1977 AND ALL THAT.

Introduction.  

Here’s a reminder of my timeline – very quickly.

1978.  The year I was born, and a good year for the television I like to talk about.
1981.  I start to notice Doctor Who.  I vaguely remember the Blake’ 7 title sequence.
1984.  I’m hooked on Who.  Season 21 is so exciting.
1989.  Doctor Who ends.  I don’t know it at the time, but slowly I guess all isn’t well.
1991.  There is a vacuum, and Blake’s 7 creeps in.  The episodic VHS tapes get a spin.

By this point, I was nursing a feverish appetite into the micro-investigation and documentation of every iota of the production and development of Doctor Who.  But the nuts and bolts of the making of a series, didn’t seem to be as prevalent in the world of Blake’s 7 fandom.

When I started working on ‘Watching Blake’s 7‘, I knew I had a few things I really wanted to get across, based on my experiences of watching sci-fi on television.   I wanted to be a bit geeky about it, and talk about the little details – the chairs, the control panels, the stock footage used – but didn’t really know how.    Luckily Twitter provided the answer. ‘MakingBlakes7‘ – then known as Scorpio Attack – started to evolve.  It had the production details covered, and watching the evolution of that rather fine organism, helped me fine tune what I was trying to get across in turn.

There was one element that proved to be a lasting influence throughout the 1990’s.  This was a series of ‘In-Vision’ magazines, published in the early part of the decade.  I fondly remember purchasing these from ‘Destiny One’ in Exeter (see ‘Power‘).  These issues were revelatory to me, because not only did they document the production of a television series, but Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides offered extended interviews and analysis, which gave it a context that appealed to me a smidge more than Andrew Pixley’s already amazing ‘Archive’ section that commenced in the early 1990’s in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’.

Together, ‘In-Vision’ and the DWM archive were unputdownable.

For a long time, I had only five ‘In-Vision’ magazines, covering five out of the six stories that made up season 15 of Doctor Who.  These issues told the bigger story of how bloody difficult it was to make a television series.  Severe inflationary budget cuts, internal budgetary control, managerial directives, actor temperaments, industrial action, disagreements over a clock, personal changes, the toning down of violence, and the bedding in of new talent.  These were all things that seemed to contribute to a less than satisfactory audience/fan reception, certainly than what had immediately come before.  What struck me was how many of those issues started to appear right at the beginning of the tenure of a new producer – Graham Williams – and how many of these challenges were either out of his control, or it could argued, imposed on him due to the actions of his predecessor.

The interviews with Williams, script editor Anthony Read, and other members of the production were fascinating.  It painted a picture of literate, articulate and conscientious human beings who really cared about the series and wanted to not only make something as good as possible, but also had considerable amounts of ambition.  Williams in particular was interesting, as the soundbites and opinion by some of his peers and colleagues seemed to fluctuate – amounting to the portrayal of a nice, pleasant, and overly sensitive man, seeking to prove something.  Someone even described him as being “on a downer“.  John Nathan-Turner’s obituary headline was “A champion of injustice“, but even he couldn’t resist putting in a line about how he didn’t agree with everything that Williams did on the series.

But I saw no problem with seeking to prove something.  I found his approach ambitious, and never passive.  He had ideas – some on a grand scale, and some more intricate.  He was frank about where things fell short of his own expectations.  And despite much criticism labelled at him about production values, he clearly gave this area considerable thought both in ‘putting the money up there on the screen’ and instigating new directions for the series, such as ‘gallery only days’ for electronic effects, and time spent filming oversees.

The problems he faced on the series appeared to my non-expert eyes to be unfathomable at times.  But he wasn’t a wallower.  In fact I see Williams as the most ‘successful’ producer across the entirety of Doctor Who – in terms of achievement against the odds.   He took on these challenges head-on, and never wanted to lose the ambition.  There is no ‘that’ll do’ in his run.  When it was suggested that he simply doesn’t make ‘The Invasion of Time’ and save the money elsewhere, he rejected that flat out, probably for both idealistic and repetitional reasons. Out of these challenges there is a chance to “make good art” – more on this in a moment.

And that’s what helped me to find the overall voice of this blog series.  It’s not simply about the production minutiae, nor the views of the cast and crew.  It’s about the great thing that sticks out in my mind when I’m watching Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who – how amazing it is they made it at all.  Bravo Messers Williams, Maloney and Lorrimer!  It’s about the challenge, and that is how I loved blogging about ‘Animals’ even if it remains at the bottom of the list of my top 52 episodes of Blake’s 7.

Poor Og.

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 12.49.09

So I knew that ‘Watching Blake’s 7’ wouldn’t be about rating episodes, or trying to highlight a particular era, even if that would be trickier for a series that only ran for four years.  I wanted this to fit into a wider discussion of UK telefantasy – about the challenges of producing television, and how that impacted on the way I watched and appreciated the series.

For this reason ‘Watching Blake’s 7’ started its life two years before this post was written, with a discussion of season 15 of Doctor Who, a season that not only did I enjoy creatively and felt was full of imagination, but also was a drama in its own right.

And by watching Blake’s 7 in the way I have over the last two years, it has prompted me to go back and re-assess that starting point.  There are great moments through out the whole golden lifetime of UK telefantasy, but the year where Blake’s 7 kicked into gear, while Doctor Who was trying to keep itself afloat, is a film in itself.

It’s a story that begins in Union/Threshold House, Shepherds Bush, London, and shifts to BBC Television Centre, then up the motorway to a leafy Birmingham suburb, and back down to London, taking in the scenic delights of a disused mental asylum in Redhill, and the New Forest, before ending up in the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square.  You can’t write it!

1977.  Here is roughly how it goes.

1977

Episode 1 – Make Good Art.

This is a blog post for middle managers everywhere.

I work in the art education sector.  It’s a mix of long hours, intensive work, and ever changing challenges.  We often fight against perceptions that we sit around talking about our feelings, or ‘art’ is about getting the crayons out.  Governments rarely help, intentionally or unintentionally portraying art and design education as a luxury.  I’ll remind them of that next time they sit on their classically designed seats, in a room full of creative artefacts, that have been designed by architects, which is in turn, surrounded by a world that has literally been designed by millions of people within the creative industries.

The word ‘problem’ is rarely seen as a full stop, but as something exciting to overcome.  A Gordian knot, or a Chinese puzzle box.  There is a strong creative element to my job role that responds to what you have available to you, or what little you have to work with.

It reminds me of something Neil Gaiman once talked about.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician?
Make good art.

Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor?
Make good art.

IRS on your trail?
Make good art.

Cat exploded?
Make good art.

Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before?
Make good art.

Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.” (3)

When I think of the ‘producer’ of a TV series such as Blake’s 7 or Doctor Who, I always used to think they were the people at the top.  The boss.  The ones with creative control.  The guiding hand.  The ‘era’ tags seemed to cement this.  The ‘gothic’ Hinchcliffe, the ‘family’ of Letts, the ‘base under siege’ of Lloyd.

