Doctor Who – “Davros”

‘ATI stock has shot up by over fifteen percent on news that galaxy-famous scientist Davros, controversial creator of the Daleks, has been hired to work on unspecified technological projects.’

Davros has been given the chance to redeem himself.

Humanity stands on the verge of a new era, but it needs the help of the galaxy’s greatest ever scientist. But Davros is dead… isn’t he?

From the bunkers and shelters of ancient Skaro to the gleaming Domes of the Future Earth Empire, Davros has always been a man of destiny. Now he’s working for mankind’s benefit. But how much do we really know about Davros?

Has Davros really turned over a new leaf? The Doctor certainly doesn’t think so. But is the Doctor always right?

Colin Baker is the Doctor in…Davros.

Colin Baker (The Doctor)
Terry Molloy (Davros)
Bernard Horsfall (Arnold Baynes)
Wendy Padbury (Lorraine Baynes)
Eddie de Oliveira (Willis)
Ruth Sillers (Kimberly Todd)
Katarina Olsson (Shan/Computer/Earpiece Voice)
David Bickerstaff (Ral)
Louise Faulkner (Kaled Medic)
Karl Hansen (Kaled Medic)
Andrew Westfield(Pilot)

Written By: Lance Parkin
Directed By: Gary Russell


The Daleks are the most iconic and famous foe of the Doctor.  But what of their creator?

Born on Skaro, transformed by war, scarred by bombardment and left for dead, a brilliant, ruthless scientist created the ultimate weapon; a new race without emotion, without pity, clad in tank like “travel machines” based off his own life-support chair.  Thus were born the Daleks, the most dangerous and feared race in the known universe, the children of one megalomaniac – Davros.

Davros is the second of Big Finish’s “Villains Trilogy,” where the Sixth Doctor and Davros collide in the most unlikely of circumstances, first working together, than facing off against one another with the fate of the entire galaxy at stake.  Thanks to a incredibly strong script and one of the best acting performances so far for Big Finish, Davros is nothing short of an instant classic that not only defines the villain for new listeners, but adds several different layers to the iconic figure without watering him down in the process.

Trans-Allied Incorporated has built its galactic monopoly on a simple concept; giving the customer what they want before they know they want it.  But with humanity stretched to its limits, no planets anywhere are suitable for further colonization, and widespread famine is common across the galaxy.  CEO Arnold Baynes and his wife, revisionist historian Lorraine, have an audacious and cunning plan, which begins by obtaining the lifeless body of one of the galaxy’s most feared individuals…meanwhile, the Doctor has been asked by a journalist friend to help him investigate TAI and the rumors that they are closing a set of profitable mines in order to replace the human workers with robots.  Even though such corporate intrigue doesn’t normally pique the Doctor’s interest, all it takes is accidentally stumbling across Arnold and Lorraine with their newest prize to immediately grab his full and undivided attention.  For their prize is none other than the corpse of Davros, creator of the Daleks, and Arnold and Lorraine are doing no less than bringing him back to life…

…for the sole purpose of hiring the infamous scientist to work for their corporation!

With a name like Davros, the actor playing the title role has a grand expectation to live up to.  But when the actor is none other than Terry Molloy, those expectations are not only easily met, but surpassed!  Malloy is the second actor play the mad scientist from Skaro, starring in three noteworthy television serials; Resurrection of the Daleks were Davros returned to the series and faced off against the Fifth Doctor, Revelation of the Daleks, considered by some to be a classic for the Sixth Doctor, and Remembrance of the Daleks, the final appearance in the classic series for both the Daleks and their creator.  It’s hard to believe that 15 years passed between the last time Molly played Davros and the self-titled Big Finish release as he steps right back into the role and gives a magnificent performance.  From the very first lines, a powerful monologue where Davros considers medically induced suicide as the suggestion of the Kaled leadership, Molloy shows his range, starting quiet and introspective, his voice modified and melodic.  But the intensity grows, slowly, as his thoughts on suicide become thoughts of survival, with a screaming, defiant battle cry leading the listener into the title theme.  Davros is well known for his loud, manic moments, but he’s always shown a quiet side as well; cold, hard logic, a scientist questioning the universe in quiet awe, but soon his beliefs take over and all that’s left is his megalomaniacal superiority and his need to survive.  Molloy could have simply played Davros incredibly over-the-top, but the fact that he doesn’t makes his performance incredibly eerie.   Instead, it gives the listener insight into the villain’s thought process, which also makes his performance incredibly unnerving.   To hear Davros’ lay out the details of his imprisonment at the hands of Earth upon conclusion of the Dalek War is particularly chilling.  Placed in suspended animation and deprived of all his senses.  He tells the Doctor about not being able to see, hear, or feel anything, and how his mind first expanded inward, and then outward.  He saw eternity in his own image, a universe that only he could create and only he could experience, from its birth all the way until heat death, living forever and ever…

