Magic Bullet Productions

Mervyn Haisman Interview


This interview was conducted by Alan Stevens in 1994, and was first published in Celestial Toyroom issue 428.

I understand you started out as an actor, not a writer?

Mervyn HaismanYes, that's right. At the age of fourteen I worked as a film extra, mainly at Lime Grove studios, where we would later record the Yeti stories. My first part was as a messenger who delivers a telegram. I didn't have any lines, but I was all dressed up in a costume, and there was Margaret Lockwood on the other side of the door, acting out her scene. I waited for the right moment and knocked on the door, whereupon the whole bloody set started to wobble. Somebody ran over and said “don't for god's sake knock, you'll bring everything crashing down.” And I replied, “but I'm supposed to knock,” and he said, “no, no! We'll dub it on later.” I didn't know what the hell they meant. Dub it on later? So I just stood there, and suddenly the door opened and a hand came round and took the telegram, so although I was completely made up and dressed up in a costume, I never got to appear on camera. That was my entry into showbiz, and after that I got a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and then, once I'd finished my National Service, did rep, television, film, that sort of thing, and even ran my own company for a while.

Almost braining Margaret Lockwood with a door is certainly a memorable start to anyone's career!

[LAUGHS] I once appeared in a play called Murder Without Crime. I was the villain, a man called Mathew, who accidentally drinks poison and dies at the end of it, at which point the hero has to answer a phone call and say, “don't worry, I'm still alive.” So, I'm lying flat on the deck, the phone is ringing and then I suddenly hear this rumbling noise and the audience start to laugh. The phone carries on ringing unanswered, and I think “what the hell is happening?” So I open one eye, and see that the other actor is spreadeagled against the wall of the set. At first I thought he'd flipped his lid, but then I noticed that every time he moved, the whole set would start to tremble and collapse.

So what did you do?

I immediately jumped to my feet, which made the audience howl with laughter, ran over and tried to steady the set. We later found out that the woman who was to make the phone call was supposed to be on the other side of the stage, and as she shot across, she knocked over a fire extinguisher which then rolled right along the back of the set, taking out all the braces that were there to hold it up.

Was it this experience that that made you give up acting?

[LAUGHS] No, it was all down to one of the hottest summers on record, which caused audiences to stay away and lead to my theatre company going broke. My wife and I went to live in a caravan, and I got a job selling life insurance for the next ten years.

What made you decide to become a writer?

During the time I was working for Sun Life, one of my clients was a very famous writer called John Whiting. One day I went down to see him in Sussex, where he had this beautiful house, and I said “how do you find writing as a career?” and he replied “well, Monday I wander around the place and chop wood. On Tuesday I potter about and I chop a bit more wood. Wednesday and Thursday I write. Friday I sometimes go out to town and see my agent, and then it's the weekend.” And I thought, “all this for two days of work? Marvellous, I'm going to become a writer." And it took me years to find out what all this chopping of wood was about. This was his thinking time, but by then it was too late, I was already a writer.

How did your first commission come about?

1964. Gerry Glaister, an old friend of mine, was working as a producer on a series called Doctor Finlay's Casebook. He invited me to submit a script on spec, and it was accepted. I was then promptly commissioned for another, so I gave up the day job and became a writer.

When working on this show, were you given any guidelines or background synopsis for the characters?

With a series like Doctor Finlay, or indeed with Doctor Who, you should know the characters anyway, and it would be expected that you had watched the series before applying to write for it. Although for some of the subsidiary characters, like Dr. Snoddie, for instance, you would be provided with a character background from which you'd then devise your own story. Of course, writing for television in the 1960s was very different from writing now, where everything is shot time and time again, whereas then they tried to run it as near to time as possible. The location filming was done separately, and the studio recording was all shot in one night, and they wanted to get continuous recordings from one set to another. Now they just shoot the scene, there is a break and they move on, but back then they used to shoot two or three scenes flowing, so that if you had, for example, a study at one end of a studio and a kitchen at another, and both scenes involved, say, Cameron, Finlay and Janet, and you wanted one scene to follow on to the next, there was the logistics of how the hell you were going to get them from one end of the studio to the other without a break. So you wrote in a way that allowed you to have a three handed scene. You'd moved the camera onto the two men, which allowed Janet to leg it down the studio to get onto her set, and you end up with Finlay asking Cameron a question, with the camera coming in for a close-up. Cameron would then give a long speech in close-up as Finlay legged it down the studio to be with Janet. After which you'd cut to the kitchen where Janet is saying, [AFFECTS SCOTTISH ACCENT] “Doctor Cameron is a long time coming, isn't he?” by which time, you would be able to pull back to show Cameron arriving through the door. So the whole technique of how you'd write for television is totally different from how you would do it today.

