with Barry’s more introverted personality.
Where the book loses your attention at times is with the social context, which is rather more detailed than is really necessary. Whilst we appreciate that social and cultural changes undoubtedly influenced Nation’s career and contributed to his work, Turner (a cultural historian by training) sometimes lays this on a bit thick.
Nevertheless, The Man Who Invented The Daleks is very enjoyable. It is well researched, and Turner discusses Nation in such a way that you can make your own mind up about him: he was different things to different people, but no one can deny his enduring talent as a writer. With 2013 being the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the publication of this book couldn't be more timely.