Big Finish Productions
|Written by||Lance Parkin|
|Continuity||Between The Two Doctors and Timelash.|
|Starring Colin Baker and Wendy Padbury|
|Also featuring Terry Molloy, Bernard Horsfall, Eddie de Oliveira, Ruth Sillers, Katarina Olsson|
|Synopsis: 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?|
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 16/10/03
The second in Big Finish's villain series sees the mouthwatering prospect of the 6th Doctor sparring with Davros. It's the one I was most looking forward to - especially as the excellent Lance Parkin was the scribe. When Terry Molloy was signed up to reprise the role of Davros I knew it would be very good indeed - this after all was a very good radio actor. With Bernard Horsfall and Wendy Padbury on board the main ensemble was very promising.
Big Finish decide (I'm not quite sure why) to split the story in 2. There's only 1 Cliffhanger at the end of the 1st CD. Each CD is about an hour and a quarter long. This does make for a very long story - one rivalling Shearman's Jubilee to be the longest BF have thus far produced. Having it as only 2 episodes makes this seem even longer. A half hour episode length is a natural Doctor Who break. My wife and I like one episode at a time. Presentation therefore could have been better I feel - there must have been 2 more cliffhangers they could have produced during this mammoth story.
The story is a good one, without being totally to my liking. Davros and the Doctor have plenty of time to spar, seeing as they end up working for the super-corporation that the Baines manage. It is these scenes (about where Episode 2 would be in a 4-parter) that stand out from the rest. I was surprised though just how many scenes had just one or the other, with someone else. For sheer words spoken, I think Colin Baker got short shrift in this story. It is a Davros story, but with DOCTOR WHO in big letters above it - but the play doesn't reflect the cover emphasis. Terry Molloy is up to the task though - and emerges as the real massive plus in this production.
He's quite simply brilliant as Davros. I always veered towards the Michael Wisher TV portrayal as the best - but I've been swayed by this monumental performance. Molloy takes this already established character, and makes him better than ever. Whether he's being the younger Davros (chillingly normal as it was), or the mad, crazed cripple we know - his portrayal has that special quality of excellence. The Big Finish production team also deserve much credit for recreating the unique voice so brilliantly. It was fascinating to learn of the earlier Davros, and the new spin on Dalek history was very interesting. BF also nicely distinguish these scenes, it really felt very cloud bubble-ish!
Even though Colin Baker takes a step back to allow Davros to shine, this is again a superb performance from the definitive audio Doctor. His is a more watchful Doctor here, than we are accustomed to. He's wary of Davros and the lengths he will go to further his own mad schemes. Yet he also has an eye on the Baines. They are responsible for bringing Davros back, and their obsessions are scary in the extreme.
Bernard Horsfall and Wendy Padbury make an odd couple. Never once they seem that together on things. Knowing the two actors didn't help either, as they looked a mismatched couple too! But both are very good in their roles, even though for long periods each one seems to disappear. I didn't expect any other characters to really come to the fore. But Willis, Kim and Shan do. Each has their own time in the foreground (with Davros, Doctor or Baines), and the supporting players contribute much to the overall drama.
Lance Parkin's script is an interesting one. I'm a little put off with all this talk of conglomerates and stock market prices. That part of it (big business) didn't strike a chord with me. This huge factory/dome with all it's offices, areas to explore and places to get lost in - that was well presented in sound - just a bit sterile. It does remind me of Robocop, and that film bored the pants off me, to be honest. Too much business speak is dull - whoever is speaking it.
But then Parkin excels in his characterization, especially for the Doctor and Davros. It is the rapport between the main characters that put this play on the map, so to speak. It's a different kind of story appreciation therefore. It has its action moments, it has its emotional outbursts, it's very good drama - but the whole isolated dome factory setting puts in down a notch.
I expect many fans will love this story. It really is a very good example of this type of Doctor Who story. I really like the performances and the characters, but I couldn't help but feel that more could have been done with them - that the whole set up could have been better. It's not one of my favourites in the audio range by any means, but there is much to admire here. 7/10
Scalded history by Joe Ford 13/11/03
There are some Doctor Who stories that demand to be told. Glaring omissions in the show's mythology that were never filled during the shows twenty-six year television reign. Thankfully we have Big Finish at hand to provide the 'missing stories'. They did a superb job of telling the 'genesis of the Cybermen' with Spare Parts, finally giving us an explanation, a backbone to their emotionless schemes. But there are still so many others... the climatic third Doctor/Master story that left him emaciated, vengeful and power hungry in The Deadly Assassin, the Ice Warrior story that explains why they turned good and of course the story of why Davros turned into a complete loony.
