Novel Review: All Flesh is Grass

We’re back, with another novel review! Here we have the second of two reviews of the novels from the Time Lord Victorious multimedia project: All Flesh is Grass, by Una McCormack. You can check out my review of the first novel, The Knight, The Fool, And The Dead, at that link.

Just a reminder: For the moment, the only parts of the Time Lord Victorious project that I’m covering are these novels, for the simple reason that I haven’t acquired the rest yet. Fortunately, they form the backbone of the project’s story, so this is as good a place as any to start. This post will read a bit like a “part two” of the previous post, as the books are so tightly intertwined; wherever it may matter, I’ve assumed that you’ve already read the previous post.

This novel, published just over a year ago on 10 December 2020, picks up immediately after the end of The Knight, The Fool, And The Dead, and features the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Doctors in the Dark Times near the beginning of the universe. None of the regular companions are featured here; however, Brian the Ood fills the role for us. And with that, let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead! Here on Reddit, I omit a summary of the plot (if you would like a summary, you can check out the relevant TARDIS wiki page), or you may read this review on my blog, The Time Lord Archives, where a summary is included). However, some spoilers are unavoidable even without the summary, so read at your own risk!


We last saw the Tenth Doctor leading a mercenary ship, with Brian the Ood assassin at his side, against his Ninth self accompanied by a fleet of vampires, and his Eighth self accompanied by—believe it or not—an attack force of Daleks. The prize is the planet Mordeela and the death-dealing Kotturuh—and the Tenth Doctor just gave the order to fire!

The weapon is no small matter. It turns the Kotturuh’s judgment back on themselves, giving them a lifespan, and a rather abrupt one at that. They begin to die off at once. But that isn’t enough to satisfy the Time Lord Victorious. Mordeela is the source of their power of death, and so he attacks the planet itself; and though his fleet is cut down to just one ship by the Daleks and vampires, it manages to strike the fatal blow, reducing Mordeela to rubble and sealing, as it were, the gates of death. The Doctor then manages to depart for other locales, leaving his past selves to hold their coalitions together. They set off in pursuit.

Elsewhere, though, one Kotturuh has escaped the worst. Many years ago, Inyit sensed the coming doom of her people, and hid herself away on Birinji, the first world the Kotturuh doomed. There she maintains her garden inside a biodome, the one spot of life on the dead world, and waits for an end she knows must come.

After weeks of adventurous but undocumented skirmishes against the dying Kotturuh, the Tenth Doctor and Brian find themselves seeking an audience with the Brokers of Entranxis, iron creatures who deal in weapons…and sometimes more interesting things. And the Brokers have something for the Doctor, but it’s not what he expects: it is Madame Ikalla, the leader of the vampires, who was captured while escaping the battle at Mordeela. She is much abused, but the Doctor determines to rescue her. He is interrupted by the arrival of his past selves, who intend the same plan; altogether…well, they botch the job pretty thoroughly. Ultimately Brian and the Tenth Doctor are forced to extract the Eighth Doctor, whose TARDIS is being held by the Daleks; the Ninth Doctor in turn rescues Ikalla, and in the process hears an intriguing mention of a planet called Birinji. But before any of them can escape, the Kotturuh—still trying to carry out their Design, even in the throes of death—come to judge Entranxis. They will fail; they are intercepted and killed by the Daleks. It seems the Daleks intend to replace the Kotturuh as the dealers of death.

Brian, Eight, and Ten make their way to the vampires’ remaining Coffin Ship, and find that all the lesser vampires are dead; the other Coffin Ships in the small fleet have escaped. However, there is a squad of Bloodsmen aboard, the highly trained and powerful bodyguards of the Great Vampires who usually use the ship to travel. They grudgingly ally with the Doctors to try to recover Madame Ikalla. Meanwhile, she—along with the Ninth Doctor and a dying houseplant named Hector (don’t ask)—have landed on Birinji, and there discovered Inyit, who will very soon be the last of her kind. Inyit welcomes them; she has some things to teach them about her experience with life and death, and her own regrets. But perhaps the most urgent thing she tells them is what will reputedly happen if the last of the Kotturuh dies: the gates of death will open, releasing all the remaining power of the Kotturuh at once.

The other Doctors arrive, and a conference ensues. And at last, the Tenth Doctor is properly chastened for his choices—though he still believes in his cause: the fight against death itself. But things have become more urgent; for Madame Ikalla reveals that there was, in fact, a Great Vampire—the old enemy of the Time Lords—aboard her ship. And it has been captured by the Daleks. The possibilities are horrifying.

Ikalla stays with Inyit (and Hector the houseplant) while the Doctors, Brian, the remaining mercenaries, and the Bloodsmen go to war against the Daleks…to rescue the Great Vampire. The ridiculousness of the situation is lost on no one. They soon find that the Daleks have experimented on the Great Vampire; they kill it in the process, but they successfully create Dalek-vampire hybrids, extraordinarily deadly creatures. Soon enough their ultimate aim is revealed: They plan to use the hybrids to destroy Gallifrey here in the Dark Times, long before the native Gallifreyans become their hated enemy, the Time Lords.

And so, the final battle begins, at Gallifrey itself. And it is a very near thing; the Daleks are on the verge of winning. But then, as Inyit’s long life fails, a single Dalek hybrid comes to ensure her death…but before she goes, she pronounces the Kotturuh’s final judgment…on the Dalek hybrids. At once they begin to die, screaming. The pure Daleks aboard their ship are thrown into a panic, as they feel the judgment tugging at their own genetics; fortunately, the Eighth Doctor returns to them at that time, and with a little push from the Tenth, he drags them out of the Dark Times and back to their own time. As Inyit dies, Gallifrey—and the future—are saved.

In the aftermath, the survivors return to Birinji. There they find Inyit dead—but Ikalla remains, and she has been changed. Inyit’s final gift to her is a change in her biology; she is freed from her terrible urges. She is the last of the vampires—save for her scions and the Bloodsmen—and in a way, she is also now the last trace of the Kotturuh, and of the life of Birinji. But new life will come to Birinji; the mercenaries will settle here, as will the remaining undead, who can inherit the changes given to Ikalla. Brian, as well, chooses to stay—though not without acknowledging the unlikely-but-not-impossible chance that he might take over and run the place. The Doctors conclude that, in the wake of the Kotturuh, death will still come to the universe—but in accordance with life’s own patterns, not the Kotturuh Design. Some races will live but briefly; some will outlive the stars; but they will all have their own chance. Death can’t be beaten, perhaps; but sometimes you can outrun it.

And in the future, three men—three faces of the Doctor—meet for one last time.


Although this book picks up where the last left off, and continues the same story, its tone is very different. It’s much more lighthearted and comical, with many witty lines, puns, and jokes. I suppose that makes sense; the first book only features the Tenth Doctor in full Time Lord Victorious mode, and he’s not a very funny guy at that point. Here, though, we get Eight and Nine as well; and not only do they bring their own typical bouncy personalities with them, but also they begin to pull Ten out of his own pit. It isn’t only them, as well; Brian the Ood, the vampire Madame Ikalla, and others all get in some great lines.

But there are somber moments here, as well. Most notably, it becomes clear soon enough that the Eighth Doctor is from a point in his timeline prior to the start of the Time War; he’s fully unaware of it, and of Gallifrey’s destruction (well, he would be unaware of that, I suppose). His optimism and relative naivete are almost painful to watch when played against the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, who do know; it’s certainly painful for them to watch. Even though it’s acknowledged that he–and Nine as well–won’t remember these events once they end, Nine and Ten go out of their way not to tell Eight what’s coming.

That, in turn, begs the question of when exactly these Daleks originate from. Having arrived along with Eight, clearly they must also be pre-Time War Daleks; therefore they also can’t know of the future (despite having a Time Commander among their ranks). And yet, a Dalek is a Dalek is a Dalek; just as surely as their future Time War compatriots, they hit on the idea of destroying Gallifrey before it can rise to be a threat. Some things never change! I did find it interesting that they needed the Eighth Doctor and his TARDIS to get here; it’s stated that Dalek time travel tech has never been able to penetrate the barrier separating them from the Dark Times. It’s the first time I’ve heard of that barrier; I knew these times were forbidden to Time Lords, but I had not heard they were impossible to reach. Possibly this comes up in TLV stories I haven’t experienced yet; at any rate, it bears further investigation.

Overall, not a bad book; but it does have one fatal flaw: It never really resolves its main issue. The Tenth Doctor goes back in time and seeks to destroy the Kotturuh so that they can’t introduce death to a universe where no one ever dies. And yet, once the Kotturuh are vanquished, it really seems to make no difference. All races will still inherit death; they’ll simply come to their own lifespans without the interference of the Kotturuh. Of course the point is made that you can’t defeat death no matter how hard you try–which is not at all a new argument in Doctor Who–but…why was this ever an issue in the first place? It’s all very downplayed at the end. Throughout both books, a major point is that the Doctor has broken something fundamental in history by stopping the Kotturuh. It should have to be fixed–but instead, at the last few pages, we find out that it was never really broken at all. It really removes much of the impact of the story, and that’s unfortunate. Because it’s a hell of a good time getting there–journey before destination, to borrow a phrase from the Stormlight Archive series–and it’s regrettable that the destination is so anticlimax. Well, at least it’s a pretty battle!

