Friday, 23 November 2007

Verity Lambert: 1935-2007


November 23, 2007 • Posted By Kenny Davidson

Verity Lambert, O.B.E., the pioneering television producer who was instrumental in the foundation of Doctor Who as its first producer from 1963 to 1965, died yesterday, November 22, just a day before the series' 44th anniversary.

One of the UK's foremost television producers, Lambert's role as producer of Doctor Who was pivotal at the time, as, at the age of 27, she was the youngest and only female drama producer working at the BBC. As the first producer she was instrumental in creating the universe of Doctor Who and was responsible for some of the most important principles of the series, ensuring the programme's success over the years.

After she left the programme her credits and reputation continued to rise and she became one of the best known players in the industry. She oversaw such iconic productions as Adam Adamant Lives, Budgie, The Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Rumpole of the Bailey, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Minder, GBH and Jonathan Creek.

In 1985 Verity Lambert established her own independent production company, Cinema Verity. The company's first production was the 1988 feature film A Cry in the Dark, starring Sam Neill and Meryl Streep. Cinema Verity's first television series, the BBC1 sitcom May to December, ran from 1989 until 1994.

In 2000 two of her productions, Doctor Who and The Naked Civil Servant, finished third and fourth respectively in a British Film Institute poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century.

In the 2002 New Year's Honours list Lambert was awarded the O.B.E. for services to film and television production. In the same year she received BAFTA's Alan Clarke Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television.

She was due to receive the Working Title Films lifetime achievement award at the Women in Film and Television Awards on 7th December.

Russell T Davies, the current Executive Producer of Doctor Who, said: "There are a hundred people in Cardiff working on Doctor Who and millions of viewers, in particular many children, who love the programme that Verity helped create. This is her legacy and we will never forget that."

It is noteworthy that a tribute from the current production team was made in the 2007 story Human Nature, when the Doctor, as the character John Smith, mentions his mother's name was Verity.

Jane Tranter, Controller of BBC Fiction, said: "Verity was a total one-off. She was a magnificently, madly, inspirationally talented drama producer. During her long and brilliant career there was no form of drama that was beyond her reach and that she didn't excel at. From the early episodes of Doctor Who to the still to be transmitted comedy drama Love Soup, via Widows, Minder, GBH, Eldorado and Jonathan Creek (to name but the tiniest handful of credits) – Verity was a phenomenon. She made the television drama genre utterly her own. She was deaf to the notion of compromise and there wasn't an actor, writer, director or television executive she worked with who didn't regard her with admiration, respect and awe. She will be hugely missed but her legacy lives on in the dramas she made, and in the generations of eager young programme-makers she has inspired."

She added: "Today (Friday) is the 44th anniversary of her first ever episode of Doctor Who."

Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales, said: "In Doctor Who, Verity Lambert has left a legacy that lives on in the new productions BBC Wales has been making since 2004. We in Wales owe her a debt of gratitude for handing on such a treasure which continues to be enjoyed the world over."

Waris Hussein, who directed the first episode of Doctor Who, said "Verity was not only my producer but a lifelong friend from the earliest days when we were assigned a programme called "Dr.Who" by the then Head of BBC Drama Sydney Newman. We were both at the beginning of our careers and anxious to do the best we could. Neither Verity or I could have realized the impact of "Dr. Who" and it is with wonder and happiness that I see what we created. Directors have come and gone but I am proud to say I was the person chosen to work with Verity and we were the ones, with Sydney's inspiration, to bring the series to life. Verity's subsequent success was inevitable and I was glad to be a part of it. I directed the first episodes of " The Newcomers" and later the suffragette series " Shoulder To Shoulder" and " Edward and Mrs. Simpson" which won us an Emmy and Bafta. Verity was unique. She will leave a large vacuum in the world of Film and Television."

BBC Radio 4 have paid tribute to Lambert in the weekly obituary programme Last Word. The programme contains an interview with Jane Tranter and Joanna Lumley. It is avalable online for the next seven days on the BBC Radio player

Further reading can be found at: The Stagescreenonlinethe GuardianVarietyThe TimesThe Telegraph,The Herald and BBC News.