THE EVENTS OF THIS
THE DOCTOR WHO
TV STORY "GENESIS
OF THE DALEKS."
GARY HOPKINS (1),
JAMES PARSONS (2),
BROWN (2), LANCE
PARKIN (3), SCOTT
ALAN WOODARD (4) &
NICHOLAS BRIGGS (5)
BIG FINISH I, DAVROS
CDS#1.1 - 1.4 (ISBNS 1-
DECEMBER 2006; OR 'THE
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2508) RELEASED IN
The Kaled and Thal
races are at war. No
one really remembers
why, or when it
generations of people
on both sides have
lost so very much.
Born into an
influential family is
Davros. Now aged
sixteen, he is being
pulled in various
directions his father
wants him to follow
tradition and go into
the military. His
sister has joined the
Military Youth and
his scheming, devoted
mother wants him to
pursue a life of
But no one seems
terribly interested in
what Davros himself
wants. So he must
begin to assert
himself, begin to take
control over his own
life, begin to work
towards his destiny...
SEPTEMBER 2006 - DECEMBER 2006
1. INNOCENCE 2. PURITY 3. CORRUPTION 4. GUILT
For me, and doubtless for many others, Davros is and has always been the quint-essential Doctor Who baddie. Everybody loves the Master, of course, but for the most part the Doctor’s rival Time Lord has always been swathed in style and elegance; one might even say that he’s a rather romantic portrait of a villain. Davros, on the other hand, is an outright monster. Crippled, disfigured, and gruesome to the eye, Davros has somehow always managed to be even uglier on the inside than he is in the out.
But on television, no explanation was ever given for Davros’ dreadful physical condition. In Terry Nation’s Genesis of the Daleks, the Kaleds were portrayed as being a Nazi-like race that valued purity and good health above all else… yet, paradoxically, their supreme commander was possibly the most physically inept creature on their whole planet. As such it followed that Davros was clearly not born that way – he was wounded, as opposed to genetically corrupted – and so ever since 1975 generations of Doctor Who fans have wondered and even dared to imagine what might have caused Davros to appear as he did. Such conjecture begged the obvious question, ‘was Davros insane prior to his accident, or was his madness caused by it?’ but now, at last, we need speculate no longer. Big Finish Productions’ staggeringly superb mini-series I, Davros answers every question that I think has ever been raised about Davros, and raises quite a few fresh ones into the bargain.
Such sentiments notwithstanding, I, Davros is as profound a piece of a drama as it is blatant fan service. The story that is told across these stories is monumental on both a global and a personal scale, and so I am pleased to be able to say that both the quality of the scripts and the performances of the cast are more than equal to the weight of the story told. Indeed, the whole production reeks of the highest quality, right from Steve Foxon’s evocative title jingle and score all the way through to Stuart Manning’s distinctive - and frankly downright stunning - propaganda-inspired cover artwork.
I think it’s fair to say that I expected the least from the mini-series’ opening instalment, Innocence, having been burned in the past by the likes of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But as Star Wars Supremo George Lucas famously said, “every saga has a beginning”, and with Innocence writer Gary Hopkins takes us right back to the beginning of this saga – Davros’ youth.
And to be fair, Innocence really surprised me. Apart from the title being either gross irony or a total misnomer (you decide!), the whole play is simply saturated with brilliance. Clearly inspired by the 1970s BBC television series I, Claudius, the characters of this story are quite easily as iconic as their Roman counterparts, not to mention utterly engrossing to boot.
Take Davros’ mother, Calcula, for example. What a simple and strikingly effective use of onomatopoeia - the character’s name tells you absolutely everything you need to know about her before she has even spoken! And Carolyn Jones (from the eighth Doctor play The Last, also penned by Hopkins) absolutely owns the part; it would have been an easy thing for an actress to push such a character into the realms of pastiche, but to her credit Jones walks the line of melodrama utterly soberly here.
“Nothing dies of old age on Skaro.”
