Terrance Dicks

Last updated 09 January 2020

Terrance Dicks (1935-2019)
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Terrance William Dicks

Born: Sunday 14th April 1935
Died: Thursday 29th August 2019 (age: 84)


Terrance Dicks was best known for his work as Script Editor for the third Doctor's era and as the author of many of the Target novelisations of Doctor Who scripts.

He was born in East Ham, Essex, in 1935, the only son of his parents William and Nellie (Ambler). He studied English at Downing College, Cambridge, and did two years of National Service in the British Army. Following his discharge from the armed forces, he worked for five years as an advertising copywriter, and began writing radio play scripts for the BBC in his spare time.

His break in television came when his friend and mentor, Malcolm Hulke, asked for his help with the writing of an episode of the ABC (ITV) action-adventure series The Avengers, on which Dicks received a co-writer's credit on the broadcast. He also wrote for the ATV soap opera Crossroads.

In 1968 he was employed as the assistant script editor on Doctor Who. Dicks went on to become the main script editor on the programme the following year, and earned his first writing credit on the show when he and Hulke co-wrote the epic ten-part story The War Games which closed the sixth season and the era of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. He had, however, been the uncredited co-writer of The Seeds of Death earlier in the season, after performing extensive work on writer Brian Hayles' original scripts.

Dicks went on to form a highly productive working relationship with incoming Doctor Who producer Barry Letts, working as the script editor on each of Letts' five seasons in charge of the programme from 1970 to 1974. After his departure, Dicks continued to be associated with the programme, writing four scripts for his successor as script editor Robert Holmes: Robot (1975, the opening story of Tom Baker's era as the Fourth Doctor), The Brain of Morbius, Horror of Fang Rock and State of Decay.

Dicks also contributed heavily to Target Books' range of novelisations of Doctor Who television stories, writing more than sixty of the titles published by the company over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, with many of his literary descriptions, such as the "wheezing, groaning" sound of the TARDIS materialising, entering Who lore. He served as unofficial editor of the Target Books line, in this role, he would attempt to enlist the original teleplay author to write the books whenever possible, but if they could not or would not, then Dicks would often end up writing the books himself. 

In 1980 Dicks returned to the Doctor Who fold when he wrote State of Decay for the eighteenth season. State of Decay was in fact a rewritten version of a story entitled The Vampire Mutation which had been due for production during season fifteen, but had been hastily withdrawn and replaced with Horror of Fang Rock when the BBC decided that its vampiric theme would clash with their high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, which was due for transmission at around the same time. Dicks made his final contribution to televised Doctor Who in 1983, when he wrote the ninety-minute twentieth anniversary special episode The Five Doctors.

During the early 1980s he worked again as script editor to Barry Letts' producer, this time on the BBC's esteemed Sunday Classics strand of period dramas and literary adaptations. When Letts departed the staff of the BBC in 1985, Dicks succeeded his colleague as the producer of the strand, overseeing productions such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Vanity Fair, before he himself left in 1988 and the Sunday Classics strand in that form came to an end.

During the 1990s, Dicks contributed to Virgin Publishing's line of full-length, officially-licensed original Doctor Who novels, the New Adventures, which carried on the story of the series following its cancellation as an ongoing television programme in 1989. Dicks wrote three Doctor Who novels for Virgin, and continued to write occasionally for the franchise following the take-over of the books licence by BBC Books in 1997. He wrote the first of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, The Eight Doctors, which was for a time the best-selling original Doctor Who novel. His book World Game, featuring the Second Doctor is set during "Season 6B", a period derived from fan theories. His most recent contributions to the range are the "Quick Reads" books Made of Steel and Revenge of the Judoon, both featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones.

Other work has included two Doctor Who stage plays (Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday (1974) and Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure (1989)); co-creating and writing for the short-lived BBC science-fiction series Moonbase 3 (1973) and contributing to the ITV science-fiction series Space: 1999. He also wrote an audio drama for Big Finish Productions called "Comeback", which was the first to predominantly feature former companion Sarah Jane Smith. That story was released in August 2002.

In 1976, Dicks wrote a trilogy of books published by Target Books called "The Mounties" about a recruit in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These were followed in 1979-1983 by another Target trilogy "Star Quest", which were later reprinted by Big Finish Productions.

Starting in 1978, Dicks began a series called "The Baker Street Irregulars" which eventually ran to ten books, the last being published in 1987. In 1981, Dicks also began a series of six children's horror novels with "Cry Vampire", coinciding with his novelisation of the Doctor Who serial State of Decay in which vampires also featured heavily.

1987 saw Dicks start a new series of books for very young children called "T. R. Bear", amounting to a further seven books. These were followed by the "Sally Ann" series about a determined ragdoll, "Magnificent Max" about a cat and "The Adventures of Goliath" about a golden retriever. The Goliath series is Dicks' largest amounting to eighteen books. Another five books about a St. Bernard dog made up the "Harvey" series.

"Jonathan's Ghost" and three sequels were published in 1988, and the three book "MacMagic" series followed in 1990. "The Littlest Dinosaur" was published in 1993 and "The Littlest on Guard" in 1994. Other works published in 1994 include "Woof! the Never Ending Tale", the "Cold Blood" series (four books), the "Chronicles of a Computer Game Addict" (four books).

Between 1998 and 2000 Dicks produced the three novel "Changing Universe" series. Since then, Dicks has been engaged in the ongoing "The Unexplained" series with twelve books so far.

As well as the vast number of fictional works, Dicks has also written several non-fiction books for children including "Europe United", "A Riot of Writers", "Uproar in the House", "A Right Royal History" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ghastly".

He married his wife Elsa in 1963 and they lived in Hampstead; they have three children, Stephen, Jonathan and and Oliver.

For a generation of fans growing up with his 'narration' of the Doctor's adventures, he will always be remembered fondly as "Uncle Terrance".


Note: many Internet sites (including ourselves) had his birthday originally listed as 10th May 1935 - Terrance has confirmed that it is indeed the 14th April. (with thanks to Andy Frankham-Allen)