But writing this blog has helped me to understand the greater position that the producer sits in, specifically the middle ground between writers, cast and crew, and the those on ‘the sixth floor’ – those heads of departments, and senior managers.

I class myself as a middle manager – one of those poor, lost souls who try to battle against a number of different tides, not least of all the expectations of myself!

When I think of Doctor Who, I’m drawn to the institutional battles faced by Verity Lambert in those early formative days, and then again in those last years of the original run as John Nathan Turner and his script editors faced an indifferent management.  But there is one tumultuous period where one man faced it all – Graham Williams.

Time has not been so kind to Williams or his run between 1977 – 1980.  The ‘history’ is well established.  That eminent historian Tim Dickinson says what many others have written:

Following Phillip Hinchliffe’s lauded three seasons of Doctor Who, the show began a slow decline in quality and popularity.  The leading actor started to display signs of boredom and propriety, not helped by increasing inflation, variable scripts, the loss of Robert Holmes, and a general sense of ‘that’ll do’.”  Dickinson (2019) (4)

But what does he know?  Very little really.  I have huge admiration for Hinchcliffe, but when I see the three Williams seasons, I don’t see a decline.  A difference yes.  But a decline?  No.  I see fantasy over horror, I see a sharp wit over olympian detachment, and across his entire run, I see triumph over adversity.

And around this time, Williams was running a series that had some good healthy competition from another BBC drama set in the far future, helmed by a producer who was keen to get his teeth into a new challenge – David Maloney.

Episode 2 – You’ve got the job.

INT.  BBC OFFICES – DAY.
As 1976 turned to 1977, Williams and Maloney moved into their production offices.  Both were new to producing on this scale.  Williams had a background in scriptwriting, and Maloney in directing, so I find it interesting to think of the challenges that faced them.

Maloney was originally drawn to Doctor Who back in the 1960’s.

It was a much more imaginative programme to work on.  There was a chance to experiment with pictures and ideas.” (5)

Perhaps due to the fact that it was the new kid on the block, Blake’s 7 had an advantage over Doctor Who in the first instance – the availability of experienced crews.  Maloney was able to secure the services of designer Roger Murray-Leach, Chris Boucher, Michael E. Briant and later on, writers such as Robert Holmes.

Could there be a sense that a sizeable number of these talented people simply didn’t want to work on Doctor Who anymore?  Certainly Williams felt that the design and camera crews had elected to work on Blake’s 7, leaving personnel who were youthful, but lacking the experience of such a complex show.  Clearly Williams felt that script editor Robert Holmes was someone who understood the series, and wanted him to stay on for more than six months.

However the impression I get of season 15 is that it is not in any way a transitional series, but very much a change of guard entirely.  I think it is probably harder to build a new working culture on an established series with new crews, as opposed to working on something brand new with experienced people who are experiencing fresh enthusiasm.  For the new team working on Williams first story, they will have been looking to a producer, who in his own words was a “dripping mess” for that first recording.

Episode 3 – First night nerves.

14878158185_d52e805caf_b

INT. BBC STUDIO – NIGHT
Studio TC6 – one of the BBC’s medium sized drama studios, now demolished.  Williams described that first studio session (10th April 1977 onwards) as a baptism of fire.  He employed Derrick Goodwin on the basis that he was a young, newly established drama director with plenty of ideas, removed from the traditional gothic depictions established in Doctor Who.  A good idea, and on paper, Goodwin’s appointment is a bold ambitious statement that a strong willed producer needs to make.

Quickly it became apparent that a combination of time, ambition, and the internal workings of an electronic dog ramped up the pressure considerably.  Williams noted he had to enforce a more positive mindset with the crew, with the idea that no one should accept that this session will overrun, and will be completed.  In any profession, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that people become familiar with certain work patterns and routines, sometimes resulting in a more complacent energy – that’s human nature.  Perhaps every few years there needs to be a little ‘kick’ and perhaps it was down to the new producer to offer it early on.  Williams appears to have been vocal in getting that message out there.

liberatorsetcygnus

Six months later, in early November, it was the turn of Blake’s 7, with David Maloney and Pennant Roberts handling the challenges of a new adventure series going into studio for the first time, with an incomplete flight deck, cast auditions (probably for Travis) and a host of last minute preparations.   Around this time Roger Murray-Leach will have been having kittens as he sees the damage being inflicted to his flight deck by the scenery shifters.  History has not recorded whether Maloney was a ‘dripping mess’ himself.

Perhaps he knew just to keep quiet.

The transmitted results of these studio sessions are fascinating to watch.  On first glance they look cheap.  Indeed that is certainly the view I have always had about ‘Space Fall’ until I actually watched it at a micro level for this blog post.  Also ‘The Invisible Enemy’ has come for some criticism for it’s perceived cheapness, and downturn of quality from the Hinchcliffe era.

I simply don’t buy this anymore.  ‘Space Fall’ is clever – the prison ship ‘London’ is written and designed as a ‘rust bucket’ which shakes and wobbles in all the right places.  It is purposefully functional in design and offers a perfect counterpoint to the glorious reveal of the Liberator interior later in the episode.  But crucially both stories are lit more atmospherically than might be first considered.  The corridors of the prison ship and the Bi-al foundation are not simply overlit, bland white spaces.  There are gradients and shadows aplenty, and fit the needs of the story.  When it is ‘light’ or ‘overlit’ (term used deliberately), it is for a reason.  Lighting designer Brian Clemett – take a bow.

Overall, we are not talking about cheap downturns in quality, we’re talking about an upturn in ambition, risk and creative endeavour.  Sure there are little moments in both episodes that perhaps suggest the demand of production – cracked walls spring to mind.  Derrick Goodwin recalls:

We had to abandon the camera script, and just sort of ad-libbed to get it in the can.  I was calling out things from the gallery – ‘Ignore the camera script, just follow what I say in order to get it done!’  Terrifying!”  (6).

Another line I often hear about the post Hinchcliffe era is that this is a series “going through the motions“.  Again I don’t subscribe to this view one bit.  Perhaps it’s down to how we watch a serial – is the fact that we escape into a fictional world simply enough?  Do the production contexts shape the viewing experience?

For me, yes it does.  And I don’t mind this one bit.  I might be the worlds biggest philistine in saying this, but Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who command a unique place in my televisual heart – a series where what I see and experience is partially determined by how it was made in the first place.  I stop seeing the second take pre-blasted wall that K9 fires at, as an embarrassing moment, but just something that is part of watching something as live – like at the theatre, which is close to the multi-camera method of recording television at that time.  I want to know that people really did care about what was being made, and when there were new mistakes to trip over, there would be something to learn from it.  Luckily these two series were helmed by quick learners.

