Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Daleks are a fictional race of mutants who are collectively the greatest alien adversaries of the Time Lord known as the Doctor in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. The Daleks are the mutated remains of the Kaled people of the planet Skaro, and travel around in tank-like robotic bodies. Their catchphrase is "EXTERMINATE!", screeched in a frantic mechanical voice (Dalek Exterminate all humans.ogg). The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation and BBC designer Raymond Cusick.
Externally, Daleks resemble overgrown pepper shakers, with a single mechanical eye stalk, a gun stalk containing a directed energy weapon (or "death ray"), and a telescoping robot arm. Usually, the arm is fitted with a device for manipulation that, to the amusement of generations of viewers, resembles a plunger, but various episodes have shown Daleks whose arms end in a tray, a mechanical claw, or other specialised equipment. The casings are made of a material known as dalekanium. (In the alternate future of Day of the Daleks, dalekanium is an unstable explosive that can penetrate Dalek casings. The two may or may not be the same.)
The creatures inside their "travel machines" are depicted as soft and repulsive in appearance, but still vicious even without their mechanical armour. In Resurrection of the Daleks a Dalek creature, separated from its casing, attacks and kills a human soldier. The Doctor has described the Daleks as "little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armour." However, as the creature inside is rarely seen on screen, the misconception that Daleks are wholly mechanical robots exists, a mistake the series itself has made on occasion.
Due to their gliding motion Daleks were notoriously unable to tackle stairs, which made them easily overcome under the right circumstances. An oft-copied cartoon from Punch magazine pictured a group of Daleks at the foot of a flight of stairs with the caption, "This certainly buggers our plan to conquer the Universe". In a scene from the serial Destiny of the Daleks , the Doctor and companions escape from Dalek pursuers by climbing into a ceiling duct. The Doctor (Tom Baker) calls down, "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us? Bye bye!" The Daleks generally make up for their lack of mobility with overwhelming firepower. A joke around science fiction conventions went, "Real Daleks don't climb stairs; they level the building."
In The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) a Dalek ascends from the River Thames, indicating that they are amphibious to a degree.Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) showed that they can climb stairs using a sort of limited antigravity (first used in 1973's Planet of the Daleks), but their awkward forms still limit their mobility in tight quarters. Despite this, the Daleks' supposed inability with stairs is still frequently referred to for humourous effect by journalists covering the series. The 2005 series will also feature a stair-climbing Dalek.
The Daleks were actually operated from inside by short actors who had to manipulate their eyestalks and arms, as well as flashing the lights on their heads in sync with the actors supplying their voices. Unfortunately, as well as being hot and cramped the Dalek casings also muffled external sounds, making it difficult for the operators to hear the director's commands or studio dialogue. The operators see between the circular louvres just beneath the dome that are lined with mesh to conceal their faces.
The Dalek cases were built in two pieces; once an operator stepped into the lower section the top would be lowered onto him. This had advantages and disadvantages. Operators were often able to eavesdrop on private conversations between people who thought the casings were empty, but the top sections were too heavy to move from inside, which meant that the operators could be trapped in them if the stagehands forgot to let them out.
Early versions of the Daleks were either rolled around on castors or propelled by wheels connected to hand cranks by bicycle chains. Later versions had more efficient wheels and were simply propelled by the operators' feet. Even so, they were so heavy that when going up ramps they often had to be pushed by stagehands out of camera shot.
The Dalek voice, a staccato monotone, was initially developed by voice actors Peter Hawkins (who had also provided the voice for the popular children's animated series Captain Pugwash) and David Graham, who would vary the pitch and speed of the lines according to the emotion needed. The voices were then electronically modulated by Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop using a sine wave of 30 Hz (turning it on and off thirty times a second), creating a distinctive, grating sound. This became the pattern for all Dalek voices in years to come.
In scenes where many Daleks had to appear, some of them would be represented by wooden replicas or even (in early black and white episodes) by life-size photographic enlargements. In scenes involving armies of Daleks, the BBC effects team even turned to using commercially-available toy Daleks, manufactured by Louis Marx & Co.
Terry Nation claimed that he was inspired by watching ballet dancers in long dresses glide as if on wheels. Indeed, for many of the shows, the Daleks were "played" by retired ballet dancers wearing black socks while sitting inside the Dalek. Raymond Cusick claims that after Nation wrote the script, he was given only an hour to come up with the design for the Daleks, and was inspired by a pepper shaker on the table in front of him to do the initial sketches.