Continuity references: Brian the Ood–who, incidentally, really steals the show whenever he’s onscreen–has an elaborate collection of weapons from ancient races: Racnoss (The Runaway Bride, et al), Jagaroth (City of Death), Grelsh, Uxaerian (Colony In SpaceThe Quantum Archangel), Daemon (The Daemons), and Kastrian (The Hand of FearEldrad Must Die!). Nine mentions the Untempered Schism (The Sound of Drums). The Doctors telepathically join by saying “Contact” (The Three Doctors, et al). Ten, speaking to Nine, alludes to a child’s death (To the DeathMuseum Peace). The Daleks use the phrase “philosophy of movement” when speaking of the TARDIS’s time travel (The Daleks). Ten reminds Eight that he started out by changing time to save his friends’ lives (TV movie). Eight thinks about meeting Brian (He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not), and about the TARDIS’s role in bringing them here (What the TARDIS thought of “Time Lord Victorious”). Inyit mentions Kotturuh legends regarding their activities (The Dawn of the Kotturuh). Gallifrey’s galactic coordinates are given (Pyramids of Mars, et al). The Doctors cite the Blinovitch Limitation Effect and caution each other against touching (and then promptly do it anyway, without consequence) (Mawdryn Undead). Eight mentions President Romana (Happy Endings, et al). Hector the Houseplant survives and ends up with the Ninth Doctor (Monstrous Beauty). Rose is mentioned, but is not present; she is on another planet, in the future, recovering (Monstrous Beauty).

Overall: I mean, why not? It’s not the most coherent novel, and it wraps up just a little too neatly (Just this once, everybody lives! gets a new home!). But it’s still a lot of fun, and in the end, that’s why we’re here, right? So yes, check it out–and if you didn’t already read The Knight, The Fool, And The Dead, read that one first.

Next time: Who knows? Soon it will be a new year, new reading/watching/listening, and we’ll see where it takes us. I’ll catch you there.

All Flesh Is Grass is available from many booksellers.

You can read the TARDIS wiki entry for this novel here.

Previous

Novel Review: The Knight, the Fool, and the Dead

We’re back, with another novel review! For the holidays, here’s another standalone novel review (well, almost standalone—let’s say one of two). We’ll get back to the New Adventures soon, but not just yet. Today we’re looking at the first of the two novels from the “Time Lord Victorious” multimedia project, Steve Cole’s The Knight, the Fool, and the Dead. Published in October 2020, this book takes place shortly after the events of The Waters of Mars, and features the Tenth Doctor on the run from—and yet embracing—the decision he made in that story.

I want to go ahead and mention that for the moment, the only part of Time Lord Victorious—hereafter abbreviated as “TLV”—that I’m covering is this novel and its sequel, All Flesh is Grass. For now, anyway; I may try to check out some of the other installments, but at the moment all I have at hand are the two novels. Fortunately, they form a coherent story by themselves, and supplementary materials seem to indicate that they form the core of the entire TLV narrative; so I think we’ll be okay for now.

And with that, let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead! Here on Reddit, I omit a summary of the plot (if you would like a summary, you can check out the relevant TARDIS wiki page), or you may read this review on my blog, The Time Lord Archives, where a summary is included). However, some spoilers are unavoidable even without the summary, so read at your own risk!


The Doctor has already broken the most important rule—that you cannot change a fixed point in time—so why not break some more?

Thus he travels back, further back than any Time Lord is supposed to go, to the Ancient Days, the era when the universe was young, a time his people referred to as the Dark Times. He finds them anything but dark, though; for here he finds a universe where death is unnatural and rare. Every species is immortal, barring accidents; no one grows old, no one dies by natural means. But that is before the Kotturuh arrive.

The Kotturuh bring death—but not just by killing. Instead, the Kotturuh introduce death. They grant each species a peculiar and dark gift: the gift of a lifespan. For some it is short, for some long, all according to the Kotturuh’s Design. When they come to a world, those above the prescribed lifespan die at once; those beneath age to the point they would have reached had they been born with this lifespan. It is horrifying—and yet they deem it necessary.

The Doctor meets allies here. There is Estinee, the young survivor of an early encounter with the Kotturuh. There is Fallomax, the scientist and scam artist who saved and recruited Estinee. There is Chalskal, the self-proclaimed ambassador and would-be conqueror who seeks Fallomax’s Lifeshroud technology so that he can equip his armies to withstand the Kotturuh’s gift. And last, there is Brian the Ood, a rather strange and possibly insane Ood who claims to have arrived here in the Doctor’s TARDIS, under a different incarnation of the Doctor—and who works as an assassin.

And yet, it may not be enough. For the Doctor, drunk with his own power as the last of the Time Lords, the Time Lord Victorious, has decided to take on the greatest enemy of all—death itself—and cut it off at the source. If he can defeat the Kotturuh here, the universe will never know death as a force; and perhaps its greatest evils—the Daleks, the Cybermen, others like them—will never arise.

The Doctor takes charge of the Lifeshroud project—but he does more than make the life-preserving technology functional. With the help of his friends, he turns it into a weapon, a system that will turn the Kotturuh’s gift back on themselves, and bring death to the dealers of death. The Kotturuh will have their own lifespan, and their power will be cut off from this universe, and life will prevail.

Except…the Doctor’s past lives want to stop him.

The Eighth Doctor and the Ninth Doctor—each accompanied by some of their greatest enemies—arrive at the ultimate moment, and attempt to dissuade the Tenth Doctor from his course. And yet he will not listen, for he is the Time Lord Victorious—and he fires the weapon.


I’ll be brief, and for the very simple reason that this book is not a complete story by itself. I’ll be able to say more when I post part two of this review, concerning All Flesh is Grass.

After so many seasons of the next three incarnations of the Doctor, and all of the elaboration we’ve had on the Time War, the Moment, and the Doctor’s character, it was a bit of a challenge to put myself back in the mindset of the way things were at the end of The Waters of Mars. In some ways it’s a pity that the Time Lord Victorious arc (if we can call it that) was contained to one episode, because the Doctor was forced to go from pride to remorse so quickly. (I realize an argument can be made that other episodes figure in as well, in terms of the influences that led the Doctor to that moment, and in terms of the consequences; but I’m saying that his entire time as the “Time Lord Victorious” was contained to one episode.) That creates a bit of a problem when trying to start this storyline, because the Doctor immediately seems to backtrack. His remorse is forgotten, except for the occasional fleeting memory; he’s right back to be the proud, arrogant Time Lord he was when he decided to save Adelaide Brooke.

But he plays it well, though. He really commits to this new course of action, and he immediately finds a challenge he considers worthy of his status: the removal—prevention, even—of death from the universe. And he turns his considerable personal energy to that goal in very un-Doctorish ways. He blusters and brags; he bullies his friends into doing what he wants; he runs over their objections and refuses to listen; he threatens (okay, that’s Doctorish enough, I admit). And in the end, he decides that the ends justify the means here. He decides—over Estinee’s objections—that doing to the Kotturuh what they’ve done to other species is not just okay, but admirable, if it means stopping them.

And that’s where we get to the real conflict of this book. It’s the infamous Trolley Problem, but writ large, and in Doctor Who terms. If the Doctor does nothing, every species in the universe will experience death. But if he acts to prevent that from happening, the Kotturuh will die (as well as every species they’ve already touched). And yet it’s not quite the same problem, because the Kotturuh aren’t just potential victims; they’re the perpetrators of death for everyone else. So it would seem like an easy choice—make the Kotturuh pay for their actions, kill them, and their many would-be victims can live. That’s the choice the Tenth Doctor makes.

But…it’s not that clear, either. We’re clearly intended to think that what he’s doing is wrong. Not only does Estinee—who is the innocent in this story, the tiny moral compass, the role that is often filled by a companion—disapprove; but also, the Doctor’s past selves disapprove. The Eighth and Ninth Doctors, appearing at the last moment, are here to stop the Tenth from carrying out this strike on the Kotturuh. They even tell him that he thinks he is doing the right thing, but he isn’t. The only catch here, is that we don’t yet know why it’s the wrong decision.

And that’s the exciting part! It could go several ways. It could be that something worse will be unleashed. It could be a “MCU Thanos” scenario, where the future universe can’t support all this life if there’s not death. It could be that death is necessary for the existence of the Web of Time. A million possibilities—and we just don’t know yet. And it’s in that environment, with so little knowledge, that the Tenth Doctor arrogantly makes his decision to strike.

I can’t wait to see what happens!

As for the experience of reading this book, I had only two complaints. For one, it’s very short, 178 pages in hardback. It took me about two hours to read. Not that I mind shorter fiction—I don’t—but It’s a pretty abrupt change from every other Doctor Who novel I’ve read. Of course there’s the sequel still to go; despite being from a different author, it could almost be regarded as the second half of the same book. The other issue was that the characters—specifically the three Doctors, since they’re the only familiar characters—don’t really feel or sound much like their usual selves here. One can picture them doing the things they’re doing, but the dialogue is very different from what we usually get for those characters, and it comes across jarringly. After recently reading (er, listening to) Scratchman, which really nails the characterization and dialogue, it was a bit of a letdown.

But none of that is a dealbreaker, and I still recommend the book.