The history of Davros is a story I have long thought deserved to be told and frankly I can't imagine anybody telling that tale more effectively than Lance Parkin. He is an extremely effective character writer and has the ability to intimately associate us with his villains. He managed to voice the Traken God Kwundaar; instead of coming across as another misguided deity Lance portrayed him as a lonely, lost soul who was banished many years ago. Ferran in the superlative novel Father Time is never truly evil, he comes across painfully as a destructive child, desperate to find love. Who better than the human face of the enemy to bring some depth to Davros?
I was very excited when I heard there would be a 6th Doctor/Davros story. Any story that could capatilise on the success (no matter what Matthew Harris thinks!) of Revelation of the Daleks, those few scenes of total genius between these two eccentric, verbose characters, was going to be a total winner.
So in all honestly why wasn't this CD the total triumph it deserved to be? The individual elements are quite striking and I shall look at them to explain why I was quite underwhlemed by the whole thing.
The story's length (for a change) is not an issue. Davros is a shocking 150 minutes long, ask my friends Hazel and Dave, all I could go on about after I had bought this was how bloody long the thing was and how I could not see how they could keep the listener engaged for so long. Two hours and twenty minutes? I know I'm always bandying for value for money but please! But the script demands to be this long, Lance Parkin doesn't want to impress you with action or mind expanding concepts, his work is all character, character, character. This studied piece requires time to get know the characters, to understand them before it twists the knife in your belly and provides the shocks. The first disc is basically all set up, albeit engrossing set up for the powerful drama in the second disc. It is to the credit of the script that I never once felt the story drag or felt things should hurry along. The story had a very natural flow and even when things did start to crawl a bit it was always to tell some fascinating story about Davros.
It is with great pleasure that I announce they managed to secure the wonderful Terry Molloy to play Davros again. Molloy is always seen as the B-Grade Davros after Michael Wisher's perennial interpretation in Genesis of the Daleks but I think that assessment is very unfair. It may have taken him a story to get the right note to play the character (Resurrection sees Davros do little but rant melodramatically, superficially entertaining but not the examination of his character we want to see) but anything Molloy achieved in Revelation easily matches that first Davros story. He is sick, twisted, manipulative and funny, Molloy plays the part somewhere between genius and loony, Davros laughs hysterically as people die horribly, he plays with the emotions of his staff, he wants Kara to admit her assassination attempt before having her killed. It is great stuff and reveals just how intelligent (and deranged) he is.
So it is terrific to finally listen to Molloy play some emotional scenes. The gradual slips into Davros' past are so good because the writer doesn't let his revelation of Davros' descent into madness interfere until waaay into the second disc. This leaves us with the perfect opportunity to get to know Davros before his accident, the man untainted by his disgusting appearance. There are tiny glimpses of the Davros we know and love, his passion for science, his ability to see the 'bigger' picture. His relationship with the scientist Shaan almost convincingly lets you see the softer side of the mad man. These flashback sequences are never intrusive (because that was why I wanted to listen to this so much!) and melt into the main plot almost imperceptibly.
The most powerful 'past' scene comes near the very beginning, Davros waking up after his shelling accident. His voice is modulated and he can't move properly, he asks for a mirror and screams out his horror at the reflection...
Colin Baker seems an ideal person to be involved with this story. On telly many viewers perceived Colin's Doctor as a bit of a monster, a violent, carefree Doctor who treated his companion s far too abusively. That this story should be set in the heart of that, before his audio revamp, and should have the Doctor so vocal about how much of a monster Davros is works to the story's moral grey areas. Colin brilliantly slips back into his season twenty-two Doctor, loud and proud and rude! Lance Parkin was never a fan of this Doctor (or so I've read) so it is interesting that during the first disc it is Davros who comes across as the more sympathetic with the Doctor's violent emotions and unwaving opinions of Davros painting him in the role of the villain. Davros is trying so hard to earn the trust of those around, he is a reformed man, a man who is working to benefit humanity and the Doctor is hampering his attempts at every turn. What a bastard! Davros the hero? Well we all know better than that but for several long sequences my devotion was wavering between the two, I was not sure who to like most. And a story that would make me side with Davros over the Doctor was something I never expected to see.
Which makes it all the more powerful when Davros finally emerges from the shadows as the ruthless, power hungry dictator we've always known that he is. His quiet admission that he honestly believed he could change is chilling. Molloy returns to the gorgeously scary Revelation Davros that was so popular, throwing up with laughter as people start to die around him. Intimate history is all very well but this is the Davros everybody recognises and the sudden slip from one to another is achieved realistically. I was sitting at Sidcup train station with my jaw slack as Davros started his "I hate to interrupt this fascinating conversation..." speech, gurgling with laughter and committing a diabolical atrocity. I had goose bumps down my arms; I was genuinely frightened of Davros again, just like I was as a child.
