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My reviews of three new novels in the Penguin Science Fiction series

Penguin have been  publishing science  fiction  since the company’s  birth  in 1935.  When I  started reading science fiction as a child  in the 1960s  I borrowed my father’s  copies of John Wyndham’s novels from the 1950s  which were in the classic  plain orange covers. ( it was quite a lengthy borrow,  I still have some of them.)

In 1963  Penguin  launched a dedicated science fiction  series,  edited by Brian Aldiss, whose covers  were eye-catching and surreal, easily picked out in a bookshop.   The authors included  Alfred Bester,  Ray Bradbury,  Frederick Pohl, Harry Harriosn, J G Ballard,  theodore Sturgeon  and Philip K Dick. Women  writers were scarce you will have noticed.  In 1978 Penguin published Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sergeant.

You  can find a  display of  these classic  Penguin covers here.

On 10th August  2020  Penguin published 10 science  fiction  titles in their  Penguin  Classics series  with more to follow  in 2021. You can find full details here.

These are  my reviews of three novels in the series.

 

The Hair Carpet Weavers by  Andreas Eschbach, translated by  Doryl Jensen (2020) £8.99

This is an extraordinary  novel by a writer I had never read, which,  I suppose, is the whole point of this series.

It  opens on a small nondescript planet , Planet G-101/2, a planet  so insignificant  that it does not  even seem to have bothered with a name.  The main industry  (if you can call it that, it is more like a religion) is the weaving of carpets out of human hair. The weavers  spend their entire lives creating  a single  carpet  (yes, just one) made from the  hair of their  wives ( and  that is a plural.)

Knot after knot, day in, day out, for an entire lifetime. Always the same hand movements, always looping the same knots in the fine hair, and so tiny, that with time, the fingers trembled and the eyes became weak from strain – and still the progress was hardly noticeable

The carpets are sold to the  caravans of the Imperial Traders  who  pass through  each town in turn  every couple of years, and  then shipped off in  vast spaceships to the Emperor‘s Palace , an Emperor who has ruled  over a vast galactic Empire from time immemorial, and is regarded as a god by the planet dwellers.   At least that is where the weavers believe they are going…

This is a rigidly hierarchical society, endlessly repeating the traditions  down the generations   Only men  weave.  A son inherits the craft from his father:  only one son is permitted to each family, other male infants are killed at birth.

In the first chapter we meet Abro, who chafes at the life already rigidly laid out for him:  he cherishes books, the possibility of another kind of life. But  His father, Ostvan,  angrily rounds on him.

I want to hear nothing of it. For you there is only  one way to live. You have learned from me   everything a hair carpet makes must know: that is enough. You can tie all the knots, you have been instructed in soaking and dyeing techniques, and you know the traditional patterns. When  you have designed your carpet, you will  take a wife  and have many daughters  with different colored hair.  And for your wedding,, I will cut my carpet  from the frame, bind it, and present it to you, and you will sell it in the city to the Imperial Trader. That’s what I  did with the carpet of my father, and he did the same before me with the carpet of his father, and he did the same with the carpet of his father, my great grand-father: that is the way it has been for generation to generation for thousands of years. And just as iI pay off my debt to you,  you will pay off your debt to your son, and he to his son, and so on.It was always this way, and it will always be so.?

But will it be so? There are rumours that the Emperor may have been  overthrown in a rebellion, rumours dismissed as heresy. Can this possibly so?

Like one of the  hair carpets the novel weaves together numerous plot threads  and   an intricate pattern of characters: Dirilja, the imperial trader’s daughter, ready for love;  Pargan, the sceptical teacher;  Brakart, the itinerant preacher; Borlon, the weaver, whose life changes in a moment; Ubhika, the pedler woman;  Nillian, the off-worlder; Kremman, the Imperial Tax Collector; Opur, the flutemaster;  Piwano, his pupil;  Emparak, the Imperial archivist;  Jubad, the rebel leader;   Lamita, the rebel archivist;  Cheun, the tribesman and, most enigmatically of all, the Emperor Aleksander the Tenth  himself.

For there is a secret at the heart of the Empire and, loop by loop,   thread by thread we are drawn to its dreadful  revealing .

 

Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer, transalted by Amalia Gladhart (2020) £8.99

You must know Trafalgar  Medrano.  No?  Well, when he’s not  trading  between  the planets  you may find  him  in  one of his favourite haunts:  the Burgundy in Rosario. You don’t know it?  That’s understandable. It’s one of the those bars of which there are few left. “None of that formica or any fluorescent  lights  or  Coca-Cola.  Gray  carpet – a little  worn – real wood tables and real wood, a few mirrors against  the old panelling, small windows, a single  door and a facade that says nothing…It’s downtown, between a shop and a galeria  and you’ll surely pass it every  day when you go to the bank and you won’t even see it.”  The  barman is Marcos.

Sit with Trafalgar  and  he’ll sip his black coffee (a double, always), smoke his unfiltered cigarettes  and, like a Latin Baron Munchausen   tell you his  tales of  fantastical  tales of intergalactic  travel;  his close encounter  with  the aristomatriarchy  of Verobora;   the horrible world of  Ananadah-A where the inhabitants  live on worms and dance;  his visit  to the Court of the Catholic Monarchs in Spain in 1492;  his trip  to Uunu where each  day everything – time, society, city, people – changes  because of a “chrono-synclastic  indundibulum”; Edessbuss   where they party every night;  Aleiçarga,  where it’s  boring and orderly apart from one man whom  he calls “Mr Chaos” ; and so on.

Of course you might get a little bored with his stories;  even his Boswell  in this book  complains ”… your stories are always the same, a  bunch of strange things happen to you, you throw yourself, generally successfully, at the prettiest one around there, you earn piles of dough, and what do you spend it on?  On bitter coffee and black cigarettes and Pugliese records.“

Still, his stories do make the time fly… and the coffee at the Burgundy is very good…

 

10,000 Light -Years From Home by James Tiptree Jr (2020)  £8.99

Peter Christmas  was having a busy day at the office.  The Xemosan’s  entry in the Non- Flying Avian   was  in fact  flying while at the same time  they were trying to sneak in several hundred  female of the species for free  as auxiliary animals.  He saves  a  eight foot tall naked sacred virgin warrior from Myria  from killing herself  after losing her race.  An unauthorised alien  spaceship landing   sends mini-rodents scurrying off without their riders.  The giant ice-slugs  are due to finish their race after covering 50 feet in the extraordinary fast  time of  six months. The Magellans – “with dead-white triangular  heads like bleached horse skulls” – insist on observing his work close up. The Ankru team appear  to have been assigned too light a gravity handicap.

Christmas runs Raceworld:

His nose wrinkled  in the spicy breeze from a thousand  racetracks  on which ran, hopped,  flopped, swam, slithered, humped, darted and thundered the racing beasts of a million planets. Raceworld the prefect planet, turning stately, through equal hours of flawless day and balmy floodlit nights.

Directly in front of his office  lies the track for the most spectacular race of all:  “the giant armoured reptiles – general galaxy favourites. “

Christmas  is the main character  in “Faithful to Thee Terra , In Our Fashion,” one of the short stories in this excellent collection  by  Alice Bradley Sheldon  (1915 –1987) who wrote under a pseudonym because of the prejudice against women science fiction writers when she first put pen to paper.

Her work often takes a twist on familiar science fiction memes. “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” (she has great titles)  deals with  humans who find aliens sexually alluring, irresistible in fact , even when actual sex is either dangerous or impossible.

In “Mama Come Home”  “three magnificent   earth-type females in space-opera uniforms ” land on earth as though they are in  a 1950s  UFO movie . They claim to be Capellans  from a tramp freighter: the world loves them and flocks  to meet them. But Max from the CIA is suspicious. What do they really  want? Where are the men? And are they re-enacting  the first encounters between Europe and Polynesia. (note, it didn’t go well for  the Polynesians) .

Alice brings Max  back for another encounter with aliens in “Help.”  Firstly an alien ship zooms in to orbit,  leaves some satellites and then zooms back out. This is followed  by another alien ship which  lands near Quebec:

Everyone remembers what marched  out into that empty plain – a band of little figures  about four feet high and the color  of the More Expensive Spread. They seemed to be wearing jointed yellow armour with funny little half-opened helmets on their  head. They were carrying what looked like cereal-box death-ray guns. Each one held his up and then gravely trooped over and dropped his weapon on a pile. Then they joined hands and began to sing.

The aliens are from Cygnus 61 and seem to be harmless. That is,  until they  start blowing up religious buildings around the world. It turns out the Cygnians are missionaries, intent on imposing the worship of their martyred god – the Great Pupa – on the  whole world.   Then a rival sect – this time dressed in red  – lands, and all hell breaks loose, so to speak, as a religious war  ignites.  Can Max come up with a solution before the earth becomes collateral damage ?

Alice’s short stories are never less than entertaining, sometimes amusing,  and sometimes   disturbing  as in “The Man Who Walked Home” in which a man time travels but in terrible way. Recommended.

 

Doctor Who and the Communist: the work and politics of Malcolm Hulke (1924-1979)

Introduction

In writing you’re always looking for conflict…” Malcolm Hulke,  Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013)

“To my mind the basic problem is that writers are by the nature back-room-minded introverts and yet, in the publicity jungle, they find themselves  pitted against an army of highly extroverted actors and actresses.  I don’t blame promotion people at all for taking the easy path of boosting the performers,  if the writers fail to sell themselves  as potentially  equally good copy.    Malcolm Hulke,   quoted in The Stage,  12th September 1963.

“…we all really trusted his writing for us and had great respect for his work”  Katy Manning (Jo Grant in Doctor Who).

“Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral’ (First food,  then morality)  Pirate  Jenny, The Threepenny Opera, Bertholt  Brecht (1928)

 

Malcolm Hulke

Malcolm Hulke was a successful writer for radio, television, and  the cinema  from the 1950s to the  1970s.  On television his work included episodes for Armchair TheatrePathfinders in Space,  The Avengers, United!,  and  Doctor Who, for which he is best remembered.  He  also wrote a good few novels and an assortment of non-fiction.

Malcolm was  known by friends and family as Mac, so that’s what I will call him from now on in this post.

My interest in Mac was sparked by coming across a pamphlet he wrote for Unity Theatre in the collection of the Working Class Movement Library with which I have been  associated for many years.

I already knew of him as a writer on Doctor Who and therefore did  some research on him, which  was published as a guest post  on the Lipstick Socialist blog in February 2013.

In December 2014  Five Leaves Press approached me,  wishing  to publish the post  as a pamphlet,  so I revised and expanded the article,   and this was published  in January 2015.

Whilst it was known that Mac had been   a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), I failed to find out anything substantial about his time in the party,  despite my looking in all the obvious places: the Working Class Movement Library,  the People’s History Museum, the Marx Memorial Library, the National Archives and  the various histories of the CPGB. This surprised me as the CPGB has been  extensively researched and written about over the last 30 years.

In  September 2015 the Doctor Who Magazine  published an article by John Williams on  Mac with a good deal of new information derived  from  his M15 file,  which had been released into the National Archives in October 2014. The file included intercepted letters, reports from undercover agents and bugged telephone call etc. I   incorporated  this information into the post and updated it and posted it here.

From  April to June 2020  during the Lockdown (with some unexpected and frankly unlooked for free time)  I   worked on a revised  and expanded version of this post. I  was assisted by Sally Edworthy who  very kindly sent me copies of a “Family Bulletin”  written by Mac in the late 1930s when he was a teenager. I am very grateful for her help and to Andrew Cartmel and Katy Manning for their comments and also   to Andrew Pixley for his  generous help with a summary of the files on Mac in the BBC’s Written Archives and  his  tips on  obscure television lore which he has  at his fingertips. I would also like to thank Paul Winter  at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society for sending me  a copy of  an issue of Tardis. Finally  would like to thank Louise North at the BBC Written Archives for providing me with a  copy of the script for a radio talk given by Mac.

In the midst of the research I  gave a  talk  on 10th June 2020  for the Working Class Movement Library about Mac. We were delighted that Katy Manning wa able to join us for a short while. The talk is available for viewing  here,

This  post is by no means a complete account of Mac’s life and work. It is based  primarily on written sources in books or on the web. I was not able to visit the BBC Written Archives Centre, for instance, or  indeed any other archives.   And forty  years after his death, most of his contemporaries are no longer with us. The only person I was able to speak to who had met Mac was Katy Manning.  Nor was I able to find out what happened to his papers   after his  death, which must have been considerable, and if extant, an invaluable resource.

So there is  more work to be done. I hope this post will inspire somebody else  to take up the challenge of writing  a full-length biography. I think Mac deserves it.

 

 Early Years

Mac’s mother, Elsie Marian Hulke

Mac was born on 21st  November 1924 in  Hampstead, London.  His  mother was Elsie Marian Hulke and,  until   he  was 21,  Mac believed that his father was his mother’s second husband,  Walter  Backhouse  Hulke (who had died before his birth), this being what his  mother had always told him.

He wrote about  how he discovered that that  this was not in fact the case and that  he was  “illegitimate” (as it used to be called) in an article he wrote, “The stigma you can never escape,” which appeared in The Observer  in  October 1973.

“One day when I was 21 I decided to track down my father’s relatives to find out why my recently dead mother always told me never to go near them. This well-to-do couple I found in a vast St John’s Wood flat offered me afternoon tea. As she poured, the lady I thought was my aunt said, ‘Well, where do you think you fit into our family?”  I explained I was the son of her long-dead brother and mentioned when I was born. “That’s quite impossible”, she said, “because my brother died two years before then. Do you take sugar?”  I never called again. It isn’t nice to go round shocking innocent house-holders. When you’re illegitimate you feel completely alone… You condition us us to hide it. We are the totally silent minority.” (The Observer, 14th  October 1973)

Mac revealed  a little more about this encounter a few  years later   when he was interviewed by the  Women’s Page of the  Daily Mirror  for an article entitled   “Children of Love”.  He told the newspaper after his mother’s death he went to call on  Walter Hulke’s sister,   Mrs Dora  McFarlane,  in St John’s Wood, who told him that he could not  be her brother’s  son as he had died in January 1923. “That’s how I found out. What hurt me most was the secrecy.”  (Daily Mirror,  27th February 1979)

In 1963 he had taken part  in a BBC  Home Service radio documentary  called Born Out of Wedlock, compiled  and  introduced by Tony Parker. Mac says of this programme:

…for the first time we learnt we number two millions in Britain alone. Irrational joy filled my heart that I was not alone. But listening to the other 50 voices I realised that most of my people suffer terribly. Being brought up rather oddly, with countless moves to avoid creditors and bailiffs, I had been well prepared to learn of my bastardy. These less fortunates had not. They suffered because they clung to ideas of respectability…

Why does it matter so much?…It matters because you frequently  tell us it matters. Some illegitimates  know their father’s name, and some even bear it. But many do not.  So it matters when you’re young and sensitive and have done  well at school and the teacher gives you a form  to apply for university or teachers’ training college – and the form demands the name and occupation of your father It.  matters if you fancy a job with the BBC, or the police, or the Civil Service…

If you are illegitimate don’t lie about it, don’t be an  Uncle Tom, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter. You know it matters…but don’t let it destroy you.   (The Observer, 14th  October 1973)

Elsie Marian Ainsworth was born on  6th  September 1882 in Chapel En Le Frith, near  Buxton, Derbyshire. Her parents were  William Ainsworth and   Mary Ann Caroline Gallard. At the time of the 1891 census the Ainsworth  family were living in  at  112  High Street, St Peter at Gowts, Lincolnshire where her father was a Methodist minister.  The entry  lists her sisters and brothers: Percy Clough Ainsworth, Edith Raistrick Ainsworth, Sidney Carley Ainsworth, Arthur Ogden Ainsworth, and  Wisley Douglas Ainsworth.  Elsie’s  grandmother Mary Gallard lived with the family, as did a servant, Lucy Emma Grundy.

In  the 1901 census, aged 18,   she was listed as a pupil in a school at Henson Building on   Kirby Road, Leicester, which was  attended by a dozen or so other girls.

On 30th August 1909 Elsie, 26,  who was living at the Limes, Lincoln Road, Peterborough,  got married to George Sutton Gordon, 28, an Insurance Inspector,  whose address was  496 Eccleshall Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire.  The witnesses were two of Elsie’s brothers – Arthur and Sidney – and her sister Mary.   The ceremony took place in  a Methodist Chapel on Wentworth Street in Peterborough.

Elsie and George   had two sons: George Sutton Gordon, born in April 1910,  and John Ainsworth Gordon, born in November 1912. The 1911 census records that the Gordon family lived at 33 Empire Road, Ecclesall, Sheffield.

The marriage did not last.  On 16th November 1917 Elsie’s husband petitioned for divorce  in the High Court on the grounds of her adultery  with a John Dowse Smith.  Gordon sought £100 in damages from Smith but was granted £25 by the jury.  The notion of compensatory damages  seems extraordinary  to our  modern sensibilities.  It arose  from  the long established  legal principle   that  a wife was the husband’s property,  a notion  that was gradually being broken down through changes in the law in the twentieth century, but was  far from dead.  (The ability for an aggrieved husband  to claim  damages from a  co-respondent  had been introduced in the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857  and  was  not abolished until 1970).

George  also sought custody of the   children, which I assume was granted since  they did not live with her.  Neither Elsie nor Smith appeared or defended the petition. So far as I can tell, Smith played no further  role in Elsie’s life.

In the spring of 1922, using the surname Duff-Gordon (which is curious),  Elsie  got  married to Brigadier-General  Walter Backhouse Hulke in Paddington, London.

Walter was born on 10th  September 1872 in Deal, the son of a doctor. He was commissioned  in November 1892  in The Lincolnshire Regiment, retired in February 1911 but,   after the outbreak  of war  in  August  1914, he was recalled from the Reserve of Officers to be Adjutant of the 9th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, on 6th  November 1914. On 9th July 1915, while still ranked as a Captain, Walter was given command of the 14th Battalion (2nd Barnsley) of the York and Lancaster Regiment, and made a temporary Lieutenant-colonel. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 1 January 1917  and brevetted Major on 1st  June 1917.

After being  severely wounded Walter was invalided home in August 1918.  He was granted the honorary rank of Brigadier General on ceasing to be employed on 18th  April 1919 in the Reserve of Officers and  was promoted to colonel on 1st  March 1922.

Walter had been  previously married  on 17th November 1904 to Ethel Gwendoline Lloyd, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Albert  Lloyd, late of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. It was a marriage entirely in keeping with his class and profession.  The couple  had two daughters.

It seems that the marriage broke down during the war as many did under the strain of lengthy separation and  the appalling nature of the fighting on the Western Front.  On 28th May 1918 Ethel filed a claim for divorce  in the High Court against Walter   on the grounds  that “he had refused to live, and still refuses to live  and cohabit with your Petitioner and to render her conjugal rights.” After the divorce Ethel  emigrated  with her children to Canada where she died in 1966.

Back in civilian life, Walter’s career took a surprising turn when he began  managing  the Cinema Artists’ Club in Great Newport Street, London early in 1922. Both he and the Club were  featured in the Daily Express in February 1922 (which was somewhat  bemused at his new  job):

 As one honourably splashed with the mud of many staff-cars, I often ponder the civilian fate of our generals. Some, I fear (and in one case hope) have had to scratch vigorously for a livelihood. But I see that the new Cinema Artists’ Club…has done itself proud by selecting Brigadier-General W. B. Hulke, D.S.O., to be its manager. General Hulke commanded the 14th service battalion of the York and Lancasters in Egypt and France, and later commanded the 115th Infantry Brigade of the 38th (Welsh) Division, in France. He was severely wounded and invalided home in August 1918.

Then, with the easy grace that always marks a brigadier in process of post-war transition, he accepted a staff appointment as a “walker-on” at Stoll’s Cricklewood film studio. I am told (and well believe) that he walked on with distinction. I never saw a brigadier stepping out of a Vauxhall or addressing the ranks on parade without feeling that there was a market somewhere for so much . . . yes, aplomb is  the word;… And now the film artists have persuaded General Hulke to take command of their social H.Q. They are in luck’s way. The indents will be all right in the hands of a brigadier. Had it been a quartermaster-sergeant I knew once . . . but this is delicate ground.

British cinema artists have given a lead in organisation to their disorganised employers, the film magnates. They have formed a club with a membership of 500, rapidly growing, and strongly occupy a large building in Great Newport-street, complete with restaurant, billiard-room, smoking lounge, card-room, and bar.

The ladies have a floor to themselves, but they share in the restaurant. “Everything is found,” as they say in the property room. You can see all the stars in Great Newport-street. Incidentally, you can hear more “shop talk” than at any other rendezvous within the four-mile radius.

The most interesting item among the “objects” of the club is the following: “To promote the production of one motion picture annually, the whole proceeds of which shall be devoted to the welfare of the club.” That should be a film with an all-star cast.

It is  a splendid thing that the pluckiest class of the community—the acting profession—which has faced the hardships of these lean days with a stouter heart than any other, should have this excellent club in which to meet. ( Daily Express, 15th February 1922 )

There was  a further article  in the Daily Express in November 1922 by which time  Walter and Marian were married and  were  running a coffee-shop together  near Oxford Circus.

From commanding an infantry brigade in Flanders to running a coffee shop successfully in the vicinity of Oxford-circus is the proud record of Brigadier-General W. B. Hulke, D.S.O., who claims to be the only general, past or present, who can serve up sausage and mash or steak and onions with the same facility as bayonets.

“There was nothing left for me to do but to try my hand at catering” said General Hulke last night to a “Daily Express” representative. “I walked in here with my wife, and we took over the business without having done anything before in the catering line.

Next day I assumed active proprietorship. My wife cooks and superintends in the kitchen. I take the money and generally perform all the social functions of a host. If the men customers want a beer, I run and fetch it from the public house up the street. Curiously enough, the first chap who wanted beer was a one-time private in my own brigade

 Catering here is real good fun, and means honest, hard-earned money.” said the general. “I manage to rise to all occasions, even to throwing out an undesirable customer, if it becomes necessary.” (Daily Express, 22nd  November 1922)

 It is hard   to think of  a lifestyle  more  dissimilar to his previous life as an army   officer with a conventional marriage to a woman from his class and background. Perhaps that was its  attraction for  Walter.  The war  changed many social attitudes and mores.  Did Elsie meet   Walter at the Club?  We shall  never know.  What we  do know is that the marriage  was brief, lasting  less than a year.  Walter died on 9th January 1923:  probate worth £716  was granted  10th  May 1923 to Elsie, who was living at 1 Marlborough Court, Carnaby Street. London. Some 18 months  later her third son  Malcolm was born.

In the years that followed Elsie led an intinerant  lifestyle, frequently changing address  and even  finding  herself in the press  – for the wrong reasons –  along with her friend Winifred Nellie  Boot, who was to play a major role in Mac’s life.  It seems that they moved around so much that he  never  went to school while the  school inspectors never caught  up with them.  Thirty  years later  Mac recalled his childhood   in a radio programme  I Never Went To School which  was broadcast  on the Home Service  on 1st  August 1963. The broadcast has not survived,  but the script has which I obtained  from the BBC archives in October 2020.

…although my mother didn’t send me to school regularly,  from time to time the thought would occur to her that I needed education. You see, she lived in a  permanent state of reduction. Or  that is to say, reduced circumstances, or more precisely, things weren’t what they used to be. Actually I sometimes doubt that things had ever been quite as she imagined they used to be. She was a woman with a vivid imagination. She would imagine that this or that business  enterprise that she and  her partner had embarked upon was going to flourish, or that this or that item of furniture which she had acquired on hire purchase was going to paid for.

She also imagined that I would, somehow, miraculously, go to Eton, and follow that up with Oxford or Cambridge. It never came within her sphere of thought that I might do better by going to a  council school than by going to no school at all.  Council schools were something to do with the working-class, like the Labour Exchange, free hospitals, council houses, and  the Labour Party. In this attitude she was almost completely in accord with her partner, a lady in conjunction with whom she ran a succession of  service-flats from one end of  the Royal Borough of Kensington  to another, thereby  supplying food and five-shilling-a-week  domestic servants to  the younger sons of peers, the widows of admirals, and lesser members of the deposed Russian royal family. Indeed, reduced  cirumstances  bounded, both above and below stairs, and in all degrees that you may like to name.

When,  from time to time, my mother took a flight of fancy and  deserted her vividly imaginative world, and faced the reality that she could not afford the fees of private schools, and that I was not in fact getting any education sitting around the house all day, she would decide yet once again to try to educate me herself. It was always put to me that we must  start my education “in earnest” and this happened so frequently that until the age of ten, by which time I had somehow had learnt to read, and could understand a calendar, I had believed that “earnest” was one of the months of the year.

There were even occasions when she did make stab at it. Once she set up a school of her own, consisting of myself and two other children – and I’ve no doubt, in retrospect,  that at the time my mother envisaged  that this enterprise  would flourish and grow until finally she would become headmistress of a new English public school…My mother believed that a good morning’s schooling in her own private one-room school  should start with the three of us marching around while she played the grand piano. This  was a very large and glossy grand piano which she had acquired from a finance company for this specific purpose, and which in due course the finance company acquired back for the specific purpose of cutting their losses.

Her main interest, educationally, at this time was to teach me to speak properly – I was then speaking a mixture of Cockney, Southern Irish, and Lowland Scots, which I had picked up from our five-shilling-a-week maids – and to teach me to count to one hundred. I eventually managed this feat, and I remember very clearly the sudden realisation that figures had a system.

But occasional flashes of understanding do not make an education. And in any case, no amount of fireside tuition can possibly make up for the lack of that all-important school playground, where the child grows out of its egotistical babyhood and learns the rudimentary principles of good-humoured survival among other children…

As a child the world of the school, be it council, public or what you-will, was as remote from me  as Lancashire factory life must seem to a dowager duchess  living in retirement in Bournemouth. I got second-hand information about it  from children whom I met in the street, and who no doubt regarded me as something of a freak. Because they knew I didn’t go to school , and quiclly reliased that schools, prisons, lunatic asylums,  and work houses were all one as far I was concerned, they would revel in telling me  about the most appalling things which went on inside. So much so that  most of the time I felt  very much  happier at never being discovered by the authorities. Not only was I pleasded with myself , there was even a sense of credit about it. I was superior and different, and I even despised the children who had been ensnared into the educational trap.

My other source of information  on what went on inside schools would be free from the occasional private  tutors my mother employed at rash moments of great extravagance. There was the elderly one-time public schoolmaster with the drunken wife, who varied tuition in copperplate handwriting and completely incomprehensible  algebra – he hadn’t realised I couldn’t add up at the time- with vivid accounts of nocturnal and apparently  illegal dormitory floggings in boarding schools. There was the terribly  attractive  young women   who lived with her mother in Kensington Church Street, who I wished could have been my sister. And, when I was about thirteen, there was a man who by night wore a blackshirt and sold fascist newspapers in the streets, and by day eaked out a living giving private tuition to educationally subnormal children because by the time I made his acquaintance  I was, from a point of view of any formal education, really backward. 

My fourteenth birthday meant that we could all breathe a sigh of relief, for no more could there be the fear in our hearts  of the knock on the door in the middle of the day, and the schoolman standing in the doorway. I  shall never know how exactly we managed to get through the then nine compulsory without his ever calling. We changed our addresses fairly frequently, which may have made  things more difficult for the inspectors  – since  it certainly did for our ceditors. Or it may be that the schoolmen presume that all children will start school at the age of five and occupy themselves   solely with chasing up those who didn’t continue to attend regularly.   (Malcolm Hulke, “I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

Winifred Boot  was born in December  1889 in Nottingham. In  the 1911 census she is listed as a Music and Singing Teacher, aged 22, sharing a  flat  in Church Street, Stoke Newington with another teacher,  Louise  Annette Derbyshire. Between 1918 and  1925 the two teachers  shared a house  on Maury Road  in Hackney. It appears  that Elsie and Winifred met  at the some point  in the next two years:  by  1927 they   were  sharing a house   in Ashford,  Surrey.

In 1928  the two women were taken to court in Deal in Kent for shoplifting at a drapers. It was alleged  that Winifred had hidden two cardigans down in her skirt while a shop assistant  was attending to Elsie  After their  acquittal, somewhat foolishly,  they sued the drapers for wrongful imprisonment at the Kent Assizes but lost,  the jury finding that  Winifred had stolen the goods. In court Else admitted two  convictions for obtaining money with worthless cheques and for stealing a money order worth £15 and asked for a dozen other offences to be taken into consideration.  (Daily Herald, 28th February 1928). It seems likely that there were other such incidents : Mac himself  referred in passing to  having been  “brought up oddly, with countless moves to avoid creditors and bailiffs...” (The Observer, 14th October 1973).

Mac as a young boy (from Doctor Who magazine

Twelve months later they were living in Kensington  and were still there in 1936, albeit at  different address. By  1938 they were living in Ruislip,  By the end  of the year  they had  moved to Deal. Had they been helped out by the Hulke family?

In August  1938 the teenage Mac started producing a Family Bulletin which he very enterprisingly typed up  and circulated around his relatives.  The Bulletins are largely made up of family news, the kind of news that  today is  put on Facebook.

The first issue  noted the birth of a baby  named Judith  on 8th July  to Francis  and Geoffrey  Ainsworth, who already had a daughter called Susan. Joan Ainsworth  had done well in classes at Retford Technical College and  has also undertaken a course in First Aid   in connection in ARP (Air Raid Precautions).  Sydney Ainsworth was an apprentice at De Havilland in Edgeware. Ruth Gilbert (née Ainsworth) had written  two books for children   Elsie’s son  Edmund  had taken  his pupils  from Ballymoney High School on a holiday trip, beginning  in Dublin where they saw the Book Of Kells and then crossing  to Holyhead,  cycling across Anglesey,  jouneying  on to to Liverpool and finally  ending up in  Stratford Upon Avon!   Mac,  like most editors of such bulletins at school or work, appealed for contributions: Remember anything will do. Poems, stories, news, stories, or even hints to do with everyday life. in fact. There are a thousand-and-one ways of filling up the columns of the “Family Bulletin. M. Hulke”.

The fourth issue came out in December  1938 and  had a photograph  of “Hardicot” on the front which Mac proudly announced as  the “new and charming home  of Mrs. E M Hulke”.  The family news included the fact  Joan Ainsworth had won a prize for the Senior Commercial Course while page 2 had drawings on it made by Geraldine and Mark.

Hardicot

The 5th Bulletin (now priced at 2d) appeared in January 1939,   and was of a more  sombre nature. “We regret to announce the death of Miss Edith Raistrick Ainsworth  who passsed away at 1.30am  on Wednesday, Dec 14th 1938, while staying with her sister,  Mrs E M Hulke, in Kent.”  It continued:

For many years Miss  Ainsworth had wandered, from room to room, never having a home. She had very few  friends, but had a habit of talking to such people as night-watchmen, and strangers in storm  shelters. The suddenness of her death has been a great shock to us all. I have known her all my conscious life and  I  feel that I have  lost someone of whom I am a part.

The room she occupied at  “Hardicot” overlooked the sea. It was furnished to suit her own  simple tastes,  tastes which were carried out to the last.  A rich purple carpet  lay on a scarlet Indian carpet.  Two trestles covered with purple palls picked out in gold and bearing the insciption “IHS” supported her.  At her head were two  high oak candlesticks  in which were burning golden candles, which never went out.  I felt as she carried down the steps  through the garden  of “Hardicot” she left her blessing there. 

A simple service was held  in the village church, and a saddened  little group of two brothers, her sister and myself stood  beside a grass-lined grave. As the last rites we performed  we could hear the murmur of the Sea she lived so well.

I heard voices choking with emotion say “Goodbye Edith”  and my Mother and Uncles turned  sadly homewards.

This was a  sensitive piece of writing for a teenager.  His mother  also penned a tribute to her sister for  this issue:

 I find it difficult to write about my sister. She lived in a world which was all her own. Only on rare occasions did she invite me  into her kingdom.  When she did, she gave me an insight into her  REAL self. During such intimate times, I found in her a wealth of beauty, poetry and art.  She talked to me as to no one else. She seemed to be searching continually for something elusive and indefinable. This, I think, accounted for her restlessness, always so obvious, but particularly in the last few weeks of our intimate intercourse.  She often remarked upon on her happiness, and  would single out particular days of enjoyment  and  contentment. Her dry humour  was capivating  and it was a great thrill to her when it was appreciated.   My sister was the most courteous woman I  have known. The little courtesies of life, its culture and refinements, meant so much to her: she gave  so freely of them to all.

Elsewhere in this issue Mac recorded that  he was going to stay with Dr and Mrs Geoffrey Ainsworth, while his mother  was going to visit Mr  and Mrs S C Ainsworth.

Mac in uniform (from Doctor Who magazine)

The surviving  Family Bulletins show  that Elsie and her  son, despite their itinerant, rackety lifestyle,   were not alienated from her family or her sons, but were in regular contact  with them.  Mac grew up  in a house  of women where art and beauty  and  laughter were  not strangers  at the door.

Deal was bombed by Luftwaffe on 4th October 1940 resulting in  the deaths of eight civilians,  including three children. This  event may  explain why  Elsie moved with Winifred and Mac   to  run another guesthouse  called  Glen Helen, situated in Braithwaite near Keswick. Mac   recalled his  early  intellectual forays with guests:

By reading the newspapers I could talk to our guests intelligently about Hitler and Mussolini, in such way that they were convinced I was a very intelligent and educated young man of sixteen or seventeen. I learnt also that  it is often much wiser and more intelligent-seeming, to be a good listener if the subject is above your head. Let the other person talk, then murmur “I see. So that’s your point of view, is it?” At this moment  you convince them of your enormous wisdom and superior knowledge about their pet theme. An even less reputable trick is to drop into the conversation – should it be, say, about English literature – “Now tell me, have you read the works of Johnson?”When the poor victim admist that they have not, you say. “Ah, what a pity.”  (Malcolm Hulke, “I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

It has been   alleged that when  Mac  was eligible  at the age of 18 at the end of 1942   to be called up into  the armed forces he  applied to become a Conscientious Objector.  However I  have been  unable to find any records to confirm this  as there is no central register available.  Counterintuitively there were actualy  more Conscientious Objectors  in the Second World War than in the First World War, with 59,000 men and women applying to Tribunals,  of whom 46,000 were registered in different categories.

Mac served in the Royal Navy, as an onboard  canteen manager. (I have  yet not been able to  locate any records on his war service yet).  He recalled:

I so convinced the interviewing officer of my high standard of  brightness that  I was put in charge of a sea-going grocery on a  corvette  without eventthe delay one might expect by some training – that is to say, they were short of men at the time because corvettes sank so quickly. But no-one ever knew the agonies  I went through, locked in my pint-sized canteen as the corvette ploughed through darkened mine-fields, as I  tried to keep the accounts straight. Unable to divide, multiply, or subtract, no surfacing U-boat struck more terror into my heart than the prospect of the NAAFI Inspector’s check on  my book-keeping on our infrequent return to harbour.  But neccessity being the mother of invention, I devised my own system of mathematics which worked so well that, six months later, in Dakar, Senegal, I was able to run a highly successful blackmarket in three different currencies  for ten inglorious days that shook life into my bank balance.

(Malcolm Hulke, “I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

His mother Elsie  died on 30th  June 1943, aged 60.   Curiously,  probate of just £50  was  not granted to  her son John Ainsworth  Gordon until  27th March 1961.

 

Mac and the Communist Party of Great Britain

Red army soldiers in  Berlin, May 1945.

Mac  joined the  Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)  in  June 1945, not, as he later wrote  to a party  official, because he was  attracted to its Marxist philosophy,  but because  “…I had just met a lot of Russian Pow’s in Norway, beacuse the Societ Army had just then rolled back the Germans.”

