Many desperate acts of design are perpetuated in the absence of a strong concept


Not content with vandalising the theme tune, and disposing with anything resembling decent writing (if you thought the second episode, The Beast Below was bad, just wait until you see the total pig's breakfast that is Victory of the Daleks), new show-runner Steven Moffat has decided to put his own stamp on an icon.

The Dalek, designed by Raymond Cusick, is a design classic that's largely gone unchanged since 1963, and has become firmly embedded in popular culture. The Moffat redesign - which comes just five years after the sympathetic, ballsy Russell T Davies enhancements - is all wrong on several fronts.

Most disturbing is the pointless bloating of the silhouette. The skirt section is clumsy and out of proportion. To the rear we have some additional detailing, the purpose of which is unclear. Notice that all of the BBC's official photos are full frontal, or facing up. There are no shots of side views (like the screenshot above, via Cathode Ray Tube) or rear views.

The bumper section at floor level is weird. I always liked the 60's movie versions with their chunky bumpers, but the ones on the 2010 versions are all wrong: too big, and once again out of proportion. The shoulder section is ugly too. It harks back to the very original 1963 model, stripping away the slats added in later episodes, but the front is square and blocky, as if some one's stuck it on at the last minute.

Moving up to the "neck" area, the black grille section is horrible: overly simplified and plastic-looking.

Worst of all is the sheer size of the things. One of the key selling points of the original Daleks was their size. Is there someone - or something - inside? The new monstrosities aren't only fat and bloated, they're too tall. Daleks are meant to be squat. Perhaps Moffat's Cybermen will be midgets, just for the sake of it.

The colours are cute, but pretty pointless, and counter-productive. Cartoonish, ill-judged and insensitive to their heritage, Moffat's Daleks are the latest misfire in a franchise that's rapidly losing its way.

Title quote: "Many desperate acts of design (including gradients, drop shadows, and the gratuitous use of transparency) are perpetuated in the absence of a strong concept. A good idea provides a framework for design decisions, guiding the work." Noreen Morioka


Greg said...

Thank you for saying it. I had wordless misgivings about them on Saturday. Whilst I recognise the desire to refresh everything on the show and perhaps hark back to 60s and 70s design, I found the cheery iPod colours on the Daleks a little hard to stomach. There's something so wrong about being eviscerated by a bright yellow Dalek - and that's not wrong in a good way, either. The side profile looks clumsy. I understand they wanted a more intimidating size, but the result just makes it more obviously a man under the pepper pot.

The colour-by-role idea brings to mind a lot of Reservoir Dogs/Star Trek/Gender confusion jokes.

Garçon Stupide said...

Greg - I've yet to hear a single positive word said about them. Even people who liked the episode (God knows why anyone would) pointed them out as the weak link.

And then to compare and contrast them with the awesome "khaki" Daleks. The mind boggles.

FRANK said...

I can only agree. As soon as I saw them on the cover of the 'Radio Times' my heart really sank.

The beautiful streamlining that was a hallmark of Ray Cusick's original and iconic 1960s design has been warped out of shape. They really look ugly and the side views are particularly bad. The worst is the rear view which is so non-descript that the episode itself barely dwells on it.

They do hark back to the technicolour splendour of the 1960s Cushing movies but in doing so it really emphasises Moffat's assertion that the show he is making is now definitely for kids because that too was the appeal of the Cushing films.

I have heard that BBC Worldwide, one of the funders of the series, was very keen the Daleks got a make-over so that they could get one of their licensees (Character Options probably) to fill the toy shops with these monstrosities.

But the re-design is the least of the problems. We ended up with a script completely stripped of any emotional context for those on the home front suffering in the Blitz, a caricature Churchill whose questionable politics were glossed over and a story that valued cultural tourism over a plot of any sense.

Things really will need to pick up next week.

Garçon Stupide said...

Oh well said old boy!

Your remarks about BBC Worldwide really do ring true. Everything about this new series reeks of marketing and greed, right down to the casting of the leads.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the writing wasn't so bad.

I had my problems with RTD's take on things but right now I'm positively nostalgic for his reign. Come back Russell, everything's forgiven! Yes, even The End of Time...

Urban Shotz said...

I was very disappointed by the Teletubby Daleks. They looked particularly awful next to the khaki version. The inside of their spacecraft looked like a disused office block!

Am I alone in thinking that the climax of the story came too soon, leaving too much time for inconsequential waffle?

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