Once Big Finish get an idea into their collective noggin, they really like to mine it for all it’s worth. A while back (2003), Big Finish put out a few plays that delved into the motivations of famous Doctor Who villains: Omega, The Master and Davros. Davros proved popular enough that Big Finish went a bit deeper in Terror Firma and The Juggernauts.
Apparently, though, that wasn’t enough, because now we have a series of four plays, released under the monicker I, Davros, that will delve into Davros’ early life. Again.
The first, Innocence, is out now. Is it worth your hard-earned cash?
Plot (genetically mutated from the Big Finish web site)
‘I find it fascinating that a living creature would subject itself to such dangerous experimentation. Knowing that it would die..’
The Kaled and Thal races are at war. No one really remembers why, or when it started, but 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 science.
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.
Is it any good?
Generally, these kinds of “origins of the monster” stories settle into one of two camps: nature or nurture. Either the villain was born wicked (The Omen) or they were raised wicked (Smallville). I, Davros settles firmly into the ‘nature’ camp, with Davros depicted as an out-and-out sociopath from day one.
You can argue about how much Davros was a complete nutter before his little accident confined him to a demi-Dalek wheelchair, since Genesis of the Daleks showed him as loony, but only slightly so. Notably, he shows horror at the Daleks’ murder of his fellow scientists: “Have… pity!” he says.
However, all that nuance has gone in Innocence. Davros is now the kind of kid who murders, tortures animals, etc. As a result, all the series seems intent on showing us is how he ended up deciding the Daleks were a smashing idea and what Skaro was like before their arrival. We don’t really get to see much of a character journey in Innocence, only the gradual unveiling of his fruit-loopiness. Most of this story focuses on the other characters, anyway, so is more of a scene-setter for Kaled society at the time. This isn’t quite as strange or as brutal as you might have hoped from the fascist trappings of Genesis of the Daleks, although there are some stabs in that direction that show promise.
The play feels a little ponderous, as we slowly try to work out what its point is. There are some good performances, although young Davros (Rory Jennings) isn’t as good as you’d have hoped, certainly compared with the great Terry Molloy, who was the third actor to play him on television: he does a couple of bookending guest spots designed to explain why our bath-chair-confined villain is waxing nostalgic about his youth and will pretty much dominate your memory of the play afterwards as a result.
Still, it’s relatively enjoyable, isn’t overly long and does have some nice sound work. For completeness’ sake, you might want to give it a listen, but I think part two is going to be where it all kicks off, if it’s going to kick off at all. I’ll let you know how necessary Innocence is going to be once Purity arrives.
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: Gary Hopkins
Director: Gary Russell
Release Date: September 2006