Davros, arguably one of the most iconic and recognisable characters in the history of Doctor Who, is also legendary for being one of the series’ least developed. As villains go, Davros is very much a ‘Palpatine’ kind of villain – as far as the TV show goes, he’s evil and that’s that, with no explanation or further extrapolation required. This is by no means a bad thing, in fact many of the best villains are the ones that are just inherently insane, but Big Finish had already had one spat at developing Davros’ character in the aptly named Main Range audio Davros, and in that story they presented a previously unseen angle to the character of Davros that left listeners wanting more. As such, Big Finish took a leap of faith and created the I,Davros series – a four-part prelude to Genesis of the Daleks, with each part showcasing an important moment in Davros’ life on Skaro, from his boyhood to the day he received his injuries.
The first audio in the series depicts Davros as a child, in a similar fashion to The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar from Series 9, although the circumstances are starkly different. Depicted as a self-entitled prodigy rather than a defenceless victim, this version of child Davros invokes little pity from the audience, as even in his youth it is clear that the Davros we all know is already beginning to emerge. However, the show is stolen by an unlikely candidate – the cunning Calcula, mother of Davros and perhaps the best addition to his backstory. Cold and ruthless, Calcula’s depiction in this audio makes it clear where Davros gets his sadistic or unfeeling tendencies. Some of the material depicted in this audio is fascinating, particularly as a fan of Genesis of the Daleks, as the Kaled history and culture is expanded upon as well as the history of the Thousand-Year war.
The second story in the series expands on Davros’ military career and his attempts to be transferred to the Kaled Scientific Corps. Now thirty years of age, Davros is as ruthless as ever but is held back by his commanding officers, something that frustrates him throughout the story and drives his desire for power and influence. His lack of conscience is also expanded upon, as even when confronted with physical reminders of his horrors he has committed, he remains as pitiless as ever. One of the most interesting recurring themes throughout this series is the fact that Davros was already Davros before he was injured, and the excuse that his raving megalomania is the result of feelings of impotence are swept aside as little more than a misconception. Ultimately, as hinted at in Davros, the horrors of war are what forged the mind of Davros – his scars were just a formality.
Arguably the pinnacle of the series, Corruption depicts Davros’ rise to power in the Scientific Elite and has the most links with the audio Davros, as many of the events that are shown in that story are repeated here, but expanded upon. The highlight of this story is the return of Shan, Davros’ potential lover and eventual rival who was essential in the early development of the Dalek theory. This story also shows arguably the most important event in Davros’ life before the creation of the Daleks – the Thal attack that left him scarred, and his initial reaction to his new form. It is here that Terry Molloy demonstrates his deep understanding of the character and, despite not taking over the role of Davros until a decade after Genesis of the Daleks, he shows that he is the definitive Davros as his excellent performance is the highlight of the series.
This audio deals with the immediate run-up to Genesis of the Daleks, and fully realises the intent of demonstrating how life on Skaro rapidly declined over the course of the series. Now little more than a bunker, the once proud Kaled race has covered their battered city in a vast dome, and the insane Davros experiments with mutating the infant population of his own race. Highlights of this story include the introduction of a young Nyder, the expansion of the Kaled political system that was seen in Genesis, and of course the final stages of the Dalek project being completed, setting the scene for the first encounter that Sarah Jane has with Davros in the Wastelands. With the prelude complete, Guilt does a fantastic job of bridging this series with the show and creates an atmosphere that is very reminiscent of the world we saw in Genesis of the Daleks.
All things considered, I,Davros is an excellent depiction of the backstory of one of Doctor Who’s most iconic villains and not only does an excellent job of tying in both Davros and Genesis of the Daleks but also tells four gripping stories in its own right, many of the plot details of which have been omitted from this review as it is definitely something that is best experienced rather than simply retold. Though there are some issues with the series, such as a largely unnecessary framing device of Davros standing trial on Skaro, and the idea of him retelling his story to the Daleks making little sense as they would hardly be interested in the first place, overall this is a minor drawback that has little impact on the series as a whole. I, Davros is well worth a listen and as it is available as a bundle from the Big Finish website for just £14.79, it is one of the easiest Big Finish collections to pick up for those who are unsure of where to start with the Doctor Who audios.