Audio Drama Review: I, Davros: Guilt

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! Toda we’re concluding our look at the origins of the Daleks’ creator, Davros, with I, Davros: Guilt. Let’s get started!

Guilt 1

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama! For a spoiler-free review, scroll down to the next picture.

The Daleks tell the older Davros that he should have been exterminated as a weakling after his accident, no longer fit to live. He insists that even though his fellow Kaleds believed the same, they were wrong about him, and he set out to prove his worth and his strength—and make their judgment their downfall.

The younger Davros, now working from his life support chair, is overseeing a cerebral augmentation surgery conducted by his assistant, Ral. Once Davros used to perform such surgeries himself, but his hands are no longer capable, and so he walks Ral through the process despite the young man’s fear. It is a success, and Davros agrees to meet with Ral later to review their work. Meanwhile, a Thal saboteur in combat gear and a gas mask approaches from the wastes, and stops outside the Kaled city, which is now covered by a set of domes against the ruined environment. He communicates with a Colonel Murash, who says that Doctor Hurdal is concerned about the radiation level, which is unstable but high. However, the saboteur has taken anti-radiation tablets. He attaches explosives to the atmosphere generators on the dome, and Murash gives him the codes to operate them…and then apologizes for the man’s sacrifice. Before he can escape, the explosives detonate early.

In the Kaled Tech-Ops center, an officer Ludella tells the Supremo about the explosion in the science dome, near the medical centre. Mutos are flocking to the site, as well. The Supremo tells her to send a rescue team with a military squad—and to eliminate any Thals they find. Meanwhile, in the med center, a Muto named Baran leads the invasion, and his people search for useful supplies. They find Davros trapped in the rubble, and banter with him briefly about his genetic purity versus theirs. Baran tells him that the Thals, not the Mutos, are responsible for the explosion; but then they are cut short and driven away by a Thal squadron led by Murash. One of her team members confirms Davros’s identity—and Davros is stunned to see that the team member is Ral. As they take Davros away into a waiting vehicle—leaving his life-support chair behind—Ral explains that he betrayed Davros because he is disgusted by Davros’s moral stance. The group departs with their prisoner just ahead of the Kaled team. Later, Ludella receives confirmation from the team that there were no survivors; but Davros’s body is among those unaccounted, though his chair was found. Still, Thals were seen escaping, so it is likely that Davros—their greatest scientist—was kidnapped rather than killed.

The Thals in their city make an announcement about their victory as Davros is placed in a cell. Murash and Ral visit him, and explain that they have tried for years, at great effort, to acquire him. Murash demands Davros’s knowledge of all new and developing Kaled weapons; Davros doesn’t comply, but hints that all his contributions are biological in nature, and mostly constructive rather than destructive, as he works toward restoring their people and their world. Ral confirms that this is at least partly true, but Murash isn’t content; she wants the science behind the work, not just the results. Davros insists that without his chair, he will die before he can tell them what they want, and Ral concurs, though he thinks they can sustain Davros’s blood flow. Davros insists again that he only wants to see the end of the war, and no longer works on weaponry. Murash goes to report in, but Davros demands an explanation of Ral’s betrayal.

Meanwhile, the Muto, Baran, has fled into the Kaled dome rather than out. He is secretly a Thal Sergeant, working undercover; as he travels through a warehouse, Murash communicates with him and tells him to find out what he can about the latest Kaled weapons. He will hear the latest regarding Davros in tomorrow’s news. Unknown to him, Ludella intercepts his signal and is able to boost it, and sees Murash’s image. She learns that the Thals have Davros, and patches the message through to the Supremo. Murash seems to become aware of it, and puts the message on an eighteen-hour loop; she presents three demands to the Kaleds in exchange for Davros’s return. She demands the cessation of weapon development; the release to the Thals of all weapons data; and the release of all Thal political prisoners. Otherwise, Davros will be killed. The Supremo tells Ludella to signal a red alert and get the Security Commander for him; in the meantime he gets a call from High Councilor Terrant.

Davros argues with Ral, and calls him lucky; the Thals are known to betray their operatives. He insists that if he dies, Skaro’s future will die with him.

The Supremo prepares a team to retrieve Davros, under the command of one Lieutenant Nyder. He recognizes the man as having led an assassination mission just a month earlier, but Nyder says that he cannot discuss it even with the Supremo. Meanwhile, in the ruined medical centre, a Kaled Corporal named Kaston is killed by Baran, who takes his uniform.

Nyder’s team makes their way to the Thal dome, and uses an explosion to force their way in. They fight their way to the cells, using Thal weapons from the fallen defenders to resupply themselves as they go. Davros is nowhere to be found, however. They find Murash guarding a door; listening in, the Supremo identifies Murash’s voice, and demands she be taken alive, but Nyder pretends not to hear the order, and reports that all the Thals in the area are dead. Passing through the door, they find Ral holding a gun to Davros’s head. The standoff ends with the sound of a gunshot—and Nyder reports success. The Supremo, though perhaps not entirely thrilled at Davros’s survival, sends a medical team to meet the strike team near the Kaled dome.

Davros wakes up, delirious, and sees visions of his mother and Yarvell, alternately mocking and scolding him, and offering him tea. He comes to his senses, and realizes it is the Supremo’s voice he actually hears. He ponders the fact that the Supremo brings up memories of Calcula, and asks why he thinks that might be. At any rate, he is temporarily stranded in the hospital, as the technicians are repairing his life-support chair; the Supremo tells him that he is restrained for his safety, so that he doesn’t accidentally damage his connections to the hospital’s life-support systems. The Supremo also, grudgingly, admits that there was concern about Davros’s mental state after his experiences. Davros takes the moment to enjoy the linens on the bed, and then asks to speak to Lieutenant Nyder. The Supremo sends Nyder in, and then leaves. Davros thinks Nyder feels repulsion toward him, but Nyder denies it, and claims to be an admirer of Davros and his work. Davros thanks Nyder for saving him, and Nyder explains that he killed Ral with a headshot. Davros considers recruiting Nyder for a team. When Nyder leaves, he bumps into Baran. He pulls the alleged soldier and assigns him to guard Davros’s door, unwittingly making the spy’s job easier.

Davros has recovered enough to visit the Council of Twelve and the Supremo, who congratulate him on his recovery. He presents to them his accumulated research into changes the Kaleds have undergone due to the war. He claims to have evidence that they will eventually evolve into something else entirely, but only if they manage not to wipe themselves out in the meantime—and meanwhile, their birth rate has become catastrophically low and unreliable. The Council scoffs, but he is serious. Meanwhile, Baran breaks into Davros’s office in search of information; among other things, he learns that Davros has been experimenting on the body of his own mother, Calcula!

Davros makes a radical request of the Council. He believes he can save their race; but to do so, he requires mandated access to all the children of the Kaleds. He wants them to be seized and housed in the science dome and declared state property, so that he has access to them for research purposes. The Supremo rejects the proposition, refusing to allow it to come to a vote. Davros begs them to reconsider, and the Supremo allows that the Council should think it over.

Davros vents his frustrations with the Supremo to Nyder. Nyder claims he would have approved the request, and Davros muses that one day Nyder may have that much power; but this is not that day. Elsewhere, Ludella reports to the Supremo that Kaston has been found dead and stripped of his uniform. Patrols are doubled in the area, but the Supremo seems too distracted to take further action.

Davros gives Nyder a long-banned copy of an old Dal Book of Predictions. It analyzes the evolutionary track of Skaro’s races, finding evolution necessary for overcoming war and other evils. On the last page, it proclaims that “on that day, men will become as gods.” In the Dal tongue, the word for “gods” reads as “Dal-ek”. Davros believes he is facilitating that transformation. Nyder reports that there may be a Thal spy in the dome; he predicts the man will be found, and offers him to Davros for experimentation. Davros wants to speak with him before he decides.

