What’s it about: 'I find it fascinating that a living creature would subject itself to such dangerous experimentation. Knowing that it would die...' The Kaled and Thal races are at war. No one really remembers why, or when it started, but generations of people on both sides have lost so very much. Born into an influential family is Davros. Now aged sixteen, he is being pulled in various directions his father wants him to follow tradition and go into the military. His sister has joined the Military Youth and his scheming, devoted mother wants him to pursue a life of science. But no one seems terribly interested in what Davros himself wants. So he must begin to assert himself, begin to take control over his own life, begin to work towards his destiny.
Scarred Scientist: Daleks holding a trial – how low they have sunk without him. Wow, I never thought that any series would be brave enough to humanise Davros to this extent, to take us right back to his childhood and reveal his slow and inevitable descent into madness. This first episode suggests that had the events of his life been different, if he was brought up on a planet at war that he could have been an incredibly successful scientist and known for genuinely benevolent innovations to science. Is Davros a product of his society? A young Davros tells his sister that there is more to life than Kaleds and Thals, life is life whatever shape it takes and he is fascinated by its various forms. He’s fascinated by evolution and natural selection. We get to meet Davros’ mother and sister, the former affording her son the most expensive education that money can buy and the latter jealous of her younger brothers favouritism. You can see precisely how Davros ended up as a scientist working for the military, his father is a war veteran and his mother is a scientist and they are both trying to pull him in their chosen career directions. How creepy is it when Davros first hears that Magrantine experiments on living organisms, you can almost hear the hunger in his voice, the fascination that will grow until he is deliberately mutating humanoids one day to encase in his Dalek machines. Is he ready to make sacrifices for scientific truth? Davros throwing himself into his studies rather than grieving for his father shows a growing reliance on science over emotion. Chilling that Davros suggests that they place the near dead into the energy chamber and mutate them, to see how the radiation affects the Kaled metabolism. He finds anatomical surgery exciting and this way the sick of their world can help the cause and nothing is wasted. His sister calls him a cold, heartless disgusting monster when he asks for the body of the man she loved but was forced to watch be executed to be experimented on. Only his mother believed in him, everybody else feared him and they were right to do so.
Standout Performance: Carolyn Jones (out and out the best thing about Gary Hopkins’ The Last) and Richard Franklin make an instantly impressive pair as Lady Calcula and Colonel Nasgard, Davros’ estranged parents. Her throaty passion for science and his stalwart determination for warfare sees the birth of a patriotic scientist in Davros. Rory Jennings who made such an impression in The Idiot’s Lantern plays the young Davros with just the right mixture of youthful enthusiasm and growing detachment and alienation.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘War does terrible things to good people.’
‘Nothing dies of old age on Skaro.’
‘That isn’t a communicator…’
‘A scientist must keep his emotions and his work separate from each other. Most of the great discoveries throughout history were made through pain and suffering. Nothing matters more than the truth.’
‘Mutation. Evolution by another name.’
‘There’s work to be done…’
‘Even if there isn’t a spy it is necessary to invent one…’
Great Ideas: The Daleks need Davros again because their wars are being defeated. When he first created them they were a powerful force to be reckoned with but now they skulk in the shadows too terrified to venture out and conquer. The war between the Kaleds and the Thals has been going nowhere for hundreds of years, they have reached a deadlock and nobody has a clear advantage. Colonel Nasgard’s wish to be put down as a soldier rather than returning to his family infirmed is a good indication of the importance the people of Skaro place on image. Poor Yarvel is treated like a second-class citizen by her own mother, told that the extra classes she has arranged for Davros would be wasted on her. The moons are visible in the city through a chemical haze but the Elite are afforded a clear view of the sky. The poisons of the wasteland are coming closer, the lakes will soon be polluted, the skies poisoned with toxic gasses – the Elite live in a bubble of fresh air and clean water but they cannot keep the war away forever. In a painfully inevitable scene Nasgard is told by his sister (who is a nurse) that the poisons had already eaten at his body by the time that Davros was conceived. He was sterile and could not have been his father. Magrantine wanted revenge on Nasgard for murdering his son in combat so he set the explosive that killed him and planned upon getting close to Davros and murdering him too.
Audio Landscape: Love the Dalek heartbeat, the blasted wind on Skaro, the crowded chatter of politicians, birds singing, the bubbling waters of the lake, a explosion tearing through Nasgard’s home, the doors sound just like the ones from Genesis, siren, rubble falling, creaking buildings and dust falling, Magrantine as a mutated creature, explosions rocking the Kaled city.
Isn’t it Odd: The cover for this story states proudly ‘Starring Terry Molloy’ which I think is rather unfair to Rory Jennings who plays the starring role in this first instalment.
Standout Scene: Calcula is such a fabulous Shakespearean villainess. As soon as the explosion tore through the Nasgard household, killing her husband who has returned from the war alive and forcing them to move away from the lake – two things she desperately wanted – I honestly thought I could see her grubby fingertips all over the attack. Her barely convincing heartbreak at her husband’s death is delicious. When it was revealed that she had nothing to do with it I was surprised but in a way even more appalled – she used his death to her advantage in every possible way whilst clearly not giving a shit. ‘I wouldn’t want people to think I had gotten used to the idea of widowhood so…enthusiastically.’ The series plays its hand quite early having Davros lock Magrantine in the radiation chamber when he cannot get any more specimens for study but it is a fantastic scene. He quietly tells his mentor that the people will understand that he has committed suicide over the death of his son.
Notes: I remember when I first watched Revenge of the Sith and whilst I am not the biggest Star Wars fan there was a wonderful sense of coming full circle as all the plot points that had been laboriously handled over the glossy new films suddenly dovetailed with the original trilogy beautifully. There was a sense of satisfaction and reward in seeing the two form cohesion. Like the original trilogy we know where the I, Davros series is going to end up – we have seen the blasted, radioactive Skaro in genesis of the Daleks and the scarred scientist who greedily eats up the planets resources to create his disgusting war machines. My point is I had that exact same sense of excitement as I did with Revenge of the Sith, that the tale was narrative up with the Skaro we know and that we would finally get some answers as to hoe Davros wound up quite as deranged as he did. The bonus this story has other Sith is that the actual events are pretty damn gripping too! I had goosebumps when there was talk of building a protective dome for the city if there should be a nuclear strike… How funny with all this talk of Star Wars that a character says ‘I am your father!’
Result: I really wasn’t sure how this series could work but it does so beautifully and I have never been happier to be proven wrong. Gary Russell has assembled an exceptionally strong cast to bring this gripping wartime drama to life and judging by the potency of Gary Hopkins’ opening script the very best of Big Finish’s writers too. I was very impressed that Hopkins managed to set the scene and tone of the running storyline, introduce a large number of interesting characters, seed plot points that will become vital in later instalments and tell an individual story all within its one hour running time. Innocence sees Davros fall into the arms of a scientist who introduces him to twisted views that would lead to the creation of the Daleks and it is with a great sense of foreboding that before the end of this story the pupil has already outgrown (and murdered) the master. This is an unfolding tragedy and all the pieces have been put in place, I can’t wait to see where we go from here: 9/10