Daleks Versus Cybermen
Doctor Who’s return in 2005 had been a triumphant success and its second season worked to build on that with both dramatic spectacle and emotional payoff. Half way through the season, the Cybermen had been re-introduced in their traditional role as Doctor Who’s “second best enemy” and, as with the Daleks in Series One, their return was planned for the finale too, but they would be joined on screen for the first time with the Daleks.
The return of the Cybermen coincided with the reappearance of Rose’s father from a parallel universe and the combination of the powerful emotional storyline and the epic battle for Earth was seen as a fitting send-off for this much-loved character.
With the Daleks having been explicitly wiped from existence at the end of The Parting of the Ways, Russell T Davies conceived of a method through which a small number could survive – a void ship which would protected from the destruction of the Time War, and contain an unusual group of four Daleks.
The Cult of Skaro were conceived as four bronze Daleks, originally named Sec, Thay, Caan and Rabe, although Rabe was changed to Jast in later drafts. During the tone meeting which lasted for six hours on 3rd October 2005, Russell T Davies was reminded of the fact that as a child, any change in Dalek design had left a lasting impression. The appearance of the Supreme Dalek at the end of Planet of the Daleks was a particularly powerful memory as his childhood and so the notion was raised of having the leader of the Daleks in a different colour scheme. Production Designer Ed Thomas suggested black, in keeping with old Dalek traditions
As production got under way, four Daleks would be needed – but events were in motion which would possibly result in a future loss to the Dalek numbers…
New Doomsday Dalek
During production of the first episode of the finale – Army of Ghosts, the Radio Times were working on a plan to give their readers the ultimate Christmas present. In the Autumn of 2005, plans were instigated for a competition to give away a screen-used Dalek, and an arrangement was made for the BBC to hand over one of the two props which had been built by Specialist Models for The Parting of the Ways.
NSD3 was borrowed by the Radio Times for a photoshoot which would ultimately feature in the Christmas edition of the TV and radio magazine. The prop was decorated with fake snow and a large red ribbon. A screen-capture taken from The Parting of the Ways was also used to highlight which Dalek one lucky reader would receive.
With the shoot complete, NSD3 was returned to the studios in preparation for its next screen outing.
Russell T Davies’ scripts, which were finished in October 2005, demanded a quartet of Daleks for his new “Cult of Skaro.” The three existing props could be reused but one more would be needed to complete the demands of the story. As a result, Specialist Models were commissioned to provide a replacement prop which would be used in Doomsday, the final episode of the season.
When the Daleks returned to set for shooting on 2nd December 2005, the original prop MT1 returned, but with a brand new livery. For its appearance as the leader of the Cult, Dalek Sec, the near entire top half of the prop was painted gloss black. The skirt was now a matt black with gloss black hemispheres. It was stunning new take on an old idea dating back to The Dalek Invasion of Earth, however, on closer inspection it was seem the job was completed rather hastily as bronze patches could be seen on areas of the neck cage.
The other two existing bronze Daleks, NSD2 (which had been recalled from the BBC Roadshow) and NSD3, had undergone very little change, aesthetically, and their defining features (such as the NSD2’s vertical oil streak in the slat above the gunbox) could still be seen.
The new prop, NSD4, has a number of a subtle differences – most notably smaller fake bolt-heads inside the slats. NSD2 and NSD3 (also previously made by Specialist Models) had fake bolt heads which completely filled the cylindrical slot, but this new Dalek did not.
NSD4 also has slightly less defined weathering on the front of its skirt. All the previous props had very prominent “oil streaks” down the surface and, whilst the new prop does have them, they are not so easy to see. Fortunately, however, the weathering on the shoulders is distinctive, especially on the surface of the front slat in which it has two vertical streaks off to the side. It also has a “staggered streak” running down the whole front.
All four Daleks were given new ID tags. Instead of seemingly random tags, the ‘Cult’ tags were based on a theme. Each tag only varying slightly to indicate the different props.
