Dr Who: The Man Behind the Curtain!

Milada Mathews and Derrick Sherwin
Milada Mathews and Derrick Sherwin

On a trip to London to visit my 92-year-old mother, we had lunch with her and her next-door neighbour Derrick Sherwin (82). He and I had an interesting chat: Derrick has had a long and varied career – as actor, writer, script editor, TV producer, and restaurant owner in Thailand – but in his heyday, he was known as “the man who took Doctor Who into a golden decade”.

In 1968 he joined the BBC production team of Doctor Who as assistant story editor during the Patrick Troughton era, and went on to become the programme’s script editor and eventually its producer. During this time, he commissioned Robert Holmes’ first script for the series, oversaw the transition from black and white to colour and the introduction of the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. He was also instrumental in conceiving the Earthbound aspect of Pertwee’s career and is credited with creating two of Doctor Who’s most enduring ingredients: the intelligence task force UNIT, and the Doctor’s own race – the Time Lords.

Derrick is still writing for TV. Strange to think that my Mum’s neighbour was one of the prime movers behind the series that kept us all gripped in the 1960s – we would literally hold hands in front of the box when the cybermen or the Daleks came on – and is today one of the BBC’s top grossing titles on an international scale, one of its global super brands. The series is still going strong after half a century! 

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