Richard Martin began his television career as an actor, appearing in dramas such as Ivanhoe and Maigret before turning his hand to direction. He was at the helm for an episode of the BBC’s Compact but it was a mysterious meeting in 1963 that would change everything…
‘I was seconded to a strange meeting!’ he later recalled. ‘They [the BBC] had these strange meetings… I didn’t know what I was going for! Rex Tucker said, Come along, Richard! There’s a new children’s drama being mooted… So, we all sat round the table…’ They discussed a new show, deliberating on how it should look and feel and what direction it should take. It should be stressed that these discussions occurred before An Unearthly Child had been broadcast and so Richard Martin falls squarely into the camp of people who moulded the programme, guiding the Doctor even before his debut.
In the event, Martin directed part of the first Dalek adventure and the opening episode of the two-parter now known as The Edge of Destruction. This latter yarn is a claustrophobic classic set almost entirely aboard the TARDIS. Martin wrings every available ounce of suspense, horror and mystery from David Whitaker’s script which only features the four regular characters. He managed to top that with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, a 1964 six-parter that formed the Daleks’ first return engagement with the Doctor. Stand out scenes included Barbara’s flight through a desolate London, an encounter with two traitorous hags who sell out to the Daleks, and the Doctor’s famous farewell to Susan at the close of the story.
It’s a wonderful piece directed with style, creativity and confidence. Martin returned to the fold in The Web Planet – one of the show’s most experimental outings, and The Chase, a crazy romp of an adventure that took in alien planets, the Mary Celeste, the Empire State Building and even an all-out battle between Daleks and Mechanoids!
Away from the world of Doctor Who Martin produced a number of documentaries but continued to direct for many TV series including Crown Court, Late Night Horror, The Mallens and the award-winning, Elizabeth R. In 1990 he directed several episodes of the revived BBC favourite, All Creatures Great and Small, starring the Fifth Doctor himself, Peter Davison.