Events from Jan 76 to Dec 78
Sarah Jane’s Adventures End
Although the Daleks’ adventures entered another temporary hiatus at the end of 1975 they were never far from the public’s eye, with regular TV and newspaper appearances. The Daleks were always big news and rumours of forthcoming Dalek appearances always generated audience interest.
Elizabeth Sladen appeared on BBC TV’s Nationwide on 13th May 1976, soon after announcing she was to leave the role of Sarah Jane Smith. Nationwide was an early evening news/magazine programme that featured Doctor Who on many occasions in its run starting in 1969. Sladen had been in the role of the companion since 1973 and had become arguably the most popular assistant to date. Sladen gave a brief interview on why she was leaving and what she would go on to do, and on hand in studio was Dalek Six-5 to watch over proceedings. Interestingly the prop had been painted gold since its last appearance on TV in the Jim’ll Fix It show the previous year.
Although 1976 had been a fairly quiet year on the Dalek front, the next would be far busier. 1977 would see the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who had become the Head of the Commonwealth in 1952. The BBC would take full advantage of this and their enthusiasm to share the Dalek props (and make some money on the side) initiated the heyday for the loaning-out of the Dalek props. They became available on application – and at a fee – to local ventures and exhibitions up and down the country.
Since Planet of the Daleks the BBC had accumulated a pool of Dalek components which they used in their ‘for hire’ venture, as well as in their own official promotional work. The pool had been reduced by two with the destruction of the Goons in Death to the Daleks, but there was still eight props that could be used.
As mentioned, Dalek Six-5 had been painted gold before the summer of ’76, and Dalek One-7 was subsequently given an all-silver livery – fitting for the Jubilee year. Over the coming months all the props would be given various colour schemes, and not much thought was given over exactly how the props were stored, mixed or repaired.
Bob Richardson worked for BBC Exhibitions and recalls, “…we had several props at our disposal … They were stored at the Visual Effects Workshop on the Western Avenue. We hired them out for garden fetes and scout jumble sales and the like. I’m pretty sure that we always had at least four Daleks, and I’m almost certain that at one point there may have been as many as six, but they were not all fully assembled and the tops and ‘skirts’ were separated on some casings. We had a couple of tea chests which also contained spare sucker arms…”
A leaflet was produced for prospective loanees that would give instructions on how to dismantle and transport the casings although, however well-intentioned the client, the props were often damaged by the transporting or at the event themselves, leading all sorts of quick refurbishments.
Scary Monsters and Super Creeps
The early years of Tom Baker’s tenure as Doctor Who was often criticized for its violence, and on 11th February 1977 the Daily Express printed an interview with Robert Holmes who was attempting to defend the show. Jean Rook was a well respected journalist who’s own son had stopped watching the show citing it as too scary.
Rook interviewed Holmes (who reasoned the show had changed direction slightly and was now aimed at a slightly older generation) at a “warehouse in Acton” that was full of old monsters including at least six Daleks.
On show in the accompanying picture were Dalek One-7, Dalek Six-5 and Goon ii. A battered TARDIS, Voc Robot and Exxilon also made up the numbers.
Beauty and the Beast
1977 saw one of the more unusual appearances for a Dalek prop. Katy Manning had left the role of Jo Grant in 1973 and had struggled to shake the image of the character. An offer was made to her to have some photos of a more adult nature nature taken, and 1977 would see those pictures published in the soft-porn magazine Girl Illustrated.
Dalek Six-5 was the lucky prop that Katy draped herself over for several of the shots, still in its gold and black colour scheme from Liz Sladen’s Nationwide appearance the year before.
A New Dalek Cereal
The classic series of Doctor Who was at a peak in the 1970s and various companies often wanted to use the show in its advertising and promotions. Weetabix Ltd was one such company and in 1977 they used Doctor Who to promote its breakfast cereal. Special packs came with a cut-out board game layout on the rear of the box and inside the boxes various game cards, showing different monsters and the Doctor himself, to use with the game.
A TV advert was made to promote the cereal and a Dalek belonging to Terry Nation was used for the appearance. Nation had owned four movie props since the late sixties and their parts had been constantly jumbled over the years. Often two mismatched halves would be paired up and the whole prop painted to unify them, which is what had happened in this instance.
The top half had previously been the black/gold Supreme Dalek in Planet of the Daleks whilst the skirt had featured on the red/black prop at the Seven Keys to Doomsday photocall. Once married up, the whole lot was painted black/red. A pink/red sucker was used to replace the missing original. It was operated and voiced by long term Dalek operator John Scott Martin. To discover more about this strange prop and the others in Terry Nation’s collection, a full account can be found on the Nation’s Daleks Page.
Red, White, and Blue Daleks
Although Doctor Who was very popular in the UK it hadn’t really made it in the USA yet. 1978 would see the BBC try to sell the show the Americans, which it did successfully. The British press picked up on the BBC’s intentions and a photo call was set-up at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square London on 14th February 1978.
