Designer of The Daleks;
Born: 1928; Died: February 21, 2013
Ray Cusick, who has died aged 84, was the man who made the Daleks. It was the writer Terry Nation who came up with the idea in a script for the second Doctor Who story in 1963 but it was Cusick who created the look: the creepy metal bodies, the weird protruberances, and the lights that would flash in unison with their catchphrase: exterminate.
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For many years, Cusick felt his contribution had gone unrecognised – and certainly he made very little money while Nation made millions – but in more recent years, fans and critics have started to place Cusick in his rightful place as one of the architects of the success of Doctor Who. Terry Molly, one of the actors who played the creator of the Daleks, Davros, said: "Without Ray, there would probably be no Doctor Who."
Cusick was born in London and for most of his career was a staff designer with the BBC. He had always had an interest in art but his father encouraged a more practical career choice and after school he studied science and maths at a polytechnic. He hated it, though, and joined the army to escape, serving in Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus.
After being released in 1948, he won a grant to study art and spent five years at art school before training to be a teacher. But, like maths and science, this was a bad fit and Cusick left to work as a designer at Wimbledon Theatre in London.
It was then he spotted an advert in The Stage for a design job at the BBC. He started at the bottom of the ladder and sat next to another junior designer called Ridley Scott, who would later direct Bladerunner and Alien. When a job designing for the Doctor Who serial The Daleks came up, initially both Cusick and Scott were assigned, but the producer Verity Lambert wanted only one designer and Cusick got the job.
After spending a day working on ideas, Cusick came up with the shape and look of the Daleks after considering the practical problems of building them around a human operator. Later, when he had lunch with the man who would build the Daleks (four were built for £250) he demonstrated what he wanted by gliding a pepper pot round the table.
When the story was eventually broadcast, the Daleks were an extraordinary success – there was Beatlemania and there was Dalekmania – but as the merchandising and the money-making grew, Cusick was told he would not be getting any of it. "What really riled me at the time," he said, "was that nobody at the BBC gave me any credit or thanks." Eventually, he was given an ex-gratia payment of £80 after tax.
As Dalekmania grew, Cusick continued to work on Doctor Who, working on several other William Hartnell stories. The brief, as always, was to create a different universe with a tiny budget and eventually the strain was enough for Cusick. After what he described as a 25-hours-a-day, eight-days-a-week stint on the programme he left. He stayed at the BBC, though, and went on to design for other programmes including When the Boat Comes In, The Pallisers and The Duchess of Duke Street, all of which appealed to his interest in history.
He retired from the BBC in 1988 and was in demand at Doctor Who conventions. He is survived by two daughters and seven grandchildren. His wife pre-deceased him.