Douglas Camfield

Born: 8th May 1931 (as Douglas Gaston Sydney Camfield)
Died: 27th January 1984 (aged 52 years)
Episodes Broadcast: 1964-1966, 1968, 1970, 1975-1976


The man who would become the most prolific director of Doctor Who's original 1963-1989 run was born in India, where he was adopted by British parents. Douglas Camfield studied at the York School of Art and aspired to work for Walt Disney. But in 1951, when Camfield was called up for his National Service, his eyes were opened to an alternative career. Falling in love with life in the West Yorkshire Regiment, Camfield was eventually promoted to Sub Lieutenant, until an ankle injury spurred his decision to return to civilian life.

Resuming his artistic endeavours, Camfield joined the BBC in 1955 as a call boy, and rose through the ranks to become a production assistant by the early Sixties. It was in this capacity that he first came to work on Doctor Who, alongside director Waris Hussein on the programme's first and fourth serials: 100,000 BC and Marco Polo. Aware that Camfield was interested in become a director himself, Hussein allowed him to take over for some of the pre-filming of both stories. At the same time, Camfield wrote scripts for Garry Halliday and contributed puzzles to Playbox.

Camfield was inclined to organise his shoots like a military campaign

Camfield completed the BBC's directors' training course in 1964. After helming two episodes of Swizzlewick, he found himself back on Doctor Who, this time directing the troubled final installment of Planet Of Giants. He would go on to contribute to four further serials for William Hartnell's First Doctor, including the epic twelve-part The Daleks' Master Plan. His inclination to organise his shoots like a military campaign helped him earn a favourable reputation in the industry.

Camfield's other Sixties credits included Z Cars, Detective and Out Of The Unknown. In 1965, he married actress Sheila Dunn; she would appear in three of his Doctor Who outings. Their son Jorund (known as “Joggs”) was born in 1968. The same year, Camfield cast Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in The Web Of Fear, opposite Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor. For the first time, Camfield's penchant for, and experience with, the military was on full display. Later the same year, Camfield was back behind the camera for Courtney's return appearance in The Invasion, which saw Lethbridge-Stewart promoted to Brigadier and heading the new UNIT organisation. This serial helped set the Earthbound template for the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who, although Camfield would direct only 1970's Inferno during this period. Tensions on the set exacerbated a long-standing heart condition, and Camfield collapsed partway through production; he would then take a five-year sabbatical from the show.

Going freelance, Camfield directed episodes of programmes such as Paul Temple, Van Der Valk and Public Eye. He returned to Doctor Who in the mid-Seventies for two adventures with Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor, latterly 1976's The Seeds Of Doom. The same year, “The Lost Legion” was the last of several unsuccessful attempts by Camfield to write for the programme. Camfield thereafter became determined not to go back to Doctor Who; he aspired to direct movies, and was increasingly fearful that he was settling into a comfortable routine. It was a promise to himself that he kept, even when offered tempting projects such as the twentieth-anniversary special The Five Doctors in 1983.

Camfield's latter credits included Blake's 7, The Sweeney, Shoestring and The Nightmare Man. An eight-part adaptation of PC Wren's adventure novel Beau Geste, made in 1982 for former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts, fulfilled a longstanding ambition for Camfield. The same year, a telefilm of Ivanhoe for the CBS network in America felt like another step towards the big screen. As King Richard I, Camfield cast Julian Glover, who had played the same role in the director's first full Doctor Who serial, The Crusade, seventeen years earlier.

Sadly, Camfield's career was cut short when he finally succumbed to his heart condition; he died in his sleep on January 27th, 1984. A final project, Missing From Home, aired posthumously. In the 2013 telefilm An Adventure In Space And Time, made for Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary, Camfield was portrayed by Sam Hoare.

Planet Of Giants
The Crusade
The Chase (uncredited)
The Time Meddler
The Daleks' Master Plan
The Web Of Fear
The Invasion
Terror Of The Zygons
The Seeds Of Doom

Updated 15th May 2020