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Last Updated: Friday, 21 February, 2003, 12:07 GMT
'My life as a Dalek'
Dr Who (William Hartnell) confronts the Daleks in 1963
Get behind the sofa!
It's 40 years since the Daleks first menaced Doctor Who. Here, actor John Scott Martin recalls his time as an arch-enemy of the Time Lord.

I've done dozens of Dr Who episodes in my time, and seen off at least five incarnations of the Doctor.

I joined the series in Bill Hartnell's days, he was the first Dr Who, and my last was with Sylvester McCoy. When I joined the team, the Daleks had already done one episode; one chappie dropped out and I popped into that slot as an operator.

The director knew me from Z Cars, in which I'd played a crook the previous week. We met in the BBC lift and he asked me if I wanted to play a monster in a children's programme.

John Scott Martin
Still a jobbing actor at 75
'Yes,' said me, a jobbing actor. 'I don't mind, I'll be the back end of a horse if necessary'. And thereafter I stayed. They kept using us because we knew what we were doing and it saved a lot of time.

In the early days, the costume was made of wood with a fibreglass dome. The right hand was the famous kitchen plunger and the left hand was a gun.

It was a very basic, simple effect - just a chap in a costume waving his arms about and someone else saying 'Exterminate!'. And yet it worked. It worked very well indeed.

Stumped by stairs

When I first got a look at the costume, I was amazed. It worked so well because for the first time looking at a monster on telly, you couldn't tell there was a bloke inside.

Daleks threaten London in an early Dr Who episode
Lo-tech, high thrills
Even in the studio, I could trundle up to a make-up artist or a producer and if I spoke, they'd jump with fright because they'd forget anyone was inside. Other times, I'd get left in the costume when it was tea break.

To make the Dalek live, I'd sit on a seat inside and tie myself in with a seatbelt. There was no floor so I'd propel myself after the Doctor with my feet. I certainly couldn't go up and down steps, and it wasn't feasible to work outside very much as even a stick could stop me in my tracks.

Once I was chasing Dr Who - who could run much faster than a Dalek - down a corridor, around the corner, up the other side, and then down the same corridor. He got so far ahead of me that he was around the back chasing me. Noel Edmonds picked up on it and awarded us the Golden Egg blooper award for that week.

Run for the hills

I do find it rather strange when a great big hulking rugby player tells me that as a child, he was terrified of me. All I can say is that there's little harm I can do him now.

Tom Baker with his arch-foes
Daleks proved hard to exterminate
When my family moved out of London to a village in Essex, word got around that I was 'Doctor Dalek' and I was invited to take part in a school fete.

All the little boys of about eight, as soon as they got a stick in their hands, they wanted to hit the Dalek. I had to be rescued from a fate worse than death. They soon cottoned on that there was nothing to be frightened of.

I shouldn't think I'll don that costume again. I'm longer in the tooth than a Dalek now.

John Scott Martin and others feature in My Life As A Dalek, broadcast in the UK on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 22 February at 1030 GMT.

Send us your comments:

Please settle a long standing argument between me and many other American fans of the show - what is the proper pronunciation of Dalek?
Robert del Valle, Detroit, USA

Robert, it's Dah-lek. All other pronunciations will be exterminated.
Hamish W, UK

I saw the daleks 40 years ago and I still feel uncomfortable travelling on the London Underground. Every time the wind blows ahead of the train, I expect a dalek to come out onto the platform. My children consider I am mad but how do you get rid of the feeling of fear? I went to an exhibition a few years ago and just to be in the same room as a dalek was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Allan Jennings, Bahrain

One day my brother and I made a dalek. We used the rubbish bin, which was washed out first and then fitted over me. We had no tools to make eye holes, so my younger brother, six at the time, shouted out directions. As you can imagine, this arrangement was not perfect and soon I had been directed into a nearby street, where a car had to abruptly stop to avoid me. That was the last time we played that game.
Andy Lewis, US

The Daleks (pronounced: DAH-Lex) were a great invention: sci-fi people were a little shocked by the idea that Asimov's benign, rules-bound robots could have morphed into kill-crazy 'bots. But it was the 60s, and the beginnings of the revolt against Pollyanna-ish ideas of scientific progress. In its heyday, Dr Who wasunmissable: you'd drop everything to be home to watch it, with tea and crumpets by the fire.
Ray Wilde, US

I keep trying to interest my eight year old in Dr Who, but he laughs at the Daleks and turns to his teddy and says "Pah! You could take those guys down!". Why did they scare me half to death??!
Sean Murray, US, British ex-pat

I'm now very grown up and working in a school in Mexico but I too spent a lot of episodes of Dr Who behind the sofa. The Americans I work with have really missed out! Thanks for such a great production over so many years.
Jane Groves, Mexico

As a kid, the Daleks were very scary. As a college student, I wanted to build one. As a professional, my Daleks are all in space, and don't have the guns or the plungers. And in space, no-one can hear you say "EXTERMINATE!"
Mike D, US

We moved to the Atlanta in 1966 and my three year old toddler loved to play outside our apartment complex paths wearing small moving boxes and saying "I am a Dalek I will destroy you." The building workers were totally perplexed not having yet met Dr Who.
Di Bradbury, USA

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