Continuity References: Obviously there are many references to The Waters of Mars. The Tenth Doctor refers to several “old one” species: The Jagaroth (City of Death), the Exxilons (Death to the Daleks), the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride), and the Eternals (Enlightenment). He uses the term “walks in eternity” to refer to himself, as did the Fourth Doctor in Pyramids of Mars. The Ood Brain is mentioned several times (Planet of the Ood). Chronolocks are mentioned (Face the Raven), as are the fallen civilizations of Ascinta and Perganon (School Reunion). The rise of the Daleks (Genesis of the Daleks) and Cybermen (Spare Parts) are mentioned. The Doctor alludes to the rejection of his name in The Night of the Doctor. He remembers his conversation with Mr. Copper, though not by name (Voyage of the Damned). He puts on his Time Lord robes and says he is dressed for the occasion; the Master did the same in the TV movie. The Dark Times are referenced in a way reminiscent of the short story The Guide to the Dark Times. Brian reports arriving in the Dark Times in the TARDIS (What the TARDIS thought of “Time Lord Victorious”). And, most importantly, there are three interludes, each of which features a scene from a different Doctor’s life; in each instance, he tells the fairy tale of “Godfather Death”. In the first, the First Doctor and Barbara talk in the Cave of Skulls (An Unearthly Child–using that title for the serial, not the individual episode). In the second, Rose and the Ninth Doctor talk (no particular episode cited). In the third, it is the Eighth Doctor with Brian the Ood (again, no particular episode).

Okay, I lied about being brief…oops!

Overall: Despite the heavy topic, this is fairly light reading for Doctor Who. Still, if you’re interested in the TLV series, you should definitely pick it up—and even if not, I think you’ll find it entertaining. After the most recent run of television episodes, it feels like a palate cleanser, and at this point that’s a welcome change.

Next time: All Flesh is Grass, by Una McCormack! See you there.

The Knight, the Fool, and the Dead is available at many booksellers.

You can read the TARDIS wiki entry for this novel here.

Next

Audio Drama Review: Davros

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! Today we’re listening to Main Range entry #48: Davros, written by Lance Parkin and directed by Gary Russell. The second in a loose tetralogy of stories leading up to (and including) the fiftieth Main Range entry, this story features Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, squaring off against an old enemy: Davros, creator of the Daleks! Notably, this is Davros actor Terry Molloy’s first appearance in a Big Finish audio drama, and his first appearance as Davros in any medium since 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks. With that said, let’s get started!

Davros 1

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

I am attempting to make these plot summaries less lengthy, less detailed, and—perhaps most importantly—less spoiler-filled (though spoilers will always be available here, so be warned!). Please bear with me as I work toward that end. Detailed summaries are usually available at the Doctor Who Reference Guide and the TARDIS Wiki (see the sidebar for links).

Part One: In a flashback, the Kaled scientist Davros survives a bombardment by the Thals, but sustains horrible injuries. His people expect him to die honorably at his own hand, and they give him a poison injector. Davros, instead, chooses to live, that a stronger race may replace the Kaleds.

Arnold Baynes, the CEO of the corporation TAI, and his wife Lorraine (a dedicated scholar of the Daleks and Davros) steal the body of Davros from a freighter. They transport him to their home planet and facilities, planning to revive him. As they do so, they get more than they bargained for, when the Doctor arrives. Over the Doctor’s protests, they revive Davros—and offer him a job in research and development. Seizing an opportunity, they force the Doctor to join them as well—and to work with his old enemy. The Doctor agrees, planning to keep an eye on Davros. Soon the two old enemies are playing the Baynes and their associates against each other, each trying to expose the other as a villain and interfere with each other’s plans.

Along the way the Doctor meets an investigative reporter named Willis, and the two assist each other with their own goals. Meanwhile Davros continues to have flashbacks to his early life, before the Daleks, and examines his own mind and upbringing. As things progress, Davros does at first seem to have turned over a new leaf; he produces technologies which will help address famine in the galaxy, and a formula that will give mastery over the stock market. Meanwhile the Doctor produces a new neural matrix. One of the Baynes’ employees, Kim Todd, leads the Doctor and Willis to a hidden production area that manufactures mining robots, and the Doctor discovers that the new matrix has been implanted into them, which makes them very dangerous indeed. Suddenly one of the robots activates, and attacks…

Part Two: As Arnold speaks with Davros, he gets an alert about the robots. Davros takes the opportunity to insinuate that the Doctor may be responsible—and maliciously so. Baynes and his guards destroy the robot, but Baynes accuses the Doctor of provoking it, and has him locked in his room. Meanwhile, Davros begins to corrupt Lorraine, telling her about what he can do with the stock market formula, and the power it could give him; but he slips and refers to her as Shan, which is the name of a female Kaled scientist of whom he was once fond.  Nevertheless, Lorraine keeps the formula secret from Arnold. Instead, she discusses the Doctor and Willis with Arnold; he wants to deport them, but she wants to have them killed, so as to prevent them from linking the Baynes to the attack on the freighter. Davros intervenes and asks to have the Doctor kept close at hand, but under surveillance, to which Arnold agrees.

Davros then contacts Willis and reports that Baynes possesses an atomic bomb, which is highly illegal. He gives Willis the bomb as proof, and also tells him about the stock formula. However he warns Willis that, should Willis share the formula with everyone, stock would become meaningless, and the economy would collapse into anarchy. This is what Davros wants, however, as he could then implement a new, war-based economy and power structure. Willis is appalled, and asks the Doctor to meet him in the mines beneath the company dome. However, Arnold hears this and tags along.

Davros collects Kim, needing her to transmit the formula and other messages on the galactic data net (as he lacks the authorization to do so). Lorraine arrives, and Davros tells her about Shan, the woman who first proposed the idea of the Daleks to him—even the word itself. However, he also explains that it was he who put the idea into practice, and he denies that he loved Shan, or anyone. He then explains how he had her framed and killed for treason, and refused to even credit her for the scientific matters. Now, Lorraine will witness as he destroys his enemies again. And with that, he activates the detonation sequence on the bomb—which, of course, he himself built. Beneath the dome, the Doctor is able save himself, Willis, and Arnold, but only by dropping the bomb down a fifteen-mile-deep mine shaft before it detonates. The mines are still heavily damaged and polluted—but the dome above is intact. Water begins to flood into the mines, clearing enough of the irradiated environment to prevent them from dying at once—but Arnold and Willis are separated from the Doctor. In that opportunity, Arnold kills Willis to prevent him from ever revealing what he knows. He manages to make it look like an accident, fooling the Doctor as well. Meanwhile, Davros strongarms Lorraine into making him the new CEO, on the assumption that Arnold is dead.  He orders Kim to transmit the formula; she refuses, and he punishes her, and threatens her with death if she disobeys again. He also tells Lorraine to begin liquidating TAI’s assets to fund a mercenary army…while money still means anything at all.

The Doctor and Arnold escape the mines, but the dome is sealed. However, the Doctor has an unexpected ace—his TARDIS is nearby. He uses it to transport them into the sector where Davros waits. Lorraine quickly tells them what Davros is doing. The Doctor pauses to summon the mining robots to help them, but Arnold runs to confront Davros. He takes the chance to try to enlist Davros in a scheme to save the company and grow rich—but if Davros won’t, well, he can still escape in Arnold’s personal ship, which is close by. Davros fires electricity at Arnold to torture him into revealing the access code; Arnold dies, and Davros prepares to flee. The Doctor holds Davros at gunpoint, but Davros knows the Doctor won’t shoot him; he takes Kim hostage using the Kaled poison injector, and demands the formula disc. The Doctor instead shoots the communications console. Davros flees with Kim into the ship, making one last unsuccessful attempt to kill the Doctor as he does so. He is enraged, knowing it’s the Doctor who has power over life and death here, not him. The ship launches. Lorraine reveals that as long as it is in the atmosphere, they can override its controls; but Davros realizes it as well, and tries to activate the hyperdrive and escape, knowing the Doctor won’t cause a crash with Kim aboard. Kim realizes it as well, and grabs the injector and kills herself with it. The Doctor then steers the ship back toward the planet, and—not without regret—activates the hyperdrive, crashing the ship.

Still, he fears that Davros is not truly dead. TAI is not dead, either; and with no evidence that Davros was ever here, it will rebuild. This leaves the Doctor angry, and he downloads the records of the ship’s last flight—the one in which Davros was pulled from the freighter. He intends to use it to see Lorraine held responsible—even though he blames himself for all the deaths.

Davros 2

Unlike the previous entry, Omega, there’s no big twist here. That’s largely due to the fact that this story serves as a bridge between two well-known Davros stories: Season 21’s Resurrection of the Daleks and Season 22’s Revelation of the Daleks. You can only do so much with the plot when you already know where you have to land, as a general rule. I should point out that the story isn’t entirely successful as a bridge; it ties nicely into Revelation, but not so much into Resurrection. I’d go so far as to suggest that there really should be another Davros story between Resurrection and Davros, explaining how he gets from the prison station (or its pod) and his encounter with the Movellan virus, to the freighter where he begins this story in apparent good health. (Well, good for Davros, that is.) Maybe one day we’ll get that story.

What we have, instead of a twist, is another great character study for Davros. All of his stories tend to turn into character studies, really; he’s such a fascinating character that, despite the fact that he’s actually a very one-note individual, we never feel like we get to the bottom of his characterization. Even if the things he says about power are appalling, I could listen to him rant about them all day, simply because he believes them so strongly. The man is evil, no question about it—but he believes in what he says. I don’t even suggest that he believes he’s right; every average villain believes that about himself. Davros doesn’t care if he’s right; he has, quite simply, made his choice, and he stands (er, sits) by it. I have yet to find a Davros story I didn’t like, simply because that’s such a rare and unflinching trait for a villain (or even a hero!). And of course the Doctor, when it comes down to it, is not that different; while he does believe in doing what’s right, he has less justification for the rightness of his actions than he has conviction that he is right. Davros, perhaps—no, definitely–sees the similarity more than the Doctor does…and so their conflict goes on.

