Doctor Who: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE DALEKS

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Geek Dave kicks off our month long celebration of all things Dalek with 10 things you might not know about Doctor Who's first ever trip to the planet Skaro.


1. The Daleks was formally commissioned under the title The Mutants on 31st July 1963, and was originally intended to air fourth in Doctor Who's first season's line-up, after Marco Polo. During production the overall story went through a number of working titles such as The Survivors and Beyond the Sun, before returning to the original title of The Mutants. This title was used in most BBC paperwork for the next decade.

However, in 1973, the Radio Times 10th anniversary Doctor Who special referred to the serial as The Dead Planet (they listed all the early stories by the title of their first episodes) and this name stuck, being used in many licensed guides and magazines up until 1980, when it was displaced by The Daleks, a title deriving from the story's book and film adaptations and with no basis in contemporary usage (unlike The Mutants, which is also the title of a Third Doctor serial from 1972).


2. It was script editor David Whitaker who commissioned the story from Terry Nation. Nation was better known at the time as a comedy writer but Whitaker had been impressed by his work on the science-fiction series Out of This World.

Nation's agent cunningly negotiated him co-ownership of the Daleks, an almost unheard of demand at the time and one that seemed a trivial request to make for such a new and unproven series such as Doctor Who. Indeed, most at The BBC expected the series to be cancelled within the first 13 weeks, so Nation's request was granted with little resistance.

The ramifications of this deal on the history of Doctor Who are difficult to overstate. You may be surprised to know that the agent that made this deal, which would lead to Nation becoming a very wealthy man, was British television legend and studio boss Beryl Vertue. Mother of Sue Vertue, and mother-in-law of Steven Moffat.


3. Nation's original proposal for the series was a six-part adventure which would see the Daleks wanting to wipe out the Thals to ensure they could never start another neutronic war (unaware the Thals were now pacifist). In the final episode, the Thals would bring the defeated Daleks back online to discuss peace terms. By the end, the Doctor would reveal that neither side started the war: they had been attacked by an alien race. The descendants of those aliens would then arrive on Skaro, as the radiation levels had lowered, to "make reparations and assist in rebuilding the planet". Due to insufficient time and budget, this plot was cut out and the Daleks were redrafted as more obvious villains, with no "happy ending". 

4. Nation would claim that he came up with the name "Dalek" after seeing a set of encyclopedias with one volume spanning the section of the alphabet from Dal - Lek. However, he later admitted that this was simply a good story for the sake of the press, and that in fact he had just made up the name.


5. According to text commentary on the 2006 DVD release, the first episode of The Daleks, "The Dead Planet", was recorded twice. The first version was affected by a technical fault that captured backstage voices, and so a remount was done just two weeks before it was broadcast.

The only surviving footage of the first version is the recap at the start of the second episode, "The Survivors", showing Barbara menaced by a Dalek; the corresponding scene at the end of "The Dead Planet" was recreated when the episode was remounted.


6. That scene, that iconic scene, only came to be because the complete Dalek prop was not finished in time for shooting. Instead floor manager Michael Ferguson held the sucker arm and waved it towards Barbara.

7. The man tasked with realising the design of the Daleks was Raymond Cusick. Cusick was a last minute replacement after the original designer pulled out at the eleventh hour due to a scheduling conflict. His name? Ridley Scott. Yes, future famed film director Ridley Scott.


8. The second episode of The Daleks, "The Survivors", was taped the day before the very first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast, on 22nd November 1963. Minutes before taping started, the cast and crew learned of the assassination of John F. Kennedy but it was decided to continue with the recording.

As the first episode of The Daleks was remounted on 6th December 1963, "The Survivors" goes down in history as the first broadcast episode of Doctor Who to be shot out of order, something that would be a common occurrence in the show's future.

9. Although many parts of the Dalek mythos were established in this serial, several key elements of the continuity were retroactively changed over the years. The most notable change regarded the nature of the war with the Thals and the transformation into the Daleks. In this story, the Daleks mutated as a direct result of the war, and their previous species was called the Dals. In the later Genesis of the Daleks, their mutation was accelerated (but not directly caused) by the machinations of Davros, their previous species was the Kaleds, and the mutation marked the end of the war with the Thals.

This story was also the only instance in which the Daleks' dependence, for motive power, on static electricity from the floors of their city was a factor. In their next appearance, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, they had found a way around this restriction by sporting small satellite-type dishes to receive power transmissions, and subsequently the design incorporated power-panel slats around the midsection (though an affinity for static was occasionally referenced in future serials, such as The Power of the Daleks, and the plot of Death to the Daleks required an explanation that for basic movement they now utilised telekinesis). Similarly, this story states that the Daleks require radiation in order to live at all (leading to them trying to further irradiate Skaro); later stories, including the immediate sequel, show them operating without heavy background radiation.


10. The Daleks would secure the future of Doctor Who, with over 10 million viewers tuning in weekly by the seventh and final episode, and would kick-start the 1960's craze of Dalekmania.

Of course, the one single word most associated with the Daleks is "Exterminate!", which has been uttered by generations of British children impersonating the creatures. However, although a variant of the word, "exterminated", can be heard in this story, it was not until the final episode ("Flashpoint") of their second story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, that a Dalek finally was heard uttering the word "Exterminate!"

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Previously
10 Things You Might Not Know About The Three Doctors
10 Things You Might Not Know About The Five Doctors
10 Things You Might Not Know About Doctor Who: The TV Movie
20 Things You Might Not Know About Doctor Who: Series One

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