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 07.13.55

It reminds me of my day job.  Bringing about change in established working practices is never easy.  My job continually requires new curriculum ideas, staffing ratios and quick responses to the unforeseen or the non existent.   We can’t sit still.  Deciding to make the change is the easy bit.  But making it happen is something else entirely.  So I feel for both Maloney and Williams, the two producers who survived this first demanding studio session.

Sometimes surviving is a victory in itself.

Episode 4 – working the system.

26624877852_ed21d0f39b_b.jpg

EXT.  TREELINED SUBURBAN STREET – DAY.

In a green leafy suburb of Birmingham, just off Bristol Road, south of the city centre, sits (or rather sat) a BBC studio complex.  Pebble Mill.  Think of Poldark. Vanity Fair.  All Creatures Great and Small.  Think of a ton of significant plays from The Battle of Waterloo to The Boys from the Blackstuff, or pop star Owen Paul, being unable to mime ‘You’re my Favourite Waste of Time’ just after 1pm.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 22.42.54

In my imagined film, the audience is taken for a walk through the building.  You start off at reception, continue down the corridor, turn right and walk past the foyer that would be familiar to anyone of a certain age who was off sick from school.  Perhaps you might get a glimpse of Gareth Thomas and Jacqueline Pearce being interviewed by Judi Spires.  Eventually you would be outside the entrance to ‘studio A’ – the main network television studio.

Although ever so slightly smaller than the medium sized drama studios at BBC television centre, it had the essentials required for producing television drama – a scenery dock, prop warehouse, make-up and costume.

But it didn’t have all the extra bells and whistles that were required for such a demanding show such as Doctor Who.  And yet for a month or so, this was the home of it.  Graham Williams was perhaps the first producer since the black and white era of Doctor Who to face the reality of a lack of studio space.  For the first time in the 1970’s, Doctor Who would have to be recorded outside BBC Television Centre, away from all the resources that the show knew it could rely on.  Indeed this would be the first time Doctor Who would be recorded outside London at all.

13653432_549508718568553_3274598839315894937_o

In 1969, the BBC published its ‘Broadcasting in the Seventies’ report, outlining how the corporation was going to promote broadcasting with a non-metropolitan flavour.  One of the proposals was to produce original output in the three forthcoming ‘Network Production Centres’ – BBC Bristol in Whitladies Road, BBC Manchester in Oxford Road, and BBC Pebble Mill, Birmingham.

“We also intend that the facilities at the three big production centres in England outside London (Birmingham, Bristol, and Manchester) shall be used increasingly to supply the national television services, partly by programmes initiated in London and partly by programmes created at these three centres.” BBC (6b)

And that intention was gathered momentum with an invitation from David Attenborough to BBC producer David Rose, to build the ‘BBC English Regions Drama’ department.  Its output in the 1970’s and 80’s gave a voice to a generation of writers and performers from outside the capital.

Graham Williams worked strategically with the BBC, taking advantage of a proposal to give the BBC regions an even greater share of commissions.  Williams got the money to make the temporary move happen.  There was extra cash to get everyone up there and back.  There was overtime.  And crucially there was a the benefit of new equipment for a studio that was only six years old – resources that Pebble Mill would get to keep.  This all gave everyone a fighting chance of making new Doctor Who.  The crews in Birmingham, by all accounts, were very cooperative, quick to solve problems and keen to prove their worth.   What could go wrong?

The director Paddy Russell, was no stranger to creative problem solving herself.  I automatically think of her sneaking away from the BBC in the early hours of the long days of 1973, with a film cameraman in order to film the seemingly impossible in the deserted streets of London – gurellia style.  When, in May/June 1977, she walked into Studio A – she must of had an inkling of where the challenges where, but the difficulty in handling a temperamental star away from his familiar haunts in London meant that the production was a fraught one.  The technical teethings were biting too.

pebble mill engineers page

But by all accounts Pebble Mill pulled out the stops.  The problems with the newly installed C.S.O were continually refined as best as possible.  They had an electronic effects generator that just needed a bit of tinkering from effects wizard A.J.Mitchell.

The Rutan green goo needed to be refrigerated, so the fridges next to the canteen were used, and extra equipment was ‘borrowed’ from the other smaller studios in order to get the material in the can.

The drama of making Fang Rock, makes for fascinating drama of its own.  Again I think back to those copies of ‘In-Vision’ magazine.  Perhaps its subtitle should have been The drama of making a television drama.

Whether Williams was actually there to witness this, I have no idea, I suspect that he was forced back to his Shepherds Bush office, frantically dealing with the next set of problems and trying to get them resolved before he went on a well deserved holiday – one of few he ever took.

I sometimes imagine an alternative universe where, following ‘Horror of Fang Rock’, BBC Pebble Mill retained Doctor Who as an ongoing concern.  While the London crews would be never, ever, be anything less than professional, would it be a different and potentially easier ride had an adaptable and determined crew of a new and different studio stepped in, eager to prove their worth in order to give the production of the show a different atmosphere?  This brings me back to my earlier point about the culture of working, and the battle against over familiarity.

“Everyone at Pebble Mill was mad keen to get it right — in London, by this stage, nobody wanted to know about Doctor Who. It was a chore, it was bitty, it had gone on a long time and nobody loved it. But up there, it was new.” Paddy Russell (6c)

On reflection, Pebble Mill could have been a suitable permanent home for Doctor Who.  There is a risk that the smaller studio space might have proved a challenge, but on the other hand there was less demarkation of job roles, and as a result a flexible approach to making television that could have benefited the complexities of making a series such as this.  The realities might have been different, but it is worth a thought.

“Pebble Mill were so helpful that it made working on this programme a real pleasure.  The staff really wanted us there and they were hopeful of more London based productions being made at their studios.  Their hopes never materialised though, which was a shame because my team liked working in the regions.  This was my favourite Doctor Who to work, simply because the Pebble Mill staff made us feel so welcome.”  – Peter Pegrum (7)

I really identify with trying to work within the constraints of institutional working practices and expectations, and battling against the established way of doing things.  I applaud Williams for his ability to positively use the support and possibilities offered to him.  He might have been forced into his situation, but the test is what he made out of it, and there is no doubt to me that ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ is a magnificent piece of claustrophobic television studio drama.  In this regard, Williams was a pioneer.

Maloney’s challenges might have been different – as an experienced director, he must have needed to subvert established working practices and experiences, finding a new way of handling those who he hired to bring these shows to the screen.  I wonder whether meetings between himself and his first directorial team was a bit like a game of poker, with the directors pushing for something, and Maloney having to be careful about spending, when he understood all to well the pressures of directing a show.

