Doctor Who Daleks designer Ray Cusick dies aged 84

Former BBC designer who brought the iconic monsters to our screens for the first time passed away in his sleep on Thursday


Ray Cusick, the man who designed the original Daleks for BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who, has died aged 84.


He passed away in his sleep on Thursday night after a short illness, his daughter Claire announced.

After joining the BBC as a staff designer, Cusick was responsible for bringing to life a great many of the early Doctor Who stories with his set designs between 1963 and 1966. However, it is for giving form to Terry Nation’s Daleks in the second every story of the show, The Daleks, that Cusick is best remembered.

A mutant race encased in mechanical tank-like shells, the Daleks went on to become one of the iconic symbols of Doctor Who, a show that celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013. Known for their battle cry “exterminate” the Doctor’s oldest foes have continued to appear in episodes of the programme throughout the years and have been the subject of numerous spin-offs including films, books, comics and television adverts.

Speaking in 2008, Cusick told BBC3 behind-the-scenes show Doctor Who Confidential that the Daleks were the product of logical thought.

“When I’m asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realised that you’ve got to have an operator to operate them. If you had anything mechanical, 10 to one on the take it would go wrong, so you’ve got a human being in there who would be absolutely totally reliable…

“I then thought ‘Well, the operator’s got to sit down’, [so I] drew a seat, ergonomic height, 18in, got the operator down, and then drew round him. That’s how the basic shape appeared.”

Doctor Who actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: “Farewell to the great Ray Cusick. His passing is especially sad in this anniversary year but his creation remains immortal. Daleks forever!”

Nicholas Briggs, voice of the modern Daleks, told the BBC:

“Extinction is not an option – If you say Doctor Who to someone in the street about the second thing they’re going to say is ‘Exterminate’,” he said.

“Lots of my friends who are not Doctor Who fans think that the programme is ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ – that surely the Daleks are in it all the time – which isn’t true but that is the impression.

“That’s the brilliance of the creation of the Daleks. They’ve made an indelible stamp on the series really.”

Beyond Doctor Who, Cusick worked on numerous other television programmes in the art department, including Z Cars, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, The Forsyte Saga, The Duchess of Duke Street and Rentaghost. He retired from TV in 1987.

He is survived by two daughters and seven grandchildren.