The episode was called Full Circle and Pa played the leader of an oligarchic community in the E-Space Universe (how visionary!) stranded on the planet Alzarius, a stern, bearded character called Decider Draith. He meets a messy end...dragged into a swamp by a mysterious Marshman, a creature with gills.
How could I have missed the cultural significance of that role?
Well.. now we're all much more aware of 'cultural significance', especially with regard to things like Dr Who - partly because the BBC has upgraded the series by putting vastly greater sums into the production, and the worldwide marketing of the Who brand has amplified its importance as an example of British Eccentric Creativity Of The First Order.
In October 1980 I was in my thirties, so although I thought Tom Baker was wonderful (and still do), I wasn't watching the Dr Who series with the same degree of fascination I had in my childhood.
It was perhaps also something to do with Pa's professional attitude. He didn't really talk about his work; he didn't 'not talk' about it, meangfully, but... it was work, and therefore it seemed normal for us that he would indeed, from time to time, be offered work. Some of the results of his labour we might see on TV, some of it in theatres, some of it heard on radio, and some of it not seen or heard at all. (Behind the scenes stuff, narrations for corporate industrial clients, or documentaries about shipbuilding, that kind of thing.)
The unfortunate thing about this, and remembering it now I feel slightly sick, is that we had his copy of that Full Circle episode script and didn't think it worth keeping in a vault.. it lay around the house for years in the piles of scripts from other things - Dr Finlay's Casebook, Redgauntlet, Candide - all of which were used - the clean sides - as scrap paper to write on. He would write drafts of letters or plays on them, my mother used others to type up what he was writing. And at some point, during a house-move, anything which was deemed not-vital was - *gulp* - chucked out.
What I would give to reverse that process! Somewhere in our family archive we will still have sheets of paper with TV script on one side and Pa's handwriting or Ma's typing on the other - but entire scripts, bearing only his working notes, call times, location info...? I don't think any survived.
Roll back the clock, roll it back...Why do we always know too late what we should have valued? And I'm not talking here of pecuniary value (though there is that, and a Dr Who script - if one was allowed to auction it - might buy quite a few groceries now. Ed.) but of the fact that when your parents are gone, and you want to ask then what it was like for them to be, say, 50, or to be in a tight spot creatively, or how to approach some aspect of their life or career... all you have left are memories, letters, if you're lucky, or significant artefacts. And as writer and sometime performer, I would love to have copies of those particularly significant artefacts to examine and interpret now.
More specifically, I'd like to have copies of all the very early scripts he wrote for BBC Schools programmes, inventive, funny, playful things, written in his late 20s; treasures lost due to the later decision by my parents not to keep dragging 'everything' around with them for ever... Trying to find those in the BBC's archives now costs money (yes, they used to do it free, I seem to remember, but you did manage to find two such scripts, in the '80s. Ed.). In any case, he never listed anywhere the titles of all those stories, those curious little dramas, so I wouldn't know what to ask for, now. They were just performed and broadcast live, given to the ether... spoken to the skies...
Perhaps those words are still travelling through space, bouncing off a planet...how very Dr Who that would be.