Five reasons Ray Cusick's Daleks are Dr Who's No 1 foe

Feb 25, 2013

Creator of Dr Who's 'Satanic pepper pots' dies at 84 but his scary race of alien exterminators will live on

THE man who gave countless children sleepless nights by creating Dr Who's greatest enemy - the Daleks - has died of heart failure at the age of 84. Raymond Cusick, who worked as a production designer on the BBC series from 1963 to 1966, was responsible for the machines' distinguishing features including their eyestalks, suckers and exterminators. Here are five things you may not know about Cusick and his terrifying creation.

He was inspired by a pepper pot. The writer Terry Nation came up with the idea of a race of aliens who moved around in armoured shells, but Cusick had to "put flesh on the bones", according to the BBC. One account suggests he only had an hour to come up with a workable Dalek design. During a lunch with the special effects expert who was in charge of making the alien machines, Cusick picked up a pepper pot and moved it around the table. "It's going to move like that – no visible means," he explained.

Each Dalek had a human operator inside it. Cusick's design was shaped by the necessity of fitting a human operator inside each machine. He considered a remotely-controlled "mechanical design", but rejected it because it was likely to go wrong as the cameras rolled. "If you've got a human being in there it would be absolutely totally reliable," he reasoned.

The Daleks weren't very mobile. According to Cusick, the life-sized versions of his design "rattled like an old biscuit tin" when they encountered an uneven surface. Wheels fitted with pneumatic tyres improved their ability to move around, but Cusick had to add a "skirt" to hide the wheels, so rough surfaces still posed a problem. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Tim Stanley offered a suggestion to improve their chances of galactic domination. "I've always thought, why don't the Daleks overcome their disadvantage by only invading places with lots of bungalows?" he wrote. "If they had occupied Worthing rather than London, they'd have been unstoppable…"

The Dalek is one of the most recognisable designs on the planet. In 2008, a survey showed that nine out of 10 children in the UK were able to identify a Dalek. The "Satanic pepper pot" has also been voted the all-time greatest monster by the readers of the science fiction magazine SFX.

Cusick made very little money from the Daleks. When he left Dr Who in 1966, Cusick was reportedly unhappy with the lack of money and recognition he'd received as a result of his work on the series. The show's producers arranged for the BBC to give him an ex-gratia payment of around £100 and a gold Blue Peter badge.

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