How to help make the audience feel sorry for a Dalek - that was the
challenge facing Nicholas Briggs, as the new series of
Doctor Who revives the Doctor's most notorious enemy.
The creature in question has been incarcerated by all-powerful American
billionaire Van Statten (played by Corey Johnson),
who collects alien artefacts.
The Dalek is his prize exhibit, albeit a damaged one that refuses to
communicate despite being tortured.
Nicholas, who voices the Dalek, says: "The Dalek is initially very vulnerable
and suffering from a mental breakdown. He came shooting to Earth through
the time-space vortex many years ago and spent God knows how long in
a huge crater just screaming.
"Now he's in the hands of Van Statten - who has done all sorts of nasty
things to him to try and make him talk - and he's kind of gone off the
"The Dalek in this story in very much a character. That might sound
ludicrous as people tend to think of Daleks as machines that go round
shouting orders, but there is a living creature inside the machine and
he strikes up a real relationship with the Doctor and Rose."
Nicholas was certainly the right man to create sympathy for an abused and
isolated example of the Doctor's old foe - he began voicing Daleks five
years ago on Doctor Who audio CDs.
"Russell T. Davies and I talked about how I should slightly push the
envelope in terms of making the Dalek more expressive - something I've
been trying to do on the CDs for years - so it's not just that flat
monotone all the time," he explains.
"There are a lot of scenes in which the Dalek, the Doctor and Rose
have real conversations, so I had to find a way of making him sound
interesting. You have to find a special way of doing it, so it was a
huge challenge and lots of fun - I got to say 'exterminate!' quite a
Nicholas, who also acts in person, writes and directs, admits he's been
doing Dalek voices since the age of five.
"I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who, so to come on set and be a 'real' Dalek
was fantastic," he says. His dialogue was spoken in real time, as opposed
to being added later, with a speaker on set relaying his performance
to the actors, and Nicholas hearing theirs through headphones.
The famous harsh, metallic sound of the most evil creatures in the
Doctor Who universe is created, as it was in previous series, by speaking
through a device called a ring modulator, invented by Bob Moog of synthesiser
Nicholas has already enjoyed sci-fi success this year, having directed
the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Nebulous, starring The League of Gentlemen's
Mark Gatiss - one of the writing team on the new Doctor