Hold on! Hang on a minute! Didn't I say I thought this story was lacking? On the surface it does, all the good work is done by Terry Molloy and Colin Baker (and of course Lance Parkin). Parkin writes gorgeously, his dialogue always hits the spot. He delves into politics, subversity, morals, self-loathing, historical perceptives and deals with them all with his usual dramatic flair. Some scenes reflect Genesis they are so powerful, Davros and his decision not to kill himself, telling the Doctor to do so and that it will be the only opportunity to do it. The quieter scenes between Davros and Mrs Baynes where he talks about how he cannot 'feel'. His mind-blowing offer to Willis. Kim Todd forcing the Doctor's hand in the last five minutes of the story. These are all brilliant sequences, stuff that makes you proud to be a fan.
So what does the story do so wrong? Well I hate to sound so defeatist but every time I see Gary Russell's name on the director's list I cringe. This is like his fifth story in a row or something! Give someone else some work to do Russell! You know they'll do a bloody better job! The biggest crime that Davros makes is how unimportant it all seems thanks to the undramatic direction. The story is not given enough oomph by Russell, events unfold quite ponderously when they should be constantly gripping, whilst Terry and Colin are emoting their hearts off Russell is allowing the story to slow down, the bigger moments coming across as BIGGER than they actually are because Russell bothers to edit them nicely and give them some impact. There is a huge explosion in the story but its impact is blunted by the bland reactions of the guest cast (which Russell should have picked up on and changed). The ending with Davros trying to escape should have been edge of the seat stuff but the story just sort of withers away, a heroic sacrifice not half as powerful as it should have been. I hate to moan about these things (actually no I don't...) but this is an unacceptable treatment of such a carefully crafted script. I can only imagine how much better this would have been if Barnaby Edwards or Nick Briggs had directed it. Gary Russell has proven himself to be a very capable director in the past (The Fires of Vulcan) but his work of late has been slipping. Maybe if he didn't do so bloody many those he did direct would be constructed with more care (Flip-Flop was similarly sabotaged by weak direction from this guy).
My other complaint is the guest cast. Or some of the guest cast don't live up to expectations. On the plus side Wendy Padbury is excellent as Mrs Baynes, a pivotal character who provides some of the best Davros moments of the story. Her attempts to get 'close' to Davros are breathtaking, their discussions border on intimate and he really seems to open up to her. Any trace of enthusiastic second Doctor companion Zoe is eliminated and Padbury gives a sinister but humanistic portrayal of woman trapped in her own obsession.
But what about Bernard Horsfall, champion of so many classic Doctor Who stories such as The Mind Robber and The Deadly Assassin. How bored does he sound? This is a terrific script and demands the actor who plays Arnold Baynes to be scary and powerful, Horsfall underplays everything and adopts an annoying chatty style (just listen to how unimpressed he sounds about a nuclear device about to explode). Even his climatic moments with Davros are underplayed; the man is ruined, desperate but still sounds as calm as ever. Should have done something about that Russell!
'Companions' Willis and Todd are okay, nothing offensive, nothing special. They made no real impression but to drive the plot along so I won't say anything else.
It annoys me that this could have been the ultimate Big Finish adventure, the script is as good as anything Rob Shearman has produced (that's high praise) and performances by Terry Molloy and Colin Baker are truly astonishing. It deserves to be better than it is but it isn't and that really pisses me off.
A failed experiment? No, I feel I understand Davros a whole lot more now. The goal of the story is well achieved; we finally have some motivations for the greatest villain the universe has ever known.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 10/7/04
As character studies go Davros is one of the best; both in terms of the character (a perfect choice for such a play) and the story itself. Using in part flashback to tell his story prior to his accident Davros is effective because it shows the character at his cunning, manipulative best freed from the constraints of the Daleks as his minions. Davros also features Terry Molly`s best portrayal of the character and it is refreshing to hear him pre voice modulation, although he is equally effective upon discovering his new "identity" after his accident. In this way Terry Molloy actually usurps Colin Baker as the Doctor performance wise although the two players do seem to compliment and play off each other well.
Davros is notable also for the inclusion of two of the old school of Doctor Who in Wendy Padbury and Bernard Horsfall as the husband and wife team of Arnold and Lorraine Baynes. Both performances are excellent, Horsfall`s seemingly underplayed and Padbury`s enriched by the eloquence of her voice. With clever touches throughout, we are given the basics as to why Davros decides to take over Tranquil Repose for example and the use of two (albeit feature length) episodes which evoke season twenty two, the results speak for themselves; a strong character study and story in its own right.
