I’ve recently gotten into the television show ‘Doctor Who’ and as a result, so have my husband and kids. It’s become commonplace in my house for us to gather around the television to watch an episode, new or old, and spend time together. We’ve fallen in love with the characters, both good and bad. We own toys and collectibles. We talk about their adventures. We just can’t get enough. We are Whovians and we proudly admit it. So when I decided that we all, as a family, were going to attend a local comic convention I knew I’d end up creating a Doctor Who themed costume.
My 10 year old son loves to run around with his sonic screwdriver pretending to unlock and analyze things (with the exception of wooden items of course). And my 6 year old daughter dutifully chases after him repeating “Exterminate!” Because of all the characters on the show that she could possibly pretend to be, she chooses the Dalek, the Doctor’s most hated enemy. And you know what, she’s good at it! (She can even mimic their voice, which while cute, drives me a little crazy.) So, when I asked the kids what they wanted to dress up as (because dressing up is half the fun of a con) my daughter immediately said ‘Dalek’ and began threatening me with extermination. After discussing the different ways we could go about creating our very own ‘Dalek’, my husband and I settled on a cardboard masterpiece.
He created the main “body” parts (since he’s the engineer in the family) while I worked on the details and headpiece. We used several medium sized corrugated, cardboard moving boxes. (I knew there was a reason I kept those.) Using a reference picture and a handmade template, my husband measured and cut each of the boxes into the individual planks used to create the body shape. Starting with the front pieces, several sticks of hot glue were used to attach the planks to each other. Additional cardboard pieces were measured, cut, and glued to create the bottom bumper, details, and the inside support structure.
Once complete, the whole thing was coated with two cans of metallic gold spray paint. Using a heated foam knife, twenty-eight 2 ½ inch smooth, foam balls were cut in half. The halves were then coated in glossy black spray paint before being hot glued to the golden cardboard planks in sets of four. (It was painfully hard, and I do mean painfully, to cut and attach 56 foam halves. “Low temp” glue guns are a bit misleading.) For the weapons, a standard cheap plunger (from the store not the bathroom) and a paint roller were sawed down, sanded, and coated in metallic silver and glossy black spray paint.
The headpiece was constructed from papier-mâché using an 8” round bowl. Several layers of white copy paper were applied before being sealed and spray painted in gold and black. Foam pieces and elastic were hot glued to the inside of the hat to make it more comfortable and keep it from falling off. To create the two lights on top of the head, two 4 oz clear plastic cups were spray painted opaque white while two flickering candle LED lights were attached inside. And a cheap, blue plastic flashlight was disassembled, and again hot glued, to create the eyepiece in the front.
To improve movability and wearability, five caster wheels were attached (can you say hot glue) to the bumper and two elastic shoulder straps were weaved into the top pieces.
Overall, it was a really difficult costume. We spent a lot of time coming up with the original design and cutting all of the cardboard pieces. Spray painting took a while as there was so much to paint and we had such horrible weather. In all, we used about six cans of paint and four packages of mini hot glue sticks. We cut and burned ourselves countless times in the process. And to make it all worse, we couldn’t even fit it in the truck of the car (like my husband assured me we would). I ended up sitting in the back of our small car with my two kids, while the Dalek sat in the passenger seat. It blocked the rear view mirror and AC vents, hung out the window, and completed obscured the middle console. It was a bit of a traffic nightmare. In the end, we all (including the Dalek) made it to the con in one piece.
My daughter had a great time in costume (though she was constantly stopped by strangers asking to take a picture). We had lots of good comments on it and are quite proud of it. She will probably never wear it again but after all the work we put into it, we just couldn’t toss it. It now has a permanent home amongst the rest of our Doctor Who collectibles.
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