Doctor Who’s New Year special reintroduced the Daleks with a bang, complete with a battered new home-made design for the tinpot terrors – and it turns out that behind the scenes, there were also a few changes to how the Doctor’s greatest foes operated.
Ever since they first appeared in the 1960s, the Daleks have more or less always been “piloted” by a human during filming, with operators sitting inside the casing and moving the Daleks along manually.
Until now, that is.
For Resolution, a fully robotic Dalek was created, which was operated via remote control rather than driven from ‘inside’.
Concept designer Darren Fereday first revealed the new method in tweets below, explaining that the three “layers” of the Dalek were operated independently.
“No pilot in the Dalek,” he wrote. “All robotics people”.
The head, mid-section and ‘skirt’ were all managed by remote-control operators for the New year’s Day episode, although the voice of the Dalek continued to be supplied by longtime series artist Nicholas Briggs.
Modern Daleks have long had remote-control elements, of course – the heads and flashing lights have been controlled by separate operators for a good while – but this is reportedly the first time that a fully ‘non-human’ Dalek has been in operation on the series.
However, while a few Dalek operators might be fearing for their jobs at the moment (first automatic checkouts, now this) the BBC tells RadioTimes.com that this particular Dalek design was a special one-off, and may not be repeated with future appearances.
It’s certainly possible that more fully remote-controlled Daleks will appear in the series – they’ve worked out how to do it now – but the BBC suggested that future Dalek appearances could revert to older designs in the future. Those Daleks included pilots operating from inside, and even if the design does change again, Dalek operators could still be deployed.
In other words, it could be that the good ol’ Recon Dalek is the first, and last, entirely robotic Dalek in the series. That’s one for the CV.
Doctor Who will return in 2020
This article was originally published on 4 January 2019