I’ve already (sort of) reviewed The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar with my mate Simon, but I felt the urge to talk more about Davros in this story. So, here goes:
Davros has been in Doctor Who many times since his first appearance in Genesis of the Daleks way back in 1975, where he was played by Michael Wisher. As the paranoid, disabled, decrepit “creator of the Dalek race” he acted as a more interesting addition to Dalek stories. Most stories featuring the Doctor’s greatest enemies were mainly made up of the Daleks shouting “EXTERMINATE!” a lot in cockney accents while they took over very flat and very smooth planets. Then the Doctor would stop them. The end. Davros was able to chat. He was able to be emotionally erratic. He was able to do those long, winding, poetic speeches about the perceived importance of purity and what not.
I love Davros. I think it’s he, not the Master, that is the Doctor’s Arch Enemy. He provides a reasoned argument for the Daleks existing, beyond “to kill everything else”. He’s wonderful when done right. However he’s fucking awful when done wrong. Most stories featuring Davros tend to hide him behind his Daleks but this is, in my opinion, not how to do justice to the character.
The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar (and, to a degree, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End) put Davros slap bang in the middle of the action. They are DAVROS stories, not DALEK stories. And I love them. And you know why? Because Julian Bleach is the best Davros we’ve ever had.
Bleach brings a nuance to the character that was missing before. Pure evil on the surface, sure. But underneath all that a megalomania fuelled by an absolute and unshakable belief that things he’s doing are essential and just. This is in part down to the writing talents of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat, but it’s Julian Bleach’s portrayal that sells the character to me in a way that fits with this new, emotive incarnation of the show.
Take Davros’ exchange with the Doctor – during a plot to trick him into a compassionate gifting of regeneration energy – in The Witch’s Familiar, where the Doctor and Davros chuckle together. Two old, dying men (or so they both think) – mortal enemies – looking back over their shared blood-soaked past. A beautifully played scene that turned the expected on its head. Davros’ happiness at the Doctor having found his people again – although it’s all a lie – makes Davros a relatable figure; manipulative, clever, almost human. No longer the half-man-half-Dalek pantomime figure of old, but a living, breathing, thinking, feeling monster of a man.
I love him. Davros. He’s definitely my favourite Doctor Who baddie. And this Davros? Wow. I want more and more and more of him. Bleach and Capaldi playing off each other, Davros and the Doctor dancing around the truths neither of them are prepared to reveal. The last, unbastardised, uncompromised members of their peoples. Joy.