RIP Terrance Dicks, One of Doctor Who's Most Vital Writers

Dicks on the set of “The Time Warrior” with Jon Pertwee.
Photo: BBC

Terrance Dicks, one of the most influential writers in Doctor Who’s entire history, has died at the age of 84.

Dicks’ contribution to Doctor Who is legendary—after starting in television writing scripts for the haunting supernatural series The Avengers, he first joined the Doctor Who production team as an assistant script editor in 1968 with the Second Doctor serial “The Seeds of Death”, a series of scripts Dicks would ultimately play a major part in re-writing that lead not only to him becoming Script Editor on the show, but the writer behind “The War Games”, the 10-part epic that ended Patrick Troughton’s time as the Doctor.

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From there, Dicks helped steer the era of the Third Doctor alongside equally legendary producer Barry Letts, completely re-imagining the series as the titular Time Lord found himself momentarily exiled on Earth. Although Dicks and Letts would join Pertwee in leaving in 1974, he had an important part to play in helping shape Who’s future even further with the casting of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. After he had departed as Script Editor, Dicks continued to write for Doctor Who, scripting stories like Baker’s debut, “Robot”, “The Brain of Morbius”, “Horror of Fang Rock”, and “State of Decay”. His final script for the series was actually one of the show’s most ambitious up to that point: “The Five Doctors”, the legendary 20th anniversary special. In all, over 150 episodes of the series were edited or written by Dicks, leaving an indelible mark on the program’s history.

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But while Dicks’ commitment to Doctor Who as a TV series is unquestionable, he will remain forever beloved and remembered by a generation of fans—including ones like Chris Chibnall and Steven Moffat, who would go on to produce the series themselves—as the writer of many of Target’s classic Doctor Who novelizations. In an era where TV repeats were rare and home releases non-existent, the Target Doctor Who novelizations were many fans only way of either re-experiencing an story or encountering it for the first time, and they would do so most prominently through Dicks’ lens: he wrote more than 60 of the 156 classic Target books.

Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who’s current showrunner, released a statement about Dicks’ passing through the official Doctor Who website:

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.

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Dicks is survived by his wife and three children, and our thoughts are with them in this sad time.


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James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!