Doctor Who

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 030 4, BFPDWCD6WA
Available now

Share values for the interstellar corporation TAI have shot up by over 15 per cent following the news that Davros, controversial creator the Daleks, has been hired to work on unspecified technological projects. Has the scientist turned over a new leaf? The Doctor, who joins him on the projects, certainly doesn't think so...

This is the second Colin Baker story this year to treat a Kaled with a degree of sympathy. The last one was Jubilee, in which we were made to feel a teensy bit sorry for a Dalek held captive in the Tower of London. Now Davros turns the spotlight on - yes, you guessed it - Davros.

I remember a Doctor Who Magazine reviewer back in the mid-1980s, around the time of Resurrection of the Daleks or Revelation of the Daleks, commenting that a story featuring Davros without his Dalek creations could prove quite interesting. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the reviewer in question, but it may well have been Gary Russell, now co-producer of Big Finish Productions. Which may explain why writer Lance Parkin was asked to provide a Dalek-free Davros story, which Russell also directs.

And what a good idea it was. Freed from the internal politics that blighted Destiny of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks, Davros's guile and amorality really get a chance to make an impact on the audience. Parkin also gets right into the head of this popular character. Building upon the flashback sequence in Ben Aaronovitch's novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks, in which the recently crippled Davros is offered the choice of ending his own life, the writer delves deeper into the scientist's past to examine what made him the man he is.

Terry Molloy's performance as Davros in Resurrection was overtly hysterical, but since then the actor, who reprises the role yet again here, has matured to become the equal of the late, great Michael Wisher. This is evidenced in a number of scenes which echo lines or whole sections of dialogue from Genesis of the Daleks (this is not mere plagiarism on Parkin's part, but works to dramatic effect).

Colin Baker is a good Doctor to cast alongside the evil genius. He is capable of equally extreme ranges of performance, from reasoned debate to irate ranting.

Continuing Big Finish's recent trend for casting guest stars who are already more than familiar to Doctor Who fans, this story features Bernard Horsfall, who appeared in several of the David Maloney-directed television serials, including The Deadly Assassin. Here he plays a far from trustworthy business leader called Arnold Baynes. Wendy Padbury, alias '60s companion Zoe, plays his wife Lorraine, a historian who is fascinated by both Davros and his Dalek creations. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the name Lorraine Baynes without thinking of Marty McFly's mother in the Back to the Future films!

Parkin's tale sits very neatly in between Resurrection and Revelation of the Daleks (for both the Doctor and Davros), sowing the seeds of events that will transpire in the latter story. Things get a little too contrived towards the end, though, as Parkin makes conspicuous efforts not to contradict a particular line of dialogue in Revelation.

Make no mistake, this is not a whiz-bang adventure, but it is an intensely thoughtful character study.

Richard McGinlay