Sunday, 18 December 2016
Purity - the second story in this bleak Davros-centric quadrilogy - picks up around fourteen years after the events of the first, with Davros now almost thirty years of age, longing to escape the military and join the Scientific Corps. This is probably the biggest time-leap that this miniseries will make, and ultimately probably necessary if only to speed things up to get us to the point in proceedings where Terry Molloy can take over and play Davros as an adult, but I did feel a tad frustrated not to hear some more of the fallout of the events in Innocence. Fortunately, authors James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown - previously behind LIVE 34 - fill us in fairly effectively on what we’ve missed, and we soon build up a decent enough picture of the intervening years. Davros here is stuck in a rut. He has a dead-end job that doesn’t interest him. His life isn’t going anywhere. This is the ‘rejected from art school’ step on the long road to tyrannical power.
A term that is pretty apt for discussing Doctor Who stories in general, but even more so for spin-off series like I, Davros, is the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the ‘chronotope’ (the Greek for ‘time-space’, and stolen from 1920s Russian scientists, so it’s a pleasingly Doctor Whoish word): the abstract usage of time and space in literature and language. I think the word can be boiled down to the idea of spaces and times within narratives: discussing Dalek Empire, for instance, I made much of the fact that the Daleks inhabit a space of not-Doctor-ness, taking the crown from him as instigator of the story’s events when they fill the void of his absence. In Doctor Who Dalek stories, “Dalek time” and “Dalek space” are very rarely Doctorless chronotopes; even if the story begins with them rather than leaving the Doctor to discover them, they fear he will come along and stop them at any moment (which he reliably does). In Dalek Empire, on the other hand, the Daleks have supreme control over time and space. Not literally, in the melodramatic way they might screech those words through their ring modulators - but the story’s space is theirs to command, theirs to fly their fleet through without fear of being stopped by the Doctor; the years that we leap through of Suz and Alby’s hard labour and suffering are the Daleks’ to rule over. Even when the Doctor shows up (Return of the Daleks) he can only help so much, because he is tacitly within a different chronotope to his own. This is why complaints about the Doctor not showing up to save the day in Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures or Class tend to miss the mark, and why - for all the fun enthusiasm of a cameo - his guest appearances can be a bit distracting: because the rules state that this is not his space. He ain’t in his own chronotope anymore.