Nation also claimed that the name came from a volume of a dictionary or encyclopedia, the spine of which spine read "Dal - Lek". He later admitted that he had made this up as a reply to a question by a journalist and that anyone who checked out his story would have found him out. The name had in reality simply rolled off his typewriter. Later, Nation was pleasantly surprised to discover that in Serbo-Croatian the word "Dalek" means "far and distant thing".
Nation grew up during World War II, and remembered the fear caused by German bombings. He consciously based the Daleks on the Nazis, conceiving the species as faceless, authoritarian figures dedicated to conquest, domination, and complete conformity. The analogy is most obvious in the Dalek stories penned by Nation, in particular The Dalek Invasion of Earth and Genesis of the Daleks.
The Daleks were first introduced in December 1963 in the second Doctor Who serial and became an immediate hit, featuring in many subsequent serials. That first serial is called, variously, The Survivors (the pre-production title), The Mutants (its official title at the time of production and broadcast, later taken by a second, unrelated Doctor Who story), Beyond the Sun, The Dead Planet, or simply The Daleks. The reason for the multiple titles is that in the show's early years each individual episode had a different name and overall story titles were used only by the production office. Subsequently, several different overall story titles were circulated by fandom without access to the correct records.
At the same time, Nation authorised the publication of the Dalek Chronicles in the comic TV Century 21 . The one-page comic strip, written by David Whitaker (but credited to Nation), continued for two years, starting with the creation of the mechanised Daleks by the humanoid Dalek scientist Yarvelling to their eventual discovery, in the ruins of a crashed space-liner, of the co-ordinates for Earth, which they proposed to invade. Although much of the material in these strips directly contradicted what was shown on television later, some concepts like the Daleks using humanoid duplicates and the design of the Dalek Emperor did show up later on in the programme.
The word "Dalek" has entered the English dictionary, and is sometimes used in Britain to describe people, usually figures in authority, who act like robots unable to break their programming. John Birt, the much maligned ex-Director General of the BBC, was called a "croak-voiced Dalek" by playwright Dennis Potter in August 1993.
History within the show
As is common in long-running series whose backstories are not mapped out and which are also the product of many different writers over the course of years, Dalek history has seen many retroactive changes and these have caused some continuity problems.
When the Doctor first encounters the Daleks in the eponymous 1963 serial, they are the product of a nuclear war between the Dal and Thal races, and were more or less confined to their city, their motive power being static electricity conducted from metal walkways. At the end of this serial, the Daleks are seemingly wiped out, a fitting conclusion because it was not intended that they should be a recurring adversary for the Doctor. However, the popularity of the Daleks ensured their return.
They did so in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), which showed the Daleks conquering the Earth in the year 2164. The sight of the Daleks amid the familiar landmarks of London made their presence doubly effective by bringing the threat to home ground. The Doctor explains the presence of the Daleks by saying that this must take place "a million years" before the events of The Daleks, and that what they are witnessing is the "middle period" of Dalek history. However, these Daleks are able to move without the need for metal paths, presumably drawing power through the use of what appear to be radio dishes on their backs. The question of why in the future the Daleks would be less advanced than these Daleks is never explained.
Over the course of their next few appearances, the Daleks developed, variously, time travel (The Chase, 1965), an interstellar empire (The Daleks' Master Plan, 1965) and factory ships for conquest (The Power of the Daleks , 1966), growing more powerful and further removed from the (by comparison) almost pathetic monsters of the first serial. The radio dishes also vanished, and Daleks were able to move under their own power. Given the time travel nature of the series, whether these stories took place chronologically in the order they were transmitted is uncertain, and debate continues as to their proper sequence.
A second attempt to end the Dalek saga was made in The Evil of the Daleks (1967), which also introduced a Dalek Emperor. In that story, the conflagration caused by a Dalek civil war is declared by the Second Doctor to be "the final end." This was because Terry Nation was in negotiations to sell the Dalek concept to American television. The sale did not succeed, but the Daleks did not appear again for five years.
The Daleks returned in the Third Doctor serial, Day of the Daleks (1972), where once again they used time travel technology. The Daleks were re-established as a species bent on universal conquest, as seen in 1973's Frontier in Space (which led directly into Planet of the Daleks) and later on in Death to the Daleks (1974).
It could still have been plausible that all this was taking place prior to the events of The Daleks, and that the creatures seen there were the remnants of a once great empire. However, Planet of the Daleks had Thals who had become a spacefaring race and also remembered legends of the Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks. Since the Daleks were a going concern at this point, this marked a significant change to the "end" of the race shown in 1963 and contradicted the Doctor's reasoning in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Genesis of the Daleks
In 1975, Terry Nation revised the Daleks' origins in the serial Genesis of the Daleks, where the Doctor was sent to the moment of the Daleks' creation by the Time Lords (or possibly their Celestial Intervention Agency) in order to stop the Dalek race before it could begin. In that story, the Dals were now called Kaleds (an anagram of Dalek), and the Dalek design was attributed to one man, the Kaled chief scientist and evil genius Davros.
