Remembering The Man Who Made The Daleks A Metallic Menace

Audie Cornish and Melissa Block talk about the passing of former production designer Ray Cusick. Cusick designed the Daleks, an evil alien race on the long-running BBC sci-fi show, Doctor Who. He died Thursday at the age of 84.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We take a moment now to remember the man who created one of science fiction's most enduring bad guys. Before the Borg tried assimilating the "Star Trek" crew...

CORNISH: Before Darth Vader crossed light sabers with Luke, it was the Daleks who wanted to exterminate Doctor Who.

(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW "DOCTOR WHO")

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate.

BLOCK: Production designer Ray Cusick designed the Daleks. Cusick died last Thursday at the age of 84.

CORNISH: His evil aliens debuted in the BBC science fiction series back in 1963.

TOM SPILSBURY: As a child, I completely believed in Daleks and gave me nightmares.

CORNISH: That's Tom Spilsbury. He's the editor at Doctor Who magazine. The Dalecks, he says, look like giant metal salt shakers. But they're somehow believable as evil-armored aliens.

SPILSBURY: They don't look like humans at all. You know, often if you have a robot, you can see it's a guy in a suit. It's an actor. You know, it's very obvious. The thing with the Daleks is that they weren't obviously just an actor dressed up.

(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW "DOCTOR WHO")

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate.

SPILSBURY: They're effectively a giant pepper pot, yeah.

BLOCK: In fact, it's been said that a pepper pot or salt shaker at a lunch meeting gave Ray Cusick the inspiration for the Daleks' look. They're supposed to be like tanks housing little green villains.

CORNISH: And Spilsbury says, in part, it's that look that made the Daleks a sensation in the 1960s.

SPILSBURY: Everything that you could put a Dalek on, Dalek cakes and Dalek jigsaws and Dalek - you know, everything. Anything you could put a Dalek on, it would sell. So, and to an extent, I think that's still true today. I mean, obviously it's fascinating that children in 2013 are still playing Daleks in the school playgrounds just as they were 50 years ago.

BLOCK: Ray Cusick's creations have stood the test of time. For 50 years, every time Doctor Who has defeated the Daleks, they have always come back to fight again.

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