3, Date Of Birth/death:24 May 1945 – 17 August 1990
Doctor Who Producer: 1977 – 1980
Preceded by: Phillip Hinchcliffe
Succeeded by: John Nathan-Turner
Graham Williams was the sixth producer of Doctor Who, taking over from Phillip Hinchcliffe in 1977 – until 1980; when he was replaced by John Nathan-Turner.
Williams was dealt a rather difficult hand from the outset of his tenure. He brought in when the show was achieving something of a renaissance around following over 10 years on TV. So Williams was under pressure to continue that success.
He also was instructed by the BBC to change the tone of the show to be lighter, more humorous and child-friendly. Following Philip hinchcliffe’s dark, bold dark gothic-horror era experiment.
Williams didn’t get a lot of time to mount his first season 15. Therefore he used alot of Phillip Hinchcliffes unused stories and ideas.
Season 15’s opener Horror of Fang Rock was well received, although a little on the darker side. It had originally been a Hinchcliffe story that they had not gotten around to mounting for production.
Image of the Fendahl was another story idea, that had been knocking around since the Hinchcliffe era. The story itself was a clever Time Lord bogeyman tale. However, the final production was rushed and muddled; and left viewers confused.
Some of the lighter elements were brought in early by Williams with the introduction of new robot dog companion; K9. In The Invisible Enemy. K9 was popular with fans and especially children and would stay with the Doctor, for all of Williams era.
“So I was at this point of being offered the job [Doctor Who producer role] but with an absolutely clear dictate that violence levels had to come down and the horror element. I protested but was shouted down, as that is what the Doctor Who audience adored! They wanted the horror out, but they also wanted ‘Doctor Who’ not to be so much for kiddies! Taking the horror out left a rather nasty hole – a vacuum. So predictably, all we had left to fill it was humour!” – Williams on his appointment.
The Invasion Of Time was also a worthy season-climax, which featured the return of the Timelords. Williams era, also introduced the popular companion character; Romana – a Time Lady from Gallifrey. Romana stayed with the show for 2 seasons.
During his period on the programme, Williams worked closely with three script editors: series regular Robert Holmes and Anthony Read. However, his most startling appointment (to the role of script-editor) was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author; Douglas Adams who worked with Williams on the “Key To Time” season long story-arc.
Following the rushed production of season 15, Williams wanted to move away from incidental episodes and focus on one season long story-arc narrative.
Williams did go onto have some success in his own right; The City Of Death achieved the highest viewing figures ever (16.1 million) and Williams also contributed to the writing side – by redrafting the script (he also did this for earlier story – The Invasion Of Time).
The overall premise of the “Key To Time” retrieval- mission story arc, was cleverly conceived. Some of the individual stories, such as The Pirate Planet and the Stones Of Blood; stood out as well-written sci-fi fare.
The sadly – never completed but hugely promising Shada robbed Williams of another standout season-finale, high-concept sci-fi piece. A BBC strike prevented completion of the production.
However, some of the stories fell far below the standards set by the Hinchcliffe golden years. Serials like The Sun Makers, Androids Of Tara, The Power Of Kroll, The Armageddon Factor, Creature From The Pit and The Horns Of Nimon (whilst containing useful ideas and concepts) failed to be realised.
The resulting mixed bag of excellent, good and mediocre came to define Williams era in the show. Some of the more pantomime elements that punctuated Davison’s era; crept in here.
Some of the issues around Williams tenure can be put down to timing. He followed the golden era of the Hinchcliffe years, so direct comparisions were always going to happen.
Also, Williams did not have a very good relationship with Tom Baker. Frequently, Baker would dictate the pace of scenes or ask for rewrites. Williams tended to allow Baker to dictate, rather than assert his own control.
Lastly, Williams had to also contend with budget cuts and BBC strikes; which undermined his efforts.
After 3 difficult years, Williams decided to move on and helped arranged for his Production Unit manager; John-Nathan Turner to replace him – as producer.
In later years, Williams produced other series. In the mid-80’s, Williams agreed to write a serial for Colin Baker which unfortunately never got produced. He died in 1990, aged 45.