Into The Dalek
It is often said that a Doctor hasn’t truly earned his stripes until he has battled the Daleks. Incoming actors Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker and Colin Baker all came up against the Doctor’s old enemy in their first seasons and the Doctor Who production team decided that Peter Capaldi’s second adventure after regeneration would see him face his arch nemesis.
With the Daleks now having appeared in over 100 episodes during the shows 50 year history, coming up with new ideas for the old monsters is not an easy task. For Series Eight, Steven Moffat had an idea tucked away in reserve, as he explained in Doctor Who Extra:
“Many years ago we were discussing ideas for computer games for Doctor Who and they were asking me if I had any ideas. So I said ‘how about you get miniaturised and you go inside a Dalek?’ And they all looked very happy and I said, ‘No, no, no, stop. I’m having that for an episode.’”
The writer assigned to Into the Dalek was Phil Ford, who had previously been responsible for The Waters of Mars. He recalls in Doctor Who Extra:
“Steven said, ‘how do you feel about doing it?’ and I just leapt at it straight away.’ Every writer who does Doctor Who wants to do a Dalek story and I just feel really lucky to be doing this one.”
The completed script was delivered in July 2013 and Ben Wheatley continued directorial duties having just completed Capaldi’s opening tale.
Ford’s story included a “battered Dalek” captured by humans. It later picks up the nickname “Rusty”, and its description was extremely brief:
“Secured and wired to monitors:
a DALEK, dirty, battered and scorched.”
At this point, the Art Department would normally work from the script to sketch ideas on how the Dalek might look. The concept imagery would then be refined until it is signed off ready for the props department to start work. That was not case with Into The Dalek, as Supervising Props & Asset Manager, Stephen Nicholas, explains:
“There were no concepts for the design! There wasn’t time during this episode as it was so busy!”
Because the script had indicated that the Dalek was wired into the surrounding monitors, the direction for the appearance of the prop came from Set Decorator Adrian Anscombe and instead of the props department doing the modifications, the work was carried out by Christopher Dudley and the dressing team.
The script had indicated that the humans merely tried to dismantle the thing they found floating in space, until it started screaming and they realised it had a living creature inside. Straying from this notion slightly, it was decided that the casing would be augmented with bits of Earth technology. The alterations needed to fit the dressing and general design of the set in order to sell the idea that the Dalek had been subjected to tests and experiments by humans.
But there was a danger this might look all too familiar. The image of a lone Dalek being chained and tormented is well-known to fans of the series. Nine years previously, the episode Dalek played on similar themes, so an effort was made to create something that was visually different.
The Dalek would look more tangled and disjointed than the one which had been seen in Series One, and so the wires which connected the Dalek to the monitors would form part of its appearance and would remained attached when it eventually broke free.
In store at the Roath Lock studios was a Dalek prop that already partially fitted the description of ‘Rusty’. NSDA1 had last been used in Day of the Doctor and the 50th Anniversary trailer and was still covered in the dirt and grime of those appearances. The prop was perfect for the basis of the Dalek.
Extra work was needed to distress it with physical damage. A number of machine tools were used to etch and cut blast marks across the fibreglass shell. A jig-saw was use to take slices out of the surface of the shoulder section in an “explosive” pattern.
Several of the hemispheres were unbolted from the skirt, with similar blast patterns being cut there too, and chunks were also taken out of the remaining hemispheres. Where a large area of the surface was missing on the front skirt panel, a special unit was made to show the insides of the Dalek machine. A PC motherboard was fitted against the inside of the “wound” in the armour, and a sheet of Perspex was sandwiched in between to create a second skin shielding the electronics.
The neck section, being the only part of the Dalek made from wood, was distressed out of shape with brute force. With some heavy impacts, these horizontal hoops became fractured and warped.
The next stage was to add various “off the shelf” hardware components to the exterior of the Dalek. A set of 10cm pre-fabricated metal rings was used to replace several of the usual collars around the hemispheres which were made from oil seals.
On the Dalek’s left side, one hemisphere was make to look like it had burst open, with wires spewing forth. These were in fact flexible, metal water pipes normally seen connecting to a shower at home.
The head of the Dalek was to have a network of cables and junction boxes criss-crossing over the dome like a kind of skull-cap used in brain analysis. A set of spare parts used in pneumatic engineering provided the perfect solution. The CPE solenoid valves made by Festo Corporation included numerous sockets into which compressed air hoses could screw, and these looked very similar to computer components with network cables attached. The distinctive blue air tubes were lighter and more springy than real electronics wires, creating an array of colourful loops.
To ensure weight was kept down, a clever alternative was found to using genuine heavy-duty power cables too. Flexible “elastomeric” foam pipe insulation was used, made by a company called Eurobatex. This has the look of a thick cable but is extremely light and would normally be used in plumbing to insulate hot water pipes. The ends were fitted with chrome caps to make them look like cables.
To create uniformity between the humans’ spaceship and their modifications to the Dalek, the same type of electronic connectors and wires were used on both the computer panels in the ship’s laboratory as on the Dalek itself.