Fifteen years may have passed since Terry Molloy played Davros, but he hasn’t lost it at all. He’s as convincing here as ever, despite being in what is, admittedly, a very contrived situation (the Baynes’ hero worship of him, their desire to give him a job, etc.). Or maybe it’s not so contrived—after all, America is currently seeing a resurgence of the Neo-Nazi movement, which isn’t so different. At any rate, Molloy’s performance is spectacular. Supporting actors aren’t bad, but they don’t stand out, either; however, this audio does set the foundation for 2006’s I, Davros series, in which Molloy, Katarina Olsson, and David Bickerstaff would reprise the roles of Davros, Shan, and Ral. That series would take the flashbacks present here and expand on them, delving into Davros’s early life up to a period about six months prior to Genesis of the Daleks. I should also mention that a few other veteran DW actors appear here: Bernard Horsfall (most notably, Chancellor Goth) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot) play the roles of Arnold and Lorraine Baynes here. Lorraine Baynes, in particular, is likely a nod to the character of the same name (spelled “Baines”) from Back to the Future.

Researching this story, I found unofficial statements to the effect that this is chronologically the earliest audio appearance for the Sixth Doctor (in-universe, that is), but I could find no actual justification for that placement. His companion at this point is Peri, but she is absent here; he mentions in passing that she is attending a biology symposium on the other side of the galaxy. I also saw a suggestion that the story occurs between The Two Doctors and Timelash. If anyone has any further information regarding any part of this placement, I’d love to hear it! As for the in-universe date, there isn’t one, as is common with most stories involving Davros, Skaro, or even Gallifrey. (Davros may occasionally time travel, as do the Daleks, but when dealing with his natural lifetime, the writers have always been reluctant to pin it down. Some events just never really get a solid placement, I suppose.) However, humanity doesn’t appear to have spread outside its home galaxy yet, so we’re not dealing with the far future.

Continuity References: There are numerous items that will be picked up on in I, Davros, so I won’t list them separately. Davros mentions the Fifth Doctor threatening him in Resurrection of the Daleks, and he describes his own imprisonment as discussed in that story. Arnold Baynes mentions that Davros was ostensibly killed by the Daleks shortly after their creation (Genesis of the Daleks). The reporter Willis mentions having reported on events on the planet Stella Stora in which the Doctor was involved (referenced in Terror of the Vervoids). Davros claims to have no eyes, ears (or at least the receptors in his ears), or taste buds, all due to the Thal bombardment that nearly killed him, but this is ultimately contradicted by The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, in which Davros uses his natural eyes. Also, not so much a reference as a lack of one, but I was disappointed to find that there were no references to the upcoming Zagreus here, as we had in the preceding story. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

Overall: No complaints here. As I said, I have yet to meet a Davros story I don’t like. I’m glad to have taken the time to listen to this one.

Next time: The Seventh Doctor faces another old enemy in Master! 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.

Davros

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Audio Drama Review: The Time Ravagers

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! Today we’re continuing our look at the Audio Visuals series, with the second entry, The Time Ravagers. Written by Nicholas Briggs (under the pseudonym Arthur Wallis), this story was released in 1985, and features Briggs in his debut appearance as the Doctor, Richard Marson as Greg Holmes, and Sally Baggs as Nadia. Let’s get started!

Time Ravagers Cover 1

No one said the cover art was awesome. Is…is that a sonic screwdriver in his hand, or a toothbrush?

 

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

Part One: A repeating buoy broadcasts its beacon into space a light year from the Temperon research station, in the Temperos system. On an approaching supply ship, Captain Stride sends his engineer, Harlan, back to his post, before musing on military discipline. He tries to summon his science officer, Okkerby, but she belligerently refuses to come up before landing, and returns to the music to which she was listening. Harlan shortly joins her in her quarters, and discusses her professional affection for time travel—which, as it turns out, is what Temperon station is supposed to be researching. Harlan’s grandfather was alive at the building of the station, and Harlan finds it fascinating, though Okkerby has given up on any breakthroughs. The captain summons Okkerby again; all the ship’s chronometers have gone dead at relative 01:56. More, something is out there—in space.

On the TARDIS, Greg and Nadia are impatient for the Doctor’s return; he has been gone for hours. They see a vision of a brain in the time rotor, and hear the Doctor’s voice, before both vanish. An old man appears in the TARDIS, looking as though he has been wearing his clothes for a century. They realize it is the Doctor, now aged and unhealthy—and before their eyes, he dies.

No other malfunctions seem apparent, so Stride tells Harlan to follow the buoy signal in. However, the signal is gone; the buoy is dead. Harlan prepares a spacesuit for Stride to use in investigating the buoy, and takes the ship close to it; but he superstitiously warns that this is the work of the “Temperon”.

Nadia and Greg muse over what to do without the Doctor. They return to the control room to move his body.

Stride lectures Harlan again, then heads out to examine the buoy.

Greg and Nadia find the Doctor gone—and a new man in his place. They believe he is another time traveler, having killed the Doctor; but they are interrupted as the man tells them the TARDIS is tipping into a time abyss, something he previously thought impossible. He claims to be the Doctor, though it defies belief; but he pilots the TARDIS through a time distortion.

Stride reports to Okkerby as he examines the beacon, where he can find nothing wrong—but no signal either. He investigates further, and find the battery corroded—and strangely, it seems aged far beyond its projected 50,000 year lifespan.

The alleged Doctor brings them safely out of the distortion and to safety. They have a brief argument about regeneration; in the midst of it, Nadia again asserts that she wants to forget about Homeworld. The Doctor overrides their objections, and explains that there is some sort of time-creature—the thing that apparently aged him prior to regeneration—which seems to be in need of help. Greg accepts his story, but Nadia refuses. However, they are interrupted by an alert from the TARDIS; the ship’s power cells are decaying beyond their practically-infinite lifespan. The Doctor realizes the creature is taking them toward the end of time.

Okkerby is not receiving a signal from Temperon station, either; and the ship’s engines are experiencing fluctuations. Stride orders Harlan to make an emergency landing; but the base is nowhere to be seen. Stride orders Harlan to land where the base should be. Okkerby sees that the Temperon sun is going dark.

The TARDIS lands, but the Doctor doesn’t know where. At least there is a breathable atmosphere, so they head out to explore. They find a darkened landscape under a dying sun, with ancient ruins nearby. The whole world seems to be near the end of its life cycle. The trio goes to investigate the ruins, which prove to be millions of years old—though it was quite advanced in its day. As they head inside, a strange voice can be heard growling the Doctor’s name, and asking for help.

The ruin shows evidence of both violence and rapid aging. The Doctor speaks briefly with Greg about Nadia’s distrust of them, before the odd voice is heard again—and apparently only the Doctor can hear it.

As the ship comes in for a landing, its power continues to weaken; Okkerby notices the same ruin as the TARDIS crew, at the coordinates the station should occupy.

The ruin’s power cells have also been rapidly aged, and the Doctor begins to make a connection between this and his own situation. They see the ship coming in. Aboard ship, the crew struggles to get the ship down, with only three minutes of emergency power left. The ship lands hard, near the ruins, but everyone survives. Stride arms the three of them from the ship’s armory, over Okkerby’s objections.

The Doctor notes that the ship is suffering the same degradation, but he is unable to focus as he hears the voice again. Greg and Nadia notice that he is unwell, just before the Doctor passes out.

Stride sends Harlan to scout ahead, against his objections. Greg and Nadia see him coming, and try to wake the Doctor; they also note that Stride and Okkerby have found the TARDIS. Okkerby doesn’t know what it is, but determines it at least won’t blow up. Greg and Nadia carry the Doctor behind a bit of cover and try to hide from Harlan. Harlan tells Stride he hasn’t found anything. Meanwhile, Okkerby concludes that the ruins are the Temperon station, though millions of years aged. The Doctor cries out, giving away their position to the others. Time begins to reverse around them, and the base begins to rebuild as the TARDIS disappears. Suddenly the situation reverses again, and the base disappears—but the TARDIS disappears fully as well.

Stride’s crew finds Nadia and Greg, and Stride tells Harlan to shoot them. The duo run; Stride insists they are saboteurs. The Doctor awakens to overhear this, and Stride demands answers from him. Nadia and Greg manage to hide; in the course of it, Nadia lets it slip that she is beginning to accept that this Doctor is the real Doctor.

The Doctor agrees to try to help, but insists he may not be much help because of his recent metabolic change. Stride places Okkerby to watch the Doctor, and takes Harlan to go hunt down the companions. The Doctor introduces himself to Okkerby, who doesn’t think the situation is the result of sabotage. Conferring, they each learn that the same circumstance brought them there. She tells them they are on Temperos, the legendary home of the beast called the Temperon. The station crew was there to research time travel, which is connected with the Temperon. Meanwhile, Stride and Harlan lose track of the companions. Harlan explains what his grandfather told him about the Temperon, which is consistent with what has happened to them; Stride calls it rubbish. The Doctor examines the damaged chronometers, and concludes they were damaged by the sudden onrush of time.

Greg and Nadia think they may be safe for the moment, and muse on the apparent approaching death of the world and its star. They realize that if the planet aged naturally, the atmosphere would have dissipated. They are interrupted by more weapons fire, as Stride and Harlan find them, and they run again.

