Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Doctor Who: The Curse of Davros (2012) - AudioReview

Release date: January 2012
Writer: Jonathan Morris. Director: Nicholas Briggs

Escaping The Daleks...

The return of the Daleks is always a welcome one. And if that story happens to include a certain Kaled scientist, then much the better. In The Curse of Davros we are reunited with Philippa "Flip" Jackson (Lisa Greenwood) and her boyfriend Jared Ramon, who we last encountered in The Crimes of Thomas Brewster (2011). This time, however, the Doctor is alone and in danger. He is wanted by the Daleks. As the plot progresses we learn that his enemy can swap minds with Humans, literally taking over their physical bodies, using mind swapping technology created by Davros. The use of this weapon is obvious enough, allowing Daleks to move freely on Earth.

When Flip and Jared witness a spacecraft crashing in London, they go to investigate. The incident hasn't gone unnoticed and so it isn't long before the area is swarming with military and police officers. What DOES go unnoticed is the escape capsule that ejected from the main ship and landed nearby. From within, the Sixth Doctor emerges...

It has to be said that the casting is first rate in this one, and Big Finish delivers more often than not with their catalogue of audio adventures featuring EVERY Doctor they are fortunate to direct. It has also been an opportunity for BF to create an extension to what came before, building not just on the original television series that Colin Baker contributed to from 1984-86 but to add extra mythology surrounding the character. In the world of audio, the Sixth Doctor has met new companions such as Evelyn Smythe and Charlotte Pollard. They have been positive role models, feisty and curious, determined and loyal. These qualities can also be found in Flip. From the start she is unstoppable, a modern girl with a no nonsense approach, although she certainly has a heart.

One of the things that we do get to see in The Curse of Davros is that the Doctor - our Doctor - isn't quite himself. This gives Baker a nice juicy opportunity to step into someone else's shoes for a while, and it delivers nicely. When Jared is mind-swapped with a Dalek, the Time Lord and Flip go on the run. As usual, we see just how ruthless his deadly foes are when they threaten to exterminate a group of innocent people unless the Doctor surrenders. They clearly keep their word, as they did in Destiny of the Daleks (1979) when similarly they began systematically killing slaves until the Fourth Doctor gave in. This is what they know, and the price of a life means nothing except its usefulness as a weapon.

Meddling in history...

One moment we are on modern day Earth, the next we're witnessing the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This is such a fantastic contrast, bringing new dynamics to the development of the play. Davros plans on using his mind-swapping tech to change Human history and aid Napoleon Bonaparte in defeating the British and Prussian armies. It would be catastrophic! Just think how the lyrics in a certain pop song from 1974 would differ, no more "At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender". But far more than that, such meddling would change the course of Human history.

Those familiar with BBC Books will recall a previous Doctor Who adventure set at the Battle of Waterloo. World Game, written by Terrance Dicks and published in 2005, featured the Second Doctor in a plot involving the Celestial Intervention Agency, Lady Serena, and Players (immortal beings who liked to tamper with history).

Holmes Vs Moriarty

Ever since he first appeared on our screens in 1975, Davros has become Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes. With only a single televised story between them, Revelation of the Daleks (1985), it was always welcome when Big Finish decided to bring the two together again in audio. 2003's "Davros" is a particular favourite of mine. Out of all the Doctor's, Baker's incarnation feels the best fit to Terry Molloy's mad scientist. It is also fitting that this particular Doctor finally understands and shows empathy for his enemy, though that in itself doesn't stop the Gallifreyan from defeating him. We've always known that Davros' life is one of pain and suffering, though it is these that have kept him focused and hateful. Has he always been evil, or just ruthlessly efficient and practical? For that answer we have to look no further than "I, Davros", the four-part story also from Big Finish.

The adventure continues...

Given the opportunity to return home with boyfriend Jared, Flip instead decides to travel with the Doctor. This is very reminiscent of Rose Tyler's own reaction to embracing the chance of adventure through time and space. It also helps that Flip is very likeable, thanks to both the writing of the character and Greenwood's solid performance.

"Shall I compare thee to a summers day?"

How does this story compare to previous Dalek adventures? Well, it's an interesting mix, that's for sure. Over the years we've been treated to so many Dalek plots that it could easily become monotonous. The Curse of Davros, however, manages to keep a few surprises and delivers in the right areas. This is actually less about Daleks and more to do with rivalry between two old enemies: imagine if Davros could live again, without pain and mental torment... Imagine if the Doctor could spend the rest of his days trapped in a different kind of prison... It is a frightening concept indeed.

Looking on the Big Finish website I notice that they had the working title Waterloo of the Daleks, I'm so glad they changed it. Mention must also go to cover artist Simon Holub, who's work also includes favourites of mine such as "Doctor Who - The Companion Chronicles: Here There Be Monsters" and "Doctor Who - Robophobia". The use of blues in his The Curse of Davros looks stunning. I've just found some up and coming titles featuring his cover art and "Doctor Who: Interstitial / Feast of Fear" is particularly amazing!

I absolutely recommend The Curse of Davros, it is certainly an enjoyable ride through history. And you get to spend more time with Flip Jackson.