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Dr Who’s Welsh roots – Terry Nation and the Daleks

Updated on December 11, 2015

John Lennon meets a Dalek

Former Beatle John Lennon meets a Dalek
Former Beatle John Lennon meets a Dalek | Source

Why the Daleks and Dr Who are so popular

The Daleks first appeared on TV in 1963 when the silver-haired and ageing William Hartnell played the role of the first Dr Who. He and his companions are captured by Daleks after landing on another planet. We learn later on that the Daleks became like they did after a nuclear war that caused them to mutate into the form they are in and to become dependent on their machine-like bodies.

The Daleks are a combination of a mechanical robot-like body and weird alien creature inside them that controls the machine it lives in. They speak with robotic voices and often order “Exterminate!” when they have caught humans they want to destroy.

The Daleks are the embodiment of evil but at the same time look like clockwork toys. Their visual appeal is guaranteed and unforgettable- once you have seen a Dalek you will not forget what it looks like. This of course made them a great hit with viewers of the Dr Who series.

Children can imitate the mechanical voices of the Daleks when playing. Dalek toys and models have become very popular as have all manner of related merchandise.

Buy Dr Who and the Daleks on Amazon

The Timelord Dr Who

Dr Who has been one of the longest running and most successful television series ever produced. It has had many famous actors playing the role of the mysterious and eccentric Timelord known as Dr Who.

The series has spawned countless weird extraterrestrial beings, which are invading Earth or engaged in other sinister activities, and has told how Dr Who, usually aided by an assistant who travels with him through time and space in the TARDIS, has managed to outwit the aliens and save the planet.

What many people perhaps don’t realize is that the creator of the Daleks (one of the most popular races of monstrous alien beings that battled The Doctor) came from Cardiff in Wales. Terry Nation, who is credited with being their creator and who wrote many of the Dalek stories was born there.

Terry Nation

British television script writer Terry Nation. Use of this image is believed to constitute Fair Use..
British television script writer Terry Nation. Use of this image is believed to constitute Fair Use.. | Source

More about Terry Nation

The Daleks were a huge break for Terry Nation in his career as a screenwriter and he became caught up in a lot of the media attention that was generated by the instant popularity. Now he was recognized as a very talented writer for science fiction series, and he went on to also write again for BBC television when he was commissioned as a screenwriter for The Survivors and Blake’s Seven.

Although he was born and lived for many years in the city of Cardiff, Nation eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1980 where he died in 1997 at the age of just 66. None of the work he did in America was ever as successful as that which he had done in the UK and he will be remembered most for creating the Daleks.

The Doctor Who Experience Opening Cardiff Bay

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Dr Who returns to Wales

As well as the fact that Terry Nation, who was one of the best writers ever for the series, Dr Who has other links to Wales because many episodes were filmed there. It needs to be pointed out here that Dr Who cannot die as such but “regenerates” and takes on a new human body. This means that in the series many different actors can play the role-

For example in 1976 when Tom Baker was playing Dr Who, and The Masque of Mandragora was filmed in the village of Portmeirion, where The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan had also been made.

The picturesque village of Llandaff, which is also a city within the city of Cardiff, has been the location for episodes of Dr Who filmed there when later Doctors were played by David Tennant and Matt Smith.

Mount Stuart Square in the heart of Cardiff Docklands now known as Cardiff Bay is another location where Dr Who has been filmed. It is very fitting that a Dr Who exhibition has been held in Cardiff Bay. The Dr Who Experience has become a great attraction for visitors to city and enjoyed by countless residents as well.


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for commenting!

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 4 years ago

      Very venerable program. Big sci fi cult following in the states. I loved the Daleks shows especially when I was little watching in the 70's and 80's. Some of the best shootouts on Dr. Who :-)

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your great feedback!

    • Zakmoonbeam profile image

      Michael Murchie 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Daleks, one of the greatest creations in the whole of Science Fiction in my humble opinion. Evil, emotionless and utterly without pity or remorse, they have both scared me as a child and thrilled me as an adult. Dr who is 50 this year, roll on another 50 years of great TV !

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments, Phyllis and Gypsy! Phyllis, Terry didn't devise the series but wrote about the Daleks as his contribution (and a very big one). Thanks for spotting my typo!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      My son always watched the first Daleks from behind the Sofa. It is still an exciting series. Thanks for the memories.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Steve, this is a very interesting hub. I am guilty of never having watched any of the Dr. Who episodes -- this hub has motivated me to correct that.

      Terry Nation came up with a very successful and popular series, which I know from many people who are hooked on the show.

      I have a dear friend in Cardiff, so your hub and Dr. Who are even more interesting to me now. Thank you for writing this.

      PS: You last sentence has a typo, "my" should be "by", yes?

      Have a great week!