Sunday, 27 September 2015

Magazine Pin Up

Derek made the cover of Doctor Who Magazine #491, released on Thursday 17 September 2015.

The cover itself was produced by the fantastically talented Gavin Rymill, who has produced many amazing pieces of Dalek art over the years.

Derek also made it into a photo on page 16, though that greedy Special Weapons Dalek is clearly trying to hog all the limelight and is partially blocking him.

On a side note, a few years ago, on Thursday 30 April 2009, I myself appeared in an issue of Torchwood Magazine.


Being only on page 19, however, it was not as prominent as Derek’s appearance, alas.

What Next?

So that’s that then. Derek was returned to me on Thursday 9 April.

When he left me in February he was just a replica Dalek prop; but he came back to me as a screen-used Dalek prop.

Now that the episode has aired, I’m hoping I’ll be able to find some screencaps with Derek in. If I do, I’ll post them here.

Derek has now taken up permanent residence in my study.

As you can see, my daughter is quite taken with him.

However, since she's now tall enough to swing off his gun-stick, I am having to keep her out of the study!!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Shooting - Day 4

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The fourth and final day was spent shooting pickup shots of all the scenes we had shot previously, with only one or two new actions involving the Daleks (such as the shot where all the Daleks fall to one side of the room, and the cracks in the floor begin to appear); there were no other actors on set that day.

Whilst shooting these pickups I noticed that a couple of the Dalek heads had been put on the wrong Daleks – the black dome from the Evil Dalek had been put onto one of the original silver and blue Daleks. The mix-up had probably happened when they were being cleaned after shooting the sewage scene. However, my OCD got the better of me so I pointed this out to Hettie the director, who checked the footage she had shot on day one and concluded that yes, the heads were on the wrong Daleks. The mix-up was swiftly reversed. Now, it’s quite possible that this mistake would have been spotted even if I hadn’t pointed it out; but I certainly feel better knowing that I possibly averted a glaring continuity error that would have caused endless discussion on the internet forums! On the other hand, it could have meant the birth of a new style of Dalek, never before seen on the show! (Edit: It turned out that these mixed up Daleks did in fact make an appearance on screen; in the final scene in the Dalek corridors where they apprehend Missy) 

Despite not being on set with the other Daleks, towards the end of my final day these two New Paradigm Daleks appeared near the set: the Blue Scientist and the Red Drone (and if you look to the right of the Drone, you can see another mid-section and dome for another Drone). The small red Dalek in front of the Paradigms was a random prop that had been there on all four days, but had never been used (it looked like one of the Daleks from the Peter Cushing films, except for its smaller ‘ear’ lights).

As it happens, the New Dalek Paradigm White Supreme is currently housed in the reception area of the BBC Roath Lock studios (I passed it every day as I left).

Incidentally, on the subject of the New Paradigm Daleks, I asked Nicholas Pegg why we never see them anymore. His answer was that because of the negative response they’d received, they were now being quietly swept under the carpet, so I doubt that we’ll be seeing them on TV again anytime soon.

So that was it. My four days on the set of Doctor Who came to an end. It was a once-in-a lifteime experience, and I had a wonderful time. Everyone at the BBC was very professional, and extremely welcoming. It was a joy to meet Peter, and Jenna, and Michelle, and see them in action, and I met some wonderful characters in the Supporting Artists who were the uncredited Dalek operaters. It was also a pleasure to meet and interact with the three people who I call the Dalek Triumvirate; Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), who gave me hug on my last day, Nicholas Pegg (Dalek Operator), who said that it had been “great to waggle plungers with you”, and Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks), who shared his Cadbury’s Mini Eggs with me!

I’d also like to say that Nicholas Briggs is clearly a man after my own heart – he turned up for work on set everyday dressed in a tweed jacket and silk pocket square!

My only regret from my four days of filming Doctor Who, is that I didn’t get any photos with the cast. Naturally I would have loved to have had my photo taken with Peter, or even Jenna and Michelle. But I’d also have liked a photo with Barnaby, Nick and Nick. But ho hum.

As a finale, I shall relay this amusing anecdote:

Nicholas Pegg often referred to the Dalek Supreme as Diana Ross (as in Diana Ross and the Supremes; he joked that Doctor Who should have “Davros and the Supremes”). He made the comparison, however, because of the red dress worn by Ross in the Chain Reaction video. He thought that the Red Supreme up in his podium was like Ross in her red dress up on a podium. One can see his point.

I would like to end my musings by extending a heartfelt thank you to EVERYONE involved in the production of Doctor Who, for making my time with them so memorable.

Shooting - Day 3

Monday 16 March 2015

On the third day, we shot the scene where Missy comes into the control room and tells the Supreme that she can give the Daleks the means to control the Doctor; namely Clara Oswald (“Canned”), at which point all the Daleks go dead. Missy then asks what the Doctor has done and runs off, followed by the ‘Clara Dalek’. The Daleks then all come back to life using “regeneration energy”.