Davros meets again with the Council the next day, and hears the Supremo again reject his request. When Davros speaks, he breaks tradition by refusing to thank the Supremo. He accuses the Council of placing superstition before science, and castigates them for their ignorance. He then shows them a button, and claims that they have all been implanted with micro-explosives via their anti-radiation tablets; the button will detonate them all at once. The Supremo calls for Nyder to deal with Davros, but Nyder sides with Davros, and orders the guards out. Davros declares the Council and the Supremo relieved of duty, and presses the button, killing them all.

Nyder takes the news to Ludella, claiming that a fault in the heat exchanger in the Council chamber flooded the room with teroxin, killing them all. As Davros is the highest-ranking civilian on hand, he will take emergency control, and has placed Nyder in office as security commander.

Davros makes an announcement of the emergency measures, and promises a smooth transition to a new governing body. In the meantime, he announces an emergency—but mandatory—child protection programme, requiring all children under five to be brought to Paediatric Facility K-99. Davros then heads to that facility, using his mother’s old password—“CALCULA”—to gain admission. Inside are several of his experiments already living with various mutations and alterations; he moves among them, congratulating them and feeding them.

Later, Davros and Nyder are engaged in converting the Council Chamber into a new laboratory, when Ludella breaks in. She demands the return of her son, Kento, who was taken for Davros’s programme that morning. Davros insists the boy will be returned after receiving exams and innoculations, all the healthier for his trouble; Ludella demands to see him. Davros allows it, and lets Nyder supervise; Nyder orders Baran to take her there, though the spy doesn’t know the way. Nyder secretly tells him to make sure Ludella never enters the facility, and then tells Davros that he has dealt with this problem—but still doesn’t know the whereabouts of the spy.

Outside the nursery, Baran apologizes to Ludella, then knocks her out. With a bit of technical intervention—plus some good guessing regarding Davros’s password—he manages to get inside, and is delighted to know his efforts are paying off. He finds a number of the experimental children inside. One attacks him, setting off alarms; Nyder arrives shortly thereafter, and starts shooting the creature. Davros arrives as well, and demands to know why Nyder shot the creature; when Nyder says it attacked him, Davros attributes it to behavioural regression. Nyder explains that it also attacked Kaston, but Davros then recognizes Kaston as Baran—the spy! He orders Baran to be taken to the new laboratory for surgery. He orders Ludella brought inside, where she will serve as food for the children.

Davros operates on Baran, performing the cerebral augmentation surgery which has previously only worked on Kaleds. If it works, he has a new prototype travel machine, based on his own chair, ready and waiting…

In the morning, Davros shows Nyder the prototype, the Mark I. The surgery seems to have been successful, and the mutant is inside. Nyder draws a weapon in light of the activation, but Davros has him holster it, as the creature’s aggressive tendencies have been suppressed. He activates the creature, and its new, mechanical optical stalk twitches. It looks around, then focuses on Davros, who introduces himself as its creator. It repeats Davros’s name, and then declares, “I am alive!” Davros’s planned future, it seems, is arriving right on schedule.

Guilt 2

At last, we come full circle, and meet the Davros we know and love (to hate, that is). The elapsed time between the previous episode and this is not stated, but seems to be a few years, at least; Davros is old enough now to comment to Nyder—who didn’t appear to be a very young man in his appearance in Genesis of the Daleks–that things Davros remembers were before Nyder’s time. Davros has outlived the expectations of the Supremo in Corruption, and has risen to the top of the scientific elite to the point that he is comfortable with ambitions of rule. He carries out those ambitions here, leaving himself in the position at which we find him in Genesis; it isn’t clear exactly when Genesis takes place, but it appears to be not long after this story. (The writing staff state in the interviews for the series that Genesis takes place perhaps six months later, but this isn’t made clear within the story.)

I was surprised to see that Davros has become something of a pacifist at the beginning of this episode, though he would never use that term. He has diverted himself from weapons research, and turned toward biological science, but even within that field he is working on peaceful endeavours rather than weapons. While he certainly still believes in the Kaled race over the Thals, he is more concerned with healing and evolving the race and the planet than with winning the war. Of course, later we will see those two courses of ambition merge into one, as he applies his biological and technological expertise to the conquest of the universe at the head of the Daleks.

We introduce yet another sympathetic character here in the person of Tech Ops officer Ludella; but not much effort goes into her characterization. We don’t even find out that she has a family until minutes before the end of the story, just before her death at Davros’s direction. However, that’s a fitting trend by now; there’s very little chance that Davros will show any humanity, and therefore there’s no sense in pouring effort into building a character for him to care about.

In the end, everyone we’ve met along the way is dead. Davros’s entire family is long gone, and here we witness the end of the Supremo and the Council of Twelve (not a spoiler, really, as we already know them to be gone by the time of Genesis). In their place, we get Nyder, who is a Lieutenant here. I always found him to be a compelling villain; he is brutal and utterly without scruples, a man on whom no leverage works. He comes on the scene fully formed here, and throws himself into Davros’s service; perhaps this too is appropriate, as Davros himself has been the same at his core all along. I’ve reflected often during this listen that the progression portrayed in the titles—from “Innocence” to “Guilt”—is an illusion, as Davros has been corrupt from the start.

I was a little disappointed that this final chapter doesn’t include a closing voiceover of the older Davros with the Daleks. Throughout the story, he’s been building a case for his own importance based on these stories, and I can’t help feeling that the closing argument was left out. In fact, the story ends surprisingly abruptly; we get the first words from the first prototype Dalek, and…that’s it! There’s no wrap-up at all. After the substantial work that has clearly gone into the presentation thus far, it’s a little jarring.

Looking over the series as a whole, I was impressed with the way it portrayed the Thals and the Kaleds as equal combatants in the war. Classic Who, whether intentionally or not, leaves one with the impression that the Thals have the moral high ground. There are no such illusions here, as both sides engage in espionage, sabotage, murder, and betrayal of their own people—not to mention the obvious attempted genocides. It’s perhaps a bit ironic—and this definitely counts as a spoiler, if we’re counting—that the first Dalek is created from a Thal rather than a Kaled. (That role, both before and after Dalek conversion, is played by producer Nicholas Briggs, who routinely voices the Daleks on television as well as for Big Finish.)

The voice acting has been top-notch throughout the series. Despite the fact that we’re dealing with characters who, practically by definition, suffer from megalomania, no one is too over-the-top. Nothing is over- or under-played. I feel especially compelled to mention the role of Nyder, played by Peter Miles; thirty-one years after his previous appearance in Genesis of the Daleks, there’s no indication that he’s aged at all. Nyder, as portrayed here, is as quietly imposing as always. (I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was Miles who played Curator Gantman in Whispers of Terror, as well.)

Many of the things we see in Genesis of the Daleks are in place by now, and bear mentioning, as they appear in this story. The Kaled and Thal cities are now shielded by environmental domes, and the populations have been further reduced both by war and by declining birth rates. Davros’s chair is present in the form we know; it was mentioned at the end of the last installment, but not described, whereas here he states that he has based the Mark I Dalek form on his chair. He can survive for a time without it, though with much pain, as we will see much, much later in The Witch’s Familiar. Davros ends the story as the acting head of state, a situation he promises to give up when a new government is established, although Genesis makes it clear he does not. Likewise, Nyder is established as Security Commander. The Mutos from the wasteland are present, as are the monstrosities in the caverns outside the city. The word “Dalek” gets an origin here, as the Dal Book of Predictions uses it for its final phrase, translated to “as gods”. Other continuity references are mostly to the earlier episodes in this series.

