Verity Lambert, ‘mother’ of Doctor Who, has died

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Verity Lambert was the first producer of Doctor Who. She was instrumental in the realisation of the concepts and ‘vision’ that has served so well for so long. Sadly, she died on 23 November 2007, on the 44th anniversary of the transmission of the first episode of Doctor Who – an episode she produced.

Ms Lambert was a major figure in the shaping of modern television in the UK (and in Australia, which up until recently was much influenced by television trends in the UK – now sadly we get them mostly from the US).

Her contribution to Doctor Who can’t be underestimated. It was her realisation of the vision that laid the foundations for one of the most enduring television phenomenons. In recent years Ms Lambert gave some extensive on-screen interviews for documentaries on the origins and early years of Doctor Who, enabling those of us who were not there some insight into the production. She also recorded some terrific DVD commentaries which are very illuminating, interesting and entertaining.

Doctor Who, Ms Lambert’s enduring legacy, has given much joy to millions throughout the world. Thank-you, Verity.

From Outpost Gallifrey:

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Verity Lambert, who has passed away at the age of 71.

One of the UK’s foremost television producers, Lambert was the first producer of Doctor Who, holding the post from 1963 to 1965. It was a role that proved pivotal at the time, as, at the age of 27, she was the youngest and only female drama producer working at the BBC.

As the first producer she was instrumental in creating the universe of Doctor Who and was responsible for some of the most important principles of the series, ensuring the programme’s success over the years.

After she left the programme her credits and reputation continued to rise and she became one of the best known players in the industry. She oversaw such iconic productions as Adam Adamant Lives, Budgie, The Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Rumpole of the Bailey, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Minder, GBH and Jonathan Creek.

In 1985 Verity Lambert established her own independent production company, Cinema Verity. The company’s first production was the 1988 feature film A Cry in the Dark, starring Sam Neill and Meryl Streep. Cinema Verity’s first television series, the BBC1 sitcom May to December, ran from 1989 until 1994.

In 2000 two of her productions, Doctor Who and The Naked Civil Servant, finished third and fourth respectively in a British Film Institute poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century.

In the 2002 New Year’s Honours list Lambert was awarded the O.B.E. for services to film and television production. In the same year she received BAFTA’s Alan Clarke Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television.

She was due to receive the Working Title Films lifetime achievement award at the Women in Film and Television Awards on 7th December.

Russell T Davies, the current Executive Producer of Doctor Who, said: “There are a hundred people in Cardiff working on Doctor Who and millions of viewers, in particular many children, who love the programme that Verity helped create. This is her legacy and we will never forget that.”

It is noteworthy that a tribute from the current production team was made in the 2007 story Human Nature, when the Doctor, as the character John Smith, mentions his mother’s name was Verity.

Jane Tranter, Controller of BBC Fiction, said: “Verity was a total one-off. She was a magnificently, madly, inspirationally talented drama producer.

“During her long and brilliant career there was no form of drama that was beyond her reach and that she didn’t excel at. From the early episodes of Doctor Who to the still to be transmitted comedy drama Love Soup, via Widows, Minder, GBH, Eldorado and Jonathan Creek (to name but the tiniest handful of credits) – Verity was a phenomenon.

“She made the television drama genre utterly her own. She was deaf to the notion of compromise and there wasn’t an actor, writer, director or television executive she worked with who didn’t regard her with admiration, respect and awe.

“She will be hugely missed but her legacy lives on in the dramas she made, and in the generations of eager young programme-makers she has inspired.”

She added: “Today (Friday) is the 44th anniversary of her first ever episode of Doctor Who.”

Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales, said, “In Doctor Who, Verity Lambert has left a legacy that lives on in the new productions BBC Wales has been making since 2004. We in Wales owe her a debt of gratitude for handing on such a treasure which continues to be enjoyed the world over.”

(C) Copyright Outpost Gallifrey, 2007

Waris Hussein, the director of the first story transmitted, had this to say:

“Verity was not only my producer but a lifelong friend from the earliest days when we were assigned a programme called Doctor Who by the then Head of BBC Drama Sydney Newman. We were both at the beginning of our careers and anxious to do the best we could. Neither Verity or I could have realized the impact of Doctor Who and it is with wonder and happiness that I see what we created. Directors have come and gone but I am proud to say I was the person chosen to work with Verity and we were the ones, with Sydney’s inspiration, to bring the series to life. Verity’s subsequent success was inevitable and I was glad to be a part of it. I directed the first episodes of The Newcomers and later the suffragette series Shoulder to Shoulder and Edward and Mrs Simpson which won us an Emmy and Bafta. Verity was unique. She will leave a large vacuum in the world of Film and Television.”

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1 Comment »

  1. James said

    Thank you for sharing the sad news of Verity Lambert’s passing, and I thought the post on your blog about her was a very nice tribute. I did not know much about her life until yesterday so I appreciate your sharing about her; and I am thankful for all the fans that posted about her yesterday and this morning. She has left us a great legacy and I appreciate it that the more informed fans, like yourself, shared their memories of this wonderful person so we can all remember and better appreciate her enormous contribution to the show she helped create.

    Peace,

    James

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