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Robert Holmes

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RealWorld
Robert Holmes
Robert Holmes monochrome photograph
Birth date: 2 April 1926
Death date: 24 May 1986
In the DWU
Main jobs: Writer, Script editor
Stories: See credits section
Main time period active: 1969-1979 and 1984-1986
Career highlights
Notable non-DWU work: Dixon of Dock Green and Blake's 7
IMDb profile

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.

Analysis Edit

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:

Televised scripts Edit

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.

Books Edit

External links Edit

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