The Man Who Invented the Daleks

from Chapter Five: LIFE ON A DEAD PLANET

...The impact of the Daleks was immediate, as Nation himself remembered: ‘After that first episode, my phone started to ring, with friends calling to say, “What the fuck was that?” Then the following week the Dalek appeared and it was an instant hit. I had had a few small successes by then, and maybe once in a while, a fan letter. But then I started getting mail addressed to “the Dalek Man, London” and the Post Office was bringing it! First they came with a bag full, and then there were vans coming – truly, vans full.’

The BBC too was inundated with letters from viewers, most requesting photographs and autographs, though others were more hopeful. ‘I would be very grateful if you would send me a Dalek,’ wrote one boy from Manchester. ‘I thought you might have just one that you don’t want and could send it to me please.’ Another fan from High Wycombe invited the human cast to a birthday party, adding a note that the Daleks would also be welcome, and that there would be ‘nuts and bolts stewed oil drink’ for them.

Typical was a letter from a young viewer in Welwyn Garden City after the story had ended: ‘In the series Dr Who the Darleks have been destroyed and evrybody will forget about them. I think Dr Who is the best seriel ever put on BBC television and I don’t want to forget them so could you send me a photo of one of the Darleks so I can remember them for a long time after the seriel is finished.’

A little surprising was the range of ages evidenced by the letters. At one extreme a woman from St Helens wrote to say that her four-year-old son ‘loves those Daleks which have been appearing on the BBC serial Dr Who. He talks about them all the time and he can hardly wait for Saturdays to come so that he can watch them again. He was heartbroken last Saturday when they were all killed off.’

Then there were three teenage girls from Worthing who displayed scant interest in the Daleks, but were much taken by their blond, muscular rivals on Skaro; Sydney Newman had dismissed the Thals as ‘blond faeries’, but the girls knew better and wanted the Radio Times to print a picture of ‘those fabulous handsome Thals Alydon and Ganatus. I am sure that any picture will be joyfully received by many girls.’

There were also some observant viewers who, while appreciating the Daleks, were concerned at inconsistencies in the programme: ‘The neutron bombs which the darleks explode are supposed to petrify everything,’ noted a ten-year-old from Oxford. ‘Why do they petrify the forest and not the grass and trees by the swamp? I would appreciate an explanation.’

And even at this early stage an eight-year-old from Sheffield had spotted a crucial design flaw: ‘I have watched your programme Dr Who, and would like to know how the Daleks get up and down the steps please.’ A note on the letter, written by someone at the BBC, wondered: ‘Do we know?’

published by Aurum Press
© Alwyn W Turner 2011

click to enlarge