Overall: After some slow moments in the first and second installments, this story has definitely taken off in the final two chapters. The end product is a ruthless, cruel, manipulative Davros, one truly worthy to be the creator of the Daleks. It’s easy to picture this Davros answering the Fourth Doctor’s question about the use of a virus to destroy all life: “Yes, I would do it! That power would set me up above the gods. And through the Daleks, I shall have that power!” All the more poetic, as “Dalek” is a word for “gods”, as established here. I recommend this story for anyone interested in Davros and the Daleks; its few weaknesses do little to overcome its strengths, and it’s worth the hours invested.

Next time: While we’re on a Davros streak, I may finish with the only-somewhat-related The Davros Mission, which is also available on Spotify, and is only a single episode. We’ll also continue our Short Trips reviews with the final entry of Volume I, and then Volume Two next week; and we’ll continue the Main Range with Nekromanteia! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below. This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

I, Davros: Guilt

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Audio Drama Review: I, Davros: Corruption

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! Today we’re continuing our look at the early life of the creator of the Daleks, in I, Davros: Corruption. Let’s get started!

Corruption 1

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama! For a spoiler-free review, scroll down to the next picture.

Davros continues his analysis of his own past, musing on his progress through the Kaled Science Elite, and his growing political skill, all in pursuit of power.

A squad of Thal paratroopers come under Kaled fire as their plane is destroyed. As they land and commence their mission, they know they will not return home. Meanwhile, Councillor Matross summons Davros to the Council of Twelve, which now includes his mother Calcula, to answer for the expenses of the Scientific Elite. As the meeting devolves into argument, they are attacked by the surviving Thal paratrooper, who shockingly reveals that she has come to kill, not the Supremo, but Davros! He outwits her by ordering Calcula to reactivate the magnetic field of the assassin’s parachute; the planet’s magnetic field is strong here, and crushes the assassin to the floor, killing her.

Davros takes advantage of the situation to analyze the Thal female’s DNA. He finds it to be completely different from Kaled DNA, implying the two races have no common ancestor—they simply fill the same ecological niche, though with certain differences in internal organs. Davros notes that Thal men outnumber the women seven to one, but laments that the mass extinctions of other life forms in the war make it impossible to draw good comparisons. If any living creatures remain, they are in Drammakin Lake—now the Lake of Mutations—and the tunnels beneath the city. His associate Shan suggests capturing some samples in order to preserve as much of the genetic record as possible before it is too late. Davros disagrees, looking to the future instead of the past; but at any rate, non-military research has been banned, and so Davros directs another associate, Ral, to develop a quick test for Thal DNA. Perhaps a biological plague weapon can be developed. As Ral leaves, Davros asks Shan to stay behind.

Calcula meets with Section Leader Fenn of the Military Youth. Davros joins them, introducing Calcula to Shan, who was formerly in the Military Youth herself. Davros speaks highly of Shan, gaining Calcula’s notice. Calcula introduces Davros to Fenn, and says that she is planning a movement for the Youth; Davros interprets this as seeking a power base. He excuses himself and leaves with Shan. Fenn misspeaks and angers Calcula, but gets back in her graces by agreeing to a job before he knows what it is—a kind of loyalty she approves.

Davros jokes with Shan that, as Calcula is now technically her leader, she might be a spy; but Shan reminds him that Youth membership is compulsory, and that things have gotten worse with Calcula’s involvement, with any questioning resulting in punishment and even death, even for the very young. Davros expresses some frustration with the private army of loyalists that Calcula seems to be constructing. They are distracted by the DNA analysis; Shan assumes there is a fault, as the damaged DNA is changing—evolving, possibly? It makes no sense, as evolution within an individual is unheard of. Nevertheless, Davros thinks they can shape their own genetic destiny; Shan isn’t so sure, as they are killing Skaro, and have found no other life-supporting worlds. She mentions her own home in Darrien, which is now lifeless; Davros counters even this, pointing out the mutated worms and monsters that survive there and elsewhere. He reminds her that she herself proposed a solution in a paper a year prior; and now it’s time to make her dream reality.

Fenn provides Calcula with Shan’s personnel file. He admits that he has known Shan for years, but doesn’t like her; she is too clever. Calcula suspects that Davros is becoming romantically involved with Shan, and she wants to make the most of it; hence, the file. Fenn leaves, and Davros arrives; Calcula reads parts of the file to him. Shan’s family, while poor, is well-connected. Davros shows her blueprints for a radiation machine—not a weapon, but a variation on a cancer-curing device he invented. She dismisses the achievement. He inquires about her interest in Shan, and reacts badly at the suggestion that the Council may be interested in her. She changes the subject, and tells him that Councilor Matross has died in an accident, removing an obstacle to Davros’s work…and she hints that she may have had something to do with it.

Davros makes up with Shan over his earlier, disparaging remarks about Darrien. The conversation turns to their work, and he excitedly reveals that his machine can definitely shape the direction of mutations. He suggests that they may engineer an organism that can survive any environmental changes on Skaro. It need not be attractive, but must be intelligent, and have strong survival instincts.

At dinner, Calcula is pleased to see Davros reading a paper on obstetrics. She interprets his distraction as sulking over the obstacles from the Council, and reminds him that Matross is out of the picture. He is more determined than ever not to get politically entangled, but she suggests that he at least attend the unveiling of a new weapon he invented—and why not bring Shan along?

Shan joins Calcula in the War Room for the unveiling and the attendant military push. Shan’s father, in the military, is leading the campaign, but they are unable to speak to him from here…but perhaps he will survive and be able to speak afterward. They watch as the weapon, a massively overpowered beam generator, breaches the wall of a Thal command bunker; as survivors pour out, they are slaughtered by the Kaled ground forces. To the Council, it is much like a sporting event; Calcula complains that things of this nature aren’t shown to children more often. Another Councilor, Valron, is surprised by her reaction, and argues briefly with her. As the weapon’s power requirements burn it out after one shot, the Supremo asks Davros to build more of them. He asks Davros to stay as he addresses the people; Calcula offers the disgusted Shan a ride home, but she refuses, and walks.

As Shan tries to leave, Fenn accosts her, and refuses to leave her alone. Valron intervenes, and Fenn apologizes and departs. Valron is more sympathetic to her view on the carnage of the evening, and offers to walk her home. She accepts.

Davros is starting to see the Council’s view on things—more efforts like this might win the war, and wipe out the Thals completely. He advises the Supremo to pursue such a genocidal course; after all, logically, only one life form can triumph. The Supremo changes the subject and reveals that Thal spies are known to be in the city; one such is Fenn, who will soon be arrested. Davros wants to warn Calcula, but communications are down; he goes to do it in person.

Calcula finds Fenn waiting for her at home. He tells her that Davros is waiting for her in his lab, and leads her there as she exults over the massacre. When she unlocks and enters the lab, Davros isn’t there; Fenn immediately begins destroying Davros’s equipment. He says that the Supremo sent him to destroy Davros’s work in exchange for a promotion; and that he is also to injure Calcula, ensuring that she will fade into obscurity. She declares him a spy, and tells him she will do anything to protect her son and his work. She switches on the radiation machine, and Fenn cries out in pain; but she has already doomed them both with a high dose of radiation. As Fenn dies, she tells him that these actions will also bring down the Supremo, and put Davros on the throne, just as she always wanted. Before Fenn dies, they both begin to mutate.

Davros arrives at the lab, finding Shan already there. Fenn is dead, and Calcula is dying; but Davros only has eyes for the mutations they have experienced, and how it proves his theories. His clinical reaction to his mother’s impending death shocks Shan; she asks him to reverse the process, but he says that he cannot. Calcula tells him that their enemies killed her because they fear Davros, and that he must ascend and destroy their enemies. She expresses her pride in him, and then dies. He sends Shan away and tells her he is not to be disturbed while he works.

