Doctor Who is known for doing a lot with a little, with the smash-hit sci-fi series regularly offering world-beating special effects, prosthetics and set building despite working with a relatively small TV budget.
But once upon a time, Doctor Who had to be even more resourceful when it came to production. Back in 1966, Patrick Troughton’s first serial as the Doctor saw the deadly Daleks return – but behind-the-scenes, the production team came up with an idea to create a key sequence without breaking the bank.
Instead of full-size Daleks, they’d use small models – and instead of making the models themselves, they’d just buy toy Daleks already available in shops.
“The model sequence for the Power of the Daleks revolved around the construction, the Dalek conveyor belt where the Dalek casings are being constructed,” Mike Tucker, the VFX Supervisor on a new rerelease of the episode told in animated form, said in a behind-the-scenes documentary.
“And the production obviously decided it was too big a deal to do full size and therefore they were going to attempt to do that in miniature.
“As with many Doctor Who serials over the years, the effects department obviously decided to go with the commercially available toy Daleks, and at the time the Power of the Daleks was being made, these were very popular which are the Hertz plastic one-piece injection moulded Daleks which I believe were available to buy in Woolworths.”
In other words, it was easier to buy merch than try to create their own mini-Daleks – though the production team did still add a certain flourish to the toys.
“And they would presumably have gone down, bought dozens of them and then they actually did modify them to look slightly closer to the new props, that was changing the dome and adding the slats and the mid-section,” Tucker added.
Of course, this wasn’t the last time that the world of commercial Who ended up helping the main series. Many years later after the series was revived in 2005, the BBC ended up using a more durable design for Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s sonic screwdriver first created for a toy of the iconic gadget, after their own version kept breaking during filming.
Back in 1966, though, the BBC were just looking to save some money – even if today, picking up those toy Daleks would probably set that back a pretty penny.
“The irony of course is that these toys are now rare and as a result, expensive,” Tucker said.
If you fancy checking out the sequence, this rare Power of the Daleks footage can be watched elsewhere on RadioTimes.com – and if you want to see the animated recreation in all its glory, you haven’t got long to wait…
Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks is out on DVD and Blu-ray 27th July. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.