- Doctor Who has redesigned Davros, the creator of the Daleks, in order to move away from outdated cultural stereotypes and avoid playing into the harmful trope of a wheelchair-using villain.
- The new design reflects a more progressive and inclusive approach, considering that many of the community projects supported by Children in Need are aimed at young disabled individuals.
- The change in Davros’s appearance is intended to be permanent and aligns with Doctor Who’s commitment to making progressive changes while staying true to the character’s complexity and depth.
After 48 years, Doctor Who has redesigned the Daleks’ creator, Davros, and with good reason. Davros (Julian Bleach) returned to Doctor Who as part of the BBC’s annual charity telethon Children in Need in an irreverent sketch in which the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) played a minor role in the genesis of the Daleks. Crash landing the TARDIS in Davros’ workshop, the Doctor accidentally gives some pointers to Kaled scientist and apparent marketing guru, Mr. Castavillian (Mawaan Rizwan) on Dalek design and branding. He also replaces the unwieldy looking prototype claw arm with the more familiar plunger, much to Davros’ apparent delight.
Interestingly, Doctor Who‘s Davros is redesigned for the Children in Need sketch, and no longer uses the Dalek wheelchair for which he became infamous. While at first glance it appears that this is because the “Destination: Skaro” skit is set prior to the Kaled scientist’s fateful accident, that’s not the real reason for the new appearance. In an interview with the behind-the-scenes aftershow Doctor Who Unleashed, showrunner Russell T Davies explains his reasoning for why Davros has had an overhaul for the 2020s.
Why Doctor Who Has Redesigned Davros
Discussing the new-look Davros, Russell T Davies tells Doctor Who Unleashed that it was a conscious decision to move away from some outdated cultural stereotypes. Discussing the Dalek creator’s problematic legacy, RTD reflected on his discomfort about continuing to play into the trope of the “wheelchair-using, disabled, disfigured monster.” Of course, the appeal of the original 1970s Davros design was the iconic image of a half-man, half-Dalek which became as instantly recognizable as his creations. Unintentional though it was, the image of a scarred and hateful scientist and his Dalek wheelchair does play into this outdated and harmful trope.
It’s also worth pointing out that many of the community projects that Children in Need supports are initiatives for young disabled people. With that in mind, the telethon was the ideal platform on which to reverse the ableist trope of the wheelchair using villain. Key to making the redesign work was the casting of Julian Bleach, who first played Davros opposite the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in Doctor Who season 4. It’s a testament to his abilities as an actor that Bleach retains the malice and creepiness of the Dalek creator in such an irreverent and comic sketch that also has a positive and progressive impact.
How Doctor Who Has Explained The New Davros (In Canon)
There are two ways to look at how Doctor Who has explained the new Davros, canonically. The first is that the sketch takes place prior to the Tom Baker serial “Genesis of the Daleks” in which the Dalek creator was first introduced. This could explain why Davros doesn’t look the way he does in previous Doctor Who appearances, because the accident that paralyzed him and left him scarred hasn’t happened yet. However, that would suggest that this is a temporary change to the design of Davros, something that RTD is adamant is not the case.
Therefore, the key to explaining the new Davros in Doctor Who canon is in the Fourteenth Doctor’s revelation that “The timelines and the canon are rupturing.” This could be a tease for how the Doctor and Donna are able to reunite for the 60th anniversary specials without her head exploding. The rupturing canon could also explain the tease of unlimited adventures for Past Doctors in Tales of the TARDIS. It also easily explains how Davros looks different in “Destination: Skaro”. The accident hasn’t happened in this new ruptured timeline, meaning that the change is permanent.
This Isn’t Just A Change For Children In Need
Russell T Davies categorically states that this is “how Davros looks now“, asserting that the change to the appearance of the Dalek creator is permanent. While it will be a controversial change for hardline Doctor Who fans, it’s hard to argue with the justification for the redesign. It’s Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary year, and so there’s no better time to look at how progressive changes can be made to characters like Davros while staying true to what makes them so memorable.
The Dalek creator was brought to life by actors like Michael Wisher, Terry Molloy, and Julian Bleach who each brought something new to Davros. He was always more than just a scarred man who used a Dalek wheelchair, Davros was a brilliant scientist, an embittered eugenicist, and he was hell-bent on preserving the racial purity of the Kaleds. In the deeply troubled times of the 2020s, the image of a visibly humanoid Davros spouting the same hateful rhetoric could have even more of an impact on Doctor Who‘s next 60 years.
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