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Terrance Dicks (1935- 2019)

It’s with immense sadness that we report the passing of Terrance Dicks, a legend who is known to many as “Uncle Terrance”, such was his importance in the Doctor Who family.

Yes, it’s a desperately sad day. But Terrance did so much, today should be a time to celebrate his life.

Dicks was born in Essex on 10th May 1935, the only son of William and Nellie (née Ambler), and studied English at Downing College, Cambridge, and served for two years in the British Army. He supplemented his copywriting career by writing radio scripts and broke into TV when his friend, Malcolm Hulke, asked him for help scripting an episode of ITV’s The Avengers.

He joined Doctor Who in 1968, acting as Script Editor on The Invasion, and paired with Hulke again on The War Games (1969), the final Second Doctor story. He was Script Editor throughout Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor, working alongside Barry Letts (Producer), and, cheekily (but brilliantly), convinced the incoming production team that it was tradition for the outgoing Script Editor to pen the first story of the next Doctor’s era. This resulted in Robot (1974), Tom Baker’s debut as the Fourth Doctor.

His next serial was heavily rewritten by Robert Holmes, so The Brain of Morbius (1976) used “some bland pseudonym” instead: Robin Bland.

He wrote two further Fourth Doctor tales, Horror of Fang Rock (1977) and State of Decay (1980), then was entrusted with the 20th anniversary celebration, The Five Doctors (1983), starring the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors, as played by Richard Hurndall (and William Hartnell, albeit briefly), Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker (similarly briefly), and Peter Davison.

Away from television, however, his biggest contribution to the Doctor Who mythos is undoubtedly his Target novelisation work. As an unofficial editor of the range, he attempted to get original screenwriters to adapt their work, but whenever those plans fell through, he would generally write the book himself.

That means he’s credited with writing over 60 Target novels alone – that’s without counting 2 Junior Doctor Who adaptations.

It’s fair to say Terrance Dicks helped children to read. It’s equally fair to say he helped children discover the joys of life.

His first publication, though, was The Making of Doctor Who, pairing once more with Hulke to tell the history of the show in 1972, the first professionally published non-fiction book about the show. Its first edition described the Doctor as “never cowardly”, while the second amended it to “never cruel or cowardly” and that “[h]e never gives in, and he never gives up.” These words were echoed in The Day of the Doctor (2013), the 50th anniversary special, as the promise the Doctor makes to himself by taking on that name.

Dicks’ fiction work for Doctor Who spans numerous eras too, and includes Timewyrm: Exodus, The Eight Doctors, Players, Made of Steel, and Revenge of the Judoon.

He also acted as a writer and/or Script Editor on shows like Moonbase 3, Space: 1999, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Invisible Man, and The Pickwick Papers.

As you can imagine, there have been plenty of tributes to Uncle Terry.

Photo by Jonathan Appleton

Current showrunner, Chris Chibnall, commented:

“The lights of Doctor Who are dimmer tonight, with the passing of Terrance Dicks.

“He was one of the greatest contributors to Doctor Who’s history, on screen and off. As writer and script editor, he was responsible for some of the show’s greatest moments and iconic creations. 

“As the most prolific and brilliant adaptor of Doctor Who stories into Target novels, he was responsible for a range of books that taught a generation of children, myself included, how pleasurable and accessible and thrilling reading could be.

“Doctor Who was lucky to have his talents. He will always be a legend of the show. Everyone working on Doctor Who sends his family and friends our love and condolences at this difficult time.”

Steven Moffat, former showrunner, accompanied a photo of Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion with this tribute:

“The very first book I bought written by Terrance Dicks. The first of so many. Ahh, sad news. I can’t I claim I knew him well, but he was charming and funny and modest whenever we spoke. He was, I think, the writer who sorted out how the Doctor thinks. He thinks, as it turns out, exactly the way Terrance wrote.”

On Twitter, Mark Gatiss (Cold War) wrote:

“Very hard to express what Terrance Dicks meant to a whole generation. A brilliant TV professional, a funny and generous soul. Most of all, though, an inspirational writer who took so many of us on unforgettable journeys into space and time. Bless you, Terrance.”

And in case you’re wondering, here’s the astonishing list of every Target novelisation written by Dicks:

  • Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion
  • Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks
  • Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen
  • Doctor Who and the Giant Robot
  • Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons
  • Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders
  • The Three Doctors
  • Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster
  • Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks
  • The Revenge of the Cybermen
  • Doctor Who and the Web of Fear
  • Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks
  • Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars
  • Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters
  • Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth
  • Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos
  • Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius
  • Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil
  • Doctor Who and the Mutants
  • Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin
  • Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng-Chiang
  • Doctor Who and the Face of Evil
  • Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock
  • Doctor Who and the Time Warrior
  • Death to the Daleks
  • Doctor Who and the Android Invasion
  • Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear
  • Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy
  • Doctor Who and the Image of the Fendahl
  • Doctor Who and the Robots of Death
  • Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks
  • Doctor Who and the Underworld
  • Doctor Who and the Invasion of Time
  • Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood
  • Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara
  • Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll
  • Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor
  • Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden
  • Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon
  • Doctor Who and the Monster of Peladon
  • Doctor Who and an Unearthly Child
  • Doctor Who and the State of Decay
  • Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken
  • Doctor Who and the Sunmakers
  • Meglos
  • Four to Doomsday
  • Arc of Infinity
  • The Five Doctors
  • Kinda
  • Snakedance
  • Warriors of the Deep
  • Inferno
  • The Caves of Androzani
  • The Mind of Evil
  • The Krotons
  • The Time Monster
  • The Seeds of Death
  • The Faceless Ones
  • The Ambassadors of Death
  • The Mysterious Planet
  • The Wheel in Space
  • The Smugglers
  • Planet of Giants
  • The Space Pirates

“Wow” doesn’t do him justice.

Rest in peace, Uncle Terrance. We will miss you so very much.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Terrance Dicks (1935- 2019)

by Philip Bates time to read: 4 min
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