Serial B:
The Daleks
(aka The Mutants, The Dead Planet)


As the Doctor tries in vain to return Ian and Barbara to their own time, the companions find themselves on the planet Skaro. Skaro is home to two races, both mutated in a long-ago war. The Thals are now beautiful and peace-loving, while the Daleks are evil monsters housed inside robotic travelling machines. The Thals have come to the Dalek city to make amends with their long-ago enemies, but the Daleks secretly plot to exterminate the entire Thal race.


When CE Webber's miniaturisation story, “The Giants”, was still planned to be the first Doctor Who serial, it was to be followed by a caveman adventure by Anthony Coburn. After “The Giants” fell through 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, by which time Coburn had left the BBC and gone freelance, following the dissolution of the Corporation's Script Department in June. In the interim, it was agreed that Coburn's second story -- given the working title of “The Robots” -- should be expanded from four episodes to six.

Meanwhile, amongst the writers courted by script editor David Whitaker for Doctor Who had been a comedy writer named Terry Nation. Nation had come to Whitaker's attention by virtue of his work on three episodes of ABC's science-fiction anthology series Out Of This World, but he had primarily served as a comedy writer, most recently for comic Tony Hancock. On Hancock's advice, Nation initially passed on Doctor Who. After parting ways with his employer, however, Nation hastily composed a submission for the series entitled “The Survivors”. This was formally commissioned as a six-part story, now called “The Mutants”, on July 31st. It was intended to be the season's fourth adventure, following John Lucarotti's Marco Polo.

Originally, the Daleks and the Thals were confronted by aliens whose ancestors had actually fired the neutron missile

In developing 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. Their people had since realised the error of their ways and sought to help both the Daleks and the Thals rebuild their shattered civilisation.

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 creature housed inside the Dalek casing was conceived as being frog-like in appearance. Regular electricity powered the Daleks; it was associate producer Mervyn Pinfield who suggested they could instead run on static electricity. Also, the Daleks started out as much less villainous creations, motivated to kill the Thals primarily to prevent the outbreak of another war.

A seventh episode was granted to “The Mutants” on August 8th to give Nation more space to develop his ideas. Around this time, the title was briefly changed to “Beyond The Sun” before reverting back to “The Mutants”. [This website will follow the popular convention of referring to the story as The Daleks to avoid confusion with Serial NNN, also called The Mutants.]

By September 16th, The Daleks was shifted back to fifth in the running order, to make way for Robert Gould's untitled take on Webber's miniaturisation idea (which would ultimately go unused). A week later, however, on the 23rd, the decision was made to flipflop The Daleks and “The Robots”. Whitaker and producer Verity Lambert were becoming increasingly unhappy with Coburn's work on Doctor Who, and additional rewrites on 100,000 BC meant that “The Robots” would not be completed in time for the scheduled recording dates. Nation's adventure, being the only one ready to go before the cameras on such short notice, therefore became Serial B; “The Robots” would eventually be abandoned altogether. Donald Wilson, the Head of Drama Serials, was less than pleased with Lambert's decision, but reluctantly agreed that the producer had no other choice but to proceed with Nation's story.

When it was realised that The Robots could not be completed, only The Daleks was ready for production

The director originally assigned to the Serial B slot was Rex Tucker, a BBC veteran who had effectively acted as Doctor Who's unofficial producer prior to Lambert's arrival. Although it had been planned that Tucker would direct every second story of the season (alternating with Waris Hussein), it was now agreed that Tucker should move on from Doctor Who. His replacement on The Daleks was Christopher Barry. Barry had begun his career at Ealing Films before moving into television once it was clear that the British movie industry would be undergoing a period of contraction. For the BBC, Barry had helmed episodes of series including Compact and No Cloak -- No Dagger (which he also produced).

However, Barry would not be available for the entirety of the production, due to commitments on Smuggler's Bay. Consequently, it was agreed that Barry would share the directorial duties on The Daleks with Richard Martin, whose directing experience was limited. Martin had gotten his start as a stage actor, and had so far only handled an episode of the thriller anthology Suspense. Due to his avowed interest in science-fiction, however, Martin had already been involved with the development of Doctor Who for several months. Martin would helm parts three, six and seven, with Barry handling the remaining four installments.

Another change to the production personnel for Serial B came when original designer Ridley Scott -- later to gain fame for his work on Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and other films -- proved unavailable for filming at the Ealing Television Film Studios. He was replaced by Raymond Cusick, to whom fell the task of designing Doctor Who's first alien monsters as a result.

Filming for The Daleks took place at Ealing over five days beginning on October 28th, focussing on the model shots and the chasm scene. Cusick was very disappointed with the Dalek city miniature constructed by Shawcraft, a specialist company contracted when the BBC Visual Effects Department indicated that they would not be able to handle the enormity of the Doctor Who workload. Cusick thought the Shawcraft model was too small and lacked detail, but was left with little option but to make use of it. Shortly thereafter, 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.

After the first episode was recorded on November 15th, a technical fault was discovered, forcing its remount on December 6th

Episode one, The Dead Planet, was recorded on November 15th at Lime Grove Studio D, and it was planned that the remaining installments would 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. Donald Wilson agreed that The Dead Planet should be rerecorded on December 6th, pushing the final four installments back by a week and reducing the lead time between recording and broadcast to less than a month. A happier consequence, however, was that the filming of the Dalek city model could now be remounted.

