The Daleks

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002 – The Daleks
Doctor Who serial
Barbara is threatened, in the first on-screen appearance of the Daleks, considered one of the show's most iconic cliffhangers.[1][2][3]
Directed by
Written byTerry Nation
Script editorDavid Whitaker
Produced byVerity Lambert
Music byTristram Cary
Production codeB
SeriesSeason 1
Running time7 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast21 December 1963 (1963-12-21)
Last broadcast1 February 1964 (1964-02-01)
← Preceded by
An Unearthly Child
Followed by →
The Edge of Destruction
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The Daleks (also known as The Mutants and The Dead Planet) is the second serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC TV in seven weekly parts from 21 December 1963 to 1 February 1964. Written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin, this story marks the first appearance of the show's most popular villains, the Daleks, and the recurring Skaro people, the Thals. In the serial, the First Doctor (William Hartnell), his granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), and her teachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) land in an alien jungle and are captured by the Daleks, a race of mutated creatures who survive off the radiation that remains in the atmosphere after a nuclear war with their enemies. As the group attempt to escape the Daleks, they discover more about the planet and the ensuing war, and attempt to broker a peace.

The Daleks was originally commissioned by script editor David Whitaker, having seen Nation's other writing work. Nation wrote a story outline, influenced by the threat of racial extermination by the Nazis. Whitaker and producer Verity Lambert were impressed, despite disapproval from the show's creator Sydney Newman, who wanted to avoid serials with "bug-eyed monsters". Barry directed several episodes of The Daleks, trailed by Martin who directed three episodes due to Barry's other commitments. The Daleks were designed by Raymond Cusick, and underwent several iterations, while the Dalek voices were achieved using a ring modulator. The serial premiered with seven million viewers, and audiences grew as news about the Daleks spread; the show's overall audience increased by 50% after the final episode. It received generally positive reviews, with praise for Nation's script, although several reviewers criticised its length. It later received several print adaptations, as well as home media and soundtrack releases, and was adapted into a feature film starring Peter Cushing.


The TARDIS lands in a petrified jungle, where the First Doctor (William Hartnell) tries to determine their position by taking a reading of the stars. He insists they explore a futuristic city they spot beyond the forest, but Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) are not convinced. In the forest, someone touches Susan Foreman's (Carole Ann Ford) shoulder; the Doctor does not believe her. Later, a box of vials is found outside the TARDIS. The Doctor claims the fluid link of the TARDIS is running low on mercury (a ruse he later admits to), forcing the crew to travel to the city in search of more mercury.

Barbara becomes separated from her colleagues in the city and is threatened by an unseen creature with a metal arm. Before long, the entire crew is captured by unseen creatures operating tank-like machines, the Daleks. Susan is eventually sent to retrieve anti-radiation drugs from the TARDIS after the Doctor realises this is what the box contained. Susan encounters a second species, the Thals, who used to be at war with the Daleks. The Thal who left the drugs reveals he encountered her in the forest. Susan attempts to broker peace between the two groups, and while it appears to work, the Daleks eventually betray the Thals, opening fire on them at what was supposed to be a peaceful exchange of food. The Daleks attempt using the anti-radiation drugs, but discover that they are fatal to Daleks. They conclude that Daleks need radiation to survive and decide to bombard the atmosphere with more radiation.

In the ensuing chaos, the Doctor and his companions escape with the Thals, and learn their version of the history of their planet. They also learn that the Thals are avowed pacifists. They are unable to leave Skaro, however, as the fluid link has been taken by the Daleks. In order to save them from the Daleks, the TARDIS crew convinces the Thals of the importance of aggression and warfare, and manages to lead the Thals in a successful attack against the Daleks. At the end, it is believed the Dalek race has been destroyed when their power supply is knocked out. The TARDIS crew leave Skaro, but an explosion in the TARDIS knocks them out.