Instead of a short nuclear exchange, the Kaled-Thal war was portrayed as a generations-long war attrition, fought with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The resulting mutations from the fallout were accelerated by Davros and placed in tank-like "travel machines". The Fourth Doctor's appearance on the scene (on a mission by the Time Lords to try and prevent the creation of the Daleks or at the very least lessen the damage they would do in future) led to the other Kaled scientists trying to shut down the Dalek project. To prevent this, Davros arranged for the Daleks to wipe out his own people. The Daleks were then sent to exterminate the Thals, but later turned on Davros and apparently killed him.
Much fan debate has revolved around pre- and post-Genesis Dalek history: what was changed, how it affects what was seen before, or even if the Doctor's involvement changed anything to begin with. An examination of the various theories is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to mention, many of the debates revolve around time travel, especially given that the Daleks themselves have tampered with time. In any case, it is accurate to say that Genesis of the Daleks marked a new era for the species, with most of their previous history either forgotten or barely referred to again. Future stories, which followed a rough story arc, would also focus more on Davros, much to the dissatisfaction of some fans who felt that the Daleks should take center stage.
Davros appeared to have been killed by his own creations at the end of Genesis of the Daleks. In Destiny of the Daleks (1979), however, it was revealed that he had survived their attack and lived on, buried in a bunker in suspended animation. During the time Davros was sleeping, the Daleks had abandoned the ruins of Skaro and established a vast interstellar empire, eventually encountering a hostile race of androids called the Movellans . The Dalek and Movellan warfleets were very evenly matched, and neither side's purely logical battle computers could find a successful strategy for an attack against the other. As a result, the two fleets remained locked in a standoff for centuries, constantly maneuvering and probing for an opportunity to break the stalemate but without either side actually firing a single shot.
The Daleks sent an expedition to the ruins of Skaro to recover Davros and seek his help to upgrade their designs in the hope of finding a way through the impasse, and the Movellans sent an expedition to stop them. The Daleks succeeded in reviving Davros, who theorized that the extreme intelligence and rationality of the battle computers were to blame and that the first side to take a seemingly reckless gamble would tip the balance in their favour. However, the Doctor intervened and prevented either the Dalek or Movellan expeditions from returning with this insight. Davros fell into the hands of a Human space empire and was put back in suspended animation for indefinite imprisonment.
This impasse continued for nearly a century until the Movellans finally developed a weapon capable of breaking it - a highly virulent biological agent that targeted Daleks. In Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), having lost the war, the Daleks rescued Davros from the Human prison station where he had been frozen for ninety years and demanded that he develop a defence against the disease. This time it was Davros who double-crossed the Daleks, deciding to take personal command of the Dalek race rather than merely serving it. Davros's continuing influence eventually led to a schism among the Daleks, with one faction following Davros's leadership and another rejecting their creator to instead follow the Supreme Dalek.
By the time of Revelation of the Daleks (1985), Davros was in hiding at the Tranquil Repose funeral facility on the planet Necros, experimenting with physically transforming humans into Daleks. He was also placing those Daleks loyal to him into white and gold casings to distinguish them from the usual black and grey Daleks, but his plans were undone when a worker at the facility contacted the original Daleks. These Daleks arrived on Necros, exterminated the white and gold Daleks and captured Davros, who was returned to Skaro to face trial.
The final end?
Davros made his last televised appearance in the serial Remembrance of the Daleks (1988). Apparently, events had taken place off-screen, as he appeared in the guise of the Dalek Emperor, leading his gold and white Imperial Daleks. Davros had at this point modified the Imperial Daleks, adding cybernetic enhancements to their organic components. Other new features included the ability for Imperial Daleks to levitate up stairways (although in the comics they had flown around on flying platforms called "transolar disks"), and a new model "special weapons Dalek" with an enormously powerful cannon and armour capable of deflecting regular Dalek weaponry.