And Davros’ (purported) father, Colonel Nasgard, is every bit as impressive. Doctor Who veteran Richard Franklin, better known to fans as UNIT Captain Mike Yates, imbues the grizzled old warhorse with that magnificent sense of blinkered loyalty and inflexible duty that soldiers in fiction so often have, albeit with the occasional hint that there is far to him than meets the eye.
“I find it fascinating that a living creature would subject itself
to such dangerous experimentation, knowing that it would die…”
But the real triumph of Innocence is the young Davros himself, played here by Rory Jenkins of The Idiot’s Lantern fame. Part of me dreaded (and to be honest, expected) a whiter-than-white Jake Lloyd goody-two-shoes innocent little boy on a dark path sort of portrayal, but I, Davros is far cleverer and much more subtle than that. Whilst the Davros of Innocence may be light years away from his ultimate psychosis, the young man that we meet in this play is every bit as single-minded and as ruthless as the reality-devouring despot that Davros eventually would become. One of the final scenes of the play, where Davros experiments on his treacherous tutor Magran-tine, is utterly chilling and is perhaps the most explicit manif-estation of the malevolence lurking within the boy, even this early. But even that horrific scene pales when compared to the one that follows, where Davros offers his sister some rare words of comfort following a bereavement that she has suffered; his sole intention being to get hold of her friend’s cadaver to use in his radiation experiments!
And second only to the engrossing characters and the politically-charged plotline is the level of detail that Hopkins injects into his piece. In true prequel style, Innocence ties up a whole multitude of loose ends and potential continuity blunders, ranging from fleeting references to the Dals (an extinct Skarosian race, it seems) and Drammakin Lake (the future Lake of Mutations) to the intricacies of Kaled military protocol and the progression of weaponry used in the war.
In all, I don’t think that we could have asked for a more engrossing start to I, Davros than Innocence. So many twists and turns and knives in backs…
The second instalment of I, Davros - Purity - was written by James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown - the duo answerable for one of my favourite seventh Doctor audio plays to date, Live 34.
In Joseph Lidster’s ‘making of’ documentary that accompanied the Guilt release, Gary Russell remarks that this is the one story in the I, Davros quadrilogy where the writers were given reasonably wide discretion with regard to the story that they wanted to tell, and I think that the writers’ relative autonomy clearly shows in the finished play. Purity marks an interest-ing contrast to Innocence, and to its credit managed to keep surprising me throughout.
In Innocence, Davros was painted as something of a golden boy; a prodigy, even. Here, however, just a decade or so later, Davros is a nonentity stuck in a thankless job testing feeble weaponry. Parsons and Stirling-Brown certainly paint a fascinating and unexpected picture, juxtaposing Davros’ mediocrity with his unparalleled ambition – ambition that forces him to accept a suicide mission offered to him by the Kaled Supremo; a suicide mission that, if he could somehow survive it, would see him finally make it into the scientific core.
As much of this play focuses on Davros’ intelligence-gathering mission into Thal territory, it is naturally much more vigorous and fast-moving than even the ensuing two plays are. But even so, Parsons and Stirling-Brown still somehow manage to develop Davros’ character further than even Lance Parkin or Scott Alan Woodard would later do. I say this because it is in this play that Davros’ life changes; in this play that his destiny is set in stone.
Above: He, Davros. Terry Molloy in the "Davros Connections" DVD documentary
Terry Molloy’s performance as the thirty year-old Davros is so very good, so very controlled, that when it comes to his all-important epiphany following his encounter with Magrantine, you can almost sees those cogs in his brilliant mind turning.
“You kept me alive. Revenge is a powerful motivator…
I only hope that one day you find out what it’s like to live like this.
And I hope it brings you as much pain as it has me.”
I love this suggestion that it is only Magrantine’s hatred of Davros that kept him alive for so long as a muto - a “tattered, crippled relic of the war” - and that in turn it is Davros’ discovery of this truth that sets him on the path towards creating the Daleks. Absolutely inspired.
And back in Kaled territory, the incestuous drama of Innocence is carried forward, this time with Davros’ sister, Yarvell (Lizzie Hopley) in the thick of things. Her betrayal of Davros and resultant death at the hands of her mother is beautifully handled; it’s so very Rome.
