It’s Doctor Who‘s 60th Anniversary year. Big Finish Productions have been releasing the Once and Future range to celebrate. So far, each release has had a unique combination of characters. It’s accomplished by having the Doctor degenerate through previous incarnations while travelling alone to a fresh setting each episode. So far, each release in the ongoing series has felt like a massive celebration of all things Doctor Who. This is something that has certainly worked in the series’ favour. The third story, “Once and Future: A Genius for War“, is set to come out in July.
This chapter looks to be taking place during the Time War, starring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Terry Molloy as Davros. Unlike previous casts in this range, these characters have a big history together. When considering some previous Big Finish stories, this story is probably a bit more complicated than it first appears. This is a piece explaining the history between these two characters. It will prepare you for some things that will almost certainly be mentioned in the upcoming audio drama.
Remembrance of the Daleks
As an episode produced for the 25th anniversary, this one’s already full of references to the show’s past. It was even set at Coal Hill in 1963! If this isn’t on your anniversary shortlist, it should be. Davros is sadly only in it for about 5 minutes, though. There’s an unseen Dalek Battle Computer voiced by John Leeson (yes, that John Leeson, the voice of K-9!) making a Molloy impression, but that’s not Davros. It makes his appearance in the finale all the more impactful when it feels like the whole story’s been building to it.
The borderline machiavellian Seventh Doctor has the whole thing plotted out from the beginning. There are some beautiful scenes early on where he considers the morality of his actions. He taunts Davros and tricks him into destroying Skaro. I’m a big fan of this Doctor when he’s a chess master. His speech when he bids farewell to Davros, for what he assumes to be the last time, is among his greatest moments onscreen. Ultimately, he’s not even sure if he did the right thing. It makes for harrowing viewing.
Although predictably, Davros escapes. Despite this, the story does feel like it offers some finality to the Daleks for the classic series. It’s a very dark, harrowing scene. Although it ended up being their final appearance due to the series cancellation, the fact this wasn’t even planned to be the final ever Dalek story is astounding. It also started the trend of constantly destroying planets like Skaro and Gallifrey. That element, in particular, led this story to be retconned into being a part of the origins of the Time War.
Daleks Among Us
This was a Big Finish story produced for The Monthly Adventures. It was the 177th release, to be precise. It starred Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, Tracey Childs as Elizabeth Klein, Christian Edwards as Will Arrowsmith, and Terry Molloy as Davros. It’s the conclusion of a trilogy of audio dramas, which was also a sequel to something else. So sadly, for the uninitiated, this isn’t an accessible listen. So much of Big Finish’s output is entrenched in arcs, so this is worth noting. I recommend at least listening to “Persuasion” and “Starlight Robbery” first.
In many ways, it’s a follow-up to the Remembrance of the Daleks events. It explains what happened to Davros’ escape pod at the end of the story. He lands on the planet Azimuth, which Daleks soon take over. However, before long, Davros is no longer in charge of them and becomes a prisoner of the Daleks. The way he’s vying for power makes this an intriguing listen, showing a side to Davros we don’t see too much. Though their interactions are brief, hearing the Seventh Doctor and Davros together again is the best.
The back half of this four-part story is so full of twists, clones, time travel, and arc stuff that it warrants being listened to. It’s a good story, with elements of historical revisionism and re-education camps making the “Daleks are Nazis” thing far from subtle. That’s not even counting the actual Nazi characters, either. If you need a good Seventh Doctor and Dalek story to get you in the mood for the next chapter of Once & Future, I can recommend nothing more.
A Davros, But Probably Not the One You’re Expecting
The end of “Daleks Among Us” would be the last time the Seventh Doctor crossed paths with Davros. But just like how Once & Future doesn’t star the Seventh Doctor, it won’t feature the actual Davros. While it’s undoubtedly Davros, who’ll be as much of a genocidal megalomaniac as always, it’s not one from this timeline. The biggest tipoff is the reference to the planet Falkus in the plot synopsis. Let me explain before you write me off as crazy.
We saw in “The Stolen Earth” that Davros perished early on in the Time War, throwing himself into the Nightmare Child. Although he was saved by Dalek Caan, he was absent for the rest of the Time War. In “A Genius for War” then, it cannot be this Davros. It follows that in Once & Future, then, this is not the Davros we’re more familiar with. I put forward that this is another Davros. Specifically, the one from an alternate timeline, whose story is told across the Eighth Doctor: Time War 4 set.
This other Davros was originally a kind man before he was corrupted and became an amalgamation of Davros from across the multiverse. This gives him a softer edge, as well as dimensional instability. Following a brief internal Dalek conflict at the end of the set, he was imprisoned by the Dalek Emperor on Falkus. The Daleks said they had plans for him, which hasn’t been resolved since, not even in the recent Eighth Doctor: Time War: Cass set. Seeing how they move forward with this Davros will be very cool.
Davros will be dimensionally unstable to match the Doctor’s degeneration and timeline instability. That’s an interesting dynamic, and I hope it’s something that the upcoming story leans into. We’ll have to discuss it more when the story’s actually out, but that’s everything you should be aware of before the story drops later on next month. From the exciting trailer, it sounds like it’s going to be quite the ride. We’re in for a treat, and I’m really looking forward to covering it further.
You can now pre-order Once and Future: A Genius for War from Big Finish Productions. It’s available as both a standard individual release and a now digital-only special edition series bundle with extended interviews and music suites. For news, lore, features, reviews and geeking out about all things Doctor Who, be sure to follow Tardis Central!
Doctor Who will air in November 2023 with three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.