'Doctor Who security leak - 1972'

ROSSA MCPHILLIPS made this Freedom of Information request to Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee
This authority is not subject to FOI law, so is not legally obliged to respond (details).

Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee did not have the information requested.

ROSSA MCPHILLIPS

Dear Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee,

In 1971, the Royal Navy assisted the 'Doctor Who' production office in filming the six-part serial 'The Sea Devils' in and around the Portsmouth area, including HMS Respite base and HMS Reclaim ship. They did not allow the 'Doctor Who' crew to film on a nuclear submarine, so the 'Doctor Who' Visual Effects team built a model of a nuclear submarine and filmed that instead.

In March 1972, following transmission of the 'Doctor Who' story, officials from the 'Ministry of Defence' visited the 'Doctor Who' production office as said nuclear sub model had a propeller which had a similarity to a real propeller being developed by the navy and they feared there was a security leak. The Ministry of Defence officials spoke to the director of the story, Michael Briant, and spoke to Visual Effects designer, Peter Day. Day stated that he had designed the propeller using his own imagination, and the Ministry of Defence officials were satisfied with his explanation. The matter ended there.

Is there any information in your records from 1972 (and beyond) regarding Ministry of Defence concerns about the nuclear sub model on 'Doctor Who'? Is there anything in your records regarding concerns in general about security leaks on 'Doctor Who'?

If you can provide any paperwork on this, I would be eternally grateful. Thanks in advance

Yours faithfully,

ROSSA MCPHILLIPS MBE

Geoffrey Dodds, Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee

Dear Mr McPhillips,

 

Thank you for your e-mail dated 4 April in which you requested details
about any information in DSMA records from 1972 (and beyond) regarding
Ministry of Defence concerns about the nuclear sub model on 'Doctor Who'.
 You also asked if there was anything in the records regarding concerns in
general about security leaks on 'Doctor Who'.

I am one of two deputy secretaries working for Brigadier Dodds, and I am
responding on his behalf.

Although as a non-public body the DSMA Committee is not subject to the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Freedom of Information (Scotland)
Act 2002, the DSMA Committee is committed to practising a policy of
maximum disclosure consistent with its aim of preventing the inadvertent
public disclosure of information that would compromise UK national
security, and that the subsequent advice is sought and given in
confidence.  Please see [1]www.dsma.uk for more information on the
DSMA-Notice System.

 

Although we currently keep detailed records of 'Requests for Advice' (and
have done since 2004), we do not hold any records from the early 1970s.
 Some files from that era many have been deposited erroneously in the
National Archives; it may be worth your time to take a look there.
 Furthermore, as your inquiry appears to be based on advice from the
Ministry of Defence, you may wish to pose your question there.  Finally, I
can also suggest that you may wish to contact the BBC to find out what
material it might hold in the matter.

The producers of the 2019 tribute programme 'the Jon Pertwee files' might
be a good source of leads.

[2]https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/progin...

I suspect that it would have been unlikely that the precursor to today’s
DSMA Committee would have been approached, because I imagine Pertwee would
have spoken to the relevant Navy department directly.  As you are
doubtless aware, he served in the RN during the Second World War, (and
narrowly missed being sunk in HMS HOOD, because he was landed at short
notice for officer training).  As I am sure you know, he kept quiet about
his interesting work in the Naval Intelligence Division, (with author Ian
Fleming) for many years afterward, although some details emerged in an
interview in 1994, later published in 2013.

There is an interesting piece about his wartime service here:

[3]https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=pXNf...

His connections secured input of anecdotes used in the long-running radio
show ‘the Navy Lark’, and it is no small thing that he secured permission
to use RN Ships (and personnel) in filming the ‘Sea Devils’ episodes,
including a hovercraft.

One can only imagine how he must have felt being 'piped aboard' HMS
RECLAIM as Dr Who - a distinction normally reserved for foreign naval
officers in uniform, Officers in Command of RN Ships, Flag Officers and
Royalty.

Best of luck in your research; I am sorry we were not able to shed more
light on this matter.

Best wishes,

Stephen 

Lieutenant Commander Stephen Dudley| Deputy Secretary | Defence and
Security Media Advisory Committee | Office 020 7218 2206 | [mobile number] |[4][DSMA request email]|[5]www.dsma.uk

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: ROSSA MCPHILLIPS <[FOI #744174 email]>
Sent: 04 April 2021 08:45
To: Geoffrey Dodds <[DSMA request email]>
Subject: Freedom of Information request - 'Doctor Who security leak -
1972'
 
Dear Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee,

In 1971, the Royal Navy assisted the 'Doctor Who' production office in
filming the six-part serial 'The Sea Devils' in and around the Portsmouth
area, including HMS Respite base and HMS Reclaim ship. They did not allow
the 'Doctor Who' crew to film on a nuclear submarine, so the 'Doctor Who'
Visual Effects team built a model of a nuclear submarine and filmed that
instead.

In March 1972, following transmission of the 'Doctor Who' story, officials
from the 'Ministry of Defence' visited the 'Doctor Who' production office
as said nuclear sub model had a propeller which had a similarity to a real
propeller being developed by the navy and they feared there was a security
leak. The Ministry of Defence officials spoke to the director of the
story, Michael Briant, and spoke to Visual Effects designer, Peter Day.
Day stated that he had designed the propeller using his own imagination,
and the Ministry of Defence officials were satisfied with his explanation.
The matter ended there.

Is there any information in your records from 1972 (and beyond) regarding
Ministry of Defence concerns about the nuclear sub model on 'Doctor Who'?
Is there anything in your records regarding concerns in general about
security leaks on 'Doctor Who'?

If you can provide any paperwork on this, I would be eternally grateful.
Thanks in advance

Yours faithfully,

ROSSA MCPHILLIPS MBE

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