Book Review | Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented The Daleks

Book Review | Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented The Daleks

Title: Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented the Daleks
Author: Alwyn Turner
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Aurum Press
Publication date: 3rd Janurary 2013
Goodreads Summary: Terry Nation was one of the most successful, prolific, and celebrated writers for popular television that Britain ever produced. His late 1970s science fiction series Survivors and Blake’s 7 have been durable, cult and critical hits, both being remade 30 years later. His most famous creations, the Daleks, ensured, and at times eclipsed, the success of Doctor Who. Indeed, almost half a century after their first appearance in 1963, new additions to Dalek mythology continue to be made, while the word itself has entered the Oxford English Dictionary, passing into the language as the name of the most famous race of aliens in fiction. While his science fiction work remains at the core of his appeal, Nation also had a role to play in the early days of radio and television comedy—as part of the legendary Associated London Scripts, he wrote for Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock, and Frankie Howerd—and in the internationally successful adventure series of the 1960s: The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders!, and others. This account of his life and contributions will shed light on a fascinating melting pot of ambitious young writers, producers, and performers without whom British culture today would look very different.

{ Review }

When I first received this book, I thought it was about the creation of the Daleks and a history of the man behind their conception, but it’s so much more than that. The man who invented the Daleks is actually a history of British television with a particular focus on Terry Nation and the Daleks. There’s lots about other works by Nation such as Blake, The Avengers and Survivors as well as some stuff about other prolific writers during those years. This book focuses on the 20th century development of British television, particularly the BBC, but there are also some references to how American television was developing at the same time. I even learnt quite a lot about the history of Britain in general, I.e. the state of Britain after the war and how politics affected the media etc. A lot of this book is made up of quotes from writers about other writers and it’s also really interesting to see how they influenced each others work and, for lack of a better word, the bitch-fights they had.

Obviously Im far too young to have seen any of the shows that are talked about when they were on television, but I’ve heard about the more popular ones or seen my Dad watching the reruns. This wasn’t a problem for me as it was fascinating to read about the sort of TV shows that made the 1960s Britain’s ‘Golden Age’ of television. If you, like me, don’t have much more than a basic knowledge of the development of British television then these parts will take a little longer to read and absorb otherwise you’ll just get yourself into a muddle.

I absolutely flew through the parts about the creation of the Daleks and their popularity and I learnt so much about their significance for British television, which I hadn’t realised before. There are lots of cool facts that Doctor Who fans will lap up, for example, Dalek means ‘remote’ or ‘alien’ in Croatian – a complete coincidence! I was astounded to find out that the Dalek’s popularity even rivalled that of the Beatles at one point and there was Dalekmania in Britain after their first appearance on TV.

For me, the best part about this book was the part about the first appearance of the Daleks on television. There are quite a few funny anecdotes and for the modern Doctor Who fans it’s astounding to see just how popular the Daleks were. I think this book would appeal to older audiences who lived through this time, as well as younger British television fans who’ll be fascinated by TV history. If I’m perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have thought a non-fic book about TV history to be that entertaining a read, interesting for sure, but not gripping like this page turner of a book turned out to be.

Any Doctor Who fans out there? Would love to find people to fan girl with!

Many thanks to Aurum for providing a review copy!

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