Daleks Designer Dies…Exterminated

The inventor of the Daleks, easily the scariest of all the Doctor’s enemies, has died.

Raymond Cusick, who has died aged 84, designed the Daleks, the genocidal plunger-toting alien foe of the BBC’s heroic Time Lord, Dr Who.

Though the scriptwriter Terry Nation came up with the idea of the Daleks, it was left to Cusick to work out exactly what they would look like. He first considered mechanical creations, but hampered by time constraints and tiny budgets, and wary of technology that was “bound to go wrong” on set, he set about crafting a terrifying being around a human operator. 

The process began with the less-than terrifying prospect of a grown-up crouched down on what amounted to a child’s tricycle. For Cusick knew that he wanted the creatures to glide “without visible arms or legs”. “So I drew a seat, 18 inches high, got the operator down on it, then drew round him. It [the Dalek] grew round him.”

As his idea took shape, Cusick explained the look of the monster to colleagues at the BBC. On one occasion, in the canteen, he picked up a condiment container, and steered it around the table, showing how the Daleks’ effortless propulsion could be used to creepy effect. The villains duly became celebrated as the “satanic pepperpots”.

When Dr Who hit British television screens in 1963, the Daleks and their shrieks of “ex-ter-min-ate” did not feature. They made their entrance only in the fifth episode, but had soon etched themselves onto the public consciousness.

Even before then, however, Cusick had a good idea of the effect they might cause. “Before rehearsals started the cast and other members brought their children along and they were shown the Daleks and talked to the Dalek operators,” he recalled. “But then when rehearsals started the operators got into the Daleks and started moving, and at that point all the children screamed and ran out of the studio.”

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