Directed by Moscow, the CPGB had  initially opposed the war because Stalin  had done a deal with Hitler in August  1939, both dictators  pledging not to attack each other, but after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22nd  June 1941, the line changed and the British  party  faithfully swung fully behind the war, its members setting up Anglo-Soviet Friendship Societies  and playing a leading role in committees to increase productivity in factories.

The party gained a great deal of prestige when the Red Army held Hitler’s armies at  Moscow in 1941, encircled and  broke the 6th Army commanded by Friedrich Paulus  at Stalingrad in 1943,    and then  drove the German armies   all the way back to Berlin which they took in April 1945 after a ferocious battle which shattered the city.

In the 1945 general election the CPGB  polled   over 100, 000 votes  and had  two members  of parliament  elected – Willie Gallacher (West Fife) and Phil Piratin (Mile End) –  as well  over 200  councillors in different parts of Britain. The climate soon swung against the party, however, with the beginning of the Cold War between the East and the West. This is often dated to a speech that Winston Churchill made on 5th  March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri,  in which he said that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”  Whilst anti-Communism in Britain  never reached the levels of  hysteria and paranoia that it did  in the United States during the McCarthyite witchunts of the late 1940 and 1950s,  it was never a popular or easy choice to be known as a Communist. Suspected Communist  Party members  or sympathisers in the civil service,  government dockyards, ordnance factories, and elsewhere  were liable to experience   close monitoring by the security services.

According to Dr Jennifer Luff,  who has researched this topic: “The scale of the surveillance programme undertaken by the British government was truly remarkable. At one point, MI5 were checking over 25,000 names a month and yet the British public knew nothing about this. Workers were monitored and blacklisted from government employment without the opportunity to see or challenge the evidence presented against them.” This  policy was kept secret by the government and repeatedly denied by Cabinet officials and senior politicians. The records show that workers were monitored for the smallest of reasons and that the surveillance often went on for decades before concluding that  the targets were “innocent”. (Dr Jennifer Luff, “British government  history of secret anti-Communist surveillance”, June 2017)

The Communist party placed a great deal of importance on political education. As a member Mac would have been strongly encouraged to attend  evening meetings and weekend schools on  economics, history and politics. He may well have met some of the historians, poets, writers and musicians who belonged to the party in that era. These included  Peter Blackman, Alan Bush, Christopher Hill,  Eric Hobsbawm, Doris Lessing, Edgell Rickword, John Saville, Montague Slater, Edward Thompson and Dona Torr.

In 1947 the party  set up a Cultural Committee  which  published a pamphlet in 1951:  The American  Threat to British Culture.  The authors attacked American  “Big Business” and American  culture, such as comic books and  Hollywood films,  which, they asserted, was designed to brainwash the public into “dollar worship”.

They were particularly  alarmed that  young working class people seemed to prefer American pop music, rather British folk music. The  party therefore tried to popularise what it saw as “native” or authentic”  traditions.  This had some success by the mid-50s with   the “folk revival” in which Communist party  members or former members, such as Bert Lloyd and  Ewan MacColl,  played a key role, as well as the American  musicologist Alan Lomax.  The revival chimed  with movements such as the anti-nuclear bomb marches organised by CND in the late 50s, although the young people on the protests  were often drawn to the more hedonistic  and libertarian  politics, culture and coffee bars of the New Left, rather than   the Communist party.

As a Communist Mac would have learnt the importance of discipline, of placing the  interests of the party before personal preferences and desires. Discipline is a  very useful asset for writers faced with the inevitable fast-approaching deadlines.

After the war Mac discovered  that  not only that he was illegitimate (as noted above) but also that his birth had not been  registered  and therefore he  had to apply for naturalisation as he was  technically classified as an “alien” (ironic in the light of his later science fiction writing). His membership of the CPGB led MI5 to open a file on him from 1949 onwards. He was also investigated by the Metropolitan Police  –  who consulted with the the police in Cumberland –  and concluded that: “This individual is a poseur and professed agnostic with an exaggerated idea of his own importance. Little reliance  can be placed on his statements regarding the circumstances of his birth and enquiry shows that he is known as a man with little regard for the truth.” It is hard to see what Mac could have done to merit this damning verdict. A later report added “I am of the opinion that Hulke is inclined to undergo subversive activities, as his whole outlook was in this direction.” (John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who magazine, 489, September 2015)

YCL members in 1950s

Despite these reports the Registrar General finally agreed to issue Mac with a special certificate of citizenship at a cost of £10 in August 1949

After being demobilised Mac worked  for a time  in a hairdressers’ in Soho  as a book-keeper.

By then wary that if I didn’t get some sort of formal learning, my mind might ossify before I got anything  into it, I took a course of evening classes in Russian – and for the first time learnt something about my own English  grammar.  (Malcolm Hulke, “I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

In the post-war years Mac  lived  in Gloucester Place in  Marylebone, where  he was  active in the local branch and  the Young Communist League.   Ted Willis – with whom Mac later worked  on a number of  television series and was  active with in the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain – was Secretary of the YCL from 1951 to 1946, writing   a pamphlet   Fighting youth of Russia: the story of the young men and women of the Soviet Union (1942). It seems likely that it was in the YCL  that Mac and Ted  first met.

In 1947 Mac  wrote to the party’s headquarters in King Street, Covent Garden to ask  for a job , explaining that  he was “very keen…to be employed in a politically useful occupation.” He was taken on  by the party as  a  shorthand  typist but within a few days had drawn suspicion onto himself by  naively or foolishly phoning  Scotland Yard from the party’s  office to enquire about his application for naturalisation, and was sacked.

Mac  didn’t need to have bothered phoning as the  party’s headquarters were systematically bugged  by M15. The security service  also had a list of  most,  if not  all, Communist party members,  obtained by breaking into the house of Roland  and Nancy Berger in the summer of  1955 and copying 48,000 documents. (Keith Ewing, Joan Mahoney and Andrew Moretta, M15, The Cold War and the Rule of Law (2020), pp. 212,  216).

Mac had long harboured  a desire to become a a writer . Characteristically he set about this in a methodical way, much as he had taught himself book-keeping:

At twenty-five I started to   do something about  my life-long ambition  to become a writer. I started to read books in big way, analysing the construction of stories, and referring to a dictionary every word I didn’t understand. I have never learnt to spell, and still can’t; and if I have any style at all, it is probably because I invariably choose small words I  know how to spell. About this time I write a full-length  who-dunit  which no-one wanted to publish, and some short stories which ended up the same way.  (Malcolm Hulke, “I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

Mac moved back to the Lake District for several years,  but remained an active  member of the party,  trying to recruit new members,   although doubts were setting in. In a letter to Emile Burns, chair of the party’s  National  Cultural Committee, Mac wrote:

Sometimes I think that many Comrades – and especially those deeply engrossed in party life – tend to imagine, rather hopefully, that the rest of the community, though they may be anti—Communist or anything else, are linguistically well-equipped and polemically astute. What’s more, they don’t always seem to be to realise that most people regard politics as not much more important than football pools or going to the pictures. (John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who magazine, 489, September 2015)

British road to socialism

Programme of the CPGB

In 1951 the Communist   Party adopted “The British Road to Socialism”  as the party’s programme for a new decade. In his introduction the Party’s  General Secretary, Harry Pollitt,  wrote:

“The doubts and heart-searchings felt by so many people about the present situation and the future show that the British people realise that to drift along with the existing economic and social system can offer no hope. The people of Britain can look forward to a better future only if they take their country into their own hands.

This is the message of this programme. It is a call above all to the whole Labour Movement to recall its glorious traditions of struggle for the immediate interests of the working people, and to safeguard their future interests in a Socialist Britain. But it is no less a call to the great majority of the British people to join with the Communist Party and the whole Labour Movement in the struggle to win a new future for Britain in the socialist world which history is now shaping.“ (CPGB, The British Road to Socialism, (1951)

However Mac was moving away from his belief in the party.  In  early 1951 he  wrote to the District Secretary in Cumberland   advising him that   he intended to leave, citing as a reason the CPGB’s  hostility to the Yugoslavian Communist leader Tito (who had broken with Stalin in 1948),  and also its line on the Korean War which put the blame for the conflict solely  on the South Koreans.  It seems that,  whilst believing in  Communism as a political idea, he was less enamoured of  actual Communists:

Once a man starts wanting to believe in a thing, it’s just about time he really set about some deep thinking…Could it be that Communism is a wonderful idea but that its philosophy is inherited with some not easily definable something that, at least, in present, day society, tends rather to gather to itself mentalities of a not wholly desirable type?…And if that is the case, and if Communism, managed to gain control in this country, just what sort of people would we expect to find governing us? (John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who magazine, 489, September 2015)

M15’s monitoring of the party was  very efficient.  Just a day after Mac had  resigned  Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director-General of M15, wrote  to the police in Cumberland  advising them of Mac’s decision. Superintendent Baum responded that he suspected that  the resignation was a trick: “…he should continue to receive every attention, as in my view he is a dangerous man and without scruples, so far as his Conmmunistic outlook is concerned.” (John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who magazine, 489, September 2015)

In September 1951 Mac returned to London, living in Kensington,   and almost immediately he  re-applied to join the party. His application was handled by Betty Reid, head of the Organisation Department. In his obituary of Betty in the Guardian in 2004, historian Kevin Morgan described her as “one of those responsible for maintaining “vigilance” against hostile or dissident elements. Reflecting the then atmosphere in eastern Europe, this was a time when the party rule book was toughened up, and Reid acquired a formidable reputation for deploying it.” (Kevin Morgan,  obituary of Betty Reid., The Guardian, 11th February 2004)

In his letter  to Reid Mac explaining that he had  found it “impossible to think other than  as a Communist “ and that his future aspiration ”was to hold a party card and …I intend to make a published writer of myself – until that goal is reached I do not see my way clear to becoming an active Party member again”. Which seems an  odd thing to write if you seriously  hope to be  re-admitted.

Mac’s involvement with the Notting Hill Progressive and Cultural Club,   an arts venue run by local party members, was  looked upon with deep suspicion by more puritanical elements of the party, including Betty,  and led  to  his application being rejected. However,  he carried on badgering the party to let him back,  citing his involvement in “squatting, the Savoy picketing, the British-Soviet Society, the 1950 General Election” and telling Betty “I cannot accept your attitude as correct, justified, fair or constructive” which  again doesn’t seem very tactful. In the end the party reluctantly let him back in, although Betty was still suspicious.“I am not very  happy about it. I don’t think he’s what you might call desirable character. On the other hand I think it’s difficult to keep him out.”(John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who magazine, 489, September 2015)

In 1953 Mac  wrote to Sam Aaronovitch, then full-time Secretary of the party’s National  Cultural Committee,  asking for extra work for the party.  M15 recorded Reid asking Aaronovitch to “help put Hulke off.” Mac remained in the party after 1956 when something like a quarter of its members  left after the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising by Soviet tanks.  But he seems to have  either left or lapsed from the party in the late 1960s, possibly  when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia  in August 1968  to crush the Prague Spring of   “Socialism with a human face” instituted by the Communist government led by Alexander Dubczek.  Mac’s  MI5 file after 1963 has yet to be released, however, so this is conjecture on my part.

Mac’s life  seems to have stabilised  in the second half of the  1950s.  He was now  lodging at 45 Parliament Hill,  Hampstead, the   house of Betty Tate, a widow and fellow Communist who had three daughters. She had read history at Oxford in the early 1930s and joined the party.  Betty   had married George Tate, who was a historian and journalist at the Daily Worker.  However he died in 1956,  which is why I imagine Betty started taking in lodgers.    Mac helped out with her party activities, writing pamphlets for the Socialist Sunday School, selling the Daily Worker, and running fundraising bazaars. Then  Winifred Boot moved to London and she and Mac bought a house round the corner from Betty Tate at  33 South Hill Park which they set up as  a lodging house,  with Mac acting  as landlord and general handyman. Winifred died in late 1967:  Mac continued living at 45 Parliament  Hill until his death in 1979.

Unity Theatre

cartoon of Unity  by Ken Sprague

In the 1950s and 1960s  Malcolm was very involved with the socialist theatre company, Unity Theatre, founded in 1935. It was housed in a former chapel in Goldington Street, Somers Town, London.

Colin Chambers,  who has written the history of the theatre, says: that the theatre began:

…with irrepressible determination amid the political struggles of the early 1930s that were fought against the savage cuts in state benefits, the imposed means tests, the waste of widespread unemployment and poverty, and above all against the rise of fascism. Four decades later, when the theatre’s auditorium was destroyed by fire, Unity had become a shadow of its former glories. Yet, despite its non-professional status and limited size, Unity made a major and lasting contribution to the British theatre through its own work and that of its members who became professional. It pioneered direct political commentary on stage, in its satires and documentary-based shows and developed a drama that represented working-class life and speech with insight and integrity.  (Colin Chambers, The Story of Unity Theatre (1989), p.17).

In 1954 Mac was listed in Unity’s  annual  report as the production manager. In 1961, to mark the 25th anniversary of the company, he devised, edited and produced a booklet entitled HERE IS DRAMAbehind the scenes at Unity Theatre. The foreword was  by Benn W Levy (a playwright and the  former Labour MP for Eton and Slough),  while the illustrations were by Ken Sprague, who contributed to the Daily Worker  and many other progressive organisations and causes.

In his introduction Mac wrote that the booklet was designed with three purposes in mind:

First, as a booklet to help new active-members speed up their integration into the life of Unity Theatre. Second, to answer the already active-member who, after working 18 months backstage, asked if anyone knew what a Production Organiser did. Third, to take at least some of Unity’s faithful audience and outside supporters behind the scenes.

HERE IS DRAMA is a  very incomplete booklet. Ask any  Unity Theatre active-member and he will you that his particular  job  is not described correctly; and the vehemence of his condemnation will be the measure of his interest in and enthusiasm for his chosen spare-time profession. It is, however, only an outline of the jobs to be done by people in a people’s theatre; it is not an encyclopaedia.

Mac finished his introduction by stressing that almost all jobs at Unity “can be done, and are done, equally well and equally badly by women as well as men.”

At the end of the booklet he wrote:

Unity is a theatre of ideals. But don’t you be too dreamy-eyed in your approach. Only the very mature, and the lonely, stand the test of time. Some people have even been known to use Unity as a jumping-board for West End theatre work, don’t forgot they may do a lot of good for Unity Theatre in the process. Never store up grievances : take them to the Management Committee. In the final analysis, however, there is only one person who will change and improve unity theatre. You.

Mac’s time at Unity would have given him invaluable practical  experience in observing  how  a  drama is created,  from the first draft of the script to the final curtain on the last night. He would also seen at first hand what worked on stage – and what did not. Finally Mac would have learned how to survive the stresses and strains of drama production (often more drama  offstage than onstage…)  and coping with  the temperaments of one’s colleagues.In 1962 Mac became Treasurer of the  Unity Theatre Trust. I have not been able to find out for  how long he remained on the Trust.

Mac  does not seem to have written for Unity himself, which is surprising in view of his later successful career as a writer. Eric Paice, with whom Malcolm worked in the 1950s and 1960s, was also involved with Unity,  did write a number of plays for the company.

It seems reasonable to assume that Mac and Eric Paice became  acquainted  through Unity. It’s puzzling therefore  to read in an interview they gave to The Stage in 1959 that they claimed to have  met  when both working at an  advertising agency.  Did they want  to conceal their involvement  with Unity?

Eric was born on 13th November  1926 in Pevensey. He  grew up on a landed  estate in Kent where his father was the gardener. He attended Sevenoaks Grammar School until it was evacuated during the Blitz.  Aged 14,  he was apprenticed to a printer as a machine minder but his indentures were cancelled when he tried to set up a trade union branch.   He then served in the Royal Navy from 1943 to 1946.   He joined Unity in 1949, and worked on the lighting side of productions. In 1951 he  became  Unity’s nightwatchman,  living in a room in the theatre.

His first  shows were for the company’s mobile unity,  Focus On Peace and Focus On Germany. In the summer of 1951 Eric  was sent as a  British delegate to the Writers World Youth Festival in Berlin,  but his group were twice  turned back  in the American zone in Austria. After a protest campaign in Britain, the group eventually got to Berlin. Like any  good writer  Eric  made use of the experience,  turning into a show for Unity which he called Barrier Across Europe. His other plays  for Unity were The Rosenbergs (1953), Turn it Up (1953) and World On Edge (1956), which was  about  the Suez crisis  He went on to write many  single plays and  series episodes for television and the radio. The Rosenbergs was refused a licence by the theatre  censor the Lord Chamberlain who wrote ” ‘Unity theatres are v. left-wing….One wonders if it is right to use the theatre for this sort of personal propaganda especially in a case which is still, really sub-judice.”)   (Colin Chambers, The Story of Unity Theatre (1989) , William Ash, obituary of Eric Paice, The Guardian, 12th July 1989)

 

Mac’s  television and film  work  in the  1950s and  1960s

By  1955 he was working for the National Union of Students   as  the Hostel Appeal Organiser, trying to raise £30,000.  In November of that year  the Manchester Guardian published a letter from him

Your report on Mr P L Brooke’s castigation of students at the National Union of Students council meeting at Ormskirk for their apparent “scandalous” apathy towards NUS hostel appeal has given the appeal unexpected but not unwelcome publicity. But how welcome the reporter would have been at the ensuing hostel appeal meeting when more than sixty invited delegates stayed up until the small hours to discuss the appeal and to report on their plans for raising funds…(Manchester Guardian,  16th November 1955).

Mac resumed his  efforts to become a writer:

When I was about thirty, and by then working  for a social service organisation – and,  once again,  mainly  involved in figure work  – I picked up a discarded  book on the seat of London bus. It was called “Trading in Bodies”, and its lurid front cover depicted a man wielding a whip at a cluster of half naked young women. It was about the  most badly written, appallingly printed book  I had ever seen. But it was published in London, and I  reckoned that  if anyone could sell a story as bad as that – characters no longer needed in the plot just disappeared and weren’t  referred to again – then surely I could break into that market. I phoned the publisher , asked their requirements. they told me : “Thirty-eight thousand words, no more, no less. American city setting; and no smut – when the man goes the bedroom with a woman, the next scene’s next day, see?”The outright fee, for all rights, into perpetuity would be the colossal sum of eighteen pounds. (Malcolm Hulke,“I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

Mac brought his book-keeping skills to bear on his embryonic  career as a pulp fiction writer:

I calculated how fast  I would have to write  in order to earn by writing  for this amrket at the same hourly rate I  was earning by going out to work. It must, I discovered, writing at one thousand words an hour, including plotting, correcting, and the physical job of typing. So I sat at my typewriter for two hours every evening for nineteen evenings , and produced the required  thirty-eight thousand words. In due course, and without any nonsense and re-writing a word  of this epic, I received my first cheque for professional writing – eighteen pounds. Thus encouraged the next step  was to try television… (Malcolm Hulke,“I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

Mac and Eric  Paice wanted to break  into  still relatively new medium of television where there was an increasing demand for drama on the BBC and also , after September 1955, on  its  rival ITV.

Television  drama  was then  in its infancy: plays  were still being filmed live with actors hurrying between sets – sometimes getting there just in time for the camera shot! The introduction of  videotape in 1958  allowed plays to be pre-recorded and edited for broadcast, much less stress for all concerned.

Eric looked back to this era in his  book The Way To Write For Television, published in 1981:

Until the invention and mass availability of the video recorder, a television play or series would appear before a mass audience for a brief hour, then vanish like the morning dew. And the television companies were extraordinarily profligate with material that seemed to them to be in unending supply. Most of  the plays  produced in the late fifties and early sixties were wiped so that the tapes on which  they were recorded could be used again. To find any trace of them today you must rummage in the attics of writers with storage space to keep their old scripts.  It was instant drama, with no shelf life. (Eric Paice, The Way To Write For Television, (1981), p.1)

In an interview in 1975 in Tardis (the magazine of the Doctor  Who  Appreciation Society) Mac told Gordon Blows  that  he and Eric  broke into television  “simply by getting  together  evenings and weekends  and writing a complete play. We submitted it to the BBC and they bought it. After that we switched channels and did a number of plays for Armchair Theatre produced in those days  by ABC television. The plays market is not a closed shop at all, then or now.” (Gordon Blows, “The Malcolm Hulke Interview”, Tardis, 2, 1975)

 

“This Day in Fear”:  1st July 1958.

Their first success was “This Day in  Fear,”  rejected by ITV  but then taken up by the BBC,  and broadcast  on 1st July 1958 in the series Television Playwright. The play was produced by George Foa,  and the cast included Billie Whitelaw and  Patrick MGoohan, who in the  1960s played the lead role in  the very popular series  Danger Man  (for which Mac wrote one episode)    and then created  and starred  in  the cult TV classic The Prisoner (1967).

It seems that the play may have gone out live. In his book Writing For Television Mac recalled that  that: “a scene between Billie Whitelaw and Patrick  McGoohan included the surprise appearance of one of the “extras” (small part actors)  who wandered across the space between the window of the supposed first floor bedroom and the “drop” (canvas curtain with picture of houses across the street),  startling viewers with his seeming levitation act. ” (Writing For Television (1974), p. 14)

Patrick  McGoohan (right)

The main character is a former IRA member who, having  turned his back on the movement,   is on the run after betraying a comrade and  who seeks safety with the police.

The Times described it as “the most arresting yet” in the series.  “The development is most graceful: irony discloses in advance that the courteous and solicitious ‘police’ are in fact the killers but  there is no preparation for the bombshell that the protagonist himself is the Republican hero  whose death was to be avenged…the revelation of identity kaleidoscopically shakes the disconnected ends of the plot into order.” (The Times, 2nd July 1958)

The Belfast Telegraph reviewer thought that it was  “…well acted by a largely Irish cast, the end  packed, even for Ulster viewers, two surprises.” (Belfast Telegraph, 2nd July 1958)

Harold Darton in The Stage was also impressed :

Malcolm A Hulke and Eric Paice…took their first step into TV writing with this play, and a most successful debut it was. The setting was that of an almost conventional thriller plot – a man is about to be murdered, and he is given forewarning of his fate so that he can sweat it out suitably (and so that the playwrights can have an excuse to build up the suspense).

What lifted “This Day in Fear” out of the rut was the extras that go to make a play out of the thriller permutations. The extras here were an IRA background, twists and double twists at the end (where the “police” turn out to be the assassins, and where the man destined to be shot turns out to be in fact, the man  he is accused of betraying  (if you see what I  mean), and by clever little touches to the deliberate policy of suspense.

How would you feel if a threat to murder you appeared in the In Memoriam columns of the news paper, and then you found your papers had been cancelled and the milk order to your household cut by half a pint. “This Day in Fear” may not be a great play, but it was most entertaining and television could do with more like it. Messrs. Hulke and Paice were lucky to have producer George Foa for their first piece. An overall smooth production was helped by some very effective filming. Patrick McGoohan in the main part was most convincing, though he sometimes swallowed his words. But one tends to feel with Patrick McGoohan that one has seen him playing the same part before. Billie Whitelaw as his wife look a step up the social ladder, from her usual  parts of a tart or a Cockney, she progressed to an architect’s wife, and she did it with her usual efficiency. Allan McClelland as the would-be assassin was hardly a strong enough character to be a bullying Irishman, and hardly a small enough character to be a sinister ferret-like type. Bad casting, perhaps. (The Stage, 10th July 1958)

The play was  adapted for radio by Cynthia Pughe and broadcast on 7th March 1959.  I have not been able to find out a great deal about Cyntia ; she is named as a script reader in the Script Unit  at the BBC in the 1950s and was  working as Val Gielgud’s Secretary. She also   wrote a number of radio plays, often adaptations eg Murder Happens by Arnold Ridley, broadcast 27th June 1951; The Wandering Jew by E Temple Thurston, broadcast on 19th November 1952   and Ladies in Retirement by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham, broadcast on 24th July 1965.

1961  ARD production

 

On 25th August 1961 a  version  of the play  was broadcast on the German television channel  ARD 2 under the title Treibjagd (The Hunt)  directed by Rüdiger Graf. The cast included   Paul Glawion,  Eva  Berthold. and Hans  Zesch-Ballot. The translation was by Marianne de Barde  who translated over 50 dramas for German television  from 1952 to 1983. Retro-Media-TV.de

 

 

Soon Mac felt  confident  enough to make a bold move:

Within a year of the first television production I was able to move over to full-time writing and to give up my job – which by then was as manager of an agency selling advertising space. With that job I  was earning enough to feed both me and the six thirsty cylinders of my very old car. But I realised that  to ever make real living, I had to break out of being employed by other people, who inevitably  tend to fix your rate not so much by what you do as by your educational background, and to work in a world where anyone can play – no matter where they  come from  or whatever their education has been. The entertainment business is only interested in results, and as a consquence has its own peculiarly tolerant democracy.

So I had to become professional writer because  I had no real qualifications to be anything else. During those long days of my school-less years, cut off from other children because they were at school and I  was at home, I played endless games of the imagination on my own. In a sense, as I  sit down at home each morning at  my typewriter,  I’m still doing just that.

(Malcolm Hulke,“I Never Went To School,” BBC radio broadcast, 1st August 1963)

 

 

 

 

Political Vetting at the BBC

Given Mac’s Communist party background  and both Mac’s and Eric involvement with Unity Theatre it is surprising that they were allowed to work for the BBC which vetted its staff and writers for their politics. The history of vetting at the BBC was examined in detail by Paul Reynolds in 2018  in an article on the BBC’s own  website. Despite its denials over many decades, political vetting began  in 1935  and continued until the 1990s, carried out in liaison with M15.

Vetting was brought into play once a candidate and one or two alternatives labelled “also suitable” had been selected for a job. The alternatives served a useful purpose. If the first choice was barred by vetting, the appointments board moved easily on to the second. The candidates were told only that “formalities” would be carried out before an appointment was made. This sounded harmless enough; it would allow time to follow up references, perhaps. Candidates did not know that “formalities” meant vetting – and was, in fact, the code word for the whole system.

A memo from 1984 gives a run-down of organisations on the banned list. On the left, there were the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Militant Tendency. By this stage there were also concerns about movements on the right – the National Front and the British National Party.

A banned applicant did not need to be a member of these organisations – association was enough….

If MI5 found something against a candidate, it made one of three “assessments” in a kind of league table:

  • Category “A” stated: “The Security Service advises that the candidate should not be employed in a post offering direct opportunity to influence broadcast material for a subversive purpose.”
  • Category “B” was less restrictive. The Security Service “advised” against employment “unless it is decided that other considerations are overriding”.
  • Category “C” stated that the information against a candidate should not “necessarily debar” them but the BBC “may prefer to make other arrangements” if the post offered “exceptional opportunity” for subversive activity.

The BBC procedure was in principle never to employ someone in Category “A”, though a few did get through the net. This contradicted its public position that the BBC controlled all appointments. In theory it did. In practice it gave that choice to MI5 in Category “A” cases.

If staff came under suspicion only after they had been employed by the BBC or applied for transfer to a job that needed vetting, an image resembling a Christmas tree was drawn on their personal file.

Paul Reynolds, The vetting files: how the BBC kept out “subversives”.  BBC website, 22nd April 2018.

For whatever reason Mac and Eric must have passed the vetting.

 

Armchair Theatre

Mac and Eric wrote four  plays for Armchair Theatre, a series launched in July 1956 by Howard Thomas, head of ABC, which had the franchise for weekend television in  the Midlands and  in the North unril 1974.

Thomas  said  that “television drama is not so far removed from television journalism, and the plays which will grip the audience are those that face up to the new issues of the day,  as well as to the problems as old as civilisation.” For the first three years the plays were staged in ABC’s  northern studios in Didsbury,  Manchester,  housed in the former Capitol cinema. (Sadly the building was demolished in 1999).

Sydney Newman  was approached by ABC to become  the producer of Armchair Theatre and worked on the series  between 1958 and 1962, often seen as its golden period.  Newman came to England from Canada where he  had made hundreds of documentaries and been head of drama at the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He had pioneered a new approach, commissioning drama which reflected social issues.

Newman  produced 152 episodes of Armchair Theatre, which were shown on Sunday evenings.  Many  writers, later to find fame, cut their teeth on the series.  Newman said of England:  “At the time, I found this country to be somewhat class-ridden….The only legitimate theatre was of the ‘anyone for tennis’ variety, which, on the whole, presented a condescending view of working-class people. Television dramas were usually adaptations of stage plays, and invariably about upper classes. I said ‘Damn the upper-classes -they don’t even own televisions!’ My approach was to cater for the people who were buying low cost things like soap every day. The ordinary blokes the advertisers were aiming at.”  The viewings figures for the plays  often reached 12 million.

Malcolm and Eric’s plays for Armchair Theatre were as  follows:

The Criminals: 28th  December 1958.

This was directed by James Ferman  and starred Stanley Baker, Raymond Huntley,  and Allan Cuthbertson. The plot centres on an escaped convict hiding  in a Piccadilly office who  plans to  break into the strong-room of the adjoining bank and  who  forces four businessmen to assist him in the raid.

The reviewer in  The Times was  taken  with the play:

The irony compressed into the title…is prepared so cunningly that  not until the end of the performance of the thriller last night on Independent Teleision  were all its layers of meaning exhausted.  The play is based on the idea that a criminal lurks inside every honest man, but the authors’ means of turning this familar idea into action is anything but derivative. For the purpose of the plot honesty  is  made to equal  hypocrisy and cowardice and the only possible hero is  a self-confessed criminal….The criminal from the outset is the only sympathetic character  but by degrees he acquires a  total moral ascendancy   as the other figures reveal their shiftiness, self-interest, and readiness to take a share of the pickings if no danger is involved.  The ironic climax comes with the accidental death of the convict  leaving  his four inadvertent accomplices with a murder on their hands and a room full of banknotes.  By this time the atmosphere has taken on a biting moral invective:  and in Mr James Ferman’s concentrated production the performances  of Mr Raymond Huntley and Mr Stanley Baker ensured that none of it was lost. (The Times, 29th December 1958)

However the Birmingham Daily Post was less enthuseddescribing  it as  “… a contrived crime thriller with a topical touch. The safe-blowing episode was incredible, but the characters were drawn in some detail. Stanley Baker played the principal criminal with great force.” (Birmingham Daily Post,  29th December 1958.)

Margaret  Cowan in The Stage was not overly  impressed either:

The theme  of the play seems to be that cupidity will get the better of all of us, given the right circumstances. Four businessmen on New Year’s Eve are about to leave for Germany, At the office, they are having a last drink. Waiting for them is an escaped convict (Stanley Baker).  He is forceful, intelligent, and has worked out a daring robbery which he plans with the enforced help of the four executives, who are construction engineers. Their offices adjoin a bank.

He tricks them into believing that their wives are in danger. All night they help him tunnel a passage, and fail to take their opportunities to overpower him. In the end he is trapped and killed by fallen masonry, but not before the others have shown that they are interested in taking large sums of money, provided they are not found out.

The whole thing is incredible. The action, motivation and execution of the plot are all artificial. It fails to convince and fails to move. Stanley Baker gave a strong performance as a forceful leader, and the others did their best with their parts. But they fought a losing battle with an unconvincing script. It was directed as well as possible by James Ferman with good settings. (The Stage, 1st January 1959)

Swedish  television broadcast a  version of “The Criminals”  on 1st November 1961 under the title Medbrottslingarna (Accomplices)  It was directed by Yngve Nordwall and starred Bengt Brunsko, Olof Bergström and Ake Engfledt. The translation was by Marianne Höök.

 

“The Big Client”:  17th  May 1959.

Ian Bannen

This was a satire set in the advertising  industry, directed by Ted Kotcheff,  and starring   Ian Bannen.  (Both Eric  and Mac had worked in advertising). 

The Times TV critic was not so taken with this as he  had been with their previous play.

Last night…we were introduced to the bedlam competitions of the advertising agency,  and incidentally to the brand of  the ruthlessness that drives ambitious young men  of to-day towards an even more unscrupulous future. Fred Cooper  is a manager in a small and unambitious agency, intent on finding room at the top,  and the play  follows his curiously heartless and dishonest moves to secure an important  American client, and to get  the personal position with him that belongs by right to his directors. In the big client and ambitious  youngster like meets like. and Fred secures his future  with a  final compact of degradation in which the boy’s own fiancée is sacrificed to the new and infuential boss. 

Unfortunately the authors, after creating potentially an interesting study of egoism, drive and inferiority complex, lay on the unscrupulousness too thickly for credibility and not all Mr  Ian Bannen’s vitaility and brash yet uncertain charm could save the play from disintegration and a slick artificiality. (The Times, 18th May 1959).

“Telecrit” in the Liverpool Daily Post was more favourable :

Just when I was beginning to tire  of ABC’s Sunday night   talent scouting for budding TV dramatists along came Malcolm A. Hulke and Eric Paice last night with a work that made many of its “Armchair Theatre” contemporaries appear as amateurish as Monty playing diplomats. The drama: “The Big Client” a  story of a ruthless young rogue grasping his opportunities with both hands—and cheating his pals in the process.

With a plot twisting as skilfully as the twister it portrayed, “The Big Client” was sixty solid minutes’ tightly-compressed entertainment.

The authors didn’t waste a second spinning their yarn – they couldn’t afford to.  In the telling of this tortuous tale. each line had to count.  And it did.

They gave us nothing profound. That wasn’t their target. Instead, they served-up fast-moving drama with assured technique.

Like a galvanic minnow,  darting among the big fish, lan Bannen gave the opportunist just the right blend of boyish charm and dangerous deceit.  As the play closed with its last. effective twist, one saw he’d cheerfully murder his mother for a choc ice.

But for all Bannen’s magnetic performance. the real stars of the show were Messrs. Hulke and Paice—who also wrote “The Criminals” that recent ITV drama of bank robbery with a difference,  starring  Stanley Baker. Here on last night’s evidence is a combination to watch with the keenest interest. (Liverpool Daily Post, 18th May 1959.

According to The Stage the advertising trade  press was full of letters protesting about the unscrupulous “hero” of the play  Fred Cooper.  “It is not a malicious atack on advertising,” Mac responded,  “It is about a boy called Fred Cooper. That he should gravitate to the world of advertising is just the way it most likely would be. But there are Fred Coopers  in every line of business.”   (The Stage, 12th August 1961)

This play was later  turned into a musical with music  and  lyrics written by Michael Pratt  which premiered at the Bristol Old Vic in November 1961. The cast included Harry H Corbett and Elizabeth Shepherd.

Peter Ford reviewed  the show  for The Guardian:

Mike Pratt….has caught the brittle spirit of the piece in his music and lyrics.  What then caused the Big  Client  to lose its edge in the theatre?  The answer may lie partly in the script  and the fact  that its  climactic development is affected by bittiness of scene, in spite of the ingenious job done by the designer,  Daphne Hare.   But the burden lies more with the company.  Val May’s cast…enact the play sharply  but with or two exceptions…the neither the voice nor the drive for singing music of this genre.  It is thus left to the professional dancers to set the pace. (The Guardian, 30th November 1961)

The reviewer  for The Stage said that the show “ought be as good a formula as most, for entertainment of this kind, but at the first showing the impact  was less than one would have expected. The characters conform to type, and some of the laugh-lines generated by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice are good quality, but there are not enough of them. The lyrics of  Mike Pratt’s vocal number appear stronger than the music  but judgement on this is complicated  by the lack of vocal accomplishment among the players – at any rate for this kind of jazz-cum-blues music. If there is a  hit tune in the score   it is not given a chance to emerge in Val May’s  production…  (The Stage,  30th November 1961)

Mac discussed  a scene from the play  in  chapter  6 of Writing for Television  which is on dialogue.