The Doctor theorizes that they are heading toward the end of time. A huge brain materializes; the Doctor concludes it is the Temperon. It speaks in the strange voice from before, and calls the Doctor friend. It warns the Doctor of danger that must be resisted. Stride and Harlan return with their captives, and Stride makes Harlan fire on the Temperon, which vanishes. The Doctor berates him as a fool. Harlan is seen to be aged; the Temperon struck in self-defense, it seems. The Doctor insists it is not their enemy, but has been dragging others here to help it defeat the force that is using it. Another time distortion begins, and the Doctor tells Stride to throw down his gun and apologize to the Temperon. However, it is not the creature that appears, but a band of Daleks.

Part Two: The Daleks don’t know the Doctor’s new face. The Doctor stalls them as far as knowing which person is the Doctor, prompting the Daleks to capture them all, which knocks them out briefly. They awaken on a Dalek ship, with no Daleks in sight—but they won’t be gone long. Stride knows the Daleks, but insists they long ago surrendered in their war with the humans. The Doctor laughs at the thought, and insists that they must deal with the situation in front of them. Why do the Daleks want them? Unknown to them, the Daleks are monitoring them, and determine from the confrontation which one is the Doctor. The lead Dalek instructs the others to bring the Doctor to him, and kill the others. The Doctor surmises that this is the case, and plans to bargain with them—after all, the Daleks need him for their work with time travel, and that constitutes a powerful bargaining chip. Still, the Daleks are not to be trusted.

A Dalek come for the Doctor, and Stride’s crew opens fire on them. Okkerby is wounded. The Doctor helps them kill the Dalek, though it sounds the alarm before it dies. The group escapes, though Okkerby slows them down. Okkerby realizes that they are not in a Dalek ship at all, but in the Temperon station, now fully restored. They are interrupted by the arrival of more Daleks, and run. They meet the Temperon again, with another time distortion in place; the Doctor urges the others into the distortion for their safety, but stays behind himself. Nadia stays with him, over his objections, and they are quickly captured by the Daleks. The Daleks try to restrain the Temperon, but fail, and it retreats to the time period from which the group was abducted by the Daleks. It tells Greg that the Daleks had imprisoned it, and then it departs, possibly pulled away by the Daleks. It has, in fact, been restrained to a time cell in the Daleks’ version of the base. The Daleks threaten Nadia as a motivation for the Doctor to help them.

Stride still refuses to believe that they have time traveled, despite Okkerby’s words. Meanwhile, the Daleks bring in the TARDIS and the Temperon, and insist that the Doctor will experiment on the beast—to isolate and extract its time travel abilities. They put the Doctor and Nadia under guard, and leave the room. The Doctor insists they must get answers from the Temperon, though that will be hard with the Dalek guard watching them. He takes Nadia into the TARDIS, reminding them that it’s incapable of travel at the moment; but here they can speak freely, and they may be able to meet the Temperon at the time rotor again. He reroutes power from the environmental controls to the time rotor, to draw the creature in. He muses that the Temperon has given them all a sort of dimensional cocoon, protecting them from the effects of time dislocation. They activate the power, generating a time field to attract the Temperon.

The Daleks send a squad to recapture the humans. Stride tells the others to run for his ship; the group makes it safely inside, where there are greater armaments—though it is doubtful that any of it can stop the Daleks. The Daleks issue an ultimatum to them; if they do not surrender in one minute, the Daleks will attack the ship.

The Doctor manages to make contact with the Temperon, and is not aged this time; he learns what the Daleks want.

Harlan sets up a cannon at a porthole to attack the Daleks, but worries over the possibility of not getting them all. Harlan fires on them from the porthole, and the crew escapes through an escape hatch in the confusion. Okkerby uses grenades to clear the Daleks pursuing them, and the group escapes into the mountains. The remaining Daleks call for transolar disks with which to make an aerial patrol. Their leader orders the death of the “squad leader”, or Stride.

The Doctor has yet to come up with a solution to their predicament. He and Nadia exit the TARDIS to meet a Dalek demanding a report. He hedges as long as possible, making the Dalek angry. He says that he has communicated with the Temperon, which says it will give the information they want if they turn off its time cell. He argues with the Dalek, insisting they don’t have the right to interfere with time this way—that is, by taking its DNA into themselves to gain the Temperon’s abilities. The Dalek departs, and the Doctor begins to get an idea of how to proceed.

Daleks on transolar disks patrol the skies, in search of the humans, who see them coming.

The Doctor and Nadia quietly reroute power so that the Daleks’ next use of the restraint equipment will destroy the Temperon’s time cage.

The Daleks send more of their numbers to reclaim the escapees. They also prepare for genetic engineering. The Doctor says that they have the DNA information the Daleks want. Short on time, he calls out to the Temperon; the Daleks announce that they will kill Nadia if he communicates with it again. They fire up the restraint system, and the Doctor and Nadia duck into the TARDIS as the time cage collapses, freeing the Temperon. It turns on the Daleks, before reappearing in the TARDIS and replenishing its power. The TARDIS escapes—but the Daleks are thrilled to see that the genetic data has been left behind. They order their patrols to exterminate the humans on sight.

The Temperon is in control of the TARDIS, and is too busy to talk to the Doctor. The Doctor tries anyway, attempting to get it to take them to the others. The TARDIS materializes there just as the Daleks approach, and Greg leads the humans toward the TARDIS as Stride provides cover fire. Stride is killed by the Daleks just as the others enter the TARDIS. The Temperon flies the ship away.

The Doctor has insisted that the genetic data he gave the Daleks was junk…but suddenly he’s not so sure. After all, the knowledge came to him very easily. He suspects he may have subconsciously given them the real information, quite unintentionally. Suddenly the TARDIS stops—in space—and the Doctor and the Temperon vanish. Daleks begin appearing out of nowhere, apparently charged with the Doctor’s data. However, the Doctor reappears and reassures the humans that the Daleks are harmless, because they overlooked something: while they can travel in time, they are not protected from aging accordingly. These are therefore greatly aged; and before the crew’s eyes, the Daleks die and fade away. With the Temperon’s help, the plan has been thwarted; but of course the Daleks will be back, as always.

The power cells are recharged, but the Temperon has locked them into a course for one of the humans’ relay stations, where Okkerby and Harlan can be dropped off safely. As for the Doctor…he feels like his life has only just begun—again.

Audio Visuals 1

Where The Space Wail was strictly a pilot episode for the series, The Time Ravagers wastes no time in jumping into more complex stories. This story is a tale of strange temporal phenomena, time skipping, and TARDIS oddities; and in that sense, I can’t help but be reminded of Big Finish’s first Doctor Who audio, The Sirens of Time. While this story isn’t a multi-Doctor story as Sirens was, it shares some common elements with that story, and it’s easy to imagine that Briggs’ experience here helped shape that later story. As well, this is a Dalek story—perhaps that’s a spoiler, as it’s not obvious at the outset, but it’s not much of one, as the cover and promotional blurb mention the Daleks. As Dalek stories go, this one is at least middle-of-the-road, and I would even say it’s one of the better stories. We have the Daleks attempting to incorporate the power of time travel into themselves, making them temporal beings—a step beyond their previous forays into time travel. As often happens, the Doctor is manipulated into helping them; and as always happens, it doesn’t go as planned. One would think they would learn by now.

We open with what is possibly the most underplayed regeneration since the First Doctor’s. The Doctor is offscreen when we arrive, having gone to pursue another mysterious time traveler—the beast called the Temperon, as it turns out. When he returns, he is severely aged, and dying. His companions don’t witness his regeneration, and have to have it explained to them; but other than some ongoing bits about Nadia’s distrust of the new Doctor, that’s it. The Doctor does present a small amount of regeneration fatigue; he has a little trouble pulling himself together; but he overcomes it quickly. Without visuals, it’s a little difficult to picture this new Doctor, who is different in demeanor from any classic incarnation; I don’t recall seeing much video or many pictures of Nick Briggs, so I lack a face to attach to this character. The impression I get is perhaps closest to the Ninth Doctor; though I would qualify that by saying that he is more laid back and less angry than the Ninth Doctor—perhaps a view of what that incarnation would have been like without the Time War. Of course, it would be two more decades of real time before that incarnation would be created; at the time of this production, Christopher Eccleston was only twenty-one, and still four years from his professional stage debut.

The official site’s production notes for this story explain that it was a nightmare to record, mostly due to problems with the cast. Between cast changes and conflicting schedules, three recording sessions were required. The third session was strictly to record the Dalek voices (oddly, given future history, NOT provided by Nick Briggs). Due to delays in obtaining the modulator used to modify the voices, regular cast members couldn’t be used; producer Bill Baggs was ultimately able to get Michael Wisher (of Davros fame) and David Sax to record the parts. While present, Wisher also recorded his cameo for The Space Wail (as the Homeworld judge) and the recorded space buoy for this story. As a coda to this difficult production, some master tapes were stolen a few years later in 1987, The Time Ravagers being one of them; therefore the version available on download is technically a remix, with some additional music.

The secondary story here is that of a supply ship crew caught in the events of the main story. It’s a format we’ve seen a few times before: a leader who is utterly unreasonable and power-mad, accompanied by a few more reasonable subordinates who end up helping the Doctor. The leader, Stride, gets his comeuppance, as is customary; surprisingly, his is the only non-Dalek death in this story. The voice acting of the secondary characters is decent; for the primary characters, not so much. Briggs does as well as usual, but Richard Marson’s performance sounds phoned in (and being the eighties, perhaps it literally was), and Sally Baggs’ heart is clearly not in her performance. (Sally, incidentally, is the reason for the second recording session, as she was completely unavailable for the first session; her lines were dubbed in during editing.)

