Eric Saward

Last updated 09 January 2020

Eric Saward
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Eric Saward

Born: Saturday 9th December 1944 (age: 79)

Eric Saward was a scriptwriter and script editor for the BBC who worked on Doctor Who from 1981-1986

His career as a scriptwriter began with drama for radio while he was working as a teacher. Later he was able to cross into full-time writing. He was approached by then Doctor Who script editor Christopher H. Bidmead to submit some ideas to the series on the strength of a recommendation from the senior drama script editor at BBC Radio. He received a commission to write the story The Visitation. This in turn led to his appointment as script editor on the recommendation of Antony Root, who had briefly replaced Bidmead. In addition to his role as script editor, Saward also wrote the television stories Earthshock, Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks.

Saward's other Who writings include the 1983 short story, Birth of a Renegade in the Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special one-off magazine, published by Radio Times (and Starlog Press in the U.S.) and the 1985 radio play Slipback. He wrote the novelisations of The Twin Dilemma and Attack of the Cybermen, as well as those of The Visitation and Slipback, for Target Books' Doctor Who range. His two Dalek stories remain among the few never novelised, while Earthshock was novelised by Ian Marter.

Saward aroused controversy in 1985 because many of the stories of Colin Baker's first season in the role contained numerous scenes of graphic violence and darker themes, which many commentators felt was inappropriate for a programme aimed at a family audience (the season featured acid baths, hangings, cell mutation experiments, executions by laser, cannibalism, poisonings, stabbings, suffocation by cyanide and a man having his hands crushed). Unlike previous criticism of violence levelled against the series (for instance during the Philip Hinchcliffe era) this criticism came from members of the general public and some Doctor Who fans, as well as traditional critics such as Mary Whitehouse. BBC One controller Michael Grade publicly criticised the violence featured in Colin Baker's first season and claimed it was one of his reasons for putting the series on an 18-month hiatus between 1985 and 1986. Saward defended these scenes, claiming they were intended to be dramatic and intended to warn audiences against real-world violence. 

He did not always have a harmonious relationship with Doctor Who's producer John Nathan-Turner which gave rise to occasional tensions behind the scenes. Saward often complained at Nathan-Turner's insistence on not hiring experienced Doctor Who writers, which led to his having to work hard, not always successfully, on unsuitable scripts submitted by rookie writers. Saward also disagreed with Nathan-Turner's casting of Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. This came to a head during the production of The Trial of a Time Lord in the middle of 1986 and he resigned as Script Editor before the completion of production. Nevertheless, Saward's association with the show continued - in the 1990s he wrote linking narration for Doctor Who audio releases of missing episodes, and more recently he has appeared in interviews on DVDs of his serials and contributed a short story to the Big Finish Short Trips collection. He also writes for German radio drama.