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(aka The Mutants, The Dead Planet)
The TARDIS brings the travellers to Skaro, a world devastated by the radioactive fallout of a long-ago war, which has mutated its two native races in very different ways. The Thals are now beautiful and peace-loving, while the Daleks have become cunning, xenophobic monsters housed inside travel machines. The Thals save the four newcomers from radiation poisoning, but the Daleks are plotting to exterminate their ancient enemies. The Doctor is determined not to intervene... until he realises that the Daleks are in possession of a vital TARDIS component.
When CE Webber's miniaturisation story, “The Giants”, was still pencilled in as the first Doctor Who serial, it was to be followed by a caveman adventure by Anthony Coburn. After “The Giants” was dropped and Coburn's story was pushed up to the debut position (eventually becoming 100,000 BC) in mid-June 1963, Coburn was immediately ask to provide a replacement as well. This was formally commissioned on July 3rd, and would come to be called “The Masters Of Luxor”.
Meanwhile, story editor David Whitaker was in the process of procuring additional writers for Doctor Who. Amongst those he approached was Terry Nation, who was initially uninterested because of his commitments to comedian Tony Hancock's stage tour. However, Nation soon parted ways with Hancock following an argument, and hastily reestablished contact with Whitaker. With the offer to contribute to Doctor Who still open, Nation quickly composed a submission for the series entitled “The Survivors”. Having grown up during World War II, Nation was inspired by the atrocities the Nazis committed as a result of their zeal for racial purity and their dislike for the unlike. The threat of atomic war was also a timely concern, with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis having been a recent focal point for tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, both nuclear superpowers.
On July 31st, Nation was formally commissioned to write a six-part story, now called “The Mutants”. It was scheduled to be the season's fourth adventure, following John Lucarotti's Marco Polo. The intended director for Nation's serial was Rex Tucker, who had recently stepped down as Doctor Who's interim producer. On August 8th, Nation was given a seventh episode to more fully develop his ideas.
In expanding his concept from its initial storyline, Nation made numerous changes, most notably to the final outcome. Originally, the Daleks and the Thals were both confronted by a race of beings from another planet, who revealed that it was their ancestors who had actually fired the neutron missile which had devastated Skaro centuries earlier. Having since realised the error of their ways, they now sought to help both the Daleks and the Thals rebuild their shattered world.
Additionally, much was made of a forthcoming “great rain” -- a periodic meteorological event on Skaro -- which would reduce the radiation levels enough to permit the Daleks to emerge from their city and confront the Thals. The dangers facing Ian, Barbara and the Thals in the mountains were different (they originally included mutated spiders and a fiery gas fissure), and the Doctor and Susan were sentenced to be executed in a “Sonic chamber”. The Daleks started out as much less villainous entities, motivated to kill the Thals primarily to prevent the outbreak of another war. The creature housed inside the Dalek casing was conceived as being frog-like in appearance. They were powered by regular electricity; associate producer Mervyn Pinfield suggested the Daleks could instead run on static electricity.
In August, Tucker indicated that he no longer wished to work on Doctor Who. His replacement for “The Masters Of Luxor” was Christopher Barry, who had been a BBC director for the past five years. “The Mutants”, meanwhile, was deemed a suitable project for junior director Richard Martin. An avid fan of science-fiction, Martin had been providing input on Doctor Who for several weeks at Tucker's invitation.
By September 16th, “The Mutants” was shifted back to fifth in the running order, to make way for an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Robert Gould to revive Webber's miniaturisation idea. However, Whitaker and Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert were becoming increasingly unhappy with Anthony Coburn's work, and additional rewrites on 100,000 BC meant that “The Masters Of Luxor” would not be completed in time for its intended recording dates. With Nation's adventure being the only one ready to go before the cameras on such short notice, the decision was made on September 23rd to flip-flop “The Mutants” and “The Masters Of Luxor”. Coburn's serial would eventually be abandoned altogether.
Donald Wilson, the Head of Drama Serials, was less than pleased with Lambert's decision. He felt that “The Mutants” represented low-grade science-fiction, lacking the educational bent he had envisioned. However, Wilson reluctantly agreed that the lack of available scripts meant there was little choice but to proceed with Nation's story. Wilson did insist on retaining the more experienced Christopher Barry as the director of “The Mutants”, rather than Richard Martin. Subsequently, it was realised that Barry's commitments to the period adventure series Smuggler's Bay would render him unavailable for some episodes of “The Mutants”. As such, it was agreed that Martin could replace Barry on the serial's third, sixth and seventh episodes.