For me though, the final scene of the play is by far the most arresting. Early on in the story, Yarvell is lecturing Davros about how once the Kaleds and the Thals lived in peace, and in so doing she refers him to a recently discovered painting of a Kaled and a Thal embracing. Of course, she had no idea what seeds she was sewing in her unhinged brother’s mind. Rather than embracing, the final scene of Purity sees Davros splicing together Kaled and Thal DNA, and then mixing the same with the DNA of the deadly Varga plant.
And, as was the case with Innocence, Purity is sated with enough detail to keep even the most fervent fanwank enthusiasts fuelled for months. As I have already mentioned, the Varga plants from The Daleks’ Master Plan have a major part to play here; we learn more of the Dals and the other extinct races of Skaro; and the Kaled political scene is mapped out fully, the Supremo and his Council of Twelve practically series’ regulars by this play’s climax.
All told, Purity is perhaps the standout of the whole mini-series. You may not hear the details of Davros’ accident or see him create the first Dalek here, but for the whole play you get to hear Molloy breathe life into a pre-accident Davros and take him on a good old-fashioned adventure; an adventure that would change the fate of Skaro and, in time, the whole of creation, forever.
Despite only being the penultimate story in the mini-series, Corruption is irrefutably ‘the big one’. This is where is at all goes to hell. This is Davros’ Revenge of the Sith. And as such, it is entirely fitting that Lance Parkin - the writer that offered us those first few tantalising glimpses into Davros’ past back in his 2003 play Davros - was given conduct of this one.
If you are already familiar with Davros, then there will be aspects of this story that you will already be au fait with, but Parkin very skilfully weaves these into his narrative and even expands upon them in all manner of fascinating ways. As such, the ‘cut and paste’ scenes are kept to a minimum, the writer focusing on the hows and whys here as opposed to the big bangs.
Katarina Olsson’s Shan is given a significant role here, her bizarre relationship with Davros being fleshed out delightfully. In Davros, Parkin toyed with his audience a little on the matter, clearly trying to lead us into thinking that Davros had romantic feelings for this woman, but here he pulls no such stunts. Yes, Davros loves Shan’s Dalek-envisioning mind, but that is all that he will concede. Indeed, here Davros is depicted as actively riling against Calcula’s cupid, but even so I think that there is a definite undercurrent here that Davros is apparently unable to acknowledge, and it is this that makes his betrayal of Shan and her lover Valron all the more difficult to swallow. We might know that it is coming, but it still smarts.
“Look at her. She’s like a butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. Beautiful.”
Corruption is also Carolyn Jones’ finest hour as Lady Calcula. In this story, we see Davros’ mother stripped right back to her core, and learn that ultimately the only think that matters to her – more than politics, more than anything – is her son. I think it desperately sad that Calcula ultimately sacrifices her life with a view to exposing the Supremo’s duplicity, yet her beloved son could not care less about such things. He is too fascinated by what the radiation chamber that killed her is doing to her body, and too interested in how he can blackmail the Supremo for his own sinister ends.
“Mother. You are becoming what we will all become. But just a little too early.
Skaro isn’t ready for you yet. The universe isn’t ready for you. You are the first.
We will survive. We will grow stronger…”
For his part, John Stahl is absolutely terrific as the Kaled Supremo, particularly in this play and the next. Stahl’s voice was made for audio; it’s so distinctive, so redolent. So ideal for this part.
Furthermore, though it is fair to say that Corruption is a relatively slow moving character piece for the most part (albeit with one hell of a bang at the end), it’s not without its moments of terror. There are some truly gruesome scenes in this play that are also rather disturbing on a psychological level – take Davros experimenting on expectant mothers with a view to corrupting their pregnancies and inducing mutation. Very nasty.
