It has been over a year now since the last major Dalek Asylum Custom Collections Tour on Sacred Icon, and although a small teaser was uploaded several months ago, the customs have changed significantly since then – but as of this month, our preparations are complete, and so now is the time to announce Project: Asylum, a new and updated showcase of over a hundred unique Dalek Asylum custom figures. Together, they form a huge diorama of the Dalek Asylum, with each and every model being meticulously created by hand, renovating old, broken or otherwise unwanted Dalek figures to create a vast art installation.
The Dalek Asylum
As seen in the Series 7 episode Asylum of the Daleks, the Dalek Asylum is a hollowed-out planet filled with vast underground chambers and a honeycomb of interconnecting corridors that the Daleks use as a dumping ground for the most insane amongst their number. Daleks that are so battle-scarred, insane or unhinged that they are unable to function among the Dalek race, but have otherwise done no wrong, are committed to the Dalek Asylum for safekeeping out of a twisted since of respect for the pure hatred that these creatures represent. Once a fully-automated self-repairing facility, the Asylum has decayed over the millennia of abuse to the point that it now exists as little more than a dark recluse for its deranged denizens, as many of its actual repair or rehabilitation facilities have long since been damaged beyond repair.
Either as a result of its unfathomable age or Dalek time-travel meddling, the Asylum contains many examples of Classic Daleks alongside their bronze Time War era brethren, and several factions of Daleks from centuries ago the in their history still fight age-old wars amongst themselves within the deepest parts of the Asylum. Alongside that are factions that have sprung up within the Asylum itself, such as bands of the more insane inmates that upkeep their own casings by hunting the newest inhabitants and ‘recycling’ them, leading many to sport mismatched casings made up of bits and pieces of several types of Dalek. Several of the scientists that were once stationed to study the inmates of the Asylum have since been admitted themselves, and these usually form the brains behind the organised bands of scavenging Splicer Daleks throughout the Asylum.
Arguably the most dangerous part of the Asylum, however, is the ‘intensive care’ ward – a location designed to house nothing less than the most insane Daleks in the Asylum. Many of these are examples of lone survivors of famous Dalek campaigns against the Doctor, and after thousands of years of vain attempts to calm these vicious specimens, the ward now exists as a glorified prison for its occupants – and with good reason. The Daleks that reside here are so murderous in their eternal rage that they have been deliberately containing within separate cages with their weapons removed as a safety precaution to prevent them from killing each other. Should they ever be released among the other inmates of the Asylum, they would surely stir up enough bloodlust among the imprisoned Daleks that they would attempt to escape, an eventually so terrifying that it scares even the Supreme Dalek.
Project: Asylum aims to capture the the essence of this unique setting by portraying a diverse and eclectic selection of Dalek inmates from a wide variety of points in Dalek history. Almost every type of Dalek is represented here in some form, and one of the joys of using the Dalek Asylum as a template for a custom project is the range of freedoms it provides for Dalek customs. Several examples of the Daleks seen in this collection are totally new designs that incorporate elements of several different Dalek designs, and this is due to the design philosophy for this art installation of broadening the scope of the Dalek Asylum from what we saw on-screen.
The Asylum Project
For those not already aware, my name is Cameron, and I run the Sacred Icon blog, writing blog posts about several science fiction franchises from Star Trek to Transformers. However, a franchise I tend to talk about a lot on this blog is Doctor Who, because it is honestly my all-time favourite series and arguably my favourite thing about Doctor Who it the Daleks themselves. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated with the Daleks, and this has fuelled by passion for creating custom Dalek figures. As so many Dalek figures one can find on eBay and in other places around the internet are damaged, it can often be difficult to come up with new and creative ideas for the huge numbers of broken, incomplete or otherwise unusable Dalek figures that are floating around. However, when the concept of the Dalek Asylum was introduced, this created a goldmine of potential ideas for Dalek customs, and I endeavoured to actualise as many of those ideas as I could in Dalek figure form.
