Doctor Who: DALEKMANIA - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Chris Morley looks back at the 'Dalekmania' that began sweeping Britain in the 1960s.

Think of 'mania' in the Sixties & you'd be forgiven for jumping straight to the conclusion that John, Paul, George & Ringo were the hottest ticket on the planet. But if the date November 23, 1963 means anything to you though, you'll 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 even 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 the Daleks 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 Daleks 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...

The Daleks 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, making him a very wealthy man and giving him the ability to spread the Dalek lore elsewhere, if so desired.

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 you might also spot a familiar face in the role of Bret Vyon. It's Nicholas Courtney aka Colonel/Brigadier Lethbridge—Stewart!

Some of the most iconic early images of the Doctor's greatest foes come from The Dalek Invasion Of Earth. 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 the Daleks 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....

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, making his acquaintance once more after his 'renewal' in The Power Of The Daleks & again in The Evil Of The Daleks (both in Season 4).

They've appeared on screen now in over 30 Doctor Who adventures, yet it's the Hartnell/Cushing years that most people automatically jump to when they think of the whole fad of Dalekmania, and 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 - 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 & 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 (given a splash of colour to reflect each major political party represented) was probably a high point.

They're fair game for comedy too. Consider Spike Milligan's very un-PC Pakistani Dalek sketch for starters...

...also popping up in Dead Ringers 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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