Doctor Who: Vote Dalek

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Christopher Morley votes Dalek.


With Election mania currently sweeping the UK, what better time to look back at an entirely different type of mania which began sweeping the country more than 50 years ago.

Think of 'mania' in the Sixties and you'd be forgiven for jumping straight to the conclusion that John, Paul, George & Ringo were the hottest ticket on the planet. If the date November 23, 1963 means anything to you though, you'll most likely remember Dalekmania just as well as the massive excitement surrounding the four moptopped Scousers (one of whom would come to resemble the Doctor himself in the final moments of The Tenth Planet/first act of The Power Of The Daleks).

Christmas came early that year, five days early to be exact - a week after the last episode of An Unearthly Child aired, it was time for The Daleks! Terry Nation (& indeed Sydney Newman) could have had no idea what a winner they were onto. Newman had indeed gone so far as to say ' no bug-eyed monsters!' in his initial notes for Who- as recreated for An Adventure In Space & Time...



Just how wrong he was over their predicted appeal to those who watched their battles with the First Doctor (William Hartnell, cast by producer Verity Lambert off the back of his performance as 'Dad' in This Sporting Life) will become apparent soon enough! Given that every post-Hartnell Doctor has faced them since, the evidence is indeed there for all to see-  but let's not get carried away. Back into the Billy years it is, then!

Written by their creator Terry Nation, the story served as an introduction to the universe's most evil pepper pots & the genius of designer Raymond Cusick. Take a look at their very first appearance...



They'd become so popular that Nation would write every single one of their stories up until Season 5 (as well as The Keys Of Marinus). His agent had cannily negotiated co-ownership of the Dalek trademark, too...

Which takes us nicely into Mission To The Unknown. At least partially conceived as a road test for the idea of a spin-off series expanding on the Space Security Service & their battles with the Daleks, continued in The Daleks Master Plan, only a pilot episode was ever made before The Destroyers was, er, destroyed. But Big Finish did at least produce an audio version of it as part of their Lost Stories set, where previously scrapped trips across the universe go to get rehabilitated.

Sara Kingdom is there, as played by Jean Marsh in Master Plan. Three new members of the crew are introduced too - the android Mark Seven (Alan Cox), Jason Corey (Chris Porter) & Sara's brother David (Alex Mallinson). If you watch their beginnings though you might also spot a familiar face in the role of Bret Vyon. It's Nicholas Courtney aka Colonel/Brigadier Lethbridge—Stewart!

Perhaps by looking back, though, we can move forward...in particular The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.


Some of the most iconic early images of the Doctor's greatest foes come from this story. Remember them making their way around London without so much as a guidebook? Among the famous landmarks they take in are the Houses Of Parliament (ironic given their own track record when it comes to democracy) & Big Ben. It's also notable for seeing the first departure of a companion - The Doctor realising that what Susan needs is a normal life away from a silly old buffer like him...


Of course the Doctor would later return to a similar scenario in cinemas, having non-canonically regenerated into Peter Cushing - cue frantic 'sign of the cross' making from hardcore fans. Dr Who & The Daleks & Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD serving as rushed mass-market adaptations of The Daleks & then their Invasion Of Earth. While liberties were taken with continuity (no mention of the Doctor as a Time Lord, presented as a human scientist who invents TARDIS & takes his granddaughters Barbara & Susan, alongside Barbara's boyfriend Ian, off on adventures), the films still achieved quite something across the pond - representing a first big incursion into the American market for Doctor Who. There are coloured Daleks, too...a concept which will be returned to years later in Victory Of The Daleks. Only two films were made, a third, based on The Chase, was planned & quickly junked following the poor box office performance of Invasion Earth) but they showed the general public's appetite for the tinpot despots!


Which of course proved a merchandiser's dream. If you liked them enough & wanted almost anything to do with them it was a wonderful time. The less said about I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek, though... honestly!



The subjects of the naff Christmas tune fared considerably better. They've survived to this day, beyond even the Doctor they first faced off against..though they would make his acquaintance once more after his 'renewal' & again in The Evil Of The Daleks (both in Season 4).


It's the Hartnell/Cushing years that most people automatically jump to when they think of the whole fad, though - with good reason. The majority of the toys, books, games etc created to cash in date back from that period & probably command a lot of cultural as well as monetary value. Take for example this Dalek playsuit...


...released just a few years before we put a man on the moon, it's essentially just an upside down laundry basket stitched to a red spotted refuse sack! Nevertheless it commands a huge price amongst collectors today. For further such titbits watch the Dalekmania documentary (of which 3 out of 4 parts are available on Youtube- here, here & here should prove enlightening).


However you look at it, Dalekmania still exists today in some form - the announcement of a new outing for them, or a redesign, provoking furious debate in sections of the fandom & indeed popular culture on occasion. Ask anyone not in the slightest bit interested in Who what a Dalek is and they'll most likely know. They've become something of a cult in their own right! Making it back to Westminster for a stint as the Radio Times figureheads for 2005 General Election coverage (above), an image so iconic that it was voted 'Cover of the Century' in a Radio Times poll.


They graced the front cover once again for the 2010 Election, this time given a splash of colour to reflect each major political party represented. They're fair game for comedy too. Consider Spike Milligan's very un-PC Pakistani Dalek sketch for starters...



...also popping up in DeadRingers among others. Very British, very funny & reflective of their place in the cultural life of the nation.

So in a way the Daleks did conquer after all! Just not in the manner to which they're accustomed.

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