How did you come to write for Doctor Who?

I'd met up with an actor called Henry Soskin. I'd briefly gone back to acting and we'd appeared together in a series called No Hiding Place; he was playing a tramp and I was playing a librarian. I lived in Twickenham and Henry lived in Kew, and we used to meet up from time to time. He had been writing for a series called Emergency Ward 10 the whole year, week in, week out, and he was completely exhausted by it all, and so I wondered if there was anything we could do together? That's when he told me about his chum Patrick Troughton, who lived around the corner from him. Pat was enjoying his time on Doctor Who, but was less keen on the adventures in space, and wanted a story set on Earth. So that started us thinking, and first of all we thought that perhaps we should do something with the Loch Ness Monster, which was a creature everyone knew about, but no one had ever conclusively proved existed, and then from that we come up with the idea of the Yeti itself. We put it forward to the Doctor Who production office and they came back to us and said, “fine, write a treatment for it,” which we did, and they liked the treatment, and we were commissioned and that was it. That was when we started writing together, although Henry Soskin didn't want to be credited under his real name, and wanted to be credited as Henry Lincoln instead. I asked him what that was all about, and he said, "as an actor, I'm known as Henry Soskin, if people see me writing under the name of Henry Soskin, they're not going to offer me any acting work. So I'd prefer to be known as Henry Lincoln."

How do two people go about writing a script together?

Oh, in a hell of a lot of ways.

Perhaps if one started at the beginning and the other started at the end, you could then both meet up in the middle?

[LAUGHS] That's not usually the way, no, but Henry and I did do that once. We were involved in a series called The Inside Man, which was about a psychiatrist. We had previously written for the series, and we were called into London Weekend Television, given a script and told "read this." So we read it, and we said, “what do you want us to say? It's awful.” And they said, “yes, we know. The trouble is we've built the sets, we've cast the actors, and we start rehearsing in three days' time.” Well, we went away and we did an act a day for two days, and then, with time running very short, we decided that for the last act, one of us with start at the beginning, one of us would start at the end, and hope we'd eventually meet in the middle, and if we missed, we'd end up with four acts. Luckily, about four o'clock in the morning, we did manage to meet up. But that was hairy.

Your first Doctor Who story, “The Abominable Snowmen” was set in Tibet, but the actual location they used was in North Wales. I understand you went along and watched some of the filming?

Yes, I did. My wife and I had just been on a camping holiday to France and we came back, out of all this heat, to heard the filming was now in progress. I said to Vina and Henry, “right, let's get in the car and see how they're getting on!” So we drove up to North Wales, and it was freezing. Pouring with rain, bloody cold, and we stood about and we watched the director, Gerald Blake, saying to these Yeti, who all looked absolutely identical to one another, “oh, Bert, move back a bit. Fred, come this way,” never, to this day, knew how he knew. Anyway we watched this with great admiration, and at the end of the day Gerry said, “where are you staying?” So I replied, “well, where you're staying.” and he said, “I don't think you can. We're crowded out.” Anyway, we went to the hotel and had a meal, and then I went to reception and asked about a room, but they said, “I'm sorry we can't help you. We haven't got a bed to spare. And you'll find it's booked up everywhere. Luckily, having just come off holiday, we still had some sleeping bags in the car. So we went back to the location, and bedded down in the car for the night. And my god it was freezing. You bet it was.

When writing for Doctor Who, did you consider it a children's programme, or a show for the whole family?

Very much family viewing. At that time there was a large audience of adult viewers and we never ever attempted to write down to the junior audience watching. Henry had luckily written for children before and so he was the guiding light. I remember him saying, “if you try and write down, it'll show, and you can't cut any corners because children are far more intelligent than adults. If you try and bend the plot in any way they'll find out, and they'll jump on you with two feet."

Picking up on what you said earlier, about the Yeti being absolutely identical to one another, later in the story it is revealed that they are robots under the control of another power. Is that why the Yeti themselves never spoke?