Ironically, though the production team behind Asylum of the Daleks went to the trouble of acquiring lots of Classic Dalek props to use in the episode, the actual variety of ideas we saw on-screen was fairly limited – many of the Daleks appeared merely broken or slightly damaged as opposed to the insane, battle-scarred warriors that they were described as. Even worse, the Classic Daleks were woefully underused, to the point that Moffat felt the need to being Classic Daleks back again just two seasons later to compensate. In fairness, they were working with full-size props and were on a time and budget limit, but nonetheless the customs in my collection involve a more diverse array of Daleks and explore additional concepts to those seen on-screen. As such, not all of the Daleks in the collection are screen-accurate, indeed only a handful are based on specific Daleks from the episode itself. One of the best things about the idea of the Asylum is that the Daleks within are sourced from many different points in Dalek history, including points in their timeline that we, the fanbase, have not seen. As such, making Asylum customs opens the doors for more creative freedom when it comes to colour schemes and general designs.
Overall, the process of creating Dalek customs is always relaxing and enjoyable to me, but there is something special about creating customs for the Asylum collection, as each Dalek adds to the collective history of the collection. The Asylum Project is a source of immense personal pride for me, as I have put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that each individual figure is as good as I can make it. The entire project has taught me a lot about model making (particularly on the health and safety side) and I am proud to share my collection of custom Daleks with the world. I hope you enjoy browsing them! For those who are interested, there is the potential for some of these Daleks to be put up for sale at some point in the future. I am considering setting up a Youtube channel to further showcase the figures in video form, rather than static images, so perhaps the figures will go up for sale concurrently with that, when it eventually transpires. For now though, none of these figures are for sale. However, I will be offering tips throughout the figure showcases of how to create your own Dalek customs, and with that in mind I have also written a brief ‘how-to’ guide regarding setting up your own Dalek customs workshop.
Making your own Dalek Customs
For a fan of the Daleks there is perhaps nothing better than creating Dalek Customs, as the availability of cheap broken Dalek figures on sites like eBay coupled with the relative ease of creating a convincing destroyed Dalek has led many fans to having a go at fixing up their own custom Dalek. However, it takes more work that you would initially think to design and build a really good destroyed Dalek, and even more to pull off a perfect repaint of a pristine Dalek figure. Part of what this project is all about is encouraging would-be Dalek Custom creators to make their ideas reality, and if this installation proves anything it is that you can create some amazing things with simple materials from around the house that you would never think to use otherwise. For example, a lot of the Dalek mutants seen throughout the collection were made primarily out of old headphone wires and tissue paper. Upcycling and re-using of old junk plays an important part in customising Daleks, and it is an excellent way to make creative use of computer waste and difficult-to-recycle plastics that would otherwise be sent to rot in landfill.
To create your own Dalek custom, the first thing you will need as a Dalek to base it on. These are usually easy to find – if you have been a fan of the show since your childhood, chances are you have a Dalek figure lying around somewhere – or, if you have children who have recently grown out of their Tennant-era toys, consider bringing a new lease of life to these otherwise abandoned relics. As previously mentioned, sites like eBay are useful for picking up bundles of broken Daleks, and sometimes a huge batch comes along for ridiculously low prices that are really useful for Dalek Custom army-building. Also be sure to check out local car boot sales or charity shops – you never know what you might find, and old action figures are definitely something that pops up a lot in those sorts of places.
Second, you will need the arts and crafts materials themselves – depending on what kind of custom you want to make, you might need anything from paints and brushes to glue and cutting tools, but remember that almost anything can be used in a custom figure – what matters is how it is done. For example, hot glue is an excellent means of bonding plastics, and it also doubles as convincing Dalek goo when it dries and is painted over in green. However, you could just as easily use plastic glue or any strong adhesive that you have at home for your custom. Though it is good to have high-quality paints such as the Citadel paints from Games Workshop, most paints work on Dalek plastic and several of the early customs in the Asylum collection use Humbrol paints that date back to the 90s, proving that just about anything is possible.
