TV pioneer started 'Doctor Who'

LONDON — Verity Lambert, one of the great pioneers of British television drama and film, has died aged 71.

In a career lasting more than 40 years Lambert, who famously became the youngest and only female producer at the BBC in 1963, was responsible for some of the most memorable and important small screen drama to come out of the U.K. in an era many regard as television’s golden age.

Lambert, born in London and educated at Roedean School and the Sorbonne in Paris, was the first producer of “Doctor Who.”

Her Midas touch extended to series like “Budgie,” “Rock Follies,” “Rumpole of the Bailey” and “Minder.”

Her early days in TV were spent as a junior secretary in the managing director’s office at ITV station ABC.

As a personal assistant in the drama department she learned about rehearsals and studio procedures, and followed her boss, drama topper Sydney Newman, to the BBC.

There she was given the opportunity to produce what became “Doctor Who.”

“Verity was as bright as they come, tough, and utterly fearless,” wrote the man who would be her director of programs at Thames Television, Jeremy Isaacs, where she became head of drama in 1974.

At Thames, her work encompassed mainstream hits like “Rock Follies” and “Hazell” and the breakthrough “The Naked Civil Servant,” starring John Hurt as gay icon Quentin Crisp.

By 1976, Lambert was CEO of Thames’ subsidiary Euston Films, four years later moving into film production at Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment working on pics such as “Dream Child” and “Clockwise,” starring John Cleese.

She set up her own successful shingle, Cinema Verity, in 1985, which scored across movies (“A Cry in the Dark”), sitcom (“May to December”), and drama (“GBH”), but her sure touch was absent from the BBC’s ill-fated soap “Eldorado.”

Lambert was due to receive the Working Title Films Lifetime Achievement Award on Dec 7.

Announcing the award Sophie Balhetchet, chair of Women in Film and Television, said: “Verity’s programs have consistently been voted among the greatest of the television era.”

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