Monday 26 December 2022

The First Dalek Christmas

Dalekmania did not begin with The Daleks. At Christmas 1963, the Daleks had been a hit with the general public, but they were simply the villains of a one-off adventure in what would be a 52 week long series - unlikely to ever be seen again as their creator destroyed them unequivocally at the end of the story.
It was with news of the Daleks' return the following year that Dalekmania first got underway. The main period was to hit a year later, coinciding with The Daleks' Master Plan. This was when merchandise was at its peak, with many dozens of items available for purchase - games, puzzles, and clothing items. 
The Christmas of 1964 - coinciding with The Dalek Invasion of Earth - saw the first glimmerings of the phenomena, a taste of what was to come.

In the run-up to the festive period, two Dalek-related pop singles were due to be released. The first of these - Landing of the Daleks by The Earthlings - wouldn't arrive until January 1965, and was rapidly withdrawn as it employed an SOS Morse Code message which the BBC argued might be mistaken for the real thing by emergency services or international shipping.
The other - better known - song which did make it into the shops in time for Christmas was I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek, by the Go-Go's. The group, comprising session musicians, were able to borrow a couple of Daleks for the single's sleeve and publicity purposes (including the new Black Dalek). Sample lyrics include: 
"I'm gonna spend my Christmas with a Dalek,
And hug him underneath the mistletoe
And if he's very nice
I'll feed him sugar spice
And hang a Christmas stocking from his big lead toe..."
The chorus features a Dalek-like voice intoning "Me-rr-y Christ-Mas".

The must-have Dalek gift that year was the Dalek playsuit, of which two varieties were available. Both were quite expensive, so most children made do with small model versions - like the Louis Marx "robot action" or Rolykins models - or they made their own utilising cardboard boxes, toilet plungers and egg whisks.
One playsuit was manufactured by Berwick, and the other by Scorpion Automotives.

The Scorpion Automotives one is the one which is the big rarity today - thanks to the factory burning down before most suits could be distributed. All of the stock, plus the means to manufacture them, was destroyed in the blaze. The company never recovered. Of the two, it was the better designed.
There is a Berwick suit, with original box, on e-bay at the moment going for £499.99. Bought brand new, it would have set you back 66s 6d, or you could pay monthly instalments of 9s 6d.

The already established Daily Mail Boys & Girls Exhibition was deemed to be a good place to promote the series. This opened in mid-December each year and ended in mid-January. A number of Daleks were to be seen - including the increasingly ubiquitous Black Dalek. Attendees could travel around the exhibition on the "brainy train" - a driverless electric vehicle.

Despite having already completed her role in the series - but not yet on screen - Carole Ann Ford attended on one of the days, cocking a snook at the Black Dalek.
Doctor Who would return to the Exhibition for the 1967/68 event, when Cybermen and Yeti would be on view, along with a Rill, Fungoid, Mire Beast and Ice Warriors. The three winning monsters from the Blue Peter competition could also be seen.
As mentioned, the main period of Dalekmania came along later in 1965, when far more items of merchandise were available. We'll return to this subject when the "Episodes" posts reach that point.

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