Doctor Who alien
A large, white 'pepper pot shaped' metal object faces the viewer. The bottom half is wider than the top half and is covered with small round hemispheres, geometrically arranged. Two metal rods protrude in parallel from the center of the object; the rod on the viewer's left ends with an attachment resembling a black sink plunger. These two protruding rods are connected to a thick black metal 'band' which surrounds the middle of the object. Above this are four diagonal slats, which tilt down outwards, topped by a dome. From the center of the dome, a third rod protrudes, with a yellow lens affixed to its end. Also attached to the dome are two lights, which project at forty-five degrees from the plane of the horizontal slats.
An example of a 2010 redesign of the Daleks (in this case the Dalek Supreme).
Type Kaled mutants in mechanical shells (with some exceptions)
Affiliated with Dalek Empire
Home planet Skaro
First appearance The Daleks (1963)

The Daleks Listeni/ˈdɑːlɛks/ are a fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Within the series, Daleks are cyborgs from the planet Skaro, created by the scientist Davros during the final years of a thousand-year war against the Thals. They are genetically engineered Kaled mutants integrated within a tank-like or robot-like mechanical shell. The resulting creatures are a powerful race bent on universal conquest and domination, utterly without pity, compassion or remorse. Various storylines portray them as having had every emotion removed except hate, leaving them with a desire to purge the Universe of all non-Dalek life. Collectively they are the greatest enemies of the series' protagonist, the Time Lord known as the Doctor. Their catchphrase is "Exterminate!"



The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation and designed by BBC designer Raymond Cusick.[1] They were introduced in December 1963 in the second Doctor Who serial, colloquially known as The Daleks.[2] They became an immediate and huge hit with viewers, featuring in many subsequent serials and two 1960s motion pictures. They have become as synonymous with Doctor Who as the Doctor himself, and their behaviour and catchphrases are now part of British popular culture. "Hiding behind the sofa whenever the Daleks appear" has been cited as an element of British cultural identity;[3] and a 2008 survey indicated that 9 out of 10 British children were able to identify a Dalek correctly.[4] In 1999 a Dalek appeared on a postage stamp celebrating British popular culture, photographed by Lord Snowdon.[5] In 2010, readers of science fiction magazine SFX voted the Dalek as the all-time greatest monster, beating out competition including Japanese movie monster Godzilla and J. R. R. Tolkien's Gollum, of The Lord of the Rings.[6]

Entry into popular culture

The word "Dalek" has entered major dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it somewhat imprecisely as "a type of robot appearing in 'Dr. Who', a B.B.C. Television science-fiction programme; hence used allusively."[7] English-speakers sometimes use the term metaphorically to describe people, usually figures of authority, who act like robots unable to break from their programming[citation needed]; for example, John Birt, the Director-General of the BBC from 1992 to 2000, was publicly called a "croak-voiced Dalek" by playwright Dennis Potter in the MacTaggart Lecture at the 1993 Edinburgh Television Festival[8]

Physical characteristics

Externally, Daleks normally resemble human-sized salt and pepper shakers[1] with a single mechanical eyestalk mounted on a rotating dome, a gun mount containing an energy weapon (or "death ray") and a telescopic manipulator arm which is usually tipped by an appendage resembling a sink plunger. Daleks have been seen to be able to use their plungers to interface with technology,[9] crush a man's skull by suction,[9] measure the intelligence of a subject,[10] and extract information from a man's mind.[11] Dalek casings are made of a bonded polycarbide material dubbed "dalekanium" by a member of the human resistance in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and by the Cult of Skaro in "Daleks in Manhattan".[10][12]

The lower half of a Dalek's shell is covered with hemispherical protrusions, or "Dalek bumps", which are shown in the episode "Dalek" to be spheres embedded in the casing.[9][10] Both the BBC-licensed Dalek Book (1964) and The Doctor Who Technical Manual (1983) describe these items as being part of a sensory array,[13] whilst in the 2005 series episode "Dalek", they are shown to serve a function in a Dalek's self-destruct mechanism.[9] Their armour has a forcefield that evaporates most bullets and resists most types of energy weapon; this seems to be concentrated around the Dalek's midsection (where the mutant is located), as normally ineffective firepower can be concentrated on the eyestalk to blind a Dalek. Daleks have a very limited field of vision, with no peripheral sight at all, and are relatively easy to hide from in fairly exposed places.[14] Their own energy weapons have also been shown to be capable of destroying them.[15] Their weapons fire a beam that has electrical tendencies, is capable of propagating through water and may be a form of plasma. The eyepiece is a Dalek's most vulnerable spot, and impairing its vision often leads to a blind, panicked firing of its weapon whilst shouting, "My vision is impaired; I cannot see!" Russell T Davies subverted the catchphrase in his 2008 episode "The Stolen Earth", in which a Dalek vaporises a paintball that has blocked its vision while proclaiming "My vision is not impaired!".[16][17]

A man in camouflage fatigues winces with pain as he tries to remove a green alien creature from his neck.
The creature has an amorphous body, slightly smaller than the man's head, and several tentacles, some of which are partly wrapped around the man's body.