Revelations by Tim Roll-Pickering 14/11/04
Initially Big Finish announced that they would not do any Dalek stories featuring Davros, as they felt that on television it had merely reduced the Daleks to supporting soldiers whilst turning most stories into tales of yet more internal dissent amongst factions. It is probably a wise decision, as it has allowed their Dalek Empire series to grow and develop, but until the three villain focused audios came along it rather left Davros out in the cold. Then came this gem of an audio adventure. There's not a Dalek to be heard and instead we get the most indepth exploration of the character in any medium, easily beating the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip Up Above the Gods. Colin Baker's Doctor is the natural choice for the story, bringing his ingrained prejudices against his long term foe, leaving the listener to wonder whether it is just possible that Davros has started to reform.
Interwoven into this tale are flashbacks to Davros' past as we lean more about his life before the explosion that destroyed his body and about his relationship with Shan. The revelations as to just how he became so embittered and how the Daleks originated are astonding, going against much of what one might expect. One cannot help but feel for Davros at times and the result is that he becomes an ever more rounded character. Terry Molloy puts immense effort into his performance, giving a real sense of the difference between the various incarnations of Davros as he ranges from before the accident to coming to terms with his new existance to the present day to his moments of madness.
The rest of the story takes second stage but offers us a parody of present day corporations by showing us a time when corporations are dominant across the universe, with some believing their influence is not benign but dangerous for civilisation. It is an interesting debate and one which the story never really comes down on one side or the other, showing the bulk of the problems as orginating from Davros. Of more interest is Lorraine Baynes's devotion to Davros. Historians often fall in love with their subjects and here we see it taken to the ultimate degree as Baynes seeks to elevate Davros's place in history, blind to his actions.
Blindness and false vision is a key theme throughout the story. Davros has had his real eyes destroyed. Lorraine Baynes is blind to Davros' past crimes. Arnold Baynes is at first blind to the menace he has within his walls. Willis is blind to the real consequences of what Davros has tricked him into attempting. Shan is blind to how she is digging her own grave. The Doctor claims to be a know-it-all but he too has his moments when he is unable to realise what is happening.
The cast for this tale is one of the best, with both Bernard Horsfall and Wendy Padbury giving performance that are removed from those with which most fans will normally associate them. But the real honours go to the double act of Molloy and Baker, enhancing their schemes. Lance Parkin's script is well written, even adding throwaway continuity references such as a reference to Stella Stora or making sure that Davros's perceived fate is consistent with that mentioned in Revelation of the Daleks. The net result is a magnificant character study and strong story rolled into one. 10/10
If only the world would listen... by Thomas Cookson 12/1/06
I must admit I have only shown interest in hearing the Dalek-related Big Finish Doctor Who audios. More often than not, the effect has been rather disappointing: The Genocide Machine was entertaining but not much else- kinda bland really; Apocalypse Element was better (the Daleks versus the Timelords - it's only fanwank but I like it) but Mutant Phase was awful - the most drawn out and empty paradox story and horribly heavy-handed to boot. Jubilee was inititally impressive, but revisitation has caused me to realise that it was terribly undisciplined and whiney (the TV version, Dalek was much better)... so maybe I've been barking up the wrong tree with the Dalek audios. So I actually didn't feel that enthusiastic about the Davros audio.
People were coaxing me to hear this rethinking sympathetic portrait of Davros and how it made us aware of how much we never knew about the character. But I felt the character had had his time: he'd been given a five part story arc on TV, he was sometimes brilliant, sometimes so-so and sometimes pants.
Overall though, looking at 2001's WH Smith limited edition Davros video box set, the Davros TV story arc was greater than the sum of its parts with a grand scope of space and time, many ironic and accidental interconnections, and if you combine it with the first three Timelord stories - War Games, Three Doctors and Deadly Assassin (also sold as a box set by WH Smith for a time) - then you have all the Doctor Who episodes you'll ever need. And that's kind of how I felt about the audio before I listened to it - I don't really need to hear it.
Anyhow I recieved a penfriend's copy of Davros this June, barely a month before the Trial of Davros play in Ashton under Lyne (where I would actually get to meet Davros and Shan in person).
And despite my skepticism, Davros was a superb story indeed. And as for not needing to hear it, I've never been so totally wrong in my life...