“And then my heart beat.  That had been the first second of my imprisonment.”

When Davros finally shows his true colors (I’m really not spoiling anything here, am I?), Molloy’s cackling and his demands for obedience are sharp and direct, while casual his dismissal of the dome’s population as they die of radiation poisoning is perfectly in character.  And it’s all the more better for the listener, because even though they know from the beginning that the moment is coming where Davros begins to implement his master plan, they’ve had to wait over sixty tense minutes for it.

There was only one choice as to which Doctor would be portrayed opposite Davros.  The Fifth Doctor would have been swayed by Davros’ words about redemption, while the Seventh Doctor would have already had a plan in place from the very beginning.  The Sixth Doctor, however, is a bit more cynical and as just as insanely brilliant as Davros is coldly logical.  Colin Baker’s scenes opposite Terry Molloy in Revelation of the Daleks were some of the best of Colin’s run on television.  The same holds true in audio format; most of Davros is nothing more than the Sixth Doctor and Davros having a conversation, with Baker downplaying some of the more manic aspects of the Sixth Doctor (this story takes place early in his regeneration, soon after The Two Doctors, as Peri is still his companion, but off-screen at an interstellar botany convention, a great touch by the writer) which helps to avoid overshadowing Molloy’s performance.  While Six still has his moments, such as the early scene where he pleads with his colleagues to be quiet, only to leap into an apoplectic state and run charging towards the Baines the moment he sees Davros’ dead body or his repeated attempts to circumvent the Personal Assistant “given” to him by TIA, the focus is really on the screen time he shares with Davros.  You can hear the disbelief in his voice as he listens to Davros explain why he’s trying to turn over a new leaf, but it’s quiet and scoffing as opposed to a loud sarcastic laugh…much in the same as Davros’ rough scratchy rasp is his mockery of the Doctor’s comments.  Even in the scenes away from Davros, such as exploring a shut down assembly line or dealing with an active nuclear device, Baker is in top form.  It’s just yet another run-of-the-mill superb performance from Colin Baker, once again showing why he’s the best of the audio Doctors.

It’s a smaller supporting cast once again, and with one exception, each are absolutely stellar.  That exception is Eddie de Oliveira as the reporter Willis, and it’s because he’s just a bit TOO believable as a journalist; cynical but naive, trusting yet paranoid, subtle yet blunt, helpful yet lacking in tradecraft.  By his character’s demise, he’s little more than a talking plot device serving to show the ruthlessness of Andrew Baynes.  Veteran character actor Bernard Horsfall (who also starred in The Mind Robber, the War Games, and Planet of the Daleks plays the CEO of TAI.  In any other serial, Baynes would have been the perfect villain; smooth talking, calm and reasonable, a motive for profit behind every action, always serving the bottom line even at a human cost.  Horsfall and his gravelly tones play Baynes as friendly, almost grandfatherly, but in that Rupert Murdoch sort of manner where you’re always looking for the catch in the deal or the knife in your back.  The name Wendy Padbury is familiar to longtime Who fans, as she played the genius companion Zoe Heriot during the end of the Second Doctor’s run.   Lorraine Baynes shares a sharp intellect with Zoe, but with a sharp, steely edge.  She’s interested in Davros from a historical perspective, and writing her part as a “revisionist historian” is a solid choice on the part of the author.  Someone who twists history around to its “correct” form, often to serve her husband’s corporation, Padbury’s conversations with Davros serve to give insight into the villain in a casual, academic manner.  Until Davros begins to massacre the inhabitants of the dome, at which point she fails to come to grips with the evil she’s helped to unleashed.  But by the end, she’s already figured out how to rewrite what happened, and absolve herself of all blame in the process.  Padbury deserves credit for playing Loraine completely different from Zoe, someone who lets other people get their hands dirty and refuses to blame herself.   Ruth Sillers also deserves credit for playing the brave Kimberly Todd, who contacted the Doctor in the first place and set the whole chain of events in motion.  Confronted with Davros’ evil and trapped with him during the climax, she goes from timid computer programmer wondering if she’s doing the right thing to sacrificing herself so the Doctor can attempt to stop Davros without worrying about her safety.