The creature inside the mechanical casing is depicted as soft and repulsive in appearance and vicious even without its mechanical armour. The first-ever glimpse of a Dalek mutant, in The Daleks, was a claw peeking out from under a Thal cloak after it had been removed from its casing.[18] The actual appearance of the mutants has varied, but often adheres to the Doctor's description of the species in Remembrance of the Daleks as "little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armour".[19] In Resurrection of the Daleks a Dalek creature, separated from its casing, attacks and severely injures a human soldier;[20] in Revelation of the Daleks, there are two Dalek factions and the creatures inside have a different appearance in each case, one resembling the amorphous creature from Resurrection, the other the crab-like creature from the original Dalek serial. As the creature inside is rarely seen on screen, a common misconception exists that Daleks are wholly mechanical robots.[21] As of the new series Daleks are shown to be mollusc-like in appearance, with small tentacles, one or two eyes and an exposed brain.[9]

The voice of a Dalek is electronic; the Dalek creature is apparently unable to make much more than squeaking sounds when out of its casing.[20] Once the mutant is removed, the casing itself can be entered and operated by humanoids; for example, in The Daleks, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) enters a Dalek shell to masquerade as a guard as part of an escape plan.[18]

In a dark basement, a white Dalek (see previous description) appears to levitate up a small staircase of approximately seven stairs. The body of the Dalek is white, with shiny gold vertical slats and gold balls on its lower half. There is an orange-yellow glow at the Dalek's base.
An Imperial Dalek flies up a flight of stairs (from Remembrance of the Daleks)

For many years it was assumed that, due to their design and gliding motion, Daleks were unable to climb stairs, and that this was a simple way of escaping them. A well known cartoon from Punch pictured a group of Daleks at the foot of a flight of stairs with the caption, "Well, this certainly buggers our plan to conquer the Universe".[22] In a scene from the serial Destiny of the Daleks, the Doctor and companions escape from Dalek pursuers by climbing into a ceiling duct. The Fourth Doctor calls down, "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us?"[23] The Daleks generally make up for their general lack of mobility with overwhelming firepower; a joke among Doctor Who fans goes, "Real Daleks don't climb stairs; they level the building."[24][25] Dalek mobility has improved over the history of the series: in their first appearance, The Daleks, they were capable of movement only on the conductive metal floors of their city; in The Dalek Invasion of Earth a Dalek emerges from the waters of the River Thames, indicating that they not only had become freely mobile, but are amphibious;[26] Planet of the Daleks showed that they could ascend a vertical shaft by means of an external anti-gravity mat placed on the floor; and Remembrance of the Daleks depicted them as capable of hovering up a flight of stairs.[27] Despite this, journalists covering the series frequently refer to the Daleks' supposed inability to climb stairs; characters escaping up a flight of stairs in the 2005 episode "Dalek" made the same joke, and were shocked when the Dalek began to hover up the stairs.[9] The new series depicts the Daleks as fully capable of flight, even space flight.[14]

Prop details

The non-humanoid shape of the Dalek did much to enhance the creatures' sense of menace. A lack of familiar reference points differentiated them from the traditional "bug-eyed monster" of science fiction, which Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman had wanted the show to avoid.[28] The unsettling form of the Daleks, coupled with their alien voices, made many believe that the props were wholly mechanical and operated by remote control.[29]

The Daleks were actually controlled from inside by short operators[30] who had to manipulate their eyestalks, domes and arms, as well as flashing the lights on their heads in sync with the actors supplying their voices. The Dalek cases were built in two pieces; an operator would step into the lower section, and then the top would be secured. The operators looked out between the cylindrical louvres just beneath the dome which were lined with mesh to conceal their faces.[30]

In addition to being hot and cramped the Dalek casings also muffled external sounds, making it difficult for the operators to hear the director's commands or studio dialogue. The top sections were also too heavy to lift from the inside, which meant that the operators could be trapped inside if the stagehands forgot to release them. John Scott Martin, a Dalek operator from the original series, said that Dalek operation was a challenge: "You had to have about six hands: one to do the eyestalk, one to do the lights, one for the gun, another for the smoke canister underneath, yet another for the sink plunger. If you were related to an octopus then it helped."[31]

For Doctor Who's 21st-century revival, the props were redesigned by production designer Ed Thomas, with consultation from artist Bryan Hitch, producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, and model builder Mike Tucker.[32] These Dalek casings retain the same overall shape and dimensional proportions of previous Daleks, although many details have been re-designed to give the Dalek a heavier and more solid look. Changes include a larger, more pointed base; a glowing eyepiece; an all-over metallic brass finish (specified by Davies); a housing for the eyestalk pivot; and significantly larger dome lights.[32] The new prop made its on-screen debut in the 2005 episode "Dalek".[32] These Dalek casings use a short operator inside the housing while the 'head' and eyestalk are operated via remote control. A third person, Nicholas Briggs, supplies the voice in their various appearances.[33] In the 2010 season a new and larger model appeared in several colours representing different parts of the Dalek command hierarchy.


Early versions of the Daleks rolled on nylon casters, propelled by the operator's feet. Although casters were adequate for the Daleks' debut serial, which was shot entirely at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, for The Dalek Invasion of Earth Terry Nation wanted the Daleks to be filmed on the streets of London. To enable the Daleks to travel smoothly on location, designer Spencer Chapman built the new Dalek shells around miniature tricycles with sturdier wheels, which were hidden by enlarged fenders fitted below the original base.[34] The uneven flagstones of Central London caused the Daleks to rattle as they moved and it was not possible to remove this noise from the final soundtrack. A small parabolic dish was added to the rear of the prop's casing to explain why these Daleks, unlike the ones in their first serial, were not dependent on static electricity drawn from the floors of the Dalek city for their motive power.[31]

Later versions of the prop had more efficient wheels and were once again simply propelled by the seated operators' feet, but they remained so heavy that when going up ramps they often had to be pushed by stagehands out of camera shot. The difficulty of operating all the prop's parts at once contributed to the occasionally jerky movements of the Dalek.[31] This problem has largely been eradicated with the advent of the "new series" version, as its remotely controlled dome and eyestalk allow the operator to concentrate on the smooth movement of the Dalek and its arms.[35]


