A Nation in thrall to the Daleks

The first Radio Times cover showing Dr Who in February 1964

The first Radio Times cover showing Dr Who – with Marco Polo and devious enemy Tegana – in February 1964

Doctor Who took to the nation’s TV screens in November 1963. The arrival was covered inside the Radio Times, but the first cover was not for another three months, in February.

The first Daleks cover for Radio Times in November 1964

The first Daleks cover for Radio Times in November 1964

In November that year, the Daleks got their first Radio Times cover treatment after the success of their first outing a year earlier. The article inside, below, noted that ‘Currently the robots are multiplying like rabbits for Christmas…’, a reference to the Dalek toys that were appearing the shops.

The Radio Times Dalek article showing the cyborgs on Westminster Bridge

The Radio Times Dalek article showing the cyborgs on Westminster Bridge

In 1965, the Daleks appeared in a comic strip in the comic TV Century 21 that was licensed by Dr Who writer Terry Nation. The story lines are totally different to the TV series because Nation owned the rights to the Daleks and some of the other early monsters, but not the Dr Who character. The two sides fell out in a big way and even 20 years later when the BBC launched its first Dr Who computer programs for the BBC Micro there was no mention of the Daleks.

The return of the Daleks to Dr Who in 2005 sparked this gatefold cover for the Radio Times

The return of the Daleks to Dr Who in 2005 sparked this gatefold cover for the Radio Times

The return of the Daleks to Dr Who in 2005 sparked this gatefold cover for the Radio Times, which recreated the 1964 scene of the Daleks on Westminster Bridge. It was voted the best magazine cover among 10 covers nominated by editors in a competition organised by the PPA, the magazine publishers’ trade association, for its 100th anniversary. Kate Moss, Darth Vader and Dennis the Menace were among the vanquished rivals.

Despite the appearance of Dalek as a word in the Oxford English Dictionary, US software packages and computers – Macs and iPads included – usually treat it as a spelling error and try to change it to ‘dales’ or something similar.  Strangely, though, trademarks such as Microsoft and iPad are accepted as valid words.

The OED entry is worth repeating here for its list of mentions of the word and statement of what inspired Nation to invent the name:

1963 Radio Times 26 Dec. 11/1 Dalek voices: Peter Hawkins, David Graham.
1966 BBC Handbk. 39 The main activity over the period in this ‘merchandising’ operation concerned the widely popular Daleks from the ‘Dr. Who’ series. Some sixty licences for the production of Dalek-inspired articles were issued.
1969 C. Hodder-Williams 98·4 iv. 49 Under what interesting new law do you propose to enforce this regime? Or have you hired the Daleks?
1971 Radio Times 30 Dec. 10/1 Who are the Daleks? Dr. Who’s most dangerous enemies, written into his second adventure in 1963 by Terry Nation, who named them after an encyclopaedia volume covering dal-lek.

The BBC designer Raymond Cusick has been quoted by Asa Briggs as saying that he got the idea for the look of the Daleks ‘while fiddling with a pepper pot’.

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