John Nathan-Turner

Last updated 09 January 2020

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Self: KTEH Specials[Factual]; Children in Need[Related]; The Making Of Doctor Who[Factual]
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Floor Assistant: The Space Pirates(as John Turner)(uncredited); The Ambassadors of Death(as John Turner)(uncredited); Colony In Space(as John Turner)(uncredited)
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Producer: The Leisure Hive; Meglos; Full Circle; State of Decay; Warriors' Gate; The Keeper of Traken; Logopolis; A Girl's Best Friend[K9&Co]; Castrovalva; Four To Doomsday; Kinda; The Visitation; Black Orchid; Earthshock; Time-Flight; Arc of Infinity; Snakedance; Mawdryn Undead; Terminus; Enlightenment; The King's Demons; The Five Doctors; Warriors of the Deep; The Awakening; Frontios; Resurrection of the Daleks; Planet of Fire; The Caves of Androzani; The Twin Dilemma; Attack of the Cybermen; Vengeance on Varos; The Mark of the Rani; The Two Doctors; Timelash; Revelation of the Daleks; The Trial of a Time Lord (The Mysterious Planet); The Trial of a Time Lord (Mindwarp); The Trial of a Time Lord (Terror of the Vervoids); The Trial of a Time Lord (The Ultimate Foe); Time and the Rani; Paradise Towers; Delta and the Bannermen; Dragonfire; Remembrance of the Daleks; The Happiness Patrol; Silver Nemesis; The Greatest Show in the Galaxy; Battlefield; Ghost Light; The Curse of Fenric; Survival; Dimensions In Time[Misc]
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Researcher: as Specialist Question Setter: Mastermind[Related]
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John Nathan-Turner (1947-2002)
(this image appears for illustrative purposes only and no attempt is made to supersede any copyright attributed to it)

Jonathan Turner

Born: Tuesday 12th August 1947
Died: Wednesday 1st May 2002 (age: 54)


John Nathan-Turner is, to date, the longest-serving producer of Doctor Who, having worked on the show for 20 years.

He cast three Doctors - Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy - and numerous companions.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Nathan-Turner left King Edward VI School for Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre, where he acted and worked as assistant stage manager. He joined the BBC in London in 1968, where he also worked on a number of drama series, such as All Creatures Great And Small, The Pallisers, and Angels.

His first job on Doctor Who was in 1969 as floor assistant on The Space Pirates (alongside Patrick Troughton's Doctor) under the name John Turner, as there was already a Jonathan Turner in the industry. In the 1970s, he became assistant floor manager, then production unit manager, and when incumbent producer Graham Williams left in 1980 Nathan-Turner was an obvious successor.

During Nathan-Turner's first season in charge, Tom Baker, the fourth and longest-serving Doctor, announced he would be giving up the role. Nathan-Turner cast Peter Davison, an actor he knew from his work on All Creatures Great and Small.

Nathan-Turner was in charge for the 20th-anniversary story, The Five Doctors, in 1983. He worked round the problem of  First Doctor William Hartnell no longer being alive by casting  lookalike Richard Hurndall.

When Davison left the series in 1984, Nathan-Turner took on Colin Baker, best known at the time for his role in The Brothers.

When BBC1 Controller Michael Grade ordered that the show be suspended and Colin Baker replaced, Nathan-Turner cast the Seventh Doctor, picking light entertainer Sylvester McCoy. Doctor Who was scheduled against Coronation Street leading to a decline in ratings.

Even when the BBC pulled the plug on the series in December 1989, Nathan-Turner's involvement continued. The demand for Who products - documentaries, interviews, radio serials, conventions - led to him becoming the corporation's unofficial consultant. He co-wrote a Doctor Who skit for the 1993 Children in Need telethon, advised the monthly Doctor Who Magazine, corresponded with fans, gave interviews with fanzines and attended conventions.

As the show's last producer before its cancellation in 198i9, Nathan-Turner is often associated with the decline and fall of Doctor Who. But while budgetary constraints never allowed him to exterminate the wobbly sets, fancy-dress shop aliens and uncrowded crowd scenes, his era produced some of the series' most memorable moments: the surprise return of the Doctor's arch-enemy, the Master (1981); the shocking death of one of his companions (1982); and a Dalek actually going up the stairs (1988).

Shortly before his death, Nathan-Turner was writing and devising a children's television series, which was to have been narrated by Tom Baker.