Taking place between Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks, the story sees the resting cadaver of Davros falling into the hands of the corrupt interstellar corporation TAI (Trans Allied Inc) and the Doctor is unable to prevent the evil genius from awakening once more.
From there on, most of the CD is all about dialogue. There is only one cliffhanger (since the story is supposed to fit alongside the season 22 stories, the 45 minute episode format is replicated) but that is inconsequential really. What we are presented with is an introspective on Davros - abandoned by the Daleks, given safe refuge by the head of TAI, the conglomerate gangster Arnold Baynes and his teacher/writer wife Lorraine Baynes, who has long idolised Davros. They give Davros a chance at redemption, as the Human empire has expanded its colonies to cover the entire galaxy and will soon be venturing beyond. However at the same time, many of the colonies are suffering from a massive famine. Arnold Baynes has decided that in order for humanity to make the next leap into uncharted territory, and to overcome the famine problem, he needs the guidance of a genius like Davros.
Amidst this, Davros has a long period of reminiscence on his life and past. One that justifies Davros's unwelcome resurrection in Destiny of the Daleks, a hundred times over in what is possibly the most potent episode of Doctor Who ever.
The adventure has quite a bit in common with Jubilee, touching on similar issues within issues: male-to-female relationships, war nostalgia, Victorian nostalgia, seeing violence as a means of self-definition and reflection, the all-too-real gravitation of humans towards an emotionless Dalek-like mindset, the ability to make evil characters sympathetic or admirable by the power of words and self-denial, and in both works we see the maddening effect of societal repression of words and emotions and the dangers of war nostalgia.
There's something of a 1984 influence on both stories. Whilst Jubilee felt like it took place in the same kind of society that George Orwell described, where the same kind of repressive thought processes were held in check, but which ultimately had more in common with Terry Gilliam's 1984 parody, Brazil, than the serious Orwellian take, the flashback moments in Davros really do feel like scenes from Michael Radford's 1984 film. When Davros and Shan are wandering through the rat-infested ruins as the Kaled-Thal war wages makes me picture John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton hiding out as bombs rain overhead in the perpetual war between Eurasia and East Asia - which makes sense in a way because this story fits in at the season 22 slot which was in 1984, when Radford's film had been released. Indeed the story feels very 80's, with its themes of consumerism, plastic paradises, gangster yuppiedom, and its promotional adverts with computer store music that manages to sound really ominous and grand: the few melodies repeated and appropriate for any situation, giving it the tangible feel of films like Robocop or any of the E.T. imitators that used the concept of an alien visiting Earth as an advert for the American life, but carrying a dark, soulfelt and life-prolonged undertone here that we can see through stainless glass.
Jubilee had asked us to feel sorry for a Dalek, touching on the well-known core factor of the 'evil' of the Daleks - that they have no choice but to be evil, they have no free will. It was Davros who was the truly evil one for having the choice to be benevolent, but being a mass murderer anyway, and for making the Daleks the way they are.
What this story does is to argue that Davros also deserves some sympathy, because even as a free individual, he is still very much a product of his violent environment. Raised in perpetual war and danger, taught from an early age not to question the ways of war and violence and racial supremacy.
And for the first half of the play, it really succeeds at that. There's something terribly heartbreaking about Davros's pathos in this story. The grand speech about his period in suspended animation being like a near-death experience speaks for itself, but the more subtle discussion with Lorraine Baynes where she shows him photographs of Skaro's system and he is about to talk of the days before they went underground and then after a pregnant pause says, completely defeated "It doesn't matter now. It is my past! Skaro is my past." It creates this sad air of a man alone who has lost and outlived everything that ever made his life meaningful, and for a time we do hope that he will be able to start anew in a safer world, because we believe him when he explains how he had nothing else but violence as a way of life on Skaro, and how maybe given a new start in a safe society where violence is no longer imperative to his security or survival, he might prove to have been misjudged all along. Even when he shows his true colours, there's something so revealing about his declaration "I thought I could change, but I haven't! I can't!"
Davros is very good at center stage here and Terry Molloy gives his best performance as Davros. I had often doubted Terry Molloy's acting skills as his role of Davros was restricted to a very two-dimensional portrayal and never really proved anything to me, but here he really does prove what breadth and depth he can give the character.
We come to believe that in the past, Davros was originally one of the proponents for peace with the Thals before they crippled him, adding dimension and history to a character we still don't fully know as a whole. He cracks plenty of delightful jokes with his Revelation of the Daleks persona fresh in mind: the "smoking gun" line is a particular favourite. He tells the Doctor with his heart on his sleeve that the Doctor is his "shining light in a dark universe" and that in another reality they might have been friends and one can believe him. Which makes it all the more remarkable just how sour this relationship between Davros and the Doctor turns throughout the TV and audio series.
