Book studies Terry Nation's scriptwriting art

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Survivors creator under scrutiny

Flyer advertising the 2004 Terry Nation book from Manchester University Press

PUBLISHED IN 2004, this study by two established authors, researchers and academics scrutinses the scriptwriting work of Survivors creator Terry Nation — focusing on his work on Doctor Who, Blake's 7 as well as his creation of the classic post-apocalyptic TV drama.

The book is co-authored by Jonathan Bignell and Andrew O'Day. Their research for the book included work in the BBC archives, and new interviews with behind-the-cameras production staff. Published by Manchester University Press (MUP) as part of their Media and Film collection, the 240-book includes 17 black-and-white illustrations (comprised of 'rarely seen stills from key episodes') and retails in paperback with a cover price of £14.99; and in hardback at £50.00. The ISBN for Terry Nation in paperback is: 0-7190-6547-X; and for the hardback edition is: 0-7190-6546-1. The book was published on August 31 2004.

Detail from the cover of Terry Nation

Read an interview with author Jonathan Bignell here

A promotional flyer from MUP is pictured above. The following text is taken from the Manchester University Press website:

Published later this year [2004], this new study of Terry Nation's screenwriting career will examine his work on Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Survivors.

This is the first in-depth study of the science fiction television devised and written by Terry Nation. Terry Nation was the inventor of the Daleks and wrote a number of other episodes for Doctor Who; he also created the BBC's 1970s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors and the space adventure series Blake's 7.

Until now television science fiction in Britain has received little critical attention. This book fills the gap and places Nation's work in the context of its production. Using Terry Nation's science fiction work as a case study, the boundaries around the authorship and authority of the television writer are explored in detail. The authors make use of BBC's archival research and specially conducted interviews with producers and other production staff, to discuss how the programmes that Terry Nation created and wrote were commissioned, produced and brought to the screen. The book makes an important contribution to the study of British television history and will be of interest to enthusiasts of Terry Nation’s landmark drama series as well as students of Television Studies.

Jonathan Bignell is Reader in Television and Film at the University of Reading, and Director of the Centre for Television Drama Studies

Andrew O'Day has recently completed a PhD thesis on television science fiction at Royal Holloway, University of London


  • List of illustrations

  • Acknowledgements

  • Authors' introduction

  • Biographical sketch

  • Collaboration at the BBC

  • Science fiction genre and form

  • Nation, space and politics

  • Conclusion

  • Appendix: Television programmes scripted by Terry Nation

  • Bibliography

  • Index

Find out more about the book on the Manchester University Press site.

Preview Terry Nation by Jonathan Bignell and Andrew O'Day on Google Books

Access the book preview on Google Books.

Review - TV Zone

Detail from the cover of Terry Nation"Academic studies of Doctor Who and all things associated with it have had a bit of a bad rep since the very Pseuds Corner-esque tome The Unfolding Text was released in 1983. Sadly, this study of Terry Nation's writing career will do little to improve their reputation outside of these trained to understand the very specialist language and approach of such books.

The back blurb says that the aim is to 'explore the issue of authorship'. Productive territory, certainly, given the input of script editors, designers and directors to some of Nation's most memorable work but, despire clearly extensive research and comprehensive interviews, you're left with the feeling that you've simply been given a lot of references with no conclusions. 4/10"

Diane McGinn, Terry Nation [review], TV Zone Issue 181, p90.


Review - Dreamwatch

Detail from the cover of Terry Nation"An illustrated academic study of the sci-fi television devised and written by Terry Nation, creator of the classic Doctor Who enemy the Daleks, and the classic sci-fi shows Survivors and Blake's 7.

A media studies qualification (or a good dictionary) will help in making this text accessible to a non-academic fans. Following a brief biographical study, the authors outline Terry Nation's career and achievements, giving his work a level of scrutiny that, if truth were told, it simply doesn't deserve.

Nation was a writer with got extremely lucky with the Daleks (whose success owes much more to Ray Cusick's design than Nation's space Nazi clichés) and was guilty of recycling the same basic plot formula in many teleplays. He was in many ways little more than a professional journeyman.

This is the second book in an academic series that aims to study the work of celebrated British TV writers (the first focused on comedy duo Perry & Croft). But if it wants to be taken seriously, it needs to pick subjects with greater cultural resonance than Nation - prolific writers with credits in and beyond the genre like Nigel Kneale (Quatermass) and Troy Kennedy Martin (Edge of Darkness) deserve the accolade more... 6/10"

"A dense academic analysis that may prove too much for casual Nation fans."

Brian J Robb, Terry Nation [review], Dreamwatch, December 2004, p71.


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