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Ray Cusick

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2013-02-25 Times p44.jpg


Designer of the Daleks who came up with the look of Doctor Who's deadliest foe and used a pepper pot to invent its movement

They are undoubtedly among the scariest creatures anyone ever imagined, but the movement of Ray Cusick's design for the Daleks was inspired by nothing more sinister than the pepper pot on the table while he was having lunch with one of the BBC's special effects experts.

The writer Terry Nation is generally credited as the "creator" of the Daleks, but it was Cusick who came up with the detailed design for the combination of living creature and robot, made all the more frightening by a sore throat and a vocabulary and philosophy that consisted of little more than the word "exterminate".

The Doctor first encountered the Daleks in just his second adventure in December 1963. They subsequently featured in two cinema films in the 1960s and they remain the Time Lord's most popular adversaries almost half a century later.

In a BBC documentary in 2008 Cusick revealed that he developed the idea at lunch with Bill Roberts, the special effects expert who had to make the Daleks. Cusick said he moved a pepper pot across the table and told Roberts: "It's going to move like that, no visible means. Ever since then people say I was inspired by a pepper pot. But it could have been the salt pot I picked up."

Cusick had already done some rough sketches and what was unusual from the outset was his determination to depart from the standard practice of making aliens humanoids — dictated primarily by the fact that they had to be played by human actors. "I didn't want either man shape of man height," he said in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine.

He worked up possible designs from the starting point of an actor/operator in a sitting position, with a casing around him. "I wanted to make sure it wasn't obvious how they worked, at the same time keeping them relatively simple," he said. The Daleks were a radical departure from previous portrayals of aliens and had a generation hiding behind their proverbial sofas at Saturday teatime.

Raymond Patrick Cusick was born in the Lambeth area of London in 1928 and initially planned to become a civil engineer. He did military service in the Army and then became an art teacher, which led to design Work in television, initially with Granada Television. He worked regularly on Doctor Who from 1963 to 1966 when the character was played by William Hartnell.

The Daleks are one of British television's most iconic designs, but as a BBC employee Cusick never received any royal ties from the considerable commercial exploitation of the design which included models and even life-sized blow up Daleks. And Doctor Who fs only one of the dozens of programmes he worked on from the 1950s to the 1980s. He was three times nominated for Bafta awards. He was nominated for his period designs for The Pallisers in 1975 and The Duchess of Duke Street in both 1977 and 1978.

He has contributed commentaries for Doctor Who on DVD and after retiring he spent much of his time researching and writing about the Napoleonic Wars. He is survived by two daughters.

Ray Cusick, television production designer, was born in 1928. He died in his sleep on February 21, 2013, aged 84

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  • APA 6th ed.: (2013-02-25). Ray Cusick. The Times p. 44.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Ray Cusick." The Times [add city] 2013-02-25, 44. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Ray Cusick." The Times, edition, sec., 2013-02-25
  • Turabian: "Ray Cusick." The Times, 2013-02-25, section, 44 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Ray Cusick | url= | work=The Times | pages=44 | date=2013-02-25 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=6 August 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Ray Cusick | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=6 August 2021}}</ref>