Conception and writing[edit]

The second serial of Doctor Who was always planned to be futuristic, due to the historical nature of the first serial, An Unearthly Child. In July 1963, the serial was titled Doctor Who and the Robots, to be written by Anthony Coburn and directed by Rex Tucker;[4] the latter was also set to direct the fourth serial, Doctor Who and the Mutants, for which script editor David Whitaker commissioned comedy writer Terry Nation on 31 July, impressed by his work in the science-fiction series Out of This World.[5] Nation had written a 26-page outline for a story entitled The Survivors at his home, influenced by the threat of racial extermination by the Nazis and the concerns of advanced warfare, as well as taking influences from H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine (1895).[6] Impressed by the outline, producer Verity Lambert extended the serial from six to seven episodes on 8 August, to better express Nation's story.[7]

Show creator Sydney Newman and head of serials Donald Wilson were unhappy with the serial, having wanted to avoid featuring "bug-eyed monsters"; however, with no other scripts prepared, they were forced to accept the serial for production.[8] The serial was later brought forward to the second in broadcast order. Due to other sudden commitments, Nation quickly wrote the scripts for the serial at the rate of one per day.[7] On 16 September, following Tucker's departure from the show, Christopher Barry was appointed to direct the serial.[9] Lambert's original choice for director was Richard Martin, but Wilson wanted Barry to remain in charge. However, Barry's other work commitments led to a compromise by the production team: Barry would direct the early episodes of the serial, and Martin would trail him to gain more experience.[10] The serial went through a number of working titles during production, including The Survivors and Beyond the Sun, before settling as The Mutants towards the end of production.[11][a]

Design and music[edit]

This serial introduces the Daleks, the show's most popular villains, designed by Cusick.[12]

The designer originally assigned to this serial was Ridley Scott, later a famed film director. However, a problem with Scott's schedule meant that he was replaced by Raymond Cusick, who was thus given the task of realising the Dalek creatures.[13] Cusick based the design of the Daleks on a man sitting in a chair.[14] Cusick's original design was tubular, with a plain skirt section, bumpy midriff with one pincer arm, and a short head with an eye-lens; Lambert rejected this design as being too expensive. It was decided that the designs should be more comfortable for the actors, allowing them to be seated. Cusick's second design was shorter, with a diamond-patterned body and larger head, and two double-jointed claw arms; one of the arms was replaced by a suction cup, due to the low budget of the production. The design was refined to fit over a small tricycle, and the arms were moved further down to allow the operator to see out of a metal gauze above the midriff. Lights were added to the dome to indicate which Dalek was speaking, as suggested by Barry.[15]

Shawcraft Models—who had designed parts of the TARDIS set—worked with Cusick to design the Daleks; when Cusick met with Shawcraft's Bill Roberts to discuss the project, he used a pepper pot to demonstrate the Daleks' movements.[16] The prototype (known internally as "Shawcraft One") had a wooden base, with the skirt section made using fibreglass. It stood at four-foot six-inches, allowing a small seated actor inside. The BBC approved of Shawcraft's designs, allowing three weeks for the final models. While Cusick wanted six Daleks, the £500 budget only allowed for four.[17] The final models stood at four-foot eight-inches, painted in silver with grey trimmings, and light blue balls on the skirt; the lights on the domes were Christmas tree lights covered by a ping-pong ball, operated by the actor inside.[17]

Nation once claimed that he came up with the name "Dalek" after seeing a set of encyclopedias with one volume spanning the section of the alphabet from Dal – Lek. However, he later admitted that this was a story for the press, and that he had just made up the name.[18] Barry commissioned Tristram Cary to provide the serial's incidental score, having worked together on No Cloak — No Dagger; while Newman disliked Cary's work, Barry and Lambert convinced him otherwise. Barry had heard some musique concrète music and, intrigued by it, asked Cary to compose a strange and simplistic electronic score for the serial. About twenty minutes of music was used in the serial.[19]

Casting and characters[edit]

Actor Alan Wheatley was chosen to portray Temmosus, the leader of the Thals, having worked with Hartnell in an episode of The Flying Doctor in 1959; David Markham was originally considered for the role. Virginia Wetherell was cast as the female Thal named Dyoni, having previously worked with Martin. Dinsdale Landen was chosen to play Ganatus, but production date changes forced him to drop out of the serial; he was replaced by Philip Bond, with whom Barry had worked on No Cloak — No Dagger.[20] The names of the Thals were revised in the final script: Temmosus was originally Stohl, Alydon was Vahn, Ganatus was Kurt, Kristas was Jahl, Antodus was Ven, Dyoni was Daren, and Elyon was Zhor.[21] Four actors were chosen as Dalek operators, due to their small stature and muscular ability: Robert Jewell, Kevin Manser, Michael Summerton, and Gerald Taylor; Barry knew Manser as a sensitive actor who reacted well to voices, while Martin knew Taylor through repertory theatre. Due to the Daleks' electronic voices, it was considered impractical for the actors inside the machines to also deliver the dialogue. As a result, the Dalek voices were performed off-set by Peter Hawkins and David Graham.[20] Barry contacted the Post Office's Joint Speech Research Unit for information on electronic voices. Two samples were provided: one using a vocoder with low and medium monotone pitch; and one using written computer characters, generating a sound which was less human but more time-consuming. While Barry enjoyed these methods, the BBC opted to develop its own method to achieve a similar effect, as some of the Dalek speech was required in studio during production.[22] Martin worked with Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to find suitable tones; ultimately, the actors spoke through a lip-ribbon microphone, which was later given an electronic quality after passing through a ring modulator.[23]


