Weekly Who #19 Celebrates Waris Hussein

Holiday Break is over and a new season is upon us! It is a high time to get back in the swing of things with Weekly Who. This weeks topic is the first Gay Asian BBC Drama Director Waris Hussein. Hopefully the first in a periodical segment on profiles of key figures in Doctor Who history.

Waris Hussein was born December Ninth 1938 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh India his mom was BBC Broadcaster and Actress Attia Hosain. He went to Queen’s College, Cambridge where his classmates included legends like Sir Ian Mackellan, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Dame Margaret Drabble. He studied drama directing while in school and Mackellan was a common actor in his plays at the time.

After college Hussein joined the BBC in 1960 to train as a television director. After cutting his teeth directing the soap Compact he was hired to help launch the then new science fiction show Doctor Who along with producer Verity Lambert and show creator Sidney Newman. According to a Radio Times Interview Upon reading the script for what would become An Unearthly Child he had this reaction “What I didn’t know how to cope with was the three following episodes about the quest for fire. I mean, look, you graduate from Cambridge with honours and you’re directing this piece about cavemen in skins. I thought, ‘Where have I landed up in my life?’.” After bringing up his concerns with Verity Lambert she respond with “We’re just going to have to make them work.” Waris Hussein was also one of the people who managed to convince actor William Hartnell to join the show as the lead character during two extravagant lunches. After Child the only other Who work Hussein would direct was all but episode 4 of the First Doctor Serial Marco Polo.

After departing Doctor Who Waris Hussein moved back into the world of Plays and in 1965 he was the director behind A Passage To India for the BBC’s Play Of The Month. He would stay on this show directing various plays until 1972. Sadly with the exception of Passage To India and Hedda Gabler his television plays work is all lost to the brutal killer known as The BBC Tape Wiping Policy. His tv work was far from over though as he directed the Suffragette Drama Shoulder To Shoulder in 1974 and numerous other tv shows and serials in both the UK and America of note is the series Edward and Mrs.Simpson which nabbed him a BAFTA.

In Movie Land Waris Hussein would have a long and varied career too including surviving an encounter with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton on the very troubled production on the HTV film Divorce His-Divorce Hers. Directing old Cambridge Classmate Sir Ian Mackellan in A Touch Of Love

The final project of his I’ll be mentioning in this brief profile is the 4 part 1987 ITV Drama Intimate Contact one of the first tv shows to deal with the AIDS crisis head on. A particularly emotional project at the time because as Hussein puts it “I kept it to myself. I pretended to know nothing about the subject. They even gave me an adviser. It wasn’t easy – Daniel Massey dying on screen of Aids, me having to direct him on that level, knowing that the person in my life had the same illness.”

That’s about all I’ve got on him for now. His career is longer and more interesting than I originally thought before researching. What did you think of this profile? Got anything you’d like to add? Want to mention anything else about Doctor Who? If yes to any of those questions please leave a comment.

p.s If you wish to talk about Spyfall parts 1 & 2 in this thread please use Spoiler tags as the episodes haven’t been out very long.