Donald Tosh 1935-2019Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 - Reported by Marcus
Donald ToshThe writer and Script Editor Donald Tosh has died at the age of 84.

Donald Tosh was the last surviving writer from the era of the First Doctor. He served as Script Editor for 9 months, writing much of the 1966 story The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, rewriting the original script supplied by John Lucarotti. Later in the year, he rewrote much of the script of Brian Hayes classic story The Celestial Toymaker.

Donald Tosh had a long career in British Television. He was working at Granada Television in Manchester when he was asked to commission a twice-weekly series to compete with Emergency Ward 10, then the most popular show on the air. His solution was a new project called Florizel Street, created by a young man called Tony Warren. This later changed its name to Coronation Street.

In the early 1960's he moved to the BBC, working for Donald Wilson, then Head of Serials at the BBC. Against his better judgement, he was asked to script edit the soap Compact.
A twice-weekly serial! It was the one thing I loathed and wanted nothing to do with. However, I did it for eighteen months and learned a great deal about scriptwriting. Eventually, I went back to Donald and he told me that there were a few things that he'd be quite happy to move me to. One was another twice-weekly serial, and I said, no way and then he suggested Doctor Who and also told me that John Wiles was going to take over as producer from Verity Lambert and I said, oh, yes, then certainly I'd like to work on Doctor Who, as I knew Johnnie, we got on very well, and I had a huge respect for his work.
He joined the show in the summer of 1965, staying until the spring of 1966 and overseeing the stories The Time Meddler, Galaxy 4, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve and The Celestial Toymaker. While some scripts needed very little work, most needed major rewrites to get them into a form necessary for TV Production.

His most accomplished work was probably for the story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve., set in the French court of 1572. The script had been supplied by John Lucarotti, but on reading it Tosh realised it would need to be completely rewritten.
John sent in a script, and he hadn’t had any time to do his research, which was very unlike him. He had missed the whole point of the story, and everything else that was going in. It’s a period I know quite a bit about, so I had to go away and rewrite it from page one. Bill Hartnell was a good actor, and I wanted to give him something different to do. I gave Bill a doppelganger story where I got him to play the Abbot of Amboise, not just the Doctor. He had great fun doing it, as he wasn’t having to learn all the usual scientific lines, as he had to do as the old man. As a result of that, when he came back to playing the Doctor, his performance had really improved. I thought it worked brilliantly, and it’s one I’m still very proud of. It’s such a shame that the BBC no longer have it.
Tosh left the show in March 1966 after an argument over the scripts for The Celestial Toymaker, which had been rewritten while he was on holiday. He told the DWAS magazine The Celestial Toyroom, that he did regret leaving the series as quickly as he did.
I really always felt that I should have stayed on as story editor until after The Gunslingers, until after Donald Cotton was settled, but when I spoke to the new producer, Innes Lloyd, it became very clear to me that his idea of what Doctor Who should be and my idea of what Doctor Who should be were poles apart. So there was really no point in me trying to stay on. I could have done, but I suspect it would have lead to untold battles in the production office, which is very bad for any programme.
After Doctor Who worked on shows such as Sherlock Holmes and Ryan International, but left Televsion in the 1970's. He worked for a time for English Heritage and became Head Custodian of Sherborne Old Castle in Dorset.