Chris Daniel talks to Terry Molloy, the man behind Davros, creator of the Daleks.
Terry Molloy: Daleks, Dystopia and the Doctor
“It’s hard to believe, but I was 16 when Doctor Who started, so Hartnell and Troughton were my doctors. I grew up and went to university and lost track of it all, and since you couldn’t rewatch it due to the fact we didn’t have videos at the time, you either watched it on the night or didn’t see it at all”.
With the epic season finale of Doctor Who, we bid farewell to Peter Capaldi and gave Jodie Whitaker the keys to the Tardis. Though it’s hard to accept change, ‘Twice Upon A Time’ appropriately closed another chapter for the series, and welcomes Whitaker with open arms, despite claims of appearing political correctness.
In the second half of 2018, the doctor will return to our screens to save the galaxy one more time, embracing change in every way possible. It’s a long stretch until then, but instead of looking too far to the future, lets take a look back at one of the series more established and prominent roles.
We sat down with Terry Molloy earlier in the year to talk about the shows foundations and the path it has taken since his time on set. For those unfamiliar with the name, neither the mask nor the voice would go unnoticed, as Terry Molloy is the man and the myth behind the nightmare of Davros.
First introduced in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, Davros soon became one of the Doctors major enemies, as it we he who created the Daleks, one of the series deadliest enemies. For Terry, the role was won in a game of chance, a lifetime offer most actors could only dream of. “I had been doing a television series down in the south playing a disc jockey that was doing a bunch silly voices at a radio station. The director, Matthew Robison, actually ended up becoming the director of Resurrection of the Daleks because there was a strike at the BBC pushing everything forwards a month. He rang me up because he knew that I was really good at doing impersonations, and asked if I knew anything about Daleks. Watching the show beforehand, of course I did, so that’s where I took on the role of Davros,” he said.
Molloy, known for his talented voice in a range of audio productions, has played the character numerous times on screen, stage and radio, working closely with Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Peter Davison. “I have found comfort in radio, because it is the one medium where the actor has the most control. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how old you are, it’s all in the voice. So I had a think about it and realised that the character of Davros was completely reliant on the voice. I had to get that voice through the mask and out onto the screen. That was my introduction into Doctor Who,” he said.
The transformation from a man in his mid 30’s to the hideous mutated creature you see on the screen was a lot different to tradition makeup methods of the industry. “They took me to the special effects place and did a mold of my head and then built the mask around that. It fitted like perfectly; it was like wearing a pair of very tight surgical gloves. You never really realised how hot it actually was until you took it off and were covered in sweat. It formed the character because as soon as you put that mask on, nobody would talk to you. You would put it on and all the people you know would move on, because you were terrifying, but it gave me a dynamic, a power behind the mask,” he said. The mask, which is still used on the show to this day, has been on display at the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff for a matter of years now, but it wasn’t until the restoration of iconic props and replicas from the show that the production crew stumbled across the original mold of Molly’s face from over 30 years ago. “Mike Tucker, the small model unit director, rang me up and told me that he had found my head in a cupboard. It was the strangest thing, because when they restored it, I was looking at my 34 year old death mask sitting there staring at me,” Molloy laughingly said.
Looking back to the children’s show that it initially was, Doctor Who has since broken boundaries for many things, including science, gender profiles and politics. Above all, one thing stands out, the invention of the Daleks. Having intentionally modeled the Daleks on the Nazis, the show began exploring the darker themes of time travelling and genocide. The metaphor was a clever concept designed by writers at the time, and has remained present ever since. “That’s where it all started, the whole idea of Nazi’s, but we eventually started moving away from that idea. The idea is still there, but we made it more of a case about Davros being a brilliant scientist that was fighting the Daleks that he had created because they had turned on him. When we started producing the Big Finish stuff, we saw the transition of a 15 year old boy into the scientist of Davros, the very first Dalek,” Molloy said. “In regards to Nazis, Skaro was a very Aryan race, it had all the attributes of a dictatorship,” he continued.
“Davros doesn’t see why the Doctor is so pissed off with him, because he is using dead bodies to create protein to feed the universe. So we had to find where he came from in order for that to be acceptable to him. He has a brilliant mind, and an inability to socially interact with people, he sees a problem, he sees the answer and whatever is in his way is flattened because his focus is entirely on that problem. That provided the dynamic of the transition from young boy to evil mastermind”.
Inevitably, the show was ought to embrace significant change eventually. With the introduction of a female lead and the farewell of Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, this does not mean the show will be stirring away from its ability to tell an amazing story anytime soon. The divide caused by the culture war of the fandom will soon subside, but for time being, we wait in anticipation.