The staccato delivery, harsh tone and rising inflection of the Dalek voice were initially developed by voice actors Peter Hawkins and David Graham, who would vary the pitch and speed of the lines according to the emotion needed. Their voices were further processed electronically by Brian Hodgson at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Although the exact sound-processing devices used have varied, the original 1963 effect used equalisation to boost the mid-range of the actor's voice, then subjected it to ring modulation with a 30 Hz sine wave. The distinctive harsh grating vocal timbre this produced has remained the pattern for all Dalek voices since (with the exception of those in the 1985 serial Revelation of the Daleks, for which director Graeme Harper deliberately used less distortion).[36]

Besides Hawkins and Graham, notable voice actors for the Daleks have included Roy Skelton, who first voiced the Daleks in the 1967 story The Evil of the Daleks and went on to provide voices for five additional Dalek serials[37][38][39][40][41] and for the one-off anniversary special The Five Doctors. Michael Wisher, the actor who originated the role of Dalek creator Davros in Genesis of the Daleks, provided Dalek voices for that same story, as well as for Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks. Other Dalek voice actors include Royce Mills (three stories[40][41][42]), Brian Miller (two stories[41][42]), Oliver Gilbert and Peter Messaline (one story[43]). John Leeson, who performed the voice of K-9 in several Doctor Who stories, and Davros actors Terry Molloy and David Gooderson also contributed supporting voices for various Dalek serials.[39][41]

Since 2005, the Dalek voice in the television series has been provided by Nicholas Briggs, speaking into a microphone connected to a voice modulator.[33][44] Briggs had previously provided Dalek and other alien voices for Big Finish Productions audio plays. In a 2006 BBC Radio interview, Briggs said that when the BBC asked him to do the voice for the new television series, they instructed him to bring his own analogue ring modulator that he had used in the audio plays. The BBC's sound department had changed to a digital platform and could not adequately create the distinctive Dalek sound with their modern equipment. Briggs went as far as to bring the voice modulator to the actors' readings of the scripts.[33][44]


Manufacturing the props was expensive. In scenes where many Daleks had to appear, some of them would be represented by wooden replicas (Destiny of the Daleks[39]) or life-size photographic enlargements in the early black-and-white episodes (The Dalek Invasion of Earth[12][45] and The Power of the Daleks[46][47]). In stories involving armies of Daleks, the BBC effects team even turned to using commercially available toy Daleks, manufactured by Louis Marx & Co and Herts Plastic Moulders Ltd. Examples of such use can be observed in the serials The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks and Planet of the Daleks.[48] Judicious editing techniques also gave the impression that there were more Dalek props than were actually available, and continue to be used to the present day, such as using split screen in "The Parting of the Ways".[14]

Four fully functioning props were commissioned for the first serial "The Daleks" in 1963, and were constructed from BBC plans by Shawcraft Engineering.[49] These became known in fan circles as "Mk I Daleks". Shawcraft were also commissioned to construct approximately twenty Daleks for the two Dalek movies in 1965 and 1966 (see below). Some of these movie props filtered back to the BBC and were seen in the televised serials, notably The Chase, which was aired before the first movie's debut.[50] The remaining props not bought by the BBC were either donated to charity or given away as prizes in competitions.[51]

The BBC's own Dalek props were reused many times, with components of the original Shawcraft "Mk I Daleks" surviving right through to their final classic series appearance in 1988.[52] Years of storage and repainting took their toll, however. By the time of the Sixth Doctor's Revelation of the Daleks new props were being manufactured out of fibreglass, which were lighter and more affordable to construct than their predecessors.[53] These Daleks were slightly bulkier in appearance around the mid-shoulder section, and also had a slightly redesigned skirt section which was more vertical at the back. Other minor changes were made to the design due to these new construction methods, including alterations to the fender and the incorporation of both the arm boxes, collars and slats into a single fibreglass moulding.[53] These props were repainted in grey for the Seventh Doctor serial Remembrance of the Daleks and designated as "Renegade Daleks"; another redesign, painted in white and gold, became the "Imperial Dalek" faction.[54]

New Dalek props were built for the 21st century version of Doctor Who. The first, which appeared alone in the 2005 episode "Dalek", was built by modelmaker Mike Tucker.[32] Additional Dalek props based on Tucker's master were subsequently built out of fibreglass by Cardiff-based Specialist Models.[55]


Wishing to create an alien creature that did not look like a "man in a suit", Terry Nation stated in his script for the first Dalek serial that they should have no legs.[56] He was also inspired by a performance by the Georgian National Ballet, in which dancers in long skirts appeared to glide across the stage.[56] For many of the shows, the Daleks were "played" by retired ballet dancers wearing black socks while sitting inside the Dalek.[29] Raymond Cusick was given the task of designing the Daleks when Ridley Scott, then a designer for the BBC, proved unavailable after having been initially assigned to their debut serial.[57] An account in Jeremy Bentham's Doctor Who—The Early Years (1986) says that after Nation wrote the script, Cusick was given only an hour to come up with the design for the Daleks, and was inspired in his initial sketches by a pepper shaker on a table.[58] Cusick himself, however, states that he based it on a man seated in a chair, and only used the pepper shaker to demonstrate how it might move.[59]

In 1964 Nation told a Daily Mirror reporter that the Dalek name came from a dictionary or encyclopaedia volume, the spine of which read "Dal – Lek" (or, according to another version, "Dal – Eks").[60] He later admitted that this book and the origin of the Dalek name was completely fictitious, and that anyone bothering to check out his story would have found him out.[60] The name had in reality simply rolled off his typewriter.[61] Later, Nation was pleasantly surprised to discover that in Serbo-Croatian the word "dalek" means "far", or "distant".[62]

Nation grew up during World War II, and remembered the fear caused by German bombings. He consciously based the Daleks on the Nazis, conceiving the species as faceless, authoritarian figures dedicated to conquest and complete conformity.[63] The allusion is most obvious in the Dalek stories penned by Nation, in particular The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) and Genesis of the Daleks (1975).[64][65][66]