Shan finds Valron and tells him Calcula is dead. She also realizes, and explains, that Fenn’s mutations matched Calcula’s, implying that he was not a Thal, but a Kaled. She and Valron deduce that he was not a spy, but that his questionable actions were under orders from someone very senior, more so than Calcula herself, and possibly a Councilor. Valron dismisses her concern that Davros might be next, and tells her to leave Davros to his grief—though she is sure he isn’t grieving.

A pregnant woman named Renna finds that her regular doctor has been replaced by Davros, whom she does not know. He accidentally reveals that she is having a boy, but covers by telling her that she will be offered an injection of a new drug to counter certain negative environmental factors. She agrees.

Shan realizes that Valron is taken with her, and he admits his attraction to her. Shan thinks word of Calcula’s death is being suppressed. Valron worries that the Military Youth may be turned on any Council member who is implicated. Shan suggests making peace with the Thals; the idea is illegal, and Valron is shocked, causing her to backpedal a bit. However, she insists that Davros, at least, should know the truth of who killed his mother.

Shan joins Davros at the hospital, and is surprised to find him working the maternity ward. They argue over their respective emotional involvements in the circumstances. Meanwhile an expectant mother unexpectedly dies of complications, the fourth such death today. He rushes to incubate the baby, but it latches on to Shan and tries to hurt her. He gets it into the incubator, and Shan inquires about their chances of survival, but he does not know. He reveals that each new baby, on which he has experimented, is genetically identical to his post-mutative mother—a new species! Shan tells him that the Supremo ordered Calcula’s death, possibly in league with the Council. Davros acknowledges it, but doesn’t care; Calcula lives on in the new species. He believes no revenge is necessary, as the murderers’ deaths are inevitable—only his new species will ultimately survive. Shan asks what he has taken out of them, and he says he has only removed that which affects their ability to think rationally. She thinks this is horrible, prompting him to disdain her.

Shan returns to Valron and reports Davros’s words. Meanwhile the Military Youth begin to riot, word of Calcula’s death having gotten out. Davros meets with the Supremo, who asks about an anti-radiation drug that was in development; it has been completed and distributed. Davros confronts the Supremo about Calcula’s murder, which the Supremo denies ordering. Davros declines to use his influence with Calcula’s followers to stop the riots, as it was a Kaled, not a Thal, that killed her. The Supremo suggests that the attack was to restrain Calcula, not kill her; but clearly it has backfired. The Supremo agrees to give Davros whatever he wants. Davros turns down a Council position. Instead, he wants complete autonomy and unlimited resources for his science division, starting with new labs underground. He backs up his demand by threatening to prove who killed Calcula, ensuring death for the killer. He suggests that it is more advantageous to leave the Supremo in power, and suggests naming Valron as the murderer in order to stop the riots. To that end, he provides a faked file of documents proving Valron’s guilt.

Davros tells Shan that Valron has pro-Thal views, but she doesn’t believe it. He is angered to learn that she has been discussing their work with Valron, and orders her to end her relationship with the Councilor. Shan argues for pursuing peace with the Thals. The Supremo, having been eavesdropping, enters, and has her taken away to be hung. Later, he makes an announcement that the traitors have been unceremoniously hung; Shan’s father was killed in battle hours earlier, before he could hear of her fate. Davros watches this in bemusement; but he is interrupted by a call from Ral about an incoming Thal warhead. The lab is twelve stories below ground, and Davros is sure he’ll be fine—but an explosion occurs, and he blacks out.

Over the next month, Davros lingers near death, and sees his life flash before his eyes, with visions of his mother urging him to live—even at the sacrifice of his flesh.

Kaled medical technology saves Davros’s life—in fact, it can make him outlive his compatriots, surviving to the end of his natural lifespan, as no one has done in ten generations. And yet, with his terrible condition, do the doctors have the right to inflict this life on him? As he awakens, he learns that the Council and Scientific Elite have decided that if he will die, it will be by his choice. Ral provides him with a poison injector with which he can end his pained existence if he chooses. The Supremo thinks it is over…

However, Davros chooses to live. A week later, he emerges, and meets with Ral; he rejects any thought of weakness and recovery. He lives by machines now, in a life support vehicle. He will improve on the designs, but in the meantime, he feels a great clarity, with the world no longer filtered by his flesh. He feels no more affinity for the Kaleds, but also feels no fear—and he has a destiny to fulfill.

Corruption 2

Things are picking up! Or down, as the case may be; there’s nothing good to be found in Davros here. The title of this installment, Corruption, is a bit misleading, as are the titles for all the installments; collectively they imply that Davros started out good, and slowly became evil. In fact, he was deeply warped from the beginning, and this story only serves to reinforce that fact. We see him become increasingly more calloused, as those around him—those about whom he should care—die in succession. Or perhaps he isn’t becoming more calloused; perhaps he was always that way, and only gains successively more terrible opportunities to show it. In this regard, the series is hindered a bit by a lack of vital characters to kill off; Davros’s family and circle were small at the beginning, and thus, each chapter is forced to insert new characters and establish why Davros should care about them. Results may vary. Here, we are introduced to a possible love interest, Shan, a fellow scientist and former member of the Military Youth. She certainly has some potential; but we’ve already long since established that Davros is not interested in romance, and so the story never really commits to that subplot. Instead, Shan becomes a clone of his long-dead sister Yarvell, having a very similar story arc, sympathies, and fate. She’s a likeable character, but misused here almost by necessity.

The peak of this episode is the transition to the crippled, machine-dependent Davros we know from the television series. (I’m not going to conceal this as a spoiler, for two reasons: It was obvious from the beginning that this would happen eventually; and the upcoming episode is going to assume his condition from the beginning.) With this transition comes a complete alienation from his people. When I first watched Genesis of the Daleks, I wondered at how Davros could be so calloused and hostile to his own people; he effectively initiates the genocide of the Kaled race by transforming the last of them into Daleks, and is quite gleeful about it. Here we begin to get an understanding of why (and I will let that be a spoiler). (On a related note: the population numbers for both the Kaleds and the Thals can’t be very high at any point. It’s never implied that they have more than a few cities each, and by the time of Genesis, they are essentially reduced to one each. We’re very nearly at that point already; mention is made of other cities which are no longer habitable. Curiously, this low population density doesn’t seem to bother anyone, even though it means the race may not be viable much longer; they continue to maintain a recklessly warlike stance, with continued notions of honorable suicide.)

We are treated to quite a bit of backstory on the Kaleds, the Thals, and Skaro, most of which is new to this story. It is noted that there are seven Thal males for every female; that the biology of the Kaleds and Thals differs significantly beneath the surface; that the wartime life expectancy of a Kaled is 52 years, and no one in ten generations has died of old age; that most lifeforms on Skaro are extinct; that Drammankin Lake has now become known as the Lake of Mutations; and that wartime pollution and radioactivity has blocked out views of the sun (though apparently not to the point of causing a nuclear winter). There’s no aspect of life on Skaro that isn’t tragic; it’s a wonder anything good or beautiful ever arose.

Continuity references: This story draws upon the audio drama Davros for early mentions of its events, including the use of rodents for research, and the research paper by Shan which indicates re-engineering of the race would be necessary. The Lake of Mutations was previously called such in The Daleks, as well as in the preceding chapter of this story, Innocence. Davros mentions the Varga plants and their effects (Mission to the Unknown, I, Davros: Purity). He mentions the Mutos (Genesis of the Daleks; also mentioned in Purity). The notion of the genetic divergence between the Kaleds and Thals is also mentioned in We are the Daleks!, though that story gives a different account of their origin (according to the wiki, at least; I have not yet read that story).

Overall: This is certainly the most interesting episode so far. The first episode, Innocence, is certainly good; but I couldn’t help being impatient for what was to come. The second, Purity, wanders a bit too much. This episode puts us back on track, and moves Davros into territory that is familiar, but not yet exhausted of its potential. He truly becomes the villain he is meant to be. I’m interested to see how the story ends.

