Sunday, October 5, 2014
The opening of the story, and the first several seconds of audio Doctor Who I ever heard, are fantastic. It's a brief soliloquy from Davros. At the time, the context of the dialog is unknown, (it is revealed later) but it doesn't matter. It's a great speech, starting quiet and somber, while building to a ranting climax that perfectly leads into the Doctor Who theme tune. I remember driving in my car on a short road trip while listening to this, and kept repeating the opening gambit a few times before settling into the story. The first half of the story deals with the CEO of an intergalactic company and his historian (her specialty being Davros) wife finding the "corpse" of Davros and returning it to their home base to try to revive him. Back at the home base a journalist named Willis - a heretofore unknown friend of the Doctor - has summoned the Doctor because his friend Kim (an employee of the evil CEO's company TAI) has revealed to him that the nefarious company is about to close the mines on many planets which will devastate millions of lives. It's a clumsy reason for the Doctor to be there, and the mine thing never goes anywhere, but I guess they had to get them there somewhere. Of course, the Doctor spies Davros' arrival and butts in immediately.
"Davros" features a notable cast of Doctor Who luminaries. Terry Malloy returns to reprise the role of Davros which he owned in '80's Doctor Who. I am definitely one of those fans that stands firmly in the Michael Wisher "camp" of "best Davros EVER" discussions. It's probably not fair, since he had by far the best story to feature Davros in the show. Terry Malloy was a bit too much mad shouty ranting for me. Even his more nuanced performance in "Revelation of the Daleks" falls flat for me since it's such a bonkers story (one I feel is overrated). In this story, however, Malloy is fantastic. Davros is characterized throughout the entire emotional spectrum here and Malloy pulls it off in dominating fashion. It's a teriffic performance, and a good thing too since Davros dominates the play (quite rightly). Also in this story is Bernard Horsfall, who was in many Doctor Who stories - most famously Goth in "The Deadly Assassin". Here he plays the nefarious TAI CEO Arnold Baynes. Finally, Wendy Padbury plays Lorraine Baynes the historian obsessed with Davros. Padbury, of course, played Zoe, companion to the second Doctor. Padbury and Horsfall starred along each other in "The Mind Robber" one of the better stories from Troughton's final season.
The first half of "Davros" is great. You get some great insight into the character's past through flashbacks of the nuclear attack that deformed him, various scenes of the hopelessness of the war going on between the Kaleds and the Thals, and the aftermath of what the Kaleds wanted to do with him after his "accident". These scenes give a lot of depth to how Davros became the monster he is now. Meanwhile, in the present, both Davros and the Doctor amusingly become employees of TAI. There's some truly great comedy here with the Doctor continuingly infuriating Davros.
I don't care for the second half nearly as much. In fact, I would say in many ways it ends up neutering Davros a bit. My least favorite bit is when you find out Davros didn't come up with the idea of the Daleks on his own. He (literally) copied it off a subordinate's paper. Sigh.... really not a good idea. Also, he ends up being full of unrequited love for this scientist (Shan) and at times comes off as a sniveling love struck child. I get that it adds some motivation for his character, but to me it really just belittles him. My other main issue with the story is the introduction of Davros' magic (mathematical) formula which can predict the stock price of any stock at any time. This is one of these ideas I just can't buy at all. Then, Davros' plan to bring the economy down by distributing the formula to everyone also makes no sense to me. Even if I bought the idea that the formula would work (I don't), do I buy that if everyone used the formula at once the system would fail? No, because if everyone used the formula, the formula wouldn't work anymore! Or, is this formula so magical it can even predict stocks when people begin using it? (Head explodes.) The formula ends up being a non-starter anyway since it never ends up being used by anyone.
One thing I will give credit to in this story was removing Davros from the Daleks. Having Davros in a story without Daleks makes him a lot more interesting. While I have criticized a lot of aspects of this story, I still generally like it a lot. The performances are strong, and while it is very long, it's a lot of fun throughout, without ever feeling like it's dragging. My nit-picks aside, it's easy to recommend the story for providing a lot of great background on the character, and for the engaging performances of the actors.