Prior to writing the first Dalek serial, Nation was chief scriptwriter for comedian Tony Hancock. The two fell out and Nation either resigned or was fired.[56][60][67] When Hancock left the BBC, he worked on several series proposals, one of which was called From Plip to Plop, a comedic history of the world which would have ended with a nuclear apocalypse, the survivors being reduced to living in dustbin-like robot casings and eating radiation to stay alive. According to biographer Cliff Goodwin, when Hancock saw the Daleks, he allegedly shouted at the screen, "That bloody Nation—he's stolen my robots!"[68]

The another unrelated story), Beyond the Sun (used on some production documentation), The Dead Planet (the on-screen title of the serial's first episode), or simply The Daleks.[69]

The instant appeal of the Daleks caught the BBC off guard,[60] and transformed Doctor Who from a Saturday tea-time children's educational programme to a must-watch national phenomenon. Children were alternately frightened and fascinated by the alien look of the monsters, and the Doctor Who production office was inundated by letters and calls asking about the creatures. Newspaper articles focused attention on the series and the Daleks, further enhancing their popularity.[29]

Nation jointly owned the intellectual property rights to the Daleks with the BBC, and the money-making concept proved nearly impossible to sell to anyone else; he was dependent on the BBC wanting to produce stories featuring the creatures.[71] Despite fans' adoration, the Daleks were clearly associated with Doctor Who and several attempts to market the Daleks outside of the series were unsuccessful.[72][73] Since Nation's death in 1997, his share of the rights now belong to his estate and are administered by his former agent, Tim Hancock.[74]

Early plans for what eventually became the 1996 Doctor Who television movie included radically redesigned Daleks whose cases unfolded like spiders' legs.[75] The concept for these "Spider Daleks" was abandoned, but picked up again in several Doctor Who spin-offs.[76]

When the new series was announced, many fans hoped the Daleks would return once more to the programme.[77][78] After much negotiation between the BBC and the Nation estate (which at one point appeared to break down completely), an agreement was reached. According to media reports, the initial disagreement was due to the Nation estate demanding levels of creative control over the Daleks' appearances and scripts that were unacceptable to the BBC.[79] Eventually talks between Hancock and the BBC progressed more productively, and the Daleks were cleared to appear in the first series.[74][80]

Fictional history

Dalek in-universe history has seen many retroactive changes, which have caused continuity problems.[81] When the Daleks first appeared in The Daleks, they were presented as the descendants of the Dals, mutated after a brief nuclear war between the Dal and Thal races.[82] In 1975, Terry Nation revised the Daleks' origins in Genesis of the Daleks, where the Dals were now called Kaleds (of which "Daleks" is an anagram), and the Dalek design was attributed to one man, the crippled Kaled chief scientist and evil genius, Davros.[38] Instead of a short nuclear exchange, the Kaled-Thal war was portrayed as a thousand-year-long war of attrition, fought with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons causing widespread mutations among the Kaled race. Davros experimented on living Kaled cells to find the ultimate mutated form of the Kaled species and placed the subjects in tank-like "travel machines" whose design was based on his own life-support chair.[38]

Genesis of the Daleks marked a new era for the depiction of the species, with most of their previous history either forgotten or barely referred to again.[83] Future stories in the original Doctor Who series, which followed a rough story arc,[84] would also focus more on Davros, much to the dissatisfaction of some fans who felt that the Daleks should take centre stage rather than merely becoming minions of their creator.[85] Davros made his last televised appearance for 20 years in Remembrance of the Daleks, which depicted a civil war between two factions of Daleks. One, the "Imperial Daleks", were loyal to Davros, who had become their Emperor, whilst the other, the "Renegade Daleks", followed a black Supreme Dalek.[41]

A single Dalek appeared in "Dalek", written by Robert Shearman, which was broadcast on BBC One on 30 April 2005. This Dalek appeared to be the sole Dalek survivor of the Time War which had destroyed both the Daleks and the Time Lords.[9] A Dalek Emperor returned at the end of the 2005 series, having rebuilt the Dalek race with genetic material harvested with human subjects. It saw itself as a god, and the new Daleks were shown worshipping it. These Daleks and their fleet were destroyed in "The Parting of the Ways".[14] The 2006 season finale "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" featured a squad of four Dalek survivors from the old Empire, known as the Cult of Skaro, led by a black Dalek named "Sec", that had survived the Time War by escaping into the Void between dimensions. They emerged, along with a Time Lord prison vessel containing millions of Daleks, at Canary Wharf due to the actions of the Torchwood Institute and Cybermen from a parallel world. This resulted in a Cyberman-Dalek clash in London, which was resolved when the Tenth Doctor caused both factions to be sucked back into the Void. The Cult survived by utilising an "emergency temporal shift" to escape.[11][86] They would later appear in the two-part story "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks", in which whilst stranded in 1930s New York, they set up a base in the partially built Empire State Building and attempt to rebuild the Dalek race. To this end Dalek Sec merges with a human being to become a Human/Dalek hybrid. The Cult then set about creating "Human Daleks" by "formatting" the brains of a few thousand captured humans, with the intention of producing hybrids which remain fully human in appearance but with Dalek minds.[15] The plot is ultimately foiled due to interference by the Doctor, and Cult members Daleks Sec, Jast and Thay are destroyed. The remaining Cult member, Dalek Caan, once again escapes using a temporal shift.[15]

