Cookie Warning

Warning: This blog may contain cookies. Just as cookies fresh out of the oven may burn your mouth, electronic cookies can harm your computer. Visit all kitchens and blogs (yes, including this one) with care.

Monday, October 20, 2014

John Nathan-Turner Encounters A State Of Decay

The Antechamber, or Pantry, in Tamworth Castle

This post is Part 2 of a series on the Doctor Who story "State of Decay" by Terrance Dicks.

Adric followed much the same route as the Doctor and Romana when he left the TARDIS, taking the track that led along the edge of the forest, past the ploughed land and into the Village. It was, he thought, as unattractive-looking a place as he had ever seen. He saw the open door of a large building at the end of the street, walked up to it, and slipped cautiously inside. 

At first, the big room seemed deserted, but the smell of food led his eyes to a kitchen area in the far corner, where he saw a homely old woman slicing vegetables into a cooking pot. Adric suddenly realized he was very hungry, and began sidling mouse-like along the edge of the room. He reached the kitchen area undetected and was just reaching out for a particularly tasty crust of bread when some instinct made the woman turn around. She grabbed Adric's wrist with a work-toughened hand and dragged him forward. "Got you!"

--from the novelization Doctor Who and the State of Decay by Terrance Dicks

Taking over the top job as Producer of a popular BBC TV series like Doctor Who was never going to be easy. Having never worked as a producer before, John Nathan-Turner (JNT) knew many in the BBC hierarchy doubted that he was up to the task. After all, the current (fourth) Doctor, played by Tom Baker, had connected with the public as never before, and become a national hero. So, in a highly unusual move, the BBC hierarchy commissioned Barry Letts, who served as Producer for all five years of the Third Doctor era, to oversee the show as Executive Producer. Although a normal role in America, BBC TV shows in that era did not usually employ Executive Producers. So JNT knew he had much to prove during his first year at the helm of the long-running series

Thankfully for him, John Nathan-Turner had laid the groundwork for his new role earlier in his career. While working as Production Unit Manager for the TV shows Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small, he had a chance to observe and work with many talented people. One of those was director Peter Moffatt. One day, on the set of All Creatures, he had approached Moffatt, explained his career hopes, and asked if the director might work for him if he became a producer. He felt insecure in doing so, as he was younger than Moffatt, and had worked under him up to this point. Moffatt graciously replied, "Don't be silly, young man. Of course I would work for you." After JNT became producer for Doctor Who, he remembered Moffatt, and sent him the preliminary notes for "State of Decay," which Terrance Dicks was then in the process of writing. Moffatt, directing a play in South Africa, loved the story, and readily agreed to direct it.

Unbeknownst to Peter Moffatt, or apparently even John Nathan-Turner, Terrance Dicks had refused to make the sweeping changes Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead demanded. So Bidmead had rewritten the script to suit his interests (as well as those, he believed, of JNT). When Peter Moffatt returned to England, and arrived in the Doctor Who offices to begin preproduction work on "State Of Decay," he was handed a much different script than he had anticipated. Tearing through the pages, he grew increasingly frustrated, until he finally walked into John Nathan-Turner's office and asked him to find another director. 

Surprised, Nathan-Turner sat Moffatt down and asked him to tell him why he wished to leave the production. As the two men talked, Moffatt explained that the script did not represent a fleshed-out version of the treatment he had been sent. Gone were all the Gothic aspects of the story. Instead of the medieval village and castle, the story was set in a future. A focus on blood and vampires had been replaced with (what to him seemed like) techno-babble. All this confused Moffatt, and in no way represented the ideas that had fired his imagination when he read the initial proposed story. This being the case, he could not commit his time, effort, and enthusiasm to directing this story. So John Nathan-Turner found himself little further along than when he had begun his tenure as producer. He had commissioned two stories, but production of this second one, "State Of Decay," seemed on the verge of falling apart. What's more, he had disappointed Peter Moffatt, a director he greatly respected and admired, by delivering a script significantly different than the one he promised. 

Sometimes, we don't realize that a state of decay has entered our lives, or our workplaces, until we are caught in that "Got you" moment, just as the Doctor's young companion is caught when he tries to take something he has not earned. At such times, it suddenly grows apparent to us that this decay, hitherto invisible to us, has wreaked untold damage in our lives. Still, it's up to us to figure out how to eradicate the decay, rebuild relationships, and repair what has been damaged, if we wish to progress and accomplish our goals. Otherwise, we risk further decay, with our lives, careers, and relationships eroding, as has hindered the health and social development of the Village in Terrance Dicks' Doctor Who story "State Of Decay."

Dragon Dave

No comments:

Post a Comment