Terry Nation was born in Llandaff, near Cardiff, in 1930. As a child, he loved reading and making up stories, and on leaving school he became interested in the theatre, writing and appearing in plays for his local theatrical society. In the early 1950s, he left home and moved to London, where he attempted to launch a career in stand-up comedy. However, he soon found that he lacked performing skills, and hearing that a local agency was looking for comedy scriptwriters he decided to take his material to them. Associated London Scripts liked his work, and hired him to write a 13-week comedy radio show called All My Eye And Kitty Blewitt
. This launched his writing career, and throughout the 1950s he produced over 200 scripts for comedians such as Terry Scott, Eric Sykes, Harry Worth and Frankie Howerd. His TV breakthrough came in 1963, when he wrote several episodes for Tony Hancock’s ITV series Hancock
. The same year, he was asked to write the second serial for a newly-launched BBC science fiction series, Doctor Who
, and the Daleks were born. Nation’s inspiration for the creation of his iconic mechanical monsters came partly from a TV programme. He realised that the creatures had to truly look alien, and ‘In order to make it non-human what you have to do is take the legs off. That's the only way you can make it not look like a person dressed up.’
After watching the Georgian State Dancers perform, he realised how this could be achieved. He explained: ‘the girls do this wonderful routine. They wore floor-brushing skirts and took very tiny steps and appeared to glide, really glide across the floor. That's the movement I wanted for the Daleks.’
He once said that the name ‘Dalek’ came from the letters DAL-LEK on the spine of an encyclopedia, but later admitted that this was just an attempt to satisfy persistent journalists. When asked the reason for the phenomenal success of the Daleks, Nation answered simply 'Kids love to be frightened'
. He went on to write several more Dalek stories for Doctor Who
, including ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ (1964), The Chase' (1965), 'The Daleks' Master Plan' (with Dennis Spooner, 1965-1966) and 'Genesis of the Daleks' (1975), and also penned two non-Dalek episodes, 'The Keys of Marinus' (1964) and 'The Android Invasion' (1979). As well as Doctor Who
, Terry Nation’s TV work also includes The Saint, Department S, The Persuaders
and The Avengers
. He also created two other sci-fi cult hits. Survivors
began as a novel, published in 1970. It was televised five years later and ran for three series between 1975 and 1977, and a 2008 remake was broadcast by the BBC in 2008. Blake’s 7
, described by Nation as ‘Robin Hood in space’
, ran for four series from 1978-1981. It was an international success, and continues to have a huge fan following today. Terry Nation died in LA in 1997.