Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Happy Birthday, Timelord

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2003-11-22 TV Times.jpg


Sydney Newman, BBC's Head of Drama in 1963, was looking for something to fill a gap in the schedules between Grandstand and music show Juke Box Jury. He opted for a programme he saw as both educational and historical — it was only later that Doctor Who became known as a sci-fi series. Now, eight doctors later, the search is on for another new face since the BBC announced it is to revive the Doctor for more inter-galactic adventures. As UK Gold devotes a weekend to the Doctor, here RICHARD WEBBER looks back over 4o years of a cult classic...


They may struggle with stairs but the Daleks remain the Doctor's most feared enemy

The Daleks made their debut in 1963 in the second story of series one. They were brought to life by BBC designer Raymond Cusick. As production designer he was responsible for the sets and props, but with no special effects designer allocated to the show, Raymond was asked to create the sinister Daleks, too.

'I spoke to the writer Terry Nation and we both agreed it shouldn't be a man in a suit, which was being suggested at the time for cheapness because budgets were tight,' Raymond recalls.

'I realised the operator inside would have to be in the studio all day and would need to be seated, so I started by drawing a chair. I then simply drew a shape around the operator, with the top part louvred with black gauze inside so he could see out but no one could look in.

'The bottom of the Dalek was open and the operator, wearing plimsolls, simply pushed it along. They were made of fibreglass and I wanted them to be smaller than the average human being, so I made them just 5ft 3in tall.'

Originally, only four Daleks were built, with six full-size photos representing others for crowd scenes. After the seven-part story, The Daleks, finished in February 1964, producer Verity Lambert, thinking they wouldn't be required any further, donated them to Dr Barnado's. 'But when fans started writing asking for more Dalek stories, the BBC had to get them back!'

One of the longest-serving Dalek operators was actor Cy Town, who started in the days of Jon Pertwee and worked with every Doctor thereafter. It could be strenuous work.

'Sometimes in the studio, especially if you were tearing up and down corridors, it could get hot, but on location, which always seemed to be a sandpit in Devon, it was quite cosy,' says Cy. 'I played other monsters over the years, involving masks and tight costumes, and they were mu:: more uncomfortable than being a Dalek.'

The Daleks were mounted on castors and pushed along by the operator, but disaster struck when, to cope with difficult terrain on location, the castors were replaced with a ball-like feature. 'They kept falling off and limited our movement,' says Cy. 'In one story you'll see a Dalek doing a three-point turn for the first time.'

Then, in another sandpit, the Daleks were fixed on to a mini railway track, with a similarly unhappy outcome. 'We came hurtling round the bend and one of the Daleks toppled over. Luckily, on that occasion, no one was hurt.'

And the Daleks' limited field of vision caused problems when it came to negotiating doors. 'I remember one scene saw a procession of them coming out of a spaceship and it was really tight,' recalls Cy. 'All you could hear was "Bang, Bang" as we all tried to get through!'

Other Deadly Rivals

THE SONTARANS Bellicose, egg-headed creatures, first seen on 12th-century Earth in 1973.

THE GIANT SPIDERS Crept into view in 1974. They imprisoned their enemies before slowly devouring them.

THE ICE WARRIORS Cold killers who first appeared in 1967. They had sonic weapons attached to their arms.

THE CYBERMEN Mechanised monsters arrived in 1966 when the TARDIS landed at the South Pole.



1963-1966 (four series, 135 episodes, including the pilot)

A veteran film actor, he was an apprentice jockey before turning to acting. Died, aged 67, in 1975.


1965-1966 (two feature films)

Horror movie specialist Peter played the Doctor in two films, both battling the Daleks.


1966-1969 (three series, 119 episodes) Made his TV debut in 1947 and film debut in 1948's Hamlet.

Died, aged 67, in 1987.


1970-1974 (five series, 128 episodes)

Popular radio actor in The Navy Lark, Jon scored another small screen hit playing the colourful scarecrow, Worzel Cummidge. Died, aged 76, in 1996.


1974-1981 (seven series, 178 episodes) Tom Baker, now 69, clocked up the most appearances as Doctor Who. Since then, he's worked extensively on stage and written a best-selling autobiography.


1982-1984 (three series, 69 episodes)

Now 52, Peter's recent career includes At Home with the Braithwaites and DC Davies in The Last Detective.


1984-1986 (three series, 31 episodes)

Worked as a solicitor before acting. Since Doctor Who, Colin, 60, has been busy on stage, including playing the Doctor.


1987-1996 (three series, 43 episodes) Started acting under the name Kent Smith. Now 60, his TV work includes Frank Stubbs Promotes and Rab C Nesbitt.


1996 (one TV movie)

Best remembered for his debut in the cult movie Withnail and I, Paul, now 44, also appeared in TV's The Monocled Mutineer.

Caption: Celebrating 20 years in 1983 (from left) Peter Davison, a waxwork Tom Baker (the actor couldn't make the shoot!), Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton, with mechanical mutt K9

Caption: Metallic menace: A Cyberrnan and a Dalek

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Webber, Richard (2003-11-22). Happy Birthday, Timelord. TV Times p. 24.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Webber, Richard. "Happy Birthday, Timelord." TV Times [add city] 2003-11-22, 24. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Webber, Richard. "Happy Birthday, Timelord." TV Times, edition, sec., 2003-11-22
  • Turabian: Webber, Richard. "Happy Birthday, Timelord." TV Times, 2003-11-22, section, 24 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Happy Birthday, Timelord | url=,_Timelord | work=TV Times | pages=24 | date=2003-11-22 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 February 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Happy Birthday, Timelord | url=,_Timelord | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 February 2023}}</ref>