The Genesis of Doctor Who | Creating a science fiction hero

Science Fiction - Follow-up Report

A report into the kind of stories BBC science fiction dramas might handle.


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TO: H.S.D. Tel [head of Serial Drama, TV - Donald Wilson] FROM: John Braybon & Alice Frick 25th July 1962


SCIENCE FICTION - Introduction

It is not the purpose of the comments below to suggest that a science fiction series should, or should not, be undertaken. However, during the course of the past eight weeks, we have read some hundreds of science fiction stories; in general, they have been of the short story variety, so beloved by the current science fiction generation of authors. Included in the attached list are a number of titles each together with a brief synopsis. They have been chosen as potentially suitable for adaptation to television because they fufifil one, or all, of the following requirements:

1. They do not include Bug-Eyed Monsters.

2. The central characters are never Tin Robots (since the audience must always subconsciously say "My goodness, there's a man in there and isn't he playing the part well")

3. They do not require large and elaborate science fiction type settings since, in our considered opinion, the presentation of the interior of a space-ship, or the surface of another planet, gives rise to exactly the same psychological blockage as the above-mentioned Robots and B.E.Ms. (In our opinion, this has already resulted in a failure in the current ITV series, which has included The Yellow Pill, Dumb Martian and Little Lost Robot)

4. They do provide an opportunity for genuine characterisation and in most cases, they ask the audience to suspend disbelief scientifically and technologically on one fact only, after which all developments follow a logical pattern.

Because of the above restrictions, we consider that two types of plot are reasonably outstanding, namely those dealing with telepaths, see Three to Conquer in the attached list, and those dealing with time travelling, see Guardians of Time. This latter one is particularly attractive as a series, since individual plots can easily be tackled by a variety of script-writers; it's the Z Cars of science fiction.

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Title: Guardians of Time by Poul Anderson
Published by Gollancz
Copyright: Mercury Press Inc.

Synopsis: Some 19,000 years in the future, we are told, the secret of time travel has been discovered. Time machines shuttle to and fro, through twenty millenia and more, as busily and casually as the trains on the London Underground. Most of the machines are those of the Time Patrol, an organisation which has been set up to stop anyone from tampering with the past. For the course of history would be altered if one could return to 1865 and prevent the assassination of Lincoln, or travel back to, say, 1918 and kill Hitler before he began to be a public menace. The Time Patrol's purpose is to discourage any such monkeying about with history.

Suitable men from all epochs are recruited Patrol. The book's hero, Manse Everard, belongs to the mid-twentieth century, and the book describes first his selection and training at the Patrol's Academny. Then he goes, in turn, on four separate assignments.

Title: Three to Conquer by Eric Frank Russell
Published by Dobson Copyright: Street & Smith Inc.
N.Y. and Russell.

Synopsis: Central character is a telepath, who, because of his powers, becomes aware that the earth is being subject to invasion by an alien force, which, virus-like, has occupied the bodies and minds of three men on a space-craft which has recently returned from elsewhere in the universe. Written with a fair degree of humour and not, for once, populated by bad-tempered scientists and inefficient politicians.

Possible to adapt this as a serial covering the realisation of the invasion, followed by four episodes detailing the seeking out and destruction of the aliens, who are indistinguishable from human beings except by the telepath, who is aware of their thought processes when they are in fairly short-range.

Title: Eternity Lost by Clifford Simak
Published 1951 (Best Science Fic. Stories) by Grayson & Grayson.

Synopsis: It is now possible for men to have eternal life, but clearly this must be restricted to a very select group. Central character is Senator Homer Leonard who originally piloted through the World of house Representatives the rules governing the granting to rnai of eternal life. Those blessed with this gift have to seek re-election and he realises that this may well not be forthcoming. This is a psychological study of his reactions to the situation. Good end twist. Single 50 minuter.

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Title: Pictures Don't Lie by Datherine Maclean [sic - this should be Kathleen Maclean]
Published Best SF by Faber & Faber
Copyright 1951 by World Editions Inc.

Synopsis: Contact has been established with intelligent beings from another world, who are kindly disposed towards the inhabitants of Earth and are about to make a landing in a space ship. All communications have been achieved by means of speeding up video and audio signals currently in existence on Earth and transmitting them as very short pulses. (This is quite possible and logical). Using this communication plus a translating machine, the space ship is guided to its destination, reports a landing on the airfield, and then immediately runs into trouble. It is clearly landing in a swamp full of fantastic monsters, the atmosphere of the Earth is to the inhabitants of the space ship, opaque; furthermore, despite messages and the assistance of direction finding equipment, it would appear impossible for the ship to have landed since it is nowhere in sight. Only then does the realisation dawn upon Earth that the speeded up messages which are decodable by the aliens, do in fact represent their natural pace of living. It means therefore that their size is microscopic. They have indeed landed on the airfield and at the moment they are sinking through and dying in the rapidly drying puddle out on the tarmac.

The whole thing is absolutely possible and logical.

Title: No Woman Born by C.I Moore
Copyright 1944
Street & Smith, Publications Inc. Pub. Best SF

Synopsis: This is an exception to our rule about robots. The central character is a humanoid robot, but it is inhabited by a live human brain, salvaged from the body of a world famous entertainer and ballet dancer. Her personality is still intact, she is a woman of great determination and she decides to make a comeback in the world of entertainment. This she does with riotous success - the success is heightened by the realisation of the audience that she is indeed more than human. With this however, comes the psychological problem. "I'm afraid it isn't unhappiness, Maltzer, it's fear, I don't want to draw away from the human race, I wish I needn't, that's why I'm going back on the stage, to keep in touch with them while I can. But I wish there could be others like me - I'm - I'm lonely, Maltzer".


Document Type | Report

25 July 1962

Document version




Following on from an earlier submission, Alice Frick of the BBC Survey Group, this time working with John Braybon delivers a report into the kind of stories they feel would provide suitable inspiration for a BBC science fiction drama.

Did you know?

The report makes reference to a 'current ITV series'. This was 'Out of This World', a short-lived anthology presented by horror movie legend Boris Karloff. 'Out of This World' producer Irene Shubik later joined the BBC to head up its own science fiction anthology series 'Out of the Unknown', which mixed original stories by writers such as Terry Nation and Troy Kennedy Martin with literary adaptations of tales by the likes of EM Forster and Isaac Asimov.


John Braybon

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