As we like to remind ourselves (and perhaps others) from time to time, the Tour tries to be a Doctor Who resource honoring Doctor Who History. Therefore there are occasions when the passing of seminal figure in the development and success of Doctor Who must be mentioned. For those not as steeped in Who history as long-term fans can be… it’s worth reminding newer fans about the dawn of the Daleks, and the part the Raymond Cusick, who died at age 84 on February 21st, played in it….
The Daleks made their debut in the second-ever Doctor Who adventure, which premiered in 1963 and was written by Terry Nation. Future Alien director Ridley Scott, who was then working at the BBC, had been originally scheduled to design the look of the Daleks but, because of a scheduling conflict, Cusick was handed the task. In 2005, Cusick confirmed the rumor that the distinctive design of the half-mutant, half-tank Daleks had been inspired by a condiment dispenser. ”We went to lunch in the canteen and I was scribbling on the back of napkins the ideas of the Daleks,” he told the British tabloid newspaper The Mirror. ”I picked up what could have been a salt pot and moved it around the table. I said, ‘It moves like that, without any arms or legs.”
“When I’m asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realized 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”.
Despite Terry Nation failing to sort out any recompense for his erstwhile design colleague, Cusick continued working on Doctor Who until 1966. While Nation went on to make millions from his creations, Cusick received only his salary and an additional “ex-gratia payment of £100 (as per his contract – probably around £900 in modern terms). It was widely believed, however, that Cusick purely wanted to be recognized as the Daleks’ designer.
His departure from Doctor Who was seemingly due to a lack of faith in the industry. “Quite honestly I got fed up with it. Nobody, apart from my bosses, was actually saying thanks to me.”¹
Thanx Raymond Cusick for an indispensable part of the success of early Doctor Who. The Tour won’t forget.