Despite them being the blockbuster feature of the episode, the actual work involving the Daleks was surprisingly limited. The props were only required in two settings: The Sphere Chamber and the Torchwood storage area.
At Newport Unit Q2, production got under way at the end of November 2005, and Friday 2nd December saw the sequences shot with the Daleks in the Sphere Chamber including the confrontation with the Doctor and the battle with the Cybermen.
As with the previous story, Nicholas Pegg was assigned one principle Dalek. Barnaby Edwards was initially unavailable for the recording dates and so Anthony Spargo took his place. Pegg and Spargo operated the Daleks with radio-controlled heads (MT1 and NSD2) whilst the operators Dan Barrett and David Hankinson were given Daleks with manual heads. Part-way through filming, Barnaby Edwards became available later, hence five Dalek operators were credited in total.
During recording, David Tennant made the suggestion that Dalek Thay’s eye should follow him in a 360 degree circle, but Barrett (who was playing Dalek Thay/NSD3) could not perform this action because the manual eye mechanism hung down inside the head and blocked a full rotation. As a result, Spargo’s Dalek (Dalek Jast/NSD2) was quickly swapped into position causing a continuity error with the Daleks’ identities.
When the Daleks use their suckers to absorb both the information and life out of Dr Singh, another continuity error was nearly created. As actor Raji James wore his real-life glasses, no-one had thought to purchase a pair of FX duplicates for use on his mummified corpse which was to be shot after the actor had gone home. To side-step the issue, in the moments before his death, Dr Singh inexplicably removes his glasses so that the his dead body doesn’t need to be seen to be wearing any.
The story introduced a new element of Time Lord lore – The Genesis Ark – essentially a prison that was bigger on the inside. The prop was realised as a mobile unit much like a Dalek and so a sixth operator was employed, Stuart Crossman. The actor Crossman performed all the camera rehearsals and blocking however, when it came to shooting, the smoke system within the prop required FX supervision. As a result, for the takes themselves, Danny Hargreaves is the man inside the Genesis Ark.
Production then switched to The Torchwood base scenes which were were shot at RAF Athen on the 9th, 10th and 13th of January 2006. When the Daleks entered the hangar area, Dalek Sec’s wheel became jammed inside one of the metal grilles in the floor and in an attempt to become free, operator Nicholas Pegg ripped the front wheel off. With no time to repair the Dalek, the scene had to be completed with Pegg strenuously holding the front of the prop in the air.
As in Series One, CGI was used extensively to boost the number of Daleks (and Cybermen) once the Genesis Ark had been opened. Another minor error crept in during these sequences. Possibly working from an early description, Sec’s model didn’t quite match the real prop. The fender was the lighter finish of the bronze Daleks and the main bulk of the model was matt grey instead of the top half being fully gloss.
One Prop Down?
After filming had concluded, the Radio Times were invited down to Cardiff to picture the winner of their Dalek competition on the TARDIS set with Russell T Davies. Whether by design or chance, NSD3 was again the Dalek to be pictured (and therefore given away) with the lucky winner – Honey Jones-Hughes.
However, the new owners of the Dalek were unable to take the Dalek due to space at home and so a ‘deal’ was struck whereby the BBC could continue to use the Dalek until such time that space was available. Also, Honey would be able to visit the Dalek as and when time and conditions on set allowed.
The picture and report of the winner were included in the 15-21st April edition of the Radio Times.
A BAFTA Surprise
Recording for the season had concluded on April 11th 2006 and the broadcast of the first episode was due four days later. Secrecy on the season finale had been extremely tight. Not only were the production team keen to keep the fate of Rose Tyler a surprise, but the return of the Doctor’s oldest foes too. The word “Dalek” had been removed from the scripts and replaced with “Enemy” and every effort was made to keep it under wraps. Even more secret was the fact that one of the Daleks had been given a new paint job – that would be a huge shock for the fans.
