Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Spotlight on: Davros

People into Dr Who but who don’t know much about Davros and would prefer to find out by buying Old Who episodes should stop reading now, as this post will be crammed with potential spoilers.

Davros is an evil genius, and one of the Doctor’s most sinister and long-running enemies. He played a significant role in the very prolonged Kaled-Thal war on Skaro, acting as chief weapons scientist for the Kaleds. Very little oversight was paid to the wheelchair-bound nutcase and his ultra-loyal lackey Nyder (who bore an uncanny resemblance to one of my teachers). This proved to be a bit of a faux pas by the Kaled leadership, as Davros gave away military secrets which enabled the Thals to destroy the Kaled city, and then used his newest weapon to annihilate most of the Thals as well.

Davros’ newest weapon was the dalek, of which there was quite a limited number. As you might expect, they rebelled rather quickly and shot their creator at point blank range, after murdering Nyder.

This happened during the excellent Genesis of the Daleks serial, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor. Davros was played by Michael Wisher (still my favourite actor to play him) and was shown to be an intelligent, thoughtful lunatic.

After this, Davros was at the heart of the dalek narrative and made numerous further appearances (of which one has been during New Who).

The daleks sought to retrieve their erstwhile master when they took on the Movellans (another robotic race, although not cyborgs as the daleks could be described), who found a logical impasse had reduced the two war-like sides to everlasting peace. Once again, the Doctor thwarted Davros’ designs and saw the Kaled reduced to a cryo-prison, locked in ice.

The organic element to the daleks (each one is basically a rubbish little organism inside a metal war machine) proved their undoing. The Movellans created a biological weapon which wreaked havoc upon the cyclopean pepper pots of doom, reducing the daleks to dire straits (in stark contrast to their superpower status in New Who).

The daleks resolved to rescue Davros, aided by some human mercenaries, from his prison (in Resurrection of the Daleks). The serial was a bit complicated but quite enjoyable. Davros set about reprogramming the daleks (and the odd East End bartender) to do his bidding. When the daleks decide to exterminate him (again) he releases the virus upon them, only to apparently suffer the same fate as his wayward creations. (This story saw Terry Molloy take up the role, which he then held until the end of Old Who, including some radio stories).

After this, Davros created a new breed of dalek, the imperial (white with gold spots). This began a dalek civil war (they’re big on eugenics and the new daleks were more extensively modified than the simpler ‘renegade’ daleks).

The Seventh Doctor used the Hand of Omega to destroy the imperial dalek mothership, but Davros (unsurprisingly) managed to escape to wreak more vengeance upon the universe and deliver some more enjoyable foam-flecked megalomaniacal ranting.

Although New Who has featured many dalek episodes, Davros has only appeared in a single two-parter at the end of season 4, when he was played by Julian Bleach. I did not like this portrayal, as it showed Davros content to accept a status of servitude, in exchange for his life. In the past, he always worked to escape the dominion of the daleks and reassert his own supremacy. In addition, the dalek leader was an ‘enhanced’ version, but was more emotional than the others (Davros had stripped the daleks of almost all emotions as he believed they were a weakness).

I’m sure he will return, but I hope it’s in a more conniving, megalomaniacal guise.


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