The Daleks returned in the 2008 seasons' two-part finale, "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End", accompanied once again by their creator Davros. The story reveals that Caan's temporal shift sent him into the Time War where he rescued Davros at the cost of his own sanity. The episode depicts a Dalek invasion of Earth led by Caan, Davros, and a red Supreme Dalek, who has kept Caan and Davros imprisoned in "The Vault", a section of the Dalek flagship, the Crucible. Davros and the Daleks plan to destroy reality itself with a "reality bomb". The plan fails due to the interference of the Doctor, his companions and Caan himself, who has been manipulating events to destroy the Daleks after realising the severity of the atrocities they have committed.[17][87] The Daleks returned in the 2010 episode "Victory of the Daleks", the third episode of the series; Daleks who escaped the destruction of Davros' empire fell back in time and, by chance, managed to retrieve the "Progenator".[88] This is a tiny apparatus which contains 'original' Dalek DNA. The activation of the Progenator results in the creation of a "new paradigm" of Daleks. The New Paradigm Daleks deem their creators inferior and exterminate them; their creators make no resistance to this, deeming themselves inferior as well. They are organised into different castes (drone, scientist, strategists, supreme and eternal), which are identifiable with colour-coded armour instead of the identification plates under the eyestalk used by their predecessors.[89] The Daleks only cameo in subsequent finales "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" (2010) and "The Wedding of River Song" (2011) as Steven Moffat decided to "give them a rest" and stated "There's a problem with the Daleks. They are the most famous of the Doctor's adversaries and the most frequent, which means they are the most reliably defeatable enemies in the universe."[90]

Dalek culture

Daleks have little, if any, individual personality,[11] ostensibly no emotions other than hatred and anger,[9] and a strict command structure in which they are conditioned to obey superiors' orders without question.[91] Dalek speech is characterised by repeated phrases, and by orders given to themselves and to others.[92] Unlike the stereotypical emotionless robots often found in science fiction, Daleks are often angry; author Kim Newman has described the Daleks as behaving "like toddlers in perpetual hissy fits", gloating when in power and throwing tantrums when thwarted.[93] They tend to be excitable and will repeat the same word or phrase over and over again in heightened emotional states, most famously "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

In terms of their behaviour Daleks are extremely aggressive, and seem driven by an instinct to attack. This instinct is so strong that Daleks have been depicted fighting the urge to kill[15][42] or even attacking when unarmed.[9][94] The Fifth Doctor characterises this impulse by saying, "However you respond [to Daleks] is seen as an act of provocation."[42] The fundamental feature of Dalek culture and psychology is an unquestioned belief in the superiority of the Dalek race,[91] and their default directive is to destroy all non-Dalek life-forms.[9] Other species are either to be exterminated immediately, or enslaved and then exterminated later once they are no longer useful.[42] When the "Human/Dalek Sec" hybrid began to doubt the Dalek race's supremacy and purpose, the other Daleks in the Cult of Skaro considered it to be a traitor and turned against it.[15]

The Dalek obsession with their own superiority is illustrated by the schism between the Renegade and Imperial Daleks seen in Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks: the two factions consider the other to be a perversion despite the relatively minor differences between them.[41] This intolerance of any "contamination" within themselves is also shown in "Dalek",[9] The Evil of the Daleks[91] and in the Big Finish Productions audio play The Mutant Phase.[95] This superiority complex is the basis of the Daleks' ruthlessness and lack of compassion.[9][91] This is shown in extreme in Victory of the Daleks, where the new, pure Daleks destroy their creator, impure Daleks, with their consent. It is nearly impossible to negotiate or reason with a Dalek, a single-mindedness that makes them dangerous and not to be underestimated.[9]

Dalek society is depicted as one of extreme scientific and technological advancement; the Third Doctor states that "it was their inventive genius that made them one of the greatest powers in the universe."[94] However, their reliance on logic and machinery is also a strategic weakness which they recognise,[39][41] and thus use more emotion-driven species as agents to compensate for these shortcomings.[41][42][91]

Although the Daleks are not known for their regard for due process, they have taken at least two enemies back to Skaro for a "trial", rather than killing them immediately. The first was their creator, Davros, in Revelation of the Daleks,[40] and the second was the renegade Time Lord known as the Master in the 1996 television movie.[96] The reasons for the Master's trial, and why the Doctor would be asked to retrieve the Master's remains, have never been explained on screen. The Doctor Who Annual 2006 implies that the trial may have been due to a treaty signed between the Time Lords and the Daleks.[97] The framing device for the I, Davros audio plays is a Dalek trial to determine if Davros should be the Daleks' leader once more.[98]

Spin-off novels contain several tongue-in-cheek mentions of Dalek poetry, and an anecdote about an opera based upon it, which was lost to posterity when the entire cast was exterminated on the opening night. Two stanzas are given in the novel The Also People by Ben Aaronovitch.[99] In an alternative timeline portrayed in Big Finish Productions audio adventure The Time of the Daleks, the Daleks show a fondness for the works of Shakespeare.[100] A similar idea was satirised by comedian Frankie Boyle in the BBC comedy quiz programme Mock the Week; he gave the fictional Dalek poem "Daffodils; EXTERMINATE DAFFODILS!" as an "unlikely line to hear in Doctor Who".[101]

Because the Doctor has defeated the Daleks so often, he has become their collective arch-enemy and they have standing orders to capture or exterminate him on sight. In later fiction, the Daleks know the Doctor as "Ka Faraq Gatri" ("Bringer of Darkness" or "Destroyer of Worlds"), and "The Oncoming Storm".[14][87] Both the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) suggest that the Doctor is one of the few beings the Daleks fear. In "Doomsday", Rose notes that while the Daleks see the extermination of five million Cybermen as "pest control", "one Doctor" visibly un-nerves them (to the point they physically recoil).[11]

Licensed appearances

A comics page with eleven panels. The first panel contains the title "The Daleks" in jagged white letters. Subsequent panels show Dalek cylinders (slightly narrower than those depicted in previous images) and blue-skinned humanoids with bulbous heads. The last panel shows a gold-coloured Dalek-like shape with a large spherical top.
A page from the TV 21 comic strip, featuring the creation of the Emperor Dalek