Most directors  and actors prefer the cut and thrust of an exchange of short, sharp sentences between characters . In some series drama, you may even find a rule that no speech shall exceed four lines of typing. But there is a case for the occasional very long speech. Here is a long speech from the play The Big Client by Eric Paice and myself…The speaker, an American pharmaceutical tycoon called J G  Henderson, had already   been established in the play by way of third -person reference. By  the time we arrived at the big speech,  the audience was eager to hear everything Henderson had to say about himself.  The scene took place in a London hotel suite where Henderson had summoned representatives from most of London’s biggest advertising agencies. Having handed round the drinks, to show his hail-fellow-well-met face, Henderson mounted a rostrum, put on his sincerity face and talked.

HENDERSON

Gentlemen, as you know, I have to return to New York tonight. That means I have to decide on my advertising agency within the next few hours.

HE PAUSES AND MAKES AN ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE SIGNAL. GRETA HEFFNER, HIS PRIVATE SECRETARY, COMES OVER TO HIM WITH A SILVER TRAY ON WHICH IS A DISPLAY. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAY IS  A PACKET MARKED “ZYGOTEN”. HENDERSON PICKS UP THE PACKET, SHAKES OUT A PILL, AND HOLDS IT BETWEEN HIS THUMB AND INDEX  FINGER, AND CONTINUES.

HENDERSON

This item is worth half a million pounds to one of you gentleman or ladies here. I want you to prepare for me an idea – no details – you haven’t got time  for that; an idea for advertising this product. You know your public, and that’s why I want a British advertising agency to handle this. I want your ideas by four o’clock this afternoon. Are there any questions?

THERE IS ABSOLUTE SILENCE.

HENDERSON (CONTINUING)

Well, gentleman, may I  presume the question you’d all like to ask me?  Why did I quit my previous agency  so suddenly? I’ll tell you because there’s a lesson we  can all learn from this. I spent a whole month with this agency, actually sitting in with them  from eight o’clock  every morning  working out the copy platform . But last night we had a party.  One of the Executives got drunk. He started calling me a lot of bad names.  That  I didn’t mind at all because I am used to taking hard knocks. But then he said  something about  what  I  might do with this product.

HE HOLDS UP THE SMALL PILL BETWEEN THUMB AND INDEX FINGER AND  LOOKS AT THE ADVERTISING PEOPLE BEFORE HIM

HENDERSON (CONTINUING)

I don’t have to tell you what he said.

HE LOOKS AT THE PILL AGAIN, THEN CAREFULLY, ALMOST REVERENTLY, REPLACES IT IN THE PACKET.

HENDERSON (CONTINUING)

As successful men and women I think you will agree with me that if you are selling a product  you must have confidence in that product.  Because if you don’t believe in it yourself, how can you expect  millions of ordinary people to believe in it?  (SUDDENLY TURNING TO FRY) Don’t you agree with that, Mr Fry?

THE YOUNG ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE , FRY, IS ASTONISHED TO FIND HIMSELF PICKED OUT AND SPOKEN DIRECTLY BY NAME.

FRY

Oh, good gracious, yes, definitely. Obviously one must believe in one’s product.

HENDERSON

Deeper than that, Mr Fry. You see, belief is a neccessity for living.  It’s like food, it’s like friends. The problem with our society is that there’s a belief vacuum. And we have to fill it.  (THEN WITH A TWISTED SMILE) You know, only the other day I was toying with the idea of setting up belief clinics  all over the United States for those deprived faithwise.

This was an extraordinarily long speech for a one hour television play, but there was some justifications for it. First, it was entertaining. In Henderson we had a larger-than-life character, and everything he said and did was entertaining. Second, the speech was full of suspense. Between Henderson and his trapped audience of advertisng people there existed a tension relationship. The slightest wrong move by any of them, and they knew they would never get that golden account. Third, and most important, this scene and  Henderson’s explanation had been prepared for. All the earlier scenes of the play  had been about Henderson, about his advertising  account, above all about his pill.  (Incidentally, the construction of The Big Client contravened a rule favoured  by many script editors  and producers, which  is that it is generally inavdvisable  to have characters talk about a third character who has not yet been seen, albeit fleetingly, on the screen. The belief is that audiences never really listen to names mentioned  unless they have met the people concerned, although they may absorb descriptions of characters not-yet-seen, eg “father”, “the boss”, “my son”. In The Big Client we were able to disregard  that rule, because in those earlier scenes people only talked about Henderson; so, by the time he finally appeared, it was like the Second Coming, and the audience felt they were seeing someone whom they already knew very well). Writing for Television, (1974) pp. 53-54.

A production of “The Big Client”  was  broadcast  on 19th July 1961 by the Australian Broadcasting Company, directed by  James Ushaw. The cast included James Condon, Barry Linehan and Alisair Duncan.

Another production  under the title Das große Geschäft was broadcast on 22nd  September  1966 on  Austrian television by Österreichischer Rundfunk,   directed by Walter Davy. The cast included Alfred Reiterer,  Tatjana Schneider  and Walter Kohut.

 

“The  Great Bullion Robbery”:  25th  December 1960.

article in Playbill

This was  directed by John Llewellyn Moxey and starred Donald Wolfit,   Colin Blakely, James Booth and Douglas Wilmer. The play was   based on the first notable British train robbery,  which took place in 1856 on a train from London to Folkestone.

The script was adapted by Eric and Mac from an original script by retired judge Gerald Sparrow.  They told David Griffiths in Playbill that they had  read the transcripts of the Old Bailey trial: “our adaptation uses   the names of the people involved. The method of the robbery is the same as the true case but in unfolding the plot we have taken a certain amount of theatrical licence.”

The Times   reviewer  described Mac and Eric as “that accomplished and productive writing team”. He continued: “The television script…drew on a transcipt of the original Old Bailey trial, and though a fictional drama  had been woven  around the bald facts, the result, aided by a taut  production by Mr John Moxey and some stylish mid-Victorian  sets by Mr James Goddard. The mechanics of the robbery itself, were, as they usually are, fascinating, with clashes of temperament and crises of nerves as unforeseen complications were unravelled, but the suspense was cleverly kept up until the case against the successful perpetrators began to piece itself together and Sir Donald Wolfit as the shifty lawyer Saward found himself fighting what was to prove, in more ways than one, the most important case of his career.   ... ” (The Times, 28th December 1960)

 

“The Girl in the Market Square”: 20th  March 1961.

Rupert Davies

This play  was directed by  John Llewellyn Moxey and starred  Susan Denny, Rupert Davies and  Michael Collins.

The girl of the title is found dead as a result of a car hit and run accident. However,  both the town and the driver regard his importance as ranking  above the girl’s to warrant any further attention from the police.

It  was later broadcast as a radio play, part of a series of plays broadcast by the BBC in 1961 in conjunction with the Writers’ Guild.  Apart from Mac and Eric,  the other playwrights in the series   included Bryan Forbes, Howard Clewes, Ted Willis, Alun Owen and  Gale Pedrick.

According to Mac, the  Independent   Television Authority told ABC that it couldn’t  go on because the story included a corrupt  police inspector. “The company  paid us an additional £100 to turn him into the hero.”  Malcolm  Hulke, Writing  for Television (1974), p. 139)

 

Life In  Danger:  1959

Eric and Mac  wrote the script for  Life in Danger,  a film  directed by Terry Bishop,  and produced by Butchers’ Film Service, who released many low budget  films in this period.  The cast included Derren Nesbitt, Julie Hopkins and Christopher Witty.

It begins with a child murderer   escaping from a Parkways Institute. In the nearby village the  inhabitants are fearful, particularly  when an unknown  man appears in the village  and takes refuge in a barn with two teenagers. Led by a retired major the villagers  are ready to take matters into their own hands…

In tone, atmosphere and plot twist Life in Danger  is very smilar to the work that Eric and Mac were doing for Armchair Theatre at this time.

You can watch a  short extract from the film here

 

Gert and Daisy:   August and September 1959

Elsie  and Doris Waters.

Mac and Eric wrote three episodes for this ITV comedy series, created by Ted Willis and produced by Jack Hylton,  which starred Elsie  and Doris Waters.

They  were very  well known  as a comedy duo on the radio in Workers Playtime (1941-1964 and Flogitts (1956-1957)  and  had  also made  a number of films during the war: Gert and Daisy’s Weekend (1942), Gert and Daisy Clean Up (1942) and It’s in the Bag (1944).  (Incidentally their brother was Jack Warner).

Elsie and Doris played  Gert and Daisy, two sisters who used to work in show business who now  run a boarding house for theatrical visitors.  Other cast members included Hugh Paddick and Patsy Rowlands. The     series  was poorly received  and only ran for six episodes.

You can read more about Elsie  and Doris and the contribution they made to comedy  here.

 

Tell it to the Marines: September  1959

Eric and Mac wrote the first episode for this  comedy series, also created by Ted Willis,   which  starred Jack Allen, Ian Colin, and  Ronald Himes. It was an attempt by Jack Hylton to emulate the success of Granada’s The Army Game.

The series is based on the rivalry at both officer and lower ranks level between the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines when the latter are billeted with the former. It ran for two series and was directed by Milo Lewis.

 

No Hiding Place: October 1959.

No Hiding Place was a police series –  made by Associated  Redifussion –  which ran from 1959  to 1967. .It was the sequel to the series Murder Bag (1957–1958) and Crime Sheet (1959), both of which  starring Raymond Francis as Detective Superintendent Tom  Lockhart at Scotland Yard.  Eric Lander  played  Detective Sergeant Harry Baxter.

Screeonline says that it was “the first detective series produced for the commercial network that was ‘live’ and totally British in flavour.” The format proved very popular and regualarly  attarcted seven million viewers. No Hiding Place, Screenonline)

Mac and Eric wrote an episode in the first series called  “The Stalag Story” (in which  Patrick Troughton, later  the Second Doctor, had a part  as “Blakey”).

Mac wrote a further  two  episodes on his own:  “A Menace to the Public,” broadcast on 15th February 1965,  and   “A Moment of Freedom,” broadcast on 1st December 1965.

 

Mac and Eric Spotlight on Scripts.

Eric and Mac in The Stage

The duo were interviewed by The Stage in August 1959  for their regular feature “Spotlight on Scripts”.

Comedy scripts,  more often than not, are a matter of team work; the reverse is true in the field of drama. And it  is rarer still to find such collaboration among  tv dramatic writers. One that has proved eminently successful is the team of Malcolm A Hulke and Eric Paice.  From their beginning their efforts had immediate success; “This Day in Fear”, “The Criminals”,  “Life in Danger” and “The Big Client” are a few of their hour-length (or more) plays which have been repeated on the radio and tv in America, Australia and the Continent. From this  they wrote several half-hour scripts for tv film series, did scripts for feature films, and are now also scripting shows for live tv serials, this time for comedy.

These two writers have more work than they cope with, and, as will be seen, this has had some reaction on the scripting formulae.

Overwhelmingly success brings its own  problems, but the remarkable fact remains that their success was immediate and continuous. To what was this succsess due?

“We approach  the matter in a coldly scientific manner”, they said. “We analysed good tv scripts and then evolved a method of work that would make them as foolproof as possible.”

“Certain points emerged as axiomatic. Static drama does not come across on tv, it must be fast-moving.”

“We are primarily storytellers and go into the background of every character thoroughly, even though we may not use this. That  way we are both familar with the character.”

“We work out everything live on the tape, imitating the voices we want, editing and rejecting as we go along.”

“It is important to be completely detached – not to get ourselves involved with the characters. And it is important to work to a deadline – and keep to it.”

Working together, suggesting and rejecting, and putting everything immediately on tape, these two writers attain speed, mutual generation of ideas, accuracy of facts and attitudes, and dialogue which is functional and economic.

The interesting thing about this partnership is that, with the constant increase in work, they have lately  found that they do not always have the time to work together. Now they meet once  a week to discuss their scripts instead of working in the same room every day.  With their newest contract with ABC-TV (three plays a year for three years) the new pattern of collaboration emerges – they will,  under the contract,  do two plays a year together and one play will be written by either partner.

Does this mean that a close collaboration between two writers cannot continue with excess of work? Anytime now Messrs.  Hulke and Paice may be able to supply us with the answer.  The Stage, 12th August 1959.

Mac and Eric were represented by Harvey Unna, a refugee from Nazi Germany.  Harvey worked for the BBC on German broadcasts during the war, acted  as a translator for  Hartley Shawcross at the Nuremburg war crimes trials, and then created one of Britain’s most successful literary agencies.

 

Target Luna and  the Pathfinders series: 1960 and 1961
In 1960 Sydney Newman commissioned Mac and Eric to write six episodes  for  a children’s science fiction serial for ABC, Target Luna, which was broadcast in April and May of that year, directed by Adrian Brown.

Pathfinders

Michael Craze, Sylvia Davies and Michael Hammond

Newman’s aim  for the programme was to educate young people about science. The series centres on Professor Wedgewood, head of an experimental rocket centre which launches missions into space from Buchan Island, a remote Scottish isle. His children, Geoffrey, Valerie and Little Jimmy, have  come to spend the holidays with him.  However Little Jimmy is accidentally  launched  into space:  the rest of the series shows how  he is rescued after facing numerous perils in his trip around the moon and back to earth.  It was filmed in the ABC studios in Birmingham. (Geoffrey  was played by Michael Craze who in 1966 joined the cast of Doctor Who in the serial “The War Machines”  playing Ben Jackson, a sailor).

Mac was very keen to show a situation in which  the different nations of the world unite.  “We soon see how the plight of one human being in an Earth-bound rocket catches the imagination of the whole world. Radar stations – Russian, American, British and others – are linked in a global effort to bring the rocket home. Space travel, it turns out, is a great unifying influence among the nations. The old law of the sea becomes the law of space too.”  (Andrew Pixley, Pathfinders On Television)

In his post on Pathfinders in Space Andrew Pixley suggest that the series “bore a strong resemblance in early stages to André Norton’s THE LOST PLANET, televised by the BBC six years earlier. In the 1954 production, Jeremy Grant, a sixteen year old, comes to stay with his uncle Doctor Lachlan McKinnon at a remote house in Scotland. Here, McKinnon was about to launch a rocket to the planet Hesikos, with Jeremy and young, pretty Janet Campbell, a university student, firmly involved in the journey, during which they faced the standard dangers of any 50s ‘B’ movies: meteorites and the like.  (Andrew Pixley, Pathfinders On Television)

Professor Mary Meadows (centre)  (Pamela Barney)

Target Luna was a success with the public and Newman commissioned three sequels: Pathfinders in Space (seven episodes), Pathfinders to Mars (six episodes) and Pathfinders to Venus (eight episodes), which aired between September 1960 and  April1961, directed by Guy Verney.

The cast was completely revamped with new actors playing both the main roles and the children, while there was greater emphasis on science in these sequels. “This is a more ambitious story,” announced Eric, with  Mac adding,  “We’re steeped in scienography.

In these new adventures the adults,  the children and Hamlet the Hamster travel to the Moon, Mars and Venus, encountering amongst other perils lost civilisations, an alien spaceship, sandstorms, dinosaurs and Venusians. In many  ways the series, with  its pedagogic intention and imaginative science fiction story lines,  was a predecessor to Doctor Who. Unusually for this period the cast included  a woman scientist, the selonographist  Professor Mary Meadows, played by Pamela Barney, who  is used to convey science lessons to the watching children.

Reviewing Pathfinders to Mars in The Stage  Dena Hamlin  said that the first episode: “rocketed off with a good start but soon fizzled out.  In the opening minutes a fuel tank explodes, Professor Wedgwood (Peter Williams)  is injured  and we see science reporter  Conway Henderson (Gerald Flood)  take over as leader of this latest expedition from Buchan Island  into space.

But, after this, and until shortly before the end of this episode, came a dreary introduction which lacked action, speed and excitement.  I even felt that George Colouris, playing  a mystery man who tricks his way into the expedition by misleading the Canadian  professor (Bernard Horsfall), was not really sinister enough  to excite the audience. 

Hester Cameron, a 13 year-old making her TV debut as Henderson’s niece Margaret, was slightly precocious and did not seem suitable awed at the pospect of her journey into space.  Stewart Guidotti,  again appearing as Prof  Wedgewood’s son, managed to smuggle Hamlet – the guineapig who is already a seasoned  luna explorer – aboard.

The last few minutes after take-off saved the episode from collapse as the mystery man radioed a  “first part of  the plan completed” message to his unseen accomplices. Perhaps the next five instalments will come up to the exciting standard of previous Pathfunder serials.     (The Stage, 15th December 1960)

Mac told The Stage that Pathfinders to Venus” ...follows on from the Mars adventure. The crew are on their way back to earth when they get a radio message to rescue an American who is orbiting around Venus. Needless to say, once he is picked up the Pathfinders find an opportunity to land on Venus and have a look around. No one actually knows what Venus looks like because it is covered by a white gas cloud. So we can use our imagination.The Stage,  16th February 1961)

Perhaps Eric and Mac  had taken  criticism  of Pathfinders to Mars to heart,   for the anonymous reviewer in The Stage  was considerably more enthusiatic about the first episode of the  final serial. “ Unlike most serials, where the first episodes are devoted to introducing the characters and explaining the plot, this went straight into orbit. Hester Cameron and Stewart Guidotti as the two teenagers aboard the British ship gave good performances and reintroduced  the hamster who is perhaps the most seasoned of the space travellers. Altogether, I am sure, children will be looking forward to future episodes.” (The Stage,  9th March 1961)

Before they wrote Pathfinders to Mars Eric and Mac  sent out  a three page questionaire to selected schools in London, Newcastle and  Northern Ireland.  The idea   was to get schoolchildren to answer questions on the credibility of the recent series, to grade the personality  appeal of the characters,   and   assess the  entertainment value of the show.  (The Stage, 10th November 1960)

Pathfinders to Venus was chosen for a research project  which was  carried out at the Teddington Studios. A number of deliberate mistakes and a kiss between actress Pamela Barney who played Professor Meadows and Gerald Flood as Conway Henderson were included in the episode to judge children’s perception and reaction to what they watched  on television. Eighty children between the ages of eight and 13 were invited to a special preview of the programme and their reactions were recorded by hidden cameras and tape machines. The research  was carried out by the University of Cambridge’s  Department  of Education: the team was led by Dr W Arnold Lloyd.     (The Stage, 20th April 1961,  The Guardian, 18th April 1963)
Mary Field acted as a consultant  for  these serials and  for other ABC children’s programmes eg Plateau of Fear. She had previously  worked  for Rank’s Children Film Foundation.
A    five episode series called Obiettivo Luna   –  based on Target  Luna –  was broadcast by the Programma Nazionale (later RAI 1) on    Italian  television in April 1964. . It was directed by Marcella  Curti Gialdino and starred Ivana Staccioli, Roberto Chevalier, Loretta Goggi, and Stefano Bertini. The tranlsation was  by Francesco Cerchi.

 

Michael Quinn

Ghost Squad: 1961-1964

Ghost Squad  was produced by ITC and ran for three series 1961-1964. It follows the cases investigated by a Special Division  of Scotland Yard  which fall outside  of normal police work.  The series was based on a  book of the same name written by John Gosling, a retired police officer and former member of the  squad. The regular cast  included  Michael Quinn with Donald Wolfit playing his boss.

Mac is listed on the IMDB as writing for the series,   but  his episodes are not identified.

 

The Man in the Back Seat:  1961

This was Eric and Mac’s second film script.

The Man in the Back Seat was produced by Lesley Parkyn and Julian Wintle (Independent   Artists) and directed  by Vernon Sewell. The cast included Derren Nesbitt,  Keith Faulkner, Harry Locke and Carol White.

Two  small-time crooks attempt to rob a greyhound track bookie,   only to find that the money is in a  bag securely  chained to his wrist. Piling the unconscious victim into the back seat of his own vehicle, the pair take off in panic determined to first free the bookie from his money and then free themselves of him altogether.  But their attempts fail and their  desperation increases as the night wears on…

 

The Avengers:  1962-1969

Patrick MacNee and Ian Hendry

Malcolm’s connection with Sydney Newman continued when he wrote nine episodes for the cult TV series The Avengers, which Newman created for ABC in 1961.

Whilst  Newman’s Armchair Theatre drama series had been successful Howard Thomas, head of ABC,  recalled that: “As the percentage  increased of gloomy and realistic plays I suggested to Newman  that our drama schedules needed something more lighthearted and sophisticated. I reminded him of the days when MGM produced spakling comedies for their contract stars like Clark Gable,  Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Norma Shearer, elegantly dressed and in fashionable settings.

Why couldn’t we make a series based on the Thin Man, with characters like those  made famous by William  Powell and Myrna Loy? This suggestion appealed to the ever-perceptive Newman  and he came back with a proposal. (Howard Thomas, “The birth of The Avengers”, The Times, 2nd April 1977)

Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman)

It was originally a vehicle for Ian Hendry, following from his appearance as Dr Geoffrey Brent in  the  series  Police Surgeon which  lasted for  just one series in the autumn of 1960.  The Avengers takes its title from the first  episode, “Hot Snow”,  in which Dr  David Keel (Ian Hendry) investigates the murder of his fiancée Peggy (Catherine Woodville), shot in the street  by a drug ring.

He is  assisted by a shadowy  stranger named John Steed (Patrick  Macnee)  who was  also investigating the ring,  and together they avenge her death. They then form a partnership to investigate crimes and mysteries.

Hendry left after the first series.   Patrick Macnee then  became the lead character, while  his female  partners in the investigations were in order:  Venus Smith (1962-1963) played by Julie Stevens),   Cathy Gale (1962-1964) played by Honor Blackman, Emma Peel (1965-1967) played by Diana Rigg, and Tara King (1968-1969)  played by Linda Thorson. The series  evolved   over the decade from a   black  and white gritty crime and mystery thriller to a stylish fantasy series, filmed in colour,  which combined English eccentricity with elements of “Swinging London” carefully  crafted to appeal to the American market.

Of these nine episodes Mac co-wrote four episodes with Terrance Dicks, whom he had got to know when Terrance rented a room in his house and whom Mac asked  to work with him  on  the scripts when he learnt  that Terrance, an advertising copywriter, was very keen to write for television. In  interviews Terrance has freely acknowledged the influence of Malcolm  on his career, describing him as his mentor. In 1968, after a spell on Crossroad, Terrance  became assistant script editor on Doctor Who,  and about a year later, the chief script editor.

Terrance recalled :“the great thing about Mac, you see,  from a technical point of view, was that he was a touch typist. He was always terribly efficient  and well organised, a kind of human machine,  and when he decided to be a writer the first thing he did was go to a typists’ school and learn shorthand and typing. So the way we would work was that Mac would sit at the typewriter and we’d discuss a line or whatever, agree on it, and “zap”, it would appear  on the paper.” (Richard Marson , “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,” Doctor Who magazine, 91, August  1984)

Malcolm’s episodes  for The Avengers were as follows:

“The Mauritius Penny“ (with Terrance Dicks) :  10th November 1962

It  was  produced by Leonard White and directed by Richmond Harding. The cast included Alfred Burke, Richard Vernon,  and Sylvia Langova.

A man called Goodchild  rifles through  stamps for sale in a stamp dealers back office  and then shoots  the  owner  Peckham dead. The next day Steed tells Cathy   they were watching Peckham because an agent was killed in Rome three months ago, bearing an envelope addressed to him. Steed goes to the shop in disguise wearing glasses and makes enquiries,  but arouses suspicions. After he leaves  Shelley and Goodchild unload a crate of sub-machine guns.

Steed  and Cathy  meet at a stamp auction at which Goodchild is shot dead.  Cathy gets a job  at the stamp dealers shop as an assistant. She overhers Brown  being given instructions to kill her.  He agrees and says he’s received final instructions from Paris: Norway and Denmark will move at the same time they do. Cathy opens a crate and finds Peckham’s body inside. She is surprised by Brown but  knocks him out.

Steed impersonates Goodchild at the dentist.   He is drugged  by Miss Gray and questioned by Shelley but  is rescued by a delivery driver who  says, “If I were you guv’, I’d change my dentist”.

Cathy arrives at the  stamp convention with Brown’s invitation and discovers it is in fact   a  fascist rally: an organisation called New Rule  is planning a coup.  She is  unmasked  and taken for questioning. The leader arrives  and is revealed to be Lord Matterley (who has been using the codename “The Mauritius Penny”). Steed turns up  and rescues Cathy,  and together they subdue   the fascists  brandishing sub-machine guns

You can find a  full  summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

 

“Intercrime” (with Terrance Dicks): 7th January 1963.

It was produced by John Bryce and directed by Johnathan Alwyn.  The cast included Julia  Arnall,  Alan Browning. Jerome  Willis and Kennth J Warren.

Two men  are raiding a safe when Moss  surprises them with a gun and shoots them dead  for carrying out the job without permission.  Steed tells Cathy that that  an international criminal organisation –  Intercrime – has based itself in London  and is carrying our major robberies. A German  contact  for Intercrime called Hilda Stern lands at Heathrow who is  arrested and imprisoned. After a brief spell in prson in the same cell, Cathy steals her ring and goes to the offices of Intercrime at Rifle Ranges International, masquerading as Hilda.  She is told  to kill Steed  and convinces them that  she has done so. But Hilda  has got of prison  and turns up as well  and Cathy is unmasked. Steed turns up  and together the overpower the bosses of Intercrime.

You can read  a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website .

 

“The White Dwarf” :17th February 1963

It was produced by John Bryce  and directed by  Richmond Harding. The cast included George A Cooper, Philip Latham,  and Vivienne Drummond

Professor Richter is recording his observations of the white dwarf, Riesel Alpha, and estimates  it has moved 3° in the past six months. Then he is killed.  Cathy reads that the army has been mobilised. Steed tells  her that Richter has predicted  that a white star would re-enter the solar system and was making some final observations. Cathy is sent  to the Tor Point Observatory in Cornwall  to investigate, staying in a boarding house with the astronomers.

An astronomer called Rahim is also murdered whilst carrying out observations  Steed arrives  and together  they discover that Richter was wrong and that  the scientists were killed as part of an elaborate scheme  to make money on the Stock Exchange in the panic over the end of the world.

You can read  a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

“The Undertakers”:  5th October 1963

It was designed by David Marshall   and directed by Bill Bain.

The cast included Howard Goorney, Lally Bowers and Mandy Miller.

Undertakers turn up a flat and the  chief  pallbearer  shoot a man dead. They remove their top hats and bow solemnly.

Steed  meant to be escorting Professor Renter to America but when he goes to his flat to collect him his  wife  tell Steed  that he has suddenly retired to a rest home.  Steed goes there but is refused admittance. He sees  a coffin being carried out of the building. Steed shows Cathy a list of the ‘inmates’ of Adelphi Park: she exclaims that they’re all millionaires.

Cathy gets a job at the home as assistant  matron and  discovers that   the inmates are all impostors. The episode culminates in  a gun battle with the ring leaders of the plot  in the grounds of the home  amist the giant  Grecian statues of women. It transpires  that the  impersonations were a way of avoiding death duties. No-one ever saw  the inmates in the home , so they could be kept alive “on the books” for the required time.

You can read a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website

 

“The Medicine Men”: 7th November 1963

It was designed  by David Marshall  and directed by Kim Mills.

The cast included Peter Barkworth, Newton Black and Monica Stevenson.

A  young woman is smothered in a Turkish bathhouse. Steed knows she was distributing imitations of Willis Sopwith cosmetics.  Through their investigations (which includes visits to the world of advertising and marketing) Steed and Cathy discover a plot to destablisise an oil-rich country Karim  by flooding it with poisonous powders with intent of putting the blame on Britain

You can read a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

 

“Trojan Horse”: 8th January 1964

It was designed by  Richard Harrison  and directed by Lawrence Bourne.

The cast included  Basil Dignam,  T P McKenna and Derek Newark.

This is set in the world of horse racing. Steed is concerned about the security of a stallion belonging to a sultan and goes to the stables to investigate. At the track next day, Steed tells Cathy there have been a dozen  unsolved murders of important men in the past year.  They discover that assassinations are being carried out  using dart guns hidding in binoculars.

You can read a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

 

“Concerto” (with Terrance Dicks):   7th March 1964

It was designed by Robert Macgowan and directed by Kim Mills.

The cast included Nigel Stock,  Sandor Eles and Dorinda Stevens.

A visiting  Russian pianist, Stefan Veliko, who is  giving his first concert in London, become embroiled in a plot to derail crucial East-West trade talks in London. Firstly a young woman is found dead in his hotel room. Then he is enticed  into a Soho club and photographed. Finally he is blackmailed into shooting a delegate during recital. Forunately Steediand Cathy are on hand to save the day and the talks by cooperating with Veliko’s security adviser, Zalenko, an old adversary.

Steed: “What were you trying to do to your ‘friend’?” Zalenko: “Disjoint his left arm from its socket over my right shoulder.” Steed: “And where did you learn that particular piece of nastiness?” Zalenko: “Saturday afternoon British television, last time I was here. You should watch.”

You can read a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

Honor Blackman left the show  to appear in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1964).  She was replaced by  Elizabeth Shepherd but after shooting one episode the producers decided she was not suitable and  in turn she was replaced by Diana Rigg playing Emma Peel.

“The Gravediggers”: 7th October 1965

Steed rescues Emma (Diana Rigg)

It was directed by Quentin Lawrence.

The cast included Ronald Fraser, Paul Massie and Wanda Ventham.

A funeral is coming to an end. After the mourners depart an  aerial comes out of the grave. Steed and Emma are called in after the country’s early warning radar  system has been blacked out several times  by unknown  means. The centre of the operation is the small village of Pringby where Dr Marlow, who had been working on a similar blacking out scheme, has been buried recently.

Steed goes to the village and follows some   undertakers to “The Sir Horace Winslip Hospital for Ailing Railwaymen” where he  meets  Nurse Spray who tells him she’s never seen Marlow – but a few moments later  later  Marlow is seen briefly by Steed.  Steed looks around the home and is attacked by Sager who comes off the worst. Emma investigates a funeral  parlour and finds Marlow in a coffin. Steed send her to work in the home as a nurse.

Steed  visits  Sir Horace’s  House, “Winslip Junction”, which is done up like a railway station with a ticket office,  a signal box and a mock carriage. Sir Horace  tells Steed he leaves the running of the hospital to Johnson and Thirlwell. Steed  enjoys a ride on the  model railway in the grounds of the house

Steed goes to   hospital where  Mrs Peel has learned that they  are  operating that night, but Baron won’t let her near the theatre. During the operation   Dr Johnson asks for forceps, then a scalpel, then  a blow torch

Steed and Emma find electrical equipment  at the undertakers  and discover that  the funerals are being booked ahead and form a ring around the warning station.

Emma disguises herself and takes part in the next operation at the hospital  but is discovered. She is tied to the rails of the model railway, but  Steed arrives and saves her after an epic fight with Baron  on the model railway.

You can read a full summary of the plot on The Avengers website.

 

Diana Rigg left the series and was replaced  by Linda Thorson who played  Tara King.

 

“The Great Great Britain  Crime” (with Terrance Dicks)   1967

Tara King (Linda Thorson)

This  episode was never broadcast.

The reason being that  John Bryce had replaced Brian Clemens and Albert Fennel as producer. However the three episiodes he produced were considered well below par  and Clemens and Fennell were brought back to save the series.

The  story involved a plot to steal the country’s art treasures (including the Crown Jewels)  by Intercrime,  (who featured in  a previous episode written by Mac and  Terrance Dicks). The international crime organisation  stages a fake national emergency  involving a missile attack on the London,   resulting in the treasures being placed in a high security vault to which they have the access codes.

Parts of the episodes were later recycled into “Homicide  and Old Lace”

 

“Homicide  and Old Lace” (with Terrance Dicks):  26th  March 1969

It was directed  by John Hough and Vernon Sewell.

The cast included Patrick  Newell,  Joyce Carey and Mary Merrall.

“Mother”  – the head of the organisation that Steed and Tara work for-  spends his birthday with two of his aunts, and entertains them with a tale of “The Great Great Britain Crime” mentioned above.  Bits of that episode were framed with Mother telling the story,   while some clips  from a previous episode were also intercut, badly,

The result? Well,  The Avengers Forever website  described this  as the worst  ever  episode of The Avengers. I would not disagree.

You can find a summary of the plot (such as it is) on The Avengers website.

 

Sergeant Cork  1963-1968

Sergeant  Cork was another series  created by the  seemingly inexhaustible  Ted Willis for ATV  in which John Barrie starrred as Sergeant  Cork  who solves  crimes in Victorian London.

The cast included William Gaunt and Charles Morgan and ran for six series.

Mac is listed on the IMDB as writing for the series  but  his episodes are not identified on the IMDB listing.

You can watch a trailer for the DVD release here.


Zena Kakvu Nisam Ozenio (A Woman  I Never Married) 15th March 1964

This was a play broadcast  on Yugoslavian television,  directed by Ivan  Hetrich and starring Naja Drach and Ljubica jovic.

Ivan Hetrich  (1921-1999) was a Croatian film, theater and television director, television presenter, and one of the founders of Television Zagreb.

 

The Protectors: 1964

The Protectors was  produced by ABC  and ran for one series in 1964.
The series deals with a firm of security specialists set up for former insurance investigator Ian Souter (Andrew Faulds) and ex-policeman Robert Shoesmith (Michael Atkinson) with  Heather Keys (Ann Morrish) as  the third member of the team. She’s the secretary,  but her knowledge of the art world makes her invaluable. The firm of Souter and Shoesmith refer to themselves as the SIS (Specialists in Security).
The Protectors is a rather ambitious series characterised by some very good writing and some complex moral problems.Cult TV Lounge website.
Eric and Mac  wrote two episodes:
“It Could Happen Here”:  9th  May 1964
It was directed by Bill Bain.
“Souter and Shoesmith are called in by a trade union to investigate phony lotteries which the union feels are exploiting its members. In fact there’s a lot more than that going on, and there may be a connection with the murder of a union branch secretary. Shenanigans in a trade union might suggest something political but is that what is really behind these shady goings-on? This is quite a hard-edged episode (and a good one).”  Cult TV Lounge website

 

 

“Channel Crossing” : 13th June 1964

It was directed by Kim Mills.

“When personal disaster strikes terror into the heart of a prominent government minister, the Protectors, assigned to guard the man during a luxury cruise, find themselves in very dangerous waters.” IMDB

 

 

Malcolm  Hulke is a busy  man…”

In October 1964  Mac  was featured in a short piece in  The Stage. 

“Malcolm  Hulke is a busy  man. He has just completed a draft for an episode of Gideon’s Way, he is in the process of completing an episode for  No Hiding Place (called A Menace To the Public)  and will then work on an episode of Danger Man and another for The Avengers.  Without pausing to draw breath he will then complete a  play  for radio called A Boy For Zelda, work on the English version of a successful stage play from Holland, and perhaps turn his radio play Man on the Island into a novel. Having such much time on his hands (!)  he is helping to organise the first assembly of the  projected International Writers Guild, to be held in London November 19th-21st . “I’m a sort of glorified bedding officer, fixing  acccommodation for delegates and so on, ” he told Television Today. (The Stage, 15th October 1964.

Winifred wrote to one of Mac’s brothers in December 1963: “Mac is well but very busy. He is writing a six part serial for television to be produced in early 1964, and has just completed a one hour episode for The Avengers series. Somehow he makes time to see me every day and last week took me to St Martin’s Theatre to see The Sound of Music. It was a lovely evening there and  back in his lovely car, with the heater on. I wish your mother had lived to see his success.”  John Williams,  “Red Hulke”, Doctor Who magazine,  489, September 2015)

The six  part serial was for a new Saturday early evening show called Doctor Who.

