The shape that inspired the Daleks

Maxwell Wood Astra coffee set from the 1960s - favourite for the Dalek shape

Maxwell Wood Astra coffee set from the 1960s – favourite for the Dalek shape. Note the bobbles down the ‘skirt’

I mentioned last week in a Radio Times/Dr Who piece that the BBC designer Raymond Cusick had been quoted as saying that he got the idea for the look for Terry Nation’s Daleks ‘while fiddling with a pepper pot’. But it just doesn’t ring true. Top of my list of potential inspiration for the iconic aliens are the above 1960s Maxwell Wood coffee pot, called Astra, and conical kulfi moulds, below.

Mould for kulfi, the Indian ice-cream, with its screw-on lid. Definitely Dalek

Mould for kulfi, the Indian ice-cream, with its screw-on lid. Definitely Dalek

Kulfi moulds also used to have bobbles on the side. I’ve seen these in Britain and as far afield as Indonesia (where I won a symbolic 50p bet on the shape of the ice-cream in an Indian restaurant in Jakarta with a former editor of New Scientist!).

In a BBC obituary piece, Cusick is quoted as being more vague, and that the pepper pot was used during a lunch to describe how the Daleks should move:

[Cusick] explained that, in fact, the pepper pot detail came from a lunch with Bill Roberts, the special effects expert who would make the Daleks, when Mr Cusick picked up a pepper pot and moved it around the table, telling him: “It’s going to move like that – no visible means.”

“Ever since then people say I was inspired by a pepper pot – but it could have been the salt pot I picked up,” he said.

Incidentally, the pale green colour of the Astra pottery is ‘celadon’, the theme colour chosen for the revamp of the Savoy Hotel in 2010.

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One Response to “The shape that inspired the Daleks”

  1. A Nation in thrall to the Daleks | Magforum Says:

    […] 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 […]

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