Next time: I’ve been set back a bit by responsibilities at work, but I still hope to post about the next Main Range entry, Jubilee, this week; and then we’ll wrap up I, Davros with the final chapter, Guilt! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below. This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

I, Davros: Corruption

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Audio Drama Review: I, Davros: Purity

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re continuing our look at the spin-off miniseries, I, Davros. We’ll be picking up with part two, Purity, released in October 2006. Let’s get started!

I Davros Purity

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama! For a spoiler-free review, scroll to the next picture before continuing.

Still a captive among his creations, the Daleks, Davros continues his recounting of his past.

Young Davros, now nearing thirty years of age, has joined the Military Elite as a Tech-Officer. With his friend and fellow officer Reston, he works on refining and testing new weapons developed by the Scientific Corps—a posting that Davros greatly desires for himself. He grows frustrated at their repeated failures with the new weapons, and believes he can do better for his people—and then he is summoned to the office of the highest leader of the Kaleds, the Supremo.

His meeting with the Supremo is tense, with Davros displaying his arrogance, until the Supremo makes an offer. Davros, he explains, will be sent on a mission to infiltrate the city of the Thals; and using his prodigious scientific skills, he will disable and destroy a new weapon under development. If he agrees, and succeeds, he will be promoted—perhaps even to the Scientific Corps. Although Davros tries to agree at once, the Supremo sends him home to think about it, swearing him to secrecy.

At home, he encounters his sister Yarvell, whose sympathies have increasingly come to lie with the peace activist factions. Their mother, Calcula, is out buying art, a lifestyle which both Davros and Yarvell agree she cannot afford any longer. It sparks an argument; their father left the family’s money in trust in Davros’s name, on condition that he marry; as he refuses to find a wife, it cannot be released. The argument turns to the war; Davros is scornful of their enemies, the Thals, but Yarvell tells him that recently-discovered ruins indicate they were once a single society with the Kaleds. As Davros repudiates Yarvell’s claims, Calcula arrives at home with a new work of art: a portrait of Davros. Her doting on him disgusts Yarvell, who only reluctantly stays for dinner.

Later, the three relax in the family’s pool; but soon the discussion turns into another argument about the war—Calcula supports it, as always, while Yarvell argues against it. Davros sides with Calcula. Yarvell again brings up the money, but Calcula defends Davros’s decision. As the argument peaks, Davros accidentally reveals his upcoming mission. As Yarvell storms out in anger, Calcula determines to use her own contacts to learn more of the mission. However, she then returns to the topic of wealth; Davros decries her words, and tells her the only way she will obtain the trust fund is when he dies.

Davros recommends that Reston join him on the mission; the request is approved, to Reston’s surprise. In the Covert Operations section, they are introduced to their team leader, Major Brint, who gives them the details. They are to infiltrate a recently-discovered and heavily-guarded weapons facility, steal what they can, and destroy the rest. Accompanying them will be six commandos; Davros will be second-in-command after Brint. A diversionary attack will take place at the same time, giving them some form of cover. The group departs.

Later, at midnight, the team reaches a minefield, and watch as the diversionary attack begins. Davros suspects they may be beyond the mines already, though they lost at least one commando en route. The mission is running behind and falling apart; suddenly it is beset by a Thal patrol, which manages to kill another commando. Escaping, Davros determines that Brint is not leading well, and takes command.

By the following nightfall, they reach the mountains. Davros begins to suspect that the unusually numerous Thal patrols have somehow been waiting for them—but only the Supremo should know they are here. Another patrol approaches; Davros seizes control from Brint again, and lures the Thals into a trap. They overwhelm the Thals and take their uniforms.

Brint catches Davros making notes about Brint’s conduct, for later use in requesting an inquiry, but he is unable to do anything about it for now. Meanwhile, Reston notes that they can see the stars and the two moons, which is impossible inside the cities due to the war’s pollution; he wants to build a home here after the war, but Davros scoffs at that dream.

Viewing the Thal base, they learn that the Thals are constructing numerous long launch ramps. Brint intends to blow up the base, but Davros stops him; he and Reston will infiltrate it instead. If it is as he believes, he will be able to obtain the much-needed intelligence and still destroy the base. Brint allows it, but promises to destroy the base and them with it if the mission is compromised.

Davros and Reston have little trouble getting inside, and they find the base nearly deserted; its production line is automated. In fact, the entire base is one large, robotic factory, run by advanced computers—an accomplishment currently beyond the Kaleds, and admirable. Davros confirms that the factory is making sustained-flight rockets—hence the ramps. Moreover, the rockets have advanced, adaptable guidance systems allowing for great maneuverability; the intelligent systems mean that no pilot is needed. This system could win the war in a single stroke. Davros and Reston take notes and images.

In a nearby office, Reston learns that half the Thal economy has gone into this project—a crippling financial blow, should it be lost. They are caught by a Thal patrol, who promise that they will be tried and shot as spies—but, more strangely, their commander calls Davros by name. The Thals are eliminated by Brint, who has come to find them. Reluctantly, they set the charges to destroy the base, and evacuate, meeting up with their remaining team members. Shortly thereafter, the base explodes. Knowing the remaining Thal soldiers will be after them, Davros recommends that they flee through the wastelands to the north rather than back over the mountains. Brint objects, believing rumors of cannibalistic, mutated survivors in that area, but Davros insists.

In the fog of the wasteland, the group is separated; before they can regroup, another commando, Vander, is lost. They encounter a terrible, plantlike creature, which attacks them, forcing them to kill it. However, Davros is horrified—and fascinated—to see that the plant was, until recently, Vander! Davros collects some samples, including the spines which the plants use to infect their victims; however, this results in a final argument between Davros and the now-terrified Brint. Davros accuses Brint of betraying them and leading them to their deaths; Brint denies it, but turns over command to Davros, and walks into the fog.

Davros, Reston, and the final two commandos make their way through the wastes, until—with the thinning of the fog—they find they are surrounded by the carnivorous plant creatures. Some nearby ruins provide the only sanctuary; as they run to them, Davros remembers Yarvell’s words about ruins to the north. This must be the ruin of that decadent society, but it will do for shelter if they get there before dark; after all, the plants have no eyes, meaning that in the dark, the plants will have the advantage.

Inside the ruined city, the atmosphere feels wrong. Davros splits the team in two to search the place, sending Reston in charge of the second pair. The group is forced back together by a pack of armed scavengers; they open fire, but the attackers have the advantage of numbers. At last the scavengers are killed, but so are the two remaining commandos, and Davros’s gun is depleted. One survivor remains; Davros finds that it is his old tutor, Magrantine.

Magrantine is dying despite his hate for Davros, but first, Davros questions him about the plants, as he remembers something from a book that seems familiar. Magrantine calls the “Varga”, from an old Dal word for “Devourer”; they consumer flesh, and inject their seeds into their victims so as to spawn. The plants have evolved mobility due to the toxins in the air and water; now they hunt their victims. Davros is intrigued, and wants to develop them into weapons. Meanwhile Magrantine explains what happened to him; after his ordeal in the radiation chamber, Calcula had him dumped outside the city. He survived his mutations, and was picked up by the deserters and other refugees in the wastes—everyone the Kaleds and Thals have put out. He has survived on his desire for revenge against Davros. He cannot attack Davros now, as he lacks the strength; but he curses Davros, wishing a similar fate on him. He dies moments later. Reston has fallen asleep, but awakens; Davros assures him he hasn’t missed anything.

They watch the Varga plants feeding on the slain scavengers. One plant pleads with them for help; they realize it is Brint, now a victim. Davros denies his wish, and they depart while the rest of the plants are distracted.

