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29 October 2014
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Doctor Who
Corey Johnson (Van Statten)

Doctor Who

Press pack - phase five


Interview with Nicholas Briggs

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 rails.

"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 lot!"

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 fame.

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 Who series.


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