Another change to the production personnel for “The Mutants” came when original designer Ridley Scott -- later to gain fame (and four Oscar nominations) for directing films such as Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and The Martian -- had a schedule clash affecting the serial's pre-filming at the end of October. Since Lambert preferred to have the entire adventure handled by a single designer, Scott was replaced by Raymond Cusick. As such, it fell to Cusick to design Doctor Who's first alien monsters.
Around the end of September, the serial was retitled “Beyond The Sun”. At about the same time, Cusick began working on designs for the story, and especially for the Daleks themselves. His goal was to create a monster which would not simply look like a man in a costume; he found particular inspiration in Nation's description of the Daleks as gliding about like the long-skirted Georgian State Dancers. Cusick's first attempt was a conical, one-armed creature. This was followed by a shorter, two-armed design featuring a diamond-patterned skirt section and a large camera lens on the dome.
To this point, the Dalek hands were clamp-shaped, as suggested by Nation's script; it was only in Cusick's next version that the Dalek bore one sucker arm and one gun arm. These were originally positioned at different heights, with the sucker arm below the gun arm. Cusick thought that the Dalek operator might be able to move about on a tricycle, but none could be found that would be small enough to fit inside the casing. Cusick also hoped that the arms might be able to rotate around the body, and that the bumps on the skirt section would light up to show the Dalek's emotional state, but these ideas proved to be beyond Doctor Who's limited budget.
During the development of Doctor Who, the BBC's Head of Visual Effects, Jack Kine, had made it clear that his department would be unable to handle the programme's substantial workload. Consequently, he suggested that Cusick contract out the construction of the Dalek casings and other elements of “Beyond The Sun” to an Uxbridge-based specialist company called Shawcraft Models. Kine also encouraged Cusick to make the Dalek skirt section slatted rather than a smooth curve, so that it could be made from wood instead of fibreglass, thereby incurring a lesser expense. Cusick was consequently dismayed to learn -- too late -- that Shawcraft did not have a carpenter on staff who could make the skirt section, and so the company wound up casting it in fibreglass after all.
Filming for “Beyond The Sun” took place at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London over five days from October 28th, focussing on the model shots and the chasm scene. Although he had no choice but to use it, Cusick was very disappointed with the Dalek city miniature constructed by Shawcraft. The firm had followed his rough design drawing too faithfully, and as a result it was very small and lacked detail.
Even at this late stage, the scripts were still undergoing some notable revision. It was Martin's suggestion to have the Daleks discover that the Thal anti-radiation drugs were lethal to them. Then, on November 13th, all the Thal names were revised. The more Germanic-sounding Stohl, Vahn, Kurt, Jahl, Ven and Zhor became Temmosus, Alydon, Ganatus, Kristas, Antodus and Elyon, respectively. Dyoni took the place of a male character named Daren. Around this time, the serial's title reverted to “The Mutants”. [Except for the purposes of this production history, this website follows the popular convention of referring to the story as The Daleks to avoid confusion with 1972's The Mutants.]
On November 13th, Peter Hawkins and David Graham recorded Dalek dialogue for the first time. Barry and Martin had investigated a number of ways to achieve a unique, synthetic sound, even seeking the advice of the Post Office's Joint Speech Research Unit. After considering options such as a vocoder, a throat buzzer and computer generation, they finally accepted a suggestion from Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Earlier that year, Hodgson had used a ring modulator for a robot character in the radio drama Sword From The Stars, and it was now agreed that this would be suitable for the Daleks as well.
Episode one, The Dead Planet, was recorded on November 15th at Lime Grove Studio D in Shepherd's Bush, London. Assistant floor manager Michael Ferguson, later a director of stories such as 1966's The War Machines, played a small but important role as the hand that tapped Susan on the shoulder (later revealed to be Alydon) and by holding the Dalek sucker arm which became the first on-screen glimpse of the monsters. It was planned that the remaining installments of “The Mutants” would then be taped on consecutive Fridays through to January 3rd, with the exception of a holiday break on December 27th.
Early the next week, however, a serious problem was discovered: the communications from Barry to production assistant Norman Stewart, via the latter's headphones, had accidentally been picked up by the studio microphones, rendering the entire day's work unusable. While this was not uncommon in television at the time, the phenomenon was typically almost inaudible to the viewer at home. In this instance, however, the “talk-back” was severe and, on November 18th, Donald Wilson agreed that The Dead Planet would have to be recorded again. This was a source of concern for Jacqueline Hill, because she was pessimistic that Doctor Who would be renewed beyond its first block of episodes, and an extra week of work on the series threatened to interfere with a potential movie role.
