Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

The Thinking Man's Dalek

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coverage of series 3, 2007

  1. Labour of love (7 April)
  2. Cat and Doc (14 April)
  3. The Thinking Man's Dalek (21 April)
  4. Enemy of the States (28 April)
  5. Who's scariest monster yet? (5 May)
  6. Burn, baby, burn (19 May)
  7. We're coming to get you! (26 May)
  8. Loving the Alien (2 June)
  9. Hell's Angels (9 June)
  10. And then there were three (16 June)
  11. Master mind (23 June)
  12. On set with... Freema Agyeman (30 June)
  13. Who's on board? (22 December)

coverage of other series
S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | Specials | S5 | S6 | S7 | S8 | S9 | S10


Want to know more about our monstrous cover star? We asked Russell T Davies to tell us everything he knows ...

Eric Loren plays Dalek Sec Hybrid

American-born, British-based actor Eric Loren has worn prosthetics before, as a cyclops in Clive Barker's 1990 film Nightbreed, but becoming Dalek Sec Hybrid was a different story.

"I'd never done such extended days in a row,1 2 hours a day," he admits. It was pretty intense." That headpiece is full of motors, so it's fairly heavy, and latex covers the eyes (see page 9). "I had this battery-operated sound in my ears —'Zzzp ... zp ... zzzzp' — so not only could I not see, it was also hard trying to hear what David [Tennant] was saying. But we worked things out in rehearsals — he was fantastic."

With time, he got used to it: "I really had to go inside myself and stay calm. Any time I wasn't on set, I'd sit down and try to keep to myself, because I had to use all my attention just trying to act and ignoring the fact I was inside this enclosed case."

It did nothing for his looks (see picture below right). "Ha-ha-ha. No! But I have to say, it looks absolutely amazing."

I just thought, what a brilliant cover idea!" says Doctor Who regenerator Russell T Davies of RT's revelation of the mutant Dalek Sec Hybrid in this week's issue. "It's hard to talk about it too much, because it [the hybrid] isn't revealed until the end of the episode, and we don't want to give away too much. But we love a Radio Times cover — how could we not?"

It is, he acknowledges, a fine balancing act between tantalising and tarnishing. How much to let on? "You want to give away a certain amount, to draw people in," says Davies. "But you don't want people watching and thinking they've seen it before. What we try to protect are the endings of plots — that's the important thing.

"It always mystifies me when soaps give away plots in advance. I read a billing for Coronation Street: 'Tracy disowns her mother'. And you watch it, and it's the last scene! You sit there going, 'Why did you tell me that?'"

Security is tight at Who Towers. Every page of an actor's script is stamped with their name, so that any leak to the press can be traced. It can be tricky interviewing guest stars or writers on the show, as "I'm not sure how much I can say" is the response you often get: Anne Reid, for instance, who played the Plasmavore in episode one, wondered if she could even 4 mention the leather courier Slabs ho appeared in her story.

"It's partly the 45-minute format," plains Davies, "which means that if you reduce every single plot down to is basics, it's very simple. If Anne Reid says, 'I play a blood-sucking Plasmavore on the Moon', the end of that sentence is '... and the Doctor stops me'. And that's the entire plot given away. Even though that's guessable, and exactly how he stops her will be found out, it's just about making people watch it, who don't know what's going to happen.

"I believe in that fundamentally. I think that's part of the reason for the success of Pop Idol, or anything with a jury and a vote, and also part of the appeal of reality television — you don't know what's going to happen next. Those programmes are getting huge audiences and I think drama should try to do the same. You've got to protect the plot, but give enough away to tempt people in."

So, this week's episode? This much we know: Daleks in Manhattan is the first of a two-parter, concluding next Saturday with Evolution of the Daleks. It's written by Who script editor Helen Raynor, who cut her teeth on a Torchwood story (Ghost Machine) and was given this shopping list by Davies: "New York 1930s, Pig Men, sewers, showgirls, the Empire State Building — and Daleks."

Only four Daleks remain alive, and they are plotting. But what? There's definitely a clue in the title Evolution of the Daleks, and in that exquisite monstrosity on the cover.

"It's the story of the Daleks trying to find a way to survive — that's what the whole plot is about," says Davies. "The key to it all, where the whole Pig Men thing came from, and the Island of Dr Moreau [HG Wells's novel in which a scientist mutates beasts into humans] feel to it, is that the Daleks were born out of a genetic experiment, and that makes them great geneticists. And in an age of GM crops and DNA experiments, that strikes a chord with all of us. I think we're all slightly afraid of all that stem-cell research. It was time to put the Daleks back where they really belong— in that sphere."