When Davros does change his tone and turns evil, he becomes all the worst, most bloodthirsty and brutal tyrants and terrorists in history. Talk of Stalinesque purges of even his most loyal staff really brings his mean spirit into sharp relief, and only a moment ago he was behaving like a true Victorian gentleman. Then again Hitler was a perfect gentlemen with women too. The moment where Davros reveals that he can literally sense one of his interrogation victims lying to him brings to mind a cruel abusive parent's piercing ability to make a child feel guilty for no reason.
Davros becomes very frightening in a way he hasn't been since Genesis: all seeing, brutal and deadly to the touch. He uses his poison injector (one given to him by the Kaleds after he was hit by the shell, in case he wanted to commit suicide) to hold people hostage which gives him that sense of being a venomous animal, just like the tail/tale of the scorpion, which is appropriate really. Had his poison injector been built into his hand to complete the metaphor, it would have been the icing on the cake.
Indeed I would say that this is probably the most horrifying Davros story I've ever been confronted with, and that's no small feat for a series that includes Genesis and Resurrection.
There were two particularly stinging moments that in some ways were reminiscent of the most banal features of the new series. The new series disappointed me in a few ways because it contained plenty of banality that I had never expected. There was mainly the issue of an overstated sexual tension between the Doctor and Rose, with jealousy emerging completely out of the blue from the Doctor, seeing him become a petty and obnoxiously immature bully towards any young male suitors.
The two moments in Davros were firstly the scene where Davros has constructed a computer matrix in a few hours and the Doctor breaks it beyond repair, deliberately, right before Davros' eyes (or eye) in order to sabotage Davros' attempts to gain acceptance at Arnold's highly profitable galactic company TAI (Trans Allied Inc). The scene is perhaps reminiscent of the Doctor doing similarly immature and malicious hi-jinks as calling Mickey 'Ricky' or snapping his fingers at Adam. The differences are a world apart though - instead of bullying some younger kid spitefully but unimaginatively, the Doctor is up against an equal and yet hitting them right where it hurts, the edge coming from the fact that whilst the Doctor's cruelness is serving a purpose and is actually deserved, it is still unmistakeably cruel. There are few things nastier than destroying someone's hard work, particularly when being a scientist and engineer is their life. Furthermore, whilst the Doctor playing the bully in Russell T. Davis' scripts smelt of simply rubbing in the 'uptight' fan's faces just how obnoxious Russell could make his Doctor, here it hints just as much at the Doctor's limits as his boldness - for whilst he can easily destroy any of Davros's creations, he just can't commit violence against Davros himself, for that would be going too far. And in a way, that's why the Doctor fails yet again. Had he killed Davros when he had the chance, none of the innocent victims through the course of this story and Davros stories following would have died so horribly.
The other element of the new series that has turned me off is the portrayal of a jealous Doctor, ammounting to awful dialogue like "Plus he's a bit pretty", "You and your boyfriend", and anal scenes where the Doctor will argue ridiculously about why Adam can't come with them, only to relent and let him join, rendering the bickering pointless. Now in Davros we get the portrayal of a jealous Davros and it really hits the spot, it's frightening and manic and dangerous. He hisses of Shan and Valron's affair "you've been observed fraternising with him", putting the sting in 'fraternising', and then manically shouts "You share a bed!", bringing forth a deadly intolerance and hatred that eats to the core of him. He sounds like some volatile and deranged, bitter, old Nazi you may encounter on a bus, who talks loudly of wanting to shoot all the sexually active youths dead. And the jealousy is complex, hitting on Davros' emotional insecurity, his murderous misogyny (my God, we've never seen that before in Doctor Who), his sexual revulsion and how pain and heartache has never stopped him in his tracks, but only ever made him more ruthless and determined to deliver his own ruthless revenge.
The key element to the story is about old age in a way, and about rose-tinted spectacles. Willis seems to believe that mankind has lost the ability to think independently in the futuristic media and propaganda, and that society needs to regress to a more grass-root stage. Davros of course speaks for thousands of WWII generation men who believe the war was glorious and it's the best way for society to run, who think that national service should be brought back, prisoners should be turned into a slave labour force and that the liberals should be booted out of parliament. The Doctor points out that the futuristic capitalism that Arnold Baynes represents is the lesser of two evils when up against the fascism of Davros, and that Davros' role of a 'free thinker' who is outside of the box is nowhere near enough a reason to bring him in - better to clamp down on free thought than let Davros be heard.