Instead there was something of a shock for Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner at the BAFTAs on 7th May. When Doctor Who was announced as the winner of Best Drama Series, the three producers went on stage to collect their award with great excitement – but were suddenly faced by their own worst nightmare.
BAFTA had arranged with the BBC for Daleks to appear on stage and on the red carpet, and had secured the services of Nicholas Briggs to do the voice and Barnaby Edwards to operate. The intention had been for standard bronze props to be used but due to an oversight, NSD4 and Dalek Sec (MT1) arrived at Grosvenor House Hotel in London. NSD4 was dispatched to the red carpet for the arrivals but backstage, operator Barnaby Edwards voiced his concerns to the organisers, indicating that it was not appropriate that he used the black Dalek on stage, but nothing could be done and the wrong prop came out on stage during the speeches.
“Oh for f*cks sake, it’s the black one!” Russell T Davies said, beneath the sound of the Dalek’s voice. The reaction of the production team to their big secret being revealed was edited out of the broadcast version. With some judicious editing, everyone seemed quite amused but, in truth, there was great dismay that one of their end of season secrets had been blown. Whilst it didn’t explicitly confirm that the Daleks were returning, there was no logical reason for one of the screen props to have been repainted if it wasn’t going to be in the show.
Just under a month later, the episodes were broadcast and Sec was revealed as originally intended. As in 2005, the Radio Times again took the chance to feature the Daleks on the cover of the listings magazine. In 2005, the Dalek cover had tied up with the UK General Election. This time the World Cup final was due to be shown the same week, and so a football theme was dreamt up. Dalek Sec (MT1) took centre stage on a flootlit football pitch and even gripped a football. Sec was flanked by NSD2 on its left and NSD3 on its right.
As the popularity of the ‘New Series’ increased, naturally, the general public were re-engaging with all aspects of the show. As in the ‘Classic Series’ days there were now two ‘permanent’ exhibitions devoted to the show again. In addition, a number of ‘pop-up’ shows were also appearing around the country. The Daleks were always a huge part of these displays and so the two specially made props hopped from exhibition to exhibition. But with extra exhibits needed the BBC turned to the main TV props.
Soon after taping on Doomsday was finished, NSD3 was sent to the exhibition at Blackpool. This was the second long-term exhibition in the town. The original had run from 1974 until 1985 and had featured specially made Dalek props. The second exhibition had opened in 2004, but in 2005 had started to add several of the New Series props and costumes. Around the same time, Dalek Two-8 was moved from Cardiff to Blackpool as it was better suited to the nature of the exhibition. NSD3 was placed on top of the display containing the Classic Series prop.
NSD2 rejoined the BBC Roadshow as part of the ‘Here For You!’ initiative. In April it was at Llangefni in Anglesey, in June it visited Haverfordwest and in October it was at Newport.
In July, NSD4 featured at a small display of props at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. The TV TARDIS prop and one of the new look Cybermen completed the display.
The clamour for the public to see New Series props was gaining momentum although, for some, it was a long journey to Cardiff. BBC Exhibitions therefore devised a plan of short term exhibitions travelling the country. One of the first was at the ‘Spaceport’ on the Wirral near Liverpool. Dalek NSDW was transferred to the Spaceport from the ‘Up-Close’ display and Dalek NSDB replaced it at Cardiff. With the loss of Dalek Two-8 to Blackpool, ‘The Emperor’ model was drafted in to stand in its place.
Despite losing Billie Piper at the end of the Season Two, it seemed that the show was going from strength to strength. New Doctor, David Tennant, was arguably even more popular with the public than Christopher Eccleston had been and it seemed that the Daleks had as much impact as they had always had for decades previously. A new wave of ‘Dalekmania’ was sweeping the nation again and toys of all shapes and sizes were in production.
Season Three was already assured and with ‘The Cult of Skaro’ seemingly escaping the events of Doomsday, it surely wouldn’t be long before the Dalek props were needed again…