Nearing the Kaled lines, Reston demands to rest, as he is exhausted. Davros spurs him on; but in his exhaustion and recklessness, he climbs the nearby ridge—while still wearing his stolen Thal uniform. The Kaled automated defenses cut him down. He is alive, but cannot walk. Davros offers to carry him, but Reston knows it will slow them down and allow snipers to catch up; he demands to die with honor, as per military protocol. Davros remembers his father’s denied wish to do the same, and says he cannot understand wanting to die; he becomes angry, and tells Reston that people like him are holding the Kaleds back. He then shoots and kills Reston with Reston’s own pistol.

Later, Davros awakens in a hospital, with Calcula at hand. She explains that he was picked up, exhausted and dehydrated; but she is proud of him. He tells her that someone must have known about the mission and betrayed him; she realizes that he suspects her. She forcefully objects, insisting that she would never rob Davros of the greatness he was born for; to Davros, that only leaves Yarvell. Calcula agrees, and insists she will take care of it.

Yarvell swims alone at home, listening to a radio broadcast of a message she herself recorded on behalf of the new Peace Confederation. Calcula enters, and tells her that Davros is dead. Yarvell is shocked, but quickly moves on to practical details of the funeral to be planned; Calcula explains that he was killed on the mission behind the Thal lines, as the Thals knew he was coming—knew his name, in fact, as well as his face. At last, Yarvell admits to having warned the Thals by way of the Peace Confederation; she admits that she had grown concerned about what Davros might do if he was placed in the Scientific Corps. However, she didn’t want Davros dead, just stopped. Calcula reveals that Davros is not dead, and declares that Yarvell is a danger to Davros, just like her father Nasgard and aunt Tashek—whose deaths, she admits, she arranged. She attacks Yarvell, and drowns her in the pool.

Calcula tells Davros that she found Yarvell drowning and tried to revive her, but was unsuccessful. After all, there was Davros to think about. Davros suggests spinning Yarvell’s death as a murder by a Thal infiltrator within the Peace Confederation. He promises to protect his mother; Calcula, meanwhile, intends to get Nasgard’s will overturned, releasing the money to support them both…after Yarvell’s cremation.

Later, Davros begins to experiment on Yarvell’s body; he intends to keep this a secret, as his mother expects a cremation. In what he considers poetic justice, he combines her DNA with that of a Thal and a Varga plant, intending to make weapons to win the war…by the power of science.

cover

This audio drama can be summed up in a single phrase: “The plot thickens!” While there’s not a lot of genuinely new information, there’s a bit of depth added to many aspects of the story as we know it. I’ll incorporate my usual continuity references here, for the sake of discussion: The Varga plants, first introduced in Mission to the Unknown, get more explanation here, and we see them in various stages of consuming their victims. We learn, as well, that they were not mobile at first, but gained that ability through mutation, possibly helped along by Magrantine, who makes a final appearance here. (Side note: I’ve always wanted to see a story that pits the Varga plants against the Krynoid, another aggressive plant species which consumes and adapts humanoid life. Who would win?) The Thal military base as described here is reminiscent of the facility seen in Genesis of the Daleks, though as it is destroyed here, we can assume it is not the same location. Davros mentions a weaponized mollusc; these are seen in the cave sequence in Genesis of the Daleks. Davros and Reston mention the wasteland’s population of (reportedly cannibalistic) Mutos, also first seen in Genesis of the Daleks; their cannibalism is also mentioned in the audio Davros. Yarvell makes reference to the Dals; this now-extinct race is implied here to be a lost, decadent society that included both Kaleds and Thals, though their real nature and history is not clear. The Dals were first mentioned in The Escape, and then in other stories, with varying and conflicting accounts given. Also, several references are made to the previous audio in this series, Innocence.

Davros is, of course, at the center of this story. He’s making strides toward becoming the arrogant, conceited, evil genius we all know and love to hate, but he isn’t there yet. While his character is mostly formed, he has yet to find a true direction for his life. However, his researches into Varga plants, which begin at the end of this story, will help shape the path he will follow. Young Davros is played by Rory Jennings, and his voice acting is progressively more un-Davros-like; it’s a bit disconcerting to hear this high-pitched, reedy voice on a character as iconic as Davros. For the first time, I found myself wishing for cover art that depicted the young Davros, if only to have a face on which to hang that voice. It was even more disconcerting to discover that the same actor played Tommy Connolly in the Series 2 episode The Idiot’s Lantern; he seems to be too young for his stated birth year of 1983, in my opinion, and at any rate I have a hard time imagining him as Davros.

TommyConnoly

This guy? As Davros? Nah, I can’t picture it.

 

Nevertheless, the story is more than adequate. Davros is sent on a mission behind Thal lines, with an inevitable betrayal coming from an unexpected source. Another major character is killed; and with that death, more of Davros’s morality and ethics are stripped away. By the end of the story, Davros’s relationship with his mother, Calcula, is more than a little reminiscent of Norman Bates; I wasn’t expecting Psycho here, though perhaps I should have.

I haven’t talked much about the framework of this story, but it’s relevant here—or rather, it isn’t, as the case may be. Davros, in his later years, has been recaptured by the Daleks, who want him to put an end to their civil war. In the course of determining his plans, he reviews events of his past. It was a good premise for the series overall, but at this point it seems to be meandering; it’s not clear exactly what he’s getting at by rehearsing these ancient events, and I wonder where he’s going with it. One can only imagine the Daleks are wondering as well.

One final note of interest: Davros’s Tech Officer partner, Reston, is played by Andrew Wisher, whose father, Michael Wisher, played Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. It’s a small world, Skaro!

Bottom line: While it’s a decent story, Purity feels very much like the middle chapter. It’s engaging enough to merit a full listen, but I’m anxious to move on and see where we’re heading.

Next time: Still planning to post Bang-Bang-A-Boom! as soon as I get a few spare minutes to finish it up. Otherwise, we’ll continue I, Davros with the third entry, Corruption! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below. This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

I, Davros: Purity

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Audio Review: I, Davros: Innocence

A few months ago, I decided to take a break from this review project. I’d only been working for a little over a year; but in that time, I completed reviews on all of classic Doctor Who (admittedly, at a rate of one season per entry rather than individual stories), Series One through Four of the revived series, the audio Main Range through #38, two series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, one series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, one set of the War Doctor, all of Destiny of the Doctor, and a scattering of other audios, as well as a number of novels and all the stories in the Seasons of War anthology. That’s about two hundred posts in a little over a year; and so a little burnout was inevitable.  In the interim I’ve been working on a few fiction projects, including some submissions for Doctor Who material (one of which, my Paul Spragg Memorial 2017 audio drama entry, Chasing Humanity, you can read here).

Now, recharged and ready, I think it’s time to return to the review project. I’ll probably be taking it a little slower this year; my goal last year was to have an entry almost every weekday (Main Range on Mondays, novels on Tuesdays, other audios on Thursdays, and television on Fridays). That rate was fun while it lasted, but I’ve known for some time that it’s unsustainable; I still have to work my day job, and my family likes seeing me once in a while. As well, I still have fiction projects ongoing, and I hope to publish some of them at some point.  Consequently, reviews will be as I finish the material.  For audio dramas, that’s one or two per week; television usually takes a few weeks, as I cover multiple episodes in each entry. Novels will be mostly be at random, as I’m not finishing them particularly quickly.  I appreciate everyone who reads these reviews and interacts with them; and most of all, I appreciate your patience.

While I’m in the process of collecting the various audio ranges, I want to branch out a bit and cover some of the spinoffs that have been recorded. Today, we’ll take a look at 2006’s I, Davros: Innocence, starring Terry Molloy as one of the Doctor’s greatest foes: the Dalek creator, Davros! Let’s get started.

I Davros Innocence

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama! For a spoiler-free read, skip ahead to the next picture.