After lunch we came back on set to find that all the Daleks had been covered in ‘sewage’, which was actually garden soil mixed with water and brown food dye. We then shot the scene where the Doctor and Clara race through the control room while the Daleks are trapped in their own filth. The Daleks try and exterminate them, but the TARDIS reconstitutes itself and saves them. This scene also involved a beam falling from the ceiling and destroying a Dalek, and an explosion in the ceiling that caused debris to fall down onto the Daleks.

Oddly, despite being safely housed within the Dalek casings, all the Dalek operators were required to wear goggles for all the explosion shots, due no doubt to Health and Safety regulations.

The two scenes we shot on day three did not include clear shots of the stage, so Derek did not actually make any appearances on camera that day (luckily for him, as this meant that he avoided being covered in sewage). Luckily for me, however, I was not sat idle; instead I was put into one of the new bronze Daleks for the day, which made a nice change (and they are much more comfortable than Derek, on account of the fact that the new Daleks have larger bases that makes them a little taller, allowing for a higher headroom). On screen, I was in the Dalek that you might be able to see just peeking out off the edge of the stage in the scene with Missy, and then the one that was positioned behind the Doctor and Clara when they are stood waiting for the TARDIS to rematerialize.

Here are some sneaky photos I took through the Dalek grille:

Looking down on the Dalek control room.

Rehearsal shots of Jenna and Peter (“The Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS”).

Here are Jenna and Peter, discussing the scene with the director, Hettie MacDonald (in these shots you can see the ceiling beam that fell down and destroyed a Dalek).

Peter Capaldi with the Supreme and the Dalek gun.

Derek up on stage with all the camera equipment

This was Nicholas Briggs, the voice of the Daleks, chatting with Dalek Supreme (actually he was talking with Nicholas Pegg who was inside the Supreme). The Special Weapons Dalek is in the background.

This silver Dalek was empty and had a pump inside to spew the sewage out through the grille.

The TARDIS being assembled (you can see Derek on the stage too).

The TARDIS placed on the spot where Jenna and Peter were stood, for the shots after it had materialised (as you can see, I had to move my eyestalk out of the way to get this photo).

Peter Capaldi loves the Daleks and between takes he was on set taking photographs on his own camera. Here he is, up on the stage, next to Derek.

Shooting - Day 2

Friday 13 March 2015

My second day on set and the hours had returned to normal, so I had to be there by 7:30am prompt.

The scenes we shot today were from episode 2 and all involved the Doctor so we had Peter Capaldi on set with us for most of the day. He was a lovely chap, who always smiled and said hello to us (the Daleks) when he passed us, either on set, or if we were off set on a break.

First of all, we shot the scene where the Daleks are anticipating the arrival of Davros in the control room, but when the door opens it is revealed that it is the Doctor sat in Davros’s wheelchair. The Doctor then enters the room and zooms about, suggesting they play dodgems. He also says one of my favourite lines about Davros: “He only has one arm. How far can he go crawling in a circle?” (Edit: I note that this line was actually cut from the finished episode, along with a couple of others he said) The Daleks then attempt to exterminate him. One thing to note here is that Davros’s chair is operated by a little joystick, in much the same way that an electric wheelchair works. This made some of the other Dalek operators jealous that we still had to operate our Daleks using casters and our feet!

In the afternoon we continued with the same scene. Davros’s wheelchair had a forcefield that prevented the Doctor from being exterminated, so he then pulled out a Dalek gun and began demanding that the Daleks return Clara Oswald to him. The Supreme observes that Clara is dead, which obviously makes the Doctor angry. At that point, Davros appears on all of the display screens in the room and points out that the Doctor has already had dealings with his head of Security, Colony Sarff (a chap in make-up who I saw for the briefest of moments on his way to a night-shoot), at which point Davros’s chair activates a security protocol that the 1st Assistant Director described as “snakes” engulfing the Doctor. The Daleks then close in on him.

The final scene we shot was actually the scene that came before everything else we’d already shot that day. It was the Daleks reacting to what they thought was Davros leaving the infirmary and heading for the control room. There was a flashing blob on the circular display screens that we (the Daleks) could see was heading towards us.

On this day, I got my Doctor Who Series 9 BBC Wales Crew fleece.

Also, for anyone who likes the show, I saw quite a few of the actors from Casualty in the canteen on this day. During my time at the BBC there was a football match between the crew of Doctor Who and the crew of Casualty. Doctor Who won, incidentally.

Shooting - Day 1

Thursday 5 March 2015

On the day before I was due on set, I received a phonecall from James, the 2nd Assistant Director, who gave me the calltimes and information of the parking arrangements they’d made for me. 

