Released January 2012
Just as the Sixth Doctor, Mel, and Peri have been the beneficiaries of strong characterization from Big Finish that has greatly benefitted their characters, the same can be said about Davros and Terry Molloy. Michael Wisher, of course, provided a sinister performance for Davros in his debut story ‘The Genesis of the Daleks,’ and that, along with the increasing difficulty of including Davros effectively in each televised Dalek story from then on, put the character as played by Terry Molloy in somewhat of a challenging position. However, Davros’s appearances in differing Big Finish ranges has completely rejuvenated and intensified the character, and Terry Molloy has proven time and time again that he belongs in the top tier of Doctor Who villains.
Accordingly, the prospect of reuniting the Sixth Doctor and Davros is now a great cause of excited anticipation. ‘The Curse of Davros,’ though, is also notable for bringing Lisa Greenwood’s Phillipa ‘Flip’ Jackson, a guest character from 2011’s Sixth Doctor trilogy opener, aboard the TARDIS as a new companion. Flip is still pretty much a blank slate at the beginning of this tale, but writer Jonathan Morris quickly showcases her rather facetious nature. This characteristic has been present to some extent in modern companions, and there certainly is room for it to evolve into something more nuanced for Flip, but it seems oddly out of place given how dismal and truly deadly her surroundings are here. It’s also quite disconcerting to see just how easily she gets over the destruction of her home and possessions and the death toll mounting around her, occasionally saying how affected she is but quickly returning to jokes and levity. With Flip comes her unappreciated boyfriend, Jared, and he fortunately offers a much more realistic and sensible take on everything going on around them.
As for the story itself, the Doctor, Flip, and Jared quickly end up on the eve of Waterloo where the Daleks are planning on helping Napoleon emerge victorious. It is quite odd to hear Davros so incessantly proclaim Napoleon to be a master strategist who could help the Daleks immensely given his innate hatred of anything non-Dalek, but it does ultimately lead to the very satisfying result of Napoleon purposefully losing the battle in order to save France after realizing that he Daleks have been using him from the start. Even then, it seems almost impossible that none of the hundreds of soldiers involved would ever mention the monstrous sights and laser weaponry employed during the fighting, and quite what happens to the remaining Dalek weaponry on Earth at the story’s end is never addressed.
This, then, leaves the dynamic between the Doctor and Davros to carry the story, and because of Flip not truly knowing the Doctor and his personality, this works to great effect thanks to a very engaging plot twist. Although the story perhaps reveals too early on that he Daleks can implant their minds into humans’, the slowly accumulating evidence that the Doctor is, in fact, Davros is inserted perfectly. Even though the concept of swapping minds is a cliché in and of itself, Doctor Who has never really formally tread into that territory, and Baker and Molloy step up admirably as their intrinsic familiarity with each other and the characters shines while both try to survive in the wrong situation. This also serves to heighten the sympathy felt for Davros when he refuses to go back into his decrepit body, the Doctor stating earlier in the story that he would have killed himself long ago had he been condemned to Davros’s way of living permanently. Of course, the resolution with the Doctor and Flip bring able to trick the Daleks into not knowing who is who is achieved spectacularly as well, capping off the strongest element of this story on a very strong note.
‘The Curse of Davros’ lives up to and explains its title while continuing the marvellous work Big Finish has done with the character even if his plan here is somewhat foolish and overcomplicated. However, the introduction of Flip as a new companion doesn’t work quite as well, leaving substantial room for more impact in future stories, and the dangling plot threads of the Daleks’ involvement in Waterloo remain precariously unanswered, creating an overall uneven and unbalanced story that is fortunately anchored around two incredibly charismatic foes.