I admired Michael Briant for being a quirky, innovative director. He did sort of rather strange things, but it just snapped things a bit out of the ordinary.  It was slightly maverick, slightly dangerous.  And very difficult for me I discovered, when he started spending the money! I had to restrain him!  The way I used to have to do it, was sort of through a backdoor technique where Sheelagh Rees who was Mrs. Money – the Production Unit Manager and I, used to slip into Michael’s office when he was out and quiz the staff  – ‘What’s he doing now?’ ‘What’s he spending?’ ‘How many extras are you expecting to get here?  Twenty?  Funny, we budgeted five.’  This always used to go on.”  (7b)

In my job, being the middle man involves a lot of running from room to room, dealing with different people in different ways.  It’s like a game of Tetris.  Hopefully everything will slot into place.

Episode 5 – supply and demand.  

INT. BBC PRODUCTION OFFICES – DAY

Following the shenanigans in Birmingham, Williams might have been enjoying the briefest of holidays, but mid 1977 would see Maloney walking into his office to find his script editor trying to keep up with an increasing pressure point – namely there were no scripts, or rather they were either late or very brief from a series creator whose cup was running dry.

4f565f_f84f569bc7994a858eb6349bb9117522

Meanwhile, back at Union/Threshold House, Williams would walk into the office to find his script editor with his head in his hands muttering “I can’t believe he’s done this to me” when a script landed on his desk from an established writer who set Doctor Who in Wembley Stadium, with 96,000 killer cats, in human form of course.  Now that is making good art.

postOffice

Maloney was also facing script challenges, doctoring Nation’s storylines, to reduce the man-hours required to build the scenery, and keep the costs down.

“I knew that as soon as this script was released it would go to the design department for ‘early estimating’.  And they would put man-hours on it, like 500 for the palatial room, 250 man-hours for the building of the row of cells.  So I used to bring it right down, and then I could go to a meeting with them and argue and say ‘look the writer has written here that this room should be minuscule and I think it wont need anything more than 75 man-hours’.  And this is the way I used to fight.”  (7c)

It’s at this point, I’m reminded of the need to work well with your team.  Maloney seemed to strike up a good rapport with his script editor Chris Boucher, trusting him to shape the scripts into something good.  Williams too, had a good rapport with Anthony Read, which was just as well, having to follow on from legacy left by Robert Holmes.  Together they were able to dig themselves out of this crisis.  But it took a lot of digging and all nighters…

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 08.08.01

Episode 6 – The quest is the quest.  

INT: BBC STUDIO TC3 – NIGHT.

“But of course, you have to face the eternal project management triangle of Cost against Quality against Time. You can get two of those elements always, but only if you sacrifice the third.” Graham Williams (8)

Screen Shot 2019-06-02 at 10.58.00

When Williams did return from holiday he also faced a budget slipping out of his reach. And as September arrived, all thoughts turned to the penultimate serial of season 15 – ‘Underworld’.  Norman Stewart was making his directorial debut (another brave call from Williams, who saw a chance for someone to move up the ladder) but was clear that inflation, not to mention the legacy from the overspending Hinchcliffe era, meant that there was not enough money left in the budget, and no surplus to fall upon.

When faced with a financial problem like this, there are various approaches that are often used.  You can simplify something, or reduce the process, or mothball it hoping that its day will come once again.  You can also play it safe, ensuring that there is no risk of increased spending.

However, instead of resorting to established methods to get the show made, Williams took a risk and presided over a period of great innovation, entrusting the visual and electronic effects team to test out new methods of using C.S.O in order to help the show go out on budget.  In my mind this is one of Williams’ greatest moments.

So in mid October, the blue cycloramas were being put up in studio, as ‘Underworld’ began its long hot studio sessions that must have tested the patience of all those who worked on it, but whose percervearence paid off.

d04-4y-002

It must have been exciting for those who had a chance to test out new things.

Williams also found positive and innovative means to support the teams who, in turn were innovating.  This was through the introduction of a ‘gallery only’ day which allowed the effects team to use the studio galleries, while the studio floor was being transformed for the next production.  It’s easy to dismiss this innovation as a response to a crisis, but it opened up gallery days for many other shows for years to come, and in that regard helped the BBC further evolve its working practices.

As Anthony Read observed:

We were, to a very large extent, creating the medium as we went along, so we did a great deal of what you might call ‘flying by the seat of our pants” (9)

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 16.47.46

This is a really important period for Doctor Who, whose survival skills are genuinely being tested.  Instead of simply trying to keep heads above water, the teams are trying to turn these testing times into opportunities for innovation.  Once again, Anthony Read summed it up:

The real problem is that we always wanted to fly before the industry could walk” (10).

For me, this is an equally ambitious view of how to make a show, as much as Hinchcliffe wanted to give it a nudge following the successful formula achieve by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks in the early 1970’s.

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 16.47.04

‘Underworld’ is one of those stories that might not retain much affection in fandom overall, something of which Williams seemed to understand himself.

However ‘Underworld’ is an important story within the entity that is Doctor Who.  Everyone is working so hard on it, which should always be recognised, and what it does achieve – new techniques, working processes, and experimentation – for the greater good, and the organism that is Doctor Who, is incredible.  It’s an investment in Doctor Who, and for that I’m really thankful that it does exist.

It’s a reminder that problems are opportunities for creative solutions – something of which I face daily in my own day job.

“Some people who criticised the show, just didn’t know enough about its making.  We did our best with time and money available. It wasn’t a special effects disaster, it was a budgetary one.  Video and visual effects didn’t ruin the show, they saved it!” – Richard Conway  (11)

Meanwhile over the road on Blake’s 7, there are also considerable pressures starting to build.  September and October 1977 sees nothing more than late rewrites on episodes due to be recorded, location filming commencing and a whole load of model shooting, not to mention the start of studio recording.  Not long later, Maloney will have been struggling to keep control of his own budget, as episodes were exceeding their allocated studio time, costly remounts were piling up and the strain on the actors and production team was starting to reach fever pitch, as at one point they were trying to record four episodes at the same time.    Maloney later acknowledged that that first season went over budget dramatically.  But deep down, I doubt that was a surprise to anyone, even up on the 6th floor of television centre.  The ‘Softly Softly’ budget was clearly stretching even the most fertile of imaginations.

That was something I thought would naturally accompany this new series in the right size with the right sort of back up.  The money was so small.  I was like a ferret in a cage.  I suddenly realised that everyone was going to bleed this inadequate budget.  I became this kind of budget breaker.  Pestering everyone and rushing around stopping everyone from spending money on my own programme.”  (11b)

It doesn’t sound that there was any kind of consequence for Maloney, and indeed it paved the way for a modest injection of funds for the next season, and a new scheduling pattern, instigated by Maloney himself.  Once again, good things come out of a crisis.

We’re constantly seeking to get the style right for the series.  What I decided at the beginning of the first series was that anything that anything that didn’t work in terms of story or visuals should change.  We didn’t bother too much about continuity.  If it didn’t work, we’d throw it out and get something else.  There would be subtle changes until we got things that we thought were working.” (12)

This is the point where a series could sink or swim, and the determination to make the shows work as best they can, and how they can positively enhance the series in the future, is what I admire the most about this period.