Yes, that's right. Our starting point was for the Yeti to be the pawns of some other, greater, intelligence. The story was all about manipulation, and so following on from this, it was decided that the Great Intelligence would only communicate through Padmasambhava, the master of Det-Sen Monastery. That's why we had him speak with two very different voices. One serene, the other a harsh whisper. The first was his true self, and the other was the great self that was being imposed on him.

How did the idea of the Great Intelligence come about?

Well, we always tried to write on several levels. That is to say that there was a basic story that anyone could grasp, and then there were layers beneath that, for those who wanted to go a bit deeper. And in terms of the Intelligence, we had thought of it as a colonising force. Much the same as this country was. That's how America came about, how Australia came about, that we needed somewhere to settle, and we went out and we took it. In Tasmania we killed off all the Aborigines, but no one at that time thought of it as being particularly cruel. And in our minds the Intelligence wasn't a particularly cruel or basically an evil being. It was just something that needed somewhere to settle, to develop itself. And it had chosen Earth, and it was going to settle, come what may.

There were a lot of Buddhist elements incorporated into this story, was this input from yourself or from Henry?

Henry at that time tended to leave the esoteric side, as you'd call it, to me. Since then he's gone completely the other way, and now he's the esoteric. Having said that, we both did quite a lot of research, and names like Thomni, Richen and Padmasambhava were taken from actual Buddhist figures. It was a priest called Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism from Classical India to Tibet.

I've heard that the scene were Padmasambhava dies was edited.

That did happen, yes, we had him crumbling to dust, but I think they thought the final shot was a bit too horrific, although it would probably be perfectly acceptable today.

Unfortunately, the BBC decided to wipe “The Abominable Snowmen,” and only episode two survives in full. Have you seen it?

Yes, I have, and I liked it very much. Someone also very kindly sent me episode one of  “The Web of Fear.” I hadn't seen it since broadcast, and I looked at it, and I'm sure I sound very big-headed, but I thought, “this is bloody good. This is really good writing.” It wasn't just my input, of course, obviously it was Henry's as well, but I was very pleased.

During that first episode you see the Yeti that's been put into a museum transform into a Mark II Yeti, which then appeared throughout the rest of the story.

You do, yes. I though Douglas Camfield was a superb director, and I think he did a wonderful job and he was very good to work with. I remember we went to see the battle sequence he'd devised in Covent Garden and that was marvelous. He was one of the older school of directors who planned it all out beforehand. And he knew exactly were his cameras were going to be, what he was going to shoot and what he could do and what he couldn't do. And if he couldn't do something, he would think of a way of getting around it. And for that reason he was a true professional.

Whose idea was it to redesign the Yeti?

That came directly from Dougie. As Henry and I came from a theatre background, we were both used to, not only acting, and directing, but to designing as well. So for the first story we actually submitted our own designs as to what we wanted the Yeti to look like. We had originally devised a creature that was very soft and cuddly, so its ferocity took you completely by surprise. Dougie saw it in a different light, and fair enough he was directing, and he wanted more menace. Also one had to keep in mind that the creature was specifically designed to work in an underground environment, so it needed these luminous, headlight eyes.

How did the setting for this story come about?

Having been asked to bring the Yeti back for another adventure, so we then had to think how we could move them on. Do we go back in time, or forward, or leave them where they are? I think we both jointly came up with this idea of them taking over London, which meant the next question was, how does anyone take over London? Well, of course, there is a ready-made system already there to do it, and so we set it in the London Underground. This then lead to the whole idea of the web; a sticky, gooey, glowing substance, created by the Great Intelligence as a kind of physical manifestation of its desire to ensnare, trap and enmesh.

I understand the production team did seek permission to film on the real London Underground, but were put off by the fee London Transport were asking.

When working on the scripts we actually contacted London Transport ourselves. As a young lad attending RADA, I knew there was an underground station, on my way from Goodge Street to Gower Street, that was completely locked off. This was during the war; they'd ferry trains off the main line and house thousands of troops there as a transit station. No one was supposed to know about it, but it was one of those things when everyone did. And we wanted to use that section to film. Of course we were met with lots of questions, such as “how the hell did you find out about this?” and we replied, “well everyone knows!” “yeah, well,” they said, “you can't film there, you can't film on the Underground at all.” So Henry and I, having previously designed sets, decided that all you needed was a platform set and a straight piece of tunnel set that ended in a curve, which would allow the actors to run round the corner out of shot, and then come back and emerge again, as if in a new part of the tunnel. On our first meeting with Dougie, he said, “love the script, but how the hell do you expect me to film it?” And we said, “well, try that,” and handed him this piece of paper. He looked at it for a long time and then said, “I s'pose it'll work, yeah.” [LAUGHS] The only effect we hadn't an idea about was how they were going to fill an area as large as an underground tube with foam? Eventually they used a miniature and pumped Fairy Liquid through it.

