As always, war rages on, ravaging the surface and the people of Skaro. The emphasis turns to espionage as a technological stalemate takes hold; so long as neither the Kaleds nor the Thals gain a decisive technological advantage, the war remains on a knife’s-edge detente that leaves the combatants with surgical strikes via conventional weapons. Davros is naturally working on new technology, but to the Kaled Supremo’s distaste, Davros is focusing solely on genetic engineering instead of devastating new weapons. Obsessed with the future of the Kaled race in the increasingly toxic and radioactive atmosphere, Davros – despite his debilitating injuries and being restricted to a mobile (but still very limited) life support base – is working toward providing a tank-like travel shell that will protect what he predicts the Kaleds will become, as well as allowing its occupant to defend itself. But the Thals are keenly aware that the best chance the Kaleds have of gaining an advantage in the war is Davros, and a commando unit raids the Kaled science dome to kidnap him. Separated from his life support chair, Davros is dying, but refuses to surrender any information, except the truth that he is not developing new weapons at this time. A Kaled strike team, led by the ambitious young Lt. Nyder, rescues Davros and brings him back to the Kaled capitol. Once recovered from his ordeal, Davros is finally ready to complete his rise to power…and all his people have to do is surrender their future to his great plans.
Cast: Terry Molloy (Davros), Carolyn Jones (Lady Calcula), Lizzie Hopley (Yarvell), John Stahl (The Supremo), Peter Miles (Lt. Nyder), David Bickerstaff (Scientist Ral), Richard Grieve (Major Brogan), Lisa Bowerman (Colonel Murash), Nicholas Briggs (Baran), Lucy Beresford (Renna), Scott Handcock (Saboteur), Andrew Wisher (Tech-Ops Reston), Jennifer Croxton (Tech-Ops Ludella)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The four-part I, Davros miniseries – based structurally on (would you have guessed it?) I, Claudius – paints an interesting picture of a troubled youth who might have been singled out for special help if not for his society being locked in an ongoing war. All that’s really required of I, Davros is that it meet up with Genesis Of The Daleks without violating any later developments in the charatcer of Davros himself. The only other character in this series that we ever see on television is Nyder, and while he’s a nice piece of connecting tissue in the storyline, he ultimately isn’t a major player in the story. Though each episode begins with a framing story in which Davros is being put on trial by the Daleks – presumably between Revelation Of The Daleks and Remembrance – the primary story, set pre-Genesis, doesn’t even give us the word “Dalek” until halfway through the fourth and final installment, translating it in the extinct Skarosian equivalent of Latin to “like a god.” It’s interesting how many callbacks and references we get to classic Dalek lore – not only from the Lake of Mutations and the vaarga planets, but mentions of the Dals (said here to be a species that once existed alongside the Kaleds and Thals before going extinct) and Davros’ sister being named Yarvell, both of which reference print fiction and comics written by Terry Nation and David Whitaker in the ’60s. Those stories claimed that the Daleks were once humanoids known as the Dals, and that a scientist named Yarvelling created the Dalek casings; canon freaks can now explain those tales away as misinformation passed into legend.
Even with the return of Davros on TV in the new series’ fourth season, nothing here violates his story. (The fact that the BBC licensed the entire I, Davros series from Big Finish for inclusion in the Davros DVD box set may or may not indicate that these stories are considered the official background of the character, which would be an interesting step on the road to legitimizing Big Finish Who for some.) The nightmarishly disturbing scene in which Davros addresses his mutated “children” in an almost loving tone fits in nicely with the new TV Davros, who would ravage what’s left of his own body to grow a new race of “pure” Kaled-descended Daleks. Terry Molloy, who played Davros on TV longer than any of the other actors in the part, does an admirable job of playing Davros both before and after he is left in his familiar twisted form. (Kudos also go to Rory Jennings, who guest starred in the new series’ second season episode The Idiot’s Lantern, as a young Davros whose forthright amorality is extremely disturbing in the first episode.) The rest of the cast has a lot of meat to work with, as the scripts are heavy on character rather than action and spectacle. It nice to hear Pertwee-era alumnus Richard “Mike Yates” Franklin as Daddy Davros in the first episode. Peter Miles effectively “de-ages” Nyder in the fourth episode, portraying his ruthless ambition without some of the political complexity that informed his original portrayal in 1975.
Overall, it’s very effective and consistently well-done, and there’s very little in the way of filler material. It all only confirms that Davros, even before the Daleks, was a tortured and troubled soul; with the opportunities afforded by the war and precisely the wrong kind of upbringing, you can believe by the end of the story that this has been the tale of someone who would willingly destroy his own species to achieve his ambitions, without remorse. It’s by no means essential listening to understand any of the television stories, but it’s one of Big Finish’s better spinoff series and helps to inform the character’s numerous TV appearances with a deep, layered background understanding of the character.