And that's the whole key to the play and why I think it should be required listening for just about everyone. Davros represents a very real masculine philosophy in contemporary society - the revulsion of emotions. When we see Davros interact delicately with female characters, constantly denying any romantic attraction to Shan, talking of evolutionary competition in cold-blooded terms, and rejecting the plastic paradise of the future for his war-footing ideals, needing violence and enemies to define himself, we are actually looking at a million insecure young males in today's society who have been taught to think that their emotions are "dangerous". Yes, you heard me: not 'weak', not 'soft', not 'feminine', but 'dangerous'!
Males are actually a very repressed and reviled segment of the population, believe it or not. My experiences of growing up tell me that 'political correctness' has done nothing to change the fact that young boys and teenagers are heavily put upon and criticised unfairly by the generation above, and are often figuratively spat upon for crying or asking for help by authority figures. Sometimes it seems adults are so driven to building 'thick skins' that they willfully allow bullying to go on under their watch, and hope that the victim's sensitivity is beaten out of them. Young males are often put down and scorned, harrassed and sometimes downright abused by the older generation, and that's why they struggle to define and assert themselves, and why they so often turn to violence. For it's better that people should hate you for a reason isn't it in a society where all the newspapers paint young males as thugs but rarely mention violence or harrasment against the young, unless they can spin it to sound like the adult was well within their rights and that the fact that they were punished is 'political correctness gone mad' - sometimes that is very true but it's not the whole truth at all.
I've got to mention also the IMDB board, particularly the Doctor Who forum. There's been a lot of people going berzerk over a few continuity errors, BNP people complaining of a 'Gay Agenda' or 'Black Agenda' in the new series, but the most disheartening is the mean-spirited horrid old goats using the character of Rose as a board for complaining about the youth of the day for being stupid and bleeding hearts (based on her actions of standing in the way of the Doctor and Dalek so he can't shoot it) - the same hypocrits who complain about young people being thugs, reinforcing the mean-spirited bullshit.
Whilst women are often victim of male violence, sexual abuse, terrorism, harrasment and manipulation, it's by no means easy being of the gender that is associated so closely with being a threat to women. Being raised to think the worst things about yourself, seeing your sexuality and your basic means of approaching and communicating with others, particularly with women in the most disgusting and threatening light.
The Victorians established strict parameters of male behaviour and proper means of interactions. I don't believe men were really allowed to sleep around as freely as they wanted; in fact, I believe men were allowed as little contact with the opposite sex as could be assured, and that has not really gone away. The liberation of the 60's has merely fed the once underdogs of society with the addictive kick of labelling 'the enemy' that is either white or male. Feeding our obsessive, self-defining addiction with drama and controversial gossip, and even vague sensations of a threat to us. In this environment, interactions across gender (and to some degree, race) are real minefields.
And that is why there is this notion of male emotions being the real evil and constantly demonised. A man who exhibits emotions and fondness, or even the slightest personal interest to a woman is either seen as false and is therefore a manipulative cad only out for one thing, or if he is sincere in his fondness, he must be a potential stalker. And even these very terms - 'cad' and 'stalker' - are worryingly vague. Better that men should just keep to themselves, have a face and heart of stone and try to sound as calloused as possible in conversations. If they can't go out and speak to new people without being stamped as a predator, it's better to draw people towards them by saying something that's at once controversial and liberating. Pick any topic: racial integration, war, asylum seekers, and especially natural selection and most young people will give the most cold-blooded and controversial opinion, just to mark themselves as an 'individual'.
And in that I see a reality in Davros' fanatical obsession with denying that he feels anything, and his devotion to killing and justifying war eloquently. There have been many episodes of Doctor Who that discuss and debate moral issues about war, sacrifice or any other issue and present both arguments in each, but no Doctor Who episode has ever gone so far out the box and so blatantly said that the pro-war (particularly the war on terror, in which whole countries are bombed just to get at a few criminals), anti-asylum angle or accepting sacrifices as part of a greater good is something we get a perverse kick out of hearing. Out of defining an enemy, our integrity and resolve, defining something worth more than the gift of life, and defining ourselves by making a risky choice.
The alternative is to sound emotional and sound like the kind of person who ties people's hands with our bleeding hearts and allows killers and terrorists to prevail, and in doing so, insults the dead who have already fallen. On the surface this seems to be Lorraine Baynes' role as the one who pleads for a 'new age', open-minded acceptance and understanding of the long vilified Davros in a new postmodern context. But it's actually the Doctor who comes across in this role - unwilling to kill Davros early on because of his compassion. Even towards the end when Davros is at his worst, the Doctor still can't shoot him, and so evil prevails and innocent people die - but the story is saying that there is actually little difference between killing for the cause of good or killing for evil; they're both sides of the same dehumanising and seductive mindset of cheapening life for something greater - for eloquent cliches that have immediate appeal to those who struggle to be expressive or feel secure.