The 30s era was the time of the Great Depression, and some of the action is set in Hooverville, a shantytown in Central Park where the dispossessed struggle to exist. At an early stage of development, the setting was to have been the docks. "Herds of pigs mysteriously vanishing and the Doctor seeing lights under the water. In the end it was a setting too far," explains Davies.

And the Pig Men? They are hybrids developed as foot soldiers because, as Davies explains, "The Daleks do have problems with those suckers, bless them. There's a good tradition in Doctor Who of them having slaves to do their hands-on work. They had the Robomen in the 60s, Ogrons in the 70s, and I just wanted another version of that."

He sums up the ethos: "In a funny way, I see this as our first proper Dalek adventure. Every other time, they've been great big, ratings-grabbing event appearance& This time they've really got a complicated plot. They're really clever this time. There are only four Daleks left in the whole universe, but they're so powerful, you have t.. find ways of robbing them of their power, and then they become fascinating.

"You always underestimate how clever the Daleks are. They're not just nasty tanks, they're brilliant scientists and planners, too, so the weaker you make them, the cleverer and more devious they get. That's my favourite sort of Dalek."


Millennium FX prosthetics designer Neill Gorton reveals all

The animatronic part sits on top, to take the actor taller and change the e-shape," explains Neill Gorton.

"That's on-set supervisor Pete Hawkins working on the 'balaclava', or prosthetic cowl."

"This is a cast that we made of actor Eric Loren's head. We then built everything onto it."

"Pete and fellow on-set supervisor Matt O'Toole first pull the balaclava part over Eric's head."

"The animatronics clip on and off that skull cap and it's strapped tight at the back."

"The balaclava is then glued in place over the skull cap and the actor's face."

"Next the face-piece, which blends in around his mouth and joins to the balaclava."

"It overlaps the eyes, to disguise them. A few little holes give him some visibility."

"Matt's using a hairdryer just to speed up the drying of the adhesive."

"And here he's blending in the colour around the mouth, to match the prosthetic."

"Matt thought Eric looked a bit like Captain America, so he wrote the 'E' on there, for EricMan."

"More speed-drying. It just means the actor has to spend less time in the chair."

"With the costume on, the hands then go on like gloves, and the last part is the headpiece."

"Pete's wielding the radio-controlled animatronic headpiece, showing all the motors inside."

"The tentacles move, and the eye blinks and moves. When he gets angry, the tentacles writhe more."

"The whole process of getting him into costume and ready for action takes about 90 minutes."

Ryan Carnes Plays Laszlo

Ryan Carnes is a good-looking chap. LA tan, a flash of brilliant teeth. For three seasons, the US actor played Desperate Housewives' Justin, love interest to Andrew Van De Kamp. So did the Doctor Who producers tell him how his character, Laszlo, would look? "Sort of," he replies, laughing.

A Millennium FX prosthetic turns Laszlo into a half-man/half-pig fusion, the result of a Dalek experiment that went wrong. "I was very impressed," notes Carnes. "I thought, 'I almost look like a person who's been distorted in a real way. Like I'm not wearing a mask'."

The only problem was talking through that enormous denture. Parts of Carnes's dialogue had to be re-recorded later because, he explains, "It sounded like I had a mouthful of marbles." And in one scene with co-star Miranda Raison, who plays a showgirl, "It was a really dramatic moment, very intense — and my pig teeth flew out of my mouth!"

And the Daleks? "Seeing one of them for the first time was trippy. I thought, 'How scary can an upsidedown trash can with an eggbeater and a plunger really be?' And all of a sudden it moved and I was like, 'Holy c**p! All right — I'm a believer!"'


Main picture: Ryan Carnes (left) hams it up as one of the Daleks' hapless helpers. Top: with co-stars Miranda Raison (just seen), Freema Agyeman and David Tennant

Caption: DALEK-TABLE Main picture: the powerful black Dalek, Sec, and his mutant offspring. Below: Eric Loren, who also plays the cruel Mr Diagoras, on a filming break

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  • APA 6th ed.: Griffiths, Nick (2007-04-21). The Thinking Man's Dalek. Radio Times p. 6.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Griffiths, Nick. "The Thinking Man's Dalek." Radio Times [add city] 2007-04-21, 6. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Griffiths, Nick. "The Thinking Man's Dalek." Radio Times, edition, sec., 2007-04-21
  • Turabian: Griffiths, Nick. "The Thinking Man's Dalek." Radio Times, 2007-04-21, section, 6 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Thinking Man's Dalek | url= | work=Radio Times | pages=6 | date=2007-04-21 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 May 2024 }}</ref>
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