Major Doctor Who villain Davros’ modern redesign is confirmed, as showrunner Russell T Davies addresses why the creator of the Daleks has received a design update for the next era of the show. The villain made his debut in the 1975 Fourth Doctor adventure “Genesis of the Daleks” portrayed by Michael Wisher, where he is established as the Kaled scientist behind the creatures that would ultimately become the Doctor’s greatest foes. Davros would be a reoccurring foe across the classic era as David Gooderson and Terry Malloy would take on the role, while Julian Bleach has portrayed the character through the show’s revival seasons.
While Doctor Who‘s Children in Need short “Destination: Skaro” saw the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) stumble into a paradox involving the Dalek’s creation, audiences were also introduced to Bleach’s portrayal of a younger, pre-injured Davros. Davies revealed during the new episode of Doctor Who: Unleashed (Later highlighted by Radio Free Skaro on Twitter) that the decision to move away from his original appearance was an intentional decision to step away from stereotypes associating disabilities with villainy.
The full episode of Doctor Who: Unleashed is available on iPlayer, but we thought it was important to share Russell T Davies’ comments on accessibility and the portrayal of Davros. #DoctorWho pic.twitter.com/vwL1Tdglry
— Radio Free Skaro (@RadioFreeSkaro) November 17, 2023
The showrunner would then emphasize that this would be how Davros is seen now going forth, rather than relying on the post-attack appearance of the character.
We had long conversations about bringing Davros back because he’s a fantastic character. Time and society and culture and taste has moved on, and there’s a problem with the Davros of old in that he’s a wheelchair user who is evil. And I had problems with that, and a lot of us on the production team had problems with that, of associating disability with evil, and trust me, there’s a very long tradition of this. I’m not blaming people in the past at all, but the world changes and when the world changes, Doctor Who has to change as well.
So we made the choice to bring back Davros without the facial scarring, and without the wheelchair, or his support unit, which functions as a wheelchair. I say this is how we see Davros now. This is what he looks like. This is 2023. This is our lens. This is our eye. Things used to be black and white, they’re not in black and white anymore. And Davros used to look like that, and he looks like this now, and that we are absolutely standing by.
I think, because it’s Children in Need night. It’s a night where issues of disability, or otherness, or being excluded from society come right to the front of the conversation. So of all the nights to make this change, I thought it was absolutely vital to do this, and I’m very, very, very proud of the fact that we have.
Davros’ New Design Is Both A Considerate Update & Tribute To His Origins
Within the Doctor Who universe, Davros was left scarred and reliant on his travel machine following a Thal shelling attack on his laboratory on Skaro long before audiences would first meet him in “Genesis of the Daleks”, with the character’s design never straying too far from the concept across his following appearances. Due to this, Davros’ later appearance has never been able to disassociate from the disabled villain tropes seen in older pieces of media, even as discussions surrounding these decisions have become more commonplace. However, through “Destination: Skaro”, Davies has given the character a design that respects past continuity while laying the groundwork for permanent change.
While the light-hearted charity short offers a humorous explanation for the Daleks’ plunger manipulator arm, the Doctor’s comments on “timelines rupturing” suggest his intervention could have larger ramifications, perhaps allowing this younger Davros to subvert his fate or appear from this specific point in time. The younger Davros’ speech also firmly ensures that his twisted motivations of Dalek purity and supremacy remain the same, even without his design tying closely to his creations. Furthermore, Davros now donning the Kaled uniform first seen in “Genesis of the Daleks” still enshrines his celebrated introductory stories’ place in Doctor Who history.
Though Davros receiving a major redesign during a Doctor Who Children in Need short may take viewers by surprise, Davies’ explanations are understandable and respectable. Davies has set out to ensure everyone can see themselves in Doctor Who’s adventures across space and time, and his effort to update Davros shows that he is determined to address past shortsighted mistakes and listen to criticisms. While his classic, Dalek-casing-inspired design may be retired, Davies’ writing and Bleach’s performance ensures that Davros remains faithful to his hateful, maniacal character.
“Genesis of the Daleks” and other battles with Davros throughout the classic era can be seen on BritBox, while Julian Bleach’s past performances across Doctor Who‘s revival can be streamed on Max.