The normal shooting day on set (so I was told) was about 7:00am to 7:00pm, but on this day the schedules had all been pushed back because of the previous week’s shooting in Tenerife, so I was told to report to the BBC Roath Lock studios in Cardiff Bay for midday.

Upon arrival I was given my parking permit and directed to my space.

As per instruction I then rang James, who met me and escorted me into Studio 3, where I was led onto the set of the Dalek control room in their city on Skaro. On the set of the control room there were almost 20 Dalek props, including:

  • 9 or 10 bronze ‘Time War’ Daleks;
  • The Red Dalek Supreme from “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End”;
  • 1 black Dalek (which presumably was the Dalek Sec prop);
  • 2 silver and blue original Daleks from “The Daleks”;
  • 1 silver and blue Troughten-era Dalek;
  • 1 silver and blue Troughten-era Dalek with a black dome from “The Evil of the Daleks”;
  • 1 Special Weapons Dalek from “Remembrance of the Daleks”;
  • And 1 grey and black Dalek from “Remembrance” (which was my Dalek).

Also on set was the TARDIS.

The set itself was brilliant; it looked very much like the Dalek city out of the very first Dalek story from 1963 (the doors were identical). There were windows that looked out onto the barren wastes of Skaro, which were actually giant photos hung outside the set. There was also a raised platform, or ‘stage’ as we referred to it, with a number of consoles on. Derek, was placed up in the centre of this stage (and that was where he stayed throughout the four days of filming). In the very centre of the room was a smaller, lower podium, on which the Dalek Supreme was placed. 

Here is a quick sketch that I drew of the control room set the following day (obviously, there were far more Daleks on set than I actually drew here):

After being shown the set I was taken to the canteen where I met the other Dalek operators, who were the nicest, most welcoming people imaginable. They had all done work on Doctor Who before, some as Daleks, but mostly as other monsters such as Cybermen, Ood, Judoon etc. Over the four days I was at the BBC, I heard some interesting stories from them.

After a brief respite (as we waited for all the Dalek operators, or SAs (Supporting Artists) as they are properly termed, to arrive), it was time to begin. We started the day with a ‘Dalek workshop’, led by Barnaby Edwards and Nicholas Pegg, who are the show’s two main Dalek operators that have been with the show since it returned in 2005. This workshop basically involved everyone being assigned their Daleks (naturally, I was in Derek), and then we were taught how to ‘act’ like a Dalek on-screen. To be fair, most of the operators there that day had been Daleks before in previous series, but there were a couple who hadn’t. This workshop brought us all up to speed.

On an interesting note, the Special Weapons Dalek is slightly shorter than all the other Daleks, so the chap operating him had to crook his neck at an odd angle to fit inside. Added to that is the fact that it is almost impossible to see out of this Dalek, which made it rather interesting to operate on set. There were numerous instances of the Special Weapons Dalek bumping into walls, other Daleks, and even a camera on one occasion! This led to it being given the nickname of Special Needs Dalek!

Once the workshop was complete, the cameras and the actors were brought on set and shooting commenced.

The scene we shot was the finale of episode 1 and involved Clara and Missy being brought into the control room, at which point Clara notices the TARDIS. Missy tries to convince the Daleks that they need her to operate the TARDIS, but they exterminate her. Clara then tries to run away and is shot too. Finally, the Daleks turn to the TARDIS, a giant laser is lowered from the ceiling, and the TARDIS is destroyed.

During the scene where Missy was exterminated, she came up onto the stage and stood right in front of Derek for her speech to the Daleks. The downside to this, of course, is that when we had to exterminate her, I shot her in the back! Hardly the behaviour of a gentleman.  

Here are some photos from the set that day (as you’ll note, during most rehearsals, the Daleks have their tops off!).


The weird ‘bow’ on top of my head in these photos is part of the ‘balaclava’ that the Dalek Operators wear to hide their features from being seen through the Dalek grilles (naturally it covers the whole face, but is usually rolled up when not in use. See this selfie from the BBC toilets for more detail of it rolled up).


Perhaps one of the most exciting things from that day was when, during one of our breaks, Dani, the 3rd Assistant Director, took me from Studio 3, which was where the Dalek city set was, and showed me Studio 2, which houses the TARDIS set! Nicholas Briggs and Barnaby Edwards came with us as they had not yet seen the set this series and presumably wanted to see the tweaks that had been made. Naturally, it was awesome! Rather disconcertingly, one enters the TARDIS through a door at the very bottom of the set, rather than through the traditional Police Box doors, but this then allowed me to ascend the staircase to reach the main console. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that long in there before being called back on set, but I did manage to snap this cheeky photo before I left.


It was on this day that I caught a glimpse of Steven Moffat walking across the set. However, since I was sat in my Dalek with the lid on, I didn’t get a very clear look at him (nor could I rush over and say “hi”).