We do have a few continuity references here, mostly pertaining to the Daleks. The Doctor implies that they have more traditional time-travel (“[Time travel] was only ever crude in your hands”), placing this story sometime after The Chase from the perspective of the Daleks. The Daleks use transolar discs to fly; these were first seen in a very early and obscure short story (told on cards issued with candy cigarettes, no less!) called Doctor Who and the Daleks. The devices have featured in various stories, but never on television as yet (according to the TARDIS wiki anyway—I feel I’ve seen them, but I could be wrong), but seem to have disappeared sometime during the Time War, when flight technology became widely incorporated into the Dalek casings. (It’s only loosely relevant, but some more interesting facts about Doctor Who and the Daleks: This 1964 release is, allegedly, the first prose story to feature the Doctor in the history of the franchise, and possibly—though not definitively—the first prose work of any type in Doctor Who. If you own the DVD release of The Keys of Marinus, you can find a rendering of this story among its extras. It is also the first to picture the Dalek Emperor in any medium.)

Overall: I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It’s a good introduction for Briggs’ Doctor, despite being a little weak as a regeneration story, and picks up the pace and the action over the previous entry. At about eighty minutes, and two episodes, it’s almost exactly double the length; from the previews I’ve seen, this seems to set the template for most of the upcoming stories. Check it out!

Next time: We’ll continue with the third entry of this first season, Connection 13, which takes us back to Earth and—possibly—to UNIT. See you there!

The Audio Visuals may be downloaded legally and for free here. Please be cautious; the hosting site is prone to unsafe links.

Audio Visuals official site (does not include download links)

Doctor Who Expanded wiki page for The Time Ravagers

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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: Jubilee

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! After a very long delay, we return to the Main Range with Jubilee, featuring the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe. It’s been long enough already, so, let’s get started!

Jubilee

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

An advertisement plays; coming soon to cinemas, we have *Daleks: The Ultimate Adventure!* In this new blockbuster, the insane Daleks once again target the Earth—and only the Doctor stands in the way! He is joined in his battle by his beautiful assistant, Evelyn “Hot Lips” Smythe, played by Plenty O’Toole. Be our guest—after all, attendance is compulsory…and all praise to the English Empire!

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Evelyn argue over the value of history as a career—after all, it can never give more than a filtered view of the past, and aren’t they seeing it firsthand? Evelyn is not amused. The argument is cut short when the TARDIS materializes in 1903 London…but then begins to shake. The Doctor says that it is as though it is trying to materialize in two places at once—but how can that be? At length it lands, and they step out, finding themselves in the chapel of St. John in the Tower of London. The Doctor dismisses the turbulence as Evelyn points out that the chapel is dusty and unvisited. The TARDIS dematerializes, leaving the Doctor and Evelyn behind. The Doctor hears screaming and Dalek energy weapons—and passes out in fear, but not before warning Evelyn that they’ve been here before, and are in danger.

The English Empire is ruled by a President, and it is Nigel Rochester. He plays a naughty game with his wife Miriam in which they speak in illegal contractions; but when he tires of it, he slaps her to get her to stop. He sends her to bed, as there are celebrations in the morning. Meanwhile, a Commander Farrow and a guard named Lamb go to torture a prisoner, as the president means for it to speak at tomorrow’s jubilee. A magnetic field in the cell keeps the prisoner motionless, and they enter. The subject remains silent, and they begin.

As the Doctor begins to recover, he guesses that the TARDIS has relocated to the other of the two destinations they detected earlier; but where is that? Evelyn finds a stained glass window depicting the TARDIS on a hill, surrounded by red as though in the midst of war. They go exploring.

The American prime minister congratulates Rochester on the jubilee, while Rochester enjoys the man’s discomfort. Miriam enters and witnesses this video call, and is dismissive toward the Americans. No one who leaves England is ever permitted to come back, as the race must be pure. Meanwhile, the torture of the prisoner continues, but it refuses to speak. Farrow tells it there are sympathizers who would save it and overthrow Rochester, but this brings no response either. He prepares to slice into its optic nerve.

Leaving the Tower, the Doctor and Evelyn find the grounds decorated for a festival. A box is attached to the side of the Tower. They hear something screaming in agony.

Farrow is screaming as well, as the creature’s flesh grows over his own hand, trapping it and sending agony into him. Lamb frees him, and Farrow wonders if the creature was screaming or laughing at him. They hear the Doctor and Evelyn arriving outside the cell, and Lamb investigates; he is shocked when he hears them using contractions. Farrow joins them and is even more stunned to hear them call themselves the Doctor and Evelyn. Farrow reports it to Rochester, and adds that, unlike other Doctor-imposters, this one wears a coat of many colors—a detail he couldn’t know.

Rochester orders them brought to him, and allows Miriam to watch. At first, Rochester is obsequious toward the Doctor; but then he drops the act and threatens to exterminate Evelyn. He demands to know how this imposter knew about the Doctor’s coat—the official histories depict much more normal garb, and most imposters dress in that way.

The Doctor insists on his identity, and so Rochester decides to put him to the test. He allows Miriam to come along. She takes a moment to speak with Farrow about his progress, which does not please her; she wants rid of Rochester, especially as he hit her tonight. Rochester leads them back to the cell, which is the box on the side of the Tower. Lamb pushes the Doctor inside and turns off the magnetic field; as the creature begins to move and make threats, the Doctor recognizes it as a Dalek.

The Dalek’s gunstick is missing, and its shell is cracked open, rendering it harmless for now. Rochester realizes the Doctor is who he claims to be, and brings him out. The Doctor wants the Dalek destroyed; Rochester insists it will be blown up at noon tomorrow. They relocate to Rochester’s rooms, and Farrow restores the magnetic field—and then confronts the Dalek, demanding its knowledge of power in exchange for its freedom. All it wants, however, is the Doctor.

Rochester describes a Dalek invasion one hundred years ago, which only two Daleks survived. One of them was destroyed at the fiftieth anniversary, and one remains in the cell. He seems genuinely joyful now that he believes the Doctor’s identity, for it was the Doctor and Evelyn who led the battle a century ago. The Doctor can hear that battle in his mind, and weakens for a moment. Rochester offers him a drink, but the Doctor is taken aback when he learns it is “Dalek Juice”, a product of boiled Dalek flesh. It is considered a specialty. Evelyn is shocked to see the Daleks trivialized; but the Doctor is more concerned that they are being used to promote an idea of English superiority. Miriam mentions a wheelchair-bound prisoner, worse than the Dalek, in the Bloody Tower; but Rochester cuts her off despite the Doctor’s curiosity. As the law dictates that women must be in bed by midnight, the Doctor offers to escort Evelyn to her newly-assigned room in the guest quarters. Miriam goes as well, but Rochester suspects she might be playing him…

Lamb escorts them to Evelyn’s room, then leaves, though he is amazed at their presence. Evelyn is disturbed by this version of history, but the Doctor insists it proves his point, that history is written by the winners—with mockery for the losers. He suggests that they did in fact land in 1903, but catastrophically changed history, fracturing local time—and ultimately causing past and present to run together. The Doctor refuses to let Evelyn question the Dalek; it may have no gun, but it can be psychologically dangerous. He returns to talk to Rochester; Evelyn leaves the room almost immediately to investigate. Meanwhile, Rochester takes the Doctor through the Tower museum, displaying much alien technology which shouldn’t be here. On the roof, he has a Dalek transolar disk—a hover platform of sorts—and he uses it to take the Doctor on an aerial tour. The rest of the city lies in ruins, which was not done by the Daleks, but by Rochester’s father, who wanted to build a new capital, but lost interest. Rochester himself has concentrated on the centennial jubilee instead.

Evelyn finds herself in a room full of Daleks…who want to play with her. Miriam arrives and tells Evelyn that these are Rochester’s toys, and not real. Evelyn requests to see the real Dalek, and Miriam agrees. At the cell, Farrow lets them in, but chastises Miriam for not bringing the Doctor. However, Miriam still slaps him for using a contraction, despite the fact that they are secretly lovers.

The Dalek quickly realizes that Evelyn fears it despite its lack of weapon. Curiously, it regards her as an equal. It agrees to answer questions if she turns off the magnetic field, which she does. Evelyn comes to realize that this Dalek is a footsoldier of sorts, and doesn’t have any strategic answers; it was sent to fight or die, and now it can do neither, as its self-destruct is disabled. Farrow stops the interview so that he can resume the torture, as he has been ordered to do. Evelyn leaves, and the Dalek repeats its desire to have the Doctor brought.

Rochester lands the disc, and shocks the Doctor by drawing a weapon—but oddly, he shoots and destroys the disc. He insists it was bugged; he believes there are Daleks everywhere, and that everyone else is under their control. They walk to Trafalgar Square; Rochester explains that the English secretly believe the Daleks their superiors, who would have won if not for the Doctor. Even here, Nelson’s column has been replaced with an image of the Doctor, but dressed in an imperial stormtrooper uniform.

Miriam finally drops her act completely for Evelyn, and says that Evelyn is not the only one horrified at the way the Dalek has been treated. Others agree, and will need help to overthrow Rochester. Evelyn refers her to the Doctor, but Miriam knows that this will not help; and to prove her point, she takes Evelyn to the Bloody Tower. There, a wheelchair-bound prisoner waits who bears some credit for creating the Daleks as they are…and Evelyn is horrified to learn that it is the Doctor.

