Davros is the second story in a line-up of enemy titles. Unlike most of the titles leading up to this point, I remembered these three-in-a-row; not so much what happened in them, but what episodes followed what, so I knew Davros was coming. What I had only a vague recollection about, however, was the opening. This story has a phenomenal opening. Terry Molloy channels his inner Davros stupendously. It’s a tour de force opening that will keep the audience riveted for the whole drama. When he completes his monologue, the blast of Colin Baker’s opening theme filled my car and chills went down my spine. It is time to learn about Davros.
Like the previous story, Big Finish is on a roll with giving us some never-before-seen (heard?) insight into one of the series’ most popular villains. We have scenes taking place before Davros was crippled. We learn about Chan, the woman he clearly loved and we learn about how he betrayed her. And unlike most stories surrounding Davros, he doesn’t seem to be in full control of his thoughts all the time. Another item of interest is that he gets involved with trying to figure out how to stop a famine, which leads me to believe this is a prelude of sorts to Revelation of the Daleks where Davros is set up as “the great healer”.
Like all Big Finish stories, there are some great moments, but this time, I noticed a curious lack of humor. Davros might disagree but his laugh is truly frightening in this drama. Maybe that’s because we don’t get to see him, but when he laughs, it sent shivers down my spine. (Of a different sort to the one that opened the audio!) Another great moment is presented through a flashback. When he is revived after a Thal bomb crippled him, he notices a smell and he learns that it is the smell of his own flesh. Honestly, I was horrified for him, but more than that: kudos to writer Lance Parkin for adding such a touch. In audio, there’s no need to add such a thing short of making the story more believable for the listener. Much of the audio is based on a question Davros is toying with: can people really change? In the case of Davros, we probably already know the answer.
This is also the second story that does not feature any companions for the Doctor. He makes a comment that his companion is safely across the galaxy at a botany symposium, leading me to deduce the companion would be Peri. (Do I see her really attending such a discussion… no, but I’m certainly not going to hold that against the drama!) What I will hold against it… well, there are three things. The first: the Doctor is too pompous for his own good. He actually ends up being his own worst enemy, often undermining his own credibility in an attempt to discredit Davros. Maybe we can write that off to the stress he’s under but I felt it wasn’t really the best characterization of the character that we’ve seen in BF’s catalog. But what I had a far harder time coming to terms with was a nuclear bomb and a 15 mile deep pit. So the scene develops where the Doctor has to get rid of a bomb and has something akin to 3 seconds to run to a hole he passed recently then throw the bomb down, and hope it falls the better part of 15 miles before going off. Of course, he does it, but it’s illogical. The timing is off. Yes, I can easily admit that against the weight of the whole story, it’s not going to detract too much, but it should have been handled better. (I thought it over and played it out simply: once the Doctor realizes what Davros is up to, all he’d have to do is ask Davros to explain something so he dies “knowing”. As Davros rants, gloating in his superiority, the Doctor could have run to the pit, dropped the bomb and high-tailed it out before Davros even realized the Doctor wasn’t listening. The bomb could still have gone off, but with far more believable time passing for the Doctor and company to be running.) Alas, a small, but bothersome oversight.
I did say three things bothered me and speaking of timing, that was my biggest pet peeve about the drama. Not in the timing of things happening but you see, it drastically impacts my drive when I expect four 25-minute episodes but instead get two episodes at nearly an hour each. This isn’t the first time I’ve sat in my car outside my house or job waiting for a cliffhanger and then giving up when one doesn’t come, only to realize later that I’d have been 30 minutes late for work if I had. Considering this follows Omega, is part of a run of “enemy stories” and that was a 4-part adventure, I didn’t think to question how many episodes this would have. I’ll certainly check before going into Master.
The last thing to mention is the cast. Molloy is amazing as Davros, as I covered above. Colin, while not characterized quite the way I think he should have been, was, as always, a class act. But we get two other great Who veterans in this story: Bernard Horsfall as Baynes and Wendy Padbury as his wife. Horsfall is probably best known as Goth from The Deadly Assassin but I loved him as Lemuel Gulliver in The Mind Robber and also as the Time Lord of the Knowing Nod in The War Games. Who doesn’t love Horsfall? And Wendy Padbury is best known as the adorable Zoe, the 2nd Doctor’s companion. (I did observe one thing that I found really interesting about Padbury: her voice reminded me a lot of Lalla Ward’s! Must have been something in the inflection…) It’s a fantastic cast.
Overall both stories in this run have been excellent but Davros remains consistently strong while Omega gets stronger as the story moves on. Both are worth listening to and both offer some interesting insights into characters we’ve known and loved for decades. But I can’t help but wonder… how will they try to humanize the Master? Time to put on the next one… ML