Without sounding too pretentious,” Wilson said. “It’s just like any other performance. It’s a role that you have to play and make work. That’s why they still have people inside them and they’re not automated, because it isn’t easy to make this hunk of fibre glass, metal and wood appear to be a living, breathing creature.”
Indeed, given that the Daleks are pulled along with your feet (much like a Flintstones car), there’s a certain amount of technique that needs to be perfected. “You can always tell when someone hasn’t operated a Dalek before. It is quite difficult,” Wilson said. “You’re reliant on three wheels, which isn’t the most stable construction to keep something from rocking side to side, so you have to keep your weight central inside it. Pretty much all of the Dalek operators come from a sort of dance background. It does require incredibly strong legs — we’ve all got fantastic calf muscles.”
It’s a trait that they share with operators of classic-era Daleks, who were recruited from ballet backgrounds. Yet Edwards, who operated ten different Daleks in the new episode, reckoned that they had it easy.
“We have, over the years, studied our ancestors and looked at old episodes of Doctor Who to work out the little tricks the Daleks have,” Wilson said. “That’s especially true with this episode because we knew we were going to be recreating old Daleks. The basic principles are the same, but in terms of operation, the old-style Daleks…I don’t want to do the old guys down but they had it slightly easier. They are much easier to operate because they’re lighter.