Donald Wilson (writer and producer)

Donald Boyd Wilson[1] (11 September 1910 – 6 March 2002) was a Scottish television writer and producer who worked for the BBC. His work included co-creating the science fiction series Doctor Who in 1963, also later claiming to have named the series, and adapting and producing The Forsyte Saga in 1967.

Donald Wilson
Donald Boyd Wilson

11 September 1910
Dunblane, Scotland
Died6 March 2002 (aged 91)
Alma materGlasgow School of Art
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, television producer

Early life and careerEdit

Wilson attended the Glasgow School of Art, following which his first jobs were as a newspaper cartoonist and sketch writer.[2]

His initial career was in the film industry, including working for MGM at Elstree Studios, where he was Assistant Director of such films as Jericho (1937) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). During the Second World War he served with the Cameronians and the 43rd Wessex Division before afterwards returning to the film industry, including helming his only film as director, Warning to Wantons. In 1955 he was recruited to BBC Television by the then Head of Drama, Michael Barry. As the Head of the Script Department, Wilson was ultimately responsible for overseeing the commissioning and development of all the original scripts and adaptations transmitted by BBC Television.

Doctor WhoEdit

When the Script Department was rendered redundant by Sydney Newman’s radical shake-up of the BBC Drama Department after his arrival as its head in 1962, the highly respected Wilson was given one of the most senior positions under Newman as Head of Serials. In this position, Wilson was responsible for overseeing the creation and development of a series that Newman himself had originally conceived: an educational science-fiction serial entitled Doctor Who. It was Wilson, together with Newman and staff writer C. E. Webber, who co-wrote the first format document for the programme.

In a 1971 interview Wilson claimed to have named the series, and when this claim was put to Newman he did not dispute it.[3]

Wilson was responsible for much of the early development work on the show, although he did strongly attempt to dissuade producer Verity Lambert from using writer Terry Nation’s script featuring a race of aliens named Daleks. However, once the script had been made and transmitted to great success, he called Lambert into his office to admit that she clearly knew the show better than he did and told her that he would no longer interfere with her decisions.

Later careerEdit

In 1965, Wilson gave up his position as Head of Serials to concentrate on realising a long-held ambition of bringing The Forsyte Saga to the screen. Acting as both adapter and producer, Wilson created one of the BBC’s most popular and successful drama serials of all time, which was a huge hit on its eventual screening on BBC Two in 1967, and was quickly repeated on BBC One. Later, he acted as adapter and producer again on such prestigious costume dramas as The First Churchills (1969) and Anna Karenina (1977), and also worked for Anglia Television on their series Orson Welles Great Mysteries in 1973.


After his work on Anna Karenina he retired to Gloucestershire, where he died at the age of 91 in March 2002.


  1. ^ Philip Purser. "Obituary: Donald Wilson". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  2. ^ "BBC Two - An Adventure in Space and Time - Donald Wilson". BBC. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  3. ^ Burk, Graeme (2017). Head of Drama: The Memoir of Sydney Newman. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 450–1. ISBN 978-1-77041-304-7.

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