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Published on May 26th, 2007 | by Christian Cawley

Interview with a Dalek (Builder)

There are countless Dalek building groups operating via the web, sharing plans and designs, building tips and general support and camaradarie for the 1200+ builders around the world.

One such hobbyist is David Smith, a member of The Dalek Builders Guild (DBG) as well as The South West Dalek Crew. Since 2005 they’ve raised money for Marie Curie Cancer Care and for Children in Need, and are planning a trundle from Swindon-Cardiff via Chippenham, Bath, Bristol and Newport.

I spoke to David Smith, a 42 year old HGV driver by day and Dalek Builder by night, who has been a Doctor Who fan since childhood. “I can remember as a child watching it on a Saturday night along with frustration of waiting till the following week to see what the result of the cliffhanger was.” As a man in his 40s, I suggest David must have a favourite Doctor in either Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker. “I do have large soft spot for the classic era especially Pertwee and Tom Baker.”

David suppressed his childhood Dalek building out of cardboard for years until he discovered and joined the DBG around 4 years ago, and started building “Not long after that much to the wife’s annoyance.” Apparently, it can take 12-18 months to build one, “Mainly they are constructed from MDF and Fibre Glass, with everyday items that can be found in shops. If you ever see a guy measuring a steel ball to see if its 100mm across chances are he’s a builder!” So what plans are they building these examples of Skaro’s worst from?

“There have been various plans over the years from the old Radio Times plans that you end up with a 6ft tall monster to more accurate ones collated by other fans and builders that have taken time to measure or have even got close to original Daleks.”

I’ve built a few models in my time – although nothing to the scale of a Dalek – and it isn’t unusual for these things to go wrong. I asked David if he has had any failures – Daleks that have collapsed, that kind of thing… “Technical hiccups are common ranging from the odd bit pulled of by some over eager child to not being able to see very well while operating them and running into doors or pillars. I did have a problem with one build as some kids broke into my shed and tried to steal it and badly damaged it in the process setting me back a few months.”

The main reason for this interview however, was to find out more about the fundraising activities of The South West Dalek Crew, and how they got started. “It all began a few years back as work used to supply trucks for a charity ladies driving challenge that I used to help out with, then myself, Jeff and Brian (2 other builders) took our Daleks along for the ladies to drive which went down great.

“After the event we decided it was a great excuse to a) go out and play with our ‘Toys’ and b) raise money and awareness for good causes, so we contacted BBC and the people that run the Terry Nation Estate telling of our intentions so not to break any copyright issues and both were very nice about it as long as we were a non-profit group – so we formed the South West Dalek Crew.”

Their main charity is Marie Curie Cancer Care: “So far we have helped raise over £260,000 in the last 2 years but we are always glad to help other charities by going along with the Daleks. We have done Schools, Fêtes, Bonfire night events and loads of other public things which are always fun to do. We run a full list of where we can be spotted be it events, conventions and the like on our website. So if anyone does spot us come along and say hi we may even have chance to let you have a drive of one of the most deadly beasts in the universe!”

With the trundle from Swindon to Cardiff planned for 2007, it seems that the South West Dalek Crew are doing well with their fundraising – it isn’t completely good news, however: “I must admit that it is getting harder for us to operate that is why we are trying to raise financial sponsorship for our Transporter Vehicle in return for advertising space on it and also the chance to be associated with such good causes and be seen at events.”

You can learn more about David and the rest of the The South West Dalek Crew at their website.

Many thanks to David Smith for taking the time to speak to us.

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About the Author

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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