|Producer · Writer · Director|
Born: 24th May 1945 (as Richard Graham Williams)
Cheshire-born Graham Williams originally planned to make his career in the theatre. After five years as a stage manager, however, he decided to move into television -- temporarily, he thought at the time -- in order to improve his finances. He joined BBC Bristol at the end of 1966 and initially worked in the props department, although promotions to floor assistant and then assistant floor manager rapidly followed. In 1970, he married Jackie Baldwin; they would have two sons, Richard and David, and a daughter, Katie. Shortly thereafter, Williams moved to London to become the script editor of The View From Daniel Pike. He worked in this capacity on several other crime dramas -- including Sutherland's Law, Z Cars and Barlow -- as well as the industrial espionage mini-series The Double Dealers.
In the mid-Seventies, Williams began to look for opportunities to work as a producer, and soon found himself developing a police drama, Hackett, and an American co-production called The Zodiac Factor. Unfortunately, both programmes ran into problems, with The Zodiac Factor cancelled altogether in October 1976. Meanwhile, Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe had been facing criticism for the amount of horror and violence he was permitting. Although Doctor Who's ratings had never been better, the BBC decided to move Hinchcliffe to Hackett and replace him with Williams. Williams began trailing Hinchcliffe on Doctor Who in early November, during the waning days of production on its fourteenth season.
Williams' intentions for Doctor Who had to be tempered by the BBC's desire to avert further backlash towards its contents; as such, he decided to concentrate more on the series' humorous elements. Nonetheless, Williams' ambitions were frequently thwarted by the realities of television production. His plan to thread a unifying story arc throughout Season Fifteen proved impossible to implement within the available time, resulting in its postponement to the following year. At the last minute, instructions from Williams' superiors forced the abandonment of his very first story -- Terrance Dicks' “The Witch Lords” -- due to concerns that the vampire tale would undermine a lavish new BBC production of Dracula. (“The Witch Lords” would eventually be resurrected as 1980's State Of Decay.) David Weir's scripts for the planned Season Fifteen finale, “Killers Of The Dark”, proved unworkable, compelling Williams and script editor Anthony Read to collaborate on a hastily-assembled replacement. The result, The Invasion Of Time, was attributed to the pseudonymous “David Agnew”.
Williams' relationship with his series star, Tom Baker, was tempestuous. Now firmly established on Doctor Who, Baker was making increasingly bold demands for creative control. Matters came to a head in January 1979, when it appeared inevitable that only one of the two men would continue onto Season Seventeen. It took the intervention of Graeme MacDonald, the Head of Serials, to defuse the situation. However, Williams' third season was still fraught with difficulty, not least because escalating inflation was undermining Doctor Who's already limited budget. To make matters worse, script problems besieged David Fisher's “A Gamble With Time”. Williams and new script editor Douglas Adams had to work virtually non-stop for three days in order to transform it into City Of Death, with the David Agnew alias invoked again. Yet, despite the adversity, they were successful in crafting a story which would become regularly regarded as a Doctor Who classic. It was also the first serial to benefit from overseas filming, with Williams able to secure four days in Paris, France.
Later in the year, Williams was forced into the director's chair for the final day of work on Nightmare Of Eden when the original director, Alan Bromly, quit because of his toxic relationship with Baker. This experience convinced an exhausted Williams that it was time to leave Doctor Who. But although he worked closely with Adams in devising the season finale, Shada, it wound up falling prey to industrial action which cancelled several of the studio recordings. Instead, The Horns Of Nimon marked a premature end to Williams' tenure on Doctor Who.
Quitting the BBC altogether, Williams spent some time in the emerging field of software development. Amongst his projects was the text-based video game Doctor Who and The Warlord, released by BBC Software in 1985. He also wrote an installment of Play For Today and produced episodes of Tales Of The Unexpected, Dramarama and Super Gran. A new Doctor Who script for Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor, “The Nightmare Fair”, was intended to open Season Twenty-Three in 1986. Sadly, the BBC's decision to retool Doctor Who meant that it was abandoned, although Williams was able to salvage it as a novelisation for Target Books' The Missing Episodes range in 1989. An audio adaptation by John Ainsworth followed in 2009 as part of Big Finish Productions' The Lost Stories strand.
In 1987, Williams decided to leave the television industry and moved with his family to Bolham, Devon. There he ran the Hartnoll Hotel before his premature death from a gunshot wound on August 17th, 1990. The culmination of Williams' Doctor Who legacy, Shada, was finally released in a nearly-complete form -- with the missing scenes replaced by animation -- in 2017.
|Updated 18th January 2021|
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