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When Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek

In 2018, a new science fiction museum opened in Allendale Town, England. Neil Cole's Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi lured science fiction fans to the small village in Northumberland County. Locals enjoyed it too, as well as they enjoyed the extra business brought by tourists. But only three months after the opening, the Northumberland County Council confronted Cole with a complaint that a small shed in front of the museum did not conform with the historical nature of the building, and must be taken down within 14 days. The shed was a shelter for a Dalek, the fictional space villains of the TV series Doctor Who.

“One of the arguments that a councilor made [against the shed] was that we didn’t need a Dalek outside because we had one inside,” says Cole. “They were missing the point: The one inside is an original; the one outside attracts people inside. A little sandwich board is not going to do it.”

Cole refused to be bullied, but the Planning Committee would not yield. The battle between the AllenDalek and the Northumberland County Council made headlines across the country—and the globe. Even Hollywood took notice; a Tom Hardy–helmed film about the saga is currently in development. The Council repeatedly declined requests for comment at the time, instead releasing the statement, “We wish to work with the property owner to resolve this[.]”

The Council didn’t appear to be quite so open to dialogue in practice. On two separate occasions, Cole claims, a member of the Planning Department was caught hiding behind his garbage bins, covertly snapping photos of the AllenDalek. Cole says, “It was all about ego, saving face, and people throwing their power around irresponsibly.”

Sci-fi fans, and fans of the museum, got involved to save the museum's outdoor Dalek. Find out how the saga of the AllenDalek has played out so far (it's not quite over yet) at Atlas Obscura.

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