The Collector’s Corner #1: The Berwick Dalek Playsuit

The year 1965 was marked by Dalekmania and by the arrival in the world of your humble author.

It is customary to present a child with gifts on his or her appearance on this planet; alternatively, baptismal presents may be showered on the relevant sprog at the christening. To this day, I curse all my relations for not presenting me then with the fruits of Dalekmania. Even if I didn’t need them as a baby, I could have kept them and they’d be worth a few quid nowadays.

It is my intention to scribe a series of articles on the best and most bizarre items of Doctor Who merchandise to have appeared over the last 55 years. This, the first of that series, examines:

The Berwick Dalek Playsuit

There were two Dalek dressing up outfits available in 1965. The magnificent Scorpion Automotives one was horribly expensive and was only owned by rich kids who went to posh schools, had a swimming pool, and were probably called Rufus and Chloe or Eustace and Jocasta or something.

The bargain basement version for the plebs was the Berwick Dalek Playsuit.

As you probably know, the Scorpion factory (where they made toys, not scorpions, you understand) caught fire and very few of their Dalek outfits survived. They are now as rare as copies of The Tenth Planet Episode Four. So rare, indeed, that when one was needed for the filming of An Adventure in Space and Time, the production team couldn’t source it (Jessica Carney was given one in real life, you see). A Berwick suit was used instead.

It is here that I make my only claim to have contributed to the making of Doctor Who, or at least to the making of a film about the making of Doctor Who: it was I who supplied it to them. Thus am I famous. This is such an obscure piece of Who trivia that I bet even Andrew Pixley doesn’t know it.

The Berwick Dalek playsuit is, as you can see, not entirely authentic. Here is a picture of my 19 year old son David modelling said item, with a replica Dalek from The Power of the Daleks for comparison.

The Berwick Dalek Playsuit is an astoundingly bad piece of merchandise. You will note the Dalek in the picture is closely examining his inferior Berwick simulacrum. The Dalek is perhaps asking himself, in the argot used by our young people today, WTF? (an acronym, I understand, which in yoof speak stands for ‘Wherefore This Futility?”). It is as though the designer of the Berwick Dalek Playsuit had never seen a Dalek, was shown a photo of one for five seconds, and was then told to draw one from memory. A five year old could do better.

On a smaller person, the PVC skirt went over the head and the arms were pushed through the holes. These then grasped the sucker and gun sticks. This example doesn’t have any but they weren’t very elaborate: they were just bits of dowelling with, respectively, a ping pong ball, a suction cap, and a flimsy vacuum formed plastic gun stuck on the ends. The dome was plastic and the neck (no shoulders: they couldn’t be bothered) was heavy cardboard. You put it on your shoulders; it had leather straps to hold it on.

Not really very good at all. Even so, I note some swine on eBay* has one available for sale for £265.

Ponder: in those days, there was no-one at the BBC policing the merchandise and ensuring it all was of a good enough quality to be licensed. Absolutely zero chance of a Berwick Dalek Playsuit getting made now.

A shame, really: on a more serious note, items like this do have a lot of charm and are part of the history of the programme. The quirkiness of its design adds to its appeal, though I can imagine fans in ´65 wish they’d made more of an effort…

Coming soon: The Collector’s Corner #2: The Cowan de Groot (aka Codeg) Mechanical Dalek (Strong Clockwork with Realistic Action)!

* Actually, it’s me.