A week of shooting took place from 28 October 1963, consisting mostly of inserts of the city and models.[24] Rehearsals for the cast began on 11 November; Nation only attended one session, due to work commitments. Some of the Dalek dialogue was pre-recorded on 13 November by Hawkins and Graham, portraying the higher-pitched "Dalek One" and lower-pitched "Dalek Two", respectively.[25] Weekly recording of the serial began on 15 November;[26] it was later discovered that the first recording was affected by induction—an effect in which the voices from the production assistants' headphones was clearly audible. The episode was re-recorded on 6 December, pushing the weekly recordings of episodes 4–7 back by one week.[27] The final episode was recorded on 10 January 1964.[24]


Broadcast and ratings[edit]

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
Appreciation Index
1"The Dead Planet"24:2221 December 1963 (1963-12-21)6.959
2"The Survivors"24:2728 December 1963 (1963-12-28)6.458
3"The Escape"25:104 January 1964 (1964-01-04)8.963
4"The Ambush"24:3711 January 1964 (1964-01-11)9.963
5"The Expedition"24:3118 January 1964 (1964-01-18)9.963
6"The Ordeal"26:1425 January 1964 (1964-01-25)10.463
7"The Rescue"22:241 February 1964 (1964-02-01)10.465

The first episode was broadcast on BBC TV on 21 December 1963, and was watched by 6.9 million viewers. The following episode received 6.4 million viewers. By the third episode, news about the Daleks had spread, and the episode was watched by 8.9 million viewers.[28] An additional million viewers watched for the following two weeks, and the final two episodes reached 10.4 million;[28] by the end of the serial, the show's overall audience had increased by 50%.[29] To date, the serial has been repeated twice on the BBC: the final episode was broadcast on BBC Two late in the evening on 13 November 1999 as part of "Doctor Who Night", garnering 1.6 million viewers; and the serial was shown in three blocks from 5–9 April 2008 on BBC Four, as part of a celebration of the life and work of Lambert following her death in November 2007.[30]

BBC Enterprises prepared to dispose of the 16mm telerecordings of the serial in 1978. When this was discovered by fan Ian Levine and BBC Enterprises Film Sales employee John Bridger, they contacted Sue Malden of BBC Archives to request that the destruction of The Daleks, and all other remaining 1960s Doctor Who serials, should cease. Subsequently, the remaining film prints were relocated to the BBC archives for preservation.[31] A further copy of the fifth episode of the serial was discovered in the private collection of former BBC employee Francis Watson and returned to the BBC in 2004.[32]

Critical response[edit]

Following the broadcast of the fifth episode, the Daily Mirror's Richard Sear described the show as "splendid children's stuff", describing the cliffhanger as "smashing".[29] Retrospective reviews were also positive. In The Discontinuity Guide (1995), Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping described the serial as "brilliantly directed, full of inventive touches and wonderful set-pieces"; they noted that the first four episodes helped to launch Doctor Who to success, but wrote that the last three "comprise a B-movie trek through hideous landscapes", comparing it unfavourably to Flash Gordon.[33] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised the serial for introducing the Daleks and lauded Cusick's designs, but felt that the Thals—particularly after the death of their leader Temmosus in the fourth episode—were "faceless stereotypes" used only for plot, and criticised their costume design.[34] In A Critical History of Doctor Who (1999), John Kenneth Muir similarly praised the Daleks, as well as Barry's "stylish" direction and the performances of Hill and Hartnell.[35] In 2006, DVD Talk's John Sinnott, despite noting that "there are a few parts that drag just a bit", commended the script for allowing the characters to develop and holding tension unlike the previous serial.[36] In 2008, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the strength of Nation's scripts, particularly the first three cliffhangers, but felt that "the urgency and claustrophobia dissipate towards the end", describing the final battle as "a disappointingly limp affair".[37] In 2011, Christopher Bahn of The A.V. Club wrote that the serial is "quite solid, full of well-paced action and some interestingly subtle characterizations, though it definitely begins to drag around the fifth episode, with a long trek through swamps and caverns that moves the plot forward by about an inch".[38]