Pitted against the Imperial Daleks were the Renegade Daleks, led by a black Supreme Dalek. The name "renegade" suggests that the tables had turned and Davros's side had the upper hand. Both Dalek factions became aware that the Hand of Omega, a Gallifreyan stellar engineering device, was hidden on Earth in the year 1963. Both factions sent expeditions to Earth, battlling each other to retrieve it, hoping to use the Hand to create a power source that would refine their crude time travel technology. Ultimately, the Imperial Daleks succeeded, not knowing that the Doctor had inserted a booby trap into the Hand's programming. When Davros activated it, Skaro's sun went supernova, and both the Dalek homeworld and the Imperial Dalek fleet were destroyed. Davros, however, apparently escaped his flagship's destruction in an escape pod. This serial also marked the last on-screen appearance of the Daleks in the context of the programme, save for charity specials and the use of Dalek voices in the Doctor Who telemovie in 1996.
It was later revealed in the John Peel-written spin-off novel War of the Daleks that Skaro had not, in fact, been destroyed. A convoluted explanation included the revelation that the planet Antalin had been terraformed to resemble Skaro and destroyed in its place. It was also revealed the Dalek/Movellan war (and indeed most of Dalek history before the destruction of "Skaro") was actually faked for Davros's benefit. This novel, like the other spin-off media, is of uncertain canonicity when it comes to the television series. However, War was so badly received by fans that some even disavow it within the continuity of the novels.
Return of the Daleks
When a new Doctor Who series was announced for 2005, many fans hoped the Daleks would return once more to the programme. The rights to the Daleks are jointly owned by the Terry Nation estate and the BBC, and after many negotiations between the two parties (which at one point appeared to completely break down), an agreement was reached. According to media reports, the initial disagreement was due to the Nation estate demanding levels of creative control over the Daleks' appearances and scripts that were unacceptable to the BBC. However, talks between the Nation Estate's representative Tim Hancock and the BBC progressed more productively than had been expected, and on August 4 2004 a BBC press release announced that the creatures would, after all, be appearing in the first season of the new series. The episode reintroducing the Daleks, the sixth in the 13-episode season, will be titled Dalek, written by Rob Shearman.
Rumors have been rife about Dalek redesigns, ranging from cosmetic changes to the Dalek casing to radical ones like the multi-legged "Spider Daleks" concept popular in fandom. None of these rumors have been confirmed by the production team, however. An alleged "official BBC" sketch published in the British newspaper The Mirror on October 30 2004 shows a soldier looking on at a (conventional looking) Dalek that appears to be either flying or hovering off the ground. At the press preview screening of the first episode of the new series on March 8, 2005, it was revealed that the Daleks will indeed be able to fly and hover on rocket boosters.
In November 2004, pictures showing a Dalek prop as it is to appear in the new series began circulating on the internet, and the images also appeared in various newspapers. The photographs show no major alterations to the Dalek design, except for an expanded base, an all over metallic brass finish and ear-bulbs that resemble the movie versions. In a trailer for the new series broadcast on March 15, 2005, a quick glimpse of a Dalek of this design in chains was seen.
There are unconfirmed rumours of a more radical design for the Daleks that may appear in a later story.
The most fundamental feature of Dalek culture and psychology is an unquestioned belief in the superiority of the Daleks. Other species are either to be exterminated immediately, or enslaved and then exterminated later once they are no longer necessary. This belief is thought to be the reason why Daleks have never significantly modified their mechanical shell's designs to overcome its obvious physical limitations; any such modification would deviate from the Dalek ideal, and therefore must be inferior and deserving of extermination. The schism between the Renegade and Imperial Daleks is a prime example of this, with each faction considering the other to be a perversion despite the relatively minor differences between them.
An offshoot of this superiority complex is their complete ruthlessness and lack of compassion. It is because of this that it is nearly impossible to negotiate or reason with a Dalek and it is this single-mindedness that makes them so dangerous and not to be underestimated. However, their reliance on logic and machinery is also a weakness that they recognize. As a result, they also make use of non-Dalek species to compensate for these shortcomings (see Dalek variants for details).
Although the Daleks are well known for their disregard of due process, there have been two occasions on which they have taken enemies back to Skaro for a "trial" rather than killing them on the spot; the first was their creator Davros in Revelation of the Daleks, and the second was the renegade Time Lord known as the Master in the Doctor Who television movie. Neither trial occurred on-screen, so it is not clear what was actually involved. The Master's trial presumably took place before the destruction of Skaro, although the Doctor only learned of the trial later.
The spin-off novels contain several mentions of Dalek poetry (and an anecdote about an opera based thereupon, which was lost to posterity when the entire cast was exterminated on opening night) but no actual samples. In the Big Finish Productions audio adventure The Time of the Daleks, the Daleks show a fondness for the works of Shakespeare.
