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Who's That Fiend?

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1986-11-19 Liverpool Echo.jpg


John's inside view of the weird world of the Daleks and Cybermen

THE businessman in the pin-stripe suit and bowler blinked.

Coming towards him in the South London street market was a strange, silver-suited monster complete with life-support chest unit. helmet, boots and a fearsome laser gun.

The natty city gent took one look at the apparition and promptly puked his tongue out.

Other passers-by looked curious — but no-one ran away.

And a fruit and sea seller was heard to remark: "Must be an advert for one of them kitchen cleaners, Ethel."

That first public appearance of a Cyberman clearly rated as less than a cosmic triumph.

But soon after that public try-out the menacing monsters made their TV debut looming out of a blizzard in a Dr Who serial called the Tenth Planet.

Kids cowered behind settees, viewing figures soared from three million to ten and all comparisons with kitchen cleaners went out of the window.

Not only did the chilling Cybermen help assure the shaky future of the series, but they eventually became the Doctor's favourite foes after the Daleks.

How the Cybermen, Daleks and other Dr Who monsters were created is revealed by former script editor Gerry Davis in the recently published The Doctor Who File, the latest of Peter Haining's books about the longest-running TV science fiction show in the world.

As with most of the other monsters created for the series, it was always obvious that inside the Cyberman lurked some poor fellow huffing and puffing and sweating his heart out.

But the Daleks were always different — even the cast and crew often forget there was a man inside.

And that has caused some hilarious moments for Liverpool-born John Scott Martin, who over 20 exhausting and eventful years with the show has become known as the Supreme Dalek.

John has appeared with all six Doctors from William Hartnell through Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davison to the latest in the line Colin Baker.

John recalls: "On occasions I've overheard people being terribly indiscreet about other members of the cast — even the director or producer."

Despite working as a singer, panto artist and stage actor it is his years as a Dalek that have brought hint lame with the Dr Who fans. Today he also runs a costume hire business with his wife in the Suffolk area where he lives.

John's first job on Dr Who was playing yet another monster ... a huge ant made of fibre-glass and steel called a Zarbi.

"It was rather like standing in a single wardrobe with your feet out of the bottom and your head out of the top." he remembers.

John then appeared briefly as a Mechanoid robot before embarking on that long career as a Dalek.

Some people think that Daleks have motors inside, but John is quick to explode that rumour.

"Being inside a Dalek is more like sitting in a wheelchair or bubble car." he explains. "Your rubber-soled feet are out of the bottom and you have to use them to provide the propulsion."

Nor does the operator provide that notorious voice that grates "Ex-term-in-ate! Ex-term-in-ate!"

John's job is to operate the lights and make sure they flash in synchronisation with the off-stage voice of an actor.

"Of course for interviews and personal appearances as a Dalek I would do the voice myself," he explains, "but under studio conditions this is just not possible."

John recalls some hairy moments in his career inside the mechanical monsters, including the hazards caused by cracks in pavements and the time he was smoked out by some fireworks.

But life as a Dalek had its perks too ... especially when filming on location in the winter.

"When the other actors have to hang around freezing you can sit comfortably inside your machine, cosy and warm, and read a newspaper or book," explains John.

Caption: They're coming — the Dr Who Cyborman

Comic: "Well, this certainly ruins our plan to conquer the Univerise."

The comic is reprinted from Punch.

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

  • APA 6th ed.: West, Roy (1986-11-19). Who's That Fiend?. Liverpool Echo p. 20.
  • MLA 7th ed.: West, Roy. "Who's That Fiend?." Liverpool Echo [add city] 1986-11-19, 20. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: West, Roy. "Who's That Fiend?." Liverpool Echo, edition, sec., 1986-11-19
  • Turabian: West, Roy. "Who's That Fiend?." Liverpool Echo, 1986-11-19, section, 20 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who's That Fiend? | url= | work=Liverpool Echo | pages=20 | date=1986-11-19 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 October 2022 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who's That Fiend? | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=4 October 2022}}</ref>