 

Doctor Who:  1963-1969

Sidney Newman was headhunted by the BBC to be Head of Drama and started work in January 1963. He wasn’t impressed by the BBC’s drama output.

 I found it was to be really  absolutely asleep. I thought the camerawork was sluggish…There was no real depth. It was all rather stagey. After I’d been there about three weeks, I really was totally dismayed because,  other than a handful, there were really very few marvellous people I felt were really good directors. I didn’t like the writers that were being used and I disliked intensely the fact that all scripts were purchased by the Script department run by Donald Wilson, because I found that directors wanted to be involved in the creation of a script . (Andrew Pixley, “Newman at the BBC”, Doctor Who magazine, 466, October 2013)

Newman re-organised the BBC’s drama production teams and launched a number of new drama series. He then looked at  the 5.15  Saturday afternoon slot between the end of Grandstand and  the start of Juke Box Jury.  Traditionally this had been used for reruns, cartoons or adventure series  such as Garry Halliday but Newman wanted something different.

At a number of meetings in the spring of 1963 Newman and his staff evolved the notion of a mysterious Doctor who could travel in time and space. The aim of the series were educational, similar to Pathfinders in Space,  with the remit  of teaching its young audience in an enjoyable way  about space and history. In its first years the serials alternated between a science fiction adventure and an adventure set during a dramatic historical event such as the travels of Marco Polo, the Crusades, and the St Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre of 1572  (a surprising subject for a tea-time children’s serial, although no actual killings were shown). The series was to be called Doctor Who.

Newman brought in as producer a young woman he had worked with at ABC, Verity Lambert, which caused a stir as the BBC was then a very male world. Verity persuaded the veteran actor William Hartnell to take on the role of the Doctor. Hartnell had been working as an actor since the 1930s,  but was frustrated by the limited roles he was  now being offered, often as an army sergeant in films and on  television. Verity had been  impressed by his role in a recent British film This Sporting Life (1963),  set in the world of Rugby League in which he had played a talent scout.

Unearthly childThe first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on 23 November 1963.  “An Unearthly Child” introduced  the  Doctor and his grandchild, Susan,  whose science and history teachers at Coal Hill school, Ian and Barbara, are puzzled by her advanced knowledge on some matters and  total ignorance on others.

They follow her  to junkyard at 76 Totters Lane and burst into what seems to  be a police-box,  but  is in  fact,  as the Doctor explains to their disbelief, a  space and time machine,   the Tardis, as Susan has named it:  Time and Relative Dimension in Space.  He and Susan are travellers who left their unnamed world.  At the end  of the episode, fearful of being found out,  the Doctor sets the machine in motion and the Tardis  leaves the earth for an unknown destination. The rest of the first serial takes place in the Stone Age. and is frankly rather drab.

It was the second serial,  set on a dead planet called Skaro and  which  introduced the Daleks – emotionless mutants in a mechanised travel machine –  that caught  the imagination of whole generation of young people.

“Britain 408 AD”

Mac had been  asked to write for the new show and  had submitted a storyline in early September for a serial called  “Britain 408 AD”,  the period when the Romans were about to abandon its colony and pull out its legions.   The  story editor David Whitaker  felt that the  story had a  lot of colour,   but was too complicated  with its various opposing factions: Britons, Romans, Celts, Saxons.

It was hoped that a rewritten  version of “Britain 408 AD” might occupy the sixth slot of Season One.  Later that month  it was decided that the production block did not need another historical story and Mac’s  serial was not proceeded with : instead he was asked to work on  a serial called “The Hiddden Planet”  which he had also submitted.  Mac  resubmitted “Britain 408 AD”    to Whitaker’s successor,  Denis Spooner,   but Spooner rejected it in April 1965 because the Romans had already featured in his own  recently broadcast serial  “The Romans” set at the court of the Emperor Nero.  (“Lost Stories”: Doctor Who, a brief History of Time Travel website)

“The Hidden Planet”

In October 1963 , “The Hidden Planet” was pencilled in as the seventh story of Season One. But when Mac  delivered his script for episode one in January 1964, the production team didn’t like it and asked him  to  rewrite it.  Mac disagreed  with this, arguing that the script followed the  storyline they had agreed  and that he should therefore be paid extra for any rewrites. The production team rejected his argument , and in March Mac  agreed to revise his scripts.   By July, Hulke had rewritten the script, but after Carole Ann Ford  (who played the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan), had left the show it was felt that too much work would be needed to restructure  the serial  while it was felt the story lacked monsters, now viewed as essential  in the show’s science fiction serials, part of the Dalek effect on Doctor Who.

In October Mac was advised by David Whitaker that the story was not now going to be used. As in the case of “Britain 408 AD” he resubmitted it to Denis Spooner but this too was  rejected by him in April 1965 because it still included Ian and Barbara who were about to leave the series at the end of  “The Chase.”  (“Lost Stories”: Doctor Who, a brief History of Time Travel website) .

Mac later explained that this  serial was about:

“… a planet which is the same size as Earth, but on the other side of the sun, and therefore we have never seen it. The Doctor goes to the planet and for obvious reasons the Tardis crew think they are on Earth. But they find things are different: I think they landed in a field and Susan notices a four-leaf clover, and then they see they are all four leaf clovers. And then other mysterious things happen like birds flying backwards or having double wings, and things of that sort. (Richard Marson, “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,” Doctor Who magazine, 91, August  1984)

This idea of an identical planet crops up in a later serial “The Tenth Planet,” broadcast in the autumn of 1966, written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis,  in which the planet Mondas appears suddenly in the solar system, a twin of the earth,  except that this planet  has Cybermen on it who come calling on their new neighbours. It’s not a friendly visit.

 

“Journey Into Time” : the  forgotten  Doctor Who radio series, 1966

In 1966 Mac wrote a script for a radio version of Doctor Who. The story of this forgotten production was told  by Richard Bignell in issue  3 of the Doctor Who research   magazine,  Nothing at the End of the Lane.  In 1965  Richard Bates of Watermill Productions approached the BBC about the possibility of  making a radio series of Doctor Who for transmission abroad in Australia, Canada and the United States.   Whilst there were  reservations by some at the BBC a contract  was finally agreed  in early 1966., giving Watermill an option for six months. Boris Karloff was under consideration to play the Doctor: some 52 episodes were planned.

Peter Cushing as Doctor Who in the film version

Mac was obvously approached by Bates  to write for the projected series (they had worked together on The Avengers)  for  in June 1966 Watermill sent  the BBC a 17 page script for a pilot  episode   written by him called “Journey Into Time”. Watermill told the BBC that they were now considering Robert Coote for the role of the Doctor, and the BBC extended the option until September.  In the end the role was taken by Peter Cushing, who played the Doctor in two films made by Aaru prodictions:  Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966).  A recording of Mac’s script  was made and sent  to the BBC for evaluation.

Richard  Williams, Commercial Manager – Television Enterprises  at the BBC, wrote to Bates:  “All my colleagues who have heard the pilot have been very  impressed and we trust that  this enthusiasm  will be shared by your customers.” The company (now called Stanmark) began issuing promotional material.

But some key figures within the  BBC now starting   to have doubts. Martin Esslin, Head of Drama  (Sound) wrote in September  that, whilst it was technically  well produced:,  “As a piece of science fiction, however, it strikes me as extremely feeble  and  it certainly isn’t  anything I would recommend for broadcast in any of the spots for which I am responsible.” Others were more favourable,   but in the end nothing more happened, the series was not proceeded with, while  the  recording vanished.

Mac’s  script also vanished until Richard Bignell rediscovered  it  when researching the story of this  lost radio series and it was  included  in the  article in Nothing at the End of the Lane.

In the script the Doctor and Susan land the Tardis on  Earth   in 1967, three   thousand years  adrift from where they wanted to be.  The Tardis turns into a police box while  Susan decides  she wants  to go to school where she displays unusual knowledge eg of the binary system. Classmate  Mike Logan rescues her from a bully and she vistis his house where Susan displays  a great knowledge of plants. She tells Mike and his father : “My grandfather and I, we were once at a  place that was covered in plants. They were all much bigger than your father’s..but the same varieties Zantedeschia Aethiopica and Adiantum Capillus Verens ..I mean they’d become big.. It was after an atomic bomb explosion. They’d mutated. They were rather dangerous.

Mike tells his father: “...some of the things  she says – it’s like she came from a different world.” He  walks  with her near to her home,  but the only building nearby  is a police box in a park.  They meet Doctor Who (as he is called in the script)  dressed in old fashioned clothes as Mike remarks.   Doctor Who   tells him he bought them in New York in 1910.

Back at school  Susan draws a Neanderthal Man on the blackboard and gets into trouble with her teacher. Walking her home again  Mike thinks he sees Susan go into the police box.  He goes back the next day and meets Doctor Who outside.  When he hears Susan calling he manages to get  inside the box and  exclaims  in shoc , “It’s  like a giant electronic palace… .it’s so large Susan… I…I can’t believe it.  How can it be so small outside and so  big inside?”  Doctor Who tells Mike that they  come from Earth but from  three thousand years in the future.  They are unable to return home to their own time because the telechronometer is not working.  Mike accidentally  sets the Tardis in motion. On landing they discover that  they are surrounded by soldiers and have landed in the middle of the American Revolution.  (Fade Out)  (Richard Bignell, “Journey Into Time”, Nothing at the End of the Lane, 3,  2012.)  The Times, 14th January 2012, p.29.)

 

“The Faceless Ones”: April  and May 1967

“The Tenth Planet”, broadcast in  October 1966,  was William Hartnell’s last serial.  He had been suffering from ill-health and  at that time  Doctor Who was produced   40 weeks a year,  so it was a relentless work schedule.

Rather than lose Doctor Who the programme makers, Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis, took the bold and quite risky step of replacing the by now much-loved Hartnell with another actor, Patrick  Troughton, ascribing the change to the Doctor having worn out his old body. As the new Doctor explains at the beginning of “The Power of the Daleks”: “ I’ve been renewed. It’s part of the Tardis. Without it, I couldn’t survive…

The change of actors worked: the serial  continued and remained just as  popular for several years more, although  the ratings did fall off in   1969.

It was in this new era that Mac’s first serial for Doctor Who was broadcast. It was  co-written with Derrick Kerkham  (who wrote under the name “David Ellis”), with whom he had started working after meeting him at the  annual awards dinner of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain in March 1966.  Kerkham had written for series such as Dixon of Dock GreenCompact,  and Crossroads.   Like Mac., he had also pitched unsuccessfully  to Doctor Who. Both knew the  new Doctor Who script editor Gerry Davies from  their time working on the football series  United!

First they pitched   a story to Davies called “The People Who Couldn’t Remember”  but this rejected by him in June. Davies explained  that it was not the kind of story he was looking for and that  in future they  should avoid satire and humour. “Our viewing figures take a  dive every time we introduce a joke in a script.” He went to advise them that what the show needed was a “strong scientific concept and loads and loads of menace.”  At a meeting with the two writers to discuss more ideas Davies told them “We’d like  you to do a story set in a big store.

By November they had  submitted  a story line. In this the Doctor and his companions   land in a department  store in 1973 where they discover a plot by aliens to colonise the earth by  wiping out out  humanity with a plague.  The aliens have infiltrated the store  with a sub-species called The Chameleons who can  change their appearance to mimic humans.   Mac was keen to show the aliens as individuals with a range  of beliefs rather an anonymous species.  After receipt the producers told Mac and David that they  had  decided that they wanted it to be set in airport instead.

The revised serial  (now called “Doctor Who and the Chameleons”)   was formally commissioned by Davies on 3rd January  1967 to be delivered a month later.  The future setting was abandoned,  as was  the plague (only to reappear in 1970 in  Mac’s serial “The Silurians”).  In February they were asked to write out Ben and Polly from the series, leaving just Jamie as  a companion.  (For  an excellent in depth  analysis  of the development  of this serial, please see: Andrew Pixley, “The Big Store”, Nothing at the  End of the Lane, 4, Autumn 2015.)

Mac and  David’s serial was broadcast  under the title “”The Faceless Ones”  in six parts in  April  and May 1967.  The cast included Pauline Collins, Wanda Ventham and Gordon Kaye.

The Doctor and his companions – Ben (Michael Craze), Polly (Anneke Wills)  and Jamie (Frazer Hines)  – land in the Tardis   on a runway at Gatwick airport and run for cover when they are spotted by a policeman.  Whilst hiding, Polly sees a man killed in the offices of Chameleon Tours  with some kind of electrical weapon.  She shows  the body to the Doctor and Jamie,  but when they return with the airport’s Commandant  the body has gone.

Unknown to the Doctor and  Jamie,  Polly is taken prisoner by the Chameleon Tours aircrew.  When Doctor and  Jamie next  meet Polly she denies knowing them or even  being Polly.  The Doctor tells Jamie : “You don’t want to believe everything you see…”  Later  we see duplicates of humans being revived and given faces in the  medical centre.

Jamie meets Samanatha,  looking for her brother Brian  who went on a fight with Chameleon Tours  – and never returned.  We see the plane take off – and turn into spacecraft while the passengers appear to vanish.  The Doctor  discovers that aliens are stealing the identities of young air passengers in order to take over the world, their own planet  having been devastated in an explosion.  The aircraft is  going into space to  rendezvous with their command satelite. The Doctor tells the Commandant: “Things are not always what they seem…Chameleon Tours are not quite what they seem either.

The Doctor defeats the aliens after taking an aircraft  to the satellite masquerading as his duplicate while  the originals of the duplicated humans  are found just in time  in the airport car park.  In tone it   feels similar to a number of   episodes of The Avengers. which  often featured mysterious disappearances.

In an interview in 1975 Mac said that this  was the serial he enjoyed writing most. “If you remember  the Chameleons… had taken over part of an airport and were  methodically changing themselves into Earth people. So at any  point in the story   you were never quite sure whether a character  whom you had got to know had been changed or  was still him. It was a lot of fun…” (Gordon Blows, “The Malcolm Hulke Interview”, Tardis, 2, 1975)

Although The Stage mentioned that the duo  intended to collaborate on future projects and  were working a six-part thriller for adults,  this  was their  only work that  made it to the screen.

You can read the full script as broadcast here.

Sadly only two episodes have survived of the serial but In 2020 an animated version of the missing episodes was released on DVD.

 

“The War Games”:   April to June 1969

Malcolm’s  next contribution to Doctor Who was “The War Games” which he co-wrote  with Terrance Dicks, renewing their writing partnerships. It was broadcast between April and June 1969 and  lasted an epic ten episodes, one of the longest  Doctor  Who serials ever made.

It was written at haste, because, as Terrance admitted  in interviews, they had run out of scripts and needed something very urgently. He brought in his good  friend Mac to help out and they were still writing the final parts when filming had  already started on the first episodes. Pat Troughton had decided he wanted to leave the series,  as had  the actors playing his companions, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury.

In “The War Games” the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe,  lands in the midst of what appears to be the First World War. The Doctor tells Jamie:“We’re back in history, Jamie. One of the most terrible times on the planet Earth.”  They are pickud up by a British officer and nurse and taken  to the British lines where they are accused by General Smythe of being spies. The Doctor is sentenced to death but escapes at the last minute, the first of many such escapes in the course of the story. Something is not quite right, though. The General has a modern video communicator in his bedroom and has the power to  hypnotise  his underlings, while nobody  can remember how they got to the Front.

They discover that other wars from history such the Roman invasion of Britain and the American Civil War are taking place in different zones.  Using the Aliens’ travel device – the Sidrat- the Doctor and Zoe  get into the headquarters from where the  wars are being co-ordinated. Here  the Doctor  meets a renegade  from his own race, the War Chief.

WAR CHIEF: You may have changed your appearance, but I know who you are.
DOCTOR: Oh, do you?
WAR CHIEF: Your machine is a Tardis. You’re too familiar with it’s controls to be a stranger.
DOCTOR: I had every right to leave.
WAR CHIEF: Stealing a Tardis? Oh, I’m not criticising you. We are two of a kind.
DOCTOR: We most certainly are not!
WAR CHIEF: We were both Time Lords and we both decided to leave our race.
DOCTOR: I had reasons of my own.
WAR CHIEF: Just as I had.
DOCTOR: Your reasons are only too obvious. Power!
WAR CHIEF: How much have you learnt of our plans?
DOCTOR: I know that you’ve been kidnapping soldiers from the Earth from various times in it’s history and bringing them here to kill one another.
WAR CHIEF: But do you realise our ultimate objectives?
DOCTOR: No objective can justify such slaughter.
WAR CHIEF: The war games on this planet are simply the means to an end. The aliens intend to conquer the entire galaxy. A thousand inhabited worlds.
DOCTOR: Yes, but why choose the people of the Earth?
WAR CHIEF: They are the most suitable recruits for our armies. Man is the most vicious species of all.
DOCTOR: Well, that simply isn’t true.
WAR CHIEF: Consider their history. For a half a million years they have been systematically killing each other. Now we can turn this savagery to some purpose. We can bring peace to the galaxy, and you can help. You see, I’m not the cold-hearted villain you suppose me to be. My motives are purely peaceful.

The Doctor, his companions and a motley army of  rebels from different zones  combine to defeat the Aliens,  but the Doctor  then has to summon the Time Lords to return all the soldiers back to their own times.  Despite his efforts to escape they put him on trial for interfering on his travels and not standing aloof.

TIME LORD: You have heard the charge against you, that you have repeatedly broken our most important law of non-interference in the affairs of other planets. What have you to say? Do you admit these actions?
DOCTOR: I not only admit them, I am proud of them. While you have been content merely to observe the evil in the galaxy, I have been fighting against it.
TIME LORD 3: It is not we who are on trial here, Doctor, it is you.
DOCTOR: No, no, of course, you’re above criticism, aren’t you.
TIME LORD: Do you admit that these actions were justified?
DOCTOR: Yes, of course, I do. Give me a thought channel and I’ll show you some of the evils I’ve been fighting against.
(The Time Lords nod to each other.)
DOCTOR: The Quarks, deadly robot servants of the cruel Dominators, they tried to enslave a peace loving race. Then there were the Yeti, more robot killers, instruments of an alien intelligence trying to take over the planet Earth.
TIME LORD 3: All this is entirely irrelevant.
DOCTOR: You asked me to justify my actions, I am doing so. Let me show you the Ice Warriors, cruel Martian invaders, they tried to conquer the Earth too. So did the Cybermen, half creature, half machine. But worst of all were the Daleks, a pitiless race of conquerors exterminating all who came up against them. All these evils I have fought while you have done nothing but observe. True, I am guilty of interference, just as you are guilty of failing to use your great powers to help those in need!
TIME LORD: Is that all you have to say?
DOCTOR: Well, isn’t it enough?
TIME LORD: Your defence has been heard and will be carefully considered, but you have raised difficult issues. We require time to think about them. You will be recalled when we have made our decision.

The Time Lords accept his plea,  but exile him to Earth with a new identity as yet unknown, while Zoe and Jamie are  returned to their own times, all knowledge of their travels with the Doctor removed from their minds.

In this story Mac and Terrance show war as violent, brutal  and pointless, controlled by ruthless leaders who place no value on human lifer and who, whilst apparently on different sides – German, British, Yankee, Southerner – are in fact  all working together.

They  add to this by not giving the Aliens any names – only titles such as “The Security Chief” and “The War Lord” – while we never learn the name of their planet which  is only ever  referred to as “The Home Planet”.  The writers go one further by showing that by combining together the soldiers can defeat their rulers, now that looks distinctly  like Mac’s touch.

The serial seems to draw on Peter Watkins’ drama documentary about a nuclear attack on Britain The War Game (which was banned by the BBC in 1965 but screened by CNDand also Joan Littlewood’s theatre show Oh What A Lovely War, which was  based on songs the soldiers made up  themselves to tunes of the day and  sang during the war Some scenes in “The War Games” were actually shot on the set near Brighton where the film of Oh What A Lovely War had recently been made.

The serial attracted the lowest audience of Patrick Troughton’s last season in the role, just 4.9 million. In the years since, however, it has attracted greater appreciation. It’s my personal favourite of Mac’s serials for Doctor Who.

When asked by Gordon Blows in an interview in 1975 whether “The War  Games”  could be made into a film, Mac replied that it would make a terrific film “but would be very expensive to produce. In television  audiences will accept  it if  someone rushes in and tells the Doctor that they’re surrounded by ten thousand Romans soldiers/monsters/ Daleks…Only one or two need to be seen. But in the cinema  adiences expect to see everything and that rockets up the costs.” (Gordon Blows, “The Malcolm Hulke Interview”, Tardis, 2, 1975)

Mac spoke about the serial in the only recorded interview I have been able to locate, made by Gary Hopkins: “You know when  you work in collaboration  it’s  a good idea  to forget immediately whose idea is which, so who got the basic idea and the development  I would’t like to comment  on.”

He said that they were given  an important  instruction:

To find way of changing  Patrick Troughton’s appearance but to leave it open… Patrick had said he didn’t want  to go on being  Doctor Who, he’d  done it for three or four years, he wished to leave. No one had been selected, so they wanted an open-ended serial.  We then came up with the idea of Time Lords, this was a  very  complicated way of doing things, I suppose  really, but it gave us a good few scenes about the Doctor’s trial  and how he gets sent into exile. 

That was another thing, they wanted him to look different in the next series, because they hadn’t got Patrick Troughton any  more, and they  had also  found that serials that took place on Earth tended to get higher ratings so they wanted him exiled to Earth for some reason or other, then they just left  left it to us to work it all that out. I think we did quite an interesting job. It was to have been  a six parter but after we started, a four parter by somebody else fell through… We were  told after we had scripted three or four episodes, “Can you make it go to ten?” It was the sort of story you could stretch. I believe it did begin to lose ratings  towards the end.  Now the War Lords idea must have come early.  I wonder if we got the Time Lords idea at the same time?  Certainly  we wouldn’t  have started scripting until we got those things sorted out.

Writing for television you’ve got to think all the time economically about sets and cast..

(Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013)

 

Sicher ist Sicher (Better Safe Than  Sorry) : 4th October 1964.

This crime comedy  by Eric and Mac was broadcast  on German television by ADR/WDR.  It was  directed by Kurt Wilhelm and starred Marlene Rahn, Charles Regnier and Wolo Luond. According to Die Krime  website  (devoted to German crime series)   the plot involved a firm called GSD Investment run by the Commander,  assisted by Big Taff and Wiesel,  which  seems respectable but is actually a criminal organisation. They want to carry out a diamond robbery,  but first they must free the top safecracker from prison…

Die Krime  also says  it was based on “The Safecrackers” by Eric and Mac and appears to have been an original script.  It was repeated on  10th June 1965 on  ARD, on  10th September 1966 on WDR 3, on  25th August 1968 on WDR 3 and on 17th  February 1969 on WDR. http://krimiserien.heimat.eu/fernsehspiele/1964-sicheristsicher.htm

 

Gideon’s Way:  1965.

Gideon’s Way was based on a series of books by John Creasey and  was made by ITC in 1964 and 1965.   The very popular actor John Gregson played Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard as a solid dependable family man while Alexander Davion played  his  second-in-command, DCI David Keen.  The directors make good use of London’s locations. Twenty six episodes were broadcast.

Mac wrote one episode “Fall High Fall Hard”  which was broadcast on 16th January 1965. It was directed by Leslie Norman.  This is the  review posted on Archive TV Musings  website:

Tony Erickson (Donald Houston) and Charles Randle (Victor Maddern) are co-owners of a building company who are facing a potentially damaging court case.  Randle has fought his way up from nothing and has no qualms about using every underhand trick in the book to achieve his ends.  His street-fighting ways are confirmed by Thompson (Gordon Gostelow), one of Randle’s more unsavoury contacts.  “You’re very thin-skinned these days, Charlie boy. A proper little social climber. Underneath that fancy suit you’re still an East End slum kid, like me.”

On Randle’s instructions, Thompson bribes Smith (Michael Robbins) to perjure himself on oath and thanks to his testimony the case is decided in Erickson/Randle’s favour.  When Erickson learns of Randle’s corrupt practices he’s appalled, but what can he do?

Donald Houston was never the most subtle of actors and this is demonstrated very clearly in Fall High, Fall Hard.  When he learns that Smith (and others) have been paid off, he reacts like a bull in a china shop.  He rushes into Randle’s office and proceeds to give him a good battering and then storms out to get very drunk.  His drunk acting is hardly a model of restraint either – although the moment when he returns to his palatial home and crashes into his teenage son’s birthday party (to the boy’s disgust and his friends’ amusement) is a memorable one.

Whilst Houston’s unrestrained hysterics are a little distracting there’s plenty of compensation elsewhere.  Victor Maddern is, thankfully, much calmer as Randle – he’s someone who views corruption as nothing more than normal business practice.  Gordon Gostelow (along with a young Mike Pratt as Jenson) are a menacing double-act who successfully bribe Smith with both money and threats (water from a boiling kettle is poured over his hand to reinforce the point that he’d be well advised to take the money and keep quiet).  And Michael Robbins, as Smith, is perfectly cast as a little man easily manipulated.

Making his second appearance as Det. Sgt. Carmichael is Donald Houston’s younger brother Glyn.  Unlike Donald, Glyn never felt the need to soar way over the top and gives a characterically subtle performance.

Donald Houston’s overplaying does detract from the effectiveness of the story a little, but it’s still a decent tale of corruption and murder.

 Archive TV  Musings

 

Danger Man: 1965

Danger Man starred Patrick MacGoohan as John Drake, an agent working for a government security agency, M9.  It was created by Ralph Smart at   ITC and broadcast between 1960 and 1962,  and again between 1964 and 1968. The series was very popular,  making  MacGoohan a household name, reportedly the highest paid actor in the country at this time.  He refused to carry a   gun in the series, preferring  his character to rely upon his wits,  and a succession of  technical devices,  and also stipulated that  there  should be be no romantic involvement with his lead actresses.

Mac  wrote one episode, “Parallel Lines Sometimes Meet,”  broadcast on 16th March 1965 and  directed by Don Chaffey. The cast included Moira Redmond, Earl Cameron and Errol John.

The working title was ‘Let’s Make One too”. When a couple of atomic researchers go missing it is assumed they have defected and Drake is sent to investigate. Drake discovers that  the Haitian millionaire Desilles is ingeniously using his fleet of ships to kidnap atomic scientists from around the world, regardless of their political affiliation, and  is planning to make a nuclear weapon.

Although supposedly  set on Haiti, it was actually  filmed at  MGM Borehamwood studios in  February 1965. The cast included a  number of  black actors, unusual in a television series at this time.

You can watch this episode here.

 

The Flying Swan: 1965.

Julia and Margaret Lockwood

The Flying Swan  was a BBC  series –  set in a riverside hotel  – which ran for 24 episodes in 1965. It starred Margaret Lockwood, a  British filmstar in the 1940s and 1950s, who was now doing more television work.

The cast also included her daughter, Julia Lockwood, playing her  air-hostess   daughter who helps out between flights. It was made in Gosta Green studios in the Midlands, although the opening  exterior shots of the hotel were of  “The Compleat Angler”  on the banks  of the Thames  in Marlow.

It was a somewhat delayed sequel to a  10-part BBC series The Royalty, about events at an exclusive London hotel, in which Lockwood  played Mollie Miller,  and was broadcast  from 1957 to 1958.

Bill Boorne in the Liverpool  Echo praised the series:

Ever since Margaret Lockwood began the “Flying Swan” E.B.C. T V series in March I have admired the sheer professionalism  she brings to her part of Mollie Manning, owner of the hotel. The stories vary in quality. but whatever situation she is given. Margaret’s  experience comes over even more clearly on television than it does on film or stage. “It’s jolly hard work. I had never quite realised what a slog these weekly stories are.” she told me. “l have never done weekly repertory acting in my life and I don’t mind admitting that the first two or three weeks of this series was absolute hell.  When I’m doing a play I usually turn up at the first rehearsal practically word-perfect. But then I’ve had the script for some weeks.  With Flying Swan we get the next week’s script on the Saturday, begin rehearsing Monday,. move to Birmingham on Wednesday where it is  staged and the whole thing’s in the can by Friday.  Saturday another script and off we go again. Somehow you get into the rhythm of It. but when I was away for a couple of  weeks  holiday recently I found the winding-up part again pretty fearsome. Julia’s on holiday at the moment and I expect she’ll find the same trouble when she gets back. So you don’t have to ask me what I’m going to do when the 26 weeks of  the series are up in September…yes, that’s right, laze and laze. In the sun for preference.”   Liverpool Echo, 31st July 1965.

Mac wrote just  one episode “Quarantine,”  broadcast on 3rd July 1965 and directed by Michael Imison. Most of the series was wiped.

 

Sigurno je sigurno (It Sure Is Safe): 28th August 1965.

This was broadcast  by RTC Belgrade and directed by Sava Mrmak. The cast included Oliver Kantina,  Zoran Longinovic and Milan Panic.  The play was another  version of Sicher Ist Sicher.

 

United!  1966-1967

United! was a BBC drama  series, created by Anthony Cornish,  which  followed the ups and downs of  Brentwich  United, a second  division  football club in the Midlands. The football scenes  were filmed at Stoke City’s ground, while   the former player and  BBc sports presenter Jimmy Hill was an adviser to the series.  It was  not a success and was cancelled after two seasons. The cast included David Lodge, Bryan Marshall and Stephen Yardley.

Mac wrote 10 episodes in total , eight in 1966 and two  in 1967. None of the episodes  have  survived.

 

Woobinda: 1968

The human cast of Woobinda

In  the spring of 1968 Mac spent three and a half months in   Australia,  creating   and script  editing  a series called Woobinda, about a vet in the outback, made by NLT productions.

“Woobinda” is an Aboriginal word meaning “healer of animals”. An earlier Australian series about a kangaroo, Skippy,  had enjoyed worldwide success and it was hoped to emulate this. The producer on the series was Roger Mirams.   In the end 39 episodes  were made,  filmed in colour.  Don Pascoe played  the vet, John Stevens, while  Sonia Hofmann played his daughter, Tiggie, and Bindi Williams  played his adopted son, Kevin, an aborigine.   As well as the human cast there were,  of course,   numerous animals;  not just dogs, cats, sheep and cattle, but also kangaroos, emus and a platypus.

Mac also  wrote two  episodes: “Where Dead Men Lie” (co-written with Suzanne Baker)  in which Kevin, Tiggie and  Peter are stranded in the desert after their plane is  stolen; and  “Silent Witness” in which a man claims to be haunted by  a dog.

Whilst in Australia Mac sent back a report on their television  which was printed in Allan Prior’s column in the Stage;

 The days of pauperdom for Australian television writers are over. Last year’s new ruling requiring all stations to show at least 30 minutes per week of Australian drama forced an airing for local talent. And surprise, surprise, the audiences liked it! Thus Australian television’s money-men discovered that their biggest potential rating-puller was something previously ignored: Australia. The canned shows from Britain and America still take most of the screen time. But it’s McGooley (situation comedy). Mavis Bramston (satire) and Homicide (Z Cars a la Melbourne) that people go home to watch .

In Britain it is accepted that filmed series are only possible if they get a North American sale. Here, even live television is stretching the purse strings. Yet almost every major city now has four television channels. The Australian Broadcasting Commission runs a national network of television and radio, and gets from the Government a proportion of the licence fees. The commercial networks have no restraint on the number of “messages” which can interrupt every programme. How quaint that the news showing ‘Digger’ soldiers battling the Communists in Vietnam can be interrupted twice in ten minutes to urge viewers to go to  Sydney’s Wentworth Park to see the Moscow State Circus now on tour here.

There’s always been a fifty per cent quota on foreign-bought shows, but the home grown half can include the News, weather, sport, knitting-lessons,  toddlers story-time and so on. Or, if the station owner is powerful enough, the quota can just be ignored. What controlling authority or politician dare fall foul of the Press in a country where every boot-black believes in free enterprise?

Owing to a total lack of communication between Sydney’s four transmitters, on Sundays at 8.30 p.m. you’ll probably find a  20-year-old movie showing on every click-point of your dial. In this respect at least, the English viewer would feel very much at home. In 1967, ABC produced 13 half-hour plays (Australian Play house), plus 12 one-hour plays (but many of these were from British scripts). Thus far into 1968, the record has not been so good. It is widely rumoured that ABC has run out of cash for the time being. Even so, with four television film drama series in production or preparation (mainly independent television-film companies), six live series in production and three in preparation, it is suddenly a bonanza for the Australian script-writer. It’s the script-editors and producers who’ve got problems now –  how to get the scripts in!

With all this explosion of production, will anything exciting come out of it? The whole shoot looks very much to me like imitations of  Britain and America, and of varying quality. But that is Australia. You’re either frightfully, frightfully English, and claim your forefathers arrived with the first fleet (in chains or otherwise), or you come from Irish slock and you are now alarmingly Americanised. Which must be frantically confusing for every Italian, Yugoslav, or Greek migrant, who only wants to know how to become a dinkum Aussie. It would be good to think that our medium of television might one day solve the riddle, and break through with just what Australia really is and means. The sheer size baffles. Sydney to Perth, for example, is over 2.000 miles! If ever a country needed a cohesive soul, it’s this one. Perhaps television could be its Joan of Arc!”  (The Stage, 18 April 1968)

Once safely back home in Britain,  Mac contributed some  more  unvarnished  opinions  on the state of Australian  television  in an   article in  The Stage in May 1969:

I was  in Australia three and a half months without seeing one Australian television play. Yet I saw so many hundreds of commercials that I almost gave up watching television.

In the three and a half months in Sydney, spent very much in television circles, I rarely heard anybody talk about quality. People talked about making money but quality was unmentioned. I saw Australian television celebrities interviewed  – none celebrities of drama; only of  quiz show and spectaculars –  and all they talked about was how much loot they were making. Perhaps the English way of not talking about money is a manifestation of our world-renowned hypocrisy, but the truth is that we start off thinking in terms of quality: and then, quite possibly, we do make money. The Forsyte Saga, currently showing in Australia, is not a bad example. I really cannot imagine that the BBC executive-producer at the first planning meeting opened by saying “Look, sports, we’re going to make a few quick bucks by doing this Forsyte Saga thing.”  I am sure they sat down and talked very seriously about doing some good television. The result was first-class television that is selling all over the world. Australia could be doing just the same thing.

Unfortunately Australia tends to be a dumping ground for used goods from Britain and the United States. It is argued that there is insufficient native talent to produce locally. I question that. I worked with Australian writers, and know their calibre. Just  recently the Australian Writers Guild held its Awards Dinner, and one of the winners was a New South Wales writer. Gregory Martin, who won an award for his  play  Silo Fifteen which has not been seen in Australia and probably never will be. He had to sell it abroad, in Europe. Why?

One of Australia’s major problems is that television there has grown too fast. In the United Kingdom we started the world’s first regular television service  back in 1936. With the interruption of war years, it has been continuing ever since. Yet today, with a population nearing sixty millions, we have only three channels. So we have built up gradually. In Sydney, where television is on a far more local basis than Britain’s, there are four channels for two and a half million people. This is mad, uncontrolled expansion to the point where the latest Australian commercial station can only just make ends meet. 

Australia is not only a dumping ground for foreign shows,  it is also a dumping ground for foreign people, those who dump themselves on Australia in show business. There is this peculiarity of the Australian character which firmly believes that everything and everybody from overseas must be bonza. This attitude means that some people who have not made the grade in Britain or the States can come to Australia and talk big and they will get big jobs. True, there are many talented people from overseas working in Australian showbusiness. But there are phonies, too. When any migrant American producer talked about his work on the Warner lot, I asked him what the Hollywood zip-code was. Half of them had never been near the place. And some of these fakes are top-rated in Australian television.

