Verity Lambert: 1935-2007

Doctor Who's first producer passed away last week. Join us as we celebrate the wonderful work of Verity Lambert.

Verity Lambert, with actress Carol Ann Ford (Susan in Doctor Who)

We here at Den of Geek would like to add to the flood of tributes that have been floating around following the death of TV producer Verity Lambert, aged 71, last Thursday. It’s easy to get too flowery with these things, but let’s put her influence in simple terms. Here’s some sort of less-than-comprehensive list of the programmes she’s been involved in eh?

Latterly there was Jonathan Creek, The Cazalets (2001), A Perfect State and Alan Bleasdale’s wonderfully gritty G.B.H. (1991) starring Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay.

However, her career also includes John Cleese’s comedy of errors Clockwise (1986), Link (1986), Smith/Jones penned sci-fi comedy Morons from Outer Space (1985), the classic cock-er-nee comedy/drama Minder (1979-1984), top-notch mini series Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983) and Lynda La Plante’s Widows (1983). Then there’s 1979’s Quatermass re-visit, Rock Follies (1976), Naked Civil Servant (1975) with John Hurt starring as Quentin Crisp, A.D.A.M. (1973), Budgie (1971), Take Three Girls (1969) and cult classic swashbuckler Adam Adamant Lives! (1966). And, frankly, that’s not even close to being comprehensive.

Ultimately though – and much like anyone else ever involved in it – Lambert will always be known as the first ever producer of Doctor Who (1963-), being one of the team responsible for developing the original format.

Ad – content continues below

It was not, as many people will tell you, Terry Nation who created the show. Many reports state that though he came up with the idea of the Daleks, which eventually ensured the Doctor’s success, they only appeared in the first series after Lambert persisted with the concept against the wishes of her boss, Donald Wilson – then BBC head of serials. Lambert took charge of all of the 78 episodes aired between’63 and ’66, and in that time she basically moulded the series that we know today. Well – actually – she helped create something far superior to the show we know today (certainly in terms of the episodic format), but that’s another feature.

It’s one thing to list such shows, but when I sit back and seriously think about it, I – and I’m sure a lot of you – watched a lot of the programmes on that list; even Jonathan Creek, for a while, before it got terminally annoying. And, I don’t care what you say, Minder was great for a good few series too – it certainly created an iconic piece of TV, and at least one hilarious comedy sketch.

Very few people changed popular culture in the profound way that Verity Lambert managed – the shows say more than I ever could – but that’s not stopped me from wanting to have a go. Even fewer can boast a CV spanning nearly 40 years with so many high points – blending entertainment with great quality in a range of genres. That’s not flowery, that’s just the truth.

And basically, with all due respect to Terry Nation, just imagine a world without Daleks! Would it even be worth living? I’m not really sure. Anyway, here’s some of the tributes that came out of the BBC over the weekend. Just to prove a point.

“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, G.B.H., Eldorado and Jonathan Creek (to name but the tiniest handful ofcredits) – Verity was a phenomon.

“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. Today (Friday) is the 44th anniversary of her first ever episode of Doctor Who.”- Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction

Ad – content continues below

“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.”- Russell T Davies

“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.”Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales

Verity: all we can say is thank you. Thank you so much.

Verity Lambert died on 22nd November 2007. aged 71.