Friday, July 22, 2011

Degradation of the Daleks

Diagram of the Dalek props as used in "Resurrection of the Daleks" (1984)
Here's a website which perfectly embodies the dedication, curiosity, attention to detail, and general weirdness of we science fiction enthusiasts.

Called Dalek6388, it follows the history of the Dalek props used in the original Doctor Who series from their inaugural appearance in the series' sixth episode, "The Survivors," in 1963, to their swansong in "Remembrance of the Daleks, Part Four" in 1988.  Along the way, it also handles Daleks constructed for the two movies starring Peter Cushing, the play Curse of the Daleks, and for publicity purposes.

In the graphic above, for instance, we see that the four Daleks scraped together to menace Peter Davison in "Resurrection of the Daleks" (1984) consisted of the following: the top of a 1963 Dalek on a base produced for "The Chase" (1965) from the molds made for the film Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965); the top of a Dalek built for "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (1964) on an odd, almost-symmetrical base from a Dalek built for exhibition purposes; the top that originally went with the aforementioned base from "The Chase" on a wooden base (as opposed to the fiberglass of the others) originally built for "Planet of the Daleks" (1973) purely as a crowd-filling extra; and the top from that base, on the base of the other "Dalek Invasion of Earth" build.

So you can see it's kind of a complex story.  The site's creators spent many hours freeze-framing videos and carefully examining photographs to uncover characteristic differences between the props, and are able to give us a complete, highly readable, lavishly illustrated account of how they (the Daleks, not the authors) were used, given away, borrowed, stolen, broken, repainted, mismatched, repaired (or not), and generally abused over the course of a quarter-century.  (As I was amazed to find out, the top of one of the Daleks used in "Remembrance" in 1988 came from the original set of four, built in 1963, and survives to this day.  So do the collars and base of another 1963 Dalek, but for some reason, they last saw use in the series in 1967 and 1975, respectively.)  In the process, the authors come to some new conclusions (such as that the Daleks made for Curse went on to appear in the second film, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.) and put to rest some old bits of received wisdom (such as the notion that any film Daleks were ever converted for regular use in the series).

After reading this site, with rapt attention, for about three hours, I began to wonder if I wasn't, you know, like, a nerd or something.  Fortunately, the authors end their account with this amusing and reassuring statement: "We thank you for taking the time to read any of this site, and if you feel a little bit guilty for finding it quite interesting, you can take comfort from the fact that you weren't the losers who wrote it."

But let me tell you, nerds like me should (Dalek voice) ap-pre-ci-ate (/Dalek voice) the dedication of losers like them.

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