Davros finds himself on trial, placed there by his own creations, the Daleks. He learns that the Daleks want his assistance dealing with a schism among them; but they are not sure of his utility. He agrees to help, but scorns them for how far they have fallen as they cower on Skaro. He determines to review the past in order to plan their future. He thinks back to his own teenage years, and the everlasting war between the Kaleds and the Thals on Skaro…

Colonel Nasgard, Davros’s father, is a high-ranking Kaled military commander. He oversees the execution of a squad of troops who panicked and briefly abandoned their post; he has no mercy on them. He is witnessed by Captain Brogan, who objects to the waste of life; he then begins to cough, for he is not well.  In the city, his wife, Lady Calcula, who is an assistant to Councillor Quested, debates the war; she is in favor of it for its social benefits. Quested tells her to cover for him, as he has been summoned to an emergency Council meeting; he promises to explain later, in his quarters.  When he leaves, Calcula is met by Magrantine, who is to be a tutor for her son, Davros; he asks her to finalize Davros’s course of study. She sends him to meet with the boy, as only Davros knows where his intellectual preferences lie.

Elsewhere, Nasgard’s sister, Tashek, encounters her niece Yarvell, Davros’s sister, who is two years older and on the cusp of adulthood—and the attendant mandatory military service. It becomes clear in their conversation that both Calcula and Nasgard favor Davros, largely disregarding Yarvell. Tashek sends Yarvell to summon Davros, who is loitering by nearby Drammakin Lake. Yarvell finds him swimming in the lake, much to her shock, as they have been told never to swim there; he scorns her concern, and shows her a rock which is actually the shell of a water creature. She is disgusted, but he muses that the Kaleds must have evolved from such creatures, and may one day evolve back into them.

Calcula meets with Quested, and looks over the city. She muses on her political position and her strained relationship with Tashek, who owns the family’s lakeside villa.  Quested states that the war is at a stalemate; Calcula thinks it has been going nowhere for many years. There may be a spy in their midst, as the Thals seem to know their moves before they make them. Quested suggests that even if no spy exists, it may be useful to invent one.

Nasgard summons Brogan to his tent, and reveals that Brogan is now in charge. Nasgard has been relieved of duty and is being summoned home. He reveals that he knows it was because of secret reports sent in by Brogan regarding Nasgard’s health. Brogan admits it, and claims he is working in the interest of their people, and also of Nasgard himself; Nasgard claims to love his family, and now he can spend his remaining time with them. Nasgard challenges Brogan to shoot him here, giving him an honorable death as per military protocol, but Brogan refuses.

Davros does not like Magrantine, and voices his displeasure at being sent to study under the tutor. Calcula overrules him, but this results in an argument between herself and Tashek, with Yarvell and Davros watching. They are interrupted by the arrival of Nasgard, with Brogan assisting him inside. Tashek sees at once that he is very ill, and asks him to sit down. Davros demands to know when Nasgard will die; Nasgard welcomes the honesty, and insists he still has some fight left, though this seems to be a front. Brogan joins the argument; he thinks the war will be ended by political means, but Calcula disagrees, and insists that they must gain tactical advantage over the Thals. Brogan stays for the night due to the late hour.  Later, alone with Davros, Nasgard asks why the boy is so quiet; Davros says that he expected his father to be killed in battle. Davros wants to be a scientist and end the war that way; Nasgard insists he must be a soldier instead, but at the same time, he tells Davros to follow his own goals.  Meanwhile, Yarvell speaks with Brogan, and finds him to be a peaceful man…

Nasgard argues with Calcula over Davros, accusing her of poisoning the boy’s mind. She is disdainful toward him, especially when learning that Brogan refused to shoot him. However, she refuses to let Davros be sacrificed to the military to end the war; she insists that the Kaleds need the war to give them meaning. Tashek catches Davros eavesdropping on the argument; he says that they never argue so over Yarvell. Tashek observes that Yarvell may be her father’s daughter, but Davros is not his father’s son; and she sends him to bed. Meanwhile, Calcular receives a message from Quested; the Council has been called into emergency session again, most likely to plan peace negotiations with the Thals. He begs her to come to the city with her family for safety, but she refuses, based on Nasgard’s poor health. Quested orders Brogan to join him in the morning.

In the morning, Nasgard compliments Yarvell on her uniform, and gives her his medals to wear, noting that Davros would not appreciate them. Calcula finds Davros by the lake with a dead bird; he realizes that nothing dies of old age on Skaro, due to the encroaching poisons from the war.

Quested meets with Brogan, and concurs that Brogan did the right thing in reporting Nasgard’s health issues.

Calcula takes Davros and Yarvell to Magrantine; Davros rejoins his studies, but Yarvell leaves with Calcula to attend a meeting at the House of Congress. Calcula demands a daily report of Davros’s progress. Davros is hostile toward Magrantine, but agrees to a tour of the educational complex.

At the villa, Nasgard tells Tashek that he hears a strange noise in the house, but she dismisses the concern. She reasserts his illness, and tells him he has been ill since before Davros’s birth…in fact, he is sterile, and Davros is not his biological child. Both she and Calcula are aware of it; it is the reason Calcula favors Davros over Yarvell. Nasgard does not want to accept it; but they are interrupted by the strange noise, which Tashek now hears as well. Before Tashek can reveal the identity of Davros’s real father, they locate a bomb in the communicator room…and are killed in its blast.

Magrantine shows Davros to his laboratory, which contains a radiation chamber; Davros overcomes his animosity toward Magrantine enough to become intrigued by the chamber. Magrantine intends to use it to analyze the effects of radiation on different creatures; indeed, he already uses live animals for tests. He intends to use sentient test subjects, and compartmentalizes his emotions accordingly. He asks Davros if he is ready to make sacrifices for the truth.

Yarvell mourns Nasgard’s death. Brogan tries to comfort her, but is unsuccessful. As she swears vengeance, he comments on the cycle of violence; she deduces that he is a pacifist, or as he calls it, a “peace activist”.

Calcula informs Davros of the murders. With nothing left at the villa, she relocates to the city, near the school and the Council complex. Davros returns to the lab for the opening of the radiation chamber. Quested joins Calcula and discusses the murders, and theorizes that the bomb was aimed not at Nasgard, but at Calcula.

Davros confers with Magrantine about his past experiments on dangerous plants, which were ordered destroyed by the Council. However, he knows that Magrantime disobeyed. They open the radiation chamber, and are greeted by the smell of burned flesh; Magrantine explains that the radiation can cause mutations in the subjects, but that the subjects rarely survive. He realizes that Davros views such mutation as evolution. They enter the chamber.

Calcula finds Yarvell at home, excused from duty for the day in light of the murders. Calcula grows angry, and claims that any display of emotion will be taken as a sign of weakness by her opponents. Calcula suggests that Brogan was responsible for the bomb, and Yarvell lets it slip that Brogan is a pacifist; Calcula is horrified, and believes he is manipulating Yarvell. She concludes the plot was against their entire family.

An air raid siren sounds, and the Council building is evacuated; Brogan tells Quested that a Kaled missile has been launched into a Thal population center. It seems to be an automated launch…meaning a missile from the Thals was en route first! The incoming missile is not nuclear, at least, but still, evacuation is warranted. Quested refuses to go. Brogan reveals it is headed for the educational complex…where Davros happens to be.

The missile strikes, heavily damaging the complex. Magrantine is trapped under some masonry, until Davros pulls him free. Magrantine leads the boy out of the complex.

Brogan reports to Quested that the damage was minimal; he believes a greater attack is coming. Quested reveals that the Council is planning a protective dome over the city. Calcula arrives and demands to know where Davros is; Quested reveals that he was seen leaving the complex with Magrantine. She turns on Brogan and accuses him, and reveals that he is a peace activist—a conflict of interests with his duties.

