Philip Hinchcliffe

Last updated 09 January 2020

Philip Hinchcliffe
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Philip M Hinchcliffe

Born: Sunday 1st October 1944 (age: 79)


Philip Hinchcliffe is a British television producer, who was responsible for one of the most successful and well regarded periods in Doctor Who's history.

He was producer from 1975-1977, responsible for 68 episodes covering the early reign of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. With script editor Robert Holmes he created a new type of Doctor Who story taking the series into a realm darker and more adult than had previously been seen, with a gothic atmosphere influenced by the horror films produced by Hammer Films.

Hinchcliffe was educated at Slough Grammar School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied English Literature. After a brief period working for a travel company and then as a teacher, he joined Associated Television in 1968, writing episodes for shows including the soap Crossroads (1970), then script editing the sit-com Alexander the Greatest (1971-2), children's adventure series The Jensen Code (1973), and children's drama series The Kids from 47A (1973).

In Spring 1974, at the age of 29, he was approached by the BBC's head of serials to take over as producer on Doctor Who, his first full production job, initially trailing and then succeeding long-serving producer Barry Letts. Although he trailed Letts on Tom Baker's first story Robot, he was first credited on The Ark in Space. Throughout his first year he was mostly producing scripts that had been commissioned by the previous production team prior to their departure and it was not until a year later that Hinchcliffe's full influence came to bear, with Planet of Evil in late 1975 � Tom Baker's second season in the title role of the Doctor.

During Hinchcliffe's tenure the programme achieved a popularity only previously seen during the 'Dalekmania' years of the mid 1960s. However, the BBC had received complaints from Mary Whitehouse, chairwoman of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, that the series was unduly frightening for children and could traumatise them. The NVALA had been critical of the series ever since the beginning of the 1970s and the complaints reached their height in the Hinchcliffe-produced The Deadly Assassin, where Chancellor Goth was seen to attempt to drown the Doctor by forcing his head underwater. 

While the BBC publicly defended the programme, after three seasons Hinchcliffe was moved onto the adult police thriller series Target in 1977, and his replacement Graham Williams was specifically instructed to lighten the tone of the storylines. The classic series never again achieved such consistently high viewing figures after Hinchcliffe's departure.

Hinchcliffe also wrote several novelisations of Doctor Who serials for Target Books, adapting The Keys of Marinus, The Seeds of Doom, and The Masque of Mandragora.

After Doctor Who Hinchcliffe worked on numerous series, single dramas and films including Target, Private Schulz, The Charmer, Take Me Home, Friday on My Mind and many others. He stepped down from the producer role in 1995, after working on the feature films An Awfully Big Adventure starring Hugh Grant and Total Eclipse starring Leonardo di Caprio, but was engaged as an Executive Producer by Scottish Television from 1998 to 2001, overseeing series including Taggart and the John Hannah episodes of Rebus, and one-off dramas including The Last Musketeer with Robson Green.

His daughter, Celina Hinchcliffe, is a television presenter, who fronts news programmes and sporting events for the BBC.

In recent years, Hinchcliffe has made numerous appearances on DVD releases of Doctor Who serials made under his producership. His most notable appearance is in Serial Thrillers, a documentary included in the Pyramids of Mars DVD release, focusing on his three-year reign as producer in some depth, examining what made the show so successful during that period.


Additional Details

Special Feature
Celina Hinchcliffe interviews her father, the producer Philip Hinchcliffe on his career after Doctor Who. See this and much more on 'The Android Invasion' in the U.N.I.T Files DVD.

Credit: BBC Worldwide