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27th August 2015
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Pathfinders

1960

TV: Pathfinders

Creator: Sidney Newman

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In Depth

Pathfinders

Planetary exploration that provided the roots of Doctor Who.

Pathfinders creator Sydney Newman is a legendary figure of British TV. When he left the industry in 1970 the Sunday Times reported that "British television will never be the same again". As head of drama at ITV and later the BBC he was responsible for The Avengers, Armchair Theatre, Out of the Unknown, Adam Adamant Lives! and, most famously, Doctor Who.

His Pathfinders programmes, then, can be seen as direct ancestors of the good Doctor. A voracious reader of science fiction, Newman indulged his love of the genre while at ITV by producing first Target Luna, then the three Pathfinders series.

Made between 1960 and 1961, they were: Pathfinders in Space, Pathfinders to Mars and Pathfinders to Venus. Broadcast live, with pre-recorded inserts, they involved adventure-packed exploratory flights to their titular planets, usually involving aliens. The series differed from the norms of the time as they were both aimed at children and had children as central characters.

A couple of years later Newman went on to commission the most famous teatime science fiction ever in Doctor Who. But it was Pathfinders that lit the way.

Work nominated by JohnJeffrey.

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