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DOCTOR WHO - Terry Nation's Daleks designed by Ray Cusick - YESTERDAY'S PAPERS - Raymond Cusick by Elsie M Smith
YESTERDAY'S PAPERS - Raymond Cusick by Elsie M Smith
"...lights behind them which would flash when
the Dalek got emotional, but this idea
had to be abandoned as being too expensive..."

Elsie M Smith - Transcript from THE YORKSHIRE EVENING PRESS

Published in December 1964 - prior to FLASHPOINT, the final episode of THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH.

Fiddling gave its creator the Dalek idea

Raymond Cusick twirled a dome-headed pepper pot between his thumb and forefinger, and recalled: “It was fiddling with one of these that gave me the idea for the shape of the Dalek.”

This 34-year old BBC designer is, in fact the man who, from the scriptwriter’s rough idea, created television’s most formidable and famous creature from outer Space since the bug-eyed Martians in QUATERMASS.

There are now Dalek books and Dalek mechanical toys as well as child-size outfits, which will no doubt be turning many a Christmas party into a riotous and unscripted DR WHO episode. A record has been made about spending Christmas with a Dalek, and even political cartoonists have seized on the creature for ideas.

For Raymond Cusick himself it earned him the most unflattering local-paper headline, to the account of his wedding last year to a former dancer, that surely any bridegroom ever had. “Monster Man Marries”, it said.

SWIVELLING EYE

I met the “Monster man” in his office in television centre, an office so small that a Dalek could scarily swing its telescopic arm around, and he has to share it with another designer. Space is at a premium in television centre until the extensions now under construction are completed.

He told me the story of the creation of the Dalek. Script-writer Terry Nation gave it its name and indicated that it should have a swiveling eye, an arm capable of moving in all directions and be able to glide along like those Hungarian girl dancers who, feet hidden by long full skirts, appear to move on wheels.

After a round-table conference at which ideas were bandied, Mr Cusick was sent away to bring the creature to “life”.

“I designed it in a week-end at home," he explained. “There are too many distractions in the office. By Monday, the design was in the hands of special effects men, and the first one was ready within a week. The body is made of fibre-glass on a metal frame.”

UNDER £250 EACH

“The bumps on the lower half of the Daleks are there because my original idea was to have light behind them which would flash when the Dalek got emotional. But this idea had to be abandoned as being too expensive. We have a limited budget for these things, and the cost had to be kept down to £250.”

“Another idea that had to be scrapped on the grounds of economy in the first Dalek story last year was to mount them on tricycles so that the men inside them could operate them smoothly, but the tricycle idea had to brought back for the current story because some of it was shot on outside locations where the Daleks had to manoeuvre up and down kerbs and other obstacles."

DRAGON-LIKE

But for Mr Cusick, the Daleks are past history. He has since designed another monster, which will make its appearance in a two-part DR WHO story early in the New Year. This is a ‘sand-monster’ (Sandy, for short), a dragon-like creature, as the designs of its evolution plaster Mr Cusick’s office wall show.

There is no comfortable seat or tricycle pedals for the operator of this creature. He has to wriggle along on his stomach across desert wastes.

So far ahead does the designers have to work, as far as Mr Cusick is concerned, Sandy too, is now “extinct” and he is working on a still later DR WHO sequel which takes place in and near ancient Rome.

“A fairly straightforward design job this time,” he said “but it has entailed a lot of research into the period.”

STARTED AS A SCULPTOR

Mr Cusick, who has been with the BBC for four years, originally set out to be a sculptor, but had futuristic ideas even then.

“One of my creations,” he recalled, “was a thing made of wire and neon tubes which lit up. It did not represent anything, I was just striving for effect.”

He became interested in theatre design after a friend had asked him to design some sets for a revue and he worked with several repertory companies.

DR WHO was his first experience of science fiction designing. “I am not scenically-minded myself, although O like science fiction and have enjoyed working on DR WHO. I suppose,” he laughed, “it is, as they say, that men never really grow up.”

FAN MAIL

One thing the Daleks has brought him is fan mail - “mostly from boys who want to know how to male a Dalek.” But since the plans are copyright of the BBC, the only thing he can do is send a photograph.

The Daleks disappear from our screens after the Boxing Day episode of DR WHO. Whether they will return has not yet been decided.

What will happen to them in the meantime? Again, nobody quite knows, but two are due to be returned to Dr. Barnardo’s from whom the BBC for the present DR WHO story. They are two of the originals which the Corporation presented to Dr. Barnardo’s last year.

Edited for the online version of EOH by Matthew Walter.

 

EOH EXTRA

EOH Issue 1 features the 1st part of the Tom Baker Interview, TV reviews of ARC OF INFINITY,  SNAKEDANCE and THE INVASION

A newspaper clipping featured in Issue One (March 1983)

Click to ENLARGE


Click to view the original 1964 newspaper clipping

THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH Dalek redesign

THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH

An early sketch by Raymond Cusick

One of Cusick's early sketches for a tricycle-Dalek

 
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