The wheelchair-bound Doctor is the version from 1903. After his victory, the English cut off his legs when he tried to leave; they did this in retribution for his forcing of independence and responsibility on them. The historic Evelyn, meanwhile, died here years ago. This Doctor is mad, and beyond help. Miriam explains that the English government kept him as half of their propaganda machine; with the Doctor as carrot and the Daleks as stick, they could do anything they liked. Miriam wants to expose the truth to the public, and Evelyn decides to help. Meanwhile the Doctor—Evelyn’s version—is beginning to understand the problems his 1903 self caused; England, with Dalek technology, conquered the world before World War I could break out. Rochester believes he is the only man in the world who can resist Dalek mind control, and therefore he must appear ruthless despite his good nature. The Doctor admits that he understands.

Evelyn goes back to the Dalek and asks it to tell the crowd the truth. However, Miriam stuns Evelyn by admitting the truth—she wants the Dalek to exterminate Rochester. Evelyn refuses to help, and so does the Dalek, though for different reasons. Miriam tells Farrow to kill Evelyn unless the Dalek complies; to everyone’s surprise, it agrees. Miriam tells Farrow to restore the Dalek’s gun, and she takes Evelyn to prepare for the celebration. Meanwhile, as dawn arrives, the Doctor and Rochester return to the Tower. The streets quickly fill with celebrating people as the curfew lifts. However, battle sounds are suddenly heard, and a squad of Daleks on discs flies over and fires on the crowd. The Doctor wavers for a moment; when he recovers, the Daleks are gone, and no one—including Rochester—seems to remember them; but a man in the crowd is dead of a gunstick blast.

The gunstick on the Dalek is supposed to be for show, Lamb believes; but Farrow switches off the restraining field and tells the Dalek to kill Lamb. Instead, it aims at Farrow and tells him to kill Lamb himself, to test his commitment to the cause. Farrow tries, but can’t; and the Dalek tells Lamb to kill Farrow, which he does. It then orders Lamb to take it to the Doctor. He takes it to the broken Doctor in the Bloody Tower, where it sends him out. It asks the Doctor for orders—thus verifying Evelyn’s theory that this Dalek is only a soldier, and doesn’t know how to decide for itself. The crippled Doctor understands, and refuses, laughing at the Dalek; in a rage, it exterminates him. It orders Lamb to take it back to the cell; he does so.

Miriam puts makeup on Evelyn; as she does so, she explains that she doesn’t actually want to overthrow Rochester, so much as replace him with a stronger ruler, one who can properly oppress the weak, and hits her hard enough to make her bleed. That could be Farrow…but he has failed to report in. Evelyn offers to check on him while Miriam dresses for the Jubilee. She finds Farrow dying in the cell; when the Dalek returns with Lamb, she asks why it doesn’t kill her also. It is confused by the question, but says that she is the only one who fears it properly. Farrow finally dies, and the Dalek orders Lamb to cut off his head as is traditional; he does so, and takes the head to Miriam. She recovers quickly, and asks Lamb to be her new consort; but he declines, saying that he is only good at obeying orders. Miriam sends him away.

Back at the Tower, Rochester shows the Doctor the toy Daleks, which he uses to feel as though he is fighting as his ancestors did. The Doctor is appalled to learn that they are not actually machines, but that they contain dwarves sent in from other countries at Rochester’s order. Another has just arrived, from America, but he won’t quite fit inside the casing; and as the Doctor is forced to watch, Rochester cuts off the man’s hand. Still, he insists he is only pretending to be evil. The Doctor is unable to talk sense into him, and he sends for Miriam so that they can attend the Jubilee.

The Dalek tells Evelyn that it does not know what to do now that it is armed—it has choice, now, but doesn’t know what to decide. It asks her to remove the gun, but it warns her that it may not be able to resist killing her in self-defence. She refuses, and suddenly it is time for it to be taken out for execution.

Rochester greets the jubilant crowd with the Dalek beside him. He orders it to speak, but it does not—until he threatens Evelyn. It speaks as demanded in order to save her again; it threatens the crowd with extermination, to great applause. Rochester then allows the Doctor to speak. The Doctor tells the crowd that he will talk about evil—but not this sanitized version. He will tell them about real evil. The Daleks have no choice about their hate, but humans do—and they have chosen to become something repulsive. He no longer sees a difference between these people and the Dalek.

Miriam seizes the stage and denounces Rochester, and tells the Dalek to kill him; but it refuses. Rochester flees, shooting to cover himself. Miriam declares him deposed; and then she proposes to the Dalek, promising the people that it will be a strong leader. As the crowd still expects an execution, she offers the Doctor and Evelyn for death; the crowd begins to chant “Exterminate!” However, the two timelines have now fully converged, and the Doctor collapses under the pressure. The TARDIS appears on a nearby hill, and the two timelines merge—and Daleks pour into the crowd from 1903, exterminating the people.

Lamb gets Miriam to safety. Meanwhile, a Dalek saucer brings the Dalek Supreme to the location of the prisoner Dalek. It recognizes the Doctor, but decides to eliminate Evelyn—and again, the prisoner saves her, though it can’t say why. The Dalek Supreme sends the trio to the mothership for questioning.

Lamb abandons Miriam and flees; but Rochester saves her. He assures her that he truly loves her, and hopes that as he is no longer a leader, they can be happy together. She doesn’t have time to decide, as a Dalek finds them. It has orders to find the human leader; she therefore stabs Rochester in the heart, and claims to rule. However, the Dalek’s full orders are to find the leader—and exterminate! Meanwhile, the Daleks also exterminate Rochester’s dwarf Daleks.

The Doctor, Evelyn, and the prisoner find themselves locked up on the Dalek ship. The Dalek knows it will be exterminated, and blames itself for erroneously choosing humanity as the heirs of the Daleks; but the Doctor insists that it is not humanity that the Dalek has misjudged, but the Dalek legacy itself. Any empire that exists by consuming all around it must eventually consume itself, until only one insane Dalek is left. The Dalek Supreme summons the prisoner for questioning; it admits it is mad, and that it respects Evelyn. This makes it untrustworthy, and the Dalek Supreme tells it to bring the Doctor and Evelyn and exterminate them to prove its loyalty to the Daleks.

Evelyn is angry with the Doctor for his callousness toward the Dalek, but he insists he has never known one to be trustworthy. Evelyn thinks that proves his point about history: it is just what one chooses to remember. A refusal to reconsider makes him no better than Rochester. They are interrupted by the prisoner, who takes them to the bridge. The Dalek Supreme opens the Dalek command net so that the prisoner can pass on intelligence about the humans to all the Daleks; and then it orders the prisoner to kill Evelyn. It cannot, and offers to kill the Doctor instead; however, the Dalek Supreme refuses to allow it. It deems the prisoner untrustworthy, and therefore its information is useless.

However, the prisoner claims to have vital information; when the Dalek Supreme refuses to allow it access to the command net, it exterminates the Dalek Supreme and takes access for itself. It has accepted the Doctor’s arguments, and now believes that failure is essential to ultimate Dalek success. When it uploads this information, the Daleks in the invasion force take it literally…and self-destruct. This leaves only the prisoner alive, as its self-destruct was removed. It trusts Evelyn to do the job for it, and stands still while she removes its gun. As the Doctor sadly watches, she grants its last request, and exterminates it.

The destruction of the fleet in the converged timeline means that the 1903 invasion never happened. As the timelines separate, the Doctor and Evelyn find themselves outside the Tower in 2003, with all restored. In the crowd, they find a tourist named Nigel Rochester, collapsed with a heart attack despite the panicked ministrations of his wife, Miriam; he almost seems to have been stabbed, though there is no wound. The Doctor uses CPR to save him; but in his delirium, Rochester somehow recognizes the Doctor, and thanks him for saving them all. He is taken by paramedics, and the Doctor and Evelyn hurry back to the TARDIS.

Much later, Evelyn tells the Doctor that her dreams now carry memories of the nonexistent 1903 version of herself dying of starvation in the Tower. The Doctor tells her that the last 100 years haven’t been fully removed; they did happen, though time was restored, and the memories will live on in restless dreams. If people will not look into those shadows, and learn, they will repeat such atrocities again and again.

Jubilee 2

Jubilee is a story with which I was loosely familiar before listening to it. This is because it’s known to be the source material for the Series One episode Dalek, which gives us the story of the Ninth Doctor’s first encounter with a survivor from the opposite side of the Last Great Time War. Dalek is a truly monumental story, and is frequently cited by viewers as the favorite episode of Series One. It would be hard indeed to top the Doctor’s raging, fear-laden, hate-filled monologue against the Dalek, or the Dalek’s destructive rampage through the underground facility; and indeed, we don’t have direct analogues of those scenes here. This story, in fact, predates the revelation of the Last Great Time War; though the Doctor’s distrust of the Daleks is legendary even in the classic series, it would be hard to find equivalents. Regardless, of that, however, this story stands well on its own, and is one of the better main range entries I’ve encountered so far.

We find the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe landing in a fractured timeline, a version of history in which, one hundred years prior, they led the English to victory over a Dalek invasion, but with catastrophic consequences. Now, England is the head of a worldwide dictatorship, and the last Dalek will be destroyed tomorrow in a centennial jubilee—unless the timelines collapse before then. Here, it is Evelyn, rather than Rose Tyler, who changes the Dalek’s point of view; she does so with her arguments rather than her DNA. (The television story, which had a much shorter runtime, can perhaps be forgiven for taking such a shortcut; even here, considerable groundwork went into establishing the a background for the Dalek in order to allow it to accept Evelyn’s words.) In the end, the fractured timelines cancel out, thus removing the entire Dalek invasion from existence, and allowing history to resume its course; but the shadows of the now-defunct timelines will be long.

