Search this site

Archive interview with Terence Dudley - Talkback - The Eighties interviewed by Anthony Howe in 1988

Can you spot the Doomwatch episode Ibsen's Enemy of the People inspired?

"I was invited to produce Doomwatch after producing series like Dr Finlay's Casebook, The first Lady, Cluff, The Mask of Janus, etc. I wrote and directed a number of the episodes.

Gerry Davis I knew as an editor before I met Kit Pedler. He and I had worked together on The First Lady. That was a late 1960s series starring Thora Hird as a woman town councillor, who was a bit of an interfering body, certainly a trouble shooter, in a way, and a fixer. It was quite a good programme, because it allowed a certain amount of rather serious social comment. It's quite possible, although I don't remember ever speaking to Gerry about it directly, that the idea for Doomwatch might have had seeds in the soil that had been tilled by both him and Kit for Doctor Who. It was never mentioned but Gerry came to me with the format for Doomwatch - through Andrew Osborne who was head of Series at that time - and it captivated me, as did Kit.

It went to three series, although I quarrelled with Kit and Gerry after the first. Dr Pedler was, in my view, a great man with a gut mission in life, which I admired and respected. Unfortunately, he was so obsessive about 'the message' of the series that he was convinced all the villains should be despised as fools or rogues, and I felt that to fall in with this view would depreciate the format. Aunt Sallies don't make for much opposition, and drama is conflict; conflict of ideas, conflict of opinions, conflict of emotions; conflict of interests. The best example I can think of, off the top of my head is Ibsen's The Enemy of the People. Here, the doctor concerned is drawing the attention of the town council to the insalubrious state of the drainage system of the town, saying it must be attended to because it is likely to cause epidemics, particularly in summer seasons. The point is that the town is a tourist attraction and the political and economic interests of the community appear here to be threatened by the doctor. The doctor, of course, digs in his heels firmly in the ground and won't move. That is the sort of thing I mean by dramatic conflict. Many plays can actually begin and develop from conflict within one character.

We quarrelled about the over-simplification that Kit particularly wanted in the characterisation of Doomwatch's opposition. I felt that it was too tendentious - and too like propaganda, actually, to be dramatically viable - and so Kit and Gerry withdrew after the first series. I stayed on for the second and third series, without a script editor - I didn't want any more script editors. In fact, I produced a number of programmes in my time without benefit of a script editor; sometimes they make for very heavy weather, and if the producer is also a writer, it is probably unnecessary.

Usually what happens when a new series starts is that a net is thrown out by the script editor who will be familiar with the format and know what is wanted and will distribute this information among writers that he thinks might be interested, or that he knows are good and will give him what he wants. Then, by and large, what happens is that when a script comes to the script editor, he passes it to the producer, who reads it. Then there's a conference between the script editor and the producer, where they try to find solidly unanimous ground on the script. They iron out what needs to be ironed out, clear up what needs to be cleared up, and so on, and bring it generally into line with what the series is about and how it should develop. Then, when the agreement between the script editor and the producer is achieved, it is passed on to the writer who goes about rewriting or reshaping as the case may be, whatever he is asked to do. The second draft is probably more what the script editor and the producer want together - if not, it goes back for more treatment. That is generally what happens on a series. All work on a series gets a bit heavy from time to time, and help from a script editor can be very valuable but I found quite often I didn't need it.

I didn't enjoy the schism with Kit and Gerry but Doomwatch was a great success. I didn't see Kit again before he died, which was a great tragedy in my view, but I did meet Gerry quite often after that, and we remained firm friends - mates, as he would call it."
Thanks to Michael Seely for supplying this classic news item

No comments:

Post a Comment