Since work on episode two was already well under way, and episode three was being directed by Martin rather than Barry, it was agreed that The Dead Planet would go back before the cameras on December 6th. This would delay each of the final four installments by a week and reduce the lead time between recording and broadcast to less than a month. A happier consequence, however, was that Shawcraft would now have time to enhance the Dalek city model, and the filming remounted. The only remnant of the original version of The Dead Planet to survive into the broadcast programme would be the cliffhanger in which Barbara was menaced by a Dalek, which was filmed for use as the opening reprise of the next episode.
Four Dalek casings were created by Shawcraft and debuted during the studio recording of The Survivors on November 22nd. Knowing that The Dead Planet would be rerecorded, Carole Ann Ford took the opportunity to change her costume for the serial. Work on that evening was muted when news came of the assassination of United States President John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. It was in this atmosphere of tension and uncertainty that Doctor Who premiered on BBC Television the following day.
On November 25th, the Daleks were returned to Shawcraft so that their mobility could be improved by replacing their wheels with castors. On the 26th, additional filming was undertaken at Ealing of the scene in which the Daleks burned their way into the Lift Room. On December 2nd, the model shots of the Dalek city -- now a much larger and more complex affair -- were remounted at Ealing. The second attempt at recording The Dead Planet followed on December 6th; apart from Ford's new outfit, there were only minor differences between the two versions.
On December 9th, The Ambush went into the studio. Due to the complicated nature of the installment, Barry made the unusual decision to record the scenes out of script order, and capture the footage directly on film -- rather than videotape -- to make editing easier. Production on “The Mutants” wrapped up four weeks later, when The Rescue was taped on January 10th, 1964.
Meanwhile, The Survivors was broadcast on December 28th, giving the audience at home their first full view of a Dalek. Amongst those watching was Sydney Newman, the driving force behind the creation of Doctor Who. Newman was outraged by the Daleks, feeling that they betrayed his desire to avoid so-called “bug-eyed monsters” as nemeses for the Doctor. On December 30th, he summoned Lambert to his office for an explanation. Like Donald Wilson before him, however, Newman was mollified by Lambert's justification for putting “The Mutants” into production. Also voicing his displeasure with the story around this time was Controller of Programmes Donald Baverstock, who indicated that serials set in the future or on alien worlds should focus on exploring the cultural differences between the time travellers and those they met.
The outpouring of internal BBC criticism was stemmed when the viewing figures for episode three became known: the audience for Doctor Who had grown by nearly two-fifths in the span of just one week. Interest in the Daleks continued to climb as the serial progressed, with parts six and seven watched by almost two-thirds more viewers than the final episode of 100,000 BC. Doctor Who was now one of the top thirty programmes for the week, and the Daleks had incited a new craze amongst schoolchildren all over Britain. An incredulous Nation found himself inundated with mail from young fans.
In the face of the Daleks' success, both Wilson and Newman admitted that their earlier criticism of “The Mutants” had been wrong. They promised that, in the future, they would show greater faith in Lambert's decision-making and vision for Doctor Who. Meanwhile, on January 6th, Lambert gave instructions to keep two of the four Dalek casings in storage, in case they were required for a future serial. (The other two were donated to a London boys' hostel, the Doctor Barnardo's Home at Stepney Causeway in Ilford.) Indeed, Lambert's foresight was soon validated: by the end of February, a second Dalek story was already being contemplated. Dalekmania was born.
But the success of the Daleks -- and hence of Doctor Who -- was not to be confined to the small screen. In February, Frederick Muller Ltd expressed interest in novelising Doctor Who serials, beginning with “The Mutants”. When Nation passed on the opportunity to bring his creations to print, David Whitaker agreed to the task. Doctor Who in An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks was published the following November... although none could predict at the time that it would be the forerunner of a Doctor Who publishing phenomenon counting more than five hundred fiction titles.
Late in 1964, producer Milton Subotsky secured the rights to remake “The Mutants” as a feature film under the Aaru Pictures banner. Whitaker was once again engaged to adapt the story. Hammer horror film star Peter Cushing was cast as the kindly human inventor Dr Who, replacing the more enigmatic alien Doctor of the small screen. Directed by Gordon Flemyng, Dr Who and The Daleks premiered on June 24th, 1965. Thanks in large part to the Daleks, Doctor Who had now transcended its origins as a television programme, and was beginning to embed itself permanently in the public conscience.
|Updated 6th May 2020|
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