And it’s a reminder to me that is no shame in putting in that extra graft sometimes.  Just as long as it doesn’t become an expectation, or detrimental to ones health.

Episode 7 – Strikes and strike filming.

INT.  ABANDONED ASYLUM – DAY.

It’s cold in a disused asylum in Redhill.  The brickwork is damp and condensation can be seen.  But the walls reverberate to the sound of Gallfrey being saved.   Cut!

What can you do in ten days?” – David Maloney (13)

Maloney did get one significant break.  That was down to the strike filming schedule that he inherited.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 22.58.05

I’m sure most reading this will be all too familiar with the ‘the BBC ‘Crackerjack’ strike’.    The yearly industrial action, the loss of key studio and staff availability has been well documented, and the image of actors turning up to a closed studio door, and being turned away in order to fulfil their contracts are etched into our minds.   Maloney got lucky on this one.  It was approaching Christmas 1977.  Scheduling meant that the Blake’s 7 team were enjoying location filming in the New Forest, under the watchful eye of Douglas Camfield, and (for sunsets) Stephen Grief.

DRLBzPeWkAAtYsX.jpg-large

However the strike was another reason why the end of season 15 was apparently doomed to fail.  Williams needed to use every once of ingenuity, and stamina to co-write a six part season climax, involving many all nighters for himself and Read, and then produce the serial both in reverse and inside-out; starting with the studio sessions, followed by filming, not to mention a ton of recording on location but using outside broadcast video in a freezing cold disused mental hospital in Redhill.  You just couldn’t write it.  Indeed, at times like this, Williams must have been wondering whether he should have stuck with script editing.

But he got it done, and for my money, despite a few flaws, there’s something really quick fire, witty, nippy and urgent about ‘The Invasion of Time’ – as as though its 200% determination to get it on to the screen at all, translated into a really involved viewing experience.  It’s one of my favourites – there’s a real energy about it, and Tom Baker delivers an intense and outstanding turn, meshing together humour, childlike quality, danger and heroism into a definitive performance.  Some say he was bored.  Well if so, he was taking a problem and channeling it into invention.

But scheduling would eventually bite Maloney too.  In early December he faced a studio dispute about who moved the spaceship prop featured in ‘Time Squad’.  This caused the first remount in a later recording session, and it is tempting to think that this might have been the straw that broke the camels back, causing a snowball effect on scheduling for the rest of the series.

Maloney will have been experiencing another very different kind of scheduling problem, namely how to balance the ‘strike’ filming scheduling – in effect recording bits of an episode at a time – to ensure that the regular actors were available, and the demands sustainable.  By all accounts, as 1977 turned into 1978, Blake’s 7 was recording four different episodes at the same time.  It was clear that Maloney would have to plan very differently for the next season.  And he did, completely changing the way the series was recorded, and with that allowing himself to stretch the budget and maximise the locations available to him.

As long as I have understood how Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 was made, I’ve appreciated the pressure and importance of getting all the allotted material in the can before the 10pm ‘lights out’ in the studio.  But it’s periods such as this that have made me understand how the whole recording process is designed to work towards this curfew, but also what the future impact is if this isn’t achieved.  The nervous glances up at the studio clock as the director you have employed is working their backside off to get everything in.  Then you record the last scenes in a totally improvised style, just hoping that the light switch stays on.  Your mind is thinking towards what will happen if you have to record the rest at a later date.

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 21.10.16

It’s things that this that really bite when you are the middle manager.

d04-4x-103

As 1977 drew to a close, Doctor Who finished its 15th season by the skin of its teeth.  Louise Jameson filmed her final scenes as Leela just before Christmas, and was off to pastures new.  Blake’s 7 would continue with it’s jugganaught of a schedule for another few months, but by March 1978 when the final episodes of both series were transmitted I’m sure that all the bruises and scars had healed, ready for a new battle another time.

I can’t think of another year in my area of televisual interest that packed in so much action, battle, conflict and pressure from other sources.

1977 had been an absolute beast.  And although the year was done, and transmission of both shows were about to take place, there is one final important event that frames the entire story, and this took place in a packed cinema.

Episode 8 – The force is strong.

Terry thought he was making Star Wars, and I realised that we could only afford two extras” – David Maloney (13b)

screen_shot_2016-09-19_at_14-20-28

EXT.  LONDON CINEMA – DAY.

We’re in central London, at the Empire Cinema, probably around mid 1977.  This is the press screening of Star Wars.  I’m guessing this would have been around six months since Williams and Maloney had taken up their posts, and they would be well into production of the second half of their respective first seasons.  There are accounts that Williams, Anthony Read and Tom Baker watched the preview towards the end of the year.  Either way, I like to think they were all there, at the same time, and I like to imagine what it would have been like to capture the collective consensus of the Doctor Who/Blake’s 7 team players as they walked out of the cinema.  Just go with me on this.

large

Phillip Hinchcliffe was the first to emerge from the cinema, his astute nature meaning he clearly knew the best place to sit, allowing him to beat the queues to leave.

“There was clearly some trepidation. The first shot was of the starship going over, and I said to Dougie [Camfield], ‘The game’s up – we’re dead.” (14)

David Maloney was the next to emerge, looking a bit sweaty.  He felt a similar pinch as he immediately tried to lobby for an increased budget.  There’s an interview out there (I can’t remember which one) where Chris Boucher talks about Maloney coming back to the office and saying, as Hinchcliffe did – “we’re dead!

Maloney was accompanied by an ashen faced Roger Murray-Leach, looking up to the sky.

“The opening shot with the spaceship flying across the top of camera at the screen…and I got up and left.  No I didn’t really leave…but I felt like it.”  (15)

Within a few days, Maloney would have got over the shock.  He felt they needed to emulate Star Wars where they could.

So It was quite provocative, Star Wars.  At first depressing, then provocative.” (16)

But once the dust had settled, it would appear that Maloney and Chris Boucher would see Star Wars as a positive, as Maloney noted:

“We were aware of Star Wars of course, and knew it had hit the jackpot, but we never saw its success as being anything but a good omen. Star Wars is wide-screen, stereophonic sound, massive-budget stuff…we’ve got something Star Wars doesn’t have – time to develop our plots, characters and action.  They’ve got two hours, we’ve got twelve.”  (17)

Pennant Roberts was next out.  He stumbled out on to the pavement, muttering incoherently, in Welsh.

“Pennant went during the preparation period and was found in his office the next morning – sobbing. Star Wars were spending, on just one effect, the entire budget we had for the first series. There was no way we could compete so we just had to do our own thing in our own way.”  Michael E. Briant. (17b)

Tom Baker was the next to emerge onto the street outside, displaying one of his toothy grins, having had a load of ‘shhhhhhs’ directed at him for offering a number of views throughout the film – loudly.

Star Wars, in a sense, changed the world. I remember not long afterwards I went to the zoo, and I noticed some of the animals in the zoo – badgers and things like that, that had been in that terrible scene in bar in Star Wars – were all terribly posy, as they had been Star Wars.

