Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Farewell, Verity Lambert

I was saddened a few days ago to learn that Verity Lambert passed away on November 22nd. Her obituaries will note that she was the first female television producer at the BBC (for the sake of completeness, I have seen that some people dispute this; either way, it was a rare feat) and that she is still to this day the youngest producer in the station's history (28 at the time of her promotion). These are both notable accomplishments, but most importantly to me is that she was the first producer of Doctor Who, and it is one of those ironies that she passed away on the 44th anniversary of the very first broadcast of the very first episode.

It is a funny thing. I sat on the news a few days trying to figure out why it saddened me so much. She was long gone from the show by the time I was even born, much less became a fan, and, though she was a well-respected television producer right up until the past year, I'm hard-pressed to find anything else she did that I cared about. Nevertheless, the news of her passing has hit me harder than I would have expected.

I was in 3rd grade (about 8 years old) when I was first introduced to the adventures of an eccentric time lord who traveled through time and space in his rickety old blue police box, and I was hooked from the very first adventure (The State of Decay - still a favorite of mine). For years, Doctor Who was an important part of my childhood. Every Saturday at 10:00 pm from the age of 8 to around 11 or 12, I would settle down in front of the television for another adventure, and I'll remember those times with great nostalgia for as long as I live.

The fact is that my experience, in one form or another, was and still is shared by millions of children world-wide, and for that we all have Verity Lambert, among others, to thank. Reading as much of the "behind the scenes" information as I have in the past several years, it is clear that she was one of the driving forces that shaped the show in its infancy. Most importantly for Doctor Who's longevity, it was Lambert who fought for the inclusion of the Daleks in the second serial when her boss, Sydney Newman, was adamant that there would be no "bug-eyed monsters." By all accounts, their relationship was frigid for a while following the serial's production and transmission... right up until the viewing figures rolled in, and Newman admitted his mistake. Though the Daleks are far from my personal favorites, there is no doubt that they are the quintessential Doctor Who foe, and they are credited with making Doctor Who a phenomenon... AND they owe their very first appearance in large part to Lambert. I truly believe that she was the right person at the right place at the right time. Without her, Doctor Who almost certainly would not have survived, and my life would have been different for it.

I have also enjoyed Lambert's commentaries on some of the old classic series DVDs I have purchased. They are almost always clear and interesting, and they exude a clear love of the show she helped create. Her camaraderie with the two surviving original stars, Carol Ann Ford and William Russell, was still evident all these years later. And I really think this is key. There were probably around fifteen people who formed the core of the creative team for Doctor Who, people who were truly in a position to know about the events surrounding the show's genesis back in 1963. Unfortunately, forty-four years later, the number of those fifteen that are still around to tell that tale is small, and the passing of Lambert makes it one smaller still. In a very real way, her passing severs yet another link to the past of a show that is itself an important link to mine.

So thank you, Verity Lambert, for your contributions to a wonderful series, and farewell. I shall miss you.

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