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!!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.