The collection featured Tom Baker and various monsters, including Dalek Six-5, queuing for visas. The pictures were printed the following day.
The Daleks’ Fete
During the first half of 1978, filming commenced on the new season of Doctor Who, in which Mary Tamm made her debut as the Time Lady Romana. Quick to pounce on her already growing fame, Surbiton Eye Hospital invited her to open one of their fetes and two Daleks were also hired in to help wow the crowds.
Dalek Six-5 had a change of colour to its slats and collar, which became silver, whilst Dalek One-7 (with new large lights) now had gold slats and collar.The strain of the public work was taking its toll on Dalek One-7 and the arm mechanisms had been damaged, causing the pivots to sink back into the boxes. Also in attendance that day was a young David J Howe who would go on to author many highly-respected books based on the world of Doctor Who.
Soon after the Surbiton fete Dalek One’s shoulders had broken completely. Consistent wrenching of the arm had split the wooden arm box and the arm now hung limply in the socket. The eyerings had also reduced down to one solitary example. Little care was taken with the props during these outings and it would seem the public were actively encouraged to sit in the props a ‘play fight’ with them.
Summer 1978 would see the second PanoptiCon convention organised by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. On 12th and 13th August fans from all over the country descended on the Imperial College in London to see their heroes that over the two days included Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, Frazier Hines, Robert Homes and Carole Anne Ford amongst others. A line of monsters was in attendance of which Dalek Six-5 was included. The prop was starting to look tatty with several slats and chunks of mesh missing.
An Oddball Addition
Later in 1978, Daleks were again to feature on Pebble Mill and Nationwide. Pebble Mill was the popular lunchtime show and featured Doctor Who many times over its run. For the fifteenth anniversary and promotion of the upcoming 500th episode, Tom Baker was interviewed about his role and the longevity of the show. He was surrounded by various monsters including two Daleks. One of the props was Dalek Six-5 and in this appearance was notable for being fitted with new type of mechanism for rotating the dome.
The new rotation system was built using an ‘A’ frame inside the neck on which the dome pivoted. The pivot-point protruded from the top of the head like a little antenna. Mini castors were mounted at the top of the neck on which the dome could swivel. The system, whilst making the turning more reliable, did make the dome sit very high on the neck. The neck cage was pulled upwards to compensate, creating a tall, disjointed look to the upper half. Dalek Six-5 had also received a new paint job since its appearance at PanoptiCon with the missing slats replaced and painted black along with the oval.
The other prop at Pebble Mill would prove to have far greater significance, for it had a new skirt section unseen on TV before. Built to replace a damaged Goon skirt, it had first appeared at various exhibitions and shows around the UK in 1978, usually paired with Goon iv’s shoulders, but for this Pebble Mill appearance it was matched with Dalek Seven’s upper half.
The shape was quite unlike anything that had gone before. Whereas a standard Dalek skirt had a steep (near vertical) rear panel, the new skirt had a rear panel that almost matched the angle of the front, making it virtually symmetrical from the side. It was flared wider than a standard prop and the hemispheres were larger with a more haphazard layout. It was constructed so that it could be split into two halves for ease of transport. This oddball would go on to become an important part of Dalek prop history. Due to its non-television origins, it is labeled here as “the Exhibition skirt” – or “ex” for short.
It wasn’t long before this new curiosity turned up yet again, when Jon Pertwee guested on Nationwide to promote his new Book of Monsters. Pertwee was quizzed as to whether he was ever scared of the monsters in the show, but he explained you couldn’t be when you have just had lunch with the actor in the tin and cardboard suit.
To accompany the Pertwee plug, the oddball was wheeled out as it had appeared when it toured the country in 1978. The combination of the top of Goon iv and the new exhibition skirt would thus be termed Dalek iv-exat this stage. The prop had been recently painted and looked in great condition (save for its geometric flaws) and it too had now been fitted with the new dome rotation system seen on Dalek Six-5, which was even commented on by the operator John Scott-Martin as Pertwee helped him out of the casing. In doing so, Pertwee grasped the the neck section via the rings, clearly not having learnt from the damaged he caused inPlanet of the Daleks.
In general, the celebrations for the 15th anniversary of Doctor Who were fairly low key with TV interviews and newspaper reports keeping the fans happy. A piece appeared in the Daily Express on 2nd December in which Douglas Orgill interviewed Tony Harding who had designed K-9 amongst other things. The accompanying picture showed Dalek Six-5 and a Goon prop with a very damaged neck.
The turn of the year would see planning well advanced for Doctor Who’s 17th season and already the ranks were being assembled for their official duties battling the Time Lord. The Dalek props had endured three years of constant travel and misuse at the hands of eager children and it was unsurprising that some of them were almost beyond repair. Dalek One’s shoulders had also succumbed badly but the Goon skirts in particular were prone to easy damage, since the stuck-on hemispheres easily dropped off, and the separate panels were far weaker than the sixties originals.
The second hiatus was about to end again in a story penned again by Terry Nation. Would there be enough props available to make up a convincing Dalek army?