Dalek autopsy

The Dome Lights

In the 1960s...

The domelights are an essential part of the Dalek. On screen, they help the viewer to see which Dalek is speaking as the bulbs flash on and off. In the first Dalek movie there are scenes (shot at the start of production) where the domelights simply flash on and off at a steady pace. It was only later that the production crew realized that the lights play an important role, replacing lip movement. Some of the Dalek dialogue was subsequently dubbed onto the soundtrack to match the flashes of the lights. It is therefore quite stilted, at times!!

Early style 'Dead Planet' dome light.

The domelights on the first TV Daleks resemble table-tennis balls, with small collars around the base. It is difficult to know if this is what they actually are, or if they are some sort of obsolete 12v bulb which simply looks like a ping-pong ball.

Most builders of early TV-style Daleks now opt for table-tennis balls as the raw materials for creating this look. The collars can be made from off cuts of plastic tubing. A hole is cut in the bottom of each ball to allow it to fit over a small 12v bulb or LED. The bulb holder and/or base plate is hidden inside the collar.

Domelights are one of the most variable features of Dalek design. There have been several different variations fitted to Daleks over the years.

The picture (right) shows an example of a later 1960s domelight. These replaced the original versions (above). They are a yellow/orange in colour and sometimes have a lighter, wider base plate. Their specific origins of manufacture have been lost, though it is suggested that they might be made from plastic eggcups or similar.

Builders who wish to emulate this style of domelight have to be resourceful. They can be made from scratch using fibreglass and a suitable mould. Another successful method is to use the tops from roll-on deodorants, if tops of the right size and shape can be found (see inset pic).

Egg cup style

The domelights on the movie props were simply plastic drinks tumblers turned upside down, and fitted over a circular base that held the bulb in position.

Replica movie beaker, cast in resin.

They are coloured amber-red in the first movie, while blue is the colour of choice in the second film. However, the (gold) Dalek saucer commander sports a unique pair of yellow-tinted domelights.

These tumblers are very hard to find these days. Some Dalek builders who have been lucky enough to find some (in a junk shop or at a car boot sale) or have successfully produced resin cast replicas. These reproduce the outside details almost exactly and can be colour tinted to create a very convincing look. The picture (left) shows just how good these resin replicas can look.

In the 1970s...

By the 1970s the Daleks' domes had been completely refurbished and given new-style domelights. These were mainly identifiable automotive light lenses designed for sidelights and indicators.

This transition to off-the-shelf parts was probably the most mundane modification to the Dalek design - the replacement of the 'eggcup' dome lights with recogniseable 'Earth' technology. These lenses are a familiar sight on Land Rovers, Minis and other similar cars from that era.

A number of different styles were used, in both clear and amber versions. The early versions (right) were 'pointier' in design than the later versions. These early style lenses are still available, if you search around. They were produced by a company called Wipac. By the 1980s, the style was pretty much identical to those used today on the Land Rover Defender.

A 1970 Dalek domelight produced today by Wipac
The planet supreme Dalek complete with jam jar dome lights

Perhaps the oddest Dalek domelights ever fitted are the versions used on the Supreme Dalek in the story Planet Of The Daleks. This retired movie prop was loaned to the BBC by Dalek creator Terry Nation. It underwent a refurbishment and, amongst other things, was given a new set of domelights.

These domelights were simply jam jars, complete with lids, turned upside down and screwed into position. Twisting the jars released them from the fixed lids allowing access to the bulbs. Coloured lighting gel or acetate film was wrapped around the inside of each jar as a nod to a desperately needed sci-fi look.

In the 1980s...

The Imperial Daleks from Remembrance Of The Daleks sported a brand-new domelight design. The retooled Imperial domes were given new domelights that were a custom-made item, rather than being recognizably off-the-shelf, like the lenses from the 1970s and earlier in the 1980s.

The revamped domelights were made from various plastic components distributed by a company called EMA. The upper 'domed' part is, for example, a 'dished head' from their catalogue. The light bulb is hidden inside a hole, cut into the centre of a piece of thick acrylic sheet (Perspex). When the bulb is illuminated, it lights up the outside edge of the acrylic disk, giving a dramatic effect. Imperial Dalek builders often use whatever plastic bits and pieces they can find, in order to replicate these domelights. This is a cheaper option than purchasing the parts from EMA. If money is no object, then the parts are still listed in the EMA catalogue.

1980s Imperial Dalek dome light made from Perspex and EMA parts

2005 to 2010...

When Mike Tucker and his team revised the Dalek design for the Daleks' return in 2005, the New Series Dalek was given totally new domelights. These domelights pay homage to the original Daleks from the 1960s by borrowing design elements. They have the internal round bulb from the early Daleks, plus the tall, elongated look of the movie-Dalek domelights.

NSD Domelights

The 'cage' assembly that surrounds the lens is a custom-made part - originally aluminum, then resin. Dalek builders who wish to re-create these cages often use MDF or plastic. The six basic parts are made with a jigsaw and holecutters, assembled and painted. Cages can also be cast, using an RTV rubber mould and a resin/aluminium powder mix. Click here for a photo of light cages made using this method.

Inside the cage is a polycarbonate lens produced by a company called Moflash. These lenses are no longer available. They were discontinued in spring, 2010 and replaced with an alternative design. Click on the lens in the picture to see how the lenses look before the cage is added. Click on the cage to see a pair that have been made from MDF.

The Dalek Supreme seen in the 2008 series has a domelight design which is a slight variation on the version used on the standard 'new series' Daleks. The inner lens is the same Moflash unit but the outer 'cage' only has three uprights and sports a slightly more complicated base section. Screw heads are evident in the top of the upper ring.

This Dalek is unique in having a total of three domelights, two located normally and one situated rear/centre. Each light cage sits on top of a small red plinth, giving the lights extra presence, making the Dalek appear taller.

3x Domelights


Moflash lens on redesigned Dalek dome

The 2010 Daleks have had almost every design element radically changed. One exception is the type of lens used as the dome lights. These remain the same Moflash lenses. Stocks of these lenses must have been purchased just before they were discontinued (see above).

The lenses protrude through raised plinths which are part of the dome, hiding the wide base of the lens. The 'cage' assembly, seen on the previous Daleks has been removed, leaving the lenses in plain view. No screws, bolts or fixings are obvious from the outside.