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  1. #1
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    Default What's so good about... The Daleks?


    A Dalek, yesterday.

    Why do you think the Daleks were so popular in 1963 and are still popular today?

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  2. #2
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    They're a devastating political allegory to the Nazi's and the dangers of dictatorship.

    And they have funny voices so you can have them on comedy shows and be guaranteed a laugh.

    Si.

  3. #3
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    Whatever little bit of magic that was going on in Ray Cusick's head when he put pen to paper, it's still that original notion of Terry Nation's - the skirt, the glide; the fact that you wouldn't be able to see the actor inside's feet moving - that sets them apart from pretty much anything else that's ever been designed for film or television. Even today, prop and costume designers still don't 'get' what was so magical and so brilliant about them. They are a truly iconic design that will probably never be equalled or repeated.

    And yes, they've got funny voices.

  4. #4
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    It's an overused word, but they are visually iconic. A Dalek simply does not look like anything else. It's not an obvious man in a rubber suit monster. The way they glide along the floor so smoothly (give or take the odd wonky caster: listen in part 7!), the articulation in their appendages (which is often forgotten later), and the voice. Chunky 'robot' style mosters were not new, but the Dalek looks quite sleek, compared to some other more chunky, sluggish looking designs. Even some of the original early sketches look dreadful compared to the final shape.

    The voice is harsh and grating, but they don't talk like machines, which makes them immediately more interesting than the monotone, clipped 'machine English' machines which later found their way onto the show. The word 'emotionless' has often been used to describe them, but they have never been so. They don't get sad or happy, but they do get angry and frightened a lot more than even they would probably like to admit.

    There is also the fact that they don't carry a gun, they have one hard-wired into their casing. You can't disarm it unless its inactive (but even then David Whitaker made them just as dangerous without their guns as with them, just in a different way). You can't negotiate with it, because even if you have something that means they do need your help, the moment you're no further use they'll kill you without a second thought.

    The scripted description, the way they behave, and the design that evolved from those few words in the script all came together to make something that is more than the sum of its parts. Even the Doctor Who production teams never quite worked out what was so great about them. The Mechanoids fail because they are almost the exact opposite of everything I already described in terms of appearance and voice. The Quarks failed because again they look too absurd and sound too cute.

    It's a true icon. It's such an icon that Daleks could be used to advertise the changing of UK telephone area codes, Energizer batteries and KitKat bars even when the show had been off the air for years. I don't suppose anyone realised just what they had created, but for just one moment in the production of a new TV show, something that could have been frankly disastrously, embarrassingly bad turned into something wonderful, and one of the few things that truly deserves the epithet 'iconic'.

  5. #5

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    Utterly iconic design... until they decided to tinker with it last year...

  6. #6
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    I agree - utterly iconic, both in voice and design. I'm assuming Ray C didn't make much money on the Daleks because he was BBC staff?

  7. #7
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    Nope. Like Delia, he was paid his wage; because he was employed as a prop maker by the BBC.

  8. #8
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    I think some time later he was given a 'bonus' of a couple of hundred quid (or something); probably not a great deal even by the standards of the past.

    But certainly he didn't receive the remuneration that Terry Nation did for what, on the face of it, seems like a more than equal part in creating what made them so successful.

  9. #9

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    No one ever mentions Dick Mills (or whoever it was... I don't know because no-one mentions them). I can't imagine Terry Nation OR Ray Cusick sat in the Radiophonics Workshop playing around making the voice. And then who came up with the delivery style? The Workshop or the voice actors? Anyway, the voice is as much to do with their success as anything else.

  10. #10
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    One of the odd things about Daleks is that although everyone knows what they look like, they are astonishingly hard to draw. There are decades worth of cartoonists for newspapers who get most of the details fundamentally wrong.

    What's more, when they get the Daleks wrong they look rubbish. They'll be too slim, or too tall and they won't look even remotely menacing for some reason.

    People rarely get right the number of spheres, the angle on the tapering section, the design of the sucker-arm and gun stick, the number of bands around the grille or whether there even is a grille, the lights on the dome, the length of the eye-stalk etc, etc.

    Despite that, everybody knows what Daleks look like and I reckon most people could tell you the difference between a certified BBC Dalek and a cheap, Rolykin knock-off.

    Have you tried to draw a Dalek? How close did you get?
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob McCow View Post
    What's more, when they get the Daleks wrong they look rubbish. They'll be too slim, or too tall and they won't look even remotely menacing for some reason.
    Indeed. If only the production team in 2010 had taken on board that little nugget of wisdom, maybe we wouldn't have the horerendous looking things we now have masquerading as Daleks. As I believe I said at the time on another thread, the new Daleks remind me strongly of the 60s toys when no manufacturer could get the shape right.

    Have you tried to draw a Dalek? How close did you get?
    I have drawn several, and when I really try I get very close. But then drawing machine-type things is something I am pretty good at. People and animals look awful when I draw them, but machines...

    The irony here is that I can't draw the new ones well at all!

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