Did you and Henry get any extra money for designing stuff?

[LAUGHS] No, none at all.

“The Web of Fear” saw the return of Professor Travers, played by Jack Watling. Where you aware the actor would be available before you wrote him into it?

No, it was pot luck.

Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, played by actor Nicholas Courtney, made his debut in this story. Did you have any idea at the time that this character was going to go on and become heavily involved in the series?

We had vaguely talked about using him again in other stories, but nothing specific. We had also created a character called Driver Evans, who we really were keen on using again. He was meant to be an ordinary private soldier, he wasn't heroic, he wouldn't volunteer for anything at all, he was just your Mr Everyman. The part was played by Welshman Derek Pollitt, who I knew from drama school, and in fact the part had been written specifically for him, and the whole idea was to use him in further episodes. However, there were so many letters from Wales saying “how dare you portray a Welshman as being a coward,” that the BBC said, “right, chop him.” Which meant, unfortunately, that poor old Derek didn't get any more work from Doctor Who. It was a great pity really, to have your legs chopped off by your own fellow countrymen.

Your next story for Doctor Who didn't involve the Yeti at all. Why was that?

Well, we had been asked to shelve the Yeti for a brief period of time and create a new monster for the BBC. And Henry and I got our pens out, got scribbling and came up with the Quarks. We wanted something that could be marketed as a toy, so had this idea that the Quarks had a whole variety of tools, like drills, or guns, or an electric toothbrush, or whatever, that could be attach to the end of their robot arms as hands. We submitted the idea of the Quarks to the production office and it was accepted. Now, at that time we were going through this era of flower power, everyone was thinking peace, that was all they wanted. Henry and I, however, who had both lived through the war and seen the sacrifices that people had made to find this peace, were rather frightened by this, because we felt in ourselves that if you want peace, you eventually have got to stand up and fight for it, just to preserve it. So we devised this serial called “The Dominators” which was about a world of people who had never known war, never known what it was about, suddenly being invaded, and then we would see how they coped. Well, of course, they couldn't cope at all.

Apparently there were a few problems with this serial in that, originally, it was meant to be six episodes, but then it became a five-part story that eventually went out under a pseudonym. So how did all this come about?

I think it's a bit of an understatement to say we had a few problems, really we had quite a number. There was a change in the front office and we found things going ahead which we hadn't sanctioned or even been consulted about. And the final statement a writer can make is to actually take his name off, and say “well, this isn't the creature I gave birth to. And I don't wish to be associated with it.” The BBC are horrified when this happens, because they want to see a credit up there somewhere to show who has written it, otherwise it's a statement against the programme. So they begged Henry and I to both come up with a name. Well, we thought about it, and as I didn't particularly like my father-in-law, who's called Norman, and he didn't like his father-in-law who's called Ashby, we put them together and credited the story to Norman Ashby.

As the Quarks were designed by Henry and yourself, does that mean you hold the copyright to both the design and concept?

You would think that, but this was part of the quarrel. It was argued that because we had been commissioned to design a monster it was entirely owned by the BBC.

That sounds a bit dodgy...

I quite agree. In fact, when the BBC's Head of Copyright found out, he simply flipped his lid and said, “no way! These writers have got to have the rights.” And unfortunately, that's when a certain gentleman stated, “fine, they can have the rights, but they won't write for Doctor Who again.”

The Quarks appeared in a Doctor Who comic strip not long after their appearance on television. Did you know about this at the time?

No, we weren't told. We learned about it quite by chance, so we phoned up the publishers and said, “unless the BBC contact us, we are going to slap an injunction on your firm," and within an hour the BBC were on the phone to say, “this is a great mistake we've made. Sorry, sorry!”

What can you tell me about the third Yeti story, which was then abandoned after your falling out with the production office?

