His initial career was in the film industry, working for MGM at Elstree Studios, where he was Assistant Director of such films as Jericho (1937) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). During the war he worked on documentary films, and then in 1955 was recruited to BBC Television by the then Head of Drama, Michael Barry. As the Head of the Script Department, Wilson was ultimately responsible for overseeing the commissioning and development of all the original scripts and adaptations transmitted by BBC Television.
When the Script Department was rendered redundant by Sydney Newman’s radical shake-up of the BBC Drama Department after his arrival as its head in 1962, the highly respected Wilson was given one of the most senior positions under Newman as Head of Serials. In this position, Wilson was responsible for overseeing the creation and development of a series that Newman himself had originally conceived; an educational science-fiction adventure serial for children entitled Doctor Who. It was Wilson, together with Newman and staff writer C. E. Webber, who co-wrote the first format document for the program.
Wilson was responsible for much of the early development work on the show, although he did strongly attempt to dissuade producer Verity Lambert from using writer Terry Nation’s script featuring a race of aliens named Daleks. However, once the script had been made and transmitted to great success, he called Lambert into his office to admit that she clearly knew the show better than he did and told her that he would no longer interfere with her decisions.
In 1965, Wilson gave up his position as Head of Serials to concentrate on realizing a long-held ambition of bringing The Forsyte Saga to the screen. Acting as both adapter and producer, Wilson created one of the BBC’s most popular and successful drama serials of all time, which was a huge hit on its eventual screening on BBC Two in 1967, and was quickly repeated on BBC One. Later, he acted as adapter and producer again on such prestigious costume dramas as The First Churchills (1969) and Anna Karenina (1977).
He went on to work for Anglia Television before retiring to his home in Gloucestershire, where he died at the age of 91 in March 2002.