Lovett Bickford, The Leisure Hive Director (1942- 2018)

The director Lovett Bickford, who oversaw The Leisure Hive, the opening story of Doctor Who Season 18, has died aged 76.

Bickford’s first brush with Doctor Who came in the 1960s as Assistant Floor Manager on the First Doctor story, The War Machines and the Second Doctor serial, The Moonbase. The Leisure Hive was to be his sole directing credit on the programme but he certainly made his mark, with a visual style and use of ground breaking technical effects that launched a new era for the series.

“It was my first job as a freelance,” Bickford told Richard Marson in an interview published in Totally Tasteless: The Life of John Nathan-Turner, “I’d just done The History of Mr Polly for Barry (Letts) – which had a distinctive style – John liked that and frankly wanted a new style for Doctor Who – and he asked me whether I would do it and of course I would because it was interesting to do… I am much more filmic and visual than most of the directors used to be… I was pretty difficult and demanding.”

As Bickford alludes to, behind the scenes The Leisure Hive was a fraught production, with an overrun in recording necessitating an extra day in the studio and placing Nathan-Turner in the unenviable position of having to explain to BBC management why the programme he had just been placed in charge of had exceeded its budget. The atmosphere on set was made more difficult by a chilly dynamic between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward, and Baker’s unhappiness at having to undergo an extensive make-up job for the scenes featuring an aged Doctor.

Bickford was not invited to work on the series again. He was, however, instrumental in giving Doctor Who a new look and feel as it entered the 1980s, and the long tracking shot of Brighton beach which opens the story has long been hailed as a distinctive change in approach from what had gone before.

Lovett Bickford’s other directing credits included Z Cars, Emmerdale Farm and Angels. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.