BooksDoctor Who

The Raymond P. Cusick Signature Collection (book review).

After ‘The Barry Newbery Collection’ last year, I did wonder if Telos would continue with these looks at production design for ‘Doctor Who’. With this one, ‘The Raymond P. Cusick Signature Collection’ we come to the earliest and most significant contributor to the TV series. I think you know who I mean from the title and who died in February this year.


Without Ray Cusick, we wouldn’t have had the Daleks as we see them. In the finale of this book, he even explains a little more about the detail of their design, saying he only used the pepper pot was to show how it would move. Had fibreglass been used for the chassis, we would never have had the iconic flat slats that we ended up with. At the beginning of the book, there is even a Cusick illustration as to what the real Dalek looked like inside and the occasional glimpse from under the sack in the original series matches this. Saying that, I’m still puzzling just how much was inside the war machine when it could be so easily cleared for either the Doctor or Chesterton to get inside. Back in the early 60s, it was only the likes of me who probably questioned such things. What wasn’t disclosed until the 70s how little regard the BBC had for Cusick’s Dalek design other than raking in money and not even a bonus because he was a staff worker.

Cusick only really designed thirteen stories, coming off ‘Doctor Who’ because he was cheesed off with his employers. He never saw himself as an SF designer and relished more regular series.

I think the biggest surprise was seeing some colour photos for the first Daleks story and ‘The Keys Of Marinus’, especially when so much was in black and white at the time. Seeing where the sets stop and the studio begins puts a lot of things into context. Cusick frequently points out that he had to borrow or use drapes to make up for such a poor budget and could never do the research that he would have liked to have done for ‘The Romans’ because of it.

There is so much to enjoy here. I loved seeing the Sensorites without their masks on doing their rehearsals. If you’ve ever wondered what they looked liked, then this book is for you. I knew who Peter Glaze was from ‘Crackerjack’ but the others I didn’t. If the Mechanoids hadn’t been so big, they might have appeared again. Mind you, they did appear in the TV21 ‘The Daleks’ comicstrip.

As Cusick himself points out, he did a lot more than ‘Doctor Who’ but I doubt if it has had made such an impact on people than these first two years on the show. He might be gone now but looking at this book, he’ll never be forgotten. Great stuff.

GF Willmetts

November 2013

(pub: Telos. 96 page oblong illustrated softcover. Price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-090-8)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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