There is another basic problem:  the lack of strong trade unions. Trade unionism can be restrictive, but it can also ensure that the only people who can be employed are craftsmen. I was helping a technician to peg down a tent on location in that dust-bowl wilderness west of Broken Hill, and as a joke I said: “In Britain, if I  helped you set this prop, you’d go on strike.” He turned to me and said: “Mate, that’s why you’ve got an industry and we haven’t.” I have thought about that, and I think there is a lot of truth in what he meant.

There is so much power in so few hands in Australia. I have heard of one well-known actor who has been totally black-listed from television in Australia because he asked for a rise. A critic Veritas, was banned from one Channel’s previews. Why? Presumably because as a critic he had criticised something. I have had it put to me by a television tycoon in Sydney that “Agreements here mean nothing.” He added: “We can crush anyone we like writers or actors because we’ve got the power.”

There is an old saying that a people gets the government it deserves. That can apply to television. Put another way, if Australians don’t like the way television is, they should do some thing about it. They should get the Government to force the television buccaneers to spend some of their dollars on training and on promoting Australian production, . particularly in drama. They should get the Government to grant to its own Australian Broadcasting Commission at least enough money to put on some Australian plays. They should get the government to change its quota system which allows 50 per cent of foreign shows, and allows the 50 per cent of home-grown shows to consist of knitting lessons, commercials and weather forecasts. I had never been to the United States but I never realised until I saw them in Australia how appallingly bad are some American television shows. In Britain, with a 14 per cent quota, we get the cream of the American product. Australians must surely be taking everything dumped on them.  (The Stage  29th May 1969)

Woobinda was screened  in Britain by some ITV companies in 1969 and  1970

More information about the series is available here.

 

Gestern Gelesen (Read Yesterday)

After returning from Australia  Mac spent some time later in 1968 in Cologne  writing for the German television crime series Gestern Gelesen (Read Yesterday) which  ran for four seasons between 1969 and 1975.  It was produced by Profil-Film for Westdeutches  Werfernsehen  GmbH.

Eric Schumann

Erik Schumann played the role of lawyer Dr. Fuhrmann who represents his clients in even the most hopeless cases: theft, insurance fraud,  embezzlement,  burglary and even murder. Fuhrmann receives support from a succession of  trainee lawyers:  Gisela Lohberg  (Vera Jesse)  in seasons 1 & 2,  Eva Petersen (Eva Kinsky) ( in season 3 (1st half) and   Agape von Allenstein (Monika Gabril)  in season 3 (2nd half).

In  Die Krimeserien website it says the following (Translation):

Director Jürgen Goslar told Hörzu at the time (41/1970, p. 62): “Basically we show a ‘true’ thriller with every episode. And when I was talking to the program director of WWF, Dr. Andreas, we agreed that there should be cases so common that they could happen at any time. Cases about which you might have only read in the newspaper yesterday.” This was the reason for the title of the new series: “Read Yesterday”. At the start of the season on October 27, 1970 in the WDR regional program, the editor in charge said Lisa Scheu, herself a lawyer: “These are criminal cases that actually happened in this way. Only the name and location of the action were changed in each case. We want to demonstrate that an exciting story can be told without resorting to murder and brutality. In addition, we want to give viewers an insight into German criminal justice. We show how truth trials can and should go in court.”  Die Krimiserien website

Mac included  the script  of an  episode he had  written, : “Eine Rechnung Zuwiel” ( One Bill Too Many),  in his book Writing for Television. The plot  is as follows

Franz Schläger and Jospeh Lemmer are jointly accused of a confidence trick. Their “business” has been to check the obituary columns daily, then  send to the recently dead invoices for the repair of  non-existent umbrellas. They never charged more than a few Marks. The bereaved executors  usually paid up without question. The story opens with Schläger being talked into joining the racket by Lemmer. Then we realise that this  is only Schläger’s story, because now we see how Schläger  talked Lemmer into becmining a criminal. Dr. Fuhrmann, who defends Schläger, must prove that  of the two villains his client is the least guilty. He does so finally  by proving that Lenmmer was busily sending out phony umbrella repair invoices years  ago when his client, Schläger, was safely behind bars in a Bolivian jail for a different confidence trick.  (Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), p. 211)

In his comment  on this episode Mac explained   that the  production team  wanted to try having an  occasional comedy episode:

…but apparently there aren’t many  comedy writers in Germany. So I was invited – not because I’m known as a comedy writer, but because they think all Englishmen  are born wits. It meant  finding a German lawyer in London to explain to me West German courtroom procedure. Ours is accusatorial, theirs is inquisitorial. This means the Judges do most of the talking, great importance is attached to the Accused’s character, and the Accused can take all the time in the world to make his “excuses”. As to the story, I had read of this umbrella trick actually being done…A peculiarity  of the Continental inquisitorial legal system is the establishment  of the degree of guilt. This suggested that two villains should be jointly accused, one defended by the series star, Dr. Fuhrmann, the other by another attorney. This would provide not only pre-arrrest  mileage, but also good Courtroom conflict. I write in English, and they translated. However, the awareness that  it was all to be trnslated into another language had a peculiarly stitifying effect on the flow of my English  dialogue, from which I couldn’t break myself during the writing. The general comic-dramatic style I adopted, and which  they liked very much, wasn’t difficult. I had worked with and for Germans before, and have close friends  there, so I  had some idea of what makes them laugh.   (Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), p. 220 )

Letters to The Stage

From time to time Mac wrote letters to The Stage.

In April 1964  he responded to a comment  in the press  by Allan Prior as follows

The plain fact” says Allan Prior “is that no-one can write with hangover” (see Television Today, 16 April).

Many thanks,  Allan. I have sent a copy of the entire article post haste to my car insurers who remain  the most steadfast believers in the envious dream that everyone in television spends their lives groping through swirling mists of marijuana smoke from one drunken orgy to the next, occasionally pausing  –  as the delirium tremens  catch up with them – to fall flat on their faces outside police stations and emergency  wards  which they believe in their stupor to be television  studios. The Divorce Court, the whisky bottle, the drunk-in-charge, as seen by the beedy eyes of insurance men who put up thier premiums accordingly, and profitable. 

But what an unfair picture. Certainly we writers in NW3 haven’t had a really good orgy since the last Saturnalia on Hampstead Heath and even then it rained (great fare for the raincoat specialists but rotten for the boys in drag). As to affordable  post-Budget whisky, most of us are forced back onto the meths bottle again – or, in such emergencies as dawning sobriety, high octane petrol direct from the twin carburetters of our Aston-Martins. 

yours faithfully, Malcolm  Hulke

 

In June  1964   the actress June Monkhouse  was quoted  in The Stage as complaining, “There just aren’t any good parts for women in British films. If you’re teen and twenty you just may get into a comedy picture playing sexy blondes for laughs. Hardly me. I’m off to France. They know how to write for women there.   (The Stage, 25th June 1964).  (It seems that the quote was actually from Television Today)

Mac  responded:

What a peculiar parting shot from June Monkhouse….Does Miss Monkhouse imagine that it is the writers who decide that all women who appear in British films should be “sexy blondres for laughs”. It is the producers and distributors who decide what sort of films should be made if any. And to be fair to them, it is the public who express their need for sexual blonde laughter by way of the box office. (The Stage, 2nd July 1964.)

June riposted  a few week later, setting things straight (and with her tongue firmly in her cheek).    “I have just returned from a holiday in France and was slightly dismayed when my agent confronted me with a copy of Television Today…I have also read the correspondence   on July 2 and July 9 in your  columns. I am  delighted and grateful indeed for the interest the press takes in my career from time,  but I  would like the opportunity to correct the impression your paragraph  has given, as several members of the profession (and who knows, possibly directors) seem to think I am now pursuing a career in French films!  I  am an ardent Francoophile, have worked in France and would like to do so again, but at the moment I  am firmly rooted in London and working here! Like most actresses in England I bemoan the dearth of  good women parts in British films and television, and especially  for women of my age group, and I  still believe that  Fraech and Italian films provide much more scope. However, since my sojourn in the beautiful Mediterranean sun my agent tells me I now look so bronzed and  lovely (??) that he might well suggest me for the “sexy blonde” roles to which  I referred. 

 

Mac’s  Work in the 1970s

 

Doctor Who : 1970-1974

Doctor Who was reborn in 1970,  and re-established itself as a Saturday teatime must-see for a new  generation of young people. This was brought about by a number of  factors.

Firstly,   the producer Derek Sherwin opted for a new story line, anchoring the Doctor on Earth as a scientific advisor to UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), a quasi-military outfit first encountered by the Second Doctor in “The Invasion”. UNIT was led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), (who first appeared as a regular army officer in “The Web of Fear”)  assisted by Sergeant Benton (John Levene) and Captain  Yates  (Richard Franklin). Together the Doctor, his companion of the moment,  and UNIT see off  the numerous alien threats to the earth –  or more accurately  to the South of England, seemingly the invasion point of  first choice.

Secondly, the inspired choice of Jon Pertwee as Troughton’s replacement, a surprise to many as he was principally thought of as a light comedian in  radio series such as The Navy Lark.  Interviewed in 1994, he said “I wanted to play him straight, to be a figure that the children believed in, who have enough faith in the Doctor to say the Doctor will do it, he will look after us and we’ll be all right under his wings.“

Thirdly, the new series was driven forward by script editor Terrance Dicks, and the new producer Barry Letts, who formed a close creative working relationship which was instrumental in popularising Doctor Who to a fresh audience over the next four years.

Finally,  the series was  now being filmed in colour which allowed a whole new look, although it was not without problems when the screen showed less than convincing monsters or sets. Of course,  many  viewers were  still watching  on black and white sets as colour televisions were much more  expensive. In March 1969, there were only 100,000 colour TV sets in use, though by the end of the year this had doubled to 200,000. Colour televisions  did not outnumber black-and-white sets until 1976.

Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks

Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks

Mac contributed six serials in this era, serials which often had a political dimension. Terrance Dicks said :”What we never did was commission a Doctor Who with a political message but nonetheless if you look at it there is a streak of anti-authoritarianism in all Mac’s work: he doesn’t trust the establishment.” (Interview,  “On Target”. special feature  on “The War Games” DVD (2008)

Barry Letts concurred : “You could be pretty certain that anything that he wrote would have an underlying political message which we didn’t mind because we liked stories to have a reason.” “ (Interview, “On Target”. special feature  on “The War Games” DVD (2008) )

Mac himself told an interviewer: “Remember what politics refers to. It refers to relationships between groups of people. It doesnt necassarily mean left or right., Conservative or Labour, it refers to relationships betwen groups of people. So really, all Doctor Whos are political, even though  the other people look like reptiles, they’re still a group of people if they’re thinking creatures “

(Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013)

 

“Doctor Who and The Silurians”:  January-March 1970

the SiluriansTerrance Dicks’  recollection of the origins of this serial is that “we were looking  for a story about a civilisation that rose and fell before Man . So I had an idea  – no more than that – and asked Mac what he thought  might have happened. And he said, “Well, suppose they went  into hibernation?” “Why? “Well,” said Mac …and  we kicked it around  between us, discussing the reptile men, their hibernation, what wakes them up,  and the whole thing unfolds.  Then Mac was commissioned to go away and write a storyline, then the scripts and  so on.”  (Richard Marson, “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,”  Doctor Who magazine, 91, August 1984)

Mac recalled:  “I was  asked to do something in caves. In science fiction there are only two stories: they came to us or we go to them. I thought,  what about, they come  to us, but they’ve always been here. I said, reptilian men…”Home Reptilia” they were called by the Doctor.  In the days of the Brigadier and the Master, you were told, we want the Brigadier in this  or the Master. 

(Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013).

In the opening scene we see two men  attacked by some kind of large reptile.  Shortly after UNIT is called in to investigate why an underground atomic research centre – seeking to provide cheap, unlimited power – is suffering problems with their energy supply and experiencing mysterious attacks on staff.  One man who has survived an attack now  spends his  time drawing on walls like a caveman.

The Doctor  and his  companion Dr  Liz Shaw (Caroline John) discover that in the caves below the centre  they have accidentally awakened an ancient race, the Silurians, highly intelligent reptiles who ruled the earth millions of years before the evolution of the human race. They  had gone into underground hibernation when they believed an approaching  asteroid would destroy all life on the surface – and never awoke. Despite the best efforts of the Doctor to broker a peace, suspicions on both sides prove insurmountable. The Silurians want their planet back, the humans are fearful of this alien invasion from below.

Mac   explores a number of themes in this serial, including the threat posed by unfettered scientific research, the  relationships between races,  and the military mind-set which believes that violence can solve all problems The Doctor berates the Brigadier; “That’s typical of the military mind, isn’t it? Present them with a new problem, and they start shooting at it.”

The Brigadier, the Doctor and Liz Shaw

The Doctor makes several attempts to persuade UNIT that they should not attack the Silurians, arguing that “they may not be hostile”. When Doctor first encounters a Silurian, he tries to communicate with it, asking: “what do you people want, how can we help you, unless you tell me what you want the humans will destroy you.”  Mac shows divisions within the Silurians, the elders are prepared  to consider sharing the planet; the younger ones want to wipe out the humans with a plague.

In the end his efforts end in failure when the Brigadier orders the destruction of the Silurians’ base. The Doctor is outraged  : “…that’s murder. They were intelligent alien beings. A whole race of them. And he’s just wiped them out”.

Mac gives  Liz Shaw some sharp lines. When she is stopped from going into the caves with UNIT she enquires sarcastically: ” Have you never heard of female emancipation?” When the Brigadier asks her to look after the phones, she snaps back,  “I am a scientist, not an office boy.” In 1970 the Women’s  Liberation movement  was  just beginning to make its voice heard.

Writing in Doctor Who magazine  in 1984 Richard Marson wrote that “The  Silurians” was “very much the testing ground for the new Doctor Who. Whereas “Spearhead from Space”  had been an adventure of exceptional pace, with new Doctor, companion, setting, format, and monster all introduced in one  four-part story, “The Silurians” allowed time for a closer examination of the new face of Doctor Who and its length allowed an exceptional depth of characterisation and more scope for UNIT to work as a concept. “Doctor Who and the Silurians” was a successful, popular seven-parter, which  combined all its elements into a well-made and well received show…” Richard Marson, “The Making of the Silurians,” Doctor Who magazine, 91, August 1984)

Marjorie Bilbow praised this serial in The Stage under the heading “A Fine Display of Craftmanship”:

This could have been a bore. It wasn’t. Personality clashes were hinted at in tightly written dialogue leavened with humour arising out of Dr Who’s penchant for pricking the bubble of official pomposity with the direct question that served the double purpose of clarifying detail for the lay viewer. With an elaborate multiple set, adequately dressed with extras busying themselves with highly complicated machinery to provide a background of convincing activity, Dr Who and the Silurians promises to put many a million-dollar filmed fantasy to shame. It was not an enviable task for Jon Pertwee to take over the title role. Already he has created a brand new Superbrain with all the eccentric charm of his predecessors but with a humour and forcefulness all his own. The decision to turn the series into lightweight entertainment for adults instead of children has freed Caroline John from the need to act the well- meaning but irresponsible teenager and she makes Liz Shaw a worthy as well as an attractive assistant to the Doctor. Nicholas Courtney suggests hidden depths to the otherwise routine military figure of Brigadier Stewart by investing his dialogue with the sardonic humour of a man of action manifestly unawed by the wrangling boffins… And you know what? I bet that now Dr Who is being written especially for adults the kids will be flocking back in their thousands. A joke that will no doubt be savoured to the full by writer Malcolm Hulke, director Timothy Combe, Script editor Terrance Dicks, and producer Barry Letts.  (The Stage, 5th February 1970)

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

“The Ambassadors of Death”:  March– May 1970
This was originally written for Patrick Troughton by David Whitaker and then had to be rewritten for Jon Pertwee.

Terrance Dicks recalls that he”inherited this nightmare  called “Ambassadors of Death” which was a good idea from David Whitaker, who was an excellent writer, but he’d been mucked about so much he sort of lost heart and direction. ..I decided I coudn’t put him through  any more rewrites because it just wasn’t going to work and so I went to Barry  and said they must pay David off, in full , for his six episodes – although he’d  probably written about thirty-six by then – and then we took the basic idea and turned it over to Mac. He came to it fresh and went on from there, and stretched it out by an episode for economy reasons.”  (Richard Marson, “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,”  Doctor Who magazine, 91, August 1984)

The serial  harks back to the first Quatermass serial of 1953 with its storyline of  astronauts from a British space expedition to Mars who vanish before landing  back on Earth.  Instead three alien ambassadors land in their stead who are kidnapped by a cabal of politicians and military men, who then  force them to carry out a series of robberies using their extreme radioactivity to break into safes,  etc.  Carrington, the leader of the  conspracy,  is convinced that the aliens are a  threat to the world.

The Doctor,UNIT  and Liz Shaw defeat Carrington as he is about to broadcast to the world,  rescue   the aliens and avert  a war. Despite his unfounded paranoia, Mac allows  us some sympathy for Carrington at the end  as he is led away.

CARRINGTON: They’re here! We’re being invaded!
(Carrington shoots at the aliens.)
CARRINGTON: Security patrol!
(Carrington runs out of bullets. The Brigadier enters, followed by the Doctor and Benton. Other armed UNIT soldiers appear.)
BRIGADIER: It’s no good, General. I’ve released my men. This place is in my hands.
CARRINGTON: I must make this broadcast. It’s a matter of world survival.
BRIGADIER: I’m sorry, General. I must place you under arrest.
CARRINGTON: Arrest?
(Carrington hands his empty gun to Benton, and gives the Brigadier his revolver back.)
BRIGADIER: The Sergeant will look after you.
(Carrington stops in front of the Doctor.)
CARRINGTON: I had to do what I did. It was my moral duty. You do understand, don’t you?
DOCTOR: Yes, General. I understand.
(The Doctor walks over to the communications room door.)
DOCTOR: Please release that gentleman.
(The opaque screens around the alien lift and the figure with it unties it from the chair.)
DOCTOR: Right, Mister Cornish, we’ve got to get a message up to that alien space ship and tell them that their ambassadors are safe and well.
CORNISH: Doctor, where are my three astronauts?
DOCTOR: My dear chap, they’re still up there. But don’t worry, they’re all right. They’re quite safe. Now, we’ve got to make an exchange.
CORNISH: Exchange?
(The three aliens now stand together.)
DOCTOR: We’ll send these three up in Recovery 7. They’ll send down our three astronauts.
CORNISH: But what about the fuel problem?
DOCTOR: Well, simple. We’ll use pure M3 variant. And don’t forget, they’re not susceptible to g-force.
CORNISH: This is Control. Get me the fuel bay.
DOCTOR: Well goodbye, Mister Cornish. I’ve got a lot of work to do in my own laboratory.
CORNISH: Doctor, I’ll need your help to communicate with the ambassadors.
DOCTOR: Well, here you are. Here’s Miss Shaw. She’s much more practical than I am. Goodbye Brigadier.
BRIGADIER: Thank you, Doctor.
LIZ: Goodbye, Doctor.
DOCTOR: (to aliens) Goodbye, gentlemen. Have a nice trip.

The theme  of an establishment conspiracy occurs in a number of Mac’s  serials. Another theme in this serial   is paranioa about aliens, fear of the Other, a highly relevant storyline in a Britain  which was still coming to terms with the growth of new communities from Asia, the West Indies, Ireland etc.  The anti-immigrant racist organisation –  the National Front  – steadily grew in size and support  throughout the decade until confronted by the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism in the late 1970s.

It’s probably my least favourite of Mac’s work on Doctor Who.  I don’t think it  ever quite overcomes the problems of the storyline (why does the alien mother ship simply  not swoop down to rescue its ambassadors, for instance),  although it is enlivened by some set piece action sequences with the stunt company Havoc,  the Doctor’s journey into space,  and the chase sequence with Liz Shaw, which ends with her running across Marlow Weir, a place I know well as I went to school  in the town.

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

“Colony in Space”:  April-May 1971
Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks inherited from Derrick Sherwin the premise that the Doctor had been  exiled on  Earth  by the Time Lords  at the end of “The War Games”  and could not leave in the Tardis, despite his endless futile  tinkering around in various serials with the dematerialisation circuit.

The Doctor, Jo Grant and the Master

Increasingly they saw this as a restriction, they wanted to get the Doctor off the planet  and having adventures around the universe  as he used to do.  “Colony in Space” is one of the stepping stones to achieving   this.

In this second Jon Pertwee  season The Doctor has been given a worthy opponent, a fellow Time Lord  known as The Master (Roger Delgado), playing  Moriarty to his Holmes.

In this story The Master steals information from the Time Lords  about a Doomsday weapon which could destroy the universe. The Time Lords therefore  pluck the Doctor out of exile on Earth and send him into space  with his  new companion, Jo Grant (Katy Manning). It’s her first trip in the Tardis.

They  land  on the planet Uxarieus in 2472, where a group of colonists (who with their long hair and clothes resemble a Californian commune) are building a new society. There is also a native race, the Primitives, who are telepathic and never speak. A mining company named  IMC (the Interplanetary Mining Company), lands an expedition and plots to expel the colonists and extract the mineral wealth, using a robot to make attacks on the colonists and blame it on giant reptiles. The Master also arrives in the guise of the Adjudicator. The Doctor learns from the Guardian of the Primitives that they once had a very advanced civilisation which was destroyed by the radiation from the Doomsday weapon At the end the weapon is destroyed by the Guardian, the Master is defeated,  and the mining company is sent packing.

There is a strong storyline in this serial about the environment and the rapacity of international (or rather interplanetary) mining companies.  The colonists have left Earth because of a population and environmental crisis which is killing the planet.  The Doctor argues with Dent, the leader  of the IMC expedition.

DENT: I’m Captain Dent, in charge of this survey team. A great pleasure to meet you, Mister?
DOCTOR: Not Mister, Doctor. How do you do?
DENT: Well Doctor, it seems a most unfortunate mistake has been made.
DOCTOR: I’m glad you admit it. I take it you’re preparing to leave at once.
DENT: It’s not necessarily out mistake. As things have turned out, this planet doesn’t seem very suitable for colonisation.
DOCTOR: Oh? Why?
DENT: I understand it’s still infested with hostile animal life.
DOCTOR: The hostile animals, if they exist, can be found and destroyed, sir.
DENT: I admire your optimism. Is it shared by the other colonists?
DOCTOR: I’m not a colonist, I’m a visitor.
DENT: I see. Then you’re not really concerned.
DOCTOR: I’m very much concerned.
DENT: The colonists shouldn’t be here. My Corporation has been assigned the mineral rights on this planet. Our preliminary survey indicates a very rich concentration of duralinium. You know how the Earth needs that mineral.
DOCTOR: Earth, or your corporation’s profits?
DENT: What’s good for IMC is good for Earth. There are one hundred thousand million people back on Earth and they desperately need all the minerals we can find.
DOCTOR: What those people need, my dear sir, are new worlds to live in like this one. Worlds where they can live like human beings, not battery hens.
DENT: That’s not my concern. Minerals are needed. It’s my job to find them.
DOCTOR: Even if it means turning this planet into a slagheap?
DENT: I can see we’re on opposite sides, Doctor.

The other theme is the threat of nuclear destruction which in the 1970s seemed very real as the USA and the Soviet Union squared  up to each other, each  armed with colossal nuclear arsenals. In a favourite device of Mac’s, a moral argument, the Doctor and the Master  argue in the cave of the Guardian:

MASTER: You must see reason, Doctor.
DOCTOR: No, I will not join you in your absurd dreams of a galactic conquest.
MASTER: Why? Why? Look at this. Look at all those planetary systems, Doctor. We could rule them all!
DOCTOR: What for? What is the point?
MASTER: The point is that one must rule or serve. That’s a basic law of life. Why do you hesitate, Doctor? Surely it’s not loyalty to the Time Lords, who exiled you on one insignificant planet?
DOCTOR: You’ll never understand, will you? I want to see the universe, not rule it.
MASTER: Then I’m very sorry, Doctor.
(The Master aims his laser gun at the Doctor, and the Guardian’s panel rises.)
MASTER: What’s happening?
DOCTOR: Wait and see.
(The Guardian’s throne comes out of the wall.)
MASTER: What is it?
DOCTOR: The ultimate development of life on this planet.
GUARDIAN: Why have you returned? What do you want here?
MASTER: I want to restore this city and this planet to their former glory.
DOCTOR: Don’t listen to him, sir.
MASTER: You have here a wonderful weapon. Why, with it you could bring good and peace to every world in the galaxy.
DOCTOR: On the contrary. He’ll bring only death and destruction.
MASTER: This planet of yours could be the centre of a mighty empire! The greatest that the cosmos has ever known.
DOCTOR: Tell me, sir, has this weapon of yours ever brought good to your planet?
GUARDIAN: Once the weapon was built, our race began to decay. The radiation from the weapon’s power source poisoned the soil of our planet.
DOCTOR: Exactly. The weapon has only brought death, and yet he wants to spread that death throughout the galaxy! Unless you destroy this weapon, sir, he will use it for evil.
MASTER: No! You must be mad! Why, with this, we could control every galaxy in the cosmos! We could be gods!
GUARDIAN: You are not fit to be a god. I sense that if you have control of this weapon, you will bring only unhappiness and destruction to the entire universe.
MASTER: Then die!
(The Master points his laser gun at the Guardian, and it disappears from his hand.)
GUARDIAN: There is a self-destructor mechanism. You will please operate it.
DOCTOR: Not only does justice prevail on your planet, sir, but also infinite compassion.
(The Doctor goes to the console and touches a device. The Guardian shakes its head. Then he touches a lever and the Guardian nods, so he pulls it. The room shakes violently.)
GUARDIAN: You must leave at once, or you will be destroyed with the city.
(The Master leaves.)
DOCTOR: Thank you, sir

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

The Sea Devils”: February-April 1972.

This serial brought back the Silurians, this time  a group living under the sea.

In this story exploration for oil in the Channel has re-awakened  another group of Silurians in a base under the sea who begin to attack shipping. The Master (who is in prison on the coast)  makes contact with them, offering an alliance to destroy the human race. The Doctor goes down to their undersea base in an attempts to broker a peace,  but this fails when a  bumptious politician, Walker (“Parliamentary Private Secretary”)  orders an attack. In the end the Sea Devils’ base is destroyed.

The storyline echoes the first Silurian story with attempts by the Doctor  to reconcile the two races, but ultimately failing and ending in violence.  A key scene occurs in the Sea Devils’ base when the Doctor  argues for peace against the Master, a typical piece of writing by Mac.

DOCTOR: I beg you not to listen to this man. He’s the personification of evil.
SEA DEVIL: The Master is our friend.
DOCTOR: He wants only to provoke a war.
MASTER: I do not! I came here to help you revive your people.
DOCTOR: Why should you need his help?
SEA DEVIL: Our hibernation unit is faulty.
MASTER: And I can now repair it for you.
DOCTOR: But why revive your people only to have them killed? Let me try and negotiate that peace for you.
MASTER: As you did before, Doctor? The last time this man encountered your race, he tricked them. The humans destroyed them all.
SEA DEVIL: Is that true?
DOCTOR: Yes. I tried to make peace but I failed.
MASTER: You see? He admits it. Man is weak. Your conquest will be easy.
DOCTOR: Believe me, man is not weak. He’s only too proficient at devising weapons of annihilation and using them.
SEA DEVIL: He says man is weak. He says man is strong.
MASTER: He’s lying! He’s trying to frighten you!
SEA DEVIL: No. I do not think he lies. Perhaps it would be better to make peace. I shall have consider what you have said.
MASTER: Don’t trust him!
(The Doctor raises his right hand and the sea devil puts its own hand against it.)

In an  interview Mac said: “”The Sea Devils” was very well produced. It had the submarine  which was very good trick photography…the people who do the trcik effects for Doctor Who do a marvellous  job. They really take it very seriously. “

Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013).

The production team contacted the Royal Navy  who offered them locations in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight and equipment, including a hovercraft.  (Andrew Pixley, “Factfile: The Sea Devils,” Doctor Who Magazine, 192, 28th October 1992)

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

“Frontier in Space”:  February – March 1973

In an interview Mac said of  this serial:

The BBC said to me “We’ve just had a whole load of models of space ships from a Lew Grade show on ITV. We can paint ’em up different colours, can you write a story which will use them?”  It was obvious that with that amount of hardware, there has to be conflict because without conflict you’ve got no drama and this leads your thinking, fairly naturally, to wondering what was ‘Frontier in Space’ all about? A kind of ‘Star Wars’ – you’ve got two sides and who are they? Why are they at war? And the idea came of two great empires with an imaginary frontier drawn across them, across which their spaceships weren’t supposed to travel, but of course they did and that’s what gave us a story.

All these problems have to be solved by drawing on sheer creative imagination and you have to think ‘What makes this story different?’ because with science fiction, as with crime, romance, or any other genre of writing, there are only so many  ideas and all the writer can do is keep shuffling them  like a pack of cards  and keep dealing out in a different way. And in the case of Frontier what made it different was that there was a third party which was manoeuvring the Ogrons to make each side antagonistic towards each other.  That, incidentally, is a very political idea really. The two sides as far I  was concerned were the Soviet Union and America  and  somebody else trying to tickle ’em up and get them at war with each other when they were quite capable  of living in peace.   (Richard Marson, “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,”  Doctor Who magazine, 91, August 1984)

In this story the Doctor and Jo arrive  in the C26th where the Earth and the Draconian Empire are on the verge of war after a series of attacks on their spaceships  which each blame on the other side. It turns that the Master, in alliance with the Daleks, is seeking to provoke a war, and then move in unimpeded to conquer the galaxy.  The dirty work of attacking the spaceships  is carried out by a thuggish race, the Ogrons, who work for the Daleks.  Suspected by both sides the Doctor finally  convinces the humans and Draconians of the real threat and a joint expedition defeats the Master. Sadly this is the last time that Roger Delgado played the Master as he was killed in car crash in Turkey later that year.

As Mac openly  acknowledged  in the interview quoted above, this story is  shaped by the Cold War when the United States and its allies confronted the Soviet Union and its allies. Both sides possessed vast arsenals, including nuclear weapons, and,  on a number of occasions  came very near to war which unquestionably would have ended life on this planet.

It’s a very ambitious serial with scenes set on Earth, the Moon, Draconia and also on a number of spaceships, while the Doctor goes on a spacewalk at one point.

As in  “Colony in Space”  and “The Sea Devils”  Mac writes a scene in which the Doctor  and the Master verbally   joust, this time before the Draconian Emperor:

DOCTOR: May I have permission to address the Emperor?
EMPEROR: Wait!
PRINCE: This is an insult!
(The Doctor bows over the Emperor’s hand.)
DOCTOR: My life at your command, sire.
PRINCE: How dare you address the Emperor in a manner reserved for a noble of Draconia?
DOCTOR: Ah, but I am a noble of Draconia. The honour was conferred on me by the fifteenth Emperor.
PRINCE: The fifteenth Emperor reigned five hundred years ago.
MASTER: Your Majesty, do not be taken in by this ridiculous story.
EMPEROR: Be silent! There is a legend among our people of a man who assisted the fifteenth Emperor at a time of great trouble when we were almost overwhelmed by a great plague from outer space. But you could not be that man. No Earthman lives so long.
DOCTOR: Your Majesty, this man that you speak of, was he not known as the Doctor? And did he not come to this planet in a spaceship called the Tardis?
EMPEROR: He did.
DOCTOR: Well, I am that man, sire. And I come from a race of people that live far longer than any Earthman.
EMPEROR: Even if I accept your claim, you have broken our law. Why did you violate Draconian space?
MASTER: Your Majesty, this man was, and still is, my prisoner.
DOCTOR: It is true, your Majesty. I did come here as a prisoner, but I came willingly, in order to warn you that this man is plotting a war between Earth and Draconia.
PRINCE: All Earthmen are determined upon war.
DOCTOR: Ah, but the Master is not an Earthman. I’m sorry to have to admit it, but he’s a renegade of my own race, and he’s using creatures called Ogrons to attack your spaceships and those of the Earthmen.
EMPEROR: The Earthmen who attacked our spaceships, they have been seen many times.
DOCTOR: I’m sorry, but there you are in error, sir. Your people have seen Ogrons, but they appear to them as Earthmen because of a hypnotic device.
JO: It’s true, your Majesty. When Ogrons attacked the Earth ships, the Earthmen saw them as Draconians.
PRINCE: Silence! Females are not permitted to speak in the presence of the Emperor.
MASTER: Your Majesty, do not be deceived by the pathetic ravings of two criminals trying to evade justice.
EMPEROR: If what you say is true, it would explain much. We lived at peace with the Earthmen for many years, then suddenly they began to raid our spaceships. When we protested, they said that we were attacking them.
PRINCE: In order to cover up their own attacks, This is simply a plot of the Earthmen to lull us into false security.
(A Messenger enters.)
EMPEROR: Speak!
MESSENGER: Your Majesty, a spaceship from Earth seeks permission to land in the palace spaceport. They say they’re on a special mission from the President of Earth.
PRINCE: This is a trick! You must not allow them to land!
EMPEROR: We are not yet at war with Earth. I shall hear what their President has to say. I give my permission.
MESSENGER: Your Majesty.
(The Messenger leaves.)
DOCTOR: A wise decision, your Majesty. For only by Earth and Draconia working together can we hope to arrive at the truth.
MASTER: I too welcome your wisdom, your Majesty. Nobody could be more devoted to the cause of peace than I. As a commissioner of Earth’s Interplanetary Police, I have devoted my life to the cause of law and order. And law and order can only exist in a time of peace.
DOCTOR: You feeling all right, old chap?
MASTER: Only during a period of social stability, can society adequately deal with criminals such as this man and this unfortunate girl.
JO: Doctor, listen! That sound!
PRINCE: Silence, female!
JO: Quiet! It’s the same noise that I heard on the cargo ship. Doctor, it’s the Ogrons!
DOCTOR: Your Majesty, I beg of you to be cautious. Something is seriously wrong here. This ship that has just landed. I beg you, place it under guard immediately.
MASTER: Your majesty, please, I
(Ogrons burst into the throne room, firing as they come.)
DRACONIAN: Earthmen!
MASTER: Seize them, fool!
(The Doctor knocks out an Ogron and the Master joins the other Ogrons.)
MASTER: Bah! You idiots! Back to the ship, all of you!
(The Master and his Ogrons leave.)
PRINCE: Now will you believe in the treachery of the Earthmen?
DOCTOR: Your Majesty, look down here and tell me. What do you see?
(The noise is still audible.)
EMPEROR: I see one of your Earth soldiers who attacked my palace and killed my people.
DOCTOR: Jo? Jo, can you still hear that sound?
JO: Yes, it’s fading. It’s almost gone.
DOCTOR: Your Majesty, I beg of you. Please look again.
PRINCE: Why do we delay? Destroy him!
EMPEROR: Wait! He has spoken the truth.
(The Emperor can see the Ogron.!)

Mac makes the President of the Earth a woman, quite a forward thinking idea at this time. However he also indicates that this is a repressive society as the Doctor encounters members of the Peace Party  imprisoned  in the Lunar Penal Colony where he is sent for a short time.  He gives  a great line to one  the Draconians: “The ways of the Earthmen are devious. They’re an inscrutable species.

In his review of  Mac’s writing for  Doctor Who  Magazine Richard Marson  argues   that this was his greatest script:  “not only on the strength of the story but also because of the detail – his dtermination to create a future structure that whilst strong was also so well defined that you felt you had lived there for years.” (Richard Marson, “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,”  Doctor Who Magazine, 91, August 1984)

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

“Invasion of the Dinosaurs”  January-February 1974

Invasion of the DinosaursMac said of this story:

Now that again  was very political. Because there you ‘ve got these people with a lovely idea of  “A Golden Age”  but sometimes people with very good altruistic ideals  can overlook the  main issue, that’s really what the message behind that one was. What they said to me was that the special effects department had found  if we liked, they could show monsters wandering around contemporary London,   so could I think of  some reason why dinosaurs were in contemporary London? So that was my brief. And I came up with this idea.

(Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013)

In this story the Doctor and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Lis Sladen), land in a deserted London which was been placed under martial law. They learn  that dinosaurs have re-appeared  in  streets of the capital, forcing the evacuation of the population.  After a number of adventures  they discover a conspiracy of politicians, scientists and army officers who, concerned for the destruction of the environment and the threat of nuclear war, are planning to return the earth to what they believe will be a pre-industrial “Golden Age”, using a device called Timescoop.

The planet will then be repopulated by an elite group who have been fooled into thinking that they are in a space ship going to a new world, but are in fact  sealed in  an underground bunker awaiting “the New Earth”. The Doctor defeats the conspirators, sending the leading scientist, Professor Whitaker, and the Government minister, Grover,  into the distant past after the Doctor has, of course, reversed the polarity of the Timescoop.

Captain Yates from UNIT  –  who has thrown in his lot with the conspiracy – tells  the Doctor: “They’re going to roll back time. The world used to be a cleaner, simpler place. It’s all become too complicated and corrupt..We shall find ourselves in a golden age”

The Doctor counters: “ There never was a golden age. It’s all an illusion… Look, I understand your ideals. In many ways I sympathise with them. But this is not the way to go about it, you know? You’ve got no right to take away the existence of generations of people…Take the world that you’ve got and try and make something of it. It’s not too late. 

Mac also includes a socialist slant on the environment crisis, giving the Doctor a speech at the end in which he says that at least Grover “realised the dangers this planet of yours is in, Brigadier. The danger of it becoming one vast garbage dump inhabited only by rats…It’s not the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real causes of the pollution…It’s simply greed

You can read the broadcast script here.

 

Jon Pertwee left  Doctor Who in 1974 to be  replaced by the then unknown actor Tom Baker who went on to play the Doctor  for seven  years.

Philip Hinchcliffe took over from Barry Letts as producer, while Robert Holmes took over as script editor from Terrance Dicks. Together they  built on the existing success of the show and took it to new heights of popularity,  but   in quite a different direction, basing many of the stories on clasic horror or gothic themes.   Mac wasn’t asked to write for the show again.

In 1974 Mac won an award  for his work on  Doctor Who at the annual Writer’s Guild awards for the best Children’s Drama script along with Robert Holmes, Terry Nation and Rovert Sloman.

In a special issue of the Doctor Who poster magazine (1995) devoted to “The Sea Devils” it quoted Mac as follows:

“I think that in my stories the baddies aren’t really baddies because they are doing what they think is  right.  I find it hard to imagine anyone as totally bad or totally inimical. In fact there’s great deal of …well although I say it myself philosophy and politics in my science-fiction  stories since science-fiction, and Doctor Who in particular,  is a great opportunity to get across a point of view. And the point of view I have is that,  let’s say a maggot that just about to eat someone alive is not neccessarily  a bad maggot.  That just the way he is. Maggoty.

I never really write my stories with heroes  or  villains. They’re just a selection of grey people doing grey things for grey reasons. I don’t like the concept of heroes. Is the Doctor one?  Perhaps, but not always. (Doctor Who poster magazine (1995)

In many ways this sums up Mac’s approach  to writing television drama.

 

Crossroads

Crossroads  was a daily soap opera, set in a motel in the Midlands,  which was  broadcast by  ATV (and later Central) between 1964 and 1988. It was very  popular with the public, achieving ratings  rivalling that of Coronation Street in the mid 1970s but  was consistently derided by the critics for  its production values (there were never any re-takes), cheap sets and improbable story lines.

Mac  worked as a script editor  on the programme on and off  for  a number of years  and also  wrote scenes in  at a number episodes for the series between 1971 and 1974 (interestingly, the same time that  he was writing for Doctor  Who).

In his book  Writing for Television he explained  that  in order to cope with the volume of output required, there is a storyliner and four writers who are assigned scenes.

The  storyliner conceives the interweaving plots  and breaks them down into scenes in synopsis form. These ‘weekly breakdowns’ are discussed at regular weekly  or fortnightly script conferences. the script-writers then write the scenes, filling in the details of the plot…most television  continuing-story shows are written this way…  (Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), p. 172)

Mac  also included a comment  from Crossroads producer,  Reg Watson:

Over the years…we tackled subject like broken marriages, illegitimacy, divorce, malnutrition, mental health, alcoholism, kleptomania, fraud, murder, loneliness, gambling, cruelty, bankruptcy, childless couples, in-laws, big business, vandalism, abortion, anti-smoking, child-stealing, religion, education, bigamy, farming, the canals of the Midlands, cookery, travel, fashion, prisons, prostitution, illegal immigrants, teenagers, old age, death, local government, nursing, pollution, manslaughter, drunken driving, paraplegics, romance, respect, humour and happiness. I am grateful to Crossroads because it broadened my horizons and gave me an insight into many social problems I may otherwise have ignored. The fact that 12,000,000 viewers watch every episode four nights a week is a compliment  to the many people who work so hard to make believable  and entertaining.   (Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), pp179-180)

Mac’s episodes were:

1495 –  14 May 1971

1674  -23rd March 1972

“Miss Tatum and Amy unite against Wilf over the old-time dancing contest. Meg questions Sandy’s job intentions. Vera’s brusqueness antagonises Sheila and salon trainee Jill. Timothy is financially embarrassed.” IMDB

1751 –  1972

Mac included the script  for this in his book  Writing  for Television.

1754 – 10th August 1972

“News of Sandy’s paralysis after the car accident sweeps Kings Oak. Amy moves into Lake House to help look after Chris and Timothy. Ted seeks an investor. Liz goes to Coventry to explain her problem to a disappointed Meg.” IMDB

1756 – 15th August 1972

“Doctors begin to explain the lasting affects of Sandy’s injuries to a distraught Meg and Jill. Amy tries to sooth relations between Chris and his uncle. ” IMDB

1758 – 17th August  1972

“Embittered over his involvement in Sandy’s crash, Meg refuses to see Timothy (and learns about Coventry Boy). Miss Tatum offers Liz some advice before she leaves the village. Vince and his father argue, ruining Diane’s family meal. Tish makes Ted an offer.” IMDB

1759 18th August  1972

“Sandy learns the full consequences of the car crash. Alice asks Amy to return to the motel – and Tish announces her intention to leave it. A numbed Meg tries to find solace in Coventry Cathedral. ” IMDB

1805 – 1972

2230 –   27th November 1974

2247 – 31st  December 1974

 

Spyder’s Web:  January  to April 1972

In 1972 Malcolm  was script editor  on a series called Spyder’s Web, produced by ATV,  which  starred Patricia  Cutts  and  Anthony Ainley (later to play The Master in Doctor Who) and Veronica Carlson.

This  featured a shadowy organisation , responsible to the government, who take on cases too hot for the police to handle. They masquerade  as a documentary film unit, based in Soho.  The writers included Roy Clarke, Marc Brandel and   Robert Holmes,  who wrote many scripts for Doctor Who.  Spyder’s Web  lasted just one series.

You can find a detailed account of each episode of the series on the website Anorak Zone  here.

We interrupt this programme…

After 1974 nothing written by Mac was  broadcast on television. After 16 years when he was very much in demand, this  is a mystery to which I have no explanation at present.  Was it a change  in fashion and/or personnel  in television as the series  that he wrote for 1960s  came to an end while Doctor Who changed direction under a new production team? I welcome  suggestions

For the rest of his life Mac wrote books instead, both novels and non-fiction.

 

Radio Plays

For  the BBC

 

Child in Peril (with Eric Paice): 15th March 1961.

It was an adaptation of a novel  by John Bonnet. “A little girl loves animals, but when a chimpanzee escapes from a circus her parents go through some anxious moments.”  Radio Times, 9th March 1961.

The play was produced by  William Glen-Doepel. The cast included Barbara Mitchell,  Diana Olsson and Tom Watson

 

The Girl in the Market Square (with Eric Paice) :  6th January 1962

“A dead girl, a hit-and-run driver, and a high-placed official in a small community complicate life for a young man who finds himself caught in a crossfire of opposing loyalties. ” Radio Times, 4th January 1962.

The play was produced by R D Smith. The cast included Peter Claughton, Anthony Viccars and  Frank Partington

The broadcast   was repeated on  18th June 1962 and  9th February 1966.

 

The Man On The Island:  23rd February 1963

The play was produced by Betty Davies. The cast included Earle Grey,  Malcolm Haves and John Badbeley.

 

You’re Not the Woman I Married:  13th March 1963

“George Ramage lives next door to a prison. His wife tells him that her brother and his friend are coming to stay with them-but when George hears that two prisoners have escaped and he finds two uniforms in the dustbin … I “ Radio Times, 7th March 1963.

The play was produced by Audrey Cameron. The cast included  Timothy West,  Ronald Baddiley and Ursula Howells.

You can listen to this play  here.

 

Till Death Us Do Part (with Eric Paice): 4th September 1963

The play was produced by  Betty Davies. The cast included  June Tobin and Derek Blomfield.

 

 The Pot of Gold, (with Eric Paice):13th April 1963

“Following a prison sentence in Dartmoor for armed robbery, Marty Rudd is free to retrieve his hidden loot. This operation, however, proves to be less easy than he expected” Radio Times, 11th April 1963.

The play was produced by David H Godrey. The cast included Norman Claridge, Frank Partington and Lewis Stringer.

The broadcast was repeated on 19th February 1964.

 

Beat Boy: 18th March 1964

The play was produced by Norman Wright. The cast included John Baddeley,  Alan Haines and  Irene Sutcliffe

The pop songs  were composed by Mike Pratt and played by Arthur Greenslade and the Gee Men. The singers were John Baddeley and Alan Haines

Mac previously worked with Mike Pratt  on a musical  version of “The Big Client” as noted above.

 

Cops Can Be Human: 8th April 1964

The play was produced by Peter Bryant. The cast included Stephen Thorne,  Frederick Treves and Margaret Wolfit.

Peter Bryant  worked on Doctor Who in the 1960s as a script editor and producer.

It was repeated on 13th January 1979.

 

A Boy for Zelda: 24th February 1965

” If I get married, I’ve got to have a son. I’ve got to have a boy, so that one day he can go to his Barmitzvah … so that he can say the Kaddisch prayer when his father dies. Radio Times, 18th February 1965.

The play  was produced by Betty Davies. The cast included  Miriam Margolyes, Shirley Cooklin and Mary Wimbush

 

Lost Horizon (with Paul Tabori) : 5th March, 12th Masrch and 19th March  1966

This  was a three-part  adapatation  of   James Hilton’s 1933 novel in which a group of travellers find a Tibetan utopia, Shangri_La.  The play was produced by Graham Gauld. The cast included Anna Burden, Eric Anderson  and Wilfred Babbage.

It was repeated in May and June 1969.

 

The Break-Out:  13th  April 1966

“A break-out from gaol leaves a man with no friends-just people he can buy. And a new kind of prison that doesn’t need a cell … ” Radio Times, 7th April 1966.

The  play was produced by  David A Turner. The cast included John Slater, Patricia Leventon and Brian Hewlett

 

A Question of Strength:   20th  June 1966

The play was produced by David H. Godfrey. The cast included Dinsdale Landen,  Elizabeth Proud and Jim Grant.

It was reviewed by  Paul Ferris in The Guardian:   “An old-fashioned earful of message was offered…with an unwieldy confrontation between two varieties of left-wing conscience. Fiona, born amongst rich socialists, is married to John, working-class radical, who sits on a jury and lets a man be sentenced to death, affronting all Fiona’s principles. His weakness and her bigotry unfold, and we leave them about to become, presumably, wiser, sadder and more compatible. But at least they all talked like recognisable inhabitants of Britain in way that characters rarely did in the average radio play, before television showed them how.” (The Guardian, 26th June 1966)

 

The Long Hop: 5th September 1966

This was broadcast in a series called “Escape”.  “When a typhoon hits the island of Antola in the Indian Ocean, the pilot of an approaching plane has to choose between the lives of all his passengers and the life of one.” Radio Times, 1st September 1966.

The play was produced by Martyn C Webster. The cast included Simon Lack,  David Spenser and Mary Wylie.

 

A Face in the Night:  27th  May 1970

“All the boy had to do was to keep the engine running, while his brother and the others did the job. But the engine stopped …Radio Times,  21st May 1970

The play was produced by Graham Gauld. The cast included Brian Hewlett, Kerry Francis and John Rye.

It was repeated on 28th May 1970.

 

The Wind Cannot Read:  9th January 1971

This  was an adapatation of  a novel  by  Richard Mason, published in 1947, which had been filmed in 1958.

“A passionate love story set in India during the last war. Michael Quinn , an RAF officer, falls in love with his Japanese language instructress: but their brief happiness is interrupted when he is sent to the Japanese front and captured. He vescapes – but on his return finds only sadness and grief.” Radio Times, 28th June 1979

The play was directed by Martin Jenkins. The cast included Martin Jarvis, Tsai Chin  and Anthony Valentine

It was repeated on 2nd July 1979.

 

For  German  radio stations

Treibjagd (The Hunt) (with Eric Paice):  8th October 1958. 

This version of ” This Day in Fear”  was broadcast by Süddeutscher Rundfunk,  which was the  broadcaster for the northern part of Baden-Württemberg from 1949 to 1998. It was directed by Karl Ebert.  Cynthia Pughe is included in the authorship.

Another  version was broadcast on 23rd  February 1950  by Westdeutscher Rundfunk,  the  public broadcaster for the  State  of North Rhine-Westphalia.

 

Kreuzverhör (with Eric Paice): 4 June  1959

This play was broadcast by Süddeutscher Rundfunk and directed by Karl Ebert.   It would appear to be an original script for the station.

The  summary reads as follows:  “John Grant is a social worker . He takes his job very seriously. Even after work, he still cares about the people who seek his help. He often has arguments with his wife. She feels neglected. They also separate in disagreement on an evening when Grant wants to meet an old woman who is badly treated by her relatives and is in despair. Grant waits in vain at the agreed meeting point. In order to find his peace again, he takes an extended walk after a reasonable wait. Returning from this, he no longer finds his wife in the apartment. The window in the living room is open. When he leans out, he sees his wife, shattered four floors below, in the courtyard. His nerves, overworked and overwhelmed by the past argument, make him believe that he murdered his wife. Grant decides to flee. When he faces the police days later, he experiences a surprise. But the suspicion has not been removed from him yet.”

It was broadcast again by Hessicher  Rundfunk, the state broadcaster for the State of Hesse,  on 10th February 1962, this time directed by Heinz-Otto Müller from a translation by Marianne de Barde.

It was  broadcast again  by Saarländischer Rundfunk, the public brodcaster for the state of Saarland in 1967, directed by Klasus Groth.

 

Der Goldtopf (The pot of gold) (with Eric Paice):   23rd July 1963.

This play was produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk, directed by Otto Düben.  The translation was  by Ruth von Marcard.

The summary on  the internet says: “After ten years in prison, Marty Rudd wants to take the booty from the hiding place under the floorboards of a house. But the house is rented to an old lady who never leaves her room. Rudd can’t take his chance to get around £ 3,000.”

It  also seems to have  been  produced by Bayerischer Rundfunk  on 3rd October 1963, directed by Otto Kurth,  under the title Das goldene Wunderhorn. 

 

Bis daß der Tod uns scheidet (Until Death Do Us Part) (with Eric Paice):  6th September 1964.

This was produced by Sender Freies Berlin (Radio Free Berlin)  the ARD public radio and television service for West Berlin from 1 June 1954 until 1990. The director was Erich Köhler.  The plot summary on the internet says; : “Philip and Mary Rhodes have long worked out a plan by which they hope to get rich. However, a person will have to die if the plan is carried out. But Mr. Rhodes doesn’t worry too much about that. It is much more important to him whether chance will soon play the right man into  his hands.

 

Gesicht in der Nacht (A Face in the Night): 6th September 1966

This  play was produced by Süddeutscher Rundfunk and directed by Miklos Konkoly.   The translation by Marianne de Barde

 

Dig a Hole for Helen: 16th November 1970

This play  was broadcast by Süddeutscher Rundfunk and directed by  Klaus Mehrländer.

 

Information on these radio plays  on German radio   comes from the ARD Hoerspieldatenbanh

 

Mac’s fiction and non-fiction books

The Making of Doctor Who (1972) (1976)
Making of Doctor WhoAs we have seen from his pamphlet on Unity, Mac had a passion  for  explaining how drama was created.

In 1972 he and Terrance Dicks wrote The Making of Doctor Who, described by Gary Russell as “the most important piece of work in the entire history of Doctor Who publishing.” A second edition was published in 1976.

Doctor Who is almost certainly the most written about programme in the history of British television with many books and  magazines as well as  numerous websites devoted to  documenting and analysing  (sometimes excessively so) every minute  detail of the programme. In 1972, however,  this  book was groundbreaking and was seized on  by fans,  eager to know more about their favourite television programme.

In the first Chapter “How It All began” the  authors go back in time  to the creation of Doctor Who  by Sydney  Newman  and his staff  at the BBC in 1963,  and then explain the role of the Producer and Script Editor.

One of the things that makes show-business so exciting  – and so nerve-wracking – can be expressed by the well used phrase – “you never can tell”. No one knows what makes a success.  A work written by the most famous of writers, with popular stars in the leading roles, with millions spent on a spectacular  production,  can finish a very expensive flop.  Luckily the reverse is also true. A modest show on a limited budget, without a single star name, will suddenly take off, and the astonished and delighted producer realises he has a hit on his hands.  Doctor Who… was born in humble cicumstances.  (Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke,The Making of Doctor Who (1976) pp. 7-8)

The following chapters look at the impact of the Dalek on the series, the actors who have  played Doctor Who, the various monsters  – Cybermen , Ice Warrors, Yeti, Atons etc, UNIT, the companions,  the Adventures of Doctor Who (a  summary of all of  the serials up to publication),  an explanation of how the programme is made in a televison studio and  a detailed  production diary of a serial. In the first edition it was “The Sea Devils,” in the second edition it was “Robot”.

The authors  conclude:

…in the dangerous and disturbing world of today there is a real need for  a show like Doctor Who. It provides an escape into fantastic alien worlds, where the monsters  and horrors encountered are safely distanced by their settings. Today the appetite for fantasy and wonder, with the much needed release it offers, is greater  than ever. Whatever  happens to the Doctor on screen we can now be sure that many  of his adventures will be preserved for posterity, though in rather different form. Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, The Making of Doctor Who (1976) p. 124)

 

Target’s Doctor Who novels

The popularity of Doctor Who led to the publication of  three  novels  based on the TV serials, beginning  in 1964 with Doctor Who and The Daleks, written by David Whittaker and  published by Frederick Mueller.  This  was followed in 1965  by Doctor Who and The Zarbi by Bill Struton and finally  Doctor Who and the Crusades by David Whitaker.

In  1973 Target books began publishing a new series of   Doctor Who novels, many of them written by the original scriptwriters. Mark Gatiss has written “Target gave us exciting versions of the stories we had seen – and glimpses into a strange and mysterious past where the Doctor had been someone else… In an age before video and DVD, the Target novelisations were a chance to relive the television adventures.

Mac wrote seven novels for Target, six of which were based on his own work: Doctor Who and The Cave Monsters (published on 17th January 1974),   Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon  (published on 18th  March 1974), Doctor Who and the Sea Devils (published on 17th October 1974),  Doctor Who and the Space War (published on 23rd September 1976),  Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (published on 9th February 1976),    and  Doctor Who and The War Games (published on 25th September 1979).

The other novel he wrote was  Doctor Who and The Green Death (published on 21st August 1975, whose television script ha dbeen  written by Robert Sloman. The two  remaining stories that  he  had written for Doctor Who,  “The Ambassadors of Death” and “The Faceless Ones”,  were  turned into novels by  his good friend Terrance Dicks after Mac’s  death.

In an interview Mac explained how writing television scripts was different from writing novels:

Remember that in a story you have really have two stories going at once, the good guys and the bad guys. On television,  especially in show for younger viewers, you don’t do very long scenes, people get bored. So therefore you cut from the good guys to the bad guys and from the bad guys to the good guys.

In a book this would be very annoying if you got a half-page chapter, and then another half-page chapter.  In a book  you start the next  chapter with “Meanwhile….“ you can go back in time  to what the other rpeople were doing…  Also when you have a book to write you realise I could make this a bit better… r… You feel that you can, and therefore you should. You read through the old scripts  and then you just start at the beginning… But  you  must expunge from your mind the possbility that they’ve seen it…you’ve got to describe things but also the role of people. You’ve  got to try and get all this in early without boring.

(Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013)

Malcolm’s Doctor Who novels are  much more than just a straight retelling of the story using the original script. He  alters the plots, often adds in extra scenes or references or new characters,  and awards even minor characters a backstory.

In The Cave Monsters  he gives the Silurians names  and begins with a prologue set  in the distant past  showing the Silurains bidding farewell to their world as they enter the shelters to avoid the approaching Moon:

Okdel stood watching as  the last of the young reptile men and women  took their turn to go down to safety in the lift. The gleaming metal  doors of the lift were set in rock; the doors slid open and shut soundlessly, taking another group of Okdel’s people to safety below the ground. Across the valley the sun was already seting, and its last light made  the green scales of the young people shine brilliantly. Okdel wondered when he would see the sun again…

“Our animals,” said K’to, “are they in the shelter?”

“They went down first,” said Okdel, “I made sure of that.” He paused. “A pity we are taking none of the little furry animals.”

“You are a strange man, ” said K’to. “The little furry animals are dirty. Insects live in their fur. In  any  case this event will rid our plant   of the mammal vermin.”….

Okdel slowly walked towards where Morka and K’to were waiting. Just before stepping into the lift, he looked again across the valley to see the tip of the sun as it sank below the horizon. It was the last time he was to see the sun for a hundred million years. (Doctor Who and The Cave Monsters (1974), pp. 7-9)

In Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon he  devotes several pages to the back story of Captain Dent who has been matched by computer to a wife (I suspect Mac had read The Organization Man by Wildred H White, published in 1956):

Over the next few days of leave he found that the IMC match-making computer   had done a good job, and that the two of them were going to be happy together…As Dent sat there, touching the controls of the IMC spaceship, he felt happy and secure in the fact  that he was an IMC man, with an IMC wife, IMC children, with a beautiful four room IMC home. His present  and his future were as secure as IMC, and IMC would go on for ever.  (Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (1974), p. 61)

In the opening scene of  Doctor Who and the Sea Devils (in which  the ss Pevensey Castle  is sunk  with all hands) Mac introduces an unseen character who has already perished:

Mason  could not believe the men were dead. Only two hours ago, before he turned in for the night, he had been drinking cocoa with the Jamaican. The Jamaican, who really came from Trinidad and had never been to Jamaica in his life, had shown Mason  a letter from his mother who lived in a town called St. James. “It’s Carnival next month,” said the Jamaican,  “and she wants her best-looking son back home  for Carnival – and that’s me!” He had saved his air fare, and was booked  on a flight from London Airport. three days after the ss Pevensey Castle  got into the Port of London, where she was bound.. (Doctor Who and the Sea Devils (1974), p. 7)

In  Doctor Who and the Space War  Mac  describes the Doctor’s journey to the Moon:

The Doctor saw neither Earth nor Moon  on the short journey  to the Earth’s satellite. The penal spaceship  was windowless, a series of tiny cells. just large enough for a prisoner to sit down, knees touching the metal door. From the ship the prisoners  were shuffled into a narrow corridor that led directly into the prison. The Doctor’s first sight  of the Moon was when  they were taken into a huge room with metallic  walls, and here  a big window  looked out onto the bleak  rocky  moonscapre, the airless world  where any escaping  prisoner  would die instantly though lack of oxygen.   (Doctor Who and the Space War (1976), p. 70)

In Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion he  gives a longer speech to the Doctor  in his  argument with Mike Yates:

“There’s no alternative, ” said the Captain.

Yes there is,” replied  the Doctor. “You can try to make something better  of the world you’ve got. You humans  can end the arms race, you can treat people with different coloured skins as equals, you can stop exploiting and cheating each other, and you can start using the Earth’s resources in a rational and sensible way.” (Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion (1976), p.124)

In the  Doctor Who and The Green Death we see things from the point of view of one of the maggots which is just  about to hatch:

And then, suddenly,  the egg cracked. The maggot lay exhaused from its efforts. Then it sniffed sharply. It was experiencing a new source of energy – oxygen in the air around it. It wriggled its little body, and realised it was quite strong. It also realised that  it  was very hungry, and that it now had to find its own food.

It raised its head over the edge  of the tray, and sniffed again. It could smell that somewhere in this room was food, somewhere low down. It heaved itself over the edge of the tray, and wriggled to the edge of the table. Below was an enormous drop, but the desire for food made it forget all danger. It rolled itself off the table, fell through space and finally hit the floor.  (Doctor Who and The Green Death (1975)  p.96)

Max says of  Doctor Who and The War Games:  “I was surprised that  there was more in Part Ten than I’d imagined. There’s a whole sequence  when the Doctor tries to escape from the Time Lords, not to be captured, which he almost gets way with. And then when he is captured, and put on trial, there’s an adjournment  when he tries to escape again! (Gary Hopkins, recorded interviww with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013). He added  the following scene which was not in the television script:

They passed through several corridors, glanced into study rooms and kept seeing men dressed as officers from the armies of world history. They even saw two young women dressed in blue slacks and shirts with scarlet neckerchiefs and blue berets. “The Spanish Civil War”, the Doctor said quietly, “Women fought in the frontline there”.  (Doctor Who and The War Games (1979) p.64)

Interviewed for On Target, a special feature on the DVD release of “The War Games”,  the writer Gary Russell, said  of Mac:

The best legacy he has left us, apart from a canon of fantastic Doctor Who stories, both on TV and in book form, is his inspiration. I know from talking to other authors of Doctor Who books that he is a huge inspiration on everybody’s style of writing. Everybody sees that thing in Malcolm Hulke’s books and goes, that’s why I want to be a writer.

Ben Aaronovitch, whose parents were both in the party, wrote  in his  introduction to his novel of his own  Doctor Who serial  “Remembrance of the Daleks“  that he was given a copy of Mac’s novel Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon by his mother.  

She approved of Hulke because she knew him through the Party…which outweighed the fact that it was  science fiction – a genre she despised. Hulke, too had imbued his characters with backstory (particularly  the evil commander  and beefed up the special effects while retaining both the form  and spirit of his story. With his example in mind, I plunged into my first serious venture into prose.  (Ben Aaronovitch, Remembrance of the Daleks (2013),  p. vi)

 

Writing for Television (1974)

In this book he drew on his  years of writing experience to explain the craft involved. He began:

Television comes flooding into our homes day and night. Everything about it seems to be totally exposed. In some of the chat shows, not even the cameras are concealed. so, if we aspire to any  kind of writing at all, this friendly, chummy medium is obviously the one for us. No doubt there are a few bits of technical know-how that  are neccessary. Bur basically, all we have to do is write a story, send it to someone, and the television people will make right to go into a couple of million homes by the end of the week.

Writing for television isn’t like that at all. It is a craft in its own right. just as the poet automatically thinks in terms of metre, so does the television writer of how many characters he may use and how many sets. Of course, he thinks creatively, but it’s a creativity  firmly set within the size of a prescribed canvas.   Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), p.9.

Mac goe on how to explain how a  play is produced in the studio;   how outside filming works;  the art  of writing with plot, characterisation and dialogue;  what to write  about;  how to break into televison; “the ideas market”;  and finally, the pitfalls of  censorship and libel. Naturally he urges writers to join the Writers’ Guild of Great  Britain.

The book includes a number of examples of scripts and comments from the writers.  He  includes   an extract from the Doctor Who serial “Carnival of Monsters,” written by Robert Holmes, with a comment from Holmes in which he said:

Over its many  years Doctor Who has acquired a very devoted and loyal audience. It has also acquired a number of equally devoted writers who will tell you frankly it is their favourite assignmnet – technically difficult though it usually is.

The reason why a “children’s show” should inspire such a reaction among blasé professional writers may seem hard to fathom. I know, in my own case, when I am commissioned  to write for the programme, the cover comes off my typewriter  with little delay. …

I believe the truth  is that Doctor Who releases a writer from his normal mental straightjacket. He can, for once, leave the padded cell of reality and fantasise through eternal time and space. It is an enjoyable and refreshing exercise.   Malcolm Hulke, Writing for Television (1974), p.187)

Andrew Cartmel (script editor on  Doctor Who 1987-1989) says of this work:

I still remember Malcom Hulke’s book about writing for television — a glossy black hardcover with a red typewriter on the cover. It was packed with good advice (keep your submission letter — these days it would be a submission email — very short and too the point) and also schooled me in the arcane script formatting that was de rigeur in those days… you kept a vertical slab of half the page blank, theoretically so that camera directions could be written in. It was a practical guide and also an inspiration. It was my bible. And thanks in no small measure to it, and to Hulke’s common sense guidance, it was only a few years before I found myself working as the script editor on Doctor Who — where I discovered that the same Malcolm Hulke had been one of the mainstays of the writing team during the golden age of the show. (personal communication from Andrew)

This book inspired Linda Thornber  to take up writing. Interviewed by Irene Macmanus for The Guardian in January 1981,   Linda, – who described  herself as  “a Bolton housewife, married to a businessman, mother of two“ –  recounted that as she approached her 40th birthday she asked herself:  Is that all   there is?  She got a divorce and borrowed Writing for Television  from the library  and set about learning the craft. Six months later she had completed a series of comedies  for Granada Television, The Ballyskillen Opera House. At the time of the interview she had still not returned the book.  (The Guardian, 6th January 1981). Linda went on to write many novels under the name of “Ruth Hamilton”. (Bolton News, 23rd April 2016)

Crossroads

Mac  wrote four  Crossroads novels, published by Everest  Books. These were: A New Beginning (1974), A Warm Breeze (1975) Something Old, Something New (1976) and  A Time for Living (1976).

In the preface to A  Warm Breeze he wrote:

This novel is based  on some stories  from the second two years of the enormously successful television serial Crossroads, produced by ATV in Birmingham.

Viewers who have never  missed an episode may recognise some of the stories and notice changes as they are presented in this book. These changes result from the different structural demands of a novel compared with the shape of a daily television serial.

An adapator has to  take some liberties, and I  make no apology. But I have tried, within my capabilities, to be faithful to the underlying spirit of Crossroads, which has brought joy and entertainment   to so many millions of people for such a long time.

 

Cassells Parliamentary Handbook (1975)

Mac edited  the 1975 guide to  Members of Parliament, . listing   their interests, affiliations and business connections. In her review of the book  in The Guardian  Nesta Wynn Ellis noted that  Mac called it “The Bribers’ Handbook.”  (The Guardian, 26th September 1975)

 

Bring your Own Towel (1977)

This was a guide to nearly 300 of the cheaper residential  conference venues in Britain no doubt  drawing on  Mac’s many years of organising meetings and conferences. He wrote:  “Britain  is surely the most civilised country in the world. If two people share an interest they form a national association. If three, they go away for a conference. Scores of residential centres, religious retreats and  guest houses exist to serve this need.” It was published  by the National Council for Socail Services. (Ross Davies, “Fighting the battle of the conference hall,   The Times, 13th September 1977)

 

Roger Moore and the Crimefighters; The Siege (1977)

Mac  wrote the first novel  in this curious series, aimed at young people.

Roger Moore and the Crimefighters was a series of six slim paperbacks, published by Alpine/Everest in the UK through 1977.  A clear attempt to try and cash in on The Three Investigator market, Roger Moore is the Alfred Hitchcock equivalent here, his name a prominent part of the cover whilst he has only has a cameo (as himself) at the end, when the Crimefighters explain their latest adventure to him.

The Crimefighters – “three young friends of Roger Moore who can’t keep out of trouble” – are Billy Compton (“rich and clever and wishes people would remember to call him Will”), Bonnie Fletcher (“a blonde girl in jeans, who plays football and hates dolls”) and Darren Fletcher (“Bonnie’s little brother, with hair like a pop star and an ugly dog”).  The dog was called Dalek and helped out in much the same way as Timmy assisted the Famous Five. Mark West blog.

Mac’s Other Activities

TV Writers School of Great Britain – 1969  to 1972

Mac seems to have been the driving force behind  a writers’ school run through correspondence. The school  was promoted through adverts in The Stage,  The Guardian and other newsapers.

The advert in The Guardian  in  August  1969 proclaimed:

 WRITE FOR TV AND EARN TOP MONEY. Home study course for beginners by top BBC and ITV script writers can help YOU to write for many of the current programmes. Our ten lessons have been prepared exclusively for this school by MALCOLM HULKE (one of Britain’s most prolific TV playwrights), PHILIP MACKIE (Managing Director. Granada Feature Films and Programme Consultant and Executive Producer for Granada Television), ROSEMARY HILL (BBC Script Editor for “Play Of The Month”), SHAUN SUTTON (Head of Serials, Drama, BBC TV), and MICHAEL REDINGTON (Head of Features for ABC TV). Write for free literature to: TV WRITERS’ SCHOOL OF GREAT BRITAIN Telescript House, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. (01-353 7159. 24 hrs.) WORLD’S LEADING TV TRAINING SCHOOL  (The Guardian, 28th August 1969.

Another advert in 1970   claimed  that  successful writers might  earn £300 upwards for their first script . “FREE LUXURY HOLIDAYS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SUN and COLOUR TV SETS are among the exciting prizes being awarded by the School for the best TV plays submitted. Judges will be DIANA MORGAN, ALAN PLATER, MALCOLM HULKE and PETER COTES.  The Guardian, 11th January 1970)

In May 1970 the advert in the Guardian read:

A Home Study Course in television writing has been prepared exclusibvely for the Writers School of Great Britijn by

SHAUN SUTTON (Head of BBC Drama)

MALCOLM HULKE (one of Brirain’s most prolific and successful scriptwriters)

PHILIP MACKIE (Mnaging Director of Granada Feature Films)

ALAN TARRANT (Top comedy direcor-producer for iTV)

PETER COTES (former Head of Drama Associated-Redifussion…)

ROSEMARY HILL (BBC Script Editor for “Play of the Month”)

DIANA MORGAN (top TV scriptwriter, Hollwood scenarist, West and Brodwat playwright)

MICHAEL VOYSEY (winner of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award for 1969 for his adptation of Arnold Bennett’s “Imperial Palace”

OFFSET THE INCREASED COST OF LIVING BY A SECOND INCOME AT HOME

£350 to £750 is now being paid for scripts.

TV Writers’ School of Britain, Vision House, Fleet Street, London EC 4.

(The Guardian, 10th  May 1970)

In May  1971  a further advert announced:

CONGRATULATIONS We wish to thank the BBC for their television announcement of the winners in our “Holidays In The Sun Writing Competition.” They are I. S. Bryan for his script One Voice”, N W. Marshall (“As Flies Two Wanton Boys”), Lt. Commander C. R. G. Wheeler, R.N. (“For Ever And A Day”) and Sybil Briscoe for her short story “Season For Love”. The judges were BASIL DAWSON (scriptwriter for THE SAINT, CROSSROADS .etc.). WILLIAM EMMS (scriptwriter for CALLAN, PAUL TEMPLE, etc.), MALCOLM HULKE (scriptwriter for DOCTOR WHO, THE AVENGERS, etc.) and DIANA MORGAN (West End and Broadway playwright and Hollywood scenarist. (The Stage, 13th May 1971)

The advert in  February 1972 told readers:

You can learn to write at home, in your spare time with Malcolm Hulke of “Crossroads” and “Doctor Who”. Then sell worldwide. The school is linked to the International Script Agency with agents in New York,  Rome,  Paris, Buenos Aires,  and many  other leading cities.  (The Guardian, 27 February 1972)

A small  advert in 1975   seemed to indicate a change of emphasis  away   from writing for television:

LET THE EXPERTS TEACH YOU WRITING Brand new courses on all aspects of writing are now offered by the Writing School. Our Principal Malcolm Hulke is a working writer and all the lessons are by experienced writers.   l (The Guardian 18th May 1975)

I have not been able to locate  any further  adverts after 1975.