Commercial releases[edit]

The story was originally released on VHS on 5 June 1989, with a photomontage cover. A remastered version of the serial was released on VHS on 26 February 2001 under the title Doctor Who: The Daleks (Remastered). For the DVD release on 30 January 2006, the serial was released as part of Doctor Who: The Beginning alongside the first and third serials, with several special features, including audio commentary by the production team and a documentary on the creation of the Daleks.[39] A 75-minute colourised version of the serial aired on BBC Four on 23 November 2023, to celebrate the programme's 60th anniversary, featuring new sound design and a score by Mark Ayres.[40] It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray, alongside the original seven-part serial, on 12 February 2024 in the United Kingdom.[41]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks
AuthorDavid Whitaker
Cover artistArnold Schwartzman (original publication)
Chris Achilleos (Target reprint)
SeriesDoctor Who novelisations
Release number
PublisherFrederick Muller Ltd (original publication)
Target Books (reprint)
Publication date
12 November 1964 (original publication)
2 May 1973 (Target reprint)

The Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial to be adapted as a novel. Written by David Whitaker, the book was first published in hardback on 12 November 1964 by Frederick Muller Ltd as Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. A paperback release by Armada Books followed in October 1965 with a new cover and interior illustrations by Peter Archer. Two international versions of the book were released in 1966: a Dutch hardback edition, Dr Who en de Daleks, was translated by Tuuk Buijtenhuijs; and American and Canadian hardback editions were licensed to Soccer Books and Saunders, respectively. In July 1967, a North American paperback was published by Avon Books, featuring a photomontage cover by Paul Weller.[42] In 1972, Universal-Tandem Publishing acquired the rights to republish the title as part of the new Target Books range. Renamed Doctor Who and the Daleks, the book was published on 2 May 1973 with a new cover painting of Hartnell. The release also received several translations worldwide.[b] A new version by Virgin Books titled Doctor Who – The Daleks, featuring a cover by Alister Pearson, was issued on 16 January 1992, and a reproduction of the Target book was published on 7 July 2011 with a cover by Chris Achilleos and foreword by fantasy author Neil Gaiman.[43] An illustrated version of the book, with art from Robert Hack and an introduction by Neil Gaiman, was released on 3 November 2022.[44]

A verbatim transcript of the transmitted version of the serial, edited by John McElroy, was published by Titan Books in December 1989, and reissued in 1992.[45] An audiobook reading of the novelisation, narrated by William Russell, was published by BBC Audiobooks on CD on 7 March 2005, and later reissued on the five-CD set Doctor Who: Travels in Time and Space on 7 November 2005.[46]


Doctor Who: The Daleks
Soundtrack album by
Released15 September 2017
LabelSilva Screen
Doctor Who soundtrack chronology
Doctor Who: Series 8
Doctor Who: The Daleks
Doctor Who: Survival

Cary's music from this serial was first released on CD as part of Doctor Who: Devils' Planets – The Music of Tristram Cary by BBC Music on 1 September 2003.[46] The music also received an individual CD release, along with sounds by Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, on 15 September 2017.[47]

All tracks are written by Tristram Cary, except where noted

1."Doctor Who (Original Theme)" (Ron Grainer arr. Delia Derbyshire) 
2."Forest Atmosphere" 
3."Skaro: Petrified Forest Atmosphere ("Thal Wind")" (Brian Hodgson) 
4."Forest With Creature" 
5."City Music 1 & 2" 
6."Thing In Jungle" 
7."TARDIS Computer" (Brian Hodgson) 
8."City Music 3" 
9."Dalek City Corridor" (Brian Hodgson) 
10."The Daleks" 
11."Radiation Sickness" 
12."Dalek Control Room" (Brian Hodgson) 
13."The Storm 1 & 2" 
14."The Storm Continued (Susan Meets Alydon)" 
15."Inside The City" 
16."What's Inside A Dalek" 
17."The Fight" 
18."The Ambush" 
19."Fluid Link" 
20."Rising Tension" 
21."Demented Dalek" 
22."The Swamp" 
23."The Cave 1" 
24."Barbara Loses The Rope" 
25."High Sound And Heartbeats (Antodus And Ganatus)" 
26."Pebble Dropped" 
27."Captive Of The Daleks" 
28."Heartbeats (Antodus Falls)" 
29."The Cave II" 
30."Capsule Oscillation (Dalek Destructor Fuse/Bomb Countdown)" (Brian Hodgson) 
31."Explosion/TARDIS Stops" (Brian Hodgson) 
32."Five Explosions" 
33."The Ambush (Loop)" 
34."Funeral Chords" 
35."Funeral Chords (Alternative)" 
36."Funeral Chords (Loop)" 