Davros and Magrantine rest on a hilltop outside the city. On the other side is a vast desert, with mountains beyond. Magrantine reveals that his son was murdered in that desert…by Nasgard. He draws a weapon and points it at Davros, intending to take revenge by killing him. Davros manages to talk him down, and tempts him with the promise of his prodigious scientific mind. Magrantine gives in, and Davros takes the gun; they start back toward the city.

Quested suggests merging resources with Calcula for her safety, as the spy is still at large. She insists that Brogan is the spy, though Quested argues against it. Calcula insists that this is the reason why Brogan defied protocol and refused to shoot Nasgard—so that he would gain access to their home to plant the bomb and remove the entire family.

Magrantine and Davros find the lab somehow intact. Davros insists the incident on the hill is forgotten; he suggests using those who are close to death for their experiments. Magrantine agrees, and says that the hospitals will supply test subjects. Some time later, after the first round of experiments on such “volunteers”, Magrantine performs an autopsy on one mutated victim, which has some unrecognizable structures, as Davros points out. However, they will need volunteers from elsewhere, as they have already exhausted the supply from the hospital.

Quested and Calcula go to watch an execution, where Yarvell is on the firing squad. The “traitor” being executed is also allegedly involved in the murder of her father and aunt, much to her surprise. Yarvell is further shocked when it is revealed that Brogan is the traitor. She argues with her mother, but is ultimately overruled, and takes her place in the firing squad; the squad opens fire.

Later, Davros meets Yarvell, and argues with her over their mother and the execution. When she speaks in defense of Brogan, Davros brushes her concerns aside, and asks for Brogan’s body for experimentation. She calls him a monster, and screams that she no longer considers him her brother.

Quested thinks that with Brogan gone, they will be able to break the stalemate and end the war. In the meantime, he proposes marriage to Calcula…and proposes that Davros should be told that Quested is his real father. Calcula refuses, saying that she will only do so when the time is right.

Davros tells Magrantine he could not obtain the body; but the tutor is not dissuaded, as he prefers a living sample. Davros follows him into the radiation chamber…and then locks him in, and turns on the power. As Magrantine bangs on the door and threatens to tell Calcula, Davros leaves to tell her himself…that is, to tell her how Magrantine committed suicide in grief for his son.

As the argument between Quested and Calcula picks up, she suddenly realizes that Quested himself may be the real spy, as he has made a number of missions to the Thal capital in recent years. She realizes she sentenced an innocent man to death—and whether or not there really is a spy, Quested is responsible; after all, he did say that it may be useful to invent a spy if one is not forthcoming. Quested turns the situation on her; he grabs her and demands to know how many other innocents have died because of her. Davros arrives at that moment and orders him to let her go; Davros pulls out the gun he took from Magrantine. Quested reveals that he is Davros’s real father. Davros denies it, and shoots him.

Davros escorts Calcula to the lab, and reveals the now-mutated Magrantine, who is alive, but horribly changed. He begs to die, but Davros refuses; he can be used for more experiments. The air raid siren sounds, but Calcula assures Davros that this is only the beginning.

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I’ve been looking forward to this series for some time. Davros has always been a fascinating character to me, all the way back to my childhood viewing of Genesis of the Daleks. Since his first appearance, his evil has been singular in Doctor Who; he’s not sympathetic, there’s nothing redeeming about him—he’s simply, straightforwardly, ruthless and power-hungry. The Daleks are evil because it is hardwired into them; Davros is evil because he chooses to be. He has no goal other than proving himself; he has no means other than destruction. The Doctor is prone to reasoning with his enemies, and has even on occasion talked down the Daleks; Davros, however, cannot be talked down. If he submits to discourse, it’s a ruse, as we’ve seen time and again. Who wouldn’t want to understand his origin?!

Prior to Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice, this was the youngest Davros we’d yet encountered, at the tender age of sixteen. The story gives him a family, and then promptly begins taking them away: his father Nasgard (Richard Franklin), his aunt Tashek (Nasgard’s sister, played by Rita Davies), his sister Yarvell (Lizzie Hopley), and his mother Calcula (Carolyn Jones)…and one more, which I’ll conceal, in case you’re avoiding spoilers. Calcula, as her name would suggest, is quite the schemer; she is a political figure in the Kaled hierarchy, and married to a decorated war hero. Her husband, Nasgard, is presented at first as being quite ruthless, but this is a bit of a red herring; Calcula makes him look like an amateur at that game, and Nasgard is revealed to be a bit more sympathetic as the story proceeds. Calcula holds the unique belief that the Kaleds need the war to continue in order to give them meaning and purpose in life. The real victim here is Yarvell; she has spent her life in Davros’s shadow, even though he is younger—a shadow that he does not deserve to cast. Her parents—Calcula especially—favor Davros over her, even though she is much more like her father; she is following in his military footsteps, a path which Nasgard would prefer to see Davros take. Although she’s known it for years, here she is forced to confront the true dark side of each of her family members—not least of all, her brother.

This is a Skaro that has not yet reached its bitter end. The Thousand Year War (which is not called by name here, but is described) has been raging for centuries between the Kaleds and Thals, but some civilized territory remains, and each side maintains open-air cities. Nuclear weapons are in existence, but have yet to experience widespread use, and their effects are poorly understood. There is still native life to be found in abundance, but—as Davros comments—nothing dies of old age, due to the poisons already present in the air and water. The next few decades will see most animals become extinct, and most of the surface polluted; Drammankin Lake, beside which Davros’s family lives, will one day become the Lake of Mutations seen in The Daleks. Outside the war, civilization appears to be both modernized and polite, though we never get a view of the Thal civilization here. We will see the beginning of the downfall of both Kaled society and Davros himself, as he conducts early experiments into radioactivity and mutations.

Some continuity references: Of course this story takes place long before the Doctor becomes a persistent factor in Davros’s life, although we know they have met at least once (The Magician’s Apprentice). Therefore references to standard Doctor Who stories are thin here; still, some persist. Yarvell’s name was taken from the Dalek scientist Yarvelling in the comic story Genesis of Evil, which I have not read. Skaro is referenced as having two moons; elsewhere they are named as Falkus (an artificial moon, Daleks Among Us–this is actually a contradiction in continuity, as reference materials establish that Falkus was built by the Daleks from Davros’s designs) and Omega Mysterium, which only appears in this series. Calcula refers to a dead bird as a “flying pest”, a phrase used by the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks. The Daleks in the introduction refer to the Dalek civil war (Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks); the war appears to have only just begun. With that said, I would place this story not long after Resurrection of the Daleks, which involved the liberation of Davros from his imprisonment in 5039. Other references here are to events to come in this series, which I will discuss at that time.

Overall: I have mixed feelings about this story. While it’s certainly good, I had hoped that the early portrayal of Davros would be more in line with his childhood appearance in The Magician’s Apprentice (although of course this story was recorded first). The titles of this series–Innocence, Purity, Corruption, and Guilt–suggests that Davros started out well, but then fell into evil. That arc would go a long way to making him a more interesting and perhaps sympathetic villain; but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Davros is cold, arrogant, and ruthless from the first moment we see him here. As an adult, his singleminded evil is what makes him so fascinating; as a child, it’s bizarre, and I was hoping to see how he becomes that way. It seems the answer is that he was born that way (or perhaps was raised that way; we don’t see enough childhood to know). The story has some basic but interesting political intrigue, and a good early glimpse into what war does to the Kaled society; but at this point, it feels a little shallow. I’m holding out hope for the upcoming installments, however.

Next time: I, Davros: Purity! As well, we’ll try to get back into the Main Range of audios; when last we visited that range, we looked at The Church and the Crown, and so we’ll pick up with Bang-Bang-a-Boom! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below. This and many other entries may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

I, Davros: Innocence

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