It was going to be called “The Laird of McCrimmon” and would have been Jamie's last adventure. It was set in Scotland, where the tool of the Great Intelligence was going to be a very ancient Laird. The idea was that once the Yeti and the Great Intelligence had been defeated, Jamie would be left as the natural successor to take over the clan, and therefore, had to decide whether to carry on with the Doctor and continue to enjoy life swanning around the universe, or to remain behind and take up his responsibilities.

Were you aware that there was an attempt to resurrect two of your characters, Professor Travers and his daughter Anne, for a story called  “The Invasion?”

No, we weren't actually talking to the production team at that point.

If they had asked your permission to bring those characters back, would you have allowed them it?

We wouldn't have objected. I remember saying to the Doctor Who Producer John Nathan-Turner “if you would like to use the Yeti again, by all means feel free,” and a short time later they appeared in Doctor Who's twentieth anniversary story, which I watched and enjoyed very much.

Did you get money for the reappearance of Lethbridge-Stewart?

Yes we did. A large sum of money. Every time he appeared Henry and I used to get five pounds to share between us. [LAUGHS] They're very generous, the BBC.

When it was announced that Jon Pertwee had been cast as the new Doctor, there appeared a whole load of photos of Jon posing with a Yeti. Any idea what was going on there?

That did surprise both Henry and I, but I think this was purely for the publicity value, in that the Yeti were popular, and it was linking the new with the old. Pat Troughton was associated with the Yeti, so they wanted to associate the new Doctor Who with the old Doctor Who. It was probably just as simple as that.

Doctor Who was very early in your writing career, and since then you're work as script editor on Sutherland's Law, Oil Strike North and The Onedin Line. Was your approached to script editing in anyway influenced by the way you had been treated on Doctor Who?

Yes, I think so, and also having been a writer, I knew the solitude in which you write. You know that when you put a script in and you get a blank silence for anything over a week, you go through hell. You think, “they don't like it. They're too nice. They're embarrassed. They don't want to tell me they don't like it. They hate it. It's the end of my life. I won't ever write again.” You know, you go through all of that. So, when I started to script-edit, as soon as a script came in, I'd read it straight away, that day, and phone up the writer and say, “great. One or two points I think need changing, but great,” Unfortunately, later on at the BBC, script editors were brought in who had never written themselves, and so they tended to read the script, hand it to their producer and wait for his reaction before they decided they liked, or disliked it, which wasn't really very fair on the writer, because he's looking to the script editor as someone to fight for him. To be on his side.

After working on  “The Dominators” you both went on to write the script for the British horror film Curse of the Crimson Altar, starring Boris Karloff.

Boris was very good, but he was getting on then. We were given the instructions that if he walked, he couldn't talk. And if he talked, he couldn't walk. He couldn't do both at the same time. So we put him in a wheelchair.

How did the film come about?

It was an incredibly involved story. There was a man called Tony Tenser, who used to be a cinema manager, but then got into film making. He started by getting money from America for making horror movies, he used to get forty thousand pound to make a film. And it had to have horror, and it had to have some sex in it. Those two elements. That's what the Americans wanted. I think his US backers had the American and Japanese rights, and Tony had the rest of the world. Anyway, Henry and I were thrown the script and asked to do a rewrite on it. And we read it and it was absolutely unbelievable. It was meant to be set in Surrey and the script opened by saying “the Sheriff rode into town on his horse,” and this was the level it was written at. So I said to Tony, “okay, we've already agreed to do a rewrite, but this has got to be a completely new script.” And he said, “you're dead right, Mervyn. A completely new script, that's what I want, but you don't get any more money for it, and I want it in ten days.”

And did Tony get the finished script in ten days?

No. We sat down and rewrote it for him, but it actually took us a whole fortnight [LAUGHS]. Tony used to appear every day at the end of our writing session and say, “what have you got, boys?" I remember I'd written one sequence, about this fellow on his way to some dark house, pulling up at a petrol station, getting out and saying, “five gallons please, and can you tell me the way to Craxted Lodge?” and getting directions. When Tony read this he said, “no, no. I can't have this. The petrol station attendant will be played by an extra. You've got him saying lines, that's going to cost me money. He can't say lines.” So I said, “how do I do it then?” and he said, “simple. Drives up. Gets out. Says 'fill her up.' Says 'Craxton Lodge?' The fella points. The driver gets in, takes off. The fella watches him go, crosses himself and spits.” And that was his character, but in there is the grain of good film making, cutting it down to the very essentials. We were going for words. Tony was going for action.

Why did your writing partnership with Henry Lincoln come to an end?

