daleksAs a six year-old boy, I remember being very, very frightened by a television science fiction character. At school in those days, we had fantasised that a race of aliens had already landed on earth and that ‘they’ were among us. Walking back home with a schoolmate, John, we quite frequently convinced ourselves that we had caught a half-glimpse of ‘something’ that ‘could’ be ‘one of them’. It was great fun and only scary in a pleasant way. But one evening, watching Doctor Who, I saw a dalek for the first time and was truly afraid. I didn’t dive behind the sofa, though I was tempted, because I was enthralled and, frankly, I still am to this day. Only the cybermen and the silurians came close, but the dalek beat them both because it somehow represented a logical evolutionary result – disembodied intelligences, devoid of any positive emotions, contained in impregnable mechanical shells, equipped with murderous death rays and metallic voices barking ‘exterminate!’, with a default instinct of enslaving or destroying other life forms. The daleks became an ubiquitous cultural icon and a major generator of revenue for the BBC, but little of that went to the daleks’ creator, Ray Cusick, who passed away yesterday and is already, understandably, the subject of a number of admiring obituaries. When he’d created them he had been a simple, modest BBC employee, taking home a weekly salary (it’s impossible to imagine him being treated in the same way today). Later in life Cusick pooh-poohed the dalek link but, like Karel Capek’s robot, he gave a word to the English language and somehow visualised an emerging concept.