Two Doctor Who movies starring Peter Cushing featured the Daleks as the main villains: Dr. Who and the Daleks, and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD, based on the television serials The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, respectively. The movies were not direct remakes; for example, the Doctor in the Cushing films was a human who had built a time-travelling device named Tardis, instead of a mysterious alien who stole a device called "the TARDIS".[102]

Four books focusing on the Daleks were published in the 1960s. The Dalek Book (1964, written by Terry Nation and David Whitaker), The Dalek World (1965, written by Nation and Whitaker) and The Dalek Outer Space Book (1966, by Nation and Brad Ashton) were all hardcover books formatted like annuals, containing text stories and comics about the Daleks, along with fictional information (sometimes based on the television serials, other times made up for the books).[103] Nation also published The Dalek Pocketbook and Space-Travellers Guide, which collected articles and features treating the Daleks as if they were real.[104] Four more annuals were published in the 1970s by World Distributors under the title Terry Nation's Dalek Annual (with cover dates 1976–1979, but published 1975–1978).[105] Two original novels by John Peel, War of the Daleks (1997) and Legacy of the Daleks (1998), were released as part of the Eighth Doctor Adventures series of Doctor Who novels.[106] A novella, The Dalek Factor by Simon Clark, was published in 2004, and two books featuring the Daleks and the Tenth Doctor (I am a Dalek by Gareth Roberts, 2006, and Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale, 2009) have been released as part of the New Series Adventures.[107]

Nation authorised the publication of the comic strip The Daleks in the comic TV Century 21 in 1965. The weekly one-page strip, written by Whitaker but credited to Nation, featured the Daleks as protagonists and "heroes", and continued for two years, from their creation of the mechanised Daleks by the humanoid Dalek scientist, Yarvelling, to their eventual discovery in the ruins of a crashed space-liner of the co-ordinates for Earth, which they proposed to invade. Although much of the material in these strips directly contradicted what was shown on television, some concepts like the Daleks using humanoid duplicates and the design of the Dalek Emperor did show up later on in the programme.[108]

At the same time, a Doctor Who strip was also being published in TV Comic. Initially, the strip did not have the rights to use the Daleks, so the First Doctor battled the "Trods" instead, cone-shaped robotic creatures that ran on static electricity. By the time the Second Doctor appeared in the strip in 1967 the rights issues had been resolved, and the Daleks began making appearances starting in The Trodos Ambush (TVC #788-#791), where they massacred the Trods. The Daleks also made appearances in the Third Doctor-era Dr. Who comic strip that featured in the combined Countdown/TV Action comic during the early 1970s.[109]

Other licensed appearances have included a number of stage plays (see Stage plays below) and television adverts for Wall's "Sky Ray" ice lollies (1966), Weetabix breakfast cereal (1977), Kit Kat chocolate bars (2001),[110][111] and the ANZ Bank (2005).[112] In 2003, Daleks also appeared in UK billboard ads for Energizer batteries, alongside the slogan "Are You Power Mad?"[110]

Other appearances

Non-Doctor Who television and film

Daleks have made cameo appearances in television programmes and films unrelated to Doctor Who from the 1960s to the present day. Dalek toys are seen in a department store in "Death at Bargain Prices", a 1965 episode of the fantasy/thriller series The Avengers, which like Doctor Who was created by Sydney Newman, although broadcast on the rival ITV network.[113] During the 1992 Christmas special of the comedy series Mr Bean, the title character uses children's toys to play out a bizarre nativity scene in which a Dalek exterminates a tiny lamb and a tyrannosaurus rex.[114] Two purple toy daleks are also seen in the background of an episode of the American children's cartoon Rugrats.[115] In the comic television documentary The Red Dwarf A-Z, two Daleks are shown (under "E" for "Exterminate") arguing that all Earth television is human propaganda, and the works more commonly attributed to William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven were actually written by Daleks; subsequently, one of them remarks that the "change the bulb" joke from "Legion" was funny, and is promptly exterminated by the other for the crime of "not behaving like a true Dalek".[116] In the 2004 series of Coupling, written by Steven Moffat (who was later to write for and produce Doctor Who), a Dalek appears in the second episode of season four.[117] This was voiced by Nicholas Briggs,[118] who later went on to provide Dalek voices for the series proper from 2005 onwards.[119] (Terry Nation's original Dalek rights deal with the BBC had been negotiated by his then agent Beryl Vertue, later Moffat's mother-in-law.)[120] In the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, the secret military base, Area 52, detains a number of monsters and robots from old sci-fi films; among those are some Daleks, who upon release by Marvin the Martian, proceed to attack while spouting their catchphrases.[110][121] A Dalek appeared alongside Darth Vader, Ming the Merciless, a Klingon, the Sixth Doctor and a 1980s Cyberman in a 2003 episode of the British motoring program Top Gear, to see who was "Master of the Universe" with a lap around their test track in a racing modified Honda Civic.[122] The Dalek couldn't get into the car, so it exterminated the other drivers (with the exception of the Klingon and the Doctor; who had apparently fled beforehand as they were not present); the Cyberman was eventually declared the winner by the hosts.[123] In a 2009 episode of the American sitcom Better Off Ted, a deactivated Dalek is spotted in the sub-basement where the supposed "Robot Farm" is located.[124] In 2010, a Dalek was a "guest" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson sitting off to the side and keeping a watchful eye on Ferguson. It never spoke, but occasionally moved around. This was a lead-up to having Matt Smith (actor) as a real guest on the show.