Evelyn becomes a more sympathetic companion with every story in which she appears. Many companions take the path of challenging the Doctor and his views; but not many succeed. Evelyn does, and it doesn’t feel contrived at all. She does the seemingly impossible—converts a Dalek to a more humane point of view—but it doesn’t come across as improbable. Perhaps this is partly because she’s never overbearing about her successes; some companions have been known to spend the ending of the story exchanging barbs with the Doctor, “rubbing it in”, if you will, but Evelyn doesn’t do this (at least not here, anyway).

I was fascinated by the idea of two versions of the Sixth Doctor as portrayed here. We encounter an older version, a relic of the Dalek invasion of 1903, who has been imprisoned by the people he saved; when he repeatedly tried to escape, they cut off his legs and placed him in a wheelchair. (There’s some clever misdirection at first, leading one to expect that Davros is the prisoner in question; it’s obvious in hindsight, but caught me at first.) We’ve caught glimpses of displaced (and sometimes mad) future versions of the Doctor before—notably in The Big Bang, though that version isn’t mad (or at least not any more so than normally), The Ancestor Cell, and The Wrong Doctors. It’s a little more well-developed here than usual, and I would have liked to see the two Doctors meet. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

Continuity References: This story features Dalek transolar discs, an oft-used (but rarely onscreen) method of flight before it became integral to the design of the Daleks; this first appears in a rather obscure short story set called Doctor Who and the Daleks (not to be confused with any other story by that name), and then again in various prose, comic, and audio sources. The Doctor and Evelyn have previously visited the Tower of London, in 1555 (The Marian Conspiracy). The Sixth Doctor has previously seen a statue of himself, on Necros (Revelation of the Daleks); his fourth incarnation also saw such a monument, though in larger scale, in The Face of Evil. Alternate futures have presented as dreams in another Dalek story, The Time of the Daleks. Dalek and several Torchwood episodes feature pizza boxes from a “Jubilee Pizza”, a reference to this story; it appears again on a flyer in The Lodger. As a further homage to Jubilee, Robert Shearman, the writer of Dalek, borrowed the surnames of Jubilee actors Jane Goddard and Kai Simmons for characters in the episode. Some notable firsts: This is the first audio to use Dominic Glynn’s arrangement of the Doctor Who theme, and the first Dalek audio to not be part of the Dalek Empire arc (with the exception of the cameo appearance in Seasons of Fear).

Overall: It’s been a good day for morality tales in Doctor Who; this morning I posted a review of the Short Trip The Death-Dealer, which is a reflection on death. In turn, this story serves as a reflection on evil, and on the human ability to become what we hate. Much later, the revived television series would give us a glimpse of what that principle looks like when applied to the Time Lords (Oh, who can tell the difference anymore?! ~Cass, The Night of the Doctor). For now it’s enough to see it applied to humans. While Dalek asks “Can the Dalek be human?”, Jubilee asks “Should the humans be Daleks?” Or at least, should we be like them? The answer is, of course, now—but one gets the impression the matter is far from settled.

Next time: We’ll continue the Main Range next week (hopefully) with the Fifth Doctor, Peri, and Erimem in 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.

Jubilee

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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.

cover

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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Seasons of War Mini-Review 45: Seasons of War Short Film and The Director’s Tale

Concluding my series of mini-reviews on the short stories to be found in the charity War Doctor anthology, Seasons of War, edited by Declan May and published by Chinbeard Books.

Seasons of War cover

We’ll wrap up our coverage of the Seasons of War charity anthology with a look at the promotional short film that was released in January 2015. The film serves as a promotional trailer of sorts for the anthology. As such, it is less a coherent story of its own, and more a collection of scenes pertinent to the stories in the anthology (and one in particular, as we’ll see). Still, there is a narrative, though not a lengthy one, and we’ll follow it. Let’s get started!

The majority of the film takes place on Warisia, which was last mentioned in an early story, Corsair. It’s the site of the Battle of Infinite Regress, the repeating conflict which the Warrior and the Corsair set out in the Battered Bride TARDIS to stop, or else prevent. The events of this film happen in and around that battle, although it’s not immediately obvious; the main perspective is that of a Warisian girl, who wouldn’t be time-sensitive, and therefore wouldn’t be aware of the repetitions the way the Time Lords are. She provides a narrating voiceover, which I won’t reproduce exactly (as I’m going to provide a link to the film at the end), but will summarize as we go.

short film 1

An interesting oddity: This shot is clearly the inspiration for the anthology’s cover, seen above and on every post in this series.  However, the digital edition I’ve used–taken from the anthology’s facebook page–shows the sonic screwdriver instead of the telescope; but the print cover, which I haven’t reproduced here, shows the telescope.  Both digital and print are clearly the same picture in every other respect.

The young War Doctor strides up the beach toward a Warisian village, stopping only to use his Dalek-eyestalk telescope for reconnaissance. Our narrator tells us that he is the greatest of all warriors, and has been fighting forever. He is a renegade to his own, but a hero and a protector to the Warisians, as to so many others. She speaks of the never-ending War as her family binds their wounds and works in silence; the Corsair joins them, but brings no help as yet. At night, the narrator—still a child at this time—sets an intruder alarm in her beloved teddy bear before going to bed. Even at this age, she knows that for the Warrior to win, to defeat his enemies, will require terrible things of him. In the morning, he comes through her village as her people cheer; she stops him long enough to place a gift, a homemade bracelet, on his wrist. She is confident that he will never stop—but will always be alone.

We see a montage of scenes of the War—the TARDIS, a world-ending explosion, the Daleks, a sonic screwdriver.

The narrator explains how the War made the Warrior old, and stripped away so much from him. Later, the war at last moves on from her world, leaving peace in its wake, but a broken people. The narrator, now older and now become an accomplished young artist, sits at a table, sketching the man who led their liberation. At that moment, after so long, he returns. Now old and battle-weary, he is no longer the man he was; and his actions have made him ashamed. With empty eyes, he returns her long-ago gift.

She knows not to ask his name; instead, she asks what he once was, before the War. There’s horror in his answer:

“I was a kind of healer once…but no more. No More.”

The anthology returns to the film for its final entry, The Director’s Tale, by film director Andy Robinson. Several months prior to the release of the film, he was approached by Simon Brett, whose work—both literary and artistic—we have seen several times throughout the anthology. The initial request was for a thirty-second artistic piece to promote the book; the end result is seven times that length, at just over three minutes and thirty seconds. (I’m counting only the actual production there; the full running time is 5:38, but that includes two minutes of credits and promotional information.) It’s safe to say Andy Robinson may be a bit of an overachiever.

He defends his decision, though, in true fan fashion. Andy Robinson has wanted to direct an episode of Doctor Who for years; that chance may or may not ever come, but the desire has given him plenty of energy and passion to pour into projects like this. He attributes that desire to the same origin story so many fans have had over the years: hiding behind the sofa as a child when Doctor Who came on (he attributes his childhood fear not to the monsters, but to the theme music, to which I heartily say “me too!”—that music scared me to death as a child. Listen to it and pretend it’s for the first time, you’ll see what I mean; it’s quite creepy). As an adult, he, also like me, has come full circle, and now watches with his own child.

He describes his vision of the War Doctor here as a western, and it shows; he comes off in a very “lone gunslinger” way. It’s a characterization that would no doubt make the War Doctor himself sputter and shout, but it’s accurate; after all, what else is he? He’s the man who wanders into town, takes out the bad guys, and moves on, never telling those he saves about the burdens he himself carries. The television series may have spoofed the genre (I’m looking at you, A Town Called Mercy, which I have to say is quite good, spoof or not), but this film plays it straight—or as much so as a show about a time-travelling alien can do.

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For those who are fans of the Corsair, there is a brief appearance here; he doesn’t do anything, really—his actions are addressed a little more in his story in the anthology—but you at least get a view of what he looks like in this incarnation, complete with—if you’re quick—his snake tattoo (see above!). The character is played by Tom Hutchings. The War Doctor, meanwhile, is played by Tom Menary; the full-body shots we get of him are of the younger War Doctor, while the old War Doctor is only present from a point of view that won’t show his face, and is played in hand shots by Simon Tytherleigh. The tribute at the beginning of the book states that Sir John Hurt was approached about the entire project in advance; though he gave his blessing, he was not able to appear in the film, either visually or for voiceover work. The Narrator is played in her childhood appearances by Daisy Batchelor, and in her adult appearances by Becky Rich. The full credits can be seen at the end of the film; there is an abbreviated version included at the end of The Director’s Tale, but everything in it is also included in the film credits, so I won’t reproduce it here. It’s interesting to note that all of the major actors also served in production roles of various types.

And, as they say, that’s that! We’ve reached the end of the Seasons of War anthology. The series continues, however; look for Seasons of War: The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War in December 2017, followed by War Crimes: Dispatches & Testimonies from the Dark Side of the Time War; Seasons of War: Gallifrey; Seasons of War: Corsair; and Seasons of War: Regenerations, all in 2018. I’ll be putting this project on hiatus (and returning, albeit erratically, to my other review series) until December, when we’ll return for the next novel. See you then! Thanks for reading.

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You can view the Seasons of War short film here. (For those who have the book, unfortunately, the website listed at the end of The Director’s Tale is no longer a valid source for the video, but YouTube has you covered at the link above.)

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here. To follow the series as it develops, please consider following the Seasons of War Facebook page, here.

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New to Seasons of War? Want to catch up before The Horde of Travesties and History of the Time War launches in December? Click here for the first post in this series! You can follow the “Next links on each post to continue.