“The whole world had heard of Star Wars…and then finally  the BBC heard about it.  And because they are not without influence, they got us a ticket – a whole gang of us from Doctor Who – technicians  and special effects people, and Graham Williams and we all went in a crocodile, hand in hand , to Tottenham Court Road, and were smuggled in to see Star Wars.  They were terribly impressed by it, but I just realised then that they had nicked ideas from Doctor Who.  But Graham Williams was terribly overpowered by it that opening sequence you know that spaceship which took about – I don’t know – a minute and a half of something, across the screen it was so immense.   It had no effect on me of course, as I was set in my ways even then, but it influenced Graham Williams for sure. (18)

And off Baker disappeared, heading towards Soho.

Anthony Read was next to appear, offering a total contrast – sharp suited, quiet, thoughtful and unflappable.  He noted that they left the premiere:

Green with envy

and

Pretty blown away by the scale of it and the size of it” (19).

Read notes that Graham Williams felt the story to be somewhat shallow, and like Maloney recognised the low budget possibilities that Doctor Who offered, following that initial shock to the system.

And after a long gap, Williams finally emerged.  He looked a little bit dazed, like he had just been sick, but was keen to try not to let it show.

Williams – as perhaps defined his Doctor Who career – was stuck in the middle.

I was up against it, because my boss was saying, ‘What are we going to do about Star Wars coming out, and Star Trek coming back?  And my point was that we didn’t have the money or the expertise to do it.  Neither did they have our – I thought it was British – television strength, which is in building and creating – writing, acting, directing – character and pretty quirky character at that.  Again, all this, as you see, added up to the humour and that sort of treatment.  If we didn’t go for the hardware, we had to go for something.  And we went for character.” (20)

This is a pivotal moment in the history of Doctor Who (and to a lesser extent Blake’s 7).  For this is the moment where the biggest call needs to be made.  It was left to Williams to decide on the direction to take the series, when faced with a film that will change audience perceptions forever.

And he made the best possible call ever.  He didn’t succumb to the temptation to strive for a production quality that could never be achieved.  He went back to the essence of what Doctor Who was about – substance over style, character over technical realisation, innovation over spectacle.  All of his ideas and innovations that he had fought for, and sometimes responded to, were encapsulated in this decision.  It was pointless trying to convince the audience that Doctor Who needed to compete with Star Wars.  It didn’t need to.

It’s a call that I’m reminded of in the education sector.  Parents, managers, governors, inspectors, observers, auditors – they all have a view, and are quick to make judgements.  Some think they know better (as a default setting).   Often there is the need to stand your ground and try to articulate what you believe is right for those we are educating.  No matter what you say, your not going to please 100% of people 100% of the time.  That’s when you have to work out what is the core essence of what you do.  Graham Williams worked out that essence in those tough months in 1977.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 23.02.50

Although I was born in 1978, and therefore too young to be there to witness any impact of Star Wars on the British sci-fi landscape, I certainly grew up with its aftermath.  I think that that the cinema screenings and the events immediately around it will have been seismic for any producers of the time.  This is another reason I’ve always seen the Williams era as a world all of its own – the pressures behind its production are completely different from his predecessor.

Eitherway I hope that when they were watching the visual/aural spectacular unfolding on the big screen in front of them, they didn’t lose sight of the ambition they brought to their respective series, which for me is a no less signifiant achievement considering the time resources and contexts of making television drama in an era of spiralling inflation.

star wars shutterstock

Overall conclusions

Change – innovation – bravery.

1 – The late 1970’s was a glorious period.  
Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 of the era, represent two of the most heroic, fascinating and challenging ‘golden moments’ in UK telefantasy production.

Blake’s 7 is an ambitious, exciting space adventure, produced at a time of biting inflation,  but able to take a group of talented people to make something a little bit more than is realistically possible given the time an resources.  That first season is about hard graft, long hours and gritted teeth.  It shows on screen, and sometimes when when it falls a little short of my own expectations (which is rare) I tend to find myself willing it onwards, rather than waxing lyrical about its faults.  This is solely down to me knowing about how it was made against the odds, and cements in my mind the notion of behind the scenes knowledge equating to the on screen enjoyment of a series overall.

Doctor Who – season 15, is an exciting, diverse season that encapsulates all the best ingredients of Doctor Who.  I’m always happy to wallow in the series where the show seems ‘steady’ with its direction.  Season 2, 5, 9, 10, 14 are all examples up to this point where much seems to ‘click’ into place.  But as we know, a straight line might be the quickest thing between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.  Season 15 is a series shedding its skin, referencing the past, while searching for a new future.  Along the way it tests out a new innovation with every single story, and also might be one of the few seasons that feels that it could appeal to the widest possible target audience, from young children to students, from jaded grown ups to those who never want to grow up ever.  This along with other transitional seasons are the ones that I feel have an edge in the way production teams are the most alert, looking for that elusive answer.  Season 3, 6, 7, 11 and 15 are my kind of seasons – the ones that are searching, but never arriving.

15

2 – All eyes were on the middle manager.  
Messers Boucher, Holmes and Read play a massive part in this story, but my mind defaults to the two producers.  For they were the middle managers, under pressure to lead those below them, and under pressure from those at the top to deliver a show that was in keeping with the requirements of the BBC at that time.  Oh, and they were under pressure from those at same level.  I feel sure that Maloney will have needed to work closely with Gareth Thomas to keep him onside as the lead sought to direct some episodes, and Williams needed to stand up to a star who cared deeply about the show, with the resulting firm opinions and ideas that come from it.  If anyone can accuse him of being a ‘weaker’ producer, perhaps there needs to be consideration that Williams held his ground, possibly resulting in Baker not feeling the same connection as he did with Hinchcliffe.  No mean feat.

Graham Williams – either through design or necessity – make a ton of brave decisions.  New blood.  Look at the roll call of directors, and in the case of Norman Stewart a chance to test out new talent…on the most technically ambitious story ever carried out at that point.  Referencing the rehearse/record schedule he reminded his cast/crew “You are in a continuous state of transmission!

Or take some budgetary decisions, such as reducing the location filming over the series, resulting in an increase in studio only stories.  In fact, the seeds of this can be found in Hinchcliffe’s ‘The Brain of Morbius’ which used only the television studio to realise the barren planet of Karn.  But Williams takes this further, while also being a part of a few years where Doctor Who is really experimenting with both film and outside broadcast videotape, and how this feels to the audience.  The Think Tank, the Antarctic, the Palace Theatre, the interior of the TARDIS, and contemporary Earth inhabited by stones of blood, all test out production techniques that will become the norm in the second half of the 1980’s.

