Thursday, 28 February 2013

Raymond Cusick, 1928 - 2013

Raymond Cusick could, in many ways, be credited with the immortality of Doctor Who as much as Verity Lambert, William Hartnell, the concept of regeneration, or the overall story of the show.

An early Dalek design by Cusick
In 1963, set-designer Cusick received an incredible script by writer Terry Nation, featuring a race of creatures driven by pure hatred. The script featured only the most basic of descriptions for these monsters (eyes on stalks, round base, arms with claws), and Raymond Cusick went away and came up with one of the most unique and exciting designs in the whole of science fiction history. The Daleks were born.

Their debut story started in 1963 and ran for seven weeks, reeling in the viewers and terrifying a whole nation. After the Daleks' first adventure was broadcast, audiences were already demanding a rematch with the Doctor. People were no longer just passively watching the series, they were actively getting involved, campaigning and making requests to the BBC, such was the popularity of these metal meanies. Thanks to the Daleks, Doctor Who was now an institution!

An image from 'The Sun' (2004)
Fifty years on, the main design of the Daleks is still instantly recognisable worldwide. Back in 2004, when Doctor Who was on the way to making a big comeback, and the whole 'will the Daleks be making an appearance or not?' saga was settled, 'The Sun' newspaper printed a picture of the new-look Daleks. I was flabbergasted, in the best possible way. I couldn't believe how close the BBC had stuck to the original Dalek design. I was expecting some bland overhaul, but no! The eyestalk, balls and sink plunger were all present and correct. It was a thrilling moment, and a testament to Cusick's genius.

Of course, the Daleks were one thing, but Cusick did a lot more for early Doctor Who. He played a large part in designing additional rooms in the TARDIS for 'The Edge of Destruction', and created excellent sets for the underrated 'The Keys of Marinus' and historical romp 'The Romans'. Not content with merely bringing the words on a page to life, Cusick used his imagination to fill in the gaps left by some writers (Terry Nation famously used to describe rooms and corridors as 'white and featureless', leaving the designers to do as they pleased!) to create exciting worlds, landscapes and buildings. A designer in the truest sense of the word.

Although Cusick didn't get the full credit he deserved for the creation of the Daleks (he was paid a small fee for his work, whereas Terry Nation had all the copyright and royalties for coming up with the idea of them for his script), he has created a legacy that will never fade away.

Raymond Cusick passed away in his sleep on the 21st of February, 2013, but he lived long enough to see his Daleks rise again, made from the same blue-print as his original masterpiece 50 years ago.

Rest in peace, Raymond Cusick, 1928-2013. Without you, we wouldn't have Doctor Who now as we know it, if at all! As Mark Gatiss wrote on Twitter, “Daleks forever!”


  1. A fittingly well-written tribute to one of the little known greats in Doctor Who history. Many thanks.

    1. Thank you very much Alex! He did not get the full credit he deserved, although us die-hards know and understand his genius.