Film version[edit]

In 1965, the serial was adapted by Milton Subotsky as a film, Dr. Who and the Daleks, starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who, Roberta Tovey as Susan, Roy Castle as Ian Chesterton and Jennie Linden as Barbara. The film also received a sequel in 1966, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., based on the 1964 serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth.[48]


  1. ^ The title The Mutants was used in most BBC paperwork for nearly a decade, until the 1972 serial The Mutants was aired. To avoid confusion, two other titles emerged as alternatives: The Dead Planet, the name of the first episode; and The Daleks, which was used on most media releases.[11]
  2. ^ The book was translated and published in several countries:[43]
    • Doctor Who en de Daleks, translated by Ronald Cohen, was published by Unieboek in Belgium in December 1974.
    • Doktor Kim ve Dalekler, translated by Reha Pinar, was published by Remzi Kitabevi in Turkey in April 1975.
    • Jikuu Daikettou! (Big Bloody Space-Time Battle), translated by Yukio Sekiguchi, was published by Hayakawa Publishing Inc. in Japan in March 1980.
    • Doutor Who E Os Daleks, translated by Conceição Jardim and Eduardo Nogueira, was published by Editorial Presença in 1983.
    • Docteur Who: Les Daleks, translated by Gilles Bergal, was published by Éditions Garancière in France in May 1987.
    • Doctor Who und die Invasion der Daleks, translated by Peter Tuscher, was published by Goldmann Verlag in July 1989.


  1. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Univision Communications. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  2. ^ Harrison, Mark (24 June 2010). "Doctor Who: 10 cliffhanger screamers". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  3. ^ Szpirglas, Jeff (2 June 2011). "10 classic Doctor Who cliffhangers". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  4. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 116.
  5. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 119.
  6. ^ Ainsworth 2015, pp. 117–118.
  7. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 120.
  8. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 123.
  9. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 122.
  10. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 125.
  11. ^ a b Howe & Walker 1998, p. 30.
  12. ^ Patrick, Seb (November 2013). "Best of 'Doctor Who' 50th Anniversary Poll: 11 Greatest Monsters & Villains". BBC America. BBC Worldwide. Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  13. ^ Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994, p. 61.
  14. ^ "The Fourth Dimension: The Daleks". BBC. Archived from the original on 27 July 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  15. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 131.
  16. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 132.
  17. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 133.
  18. ^ Howe & Walker 1998, p. 29.
  19. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 127.
  20. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, pp. 128–129.
  21. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 138.
  22. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 130.
  23. ^ Ainsworth 2015, pp. 137–138.
  24. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 151.
  25. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 137.
  26. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 139.
  27. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 141.
  28. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 159.
  29. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 156.
  30. ^ Ainsworth 2015, pp. 158–159.
  31. ^ Molesworth 2010, pp. 166, 169–170.
  32. ^ Molesworth 2010, p. 230.
  33. ^ Cornell, Day & Topping 1995, pp. 9–26.
  34. ^ Howe & Walker 1998, pp. 31–32.
  35. ^ Muir 1999, p. 81.
  36. ^ Sinnott, John (1 April 2006). "Doctor Who: The Beginning". DVD Talk. Internet Brands. Archived from the original on 16 February 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  37. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (1 October 2008). "The Daleks". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  38. ^ Bahn, Christopher (31 July 2011). "Doctor Who (Classic): "The Daleks"". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  39. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 163.
  40. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (2 November 2023). "Doctor Who's first Dalek story colourised for new feature-length revamp". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Archived from the original on 3 November 2023. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  41. ^ Tantimedh, Adi (14 November 2023). "Doctor Who: "The Daleks" Remaster Coming to Blu-Ray/DVD – In Color". Bleeding Cool. Avatar Press. Archived from the original on 16 November 2023. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  42. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 160.
  43. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 161.
  44. ^ "Doctor Who and the Daleks". The TARDIS Library. Archived from the original on 5 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  45. ^ Ainsworth 2015, pp. 161–162.
  46. ^ a b Ainsworth 2015, p. 162.
  47. ^ Gullidge, Bedwyr (15 September 2017). "REVIEW: 'The Daleks' and 'Survival' soundtracks". Blogtor Who. DT Forums Ltd. Archived from the original on 21 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  48. ^ Ainsworth 2015, p. 158.


External links[edit]