It’s one of those strange, sad coincidences that occur once in a while: on the same day Doctor Who fans are celebrating the 44th anniversary of the screening of the series first episode, An Unearthly Child, comes the news that the series first producer, Verity Lambert, has died.
The word that is often used to describe Verity is ‘pioneer’. Back in 1963 the BBC was very much an old boys network, a male dominated institution that reacted slowly to change.
To suddenly have a young female producer (she was the only one at the time) arrive to take the reigns of a fledgling sci-fi series must have been a shock to the system.
She and her production team made the decisions that would set Who up as one of the most (if not the ultimate) high concept series to appear on British television screens.
As Head of Drama at the BBC, Sydney Newman, commented in 1993: “I remembered Verity as being bright and, to use the phrase, full of piss and vinegar! She was gutsy and she used to fight and argue with me, even though she was not at a very high level as a production assistant.”
After Who she would go on to produce another cult classic in the form of Adam Adamant Lives! before heading to ITV in the 1970s to make Budgie with Adam Faith and Iain Cuthbertson. From here the list of high quality, highly rated and well remembered series starts to grow…
- The Naked Civil Servant
- Rumpole of the Bailey
- Rock Follies
- Edward and Mrs Simpson
- The Sweeney
- Love Hurts
- Jonathan Creek
- Love Soup
…and that’s just a sample of them.
I was lucky enough to meet Verity a few years ago in London. She happily signed my Dalek Invasion of Earth DVD cover, mentioned that the story was her favourite and I had my photo taken with her. I’m glad I made the effort to go to Riverside Studios that weekend.
On reflection, it was easy to forget that day that Doctor Who was a tiny part of her impressive career, something she did for a few years four decades ago. I hope I’m as enthusiastic about my current job in 40 years time!
If you’ve read this and think it’s a bit lacking in critical observation, then you’re right. If you really want to get a better handle on why TV fans around the globe will be pausing over the next few days to remember Verity Lambert’s legacy then I’d advise you take a visit to one of the links below and invest in one of her series on DVD:
It was a nice tribute to both Verity and Sydney Newman when, in Human Nature, an episode of the 2007 season of the new Doctor Who, John Smith referred to his mother, Verity and father, Sydney.
Here’s hoping the Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, has a tribute to her on the end titles. Maybe we can all raise a glass on Christmas Day in memory of her achievements – rest in peace Verity.
Here’s a clip starring one of TV’s best loved double acts from Minder, a Verity Lambert produced series I grew up watching…