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Feature: Doctor Who 2005

Behind the Daleks…

Model maker Mike Tucker and voice artist Nicholas Briggs chat to us about bringing the new-look Daleks to life…

Doctor Who is indelibly associated in the public consciousness with the Daleks. Both of the Doctor’s cinematic outings featured the iconic villains, and, along with the TARDIS, form a neat visual shorthand for the series. Newspapers routinely refer to ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’, as though the two were inseparable, and the several hundred episodes not featuring the metal monsters were an afterthought. Thus, when it was announced back in 2004 that the Daleks wouldn’t be appearing in the new series of Doctor Who owing to a contractual dispute, those same newspapers were predictably outraged, launching all manner of ‘Save our Daleks’ campaigns and generally causing a fuss.

Fortunately, clear heads prevailed, contracts were signed, and the Daleks are returning to menace the Doctor – and no one’s more pleased than Mike Tucker and Nicholas Briggs, responsible for the Dalek’s body and voice respectively. Tucker, who’s the miniature effects and model unit supervisor on the new series, helped to realize the design of the new Dalek, as he explains. “I got the gig of doing the new Dalek, in both its battered state as we’ve seen on screen, and in his nice shiny state. That’s where my involvement with Nick comes in, ’cause obviously there’s my crew building, there’s us operating the head, there’s Nick doing the voice, and there’s Barnaby [Edwards, Dalek operator] inside it actually scooting it around, so it becomes a bit of a team effort when we’re on set.” He elaborates a little on how the mechanics of the new design differ from the old Daleks. ”What we did was we removed the operation of the head, so he [Barnaby] could concentrate on making sure that the gun and the arm and the movement could keep going, and the head was separate from that. It just allowed him to concentrate a little bit more on the performance of where it needed to go and what it needed to do. Then we worked with Nick and the director Joe Ahearne – he wanted the eyestalk to come up at a particular point, or the light to come on at a particular point. It was much more directed, I think.”

Nick Briggs interjects. “I remember at one point just standing there while I was watching the Dalek move, before I could go off – because they always put me some way away around the corner, so that my real voice wouldn’t bleed through – and you know, the level of detail in the direction, where Joe was saying, ‘Okay, so move forward, and turn the head first and then come round, and then point the gun there…’ It was the real detail, and he would do it over and over again. If they noticed a little bump in the floor, they’d say, ‘Right, we’ll have to move it, because we don’t want it to look weak and wobble’.I thought, ‘I bet Daleks never ever got this detailed direction before’. It was a bit like they’d come in and just wheel them round a bit, and then say ‘cut’ because the studio time was running out.”

by Stephen Graves

Get the full interview, plus interviews with Christopher Ecclestone and Billie Piper in
TV Zone #188

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, Doctor Who © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #188, see below for ordering options
TV Zone #188
May 2005
ships from Apr 7 2005
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