There's a certain expectation with prequels. At the end of them, you're supposed to go, “Oh, that's why he/she/it did that.” Everything's supposed to line up with the subsequent stories. It worked with Batman Begins; it sort of worked with Enterprise; even Foundation and Earth and House Atreides et al filled everything in and left you thinking you understood everything a little better. If I sat down and thought about it, I could probably come up with some non-SF prequels that did the same.
So why don't I feel that way having sat through the whole of I, Davros? Actually, why do I feel ripped off by the whole mini-series?
Plot (which will rise up from the Big Finish web site to destroy all other plots in the universe)
'That is our world out there. A chemical soup for a sky above and a scarred, radioactive wasteland below. It is purgatory. But we must make it paradise!'
The Kaled city is now ravaged, and life has become one of fear, protected by a vast transparent dome that covers what remains of the City. The Thals undertake a desperate mission to take Davros away from his laboratories, and the Supremo must send a crack squad over enemy lines to retrieve his chief scientist. Led by the young, enthusiastic and morally-bankrupt Lieutenant Nyder, Davros is successfully rescued. But he has been changed by the experience, and where once he stood for knowledge, he now espouses the utter extermination of the Thal people. To this end, Davros will stop at nothing and will sacrifice anybody to see his legacy continue.
Here's to the future...
Is it any good?
Part three of I, Davros, Corruption, was actually pretty good and had us nicely on the way to the creation of the Daleks. But thanks to some pretty poor writing, everything fell apart in Guilt. We are, after all, supposed to be heading towards Genesis of the Daleks. Yet Davros is merrily killing everyone off without impunity, despite clearly not having the power to do so in Genesis. There's no one, not even Nyder, in the science corps who actually does science except Davros - again, contrary to Genesis. There's massive voice-activated security around the Daleks' birthing chamber - again, contrary to Genesis. Davros mobility? Only one halfway good hand yet still able to do brain surgery.
Then there's the continuity with the previous part. The secret blast gun from part three that's going to become the Dalek blaster - you know, the one that would need the power necessary for an entire city for 70-odd days - Davros has solved that little problem without telling us how. Indestructible Dalek armour? Solved. Dalek travel machine? Nicely worked out. Entire Dalek physiology? Couple of operations and an injection. Marvellous. No work, no experiments, no Eureka moments. Not even a little delegation to his team. It's all just sorted or ignored. I mean, blimey, for a society supposedly on its last legs, it can't half come up with the goods like that.
Part of the joy of a prequel is seeing how someone overcame obstacles to get to the point where we first come across them. Here, we have an entire episode filled with “one jump and he was free moments”. That's not very satisfying, now is it?
However, continuity isn't the only problem. We have the little issue of the writing. Passwords are, of course, parents' names rather than 16 character alphanumeric sequences. We have Nick Briggs as a Thal spy speaking to himself to explain what he's doing the whole time on a seemingly pointless mission. Davros starts talking to the proto-Daleks as if they're his kids. The Nazi allegory of Genesis is now so heavy-handed, we have Davros pumping martial music over the loudspeakers. All we need is him to say “Arbeit macht frei” and even the slightest trace of subtlety would be removed. It really couldn't get any worse.
Also, unless my CD player skipped a track somewhere, there's no conclusion to the whole thing. The supposed arcing structure for it, with Davros telling his Dalek grandchildren about his life growing up so they can work out where they're going wrong, isn't really explained. Do the Daleks turn round and say, “You've - Been - Wasting - Our - Time - You - Old - Git. Exterminate!”. What lessons do they draw from it all? Or is that yet another Big Finish play to anticipate?
So at the end of all of this, I feel conned. I don't feel as though I've been given realistic explanations for any of the situations we've seen on tele (okay, it's Doctor Who, I know, but all the same). I feel as though someone has extracted £40 from me in order to do a sci-fi knock-off of I, Claudius with all the subtlety and careful plotting of something given away free with a pack of Frosties.
Listen to the trailer (Windows Media Player)
Davros (Terry Molloy)
Lady Calcula (Carolyn Jones)
Colonel Nasgard (Richard Franklin)
Yarvell (Lizzie Hopley)
Young Davros (Rory Jennings)
The Supremo (John Stahl)
Lieutenant Nyder (Peter Miles)
Scientist Shan (Katarina Olsson)
Scientist Ral (David Bickerstaff)
Tutor Magrantine (Peter Sowerbutts)
Councillor Quested (Sean Connolly)
Councillor Valron (Sean Carlsen)
Section Leader Fenn (Daniel Hogarth)
Major Brogan (Richard Grieve)
Major Brint (James Parsons)
Colonel Murash (Lisa Bowerman)
Tashek (Rita Davies)
Baran (Nicholas Briggs)
Renna (Lucy Beresford)
Saboteur (Scott Handcock)
Tech-Ops Reston (Andrew Wisher)
Tech-Ops Ludella (Jenifer Croxton)
Writer: Scott Alan Woodard
Director: Gary Russell