Due to their frequent defeats by the Doctor, he has become a sort of bogeyman in Dalek culture. They have standing orders to capture or exterminate the Doctor on sight, and are occasionally able to identify him despite his regenerations. This is probably not an innate ability, but rather because of good record keeping. In the comics and novels the Daleks know the Doctor as the Ka Faraq Gatri, "The Bringer of Darkness" or "Destroyer of Worlds" (this was first established in the novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch ). The Doctor, in turn, has grown to be almost single-minded in his conviction that the Daleks are completely evil and unworthy of trust or compassion. This contrasts with some of the Doctor's earlier dealings with the Daleks, for example the Second Doctor's attempt to instill a "human factor" in Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks and the Fourth Doctor's hesitation when presented with the opportunity to destroy the Daleks at the point of their creation in Genesis of the Daleks.
Two Doctor Who movies starring Peter Cushing featured the Daleks as the main villains: Dr. Who and the Daleks, and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD, based on the television serials The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, respectively. However, the movies were not straight remakes. Cushing's Doctor is not an alien, but a human inventor, and is literally named "Doctor Who". The movies used brand new Dalek props, based closely on the original design but with a wider range of colours. Originally, the movie Daleks were supposed to shoot jets of flame, but this was thought to be too graphic for children, so their weapons emitted jets of deadly vapour instead.
In addition to the movies, their popularity extended to books and stage shows and a one-page regular feature in the children's comic TV21 , many of the strips written by Doctor Who television writer and script editor David Whitaker. Daleks have been the subject of many parodies, including Spike Milligan's "Pakistani Dalek" sketch, and Victor Lewis-Smith's Gay Daleks. To an extent Doctor Who has itself parodied the Daleks from time to time. In 2002, BBC Worldwide published The Dalek Survival Guide, a parody of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks .
The Daleks have also appeared in the "Dalek Empire" series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions, of which three mini-series of 4 CDs each have so far been produced. They have also returned to bedevil the Doctor in Big Finish's Doctor Who line of audio plays.
Despite the Daleks' popularity, they were forever associated with Doctor Who. Nation, therefore, had the problem of owning a money-making concept that proved nearly impossible to sell to anyone else besides the BBC, and was dependent on the latter wanting to produce stories featuring the creatures. Indeed, attempts to market the Daleks outside of Doctor Who were unsuccessful. The sums of money required to pay Nation for the use of the Daleks also explain why, in later years, their appearances in the programme were rare.
The first Dalek model toys were made around the time The Chase aired in 1965. Toys of the Mechanoids (robotic foes of the Daleks introduced in the same serial) were also made, with the expectation that they would become as popular as Daleks, but they were not as successful. Also unsuccessful were Dalek toys made of rubber. Later, model kits of other Dalek-related chracters like Davros, the Supreme Dalek and Gold Daleks were also released. At the height of their popularity in the 1960s, apart from toy replicas, there were also Dalek construction kits, Dalek board games and activity sets, Dalek slide projectors for children and even Dalek playsuits made from PVC.
In the 1970s, Palitoy released a Talking Dalek which could utter standard Dalek phrases such as "You will obey," and "Exterminate!" In 2001 a new range of talking Daleks were produced, along with the new talking Cybermen and Davros.
A few computer games have featured the Daleks, notably the 1992 game "Dalek Attack". There are also other online games (not authorized by the BBC) that include them, such as the Java applet game "Daleks!" a Macromedia Flash game, "Daleks - Dissolution Earth", and a modification for Half-Life, "Dalek Unbidden". Some versions of the Robots game are also called Daleks. However, the game uses Daleks only as generic monsters, with no Dalek-specific features.
- The Daleks - December 21, 1963- February 1, 1964
- The Dalek Invasion of Earth - November 21 - December 26, 1964
- The Chase - May 22 - June 26, 1965
- Mission to the Unknown - October 9, 1965
- The Daleks' Master Plan - November 13, 1965 - January 29, 1966
- The Power of the Daleks - November 5 - December 10, 1966
- The Evil of the Daleks - May 20 - July 1, 1967
- Day of the Daleks - January 1 - January 22,1972
- Planet of the Daleks - April 7 - May 10, 1973
- Death to the Daleks - February 23 - March 16, 1974
- Genesis of the Daleks - March 8 - April 12, 1975
- Destiny of the Daleks - September 1 - September 22, 1979
- Resurrection of the Daleks - February 8 - February 15, 1984
- Revelation of the Daleks - March 23 - March 30, 1985
- Remembrance of the Daleks - October 5 - October 26, 1988
- Dalek - April 30, 2005
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