Be sure to be sensible with the kind of arts and crafts that you are using, as although it might seem like a good idea to go out and buy a hot glue gun to get started on your first custom, if you have no idea how to use it properly, you will inevitably end up with a nasty burn. This metaphorically applies to almost all elements of DIY – enthusiasm for the task is meaningless without the skill to do it properly and, most importantly, precaution is required to get the job done with no injuries. It is therefore best to start small when it comes to your first Dalek custom, and ideally you will want to use materials you have at hand without having to spend any money at all. Buying the equipment necessary to have a flexible arsenal for creating a diverse range of Dalek customs would likely cost upwards of £100 including paints, tools and brushes, so start cheap until you know if you have a flair for DIY.
Next, you will need ideas. This is arguably the most important aspect, as a good idea is what drives the creative process of making the custom, so without a solid idea the project will rapidly lose direction. If you are stuck for ideas, feel free to use any of the figures in these showcases as templates for customs, and if you’re really stuck you can always try re-watching Asylum of the Daleks, and that is not something that you will find is regularly recommended to you. However, as poor as the episode itself is, you can still find some inspiration among the wasted potential. A good way of thinking up a damaged Dalek custom is thinking of interesting ways in which Daleks could be damaged or destroyed, and go from there. Think of ideas like “What would a Dalek that fell down a mineshaft look like?” or “What would a Dalek’s casing look like if it were attacked by a bear?”.
Once you have the Dalek, the appropriate tools and an idea, all you need next is the will to create a custom. Getting to grips with using model-making tools and precise paintbrushes can be tricky at first, but don’t be afraid to start a practice run and find that you have to start again. As any comparison between the two custom collection showcases on this blog will inform you, there is always room for significant improvement. Keep at it and you will soon start to see the results that you want. To that end, I would like to recommend the paints and brushes from the Games Workshops, now rebranded to Warhammer shops in some parts of the UK, whose tools are perfect for this sort of work. The staff are always friendly and will answer any questions you have about model-making. I personally use the Warhammer shops both in Liverpool and Warrington town centers on a regular basis, and I have had nothing but positive experiences there.
Who knew that making Dalek customs helps the environment? But if you think about it, creating Dalek customs is an artistic and creative way of making use of pieces of plastic that would, lets face it, otherwise be filling landfill. Many of the bundles that I buy on eBay or receive as donations are old collections of broken toys, either being put up for sale by the former children who owned them or the parents of children that have grown out of action figures. As such, had they not fallen into the hands of someone who could make use of broken Dalek figures, they would have almost certainly have been thrown away.
However, the eco-friendly nature of this hobby goes further than that – the more elaborate customs make use of a plethora of upcycled computer parts, plastic pieces, wires, electronic parts, old stationary and much more. Even though only a small number of Daleks in the Asylum collection are elaborate customs that required lots of parts, I still need to ask around my friends, in the workplace and even charity shops for old computer parts, wires and otherwise disposable electronic components. Scavenging these parts that would otherwise have ended up in the bin is one small way of helping the planet, and it is nice that this is a great eco-friendly side effect of the hobby that I am passionate about.
The Asylum Project and Sacred Icon
So what’s next for this blog? The answer is simple – Dalek Customs. This project has taken up a large amount of time and so I want to give the customs the attention that they deserve, as such the posts will be numerous and contain in-depth descriptions of how each custom was made as well as a short description of how it might have ended up in the Asylum in-universe to give you an idea of my thought process as I created the customs. Each custom will also have several pictures taken from different angles.
In terms of the blog posts themselves, I have arranged them into categories based on their classification, Classic Series Daleks and New Series Daleks, as well as their condition, destroyed or intact. However, I will be releasing the posts in a varied order, so each posted blog will alternate between intact New Series Daleks, destroyed Classic Series Daleks, destroyed New Series Daleks and intact Classic Series Daleks, as well as any other additional posts in the series. It is also worth mentioning that, although not part of the Asylum Project specifically, there will also be other custom showcase posts at the end that will analyse my other non-Asylum Dalek customs – including my Big Finish Dalek customs.