The gun and arm were both fitted with additional collars to disrupt the usual Dalek shape, and the sucker was deliberately dislocated so that it dangled pathetically off the end.
The upside-down slat on the rear of the shoulders, as first seen in Day of the Doctor, wasn’t corrected during the adjustments to the prop.
Power Station Of The Daleks
With the “Rusty” prop appearing true to its name, filming began on 25th January 2014 at Uskmouth power station. This location had been used several times in Doctor Who, beginning with Rise of the Cybermen & Age of Steel when it appeared as the Cybermen Factory. It was more recently used in the 2011 Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.
The lead Dalek operator for the episode was Barnaby Edwards who explains that he recognised the recycled prop immediately:
“Rusty was an old friend I’d operated many times before, although now fallen on hard times – and sporting a preposterous new hairdo.”
The physical alterations made to his work environment did not make life easier for Edwards:
“Having vast chunks of the Dalek casing bashed in and the holes filled with smashed up bits of circuitry and wires made it considerably harder to operate. For one thing, there was a lot less legroom; for another, visibility was seriously affected – or, as we Daleks like to say, my vision was impaired.”
The initial scenes of the Dalek in confinement were relatively simple but the task of manoeuvring the prop was made even harder by the special effects requirements. When the “Good Dalek” breaks free of his bonds and goes on the rampage, it was decided that the bullet-hits would not be added in post-production. Instead, special effects maestro Danny Hargreaves adapted a paintball gun to fire small packets of gunpowder. Barnaby Edwards found the sequence tricky but every precaution was taken for the operator:
“Because Danny is thankfully obsessive about safety, I was swathed in protective gear inside and could comfortably enjoy the experience of ‘live’ rounds exploding off my exoskeleton!”
A number of extra Dalek props were then required for the battle sequence when ‘Rusty’ calls for reinforcements. Six Daleks were assembled at a hanger based near Cardiff and included NSDA2 (with its incorrect and upside-down slat still in place), NSDA4, NSD2 and NSD4. These were taken from the store at Roath Lock. Rather than taking NSDA3 from display at the Doctor Who Experience, MT1 and NSD5 were recalled from BBC Birmingham and Media City respectively. NSD5 was making its first screen appearance since 2010s Victory of the Daleks. NSDA5 remained unused.
Director, Ben Wheatley, oversaw a spectacular sequence that included huge pyrotechnic explosions. Such was the excitement surrounding the scenes, Peter Capaldi was on set to watch events despite it being his scheduled day off.
When ‘Rusty’ is reconverted to being a ‘Good Dalek’ he turns on his Dalek counterparts and destroys them. The scene saw a number of Daleks being blown up. But rather than several lightweight SFX being utilised, just one prop was used.
Having returned Scott Wayland’s pre-cut Dalek that was used in Asylum of the Daleks and Day of the Doctor, Real SFX’s Danny Hargreaves turned once again to This Planet Earth. He had in his possession the grime covered prop that TPE had made for Day of the Doctor but elected to have another built by them. When he received it, he set about cutting it up in much the same way as Wayland’s prop had been. It was filled with a number of cables and some lightweight debris and fluid that could be thrown clear to make the explosions look more spectacular.
The Dalek was blown apart a number of times and filmed from several angles. This gave the director the ability to give the impression a larger number of Daleks had been destroyed. The prop was sturdy enough to be retained by RealSFX for future use.
For the aftermath of the battle, several of the specially damaged skirts made for Asylum of the Daleks were arranged around the set. The shoulders of NSDAD1 could also be seen placed on the floor.
Model Daleks had been used very successfully in Day of the Doctor and Time of the Doctor thanks to Mike Tucker and his team at ‘The Model Unit’. In those cases Character Options 18″ Toy Daleks had been used and in the case of Time of the Doctor, they had been specially modified versions to make them even more accurate. The team at Cardiff decided that several sequences in Into The Dalek could also be created with models.
With one eye on cost, the team turned to ‘Rubbertoe Replicas’ – a company that had been created by Nick Robbato when he left the in-house team at BBC Wales in 2012. Robbato continued to supply Roath Lock with props for the show and also very successfully created replicas for retail sales. They were tasked with providing a number of Dalek models that would be utilised in sets of the Dalek Saucer, a corridor of the humans craft (the Aristotle) and for the Dalek battle sequence.
However, instead of using the more accurate 18″ Character Options toys, they used the older and less accurate 12″ versions. The team repainted the toys and added some weathering to make them look more like their full sized cousins. When finished, the collection of toy Daleks was transferred the team at Roath Lock to record the sequences.
NSD4 and NSDA2 had been used in close-up in a small section of set depicting the Dalek saucer but when a shot was required to show the complete flight deck, a number of the models were used in a recreation.
The toys were also filmed rampaging along a corridor set and one was superimposed into the battle sequence and blown apart. Unfortunately the scenes were less successful with the finished footage looking more like models than had previously been achieved.
However, Into The Dalek was broadly received with enthusiasm by fans and critics alike when it was broadcast on 30th August 2014. The twist of the “Good Dalek” brought a new take on the old adversary and the spectacular battle sequence showed the Daleks at their destructive best.