Lance Parkin is very familiar with the Doctor, having penned several novels along with the Big Finish audio Primeval.  The script for Davros is original and refuses to water down Davros or make him sympathetic.  The script adds several dimensions to the character through flashbacks, touching on both his time before being caught under Thal and his work afterwards.  We meet several of Davros’ colleagues, including Shan, from whose blueprints Davros created the Daleks after removing the weakness known as emotion.  From the very first flashback, Davros’ utter ruthlessness and determination to survive is in full display.  Loraine presses him during their time together about Shan and whether or not Davros cared for her, but the listener is never sure if Davros had any emotion towards her, or was just using her as a means to an end, calling for her execution when she was no longer of use to him under the guise of her lover being a Thal spy.   The same goes for his time talking to the Doctor.  Davros insists his imprisonment has caused him to reconsider his genocidal ways, and even as the Doctor shakes his head in disbelief, the listener  has to wonder if Davros is indeed telling the truth.  He studies the galactic famine (which is a nice lead in to Davros’ machinations in Revelation of the Daleks) and the universal economy and believes he has a solution to both of them…but Andrew Baynes isn’t keen on putting the entire galaxy on a war footing.   Is it the rejection of Davros’ plan that causes him to seek vengeance against TAI?  Or was Davros’ plotting to take control all along?   Davros’ master plan, the way he plans to become the supreme power in the galaxy, is a very neat little McGuffin, something that makes perfect sense in the day and age of “too big to fail” and Wall Street bailouts.  And the way he plans to exterminate the Doctor using a nuclear weapon is the perfect level of Davros-esque overkill, complete with some of the best mad cackling in any format.

Out of the three serials that make up the “Villains” trilogy, Davros is easily the best, and a story I could listen to again down the road.  Omega saw the writer attempt to put the Doctor and Omega on the same level as flawed creatures, ignoring the Doctor’s attempts to do good vs. Omega’s attempts for personal power at any cost, and Master contains a plot point that flies against the very nature of the Doctor that ruins the whole thing.  But Davros deserves praise, especially for Lance Parkin’s script and Terry Molloy’s performance.  They both add to the legacy and backstory of Davros, but without rewriting his very nature, or completely changing the foundation of his relationship with the Doctor.  The first episode sees the Doctor and Davros working together on a project at TAI’s request, a great way to get the two in the same room without trying to kill each other and outlines their volatile past to a new listener as well as providing a few moments of light humor mixed in with serious conversation as they examine what they are to each other.  Davros might be the Doctor’s greatest singular enemy, and the Doctor might be the closest thing to a friend Davros knows.  By the end of the story, Davros is still a threat to the known universe, but instead of seeing him in a “he’s not so bad” light, we have a better understanding of what makes him tick, and why that makes Davros just that more dangerous.

Synopsis – The best of the “Villains” trilogy, Davros has a top notch script and caliber performances, topped off by Terry Molloy showing just what it is that makes the creator of the Daleks tick.  5/5

Next up – Many years ago, on a dark and stormy night, the disfigured and enigmatic Doctor John Smith invited his closest friends, Inspector Victor Schaeffer and his wife, Jacqueline, to a dinner to celebrate his birthday. A few hours later all the occupants in that house had been changed, ­some were dead, others mentally scarred forever by the events of that night.

Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor in Master.

About cobiwann

A guy who's into a niche fandom of a niche fandom - the Big Finish audio plays of "Doctor Who." Also into the show itself, both old and new, plus pop culture and a smattering of human insight.
This entry was posted in Big Finish Review and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s