Robert Holmes (2 April 1926-24 May 1986) was script editor of Doctor Who from 1975 to 1977 and the author of more scripts for the 20th-century incarnation of the programme than any other writer (64 episodes in all). (INFO: The Sun Makers) He created or reimagined many key elements of the programme's mythology.
Personal history edit
Holmes was, at the end of World War II, the youngest serving officer in the British Army. He became a police officer, graduating top of his class. He grew disillusioned with the job and became a journalist. By the 1960s he had branched out into writing screenplays for films and television series. In 1968 he received his first commission for Doctor Who. Over the next few years, he became one of the series' lead writers.
In anticipation of Terrance Dicks leaving the show, Holmes was assigned uncredited script editing duties in 1973 during the last few Jon Pertwee stories. When Dicks resigned as script editor in 1974, Holmes took over the position. He continued to write scripts. After leaving the post, he wrote a few more before taking an extended break from the series. In 1983, as one of the series' most celebrated writers, Holmes was the first person asked to write the twentieth anniversary special, The Five Doctors. He declined but expressed an interest in writing for the series again.
Over the next three years Holmes contributed several scripts and was heavily involved in the planning of Season 23. However, his health had arguably been declining since the turn of the 1980s, and midway into 1986, Holmes fell seriously ill. He tried to pen a rough draft for the last story of Colin Baker's post-hiatus season, but it became increasingly difficult for him to work as his condition worsened. Robert Holmes turned progressively weaker and less coherent, eventually succumbing to his infirmity near the end of May. He passed away before he completed the script for The Ultimate Foe and the planned ending of the story was altered.
After his death, his estate licensed the Autons and the Sontarans for use in independent video spin-off productions by Reeltime Pictures and BBV Productions, most notably for the Auton Trilogy and Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. Since 2005 the revived Doctor Who has featured the Autons in Rose, and the Sontarans in the two-parter The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, A Good Man Goes To War and two two-part storylines in The Sarah Jane Adventures, The Last Sontaran and Enemy of the Bane. They both appeared in The Pandorica Opens.
In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine conducted a reader's poll that named Holmes' The Caves of Androzani the best Doctor Who story of all time.
Many of Holmes' scripts recycled the same plot: a crippled (often deformed) villain is trapped in an underground or otherwise isolated lair, dependent upon the physical or mental strength of servants. Their ultimate goal is to escape and/or restore themselves to their former power. This broad outline applies to some extent to both Holmes' first and last completed stories, as well as four of his most celebrated contributions, Pyramids of Mars, The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and The Caves of Androzani.
This is not to say Holmes was a formulaic writer. The stories mentioned do not appear notably similar. This is probably due to the presence of another distinctive Holmes quality: pastiches of well-known films and fiction. This was particularly evident during his time as script editor. Gothic literature and pulp fiction provided Holmes with particularly rich pickings.
Also running through Holmes' scripts are a love of colourful, often bizarre or esoteric language, and a fondness for larger-than-life characterisation. He had a particularly good line in lovable rogues. They often came in pairs and their by-play provides an ironic commentary on the events of the story.
Contributions to the mythos edit
Major characters and concepts created for or debuting in a Robert Holmes script include:
- The Krotons
- The Third Doctor
- Liz Shaw
- The Nestene Consciousness and the Autons
- The Master
- Jo Grant
- Mike Yates
- Sarah Jane Smith
- Gallifrey - First identified as the homeworld of the Time Lords in The Time Warrior. It had previously been seen but not named; it's unknown whether Holmes himself devised the name.
- The Sontarans
- The Matrix
- The Eye of Harmony
- Romana I
- The Key to Time
- The White Guardian
- The Valeyard
- Sabalom Glitz
- The 12-regeneration/13-life limit for Time Lords.
Televised scripts edit
- The Krotons
- The Space Pirates
- Spearhead from Space
- Terror of the Autons
- Carnival of Monsters
- The Time Warrior
- The Ark in Space - based on a script by John Lucarotti
- Pyramids of Mars - credited as Stephen Harris
- The Brain of Morbius - credited as Robin Bland, based on a script by Terrance Dicks
- The Deadly Assassin
- The Talons of Weng-Chiang
- The Sun Makers
- The Ribos Operation
- The Power of Kroll
- The Caves of Androzani
- The Two Doctors
- The Mysterious Planet
- The Ultimate Foe - first episode (The Trial of a Time Lord Episode 13) only
- Robert Holmes was also commissioned to write Yellow Fever and How to Cure It for the original season 23 but this story was never made. Apparently it would have been set in Singapore and featured the Master, the Rani and the Nestenes.
- Doctor Who and the Time Warrior - prologue only
- The Two Doctors (novelisation)
- The Doctor Who File - contributor, non-fiction
- Internet Movie Database at the