“Blake’s 7 I think is a marvellous adventure series that uses a set situation, set characters and set hardware, whereas we are allowed the opportunity of changing our hardware and changing our space-time fabric.  Blake’s 7 has probably got a harder jobs to do than we have in many ways; and we’ve probably got a harder job to do than they have in many other ways.”  – Graham Williams (23)

3 – I measure their talent, by their ability to face change, rather than their persona.
It’s tempting to compare the outward facing personas of the two based on their anecdotes and the observations of those who worked around them.  In this regard Maloney always seems to come out as a more assertive and popular producer.  Tom Baker on David Maloney:

He was well loved wasn’t he?” (24).

Maloney clearly had pedigree – it was he who navigated his way through episode 1 of ‘The Mind Robber’ (1968), literally creating something out of nothing, and was also able to literally make it up week by week, though the ardious circumstances of ‘The War Games’ (1969) – both very involved viewing experiences.

Meanwhile words like ‘overought’, ‘anxious’, ‘nice’ are often used to describe Williams.  But this would be totally unfair to compare the two, as the contexts behind all the challenges and problems that they both faced were unique to their respective series.  In a nutshell, most of the issues facing Blake’s 7 was because the show was brand spanking new.  Doctor Who on the other hand faced challenges because it was ‘old’ or should I say ‘established’, and that is the trickiest nut to crack.

As I mentioned earlier, I work in Arts Education – a volatile world full of innovation, triumph, despair and continual reflection of what has gone on before.  Whether we are talking about projects, assignments, ideas, or events, its quite a feeling to create something as new – untested, fresh, unknown.  It’s exciting to see the ups and downs of a new project or idea, knowing that I will either be punching the air in triumph when no one is looking, or equally I’ll find a quiet room and hold my head in my hands.

However I think the real challenge is what happens to something that is delivered that is established, successful, or has settled into itself.  What do you do next?  To me this is the real point where the risks are at their greatest.  Do you stick with what works, or do you seek something different?  When do you change, is it a moment too soon?  For me this why I think 1977 was the beginning of something really wonderful for both Doctor Who and Blake’s 7.  Williams brought an eclectic mix, new blood, different sources, and tested out a ton of new methods of making the series.  As much as he was under pressure to tone down the violence, he could have stuck with the gothic if he wanted to.  No, Williams made so many bright bold decisions, some of which were successful, some of which were not.  And sometimes the words ‘inconsistent’ are levelled at his three years in charge, like it’s a bad thing.  On the contrary, consistency can be the dullest thing.  For this reason, I find his era not only my favourite, but also the era where I think Doctor Who is everything it can be.

In this regard – speaking personally – I have the upmost regard and sympathy for Williams.  Trying to instigate change, or build a new culture of work is really tough, when people associated with the show are familiar, in a state of ennui or dare I say it, bored of what they are working on.  This could apply to crews, stars or – even if one was to really press this issue – the higher echelons of management.  It really makes the job of motivating people and promoting fresh, positive thinking much tougher.  This is in no way written as some kind of criticism – I hope the whole theme of this blog post communicates that enough – but it is a comment on human nature.  We’re creatures of habit after all.

Blake’s 7 also embraced change in it’s live fast die young lifetime – change that was rapid and constant through its four series.  The tone continually evolves, the production methods adapt to ever changing pressures, and the overall narrative always pushes forwards.  David Maloney delivered three highly successful seasons in his first role as producer.  When I hear criticism of the Vere Lorrimer produced season D, often the argument is based on what came before – “It’s not what it was“.  But that is the whole point.  As Boucher said, that final season is really the second pilot series.

4 – Reputations, be damned!

With this in mind I believe it’s easy to dismiss someone, when you are familiar with what has gone on before, and it’s easy to be more forgiving when doing something for the first time.  And this appears to the underlying voice behind the assessment of Williams in particular.  The issues behind his era, spiralling inflation, resources, scheduling and the need to change are presented as evidence behind the many less than positive assessments I have read over the years, but rarely do those assessments actually account for these pressures – to put it simply, the overall faults simply remain highlighted – the overall focus is on what was lacking rather than what was actually achieved.   For example:

Where the frequent assessment is that ‘Underworld’ is a cheap mess, I read it as a triumph of innovation on a shoestring.

When I read that ‘The Invisible Enemy’ is a brightly lit, lightweight fantasy, I read it as an ambitious attempt to make something different.

When I read that season 15 is a cheap, inconsistent season, lacking the sophistication of it’s predecessor, I read it as an ambitious, eclectic series of tales with full of wonderful ideas and made despite losing a third of the budget in real terms.  A third of the budget – amazing!

And even when there is praise, such as when ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ is lauded as a tense claustrophobic thriller, I read it as a triumph of overcoming a serious scheduling and production issue.

These were producers who were quick thinkers in the face of problem solving, and keen to innovate.  Personally I’m glad Williams era received a reasonable reassessment years after the dust had settled.  I remember reading some kinder words in Doctor Who Magazine following his untimely death, and more recently I’ve come to understand that there are writers and editors who have penned some notable articles and reviews – some of which I still need to get my hands on.  There was also a well balanced documentary called ‘A Matter of Time’ on ‘The Ribos Operation’ DVD, which was a witty retrospective on a witty era.  Aside from these touches, I never felt this re-assessment changed anything – the main observations seemed to linger; that it wasn’t as good as what was before, it looked cheap, it was ‘going through the motions’.

95% of anyone who has ever had a view wasn’t actually there – including me – but what I do know is that Williams and Maloney are absolute heroes of mine, because in this evidence based world, no matter that was thrown at them, they continued to engage with the community of fans, they were measured and respectful of others when discussing the experiences, and above all, they survived.

Just.

Williams describes himself as ‘exhausted’ by the end of his tenure.

I was a total workaholic on Doctor Who because it just demanded that much attention.  It took me 18 months to recover from being chucked on to the show at two months notice, and from then right up until the next September, I was just chasing my own tail.  I was unprepared to the nth degree” – Graham Williams. (21)

“Doctor Who drove me crackers – it nearly killed me – but apart from that…the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.” (25)

And it clearly wasn’t sustainable for him to carry on with.

“I had to leave because I’d literally done all I could.” (26)

Maloney too, felt the pinch.  Speaking during the making of his final season, he noted that he had…

not directed anything except the 26th episode.  My time has been full coping with this programme.” (22)

And that ladies and gentleman, is the story behind this blog.  Triumph over adversity, ambition over security, and searching over arriving.

This five year period of planning, producing and screening televised fantasy from 1977 – 1981 comes at both an intriguing time in the realisation of science fiction and for me is the closest there will ever be to a golden era – if ever there was one.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 22.52.22

But did it ‘make good art?’

So going back to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art”, I’m asking myself the question of whether Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 is ‘art’?  So I went off into a room, with my smock, and talked to other people about my feelings.

When I came back out, the answer was simple to me.

Yes.

This is ‘art’.

It’s different things to different people.  But the way my brain ticks is that I’m often preoccupied with how something was made, as much as what it is I’m experiencing.  The story, the technical processes, the context, the influences…and the struggle to make it happen.

