The sound of the Dalek is possibly the most memorable to emerge from Doctor Who. The man behind it, Nicholas Briggs, shows us how it’s done.
Doctor Who is an iconic series for many reasons, not least because of its otherworldly characters. The sounds of the show have transcended the generations, especially those emanating from the villainous Dalek.
‘Unique’ has been overused to the point of oblivion, yet it seems to be the only suitable descriptor for the Dalek. In a charming and fascinating new video, a twenty-year veteran of the Dalek, Nicholas Briggs, shows us how he creates this unforgettable sound.
As Briggs explains, there are a few essential ingredients in this recipe (not to mention the performance itself — a topic for another article). Firstly the microphone — a no brainer. But the real game-changer: the ring modulator. The one he shows us is the Moogerfooger MF-102 Ring Modulator.
And like some of the Doctor Who plotlines, there’s a bit of heavy science at play here. Ring modulation is an amplitude modulation effect that occurs when two signals are multiplied. The name is borrowed from the ‘ring’ of diodes in the analog circuit.
The sound, of course, is what we’re all interested in. Watch as this simple, elegant and inspiring device produces the unmistakable character of the Dalek as Briggs dials it in. Beginning at 2:40, he takes you through his favourite Dalek lines. And if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, we don’t know what will.
About the device itself, Briggs says that “it’s covered in dials and has flashy lights, like all the best things in Doctor Who.”