The BBC designer who gave form to Doctor Who‘s oldest and most persistent adversaries has died. Ray Cusick, 84, was the one who was tasked with creating the look of the alien tanks described in Terry Nation’s script for the story now referred to simply as “The Daleks.”
The first real look at the iconic pepperpots came in episode two of that serial, entitled “The Survivors,” broadcast on December 28th, 1963. Unlike the Cybermen, whose appearance has changed drastically since their debut in 1966, the Dalek design even today has stayed incredibly close to Cusick’s original, even down to the whisks and plungers which became their weapons.
Via the BBC’s website:
The official Doctor Who Magazine tweeted: “It’s with great sadness that we report the death of Ray Cusick – the designer of the Daleks. Half a century on, his iconic design lives on.”
Doctor Who actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: “Farewell to the great Ray Cusick. His passing is especially sad in this anniversary year but his creation remains immortal. Daleks forever!”
The designer gave form to the concept of the Daleks, created by Doctor Who screenwriter Terry Nation and which first appeared in series one of Doctor Who nearly 50 years ago.
In the show, the race of Daleks was said to have been developed by a scientist to survive a war on their home planet of Skaro. However, the scientist was later killed by his own creation.
“People say I was inspire by a pepper pot – but it could have been the salt pot I picked up.”
The Daleks, mutants encased in studded, tank-like machinery that appear to glide over the ground, became a cultural sensation, with generations growing to love their famous electronic command of “Exterminate”.
In a 2008 episode of BBC Three’s Doctor Who Confidential, Mr Cusick visited the BBC props department and explained his inspiration for the design of the Daleks, which has changed very little over the years.
“People do say I was inspired by a pepper pot – but I always think ‘If that’s all it takes to become a designer then it’s a doddle.'”
He explained that, in fact, the pepper pot detail came from a lunch with Bill Roberts, the special effects expert who would make the Daleks, when Mr. Cusick picked up a pepper pot and moved it around the table, telling him: “It’s going to move like that – no visible means.
“Ever since then people say I was inspired by a pepper pot – but it could have been the salt pot I picked up.”
He went on: “When I’m asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realised that you’ve got to have an operator to operate them. If you had anything mechanical, 10 to one on the take it would go wrong, so you’ve got a human being in there who would be absolutely totally reliable…
“I then thought ‘Well, the operator’s got to sit down’, [so I] drew a seat, ergonomic height, 18 in., got the operator down, and then drew round him. That’s how the basic shape appeared.”
We’ve seen a lot of clips of the Daleks, but here is a very old clip of Eddie Izzard talking about them:
Cheers, Mr. Cusick. Daleks conquer and destroy.