Parkin also illustrates the progression (and at times, attrition) of the Kaled war machine very well. I like how the decision was taken to not immediately go into Innocence with the Kaleds and the Thals in the middle of a nuclear war; it makes their plight all the more excruciating to see their weapons of war develop in great quantum leaps as Davros’ life progresses. His demonstration of his ‘thunder bolt’ weapon here feels really alarming, not to mention rewarding in a fanwanky sort of way.
“I have been given clarity. I see the world as it truly is; not filtered through the limits of flesh.”
It is inevitable though that Corruption will forever be talked about for its closing scenes. It’s not so much the explosion that cripples Davros that is so noteworthy (though it is undeniably thrilling to finally hear it happen), it’s the immediate aftermath. Davros almost seems pleased with his physical state because finally he has been set apart from the crowd. Finally he is unique. Finally he has clarity. And I just love how Parkin put Davros in his strongest position yet, with the Supremo in his pocket, before nuking him! Talk about pride before a fall.
“And I know now, for the sake of my people,
I must always feel like this. Never knowing any limits. ”
At the end of the day, Corruption is the one chapter of the mini-series that we have all been clamouring to hear. And, unlike some stories in the past that have been overshadowed by the hype and the weight of expectation, Corruption is an absolute triumph; a morbid, maso-chistic joy.
When Darth Vader uttered his first words in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - “Where is Padmé? Is she safe? Is she alright?” -, a lot of Star Wars fans were left feeling a little deflated. Rather than end the prequel trilogy at the apex of Anakin Skywalker’s catastrophic fall from grace, they wanted to see the arse-kicking Vader of the old movies hunt down and wipe out all the surviving Jedi. And whilst I agree with the storytelling logic of ending the prequel trilogy on such a traditionally tragic note, a hell of a lot of moviegoers were left clamouring for the rest of the story. Now Big Finish could have quite easily taken a leaf out of George Lucas’ book and ended I, Davros at the end of Corruption, but had they done so a great many fans – myself included – would have been moaning that potentially the most appealing chapter of the saga had been omitted.
Guilt, as the title suggests, is about aftermath. It’s about consequences. And it just so happens to be about how Davros crosses paths a certain Lieutenant by the name of Nyder; how together they stealthily orchestrate Davros’ rise from Chief Scientist of the Scientific Elite to Supreme Commander of the Kaleds; and how together they oversee the birth of the universe’s very first Dalek. In short, this one is not just fanwank – it’s a full on spunkfest.
I was astonished with just how well Peter Miles managed to recreate Nyder here, given that it is more than thirty years since he played the character of television. As Gary Russell points out in the documentary that accompanies this release, Miles’ voice has not aged a day. It is also a voice that works very well on audio in any event; it’s so distinctive, and so very unsettling. Even with the great esteem that I have for Miles’ performance in Genesis of the Daleks, I think that the character is even more effective here – divorced from the visuals, Nyder becomes even more frightening.
Penned by Scott Alan Woodard, who handled Davros so very well in his 2005 Doctor Who play The Juggernauts, Guilt shows us Davros during a very interesting transitional phase. He is literally right on the cusp of becoming the megalomaniac that we would meet in Genesis of the Daleks, just a couple of subjective years later, but the links to his past are still here to be seen and to be felt. There is even one scene where Davros plays an old Kaled victory march, and reminisces about how his sister used to love the piece. The scene in question follows on directly from Davros giving an announcement to the public that their Council of Twelve are dead (“an accident…”), and that he is going to take away all their children; a concurrence that I think sums up exactly where Davros is at in the story.
Indeed, some of this story’s more harrowing scenes see the Kaled children being forcibly taken from their families in accordance with Davros’ “mandatory child protection prog-ramme.” Jennifer Croxton’s Tech-Ops Ludella, a former associate of the Supremo, perhaps illustrates this best as she remonstrates with Davros over the fate of her “little Kendo”, who by the time she is reunited with him is well on his way to becoming a Dalek mutant, and a murderous one at that..
“At the conclusion of the book of predictions, it states and I quote
‘Talu bek Kalid ulrik ta Dalek’… It is in the extinct tongue of the Dal.
Roughly translated it means ‘And on that day, men will become as gods’.”