 

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain

The Television and Screen Writers’ Guild  is a trade union which was formed on 13th  May 1959 by the amalgamation of the British Screen and Television Writers’ Association (formed in 1937) and the Radio and Television Writers’ Association. It was renamed the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) in 1964. The offices in the 1960s were at 7 Harley Street, London, in the basement of a doctor’s surgery.

In its early years it adopted the Rostetta Stone as ite emblem with the inscription  “Ante Omia Verbum”  (In the Beginning was the Word)  but the union seems to have stopped using this judging by its current website.

Ted Willis, a successful writer for stage, televison and film,  was elected chair of the new body,  Bryan Forbes was Treasurer while S E “Kim” Honess was the full-time secretary.  At this stage it had   just  a few hundred paying members. As noted above,  In his youth Ted Willis had  been active in Young Communist League.  In The Write Stuff,  his  history of the Guild, Nick Yapp says; “Compared with the Siege of Leningrad, saving the Guild may appear child’s play, but Willis, then in his prime of life, gave the struggle all he’d got,  at a time when the Guild needed all it could get.”  Zita  Dundas, a key figure in the  formation of the new  trade union,  said it  floated  along on “half  a shoestring”.  Finances were so tight to begin with that  Kim Honess  was not paid for six months,  while  every day expenses were covered by Council members  and the occasional donation eg a £100  from Sidney Bernstein, head of Granada. (Nick Yapp, The Write Stuff (2009), p. 19)

Mac was a very  active member. In 1960, for instance,  he and Peter Yeldham edited the first three issues of the union’s new quarterly newsletter Guild News.

On 25th May 1960  he and Eric Paice  took part in meeting at the Art Theatre Club  organised by the Guild’s Associate Members Committee  who invited some  leading writers  to come along and be questioned   by any of the Associate Members who cared to attend. Some 70 members attended.  The other writers who attended were  Zita Dundas, Denis Norden. Larry Forrester, J. B. Williams, Michael Pertwee, Dick Sharples,  Gerald Kelsey,  and Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. “After a short introduction by John Boland the meeting took on the form of an enormous get-together (without refreshment unfortunately) and members mixed and talked freely with each other during the next two and half hours. There is little doubt that the experiment proved to be a great success and may well prove to be the forerunner of many such evenings.” (The Stage, 2nd June 1960)

Eric was chair of the Guild 1964-65 (succeeded by Denis Norden, incidentally). In his speech on leaving office he  said it had been a tough year, with tremendous opposition to the Guild’s struggle to win back the author’s right to retain copyright in their own work. “But one major victory had been won. On April 1 the Television Film Agreement with the ITC had been signed. Un ortunately other negotiations with independent television companies on overseas rights were at a stalemate. What had struck home to him most forcibly during the past yeay  was the mounting evidence that only the writers are  prepared to fight for higher standards of television programmes. Others may pay lip service to better programming,  but they finally do as they are told. Consequently the Guild welcomed the additional strength and fighting power of its three new sections: the Radio Writers, the Advertising Writers, and the Script Editors. ” (The Stage, 28th October 1965)

In 1966 Mac  compiled a report for the Guild   on writers for radio.  This  was featured by  Allan Prior in his Guild column  in The Stage, who  considered  that one  thing clearly emerged from the report “Writers may be paid less in radio but they have a nicer time. The pressures are not on, the note of frenzy is absent. And yet the work retains a very high standard. Which leads one to a question and a conclusion. Are television’s relentless pressures on the writer really necessary? Not really.” (The Stage, 21st April 1966)

After some members complained  that  the 1967 AGM has been  dull, Mac robustly  defended  the union in a letter to Guild News:

“The truth is that the Guild is no longer a novelty.  It is a firmly established trade union,  digging its own roots into the corporate labour movement. When guest speaker, George Elvin, general secretary of ACTT, reminded us that we are workers, not one  of  gentlemen-of-letters walked out. We are beginning to understand what it’s all about. We showed that we could debate without hysterics and our chairman (David Whitaker) showed that he had read his Walter Citrine…What emerged was that this Guild of mainly   freelance writers, who professionally are often in competition with one another, has now became a mature and well-organised trade union, and a credit to the trade  union movement.  This is a remarkable and extraordinary feat… Militancy  is not only achived by passionate declarations, and worker solidarity is not only achieved   by slanging matches between platform and floor.  The strength of a trade  union is  finally measured by the unity within  its own ranks.  We witnessed that unity in good measure at our AGM.  (Yapp, The Write Stuff (p.52). (Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the TUC from 1926 to 1946, was the author of the ABC of chairmanship (1939))

On 22nd  March 1968 he represented the Guild at the first awards ceremony held by the Australian Writers’  Guild  in Sydney. Proposing   a toast to Austraian writers Mac  said since going to Australia to script edit a film  series  he had repeatedly heard the question, “Can Sydney became a Little Hollywood?  ” Why little?” he asked.  “Did  Australia think small when the Sydney Opera House was built or the famous Coathanger harbour bridge went up? Did Australia pioneers think small?”   He added that,  although Australians regarded  state aid as state interference (“wasn’t it free milk in schools which had brought Britain to its knees”),  perhaps this was the moment  when government leadership, and  even financial backing,  might ensure  that Australia’s mass communication industries could reach their full vigour, so that both the image and the dream of modern Australia could be spread to the rest of the world.  (The Stage, 4th April 1968)

In 1969  Mac  edited the Writers Guide produced by the Guild for aspiring writers which  quickly sold out.  The idea came from David Whitaker, then Chair of the Guild.    Mac cited  three reasons for publishing this manual:  to set down details of the network of agreements negotiated by the Guild:  to provide an “opportunity for some of our leading and most talented members to say something about their work” and to provide members with expert advice on taxation, copyright, censorshop etc.

In the section called “Craftsmanship”   writers explained their work, including   Robert Armstrong  on  poetry, Howard Clewes on screenwriting,  Sheila Hodgson on writing for radio,  Sid Colln on  writing comedy, Diana Morgan on writing for theatre., Eric Paice on writing for televison and Joan Ling on  writing novels.   In “The Hyphenated Man” Lewis Greifer laid bare his feelings about script editors, while Mac contributed a short article on the history of the Guild.  None of the contributors got paid.   (Yapp, The Write Stuff, p. 53) According to Mac the  Writers’ Guide was well received: “We have had   many letters of congratulations from professional writers, and of thanks from people who want to learn to write.” (The Stage, 10th April 1969).

Mac also  edited a second  edition  which appeared in 1970 and  included the following upbeat assessment:  “The Guild is strong,  it needs to be stronger. It is essential that anyone who works in films, television or radio joins immediately because individually we are nothing, collectively we can win for ourselves proper recompense commensurate with the inestimable  contribution we make to our society.” (Yapp, The Write Stuff, p. 170).

In this edition the contributors included Harold Harris on the novel, John Boland on the short story, John Gould on film scripts, Gerald  Savory on television drama and Shaun Sutton on serials. Allan Prior in his column in The Stage wrote that “...this year’s edition (most ably edited by Malcolm Hulke) is devoted to markets and the big markets now are television and television and television. Filmed, live, comedy, drama, documentary it remains the big consumer of the word that somebody has, first of all, to write down on paper.”    (The Stage, 26th March 1970).

 

The Writers’ Luncheon Club

Mac was the secretary of this Club, founded in 1977. The chair was Ted Willis.   According to The Stage guests at the Club “met a  number of distinguished people in television, the arts and politics.” ( (The Stage, 12th July 1979 The venue  was the London Zoo Restaurant on Regents Park.  The speakers included Michael Foot (Labour  MP),  Sir Robert Mark (Chief Constable of the Metropolitican  Police)  Brian Young (Director General of the IBA). “Things have appeared on television in this country   which  could never have appeared anywhere else in the world” Young told the 80 strong audience at the lunch in November 1977. He  defended the amount of foreign programmes  and films shown on  ITV and also said that  audiences  were not as interested in the single play as the writers  of them were. “Not everything we do can be trail blazing   and the single play must experiment. And that means there must a place where something new can happen. A reason for giving the fourth channel to IBA.” (The Stage, 17th November 1977)

Bognor Writers weekend: September, 1978

This weekend  away for writers  seems to have been an extension of the Luncheon  Club  organised by Mac and  Ted Willis.  John Hawkesworth’s contribution was reported in The Stage:

Series writing isn’t really a second-class affair “IF you don’t have time, you can’t take risks”, said John Hawkesworth, writer and producer of five series of Upstairs Downstairs, when he spoke last weekend to a gathering of almost 200 writers at Bognor.

He was justifying a reasonable contention tha, t although producers of television series do not exclude new writers, the conditions under which series and serials are pro duced make it expedient and perfectly natural for the producer to prefer the established writer on whom he knows already he can depend.

At the same time he admitted that it is, as he put it, “an absolute duty of the producer to give new writers a chance”: the problem was to discover not merely the writers but, more importantly, what they could do. Merely to see an example of a writer’s work on the screen was not necessarily the answer. “What is seen on the screen,” he said, “is not always a true indication of a writer’s ability.”

While hotly contending that, without a shadow of doubt, the script is the most important ingredient in a series, he holds no brief for the producer who tells a writer with a promising idea. “Go away and put it on paper– see how it goes.” That way, he suggests, is “the slippery slope.”

The writer,” he says, “must not put pen to paper until he is absolutely sure of what it is the producer wants him to write. So the relationship of the producer– and the script editor– to the writer is the most important one in television.”

Television series cannot be made today without a script editor. The script editor is the liaison between the writer and the producer who, nowadays, has not the time to deal with each individual point of style or plot. This is particularly important when filming, for then the writer must leave the script editor to fight his battles for him and preserve the integrity of the script.

“I also believe that the script editor should be one of the major writers on the series.”

He was quick to agree that the word that hurts a writer more than any other is “arbitrary”: having alterations made to a script without being told.

“Series episodes aren’t Hamlet or Tennessee William,.” he said, “and when a writer is consulted and the necessity explained to him he is usually prepared to do what is needed.”

“Television series writing isn’t second-class”, he concluded. “It is very demanding and it can be very exciting. But don’t do it unless you understand that you have to give up some of your own independence”. (The Stage,  21st September 1978)

Other speakers included Richard Imison, script editor and currently assistant head of radio drama,  who gave a survey of  radio drama from 1923;  John D Vincent who led a seminar on radio drama  and a practical course of television writing and production; and Fay Weldon,  who gave her thoughts  on the business of writing.

 

Open Door 1976

Mac wrote a statement  for the Friends Anonymous Service or  a programme  called  “Anything! Anytime! Any problem is no problem” broadcast on 13th March 1976,  in the  BBC’s Open Door series which   offered a slot to community groups.  The Friends Anonymous Service was   a  round-the-clock voluntary agency based at Friendship House In Hackney.

 

Remembering Mac…

Mac  died on 6 July 1979 in Cambridge which is curious as he was living at 45 Parliament Hill in Hamptead. The notice in the press  asked for doantions  to be made to the Royal Feee hospital Body  Scanner Appeal.

The funeral  service took place in a crematorium.   Terrance Dicks recalled  that, as a convinced atheist,  Mac  had left orders that there was to be no priest, no hymns or any other ceremony at his funeral and that therefore his friends sat by the coffin not knowing what to do. “Finally Eric Paice stood up, slapped the coffin and said ‘well cheerio, Mac’ and wandered out. We all followed him.”

The Stage carried an obituary which noted his work with Eric Paice in the late 1950s and then his branching out on his own in the 1960s. It also recorded that he was  “a passionate crusader for the rights of the writer and a man, as Eric Paice confirms, of restless creative energy….  Last autumn he organised a highly successful week-end course for writers in Bognor, attended by a number of television and radio producers and had been hoping to repeat the event this year.”

According to The Stage he had just completed an novel called Airship. What became of this and his papers  I have no idea.

Some final thoughts

A common theme in a good deal of Mac’s work  was illusion and deception : the  police in “This Day  in Fear” are not  the police ; the stamp collectors  in “The Mauritius Penny”  are not harrmless philatelists  ;  the aircrew in “The Faceless Ones”  are  human in looks only ;  the generals   in “The War Games” are aliens, and so on

His message  to the  audience? Question what you think you  see or what you are being told by the powerful. Ask yourself  what is really going on.  As the Doctor says in “the Faceless Ones” : Things are not always what they seem.”

I  would also suggest  in  that his non-fiction writings;  Here is Drama, The Making of Doctor Who, The Writers Guide and  Writing for Television  he seeks  to demystify,  to hack through the technical jargon  and accretions of tradition,  and  help the reader   understand  what are admittedly complex topics. As  he wrote  in the first chapter of Writing for Television  which  he called  “What You Don’t Know You  Don’t Know”:

“The more we learn  about a complex subject, the more we realise  there is to learn. And we can only start when we acknowledge there is something to learn.”

Mac believed  that writing was craft , and should be respected (and paid properly ) but that  it was a craft that with imagination and hard work  could be learnt and that there was an onus on those who had been successful to help others onto the first rung of the ladder.

The final word must surely go to Terrance Dicks. Mac  was “a very kind and generous man”.

If  you would like to comment on this post, you can either  comment  via the blog or email me, fopsfblog@gmail.com

Bibliography

Newspapers and journals

Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham Daily Post

Daily Express

Daily Mirror

Doctor Who Magazine

The Guardian (formerly the Manchester Guardian)

Liverpool Echo

 Nothing at the End of the Lane

The Observer

Playbill

Tardis

The Stage

The Times

 

Books, pamphlets  and articles

William Ash, “obituary of Eric Paice,” The Guardian, 12th July 1989

 Richard Bignell, “Journey Into Time,” Nothing at the End of the Lane, 3, 2012

Gordon Blows, “The Malcolm Hulke Interview,” Tardis, 2, 1975

Colin Chambers, The Story of Unity Theatre (1989)

Nick Cooper, “British Telefantasy Began in 1963”.

Keith Ewing, Joan Mahoney and Andrew Moretta, M15, The Cold War and the Rule of Law (2020)

Gary Hopkins, recorded interview with Malcolm Hulke:  The Doctor Who Podcast, 17th April 2013

Malcolm  Hulke

HERE IS DRAMA behind the scenes at Unity Theatre (1961).

Writing for Television (1974)

Doctor Who and The Cave Monsters (1974),

Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon  (1974)

Doctor Who and the Sea Devils (1974)

Doctor Who and The Green Death (1975)

Doctor Who and the Space War (1976),

Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion  (1976)

Doctor Who and The War Games (1979).

Jennifer Luff, “British government history of secret anti-communist surveillance” Durham University News.

“On Target”:  a special feature  on “The War Games” DVD  (2008)

Richard Marson , “The Incredible Malcolm Hulke,” Doctor Who Magazine, 91, August  1984

Richard Marson, “The Making of the Silurians,” Doctor Who Magazine, 91, August  1984

Richard Marson, “Monsters and Merchandise”  Doctor Who Magazine, 91, August 1984

Richard McGinlay, Alan Hayes and Alys Hayes,  Two Against the Underworld : the collected unauthorised  guide to The Avengers series 1 (2015))

Kevin Morgan,  obituary of Betty Reid., The Guardian, 11th February 2004)

Eric Paice, The Way to Write for Television (1981)

Andrew Pixley, “Factfile: The Sea Devils,” Doctor Who Magazine, 192, 28th October 1992

Andrew Pixley, “Newman at the BBC,” Doctor Who Magazine, 466, October 2013

Andrew Pixley, “The Big Store,” Nothing at the End of the Lane, 4, Autumn 2015.

Paul Reynolds, The vetting files: how the BBC kept out “subversives”.  BBC website, 22nd April 2018

John Williams, “Red Hulke,” Doctor  Who Magazine, 489, September 2015

Nick Yapp, The Write Stuff (2009)

 

Websites

 

The Anorak ZoneAncestry,co.uk

Archive Televison  Musings

 ARD hoerspiele

 The Avengers

The Avengers Forever

 BBC Genome

 British Newspaper Archive

British Television Drama

 Classic Australian TV

 Critical Studiies in Television

Cult TV Lounge

 Doctor Who: a brief history of Time Travel

Die krimiserien

Forgotten TV Drama

Screen Online

Television Heaven

TV Programme von Gestern and Vorgestern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Watch the skies!”: my selection of science fiction to read or watch or listen to… above all to enjoy!

A dalek spacecraft from the film “Daleks’ Invasion of Earth: 2150AD”

Watch…

Things to Come (1936)

The film is based on H G  Wells’s novel The Shape of Things to Come (1933)   in which he imagined a future history of the world, beginning with a world war in 1940 which destroys much of civilisation.  After societal collapse humanity is eventually rescued  by a group of aviators. The film version (which Wells assisted) was  produced by  Alexander Korda, directed by William Cameron Menzies,  and starred Ramond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Pearl Argyle and Margaretta Scott.

You can watch the film  here. 

You can read Wells’ novel here.

 

The Thing From Another World (1951)

The film was   based on the 1938   novella Who Goes There  by John W Campbell.  An American base in the Arctic discovers something buried in the ice – and someone. The scene in which  the   exploring party members  spread out across the ice  – and realise what they have found is a classic. The film ends with an urgent appeal:  “Watch the Skies!”

You can watch it here.

 

X The Unknown (1957)

An early  Hammer film in which a  prehistoric radioactive substance emerges from out of the earth causing   death and  destruction in its  mindless pursuit of radioactive  sources to feed itself. It was produced by  Anthony Hinds, written by Jiimmy Sangster and directed by Leslie Norman and Jospeh Losey. The cast included Dean Jagger, Leo McKern   and  Edward Chapman –  and a  cameo from youthful  Frasier Hines.

You watch the film here

 

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

One of the best British science fiction films of the 1960s, directed by Val Guest.  Simultaneous nuclear explosions by the USA and USSR send the Earth out its orbit and towards the Sun. Only another explosion may perhaps save the world. The  story is told through the eyes  of Peter Stenning (Edward Judd),   a reporter on the Daily Express. The film  include scenes in the newpsaper’s  offices and also makes extensive use of London locations.

You can watch the film  here.

 

A for Andromeda (1961)

This  series was created  by Fred Hoyle and John Elliot.  The plot involves a radio telescope receiving a signal and data from the direction of the Andromeda galaxy which enables scientists  to create a computer and  then life, a young woman they call Andromeda. But who is she and what is her real mssion?  The cast included Peter Halliday,  Mary Morris, Julie Christie and John Hollis. Sadly only the penultimate  episode “The Face of the Tiger”  has survived in its entirety.

You can watch “The Face of the Tiger” here.

You can read my post on the series here.

 

The Andromeda Breakthrough (1962)

Due to the success of A For Andromeda the BBC quickly commissioned a  six part sequel.  As  the BBC had failed to offer a  Julie Christie in time, the part of Andromeda was  now played by Susan Hampshire. Peter Halliday,  Mary Morris and John Hollis reprised their roles, joined by Claude Farell and Barry Linehan.   You can read my post on the series here.  The first four episodes are available on Daily Motion:

Part 1 Cold Front

Part 2, Gale Warning

Part 3, Azaran Forecast

Part 4, Storm Centres

 

These are the Damned (1963)

A British film directed by Joseph  Losey and starring  Sally Ann Field, Macdonald Casey and Oliver Reed.   Hoilday makers  at the  seaside discover a group of   children hidden away  in  a secret government  bunker who,  owing to  an accident  are resistant to nuclear radiation.

You can watch the film  here.

 

The Stranger (1964, 1965)

An Australian science fiction children’s television series written by G K  Saunders and  produced by ABC. In the middle of a rain storm a stranger arrives on the dootstep of a  family claiming  to have lost his memory. Who is he? Where has he come from ?  What does he really want? The stranger was played by Ron Haddrick who lifts  the series out of the ordinary. He went on to become one of Australia’s  best known actors. The series sold well abroad: I watched it on the BBC  in 1965.

You can watch the series here.

 

UFO (1970)

This live action series c was reated by Sylvia and Gerry   Anderson  (creators of Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet etc). It follows the exploits of a secret organisation called SHADO set up to fight attacks by alien spacecraft. It’s set in 1980 by the way. Odd that the purple wigs never happened.  Only one series of 26 episodes was made.

You can watch the series here.

 

Space 1999 (1975-1977)

A massive explosion on the Moon  sends it out of orbit on 13th September 1999  and on a journey across the galaxy. The inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha  meet a variety of aliens along the way – some friendly, some not, of course. The series was created by Sylvia  and Gerry Anderson. Two series were made.

You can watch series 1 here.

You can watch series 2 here.

 

Children of the Stones (1977)

Astrophysicist Adam Brake (Gareth Thomas)  and his young son Matthew (Peter Demin)  arrive in the small village of Milbury, which is built in the midst of a megalithic stone circle.   Increasingly strange phenomenon are happening,  while  many of the villagers are in thrall to a cult, the “Happy Ones.” The series  was filmed  in Avebury.

You can watch the series  here.

 

The Day of the Triffids (1981)

A  BBC dramatisation of the novel by John Wyndham,  which  is by far  the best version, scripted by Douglas Livingstone. The cast includes John Duttine, Emma Relph and Maurice Colbourne.

Bill Masen is in hospital, having suffered a minor eye injury and awaiting the removal of his bandages. He calls repeatedly, but nobody comes. Plucking up the courage to take off the bandages, and venturing on to the streets of London, he discovers that most of the world has gone blind overnight, apparently after watching a metor shower. Can humanity survive this catastrophe?

Other than updating it to the 1980s the producers sensibly left the plot intact. You can read my post on the novel here.

You can watch the six episodes  as follows

Episodes 1 and 2

Episodes 3 and 4

Episodes 5 and 6.

 

Blakes 7 (1978-1981)

Created by Terry Nation this BBC series  ran for four seasons.  In the far future a group of resistance fighters led by Blake (Gareth Thomas)   and later Avon (Paul Darrow) take on the oprressive Federation. Their chief opponent  is the effortlessly cool and  unfailingly evil Servalan (Jacqueline Peace)

You watch the series here.

 

Quatermass IV (1979)

Often overlooked, the conclusion to the Quatermass series. The four episode  series  was written by Nigel Kneale, of course,  and starred John Mills as Bernard Quatermass.

It is set in a near future in which large numbers of young people are joining a  cult, the Planet People, and gathering at prehistoric sites, believing they will be transported to a better life on another planet. Professor Quatermass arrives  in London to look for his granddaughter, Hettie Carlson, and witnesses  the destruction of two spacecraft and the disappearance of a group of Planet People at a stone circle by an unknown force.

You watch the series here

 

The Lathe of Heaven (1980)

I dream.  You dream. We all dream. Every night. And then forget them. Mostly.  But suppose our dreams came true?  This is the intriguing premise  of Ursula Le Guin’s 1971 novel  which follows the dreams and story of  an ordinary man George Orr  with an ordinary job living in an ordinary flat who has  an extraordinary ability. The Lathe of Heaven was made into a television movie in 1980 by WNET and  starred   Bruce Davison,   Kevin Conway, and Margaret Avery.

You can watch the film here.

You read my post on the novel here.

 

Chocky (1984)

A Thames  television series,  based on John Wyndham’s  last novel,  and written by Anthony Read.  Matthew  is 12 and has an imaginary friend called Chocky  whom he insists is real  to the increasing alarm of his parents. But  just how imaginary is Chocky? The cast includes James Hazeldine, Carol Drinkwater  and Andrw Ellams.

You can watch the series here.

It was followed by two sequels, not based on the book,  but using some  of the the same characters.

Chocky’s  Children  (1985)  which you can watch here

Chocky’s Challenge  (1986) which you can watch here.

 

Listen…

The Time Machine by H G Wells (1895)

One of the novels in the 1890s  in which Wells invented modern science fiction. The story of an unnamed scientist whose   time machine  takes  him far into the distant future, AD 802701.  Here humanity has evolved into the Eloi, childlike creatures who live on fruits and whose simple  life seems idyllic. But this Eden has serpents. The traveller discovers that   in the depths underground there are other, darker, creatures..

The Time Machine was dramatised  on the radion by the BBC in 2009. The cast included Robert Glenister , William Gaunt, Jill Cardo and Dan Starkey.

You can listen to this broadcast here.

 

The War of the Worlds radio broadcast, 1938

On 30th  Ocober 1938 the Mercury Theatre  on the Air made a radio broadcast  on Columbia Radio of the  H G Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1897), adapted  and directed by Orson Welles, who  transferred the story to contemporray USA. After an inital announcement music was played for half an hour until it interrupted by a newsflash announcing that  a projectile had fallen in New Jersey. Then the story is carried forward with a series of dramatic  news bulletins  and  vivid  outside broadcasts describing the Martians emerging from the cylinder and then  using a heat ray.  The first half  of the broadcast ends  with a reporter on a skyscraper  describing  New York being enveloped by black poisonous gas.

Some listeners, who had missed the start of the broadcast,   believed that what they were hearing was real and there was a panic in some parts of the East  Coast, but not as much as the  myths about the broadcast  might have you believe.

You  can listen to the broadcast here.

This  is an article about the broadcast.

 

The Invisible Man by H G Wells  (1897)

The novel begins with a mysterious traveller staying in an Inn  In West Sussex whose  actions  and appearance  increasingly draw suspicion  from the locals. Who is he?  And why does he conceal his face?

You  can listen to a dramatisation  starring John Hurt  here.

 

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

One of the most influential and pessimistic novels of the twentieth century, It is  set in a socialist  England (EngSoc)  (now called Airsrip One)  in which the citizens are  controlled and surveyed at all times  by an all powerful state headed by Big Brother. The Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Love and Ministry of Truth are the chief organs of the state.  Winston Smith  attempts his own personal revolt. Can he succeed?

It was dramatised for the radio by the BBC in 1965.  The cast included Patrick Troughton. You can listen to this here.

 

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

In his second novel  The Kraken Wakes John Wyndham again imagines  the  breakdown of  human civilisation, but in a very different  way and from a very different kind of menace. By contrast with  The Day of the Triffids  –  in which the Triffids were home-grown destroyers and  highly visible throughout the novel – in The Kraken Wakes  the  invaders appear  to be  from another planet,   and  are almost  never seen, having based themselves in the ocean deeps.

In 1998 the BBC broadcast an adaptation  by John Constable. Michael Watson was played by Jonathan Cake, Phyllis Watson was played by Saira Todd.  You can listen to the series   here.

In 2004 the BBC broadcast a reading of the novel  in 16 parts, read by  Stephen Moore. You can listen to this  here.

 

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1954)

Set in a future in which most of humanity  is packed into  “caves  of steel” –  huge underground cities – the novel is a murder mystery.  Detective Elijah Bailey,  who has been  given the task of finding out who murdered a Spacer  ambassador, is assigned a robot –  R Daneel Olivaw –  as his partner, much to his horror.

Thel novel  was dramatised in 1989 by the BBC,  adapted by Bert Coules. The cast included Ed Bishop,  Sam Dastor  and Matt Zimmermann.

You can listen to this here.

 

The Chrysalids  by John Wyndham (1955)

The novel set in the future, perhaps several centuries after our own time. The story is told through the eyes of David Strorm as he grows up in a rural part of Labrador. This is a religiously fundamentalist society, fearful of any kind of physical difference in human bodies. “Watch Thou For The Mutant!”is drummed into the population. . We, the readers, soon divine that the “Tribulation” of which they talk was in fact a nuclear war, and that this is the society that has somehow survived, plunged back into a subsistence way of life, based on farming, with no technology. But within this ossified society the seeds of a new kind of human being are emerging into the light. In my opinion this is John Wyndham’s masterpiece.

The novel  was dramatised by the BBC in 1981 in an adapation by Barbara Clegg. The cast included Stephen Garlick, Amanda Murray. Judy Bennett and  Jane Knowles.   You can listen to  the series   here

You can read my post on the book here.

 

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham  (1957)

The story begins with a small ordinary English village being subject to a mysterious force rendering everyone within a circle unconscious for a whole day on Tuesday . The authorities outside cannot get in: an aerial photograph reveals an object in the village with “a pale oval outline, with a shape, judging by the shadows, not unlike the inverted bowl of a spoon.” When the village come back to life the object has gone, while the villagers appear not to have been harmed by what they quickly come to call  “the Dayout”.

Some months later, however, every woman of childbearing age, married or single, discovers that she is pregnant. When the children are born they have golden eyes and,  as they grow up,  reveal disquieting powers.  Who are they and what is their real mission?

The novel was adapted by William Ingram for the BBC World Service in  1982. The cast included  Charles Kay, William Gaun , Manning Wilson  and  Pauline Yates.

You can listen to the radio series here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

 

The Slide by Victor Pemberton (1966)

A  chilling seven part  radio series in which a small seaside town  is menaced by an eruption of  sentient mud which seems to have a  mental hold on some of the inhabitants. I listened to The Slide when it was broadcast, aged 11,  and it left a vivid impression  on me.  When I listened again more than  40 years later, I thought it was still very effective.

The cast included  Roger Delgado, Maurice Denham, David Spenser and Miriam Margolyes. The producer was John Tydeman and the sound effects were, of course, by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  Victor Pemberton  also wrote the Doctor Who serial “Fury from the Deep” (1968).

You can listen to the series  here.

 

The Dispossesd by Ursula Le Guin (1974)

In her new introduction to the Library of America reprint in 2017, Ursula  wrote:

The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it. I needed to understand my own passionate opposition to the war that we were, endlessly it seemed, waging in Vietnam, and endlessly protesting at home. If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one. But, knowing only that I didn’t want to study war no more, I studied peace. I started by reading a whole mess of utopias and learning something about pacifism and Gandhi and nonviolent resistance. This led me to the nonviolent anarchist writers such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman. With them I felt a great, immediate affinity. They made sense to me in the way Lao Tzu did. They enabled me to think about war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak.

So, when I realised that nobody had yet written an anarchist utopia, I finally began to see what my book might be. And I found that its principal character, whom I’d first glimpsed in the original misbegotten story, was alive and well—my guide to Anarres.”

You can listen to a dramatisation of this novel by CBC radio  here.

Short Stories by Ken Macleod

 Lighting Out

Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?

The Vorkuta event.

The Entire Immense Superstructure’: An Installation

 

Read…

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne (1865)

Jules Verne invented a good deal of what later came to be called “science fiction,”  his work was  widely read not just in France but in Anglophone countries as well.   In this early novel the Baltimore Gun Club decide to visit the Moon, not using a rocket,  but instead  by  building  a huge gun In Florida  and firing a shell towards our satellite.- with themselves inside ! The novel was adapted as the opera in 1875, with music by Offenbach. It also  inspired the first science fiction film A Trip to the Moon.

You can read the novel here.

You can read the sequel All Around The Moon (1870)  (and find out  if the  three adventurers  survived the trip) here.

You can watch  A Trip to the Moon here.

 

20,000 Leagues under Sea  by Jules Verne (1871)

Three adventurers in pursuit of what is though to be a giant narwhal which  has been attacking  shipping  discover it  is in fact  an electric powered submarine  and are taken aboard. Commanded by Captain  Nemo,  the Nautilus  roams the world’s occens gathering scientific knowledge but also attacking ship in a personal vendetta by Nemo.  it has been filmed several times.

You can read the novel here.

You can read the sequel  The Mysterious Island here.

You can watch the 1916 silent  film of the novel  here.

 

When The Sleeper Awakes by H G Wells (1898)

Graham wakes up after being asleep for 203 years, having fallen into a coma at the end of the C19th. Whilst asleep he  has not only became a symbol of hope for the common people, but also, because of the investments made in his name by his friends, which have grown enormously during his time asleep, he is actually “the Owner” – the Master of the world. The moment he wakes up, he is plunged into the midst of a revolution as the people, led by Boss Ostrog, battle and defeat the oppressive White Council, which was ruling the world in his name. The rest of the novel follows his adventures in this future society,  whose real nature he only slowly comes to comprehend.

You can read the novel here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

 

The Sorcery Shop: an Impossible Romance by Robert Blatchford (1907)

In The Sorcery Shop Robert Blatchford attempts to describe what a Socialist utopia might look like, imagining the grimy, smoke-clogged city of Manchester, which he knew very well, transformed a sunlit city of flowers, fountains and crystal towers. It is of a piece, therefore, with other socialist utopian novels of the period, including Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), William Morris’ News from Nowhere (1890), H G Wells’ A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923), and Charlote Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915)

Robert Blatchford and his friends were the founders in 1891 of the Clarion newspaper: the most influential Socialist newspaper ever published in Britain, which created thousands of Socialists and inspired a whole social movement.

You can read the novel here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

 

October the First is Too Late by Fred Hoyle (1966)

In his introduction to this novel Hoyle writes: “The ‘science’ in this book is mostly scaffolding for the story, story-telling in the traditional sense. However, the discussions of the significance of time and of the meaning of consciousness are intended to be quite serious…”

Hoyle’s novels often have a scientist as the main protagonist, but in this novel it is a musician and composer named Dick: accordingly each chapter is named after a musical theme or style eg “Fugue” and “Coda.”. The novel begins in 1966 when he runs into an old university friend John Sinclair, now a scientist, and on an impulse they set off together on a trip to Scotland. Something very odd happens here. Sinclair disappears for half a day, and on returning cannot explain or recall what has happened to him. The trip is cut short when Sinclair is recalled to the USA to assist in the investigation of a strange solar phemonena. Dick accompanies him to Hawaii, where Sinclair and others establish that the Sun is somehow being used as a signalling device with an enormous amount of data being transmitted. Barely have they absorbed this astonishing fact when all contact is lost with the USA: it is feared that a nuclear war has begun.

Dick and Sinclair manage to get places on a plane sent to investigate what has happened. Flying above Los Angeles there is no sign of a war: the city is simply no longer there, just woods and grassland in its place. Journeying on, they see the same across the continent. Crossing the Atlantic they find to their relief that the England of 1966 is still there but Europe has reverted to 1917 with the First World War raging. The rest of the novel explores the implications and possible cause of this extraordinary situation. .

You can read the novel online here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

 

Mutant 59: the Plastic Eater by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler (1972)

Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler met in 1966 when Gerry was the script editor at Doctor Who, and was looking for a scientific advisor to inject a greater degree of scientific speculation into the programme. Kit was head of a research unit at the Institute of Opthamalmology at the University of London.

Kit suggested that the newly built Post Office Tower, then the tallest structure in London, could be used by a computer to take over the capital using the telephone network to control the minds of humans. This evolved into the serial The War Machines, broadcast in the summer of 1966, featuring the computer WOTAN and its war machines. They then came up with the idea of the Cybermen: humanoids who have replaced so much of their bodies with technology that they have lost all emotion and empathy. Their first story featuring the Cybermen “The Tenth Planet” aired in the autumn 1966. The silver monsters were a big hit with the public, and were quickly brought back in “The Moonbase” (February 1967) and then in “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (September 1967). After Gerry left Doctor Who Kit worked with Victor Pemberton on “The Wheel in Space” (May 1968), and with Derrick Sherwin on another Cybermen serial “The Invasion” (November 1968). This was Kit’s last involvement with Doctor Who.