A square record cover, with the text "I'M GONNA SPEND MY CHRISTMAS WITH A DALEK" and the label "ORIOLE" (smaller) above a photograph showing a young woman and four young men in 1960s dress smiling and laughing at a grey Dalek on an urban street. The white text "the go-go's" is superimposed on the lower left quadrant of the photograph.
The cover of the 1964 novelty single "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek" by The Go-Go's

The first known musical reference to Daleks is the 1964 novelty single "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek" by The Go-Go's, released during the 1960s' "Dalekmania" fad.[125] Dalek voices were sampled and recreated in the 1988 novelty single "Doctorin' the Tardis" by The Timelords (who later performed as The KLF),[126] and also sampled by the German electronic band Rotersand in their 2005 single "Exterminate Annihilate Destroy".[127] Many other musicians have referenced Daleks in lyrics, including: The Clash, in "Remote Control" ("Repression—gonna be a Dalek / Repression—I am a robot / Repression—I obey.");[128] The Creatures, in "Weathercade" ("The Dalek drones are drowning");[129] and The Supernaturals, in "Smile" ("I feel like a Dalek inside/ Everything's gone grey but used to be so black and white").[130] Bands have even incorporated Daleks into their names: Dalek I Love You, a synthpop band active for over ten years from the late 1970s to the beginning of the 1990s, and instrumental surf-rock trio Dalek Beach Party, whose 1992 EP featured the song "Exterminate! Exterminate!"[131]


At the 1966 Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, delegate Hugh Dykes publicly compared the Labour government's Defence Secretary Denis Healey to the creatures. "Mr. Healey is the Dalek of defence, pointing a metal finger at the armed forces and saying 'I will eliminate you'."[132]

In a British Government Parliamentary Debate in the House of Commons on 12 February 1968, the then Minister of Technology Tony Benn mentioned the Daleks during a reply to a question from the Labour MP Hugh Jenkins concerning the Concorde aircraft project. In the context of the dangers of solar flares, he said, "Because we are exploring the frontiers of technology, some people think Concorde will be avoiding solar flares like Dr. Who avoiding Daleks. It is not like this at all."[133][134]

Australian Labor Party luminary Robert Ray described his right wing Labor Unity faction successor, Victorian Senator Stephen Conroy, and his Socialist Left faction counterpart, Kim Carr, as "factional Daleks" during a 2006 Australian Fabian Society lunch in Sydney.[135]

Daleks have been used in political cartoons to caricature: Tony Benn[136] John Birt,[137] Tony Blair[138][139] (also portrayed as Davros),[140] Alastair Campbell,[138] Alec Douglas-Home,[141] Charles de Gaulle,[142] Peter Mandelson,[138] Mark Thompson[143]


Daleks have even made their way into pornographic material. A Dalek appeared with a naked Katy Manning (who played the Third Doctor's companion Jo Grant) in a photoshoot for Playboy after Manning left the series.[144] Although Playboy did not use the images, they were eventually published in a men's magazine named Girl Illustrated.[144]

Daleks were also featured in an unauthorised pornographic feature, Abducted by the Daloids. In the film, the "Daloids", portrayed by several Dalek models, abduct three scantily-clad models and watch lesbian scenes. The BBC took action to prevent sale of the DVD when learning of it in November 2005.[145] Another pornographic parody, entitled Dr. Loo and the Filthy Phaleks was released earlier in 2005.[146]

Magazine covers

A gatefold magazine cover, depicting a nighttime scene with four gold Daleks in the foreground, the railing of a bridge in the midground, and the Perpendicular Gothic towers of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in the background. The left half of the image contains the text "Radio Times" in the top, and "VOTE DALEK!" in the lower left. A small black-and-white photograph is superimposed on the upper left of the right side of the image; that photograph, taken from a slightly different angle, shows four Daleks crossing the same bridge, with the same building in the background.
The Radio Times for 30 April – 6 May 2005 covered both the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who and the forthcoming general election. In 2008, it was voted the best British magazine cover of all time.

Daleks have appeared on magazine covers promoting Doctor Who since the "Dalekmania" fad of the 1960s. Radio Times has featured the Daleks on its cover several times, beginning with the 21–27 November 1964 issue which promoted The Dalek Invasion of Earth.[147] Other magazines also used Daleks to attract readers' attention, including the aforementioned Girl Illustrated.[144]

In April 2005, Radio Times created a special cover to commemorate both the return of the Daleks to the screen in "Dalek" and the forthcoming general election.[148] This cover recreated a scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which the Daleks were seen crossing Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament in the background. The cover text read "VOTE DALEK!" In a 2008 contest sponsored by the Periodical Publishers Association, this cover was voted the best British magazine cover of all time.[149] The 2010 UK general election campaign also prompted a collector's set of three near-identical covers of the Radio Times on 17 April with exactly the same headline but with the newly redesigned Daleks in their primary colours representing the three main political parties, Red being Labour, Blue as Conservative and Yellow as Liberal Democrats.


Daleks have been the subject of many parodies, including Spike Milligan's "Pakistani Dalek" sketch in his comedy series Q,[150][151][152] and Victor Lewis-Smith's "Gay Daleks".[152][153] Occasionally the BBC has used the Daleks to parody other subjects: in 2002, BBC Worldwide published the Dalek Survival Guide, a parody of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks.[154] Comedian Eddie Izzard has an extended stand-up routine about Daleks, which was included in his 1993 stand-up show "Live at the Ambassadors".[155] The Daleks made two brief appearances in a pantomime version of Aladdin at the Birmingham Hippodrome which starred Torchwood star John Barrowman in the lead role.[156] A joke telling robot, possessing a Dalek-like boom, and loosely modelled after the Dalek also appeared in the South Park episode "Funnybot" even spouting out "exterminate".[157]