It will not surprise many that I, Davros culminates in Davros and Nyder placing their first successful Dalek mutant into a “mark one travel machine”, though I am sure that many will not have expected the mutant in question to be of Thal descent! That is right – the first Dalek was created from a mutated Thal (a Thal quite appropriately voiced by none other than Nicholas Briggs). It’s a tremendously satisfying cut-off point.
Above: The first Dalek, gloriously animated by Daniel Reed and Rob Semenoff for "Davros Connections"
The only trouble is that it is a cut-off point - literally; I, Davros just stops dead. Now I would not have been bothered by this were the four plays not bookended with scenes featuring an older Davros being ‘tried’ by his Daleks, which I had imagined would be explained (and, ideally, cleverly tied in with these ‘flashbacks’) at the end of Guilt. Still, it’s but a small gripe, and one that would in time be remedied to some degree by the DVD box set exclusive play The Davros Mission, released a year or so later.
Produced for exclusive release as part of the BBC’s Davros Collection DVD box set, this unique Big Finish Production is far less remarkable than the I, Davros mini-series that it follows, but is an agreeable eighty minutes of audio drama all the same.
The Davros Mission ties in with I, Davros in that it picks up Davros’ story immediately after Revelation of the Daleks – as the story begins, he is just being fitted with a mechanical hand and informed by the Daleks that he is being taken for trial on Skaro. Whether this is the ‘trial’ cryptically referred to in the I, Davros bookends is anybody’s guess, though the fact that Davros was evidently being ‘tried out’ for something in I, Davros certainly suggests otherwise. Even so, I like to think that Davros’ musings about his past took place during this play; this would certainly fit very well with the story that Nicholas Briggs is trying to tell here.
“Turns out you’re one of them Davros loving weirdoes after all, dunnit?
What did you wanna do? Convince him he has a good side or something!”
For one thing, like I, Davros, Briggs’ story examines Davros and his neurosis, the main difference being that The Davros Mission examines these with the benefit of hindsight. Briggs utilises the old device of a third party – in this case, the stealthy Thal Lareen (Miranda Raison) – trying to convince Davros that he has a good side and can contribute in a positive way to the universe.
Raison, who will be familiar to Doctor Who fans thanks to her lovely portrayal of Tallulah in the 2007 Evolution of the Daleks two-parter on television, plays off Terry Molloy very well indeed here. Their scenes together are electric, particularly towards the story’s end where the Daleks have removed Davros from his chariot and strung him up on the wall because of his raving insistence that there is an ‘invisible’ Thal intruder on board their ship.
Above: Daniel Reed and Rob Semenoff's CG Dalek presides over Davros' trial in "Davros Connections"
Sean Connolly, who appeared in I, Davros as Councillor Quested, is also tremendously entertaining here as Gus, an engine-grease sucking, humanoid clam that is enslaved to the Daleks. Together with his cohort Raz (Gregg Newton), Connolly injects this dark and brooding piece with some much-needed comic relief.
More negatively, this play does feel padded at times, but the explosive payoff on Skaro makes it well worth enduring the play’s duller moments. Not only do we get to hear the infamous Trial of Davros, but we get to see him take his first steps towards becoming the Emperor of the Daleks that we would eventually see in Remembrance of the Daleks on television.
All told, I couldn’t countenance purchasing The Davros Collection on the strength of this play alone if you already own all of the other stories included in the box set but, given that you can now pick it up for as little as £39.99 now on the Big Finish website, even if your collection is only missing one or two of these stories, then it may still be cost-effective to shell out. If you have not purchased any of the Big Finish Davros stories or the classic series’ Davros television serials, then you certainly have one hell of a bargain waiting for you and The Davros Mission is just the icing on the cake.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The events of this mini-series take place in the lead-up to Genesis of the Daleks. However, both the bookends and The Davros Mission feature a much older Davros, who has been put on trial by the Daleks. These events presumably take place shortly after Revelation of the Daleks, which culminates in the Daleks capturing Davros from Necros.
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'I, Davros' series copyright © Big Finish Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.