It was a natural progression, really. Henry was getting more involved with trying to solve a mystery surrounding a small village in France called Rennes-le-Château. It concerned various esoteric conspiracies combining Freemasonry, buried treasure and the Knights Templar. I'd be writing away on a script, and I'd turn round and find him lying on the floor staring at the ceiling, and this very often would go on day after day. Eventually I said, “Henry, it's not really working, is it?” and he said, “no, I've really got to do something about this mystery in Rennes-le-Château.” And I said, “well, fair enough, you're into that sort of thing, so you go and do it and we'll just part.” And he did, and he wrote several documentaries, and later on he wrote a number of best selling books on the subject. And I went off and did a drama series called The Intruder.

What was it like writing on your own after the partnership dissolved?

Well, it was a great boost to my confidence to discover The Intruder  had been such a hit. About a year after it went out, someone came up to me and said, “congratulations. It was good you winning that award!” And I said, “sorry?” and he said, “you picked up the Harlequin Award,” and I said “no I didn't. What's the Harlequin Award?” and he said, “it's for best children's programme.” So I phoned up the producer, and he said, “oh, yes, we've won the award.” I said, “really?” and he said, “yes, I picked it up.” And I thought, “Oh, thank you very much!” [LAUGHS].

In 1982 and 1984 there were two BBC television series based on the comic strip character Jane, starring Glynis Barber in the title role. How did your become involved with this programme?

Well, I grew up with Jane. Jane was a comic strip in the Daily Mirror, and she was the naughty girl one was permitted to look at, who lost her clothing, who was just a bit saucy, but no more than that, and I wanted to create the feeling of a daily comic strip on television, and I wanted to do it in ten minute sections only. In short sharp scenes, very much like a framework of a cartoon strip. It was achieved with a technique called Chromakey, where you do everything in an entirely blue studio. You have no scenery, your scenery is drawn on caption cards, which required you to put down little blue spots to guide the actors, so if they are walking along a cliff, they're not walking in the sea, they are actually walking along the path. It's a very difficult technique to master, I think Andrew Gosling, who was the director, did very very well. The production received a great deal of acclaim, and won some awards, and because it was so successful, it rather embarrassed the BBC, so they said, “yes, you must immediately do another one,” but the “immediately” was two years after. During this time, the Daily Mirror resurrected the Jane cartoon strip, which had originally finished sometime in the later 1950s, and the first frame, I thought, was magnificent, because you have this young Jane waking up, looking at her alarm clock and saying, “good lord. I must have overslept.” Anyway, following on from the success of the television series, I then met up with a producer called Harry Robertson, who asked me to write a film script, and that's how Jane and the Lost City came about. It was one of these fairytale things that shouldn't really happen, in that within a year it was written, shot and had been given a Royal premiere.

For the film, Jane was played by Kirsten Hughes. What happened to Glynis Barber?

She was in America at the time, and I know Harry did go over there to talk to her about it, however, she never got back to him, and as time was running out, we cast someone else.

Over your long and varied career, what do you consider your greatest success?

Well, there was a series called The Carnforth Practice, which was about a group of solicitors based in the Lake District. I only wrote one episode, but it was inspired by a case I had come across that concerned the law relating to deaf and dumb people. At that time, the law said that if someone was charged with a crime and they were deaf and dumb, they first had to have a mini trial to determine their fitness to plead. Because if they couldn't speak, or couldn't write, perhaps they could communicate by sign language. Most deaf and dumb people can, but there are quite a number who have been taught a private language by their mother, or someone close to them, but who perhaps was there no longer and so they can't communicate. Now if the court found that they were unfit to plead, then they were immediately put in an asylum for the rest of their lives. And I thought this was a terrible thing to happen. So, I wrote a play about it, in the framework of this series, and luckily the House of Lords took it up, and there were questions asked, and since then the law has been changed, so that's an ordinary run of the mill series programme that people today have forgotten, or haven't even heard about, but a programme like that can change the law.

As a final question, do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

I'd like to succeed, really succeed in every medium of writing. That is radio, film, television, the stage and the novel as well. I've still got quite a way to go. I think this is a wonderful business to be in, because you may see a lot of people looking old, but they never are old, they're very young inside, and I think that's because they're always looking for the next mountain, or perhaps as they get older, the next hill to climb, and as long as I've got a mountain in front of me to climb, that's the only ambition I want.

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