Daleks in Manhattan – building the Airfix Gift set

KIT #: A 50007
PRICE: $ Out of Production, but can be found.
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr
NOTES: Set is 1/12 scale with about 250 parts.


Hiding behind the sofa from the Daleks

 This term was coined in 1970´s Britain to describe the reaction of children frightened by a TV program, yet still so fascinated they would not turn it off but rather seek shelter whilst hearing it. I will come out and admit I did exactly that, but not because of the Daleks, as they were virtually unknown in Germany then.

The Daleks are some of the longest-running arch-enemies in TV history, as they belong to the longest running SF TV show in existence, the BBC´s Doctor Who. They were designed by Raymond Cusick in 1963 and have ever since attempted to exterminate mankind and all other thinking and feeling entities they met upon their rather convoluted and obscure travels through time and space. In the Whoniverse, they were engineered as cyborgs by mad scientist Davros, housed in robot-like hulls, devoid of any emotions and driven by the sole aim of destroying all living beings considered inferior to them. It was the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords which caused the destruction of the Time Lords´ home planet Gallifrey, leaving the Doctor virtually as the only survivor.

Whilst the classical seasons of Doctor Who relied more on clever stories and imagination than on adequate production values, the show´s resurrection in 2005 tried to provide both. Hence, whilst still staying close to the original designs, the entire look of the show was improved, which led to a positive reception and secured the show´s survival until now. On the day prior to writing this review, the current Doctor, Matt Smith, bore the Olympic torch through Cardiff where the show is produced by BBC Wales.

The Doctor Who re-boot coincided with the takeover of another British classic, Airfix, by Hornby. They soon teamed with the BBC in producing Doctor Who gift sets in the lines of the ones issued on the Wallace and Gromit franchise. The sets were produced with the play factor in mind, hence the rather strong plastic and inclusion of working features. Please remember that Doctor Who is still mainly aimed at juveniles, even though adults have always enjoyed it, too. Ultimately, only two gift sets were ever produced, which is a shame as it has deprived us of a large-scale figure of the lovely Kylie Minogue in a skimpy waitress outfit, but you can´t have it all ...


 I obtained my kit at Telford´s Scale Model World show in 2010, and started it a very few months later, as a gift for my girlfriend who has fallen for the charms of David Tennant as the tenth Doctor big scale. The set depicts a scene from the episode „Daleks in Manhattan“, in which four Daleks take over the construction site of the Empire State Building in 1930 with plans of mass-producing Dalek-Human hybrids. The kit contains two Daleks, one of them an ordinary one, the other the leader Dalek Sec. His shell is opened and reveals the octopus-like creature inside. A rather large base hints at an engine-room where they perform their experiments. Both Daleks have working light and sound effects. Each of them will say one line from the show upon pressing down his eye-stalk, with accompanying light effects. The main defects of this kit are a rather simplified raygun (due to the target audience and needs of stability, obviously), and that the eye will not be illuminated in blue upon activating the effects. Both can be remedied.

The sturdy box is jam-packed with plastic bags full of nicely molded and large parts in various colours. The creature is provided in soft plastic. An excellent instruction booklet printed in full colour gives all the necessary infos on how to build the kit, and also on how to accentuate and weather it. This booklet is truly worth keeping. As Airfix omitted decals, you are supposed to cut out certain elements from the instruction booklet and glue them to the model. Being a gift set, a large number of small plastic pots of acrylic paint, three brushes and a tube of cement is included. Watch out as the cement is thinner than expected from tube stuff.


I started with the diorama base, which was pure unadulterated modeling fun: Clipping big parts from tree-like sprues, cleaning them up without undue concern for petite surface details being lost, gluing them together and – hey presto! - having a pretty large result was a much – welcomed cure for the woes of assembling iffy 1:700 PE assemblies during the preceding project. As a joke I compared the 1:700 PE inclined ladders with the central inclined ladder of the diorama and had a truly Gulliverian moment.

Painting the dio and its components was an equally jolly task. I did some pre- and postshading, and experimented with my various metalizer shades, before reverting to ye goode aulde Revell enamels for the bronze effects. The dials and blue whirly vortex effect stickers were not cut out from the instruction booklet, but scanned, printed, cut out and then glued to the model. The only „superdetailing“ was adding lightbulbs from clear sprue for the lamps. The base was done over the course of a weekend, parallel to work on the Daleks.

Obviously the first thing to do in building a Dalek was to connect the pre-assembled head with batteries and try the light and sound effects – you remember the play factor. Sadly, neither Dalek says the iconic „EXTERMINATE“. In order to improve the look, I carefully drilled through the solid black lens piece at the end of the eyestalk until I accessed the clear styrene stalk. Now, activating the effects meant that the eye actually glowed blue (which was the focal point of the illumination in my tattered discounted pocket book). The lens was covered with clear acrylic gel and upon curing looked the part. Obviously, the light-emitting parts of the head needed careful masking – Humbrol Maskol worked fine for me.

Building the first Dalek was pretty straightforward. The numerous parts were cleaned up, assembled, some small gaps (which I always have, in the most perfect wonderkit, so don´t lose heart) were filled and sanded. The most boring part was clipping from the sprues and cleaning up the 50-odd hemispheres which make the Dalek look so distinctive. These were stuck on kabuki tape for painting, and only afterwards glued to the completed and painted hull. Using a grey primer, then black paint and then a final layer of not-quite-covering gold paint did the trick.

The Project Dalek website is bizarre to begin with (it is aimed at those inclined to build their own Dalek, preferably full-scale) and a veritable treasure-trove of Dalek info. Using this site and the many screenshots it contains, I set out to build a more realistic ray gun than the clear styrene item from the kit. Using brass tubing, brass wire and styrene, I ended up with what I would term a passable approximation, which was about the last thing glued to the completed Dalek.

Building Dalek Set was a more involved project as his open hull implied more work on the various opaque panels, more masking, and I had to tackle the creature from my least favorite material, which is Vinyl aka soft plastic. Luckily, I got away with cleaning up most the seams on the tentacles, and luckily the various solvents and automotive primers I had bought had some grip on the stuff. The eye was painted in a distinctly unhealthy red, and some washing did a good job in accentuating the „exposed-brain“ structure.

The open panels needed a good deal of filling and sanding, and as they ended up looking positively bland I added some optical interest using generic ship PE, Lion Roar´s perforated bars. The various actuators proved to be a bit on the fiddly side, and on the whole I assume many or most of the eight-year-olds I know would be a tad overwhelmed with building this kit. But then that´s one of the few occasions we middle-aged auld pharts are able to help the youth – if they want us too, that is ...

Again, a large number of hemispheres needed work, but on the whole things proceeded quite nicely, and a very short time (ten days) after beginning the project I was able to take my completed shots.


This was a fun project, and a quite different kit from my normal projects, but one I as a Whovian had much anticipated and enjoyed a lot. If you happen upon one of them at a swap meet or wherever old kits see the light of day – feel free to give it a try!






Frank Spahr

June 2012

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