The BBC approached Walter Tuckwell, a New Zealand-born entrepreneur who was handling product merchandising for other BBC shows, and asked him to do the same for the Daleks and Doctor Who.[158] Tuckwell created a glossy sales brochure that sparked off a Dalek craze, dubbed "Dalekmania" by the press, which peaked in 1965.[159]

Toys and models

A Louis Marx & Co. Dalek model

The first Dalek toys were released in 1965 as part of the "Dalekmania" craze.[160] These included battery-operated, friction drive and "Rolykins" Daleks from Louis Marx & Co., as well as models from Cherilea, Herts Plastic Moulders Ltd and Cowan, de Groot Ltd, and "Bendy" Daleks made by Newfeld Ltd.[160] At the height of the Daleks' popularity, in addition to toy replicas, there were Dalek board games and activity sets, slide projectors for children and even Dalek playsuits made from PVC.[161] Collectible cards, stickers, toy guns, music singles, punching bags and many other items were also produced in this period.[161] Dalek toys released in the 1970s included a new version of Louis Marx's battery-operated Dalek (1974), a "talking Dalek" from Palitoy (1975) and a Dalek board game (1975) and Dalek action figure (1977), both from Denys Fisher.[162] From 1988 to 2002, Dapol released a line of Dalek toys in conjunction with its Doctor Who action figure series.[163] Bluebird Toys produced a Dalek-themed Doctor Who playset in 1998.[164]

In 1984, Sevans Models released a self-assembly model kit for a one-fifth scale Dalek, which Doctor Who historian David Howe has described as "the most accurate model of a Dalek ever to be released".[165] Comet Miniatures released two Dalek self-assembly model kits in the 1990s.[166]

In 1992, Bally released a Dr Who pinball machine which prominently featured the Daleks both as a primary playfield feature and as a motorized toy in the topper.[167]

Beginning in 2000, Product Enterprise (who later operated under the names "Iconic Replicas" and "Sixteen 12 Collectibles") produced various Dalek toys. These included one-inch (2.5 cm) Dalek "Rolykins" (based on the Louis Marx toy from 1965); push-along "talking" 7-inch (17.8 cm) Daleks; 2½-inch (6.4 cm) Dalek "Rollamatics" with a pull back and release mechanism; and a one-foot (30.5 cm) remote control Dalek.[168]

In 2005 Character Options was granted the "Master Toy License" for the revived Doctor Who series, including the Daleks.[169] Their product lines have included 5-inch (12.7 cm) static/push-along and radio controlled Daleks, radio controlled 12-inch (30.5 cm) versions and radio controlled 18-inch (45.7 cm) / 1:3 scale variants.[170] The 12-inch remote control Dalek won the 2005 award for Best Electronic Toy of the Year from the Toy Retailers Association.[169] Some versions of the 18-inch model included semi-autonomous and voice command-features.[171] In 2008, the company acquired a license to produce 5-inch (12.7 cm) Daleks of the various "classic series" variants.[172] For the fifth revived series, both Ironside (Post-Time war Daleks in camouflage khaki), Drone (new, red) and, later, Strategist Daleks (new, blue) were released as both RC Infrared Battle Daleks and action figures.

Computer games

Licensed Doctor Who games featuring Daleks include 1984's The Key to Time, a text adventure game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.[173] Daleks also appeared in minor roles or as thinly disguised versions in other, minor games throughout the 80s, but did not feature as central adversaries in a licensed game until 1992, when Admiral Software published Dalek Attack.[174] The game allowed the player to play various Doctors or companions, running them through several environments to defeat the Daleks.[174][175] In 1997 the BBC released a PC game entitled Destiny of the Doctors which also featured the Daleks, among other adversaries.[176]

Unauthorized games featuring Daleks continued to appear through the 1990s and 2000s, including Dalek-based modifications of Dark Forces, Quake, and Half-Life, and even more recently, a mod of Halo: Combat Evolved; many of these can be found online, including an Adobe Flash game, Dalek:Dissolution Earth.[177] In 1998 QWho, a modification for Quake, featured the Daleks as adversaries. This also formed the basis of TimeQuake, a total conversion written in 2000 which included other Doctor Who monsters such as Sontarans.[178] Another unauthorised game is DalekTron, a based on Robotron: 2084 written to coincide with the 2005 series.[179]

One authorised online game is The Last Dalek, a Flash game created by New Media Collective for the BBC. It is based on the 2005 episode "Dalek" and can be played at the official BBC Doctor Who website.[180] The Doctor Who website also features another game, Daleks vs Cybermen (also known as Cyber Troop Control Interface), based on the 2006 episode "Doomsday"; in this game, the player controls troops of Cybermen which must fight Daleks as well as Torchwood Institute members.[181]

On 5 June 2010, the BBC released the first of four official computer games on their website, 'Doctor Who: The Adventure Games', which are intended as part of the official TV series adventures. In the first of these, 'The City of the Daleks', the Doctor in his 11th incarnation and Amy Pond must stop the Daleks from re-writing time and reviving Skaro, their homeland.

They also appear in the Nintendo DS and Wii games Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth and Doctor Who: Return to Earth.

A lone Dalek appears in the IOS game The Mazes of Time[182]

Full-size reproductions

A small but thriving community of Dalek fans have been building life-size reproduction Daleks for many years.[183] The BBC and Terry Nation estate officially disapprove of self-build Daleks, but usually intervene only if attempts are made to trade unlicensed Daleks and Dalek components commercially, or if it is considered that actual or intended use may damage the BBC's reputation or the Doctor Who/Dalek brand.[184] The Crewe, Cheshire-based company "This Planet Earth" is the only business which has been licensed by the BBC and the Terry Nation Estate to produce full-size TV Dalek replicas, and by Canal+ Image UK Ltd. to produce full size Movie Dalek replicas commercially.[145][185]

Other major appearances

Stage plays


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Original novels and novellas

See also


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