So how do I watch Blake’s 7?

I watch it in the same way as I watch season 15.  It’s about the characters, the quality of the scripts, the acting and on-screen content.  But the other element – as noted earlier –  is the ‘how it was made at all’ factor.  The technical challenges, the clock ticking to 10pm, the unforeseen and unexpected.  These are additional elements of drama that I crave, and gives context to the drama unfolding on screen. 

Sometimes I wonder whether I’m some kind of philistine for not watching Doctor Who as purely a piece of fiction escapist hokum, a I believe Robert Holmes described it as.  But when I understand the circumstances behind what I see, it becomes an integral part of the final output – it becomes part of the ‘art’.   Tom Baker’s Midlands techiness give ’Horror of Fang Rock’ its bite.  ‘Underworld’ is viewed as a total triumph – a claustrophobic feel because of the untested production techniques rather than in spite of it.  ‘The Invasion of Time’ is a pacy, snappy story based on the crisis behind its production.   

Some might question the validity of blurring the boundaries between the fiction we enjoy, and the behind the scenes reality.  But to me, the two are inextricably linked.  In that regard, Blake’s 7 is 52 episodes of victory against the odds, triumph over televisual adversity.  It is for this same reason I consider season 15 of Doctor Who to be one of the series greatest triumphs.  It doesn’t matter whether it comes mid-way through the original series run, or immediately following a ‘golden era’ of the show, if such a thing exists.  The next crisis can be just around the corner.  For Graham Williams, and David Maloney, those crises seemed to occur in salvos.  

For for all the frazzled middle managers across the world, I present these two series to you as the epitome of positive thinking, can do attitude, never give up…and just make good art. 

Your predecessor has left a series with a reputation that is unsustainable?

Make Good Art.

Your employers have told you to change the tone of a series, leaving a huge vacuum?

Make Good Art.

Your script editor has his hands in his head, and there is no script to give to the director?

Make Good Art.

You’ve never produced a series before, let alone a brand new one?

Make Good Art.

And do it on the good days too.

THE END.

 

 

 

 


Postscript.  

This post is a little time capsule, and a little tribute to the creative spaces that are no more.

TC6, BBC Television Centre – gone.  (Now apartments).

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 19.56.25

BBC Pebble Mill – gone. (Now a dental hospital).

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 19.52.23

Union/Threshold House, Shepherd’s Bush – almost gone.  (Soon to be a hotel).

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 20.01.27

 

References and picture acknowledgements   

(3) https://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012 – accessed April 2019

(4) Tim Dickinson in conversation with himself, muttering incoherently.

(5) Blake’s 7 Monthly.  Winter Special.  1982.  Marvel.

(6) Quoted by Alan Barnes in The Fact of Fiction.  Doctor Who Magazine issue 362

(6b) ‘Broadcasting in the 1970’s.  (BBC July 1969)

(6c) Paddy Russell interview – In Vision issue 24. May 1990 CMS publishing.

(7) Interview with Peter Pegrum. Cambden. S (2001) The Doctor’s Effects. FX Fanzines, p110

(7a and 7b) Interview with David Maloney BLAKES 7 “TOGETHER AGAIN “KINGMAKER” Joe Nazzaro and Sheelagh Wells 1997.

(8) Interview with Graham Williams.  In Vision issue 28. Nov 1990 CMS publishing.

(9) Interview with Anthony Read.  ‘Into the Unknown’ – Doctor Who DVD ‘Underworld’ – BBC Worldwide.

(10) Interview with Anthony Read.  In Vision issue 32 July 1991.

(11) Interview with Richard Conway.  Cambden. S (2001).  The Doctor’s Effects. FX Fanzines, p141

(11b) Interview with David Maloney BLAKES 7 “TOGETHER AGAIN “KINGMAKER” Joe Nazzaro and Sheelagh Wells 1997.

(12) (13) Interview with David Maloney Blake’s 7 Winter Special, Marvel.  1982

(13b) Interview with David Maloney BLAKES 7 “TOGETHER AGAIN “KINGMAKER” Joe Nazzaro and Sheelagh Wells 1997.

(14) Phillip Hinchcliffe quoted in https://wegotthiscovered.com/tv/doctor-who-producer-feared-star-wars-kill-show/ accessed 7/10/18

(15) (16) The Making of Blake’s 7 part 1.  Director – Kevin Jon Davis.  (available on youtube).

(17) Evans, 1977: 114-17, quoted in Bignell, J, O’Day A (2004) Terry Nation.  Manchester University Press

(17b) Michael E. Briant in conversation with Jonathan Helm. https://www.scorpioattack.com/michael-e-briant (accessed April 2019)

(18) Tom Baker quoted in ‘Underworld’ DVD commentary – BBC Worldwide.

(19) Anthony Read quoted in ‘Underworld’ DVD commentary – BBC Worldwide.

(20) TARDIS at the OK Corral: Doctor Who and the USA.  Nicholas J. Cull. p61.  British Science Fiction Television: A Hitchhiker’s Guide edited by John R. Cook, Peter Wright, Peter Ronald Wright I.B.Tauris publishers, 6 Jan 2006

(21) Interview by Jon Heckford and Michael Stead, published in Doctor Who Magazine issue 251 (1997) Panini.

(22)  Interview with David Maloney Blake’s 7 Winter Special, Marvel.  1982

(23) Interview with Geraint Jones and Tim Dollin quoted in Walker S.J (ed) (2006) Talkback: The Official and Unauthorised Doctor Who interview book.  Volume Ten: The Seventies.  Surrey.  Telos publishing.

(24) Tom Baker quoted in ‘Underworld’ DVD commentary – BBC Worldwide.

(25) Interview with Gary Leigh and David Miller ‘The DWB interview file’ 1994 DreamWatch Publishing.

(26) Doctor Who Magazine issue 251, May 1997, Panini.

Further sources and references.
Pixley. A (1995) Blake’s 7 Magazine Summer Special Marvel 1995.
http://newshepherdsbushblog.blogspot.com/2017/04/hoxton-hotel-proposal-for-shepherds-bush.html
https://londonist.com/2016/09/sun-life
http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/912
Photograph by Graham Pettifer http://www.pebblemill.org/blog/ted-the-studio-cleaner/
www.pebblemill.org/blog/studio-a-lighting-grid/
www.pebblemill.org/blog/colin-pierpoint-blog-10-pebble-mill/
http://techandtrouble.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-bbc-ep5512-vision-mixer.html
Pebble Mill Studios – ‘The Old Curiosity Shop photo contributed by James Fresh
Stargazy on Zummerdown (1978) – BBC Pebble Mill
flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/albums/72157629878851122
http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/tv%20centre%20history.htm#tc1,%206,%207
http://www.greenwayqs.com/project/the-hoxton-shepherds-bush/

 

Stargazy on Zummerdown (1978) 2

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s