After successful events in 2012, the Symphonic Spectacular concerts returned to Australia in early 2014. Performed on 31st January in Melbourne and 8th February in Brisbane, the audiences were delighted with a range of music and monsters from the show.
Three of the ‘Live’ NPD props created by MillenniumFX were utilised during the performances. The white Supreme Dalek was used on stage to great comedy effect with Ben Foster. The other two props featured on the big screen. These two Daleks had been painted in metallic burgundy and blue to replicate those Daleks that had been made for Asylum of the Daleks.
Back in the UK, the Daleks at Doctor Who Experience underwent some changes. The ‘time-line’ was extended with a number of extra Daleks added to the display. The small ‘Asylum’ display that was set-up in 2012 was moved over to the time-line. It featured TPE EC2/EC1 as the ‘Oswin’ Dalek. AB1 and AB2 also returned to the display after their stint at Heathrow Airport. AB1 still featured the clean skirt that was displayed at the airport, rather than the skirt used in the Asylum.
After recording had finished on Time of the Doctor, NSDA3 had been returned to the time-line and, after Into the Dalek had completed, it was joined by hero props NSD2 and NSD4.
Over the following weeks, the displays were rearranged and a large central area was roped off for the Dalek setup. The props would often change to refresh things for returning visitors and it was around this time that the Supreme Dalek from Series Four and the Emperor Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks made their débuts. Mark Barton Hill’s second Dalek replica , MBH2, also joined the ranks. NSD2 and NSD4 returned to storage at the Roath Lock studios at this time.
Series Eight kicked off on 23rd August and was promoted with a huge ‘world tour’ undertaken in just twelve days and took in several countries including South Korea, Australia, the USA, Mexico and Brazil.
The tour commenced in Cardiff on 7th August and the two Daleks that had been seen on the command deck of the Dalek Saucer in Into the Dalek, NSD4 and NSDA2, were seen out and about on the red carpet alongside the Cybermen and stars of the show.
Three weeks after, as part of the “GREAT Britain” campaign run by the UK Government, on 28th August, NSD4 and NSDA5 were despatched to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London (along with a TARDIS prop) where they were the stars of a ‘Creativity is Great Britain’ section highlighting the contribution of Wales and Cardiff to the creative sector. Over 200 guests were invited to the showcase.
Days later, on 7th September, NSDA2 made a short trip from the studio store to Cardiff Bay where it was part of a ‘Meet the Forces’ day and photographed with Commodore Jamie Miller CBE.
Back at The Experience, the interactive section underwent some big changes in the autumn to reflect the changes to the show. Peter Capaldi filmed a number of new sequences that would accompany visitors as they made their way through, replacing the now, out of date, Matt Smith footage.
The story-line of the section changed and as such the Dalek segment also needed adjusting. The spaceship location would now be changed to a building on Skaro that was depicted in ruin and needed a number of distressed props to fill the display. Along with the set, the three animated MilleniumFX props were distressed although they still retained their ability to move.
Up until this time the ‘NSD’ props had only featured on the video screens around the display. But now actual props would be added into the scene. The team turned to Mike Tucker and his team at The Model Unit to supply a number of distressed bronze Daleks.
A number of screen used damaged Dalek and Dalek sections were transferred to The Model Unit’s workshop at Ealing. These included TPE-D, NSDAD1 and NSDAD2 along with the specially constructed damaged skirts made for Asylum of the Daleks. The team augmented the props and fabricated new shoulders, necks and domes for the missing parts.
In total, The Model Unit delivered three main NSD props, a ‘classic’ Dalek, two damaged NSD skirts and a damaged NPD skirt for use in the display.
The props were actually a jumble of sections. Sat behind the barrier was NSDAD2 with a new neck and dome. On its right was a mix of a new NSD upper half sat on the skirt of TPE-D which itself sat on an NSD fender. Both these Daleks had lights fitted that would slowly illuminate as the scene played out.
The shoulders of NSDAD1 were attached to one of the ‘Asylum’ damaged skirts and was positioned close to the white NPDs dias.
The upper section of TPE-D was also placed on one of the ‘Asylum’ damaged skirts along with its own fender. Initially it stood at the exit of the set. The distressed white Supreme NPD that had been made for Series Six was placed at the entrance to the set.
An already impressive set seemed to gain even more life with the changes and additions. The sight of several ‘dead’ Daleks coming back to life was sure to give kids (and adults) nightmares!
Back in the main exhibition hall, NSDA1 (or Rusty) was also added to the display.
It had been a busy few months for the Dalek props on the back of the launch of Series Eight. Things started to quieten down again as the series continued but in January 2015 NSDA5 made an appearance at Colwyn Bay as part of the BBC Wales Roadshow.
Aware that some fans had been left disappointed by the lack of screen-time for the ‘classic’ Daleks during Asylum of the Daleks, Steven Moffat now had in his plans a tale for Series Nine that would see the Daleks at “the height of their powers”. The plans once again included Daleks from all eras of the show…