And insecurity is a common thing in the youth today. Society has always been confusing to young people, but I think that confusion has increased tenfold in these last decades with its chic for mind games, ruthless irony, classy rebuffs and man-bashing, hatred of the younger generation, political correctness and laws of interaction, all amplified by the self-consciousness of the Reality TV age, where society's interactions, approval and disapproval are put into sharp relief.
In a way the topical nature of the CD is sold short somewhat by a few flaws in the ending. Basically I find it rather implausible and not a little cold-blooded on the writer's part, that a hostage would disarm their captor only to kill themselves with the weapon. That's one of the few niggles I can think of (the others being a bit of dialogue in the third meeting between Davros and Shan which feels as though there was a script revision where one bit of continuity was missed, and where Davros manages to activate the Doctor's earpiece even after the Doctor has destroyed the computer console), but it's a pretty big niggle unbecoming of a story as intelligent and life-aware as this.
I think in some ways it is a shame that this story has not found its way into the collective consciousness of the mainstream, and I think this could potentially be a perfect choice for adapting into a TV story in the same way as Jubilee was adapted into the episode Dalek, particularly because it deals in the same kind of relationship and jealousy issues that the new series has, and actually ties them into the anti-war and crisis of masculinity angle of the new series...
Just replace the TAI setting with a cloning facility, replace the wheelchair-bound, burnt Davros with a fully standing, human and completely un-scarred clone of Davros so that no-one can dismiss the rubber mask or the suggestion that Davros could have survived thousands of years - to suggest he'd successfully cloned himself repeatedly over the millenia to stay alive would sound more plausible. It would also be a means to use the downloadable mental matrix of Davros as a means of visualising Davros's past and his relationship with Shan.
I really do feel that this is something the world should see and learn from. Of all the Davros audio plays, this is the best. The Juggernauts was a lot of fun with wonderful characters and atmosphere, as was Terror Firma, despite being massively confusing for the first few listens (then again that figures, since it was a 'nightmare' piece), but Davros was flat out revolutionary, taking us into psychological territory I've never seen the show do before, and which I hope they will do again.
A Review by Ron Mallett 23/1/07
This audio is a definite change of pace for the Big Finish releases featuring the sixth Doctor. It is almost self-consciously slow (structured in the famous Season 22 two double part format) and therefore comes across as a thoughtful breather. While there are the odd "Douglas Adams" moments (i.e.. the personal organiser in the ear!) the tone is reflective and serious. As the title suggests the story is as much about Davros as the Doctor. We actually learn a lot about his history and motivation through the use of cleverly written flashback sequences - some of which are quite chilling. The story does not suffer from the absence of any Daleks; their constant presence in the mind of their creator is all too apparent. The revelation that cannibalism was a common practice on Skaro also helps to fill in some dots and makes the progression from Resurrection of the Daleks to Revelation of the Daleks a more natural one.
The performances are of a very high quality and given the calibre of the cast that is not surprising. Terry Molloy steals the show, delivering what must now be considered to be the definitive Davros - a well rounded yet still evil character. Bernard Horsfall - well known for his many roles in Who - plays the amoral corporate exploiter in a very understated manner. Wendy Padbury (playing a character other than Zoe) is actually quite convincing as a twisted Davros worshipper. Both Padbury and Horsfall make a good team as a warped power couple. The bit part players are very convincing as well. As always, the production values are high and the use of the genuine period theme music is a welcome addition.
The missing element of course is a companion. The actual continuity placement of the story is at first puzzling but after some thought, it becomes quite obvious. In order to separate Davros from the Daleks, the story has to be set before Revelation. Peri is unfamiliar with the Daleks in that story, describing the first that she sees to the Doctor as "some kind of machinery". The explanation given is that the Doctor has dropped her off at a Botanical Convention! Perhaps this proposed parting is meant to be the actual placement of the original Frobisher adventures? Anyway, it hardly matters, what most of us want is a good story and on that count, Davros really delivers. In part a biography of Davros, while at the same time a critique on globalism, the script is technically rich and vibrant. In short, the audio follows the best Who tradition: it tries to do something different. Writer Lance Parkin should be congratulated for providing a compelling and original script. If I have any criticism at all it is that the production succeeds in raising issues and establishing a chilling tone so well that makes it difficult to swallow as pure escapism. Definitely a mood piece for the thinking, adult who fan or at least the open-minded outsider.