The Daleks themselves were unveiled the following week. Cusick had approached the design with the goal of creating 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, and the design basically looked as it would on screen. Still, at this stage the two arms were positioned at different heights (the gun-arm above the sucker-arm), and the skirt section was smoothly curving rather than slatted. Cusick also thought that the operator might be able to move about on a tricycle, until it was found that no tricycle was small enough to fit inside the Dalek 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 uneconomic.

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. However, work on this day was muted by the news that United States President John F Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. With the Dalek props available, additional filming was undertaken at Ealing on November 26th, of the scene in which the Daleks burn their way into the Lift Room. A week later, on December 2nd, the remounted Dalek city model shots were filmed at Ealing, with the miniature now a much larger and more complex affair.

Four Dalek casings were created by Shawcraft and debuted in the studio on November 22nd

The second attempt at recording episode one followed on December 6th; besides Ford's new outfit, there were only minor differences between the two versions. The following week, The Ambush went into the studio. Due to the complicated nature of the installment, Barry opted to record the scenes out of script order, and captured the footage directly on film -- rather than videotape -- to make editing easier. Production on The Daleks 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. One of those audience members was BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman, the driving force behind the gestation 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. Like Donald Wilson before him, however, Newman was mollified by Lambert's explanation of the circumstances which led to The Daleks being pushed up the production schedule. Also voicing his displeasure with the story around this time was BBC Controller 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 meet.

However, the outpouring of internal BBC criticism was stemmed somewhat 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 burgeon as the serial progressed, and by the time part six was transmitted on January 25th, Doctor Who's viewership had jumped 63% compared to the final episode of 100,000 BC. The show was now one of the top 30 programmes for the week and the Daleks had incited a new craze amongst schoolchildren all over Britain. An incredulous Nation was now finding himself inundated with mail from young fans.

By this point in time, both Wilson and Newman had admitted their error in their earlier criticism of The Daleks. Both men promised that, in the future, they would show greater faith in Lambert's decisionmaking and vision for Doctor Who. In early January, meanwhile, Lambert had instructed that two of the four Dalek casings should be kept in storage, in case they were required for a future serial (the other two were donated to a boys' hostel, the Doctor Barnardo's Home at Stepney Causeway). Indeed, Lambert's foresight was quickly shown to be justified: by the end of February, a second Dalek story was already being contemplated. Dalekmania was born.

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 Daleks. When Terry 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.

And late in 1964, producer Milton Subotsky secured the rights to remake The Daleks as a feature film under the Aaru Pictures banner. Whitaker was once again engaged to adapt the story, this time replacing the enigmatic Doctor with a kindly human inventor named “Dr Who”. Directed by Gordon Flemyng and with Hammer horror film star Peter Cushing in the title role, 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.

  • Doctor Who Magazine #207, 22nd December 1993, “The Dawn Of Knowledge” by Marcus Hearn, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The First Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20430 1.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 420 4.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #331, 25th June 2003, “Archive: The Mutants” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #7, 12th May 2004, “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.

Original Transmission
1: The Dead Planet
Date 21st Dec 1963
Time 5.16pm
Duration 24'22"
Viewers (more) 6.9m (67th)
· BBC TV 6.9m
Appreciation 59%
2: The Survivors
Date 28th Dec 1963
Time 5.16pm
Duration 24'27"
Viewers (more) 6.4m (78th)
· BBC TV 6.4m
Appreciation 58%
3: The Escape
Date 4th Jan 1964
Time 5.15pm
Duration 25'10"
Viewers (more) 8.9m (45th)
· BBC TV 8.9m
Appreciation 63%
4: The Ambush
Date 11th Jan 1964
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'37"
Viewers (more) 9.9m (29th)
· BBC TV 9.9m
Appreciation 63%
5: The Expedition
Date 18th Jan 1964
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'31"
Viewers (more) 9.9m (27th)
· BBC TV 9.9m
Appreciation 63%
6: The Ordeal
Date 25th Jan 1964
Time 5.15pm
Duration 26'14"
Viewers (more) 10.4m (29th)
· BBC TV 10.4m
Appreciation 63%
7: The Rescue
Date 1st Feb 1964
Time 5.18pm
Duration 22'24"
Viewers (more) 10.4m (25th)
· BBC TV 10.4m
Appreciation 65%

Dr Who
William Hartnell
Ian Chesterton
William Russell
Barbara Wright
Jacqueline Hill
Susan Foreman
Carole Ann Ford
Dalek voices
Peter Hawkins
David Graham
Robert Jewell
Kevin Manser
Michael Summerton
Gerald Taylor
Peter Murphy
Alan Wheatley
John Lee
Virginia Wetherell
Philip Bond
Marcus Hammond
Jonathan Crane
Gerald Curtis
Chris Browning
Katie Cashfield
Vez Delahunt
Kevin Glenny
Ruth Harrison
Lesley Hill
Steve Pokol
Jeanette Rossini
Eric Smith

Written by
Terry Nation
Directed by
Christopher Barry (episodes 1, 2, 4, 5)
Richard Martin (episodes 3, 6, 7)
Produced by
Verity Lambert

Title Music by
Ron Grainer
with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Incidental Music by
Tristram Cary
Story Editor
David Whitaker
Costume supervisor
Daphne Dare
Make-up supervisor
Elizabeth Blattner
Raymond Cusick
Jeremy Davies
Associate Producer
Mervyn Pinfield

Working Titles
Whole Story
The Survivors
Beyond The Sun
Episode 6
The Caves Of Terror
Episode 7
The Execution

Updated 24th March 2013