In the run-up to the 25th November and the first of the Doctor Who anniversary specials, the BBC‘s annual telethon Children in Need showed an exclusive scene featuring the incoming 14th Doctor (looking a lot like the 10th Doctor – David Tennant – but with glimpses of the 13th incarnation’s interior and console). The images released ahead of the screening on Friday 17th did reveal some interesting factors ahead of transmission. It lasted barely five minutes but it managed to encapsulate a variety of the rumoured factors that fans had discussed… having an element of fun but also playing in to the show’s rich history.
The early images showed Mawaan Rizwan wearing the uniform and insignia that older Who fans immediately recognised as belonging to the military during the early days on Skaro, the Dalek/Kaled homeworld. For the special scene we actually open on a still unscarred Davros (played by Julian Bleach once more, but without the need for prosthetics) salivating over his Mark III Travel Machine creation and marveling at its possibilities with subordinate Casavillian (Rizwan). But the moment that Davros disappears on an errand, the universe has other plans – the Tardis, with the newly minted 14th Doctor, crash lands and accidentally tears off the multi-dexterous claw that the prototype has. While Castavillian has been musing at what the less-technical name for this new creation could be – perhaps an anagram of the Kaled race, such as Lekad, Adlek, Klade?), it’s ironically the Doctor whose utterance of the word ‘Dalek’ when he sees the metal-cased monster, creates a narrative ouroboros that will come back to haunt him. Before he can do more damage in the time-stream, he departs but not before throwing in a plunger in place of the missing armament… and the rest is, well… will be, history.
It’s a funny scene, but with some darker overtones and even a script-referenced nod to the classic Genesis of the Daleks episode from the Tom Baker era – something to please all for an anniversary… at least for another week. The subsequent anniversary specials The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle will follow on consecutive Saturdays (25th Novemeber, 2nd December and 9th December – starting around the 6:30pm mark and all runnign around an hour each) on the BBC with plans to stream the episodes worldwide through Disney+.
However, I’m more than a bit troubled by the accompanying “Unleashed’ documentary where RTD says “Davros was a wheelchair user who is evil and I had a problem with that and associating disability with evil” as a reason that *should* Davros be featured again, he’ll be this pre-accident version because it’s less offensive.
I think, frankly, that’s utter nonsense and makes as much rationale as saying the Master must never have a beard again because people might associate beards with bad guys (Hello, Mirror Universe). Equally, in this day and age, there are also plenty of positive role models too and in mainstream shows.
Having a pre-accident Davros is undeniably dramatically interesting on a narrative level, and proves that he was nasty piece of work before the wheelchair which makes a valuable point… but making this a wholesale change does nothing for improving the perception of disabled people because disabled people can be fun, great, heroes AND they can also be jerks, stupid and villains just like any able-bodied person can be – and THAT’s the point of equality. You don’t take Davros out of the wheelchair for that reason… you start to include people who have disabilities as heroes for that reason.
Otherwise, good intentions aside, you’re not actually being helpful, you’re being patronising.