By 1970 Kit was becoming disillusioned by science and increasingly alarmed about the effect that technology and the headlong rush for economic growth at all costs was having on the environment. He, and many others around the globe, feared the possibility of ecological collapse. Working together again, Kit and Gerry created a series for the BBC called Doomwatch. “Doomwatch” is the nickname for special government unit established to monitor environmental and other threats to the public. The first series created a sensation with storylines on issues such as transplants, genetic mutation of rats, chemical poisoning, and a crashed nuclear bomb on the south coast. The extensive scientific research done by Kit for the series meant that the storylines appeared to anticipate news stories.

After Doomwatch Gerry and Kit wrote three novels together, the first of which was Mutant 59, partly based on a storyline in Doomwatch.

You can read the novel  here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

You can read a 1973 interview with Gerry and Kit here.

You can read  my post on their second  novel  Brainrack (1974)  here.

You can read my post on  their third novel  The Dynostar Menace (1975) here.

 

The Exile In Waiting by Vonda  N McIntyre (1975)

The novel is set on a future Earth, turned into a desert  by some environmental catastrophe.  The only surviving city is Center,  an underground city run by a handful of wealthy families who control the air, food,  power and water.  Many of the inhabitants are little more than slave in thrall to the familiess.

Mischa is a teenager, scraping a living  in the back streets of Center by any means possible, including stealing. She is also an empath who senses the moods of others, including her sister Gemmi with whom she has a strong emotional  link that keeps her trapped in Center. The novel follows her quest for freedom and happiness.

You can read the novel here.

You can read my post on the novel here.

 

Dreamsnake by Vonda N  McIntyre (1978)

The novel seems to be set in the world outside Center. Snake is a healer who uses  her three snakes to cure people. But her  very rare dreamsnake  is  killed and she needs to find another. The novel follows her quest and her adventures and encounters on the journey.

You can read the novel here.

 

Superluminal by Vonda McIntyre (1983)

Often overshadowed  by  Vonda’s first two novel. Laenea Trevelyan, has her heart replaced with a machine so she can survive faster-than-light travel and become a pilot. Orca, a diver, divides her time between starships and the Strait of Georgia, where her relatives include a family of killer whales and a group of other divers, human beings who can exist underwater.  Radu Dracul, a colonist from the alien world Twilight, having chosen to leave his home and become a starship crew member, discovers he has abilities he never dreamed of…

You can read the novel here.

 

Short Stories by Ken Macleod

A Tulip for Lucretius

Earth Hour

Jesus Christ Reanimator

 

Learn…

Andrew Pixley

For the last 30 years Andrew has  written about almost anything to do with television if people will pay him – and occasionally when they won’t… He has made many  contributions to the Doctor Who magazine,  worked as a consultant and researcher on tv documentaries  such as Thirty Years in the Tardis, written The Avengers Files and The Daleks; a history from BBC Video,    as well  providing the accompanying notes to  a variety of  boxsets of televison and radio series,  including  Doctor Who,  A for Andromeda, Callan,  Public Eye, The Prisoner and Journey into Space.

You can read his posts on the Critical  Studies in Television blog   here 

 

Bergcast

A podcast  about Nigel Kneale and the Quatermass series.

 

Blogtor Who :the definite article you might say.

Extensive news and resources site  on Doctor Who, Big Finish releases. etc.

 

Doctor Who

The  official  BBC site with many  resources on the series, past and present

The Early Days of a Better Nation

Science fiction Ken Macleodreflects on science fiction, socilaist politics and much else. the title comes from two sources: “Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray. “If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.”—Graydon Saunders

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Now in its third edition, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (emeritus) and Graham Sleight (managing). It has more than 18,000 entries  which are free to read online.

 

Galactic Journey. 55 years ago science fact and fiction

The website looks back 55 years to another world, another time,  with sections on science  fiction, music and much more from 1965.

 

H G Wells Society

The H.G. Wells Society was founded by Dr. John Hammond in 1960. It has an international membership, and aims to promote a widespread interest in the life, work and thought of Herbert George Wells. The society publishes a peer-reviewed annual journal, The Wellsian, and issues a biannual newsletter. It has published a comprehensive bibliography of Wells’s published works, and other publications, including a number of works by Wells which have been out of print for many years.

 

K U Gunn Centre for the Study of Science Fiction

This site provides a wealth of information and informed commentary about science fiction and the Center’s programs, including awards, course syllabi, writing resources, and much more.

 

Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy

A non-circulating research collection of over 80,000 items of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction, as well as magic realism, experimental writing and some materials in ‘fringe’ areas such as parapsychology, UFOs, Atlantean legends etc.

 

The Time Ladies

“A blog for all Doctor Who fans, ran by female Doctor Who fans.”

 

Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013, Toby Hadoke embarked on an epic quest: to interview someone from every single Doctor Who story. Feeling Doctors or companions are a bit too easy, he travels the country meeting legends from the show’s history from both in front of and behind the cameras, and chats to them about their time working on Doctor Who and the lives they have led since (and, indeed, before).

The interviews are in the form of podcasts on the Big Finish website, which you can download or stream here, or subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or other podcast outlets. All episodes are free, so if you’ve enjoyed Toby’s chat, all he asks is that you give a donation to a charity nominated by the interview subject.

Una McCormack

Una  is a New York Times bestselling science fiction author. She is passionate about women’s writing, science fiction, and helping people find their words and voices. Her work includes Doctor Who novels and  Doctor Who stories for Big Finish eg Red Planets as well as  Star Trek novels and other work.

 

Univerity of Liverpool; Science fiction collection.

The book stock at Liverpool is mainly formed by the Science Fiction Foundation Library. It represents the largest catalogued collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and related literary criticism in Europe, totalling over 35,000 books.

 

Unwilling Adventurer

Run by sisters Katie and Claire and devoted to their varied  interests,  including Hartnell era Doctor Who.

 

Ursula Le Guin

Put simply Ursula was the most influential science  fiction  writer of the past half century.

 

Verity Podcast

“A Doctor Who podcast where a rotating cast of six women, from across the globe, talk all things Doctor Who. We have opinions.”

 

Wells at the Worlds End.

Adam Roberts  read through the whole of HG  Wells’ work  for a book and blogged about each book as he went along. The book  H G Wells,  A Literary Life, was published by Palgrave.

 

The work of Lisa Yaszek

Lisa is Professor of Science Fiction Studies in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where she researches and teaches science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures. She is particularly interested in issues of gender, race, and science and technology in science fiction across media as well as the recovery of lost voices in science fiction history and the discovery of new voices from around the globe

“A grim fantasy” : remaking American history in Octavia Butler’s Kindred

 

Women’s Press Science Fiction series

Between 1983 and  1990  the  Women’s Press published a series  of feminist science fiction novels and collections by women writers. The titles included a mix of classsics  and new work.  Some  bear rereading, some less so.

You can read  reviews I have written  of  a number of the novels here.

You can read more about the series   here –  SF Mistressworks website

 

The caves of real: The Exile in Waiting by Vonda N McIntyre (1975)

Vonda’s work as a science fiction writer was very  influenced by the American feminist movement and her friendship with other women writers who changed the direction of science fiction, hitherto dominated by male writers. She was  only the second woman to win the Nebula award  for Dreamsnake (1978 and the third to win the Hugo award for best novel.

She was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Having grown up reading science fiction, Vonda started writing herself  and  sold her first short stories in 1969.  In the summer of the following year Vonda  attended the Clarion writers’ workshop at Clarion State College, Pennsylvania, where one of her instructors was science fiction writer  Joanna  Russ.and  studied in Seattle where she  attended the University of Washington, earning a BS in biology but leaving in 1971, part of the way through her PhD  course in genetics to take up writing.

Inspired by her experience at the workshop, she  established Clarion West writers’ workshop in Seattle and helped run it for three years (1971-73), with her  fellow  science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin as one of the tutors. McIntyre lived at Le Guin’s isolated cabin in Oregon which  is where  she completed her first novel, The Exile Waiting (1975).  It’s dedicated to “Ursula and Charles, with fond memories of their Charitable Home for Writers.”

The novel is set on a future Earth, turned into a desert  by some environmental catastophe.  The only surviving city is Center an underground city run by a handful of wealthy families who control the air, food,  power and water.  Many of the inhabitants are little more than slave in thrall to the familiess.

Beyond Earth is the Sphere, civilisations in space spawned by Earth who visit from time to time to trade.

…The Three Hills rose up, as crowded with dwellings as Center’s walls. Their interiors were mazes and warrens, labyrinthine byond mythology. People with no work and no way of to support themelves live dthere, at the core of Center, existing on the city’s paltry charity.

Mischa is a teenager, scraping a living  in the back streets of Center by any means possible, including stealing. She is also an empath who senses the moods of others, including her sister Gemmi with whom she has a strong emotional  link that keeps her trapped in Center.

When Mischa left the city, as she was determined somehow to do, it would be by her own will, her own plan. She had no intention of being driven out because of an ability for which she did not even have a word. Mischa imagined being chased into the deep underground: as a prison, it would lose its beauty and its fascination. And she would be doubly trapped. If she were seen near the city again, she would be killed: if she stayed in the underground  and tried to defy Gemmi’s inevitable call to  return, she would go mad.

Mischa makes her way into the Stone Palace –  home to one of the Families who control the landing field and trade –  in an attempt  to get work but it ends badly when  she angers Lady Clarissa  who  orders her to be whipped which  takes place in a public square, and is brutal.

While Mischa is recovering, looked after by her friend Kiri , Center is invaded by a party of space travellers led by pseudosiblings Subone and Subtwo, who ensconce themselves in the Stone Palace in return for trade.

Mischa  manages to get into the  Stone Palace  and meet Subtwo who discovers that she has remarkable  mathematical powers. He offers her work and the possibility of leaving Earth. She is taught   by one of the space travellers, Jan Hikaru, whom she befriends.  Mischa laps up this new  knowledge:

Every subject she studied came easily. She seldom forgot anything she read. She was happiest with mathematics and theoretical physics; each level of study pulled more facets of reality into an elegant and intricate and consistent  system of natural laws. The new knowledge pleased her  in a way few things ever had, speaking to a sense of beauty and order that she had perceived, yet never had a means of expressing…

Vonda McIntyre

After Mischa’s brother Chris is killed by Subone she goes on the run with Jan, delving ever deeper into the caverns below Center. Here  she makes some startling discoveries that shape the rest of the novel.

Forty years after it was written, the novel seems as up to date anything I have read recently. Mischa is an  engaging heroine, not dependent on men for agency or rescue,  and we  follow her adventures avidly  with the fervent hope that her dreams  of revolution and  escape will become reality. The novel highlights the importance of women’s  friendships, a theme that runs through  Vonda’s  later work.

 

 

Moving Moosevan by Jane Palmer (1990)

In a previous post I reviewed The Planet  Dweller by Jane Palmer. Moving Moosevan is sequel to that novel, also published by Women’s  Press in 1990 in  their groundbreaking science  fiction series.

Moving Moosevan follows directly on from The Planet Dweller with many of the same characters and some new ones.   Neighbours  Diana and   Eva are once again  caught up in the battle to save the world from   invasion by the  malodorous Mott,  asssisted by  Yuri,  and  also  Drax and Reniola, two inter-galactic super-intelligences able to  shapeshift into other forms, including a cat and a woman who looks disconcertingly  like Mrs Thatcher.

Inept  frog-like Olmuke underlings Kulp, Tolt and Jannau are assisting the Mott invaders  by  trying to open a portal to earth from  the Mott planet.  And there are some new players  in the game:  Yat and his fellow androids on  the Mott planet scheming to take the earth for themselves.

The planet dweller herself,  Moosevan, now firmly entrenched below ground  starts to make  changes  to the earth, unhappy with what humanity has done to the  planet’s environment. Britain and Ireland start moving southwards, for instance, and mountains topped  with observatories grow much taller:

Under the curious  gaze of the Pole star even stranger things were begining to happen. The ozone layer, seasonally shredded by pollution, was reknitting itself. The palls of smoke which regularly hung over so many parts of South America were inexplicably doused and trees with manic growth rates began to reforrest the scarred land. …In the north of the continent similar dramatic acts of land reclamation were underway. All the open-cast mines and  quarries whch  had scarred the land were inexplicably filled in.  The ground was being shaken up and put back in its original shape. Topsoil was strewn over the blasted land and vegetation shot up like a tapestry to weave it into place before the winds could scatter it again. Being so public an exercise, no land agent could persuade buyers to claim a plot of this miracle pasture. Even prairie dogs thought twice about taking up residence.  It was no place for the God-fearing, superstitious or nervous rodent. So, like belladonna, being allowed to fruit, beauty was left to  prosper.

Industry flanking the Rhine slowly sank, and plants once more secured the eroded banks of the Ganges and Brahmaputra

Oh , and there is Salisbury, “a tall, lean, friendly-looking man, ” who unknowingly  is Moosevan’s new object of desire.

By the end everything is resolved in a good way, although humanity has been moved to a new home, Titan. So a sequel beckons.

Jane Palmer designed the book jacket.

 

Out of the Unknown, Series 1, episode 11: “Thirteen to Centaurus” by J G Ballard,

“Thirteen to Centarus” was broadcast on 13th December 1965

Cast: Dr Francis – Donald Houston, Abel Granger – James Hunter, Colonel Chalmers – John Abineri, General Short – Noel Johnson, Dr Kersh – Robert James, Zenna Peters – Carla Challoner.

Script: Stanley Miller

Director:  Peter Potter

Designer: Trevor Williams

Producer and Story Edtor: Irene Shubik, 

Associate Producer: George Spenton-Foster.

J G  Ballard was one of the most influential  post-war British writers. His work includes novel such as The Drowned  World, The Crystal World, Crash, High Rise and Concrete Island.  Whether or not he was a science fiction writer in the classic sense is open to debate –  his  preoccupations are often inner space, rather than outer space –  coupled with dystopian tales  of modernity in Britain:   Ballard’s manor  is  the world of supermarkets, motorways and high rises.

“Thirteen  to Centaurus” is a short story  which was first published in Amazing Stories in  April 1962. This  adaptation follows the story closely with some  minor alterations.

The station crew

Set in a station whose purpose is yet to be revealed,  it begins with the  funeral of the captain with those present heartily singing “Onward Christian  Soldiers” as the coffin is dispatched into, well, where exactly?

In this community,  numbering just a dozen, Dr Francis wields  much authority,  constantly monitoring the behaviour and thoughts of the crew. He orders a young woman  Zenna to report for conditioning which he says is weakening in her: we  see the inhabitants working out in the gym to the accompaniment of a recorded voice, endlessly repeating:  “This is the world and the whole world. There is no other  world but this. There are no other  creatures but the chosen, and their children shall  the universe. This is the world and the whole world…”

But a young man called Abel  (who suffers from a recurring  dream of a burning disk) is asking pointed  questions of Francis.  Abel  is the Einstein of this tiny world. In his essay about the station he called  it “The Closed Community” and  worked out that  the station appeared to be revolving at about two  feet per second.   Francis  decides  is now  time to tell Abel the truth  and puts him  under the  conditioning to bring back his memories.

“When  you wake up you you will know  the truth:  that this station is in fact a spaceship. We are travelling from our home planet  Earth to another planet million of miles away. Our grandfathers  always lived on Earth. We are the first people to  attempt  such a journey. We were chosen from all people.  You can be proud of that Abel.. You were chosen before  you were born.  Your grandfather was a great man,  he volunteered to come – and so  you are here too. Never forget …The station must be kept running properly…this is a multi-generation space vehicle. Only your children will land  and they will be old when they do.”

Dr Francis and Abel

He explains to Abel that the ship set out 50 years ago and is heading for a planet that revolves around  the Alpha  Centauri.“The social  engineering that went into the building of this ship was more intricate than  the mechanical side….One day the project will be you responsibility.”

So now we and Abel  know the truth. Except we don’t know.  For on one of  Francis’s screens showing the starfields a shadow of a man  appears,  prompting  him to go through a hatch  to find himself…not in outer space,  but  firmly on the ground on Earth.

The station is in fact a  scientific project to test the ability of humans to endure centuries of travel to the stars. They have been conditioned not to question why Dr Francis is not an old man.  But the mood of the government and  public has changed since the project began  50 years before.  One of his colleagues tells Francis. “Even the public is beginning to feel that there is something obscene about this human zoo.  What began as a grand adventure has dwindled into a grisly joke.”

The new commander General Short  tells  Francis that a decision  has been taken to shut down the project.  “What we propose is a phased withdrawal, a gradual re-adjustment  of the world around the crew, that will bring them down to Earth as gently as a parachute. Some of you may have other suggestions. But however we do  it, Project Alpha Centari will be discontinued…The returned   crew will have to be given every freedom and every tv station and  newspaper network in the world  will want to interview  each of them a hundred times.”

General Short

Francis  vehemently objects; “It’s crazy. They will be bound to find out the truth… I don’t think you know what you are  saying General.  Bring them back? How can you bring back the dead?  How can you restore  the lost hundred years?… The task of the original project was to get them to Alpha Centauri. Nothing was said about bringing them back. ..I/m thinking about the crew. If it takes 50 years to get them there, it should take the same time  to bring them back. ..What I don’t know is how each individual is going to react. The people inside that dome hav veen taught to believe since they were children that they are living in a world of their own..and that they would never meet anyone else in the whole of their lives. …The people inside that dome do not want to come out. “

Francis suggest  a chilling  alternative solution:  that the project continues but with  no further children being born until the crew  are all dead as the life span within the dome is only 40 years on average.

Back inside the station the balance of power  begins to shift from Francis to Abel who has started an experiment, conditioning  Francis every day for hours on end and unsettling him  by changing the meal times.   Francis stops leaving the station, which worries the controllers of the project.  They prepare to send in a recovery crew,  but Francis threatens to reveal the nature of the project to the station  crew and the raid is called off. Finally he cuts  off all communication  with the outside world  with the words, “I’m going to Alpha Centauri.” Short wonders, “Whose really in control?

We discover that Abel in fact   knows  there are people outside the station, something he seems to have known for some time.  When Francis discovers he tells him he should leave and  be free Abel responds, “Free?  What does that mean? Neither of us is free. This is our whole world and these are our people. The burning disk is the eye of God and Abel is his servant,chosen of the Lord.”

Abel  continues his experiment on Francis,   conditioning him to lose  his memories of the outside world. and to make him believe that he  is flying to Alpha Centauri but will never live to get there.  At the end of the episode  Abel plays  a recording he has made himself: “This is the voice of the chosen of the Lord. This is a spaceship.  We are the first people to undertake such a journey Doctor Francis.  This life is your only life. This ship is your only world. You will never see another. You are flying to Alpha Centauri. You can be proud of that, Doctor Francis.”

In  his epic poem Paradise  Lost Milton gave a now famous line to Satan: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” Is that the choice that Abel has made?

This is a successful  production, creating  a  distinct claustrophic intensity and makes good use of  the array of   solid acting talent eg Noel Johnson and Robert James  available to the director. James Hunter is particularly  good as Abel, moving convincingly  from gaucheness to  authority in the course of the episode.

 

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

John Abineri appeared in Doctor Who in  “Fury from the Deep” (1968)  as Van Lutynes, in “The Ambassadors of Death” (1970) as General Carrington, in “Death to the Daleks” (1974)  as Richard Railton and in   “”The Power of Kroll” (1979)  as Ranquin

Robert James appeared in Doctor Who in “The Power of the Daleks” (1966)  as Lesterson  and in “The Mask of Mandragora”  (1976) as the High Priest.

Noel Johnson played the effortlessly  suave civil servant  J M  Osborne in A for Andromeda  (1961) and The Andromeda Breakthrough  (1962)

“the plug-in society…”: The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner (1975)

The Shockwave Rider is one of a series of influential  and wildly imaginative novels that Brunner wrote in the 1960s and 1970s in which he  imgined how society might develop in the future under the impact of  problems such as over-population and environmental pollution.

In The Shockwave Rider, Brunner’s focus is  the impact of computers on society, a technology whose use in the early  1970s was confined to large corporations,  scientific research institutes  and the government. Computers were large machines which filled whole rooms: the idea of home computers was just a distant dream. (You can find a timeline on the development of computers here).

In his introduction to the novel John Brunner writes:

People like me who are concerned to portray  in fictional terms aspects of that foreign country, the future, whither we are all willy-nilly being deported, do not make our guesses in a vacuum. We are frequently – and in this case I am specifically  – indebted to those who are analyzing  the limitless possibilities of tomorrow with some more practical aim in view…as for instance the slim yet admirable hope that our children may inherit a world more influenced by imagination and foresight than our own.  The scenario (to employ a fashionable cliche) of The Shockwave Rider derives in large part from Alvin Toffler’s stimulating  study Future Shock, and in consequence I’m much obliged to him.

Future Shock, published in 1970,   was written by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. The Tofflers argued that society was  undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society” a  change which was overwhelming  people and leaving them suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation” ie “future shock”  In their view the majority of social problems  were symptoms of  “future shock”.and “information overload.”

The Tofflers explicitly referenced  science fiction: “… science fiction has immense value as a mind-stretching force for the creation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults.” 

Brunner  specificlaly references the book in the novel :“oh, well the fact it it took us by surprise is just another example of Toffler’s Law, I guess: the future arrives too early and in the wrong order.”

So to the story. Nicholas Haflinger is a “dodger.”  In this  future society  computers log all citizens  and their activity,  but  Haflinger can create his own identity on the data-net (as Brunner calls it)   by  inputting   fictitious details from his veephone  – and then disappear from the gaze of the authorities.   Periodically Haflinger  purges his existing identity  and  creates a new one.

The data-net

In this future those  with money   have adopted the “plug-in” lifestyle”  which offers  never-ending change as one  vacuous trend replaces another, one job replaces another, one house replaces another,  one partner replaces another… ad infinitum.  Television offers multiple three-vee channels which are periodically hijacked by pirate channels broadcasting from satellites. There are also  competing religious groups: eg the Billykings (Protestants), the Grailers (Catholic), the Jihadi babies (Muslims),  who attack  each other in gang wars (known as “triballing).

The computer networks offer public Delphi boards  on which the public bets on the outcome of predictions.

It works approximately like this.

First you corner a large – if possible, a very large  – number of people who, while they’ve never formally  studied the subject you’re going to ask them about and hence are unlikley to recall the correct answer, are nonetheless plugged into the culture to which a question relates.

Then you ask them, as it might be, to estimate how many people died in the great influenza epidemic, which followed World  War 1, or how many  loaves were condemned by EEC food inspectors as unfit for human consumption during June 1970.

Curiously, when you consolidate their replies they tend to cluster around the actual figure as recorded in almanacs, year-books and statistical returns,

It’s rather as though this paradox has proved true: that while nobody knows what’s going on around here, everybody knows what’s going on around here.

Well, it works for the past, why can’t it work for the future? Three hundred million people with access to the integrated North American data-net is a nice big number of potential consultees. Unfortunately  most of them are running scared from the awful specter of tomorrow. How best to corner people who just do not watn to know?

An orphan,  Haflinger was  was recruited from school  by the government and taken to a training and educational facility called Tarnover. It’s dedicated to:

…exploiting genius. Their ancestry could  be traced back to the primitive “think tanks” of the mid-twentieth century, but only in the sense that a solid-state computer was descended from Hollerith’s  punched-card analyzer. Every superpower, and a great many second-hand and third-rank nation has similar  centres. The brain race had been running  for decades and some countries had entered it with head start. (The pun was popular, and forgivable.) 

The USA entered the race on the grand scale very late. Not until the nation was reeling under the impact of the Great Bay Quake was the harsh lesson learned that the economy could not absorb disasters of even this magnitude. Even then it took years for the switch from brawn to brain to become definitive in North America. ..the goal? To pin down before anybody else did the genetic elements of wisdom.

Haflinger flourishes at Tarnover –  but  then  he discovers that they are trying to   make  a superhuman through genetic experiments, creating life that is brought to term in an artificial  womb. Appalled, he goes on the run

At the start of the novel,  after deleting  his identity as Arthur Lazarus, founder and proprietor  of the Church  of Infinite Insight  in a converted drive-in movie theatre near Toledo,  Haflinger creates  a new identity as Sandy Locke, a computer-sabotage consultant, and  gets a job with  a corporation called G2S.  All well and good and as planned.  But then he meets a woman  called  Kate  Lilleberg  who sees  right through his role-playing. “You Sandy Locke are trying far too hard to adhere to a  statistical norm. and I hate to see a good man go to waste.”

Californian commune, 1970

The strain of living too many lives and having to constantly maintain a facade brings about Haflinger’s mental collapse from which he is rescued by Kate.  They become  lovers and go on the run, eventually  ending  up at at Precipice, one of the settlements created  by refugees from Northern Califiornia after the Great Bay Quake which levelled San Francisco.  The town is reached by a meandering electric rail-car.  “Among the things Precipicians  didn’t like  might be cited the data-net, veephones, surface vehicles not running on tracks, heavier-than air craft…modern merchandising methods and the Federal government.”

Precipice rejects “the plug-in society”;  the inhabitants   lives  life in environmental way  with  a strong sense of  place and community, guided by a grassroots democracy. But it hides some vital secrets that  protect its  independence  from a Federal governmnet that loathes it and from the tribes  who  try and  raid the town from time to time. This description of a human-based society  seems very inspired by the communes that sprang up in California in the 1970s.

After a falling out Kate and Haflinger  spilt up and leave Precipice.   Haflinger  is identified and captured, returned to Tarnover  and questioned relentlessly  about his life on the run.

His interogator Freeman tells him: “…But you see you are nobody. And you chose to be so of  your own free will. Legally, officially,   you simply don’t exist.” Kate too is abducted and interogated to put pressure on him. But, convinced by Haflinger’s relentless logic, his interrogator Freeman releases them unofficially.  The couple then criss-cross  the United States, borrowing home computers   as Haflinger creates and releases  a  worm that cannot be killed   into  the data-net, as he tells a press conference held in building occupied by students;

…consist in a comprehensive and irrevocable order to release at any printout station any and all data in store whose publication may conduce to the enhanced  well-being, whether physical, psychological or social of the population of North America. Specifically…information concerning gross infringements of Canadian, Mexican and.or United Staets legal enactmnets respecting  – in order of priority- public health, the protection of the environment, bribery and corruption, fair business and the payment  of national taxes, shall be dissemminated automatically  to the media.

In other words there are  no longer any secrets.

They return to Precipice where  they  and the town face  a final  apocalyptic threat from the Federal Government  that only Halflinger’s extraordinary talent for altering the data-net can save them from.  Can  he achieve  the impossible?

The Shockwave Rider  is  at heart a novel of ideas and possibilities :  the core of the novel is Freeman’s and Haflinger’s dialogue on the kind of  society they are living in – and what an alternative might be.  Highly recommended.

 

 

“Fun for all”: The animated version of the Doctor Who serial The Macra Terror (1967, 2019)

As an avid Doctor Who viewer since the first episode on 23rd  November 1963  I  almost certainly watched “The Macra Terror”, aged 11, on its original broadcast March to April 1967, but I have no recollection of it whatsover. Which means that I got to this watch  the serial as though I was seeing it for the first time which was  a real pleasure.

“The Macra Terror” was one  of the many Doctor Who serials that was wiped by the BBC  in the 1960s and early 1970s.  Home video was just a distant dream, even  on Tomorrow’s World:  drama of any kind  were very rarely repeated so there was no notion at the BBC  that anybody in the future would want to see these programmes again.

The era in which Pat Troughton played the Doctor from 1966 to 1969  was particularly  hard hit because of this policy with 14 serials either  partly or wholly missing at one time. Fortunately some of  those are now available  to us once again, either because they turned up abroad (where they had been  sold decades ago to foreign broadcasters) in the case of the “The Web of Fear” and “The Enemy of the World” or  because they have been turned into animations using the original soundtrack which  forunately have survived. This was done in the case of “The Power of the Daleks”, the first serial in which Pat played the Doctor  for the first time, and which was wholly missing, The DVD was released at the end of 2016, 50 years after ist first broadcast. Now “The Macra Terror” from 1967  has also been animated  – in colour.

In an interview  published in Doctor Magazine (536) to coincide with the release the director Charles Norton said, “It’s not a reconstructuion of the original – it’s a new production of the story. The existing set designs and things like that are really more of a starting point than an end destination” while Adrian  Salmon,  who storyboarded the production, said, “We decided not to refer to the original  shooting script, but rather cast a fresh eye over the performances in the audio.”

The story  begins in the Tardis  with the Doctor  showing his three companions, Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben ( Michael Craze) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) a device known as Time Scanner which  looks into the future. Suddenly a large claw fills the screen.

On landing the travellers find themselves  on a human colony planet (how and when this colonisation happened is never discussed). At first glance this appears to be a space age Butlins with a drum majorette leading a parade as the travellers arrive, while there are constant exhortations from louspeakers: “The colony needs you” and “Fun for All.”. The Pilot (Peter Jeffrey), is in day to day charge,  but orders are received from the Controller (Graham Leaman) whose image  is seen on screen only,  like Big Brother.

This is your Controller speaking. There is no need for alarm. You may all continue your work and play confident that the best is being done for you…. Now, return to your work and play with fresh heart and renewed energy.

The travellers receive a friendly welcome and  are offered steam baths,  beauty treatments etc.  The Doctor even has his suede shoes polished.  All fine.

But the Doctor is already suspcious after an encounter with  Medok (Terence Lodge),  a  colonist who claims  that there are creatures that come out at night.  Soon we too will learn the truth about the colony –  and who is really in charge.

One  of the key  themes of the story  is how dissenting voices are treated by a society. In the case of the colony there is a Corrections Unit and also sleep-machines which brainwash Ben into  conformity for a time with their re-iterated messages;

The sleeper must relax and believe. Everything in the Colony is good and beautiful. You must accept it without question. You must obey orders. The leaders of the Colony know what is best. In the morning when you wake up you will be given some work. You will be glad to obey. You will question nothing in the Colony.

The Doctor  asks the Pilot: “Why do  you want to make everyone the same?” Why indeed.

To my eye this is a better animation than  “The Power of the Daleks” . If you are purist you can watch it in black and white, rather than the colour.

“The Macra Terror” was not the greatest story  of the Pat Troughton era  but it is still a welcome return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…” the new Doctor Who novel: Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss (2019)

This Doctor Who novel was a long time in coming. It began life as a joint  script dreamt up by Tom Baker and his co-star,  the late Ian Marter (who played Unite medic Harry  Sullivan in  Doctor Who between 1974 and 1975).    A good deal of the original story seems to have been  worked on between rounds  in their favourite London pubs or the Colony Club. Giving  it the name   name Doctor Who Meets Scratchman the two actors got as far as talking to director James Hill about a possible film,  but it never progressed any further.

Flash forward forty odd years and the project has been  revived and turned into a novel  in a collaboration between Tom and the very  experienced writer James Goss,  whose previous Doctor Who work  has included  the novels City of Death (2015), The Pirate Planet (2017) and  Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen (2018). In an interview in Doctor  Who Magazine (534)  James says:

At the start of the project I sat down with Tom and a storyline… Although a script of Scratchman exists, there were a  few hints that  it wasn’t quite what Tom and Ian had originally envisaged. So we went right back to the original story and built it up from there.  ..Tom was very influential in shaping the story. 

Scratchman features The Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan. The story is told in a series of flasbacks by the Doctor himself who has been hauled up in front of an assembly of Time Lords with the snappy  title of the Convocation of Oblivion. They’re not happy.

Your recent actions endangered the enture universe,” the Zero Nun informed me.

Yes. Something trivial like that.

The crowd seethed. There was hunger to them….

“All right,” I told her. “But in order to do that I need to teach you about the fear”.

“Fear?” she blinked. That got her.

“Yes.” I addressed the  entire chamber. “You see, even the Time Lords are afarid of something . And tonight, I’m going show you what it is. Are you sitting  comfortably? Of course you are. And  I’m  rather afraid that’s the problem…”

The novel opens  with the Doctor and his companions landing on a  remote Scottish island. (Science fiction and Scottish islands seems to  naturally go together, one thinks  of Target Luna, The Andromeda Breakthrough, Orbit One ZeroAliens in the Mind etc).

A peculiar breeze drifted through the fading daylight on the island. The strange wind howled around the field, circling like a cat before settling down.

A sheep observed all this curiously. Confirming her worst suspicions, a large blue box pushed its way out of thin air onto the grass. The ewe shook her head sadly and trotted away.

The island is picturesque,  but the Doctor senses something in the air. He’s right, of course. They  soon discover that the scarecrows on the island are mutated villagers. They are alive (sort of)  –   and  malevolent,  and it’s not long before the Doctor and the remaining  villagers are barricaded  in the local church in a  classic “base under siege” scenario with the scarecrows hammering on the doors. (The Doctor comes up  with a collective noun for scarecrows, by the way  “a scratch”)

The Doctor manages to get them out of this,   but this is just the begining of their troubles. If the first half is gothic in feel, the second half draws on classic Greek tales, particularly The Odyssey.

The Doctor, having been separated from Sarah and Harry, finds himself in a mythological place. If I tell you that he’s driven there by Charon (in a London taxi) you’ll probably guess where he is (or appears to be, for nothing is straightforward and nothing is what it seems). Can the Doctor free himself and rescue his companions?

Between them Tom and James have successfully evoked a particular era of Doctor Who without it being a pastiche and I  personally enjoyed it a great deal, particularly some of the phrases in the novel. Here are a few of my favourites;

“Oh,”  said Sarah, and it was the saddest of “oh’s”.

“I love a good barricade, it reminds me of the Siege of Leningrad”.

“That”,  I said very  gravely, “is a bag of jelly babies”. I took the sweets  from Harry’s hand and offered them around. No takers.

I took refuge in the canapes, successfully helping myself to a vol-au-vent. It’s quite something when  only the profiteroles believe in you.

“What lies beneath… ” my review of the Doctor Who novel: Molten Heart by Una McCormack (2018)

This is one of three novels  published by the BBC which  feature The Thirteenth Doctor for the first time (the other two  are Combat Magicks by Steve Cole and The Good Doctor by Juno Dawson).

Team Tardis (the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham) land on Adamantine, a planet on which nothing ever seems to have happened, nor ever seems likely to . But nothing is what it seems (is it ever in the world of the Doctor?)

The best travellers  – the very best – aren’t fooled by surfaces. The best travellers know that if they want to find treasures, they must dig, dig deep, below the surface, down to the heart. And below the surface this world – Adamantine – indeed has many treaures to show. Many trearures, and some terrors,  and always, always adventure. The best travellers  always find adventure.

The time and space travellers do indeed find adventure, coming across a beautiful  city. This is  how Yaz sees it;

Sheer white towers shot skywards.Anywhere else, Yaz might have thought  they were glass skyscrapers, but not here.These were like huge  stalagmites, hollowed out, a whole city of crystals. They seemed to shine from within, and here and there white jewels and pale gemstones – sapphire and ruby and topaz and emerald  – had been set into the crystal structures to make patterns  and decorations., beautiful and intricate mosaics. Light bounced off these from every angle.  The whole City shimmered, as if the stone was gently swaying to an alien rhythm.

The city’s inhabitants (some friendly, some not) are even more remarkable:   the Doctor and her friends quickly  find themselves caught up in a  power  and philosophical struggle whose outcome will determine the future of the planet.

A key theme in the book  is  how  people (whether humans or aliens)  respond to challenges to existing thinking.  Some will  accept new knowledge  which overturns orthodoxy, others will violently  reject it as heresy.

Nobody  is truly evil in this book.   There are people making the wrong decisions from fear or ignorance,  but not from malevolence.

In conclusion, a excellent addition to the canon of Doctor Who novels  which  stretches back to 1964’s Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks written by David Whittaker (and which I  can remember reading as a child )