Friday, 1 March 2013

Ray Cusick and his sliver machines

 Ray Cusick, designer of the Daleks, died on February 21st 2013 , aged 84

Modern television favours media-studies graduates able to spend time toiling as unpaid interns. In Mr Cusick’s day it was different: a job you could drift into when other careers did not work out. life was so much simpler 
He had originally wanted to be a sculptor, studied maths and science,and was a Art Teacher before landing a Job at the BBC
now sadly passed on ,on this the shows fiftieth anniversary year

 Perfection,is rarely achieved at first attempt ,The Daleks however proved themselves to be the spectacular exception to the rule
From Written concept and story to the rough drawings to blue print to screen in little under two months ,the Designers and engineers who rushed out a TV Robot to last six weeks ,unwittingly or unknowingly created a legend who's popularity would show no sign of diminishing after fifty years and even a seventeen  year hiatus off our screens 

The BBC commissioned a script from a freelance writer Terry Nation known for writing comedies like hancocks half hour and he created the Daleks.
 Skaro the radioactive war the scorched earth  (this is 1963 height of the cold war ) all there in first script to be retconned some years later in Genesis of the Daleks but the first stories were there ,The Dalek was revealed to be not a machine but a protective shell in which a mutant creature – the result of the genetically disastrous consequences of nuclear war – was housed.what wasn't was the Description two lines in the script stage directions referred to them that is all

Terry Nation,suggested they should make a gliding movement "like the Georgian state dancers", but there was little other visual description in the script. a eye like a lens and thats it 
There was a general consensus among the production team that the cliched "man in a suit" look be avoided in favour of something more otherworldly.
 Cusick demonstrated the creature's style of movement by grabbing a pepperpot and sliding it across the table to the model maker Bill Roberts (whose company Shawcraft built the Daleks). (,there is a story of Bill a large person sat on a stool and for measurement drawn round for size of the Dalek skirt ) 
 An initial design involved the Dalek operator propelling the machine with a tricycle housed inside it but eventually the actors moved the squat, castor-mounted props along by shuffling their feet.
These two men Roberts and Cusick designed and engineered a enduring legend  
Ray coming back in the Chase (1965) and redesigning new elements to overcome initial limitations for what was supposed to be a one off appearance in one story 
he created the now famous slats mesh solar panel look for the Chase (1965) in answer to the Daleks power problem as well as various different equipment to replace the sucker on the Dalek arm (originally conceived to be a claw as used in the Movies  ,considered dangerous and replaced by a sink plunger)  and the Mekon's for that story 

 for more info on shawcraft,click link
making of at Shawcraft

  But Mr Cusick did much more ,his time as Designer and head of Art Department during the tenure of William Hartnell era saw some great innovations with no time and no budget.all this some years before anything else, the program was unique and the only one of its kind so this was new

Cusick had to contend with a number of Doctor Who adventures that required new sets each week. The Keys of Marinus (1964), for example, featured hideous brains in jars one week, a lethal jungle the next and a snowy vista after that. Cusick felt that the show's low budget was stretched particularly thinly on stories of this kind, but was assisted by the low-resolution television picture, which, he admitted, covered a multitude of sins. Planet of Giants (1964) was a humdrum story made remarkable by Cusick's impressive renderings of an over sized science laboratory, dead insects and a moving giant fly.

Cusick left Doctor Who after the 12‑part epic The Daleks' Master Plan (1965-66), on which he shared the intensive workload with a fellow designer, Barry Newbery, (who had taken over from Peter Brachaki) a man in interviews who seemed somehow pleased with what he did but sorry about lack of acknowledgement he got for the Daleks 

He recalled appearing on the TV discussion show Late Night Line-Up with Nation and asking him afterwards about potential involvement with the forthcoming Dalek feature films (made in colour by Aaru productions and starring Peter Cushing in 1965 and 1966). Nation was enthusiastic and reassuring about the projects "Oh leave it to me Ray"  but, Cusick said: "Then I never heard from him again." From these films and many other commercial exploitations of the Daleks, Nation, a freelancer with a hard nosed  agent, became a rich man. Cusick, on the other hand, was a BBC staff member, and only after a lengthy and hard-fought battle by his head of department, got a special merit payment that amounted to no more than a few hundred pounds. He was, however, the proud recipient of a gold Blue Peter badge for his work

 more here
Guardian newspaper 

 He spent a lot of time not wanting cash but acknowledgement as Dalek designer ,well Ray many do, i for one always have 
Ray designed the Dalek, the maker was Bill Roberts who had to contribute to the design to make it and make it work  ,the writer who dreamed them up was Terry Nation, basing the Metal meanies on Nazis and gestapo with layering's of cold war 
fifty fifty owned by Nation and BBC

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