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A history of the Dalek props


in Doctor Who from '63 to '88

  The 60s Part I The 60s Part II The 70s Part I The 70s Part II The 80s Where are they now? FAQ  
   
 
Frequently Asked Questions
Correcting Some Old Myths

 



Bill Roberts and a Dalek built in 1964

Q: Is it true that there was a 'prototype' Dalek made by Shawcraft?

A: No. A rough mock-up was made at the BBC, but not by Shawcraft

Both Bernard Wilkie and Jack Kine recall the construction of a full-sized 'prototype', but this was not a dry-run for construction by Shawcraft, but simply a rough assembly of parts to approximate the shape of the Dalek. The prototype was loosely created using panels of hardboard, some wooden balls and an electric fan-heater for the head. Once Shawcraft began construction, they built the original four props straight off. What may have confused the issue is if Shawcraft showed off the wooden formers which would be used to create the GRP sections. All stacked up together, the formers would have made a rough Dalek, and there may have been experimentation with construction methods for certain sections, but there was no mystery "fifth Dalek" hanging around in 1963.



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Q: I've heard about a prototype 'SC1' in The Dalek Invasion of Earth?

A: The term is a complete misnomer and the Black Dalek was in The Daleks.

The Dalek which was painted black in The Dalek Invasion of Earth was one of the originals (numbered Dalek Two) used in The Daleks a.k.a. The Dead Planet. It can be identified using a number of unique features which demonstrate beyond doubt this prop was not built new for the second Dalek story, nor was it a prototype of any kind. A myth seems to have arisen based on the notion that the Black Dalek looked so shoddy in 1964 that it may have been built first and deemed unsuitable in 1963, but this was not the case.



Dalek Two being put through its paces at Barnardo's

Q: Why does the Black Dalek in The Dalek Invasion of Earth look so ropey if it's not some kind of badly-made prototype that had been held in reserve?

A: The prop had been in the hands of Barnardo's for six months prior to recording.

After being used in The Daleks, Dalek Two was donated to the children's charity Barnardo's. After six months at the hands of the children - and more significantly the adults who dragged it around the country doing fund-raisers and promotions - the prop was returned to the BBC featuring a number of amateurish repairs. There was damage to the gunboxes and a clumsy neck repair. New collars had to be cut and the prop overall looked terrible.




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Q: If the Black Dalek was a Barnardo's prop, then how come it appears in The Chase when it would have been returned to them?

A: Barnardo's were given back one prop they had before, plus a different one.

Originally, Dalek Two and Dalek Four were given to Barnardo's, but since Dalek Two had been painted black for The Dalek Invasion of Earth, a different prop was given back to the children's charity. This meant that Barnardo's got back what they'd been given - two silver props - and also it allowed the 'character' of the Black Dalek to be used in BBC promotional work. In place of Dalek Two, Barnardo's were given Dalek Three.



Dalek Two painted black and silver.

Q: Is it true that the Stripey 'Saucer Commander' was red and silver?

A: No. It was silver and black.

There has never been any evidence to substantiate the bizarre idea that the Saucer Commander had any red paint on it. Colour photos of the prop after it was painted completely black show not one single drop of red paint. There is black paint sloshed badly over the blue hemispheres, but no red. The idea that red undercoat (or primer) would have been used under black paint is nonsensical. The final and absolute end to this argument came in recent years when the skirt became available to study. Dalek Two's skirt paint layers clearly show it has no red coat during the 1960s.



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Q: Did Barnardo's keep hold of their two props, which meant that four new props were built for The Dalek Invasion of Earth?

A: No. The four props from The Daleks were re-used, and two new props were made.

Not only is there paperwork which documents the discussions regarding borrowing the props back for The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but the characteristics of the four original Daleks are plainly visible in the 1964 story, showing a recycling of all the original batch. The two new props not only look pristine in their first publicity photos together , but also share a host of unique identifying features.



New Dalek Seven with its film-style characteristics

Q: Is there a Movie Dalek converted for use in The Chase?

A: No. There is a new prop made from movie moulds, but it never appeared on film.

