Ray Cusick joined the BBC as a staff designer in 1960. A name you may or may not have run across over the last 50+ years, but you definitely are familiar with his work. Arguably, his most important contribution was to give form to Terry Nation’s Dalek concept. While the job of designing the Daleks originally fell to another BBC in-house designer, future film-maker Ridley Scott, scheduling conflicts saw the job handed to Cusick. While you may think it was the scientist Davros who created the Daleks, it was script writer Terry Nation who created the concept of the Daleks and Ray Cusick who created both their design and appearance. Cusick was responsible for bringing to life a great many of the early Doctor Who stories with his set designs between 1963 and 1966.
Back in 2008, Ray Cusick, the man who designed these tank-like robots that first appeared in the 1963 Doctor Who serial “The Daleks”, visited the BBC Props Department as part of the series, Doctor Who Confidential, to see the Daleks and TARDIS of today. The brilliantly cool factor on this video is to listen to Ray discuss his original reasoning behind the Dalek design and witness the merging of Doctor Who set designers from two different generations.
Cusick so over-simplified his design brilliance on Confidential: “When I’m asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realized that you’ve got to have an operator to operate them. If you had anything mechanical, 10 to one on the take it would go wrong, so you’ve got a human being in there who would be absolutely totally reliable. I then thought ‘Well, the operator’s got to sit down’, so I drew a seat, ergonomic height, 18in, got the operator down, and then drew round him. That’s how the basic shape appeared.”
Sadly, Ray Cusick passed away in February at the age of 84 but he will definitely be remembered during this years Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration and for years to come.