From Police Drama to Torchwood, through Ace of Wands and Sapphire and Steel: The Work of Peter J. Hammond

Peter J. Hammond’s fruitful television career began to take shape during the 1960s, initially working on well-received BBC police dramas such as “Dixon of Dock Green” and “Z-Cars.” His involvement with “Z-Cars” was particularly noteworthy as he served as a script editor for the series from 1969 to 1970, showcasing his ability not only as a writer but also as a shaping force behind the narrative direction of a show.

In 1970, Hammond branched out into the fantasy genre with his work on the series “Ace of Wands,” a move that seemed to presage his later, more renowned work on “Sapphire & Steel.” “Ace of Wands” was a precursor in demonstrating Hammond’s affinity and skill for weaving narrative threads in a fantastical setting. This early foray into fantasy storytelling showcased a nascent blending of the fantastical with the mysterious, elements that would become hallmarks of “Sapphire & Steel.”

As the 1970s progressed, Hammond contributed to the soap opera “Emmerdale Farm” and continued his work in crime and police dramas by penning episodes of “The Sweeney.” His versatile writing style lent itself well to various genres, yet his unique voice was becoming discernible.

The 1980s saw Hammond creating the quirky sitcom “Lame Ducks” in 1984, a departure from his previous works but a testament to his broad creative range. However, it was also during this decade and the following one that Hammond continued to explore police and detective dramas, writing for shows like “The Gentle Touch,” “The Bill,” “Wycliffe,” and “Doctor Finlay,” a new rendition of the 1960s BBC series “Dr. Finlay’s Casebook.”

Coming back to the realm of science fiction, Hammond wrote an episode for the 1998 Sky One series “Space Island One,” although his episode wasn’t transmitted until 2002, reflecting a return to a genre where he had previously demonstrated significant creativity.

The new millennium saw Hammond working extensively on the murder mystery series “Midsomer Murders,” where he crafted many engrossing episodes that contributed to the show’s enduring popularity.

However, it’s “Sapphire & Steel” that remains one of the pinnacle works of Hammond’s career. His conceptualization of the show came from an intriguing evening spent in a purportedly haunted house, which led to the creation of the unique science fiction fantasy series. The show ran from 1979 to 1982 and featured five of the six serials written by Hammond, along with a novelization of the first serial, significantly contributing to the genre.

In a noteworthy chapter of his career, Hammond was approached in 1986 to contribute to “Doctor Who” during the tumultuous production of Season 23’s “The Trial of a Time Lord.” His story, “Paradise Five,” was initially favored by script editor Eric Saward but was later rejected by producer John Nathan-Turner. However, this script found a new lease on life when Big Finish Productions revived it as a full-cast audio drama titled “Paradise 5” in 2009-2010, featuring the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his companion Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant).

The mid-2000s brought Hammond closer to the “Doctor Who” universe once more when he was announced as one of the writers for “Torchwood,” a spin-off of “Doctor Who.” His episodes “Small Worlds” (2006) and “From Out of the Rain” (2008) were substantial additions to the “Torchwood” series, showcasing his adeptness in blending science fiction with crime and mystery, embodying the thematic versatility that has been a hallmark of Hammond’s extensive and diverse career in television writing.