There is a TV-style Dalek in The Chase which has all the movie characteristics (i.e. misaligned hemispheres, flat-top gunboxes, steep-angled neck-rings, etc), but this was a brand-new prop built from the movie moulds. As such, it is simply TV Dalek Seven, and has no connection to the films other than its geometry.

There are numerous ways to disprove the old myth about a 'movie conversion'. Firstly, you can look at the dates: The first Peter Cushing film was still being made whilst The Chase was using its supposed 'movie conversion' on location. Secondly, you can look at the characteristics of the new prop: Dalek Seven actually exhibits differences to its cinematic counterparts (other than the obvious) - most obviously in the double-stage ball-sockets in the shoulders. Thirdly, you can consider the genuine movie Daleks which appear in The Chase. By the time filming has finished on the movie and larger props become available for hire, all the production team can do is remove the fenders and stand them in the background during studio work. If three genuine movie props stick out like a sore thumb, then clearly there was no time to flawlessly adapt another Dalek to look like a TV prop. Fourthly, trust your eyes. When you look at that Dalek on the beach at Camber, doesn't it look absolutely pristine and perfect? Then look at the dilapidated movie props as they appear after filming has been completed on Dr Who and the Daleks. It would be very obvious indeed if Dalek Seven had just been through a grueling movie production - but instead it looks possibly the neatest, most beautiful TV Dalek ever made - not a dent in the collar and not a blemish on the skirt. In other words: brand spanking new.




Dalek Seven in The Chase (left) and Power (right)

Q: Is there a Movie Dalek converted for use in Power of the Daleks?

A: No. The Dalek with movie characteristics is the same one from The Chase.

Despite persistent theories about 'conversions', the Dalek with wonky hemispheres in Power of the Daleks did not have a previous life as a movie Dalek. The casing which features in Patrick Troughton's debut has a distinctive bolt configuration on the skirt and a tell-tale area of mesh damage which can both be seen clearly in on-set photos for The Chase. And as discussed above, the prop from The Chase was built new for television. No movie conversion. Furthermore, this Dalek Seven is the only TV Dalek with movie characteristics, with the exception of the shoulders of Dalek Two (also new for The Chase). Dalek Seven appears in Evil of the Daleks, and throughout the 70s and 80s.



Curse of the Daleks props

Q: Is it true that Curse of the Daleks props were recycled for television?

A: No. The five props built for the stage play were recycled into the second Peter Cushing film - Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD.

Because those wonky hemispheres at the back of movie Daleks are so distinctive, it is the first thing which grabs your attention when you see a skirt. But the important fact to remember is that the demands of the feature film prompted Shawcraft to develop new molding techniques, therefore after February 1965, every Dalek they made had wonky hemispheres, regardless of what it was made for. There is only ever one skirt on television which has misaligned hemispheres, and that was built new for The Chase (excluding of course the Dalek Supreme in Planet of the Daleks). Therefore, before asking "Was a Curse Dalek converted for TV?" or "Was a movie Dalek converted for TV?", ask yourself where you have seen a prop with wonky hemispheres which isn't simply Dalek Seven (or an actual Curse/movie Dalek in a publicity photo). What you'll discover is that there are no pictures which prompt this question. Because there were no Curse/movie conversions at all.



The thin Dalek

Q: What about the Thin Dalek - a.k.a. the Wilkie in Evil of the Daleks?

A: The thin Wilkie skirt and matching shoulders are both unique.

Okay that's not exactly a straight answer. The fact is that the skirt of the Wilkie Dalek is made of the thinnest fibreglass imaginable. It's so thin you can see daylight through it when you're inside. This is not a known trait of the movie skirts. Furthermore, if the Wilkie was adapted from a normal film skirt then there would have been all sorts of geometric problems which don't seem to be evident. The current owner has no doubt it was a brand new skirt made - and despite the suggestion that Shawcraft fell out before production, Evil of the Daleks was actually the last serial that they worked on. So it's possible this was their final effort on the show - cheap and quick. What's more, the shoulders had to be custom-made to fit, because normal shoulders would overhand the skirt too much - so they were never in a movie either.

 
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