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Look Who's back (Daily Express)

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1997-12-30 Daily Express.jpg


This hasn't been a great year for Dr Who fans — with the death of Dalek creator Terry Nation and third doctor Jon Pertwee but, as Sally Kinnes reveals, a cult classic returns to the small screen tonight

IT IS 34 of your Earth years since the Daleks first slid on to the set of Dr Who and waved their egg whisks at the Doctor, but tonight they are back, Originally released in 1965, Dr Who And The Daleks — the first of two movies rushed out by the BBC to cuaitalise on their success —is being aired by Channel 4.

Without the Daleks, Dr Who might have sunk without trace. According to producer Verity Lambert: "They were such an immediate success, they put Dr Who on the map."

The man who invented the Daleks, and admitted he put "exterminate" into the vocabulary of three year olds, was scriptwriter Terry Nation. Always vague about what Inspired them, Nation, who died earlier this year, later admitted they were based on the SS and the Nazis.

Mass extermination was always the Daleks' masterplan and we may not have seen the last of them yet. Despite the relative failure of Paul McGann's American TV version last year, rumours abound of a new turn series or even an animated version. After all, the Doctor has only got through eight of his 12 lives. So far nothing is confirmed.

If the Daleks had had their way, the first people they would have exterminated would have been the bigwigs at the BBC. They originally killed off the Daleks after the first story — but public demand brought them back.

First to feel the Daleks' disruptor gun would have been Sydney Newman, head of BBC drama. He had devised Dr Who as an educational series and the last thing he wanted was BEMs (bug eyed monsters). He was furious when the Daleks arrived.

Then, if only they could have climbed the stairs to his office, they would have blown away Michael Grade, the BBC's former director of programmes, who never succumbed to their charms (it was left to his successor, Jonathan Powell, to save their sink plungers).

Finally, the Daleks always knew they had a real enemy in Jon Pertwee, the third actor to play Dr Who, who also died this year. He called them "insiduous metal pepper pots" and "ridiculous".

Children knew better. As soon as the Daleks appeared on December 21, 1963, they outraged parents and enchanted kids. To the latter they were the Tellytubbies of their day, though unlike Tinky Winky and Co, they had a few personality disorders. As script editor Terrance Dicks puts it: "The appeal of the Daleks is total nastiness. They have no redeeming qualities. Their one response to being frustrated in any way is to exterminate you. But every little kid likes the idea of getting inside a Dalek suit, zooming across the kitchen floor and giving Mum, Dad, teacher or anyone else who gets up their nose, a quick exterminating blast."

They soon got the chance. Before the Daleks, the BBC was above anything so crass as merchandising, but the Daleks changed all that. According to Jeremy Bentham, an expert on the show, the first battery-operated Daleks (with super mystery action, realistic noise and flashing headlights) sold out in less than two weeks. A Note To Mother claimed they were safe, waterproof, non-inflammable, "could be easily seen by other road users" and everyone wanted one. By Christmas 1964, parents were combing the galaxy for PVC Dalek suits.

The Daleks have always been controversial. Jon Pertwee even questioned Terry Nation's contribution.

"Are you sure he invented the Daleks?" he once asked on Good Morning With Nick And Anne. "The machine was invented by a gentleman at the BBC who got an ex-gratia payment of 250 quid."

Raymond Cusick, the BBC designer who created their pepperpot appearance, raised the possibility of doing movies with Terry Nation. Nation who went on to make a fortune from screenwriting, said leave It to me. Cusick never heard from him again.

Dr Who And The Daleks, Channel 4, 5.30pm.

Caption: ORIGINAL: William Hartnell and Sixties sidekick

Caption: CRITIC: Jon Pertwee hated the Daleks


1 Dalek creator Terry Nation said he got their name from the spine of an encyclopedia — DAL-EK

2 The Dalek's gliding motion was Inspired by Nation seeing a performance by the Georgian State Dancers

3 Dalek means "a far and distant thing" in Serbo-Croat

4 Dalek is also an anagram of Kaled, the race from which the Daleks mutated

5 A headless Dalek automatically emits a distress call

6 Four Daleks were built for their first adventure; they cost £120 each

7 Tight budgets meant life-sized Dalek photos were used for crowd scenes

8 In 1993, a satellite channel showing Dr Who omitted all those with Daleks; it couldn't afford Terry Nation's repeat fees

9 Inside the Daleks in the film are dancers, selected for their agility

10 After losing his job with the BBC, Denis Ryan, the man who helped design the Daleks, starved himself to death

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  • APA 6th ed.: Kinnes, Sally (1997-12-30). Look Who's back (Daily Express). Daily Express p. 43.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Kinnes, Sally. "Look Who's back (Daily Express)." Daily Express [add city] 1997-12-30, 43. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Kinnes, Sally. "Look Who's back (Daily Express)." Daily Express, edition, sec., 1997-12-30
  • Turabian: Kinnes, Sally. "Look Who's back (Daily Express)." Daily Express, 1997-12-30, section, 43 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Look Who's back (Daily Express) | url= | work=Daily Express | pages=43 | date=1997-12-30 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 March 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Look Who's back (Daily Express) | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 March 2024}}</ref>