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Film, TV & Animation
Terry Molloy as Davros
Doctor Who: My life as Davros
The excitement is building for the return of Doctor Who to our TV screens. Norfolk-based actor Terry Molloy - Davros for three seasons of the classic series - admits he's thrilled the Doctor is back. But will he return as the Dalek's creator?
Doctor Who returned to BBC ONE on Saturday 26 March, 2005 - marking one of the biggest moments in television this year. Christopher Eccleston stars as the Doctor in a new 13-part series, with Billie Piper as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler.
It's more than 16 years since the last series starring Sylvester McCoy graced our television screens and the producers of the new show are delighted to bring the Doctor to a new generation of fans.
"The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary – a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage as well as introducing the character to a modern audience," said co-producer Russell T Davies.
As fans of the classic series endure the slow passage of time until the airing of the first new episode, Norfolk-based actor Terry Molloy is happy to admit he's as excited about the new show as anybody else.
For seven years Terry starred in the show as Davros, creator of the Daleks and arch-enemy of the Doctor.
Speaking to bbc.co.uk/norfolk, Terry told Martin Barber, that he can't wait for the show to come back.
I'm desperately excited, I think it's brilliant. There's been a whole generation who've grown up without having a Doctor. It's like having a friend that you can hide with in the dark corners and they'll look after you. Now a whole new generation of kids are going to have that experience of growing up with a Doctor.
It's great to know that that's going to carry on. I'm really thrilled, really looking forward to it. I'm probably more excited now than when I did it way back when.
Terry Molloy with Dalek
How did you first get involved with the series?
It was all due to Matthew Robinson, who was the director of Resurrection Of The Daleks. Matthew rang and asked 'Do you know anything about Davros. I said vaguely, as my time had been with Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell.
He showed me this tape with Michael Wisher in and said 'Do you think you can re-create that?'
I have to say, looking at it, this was a great challenge. I'd worked in radio a lot with The Archers and radio drama and looking at it I thought this is television, but it's like radio because you're having to create the character with your voice.
The mask isn't doing a lot apart from initially scaring people. The character has got to come from with inside that mask and come out. I thought it would be great fun to do and it went on from there.
How did you start to create your version of Davros as he was already an established character. How did you begin to Terry-fy him?
[Davros Voice] Or terrify those who watched.
Obviously you bring something of yourself to every part. Michael had created a character that was like a bit like an intergalactic Hitler. It was the purity of the Kaleds race and all of that. A lot of megalomania.
When I took it on, I was trying to find a transition, to move it somewhere else.
Characters are not evil, evil characters are uninteresting unless there's some reason for them to be evil. No evil character believes they're evil, they think they're doing their best - that's the key to it.
Davros thought he was doing the best thing in genetically mutating these people in order to win the war on Skaro. Ninety-eight per cent of everything he does has good intention – it's the other two per cent that throws the balance and turns it into an abhorrence.
We see this in Revelations where he's in charge of this death planet where he's turning corpses into food to feed the galaxy because there's a famine. He can't see a problem with that.
So we started to build the character forward. He started to have a perception of what he was doing and a sense of humour about it. This gave him a frailty, because you're not just a ranting monster, you're a monster with credibility and purpose – which makes him more scary.
You spent seven years working on the series. Did you ever get tired of having to put on the mask, climb into the chariot, drink the dye for your tongue, etc…
Thankfully, there was a good year or so between each time I had to get into the chariot and mask.
Physically it was one of the most demanding jobs I've ever done. The chariot was solid wood with car batteries on a supermarket trolley frame – it was awful, quite awful. [He laughs]
That aside, the actually doing of it was great fun. It was interesting to see how people reacted to me when I got into the mask. It became a very lonely place to be as people didn't want to engage you in conversation, they'd talk over your head.
Terry waits as the mask is re-touched
Prosthetic make-up has moved on a lot since you worked on the series, how did they create the mask for you?
It was a full head mask, created from a mould of my face. It was important that the mask fitted so you could try and get as much movement as you could through the mask.
Working from within that mask you had to work 15 times harder in the way you said things and the way you moved your face to try and get the smallest movement in the mask itself.
It slowly got better as we went on through the series, but they never really achieved the amount of flexibility they could achieve today.
But those ropey effects were part of the series' charm.
Oh yes. The Doctor was solving problems with sticky tape and a sonic screw-driver. That was part of the charm of working on it and the impact it had.
But that was the thing about the Doctor Who stories, they weren't generally technology driven, but character and story driven and that makes for much more interesting drama.
This is where it scored, and I'm sure will again, over the more glossy American offerings which are just full of CGI and technical effects and people who all look the same.
Doctor Who had a quirkiness because the characters were real, because they were written for real and played for real. That's what made it work.
The new series has a bigger budget compared with what you used to get to play with. Do you have any concerns this will lead the series down that American CGI route?
No, I don't have any worries about that. I think it's in very safe hands. It's being produced by Russell T Davies, people who were fans. They grew up with it.
No, it's not going to be exactly as it was before, they'll be a better degree of things – but we're 15 years down the line. The budget may have increased, but so have production costs - so the ratio is probably not too far away from what we had before.
I just feel they want to do the best for Doctor Who in introducing the Doctor to a new generation who've never known him. I think they're going to be very careful about re-explaining, in a sense, the whole Doctor syndrome to people who perhaps don't know.
This is not a new series for the fans, this is a new drama series called Doctor Who – let's start from there.
They'll be a whole new audience who've never seen Doctor Who. They'll be a lot of fans who'll be nit-picking about things, but I think overall, they'll say 'Yes, they've done him justice'.
It's been a long process to sort out the permissions between the BBC and Terry Nation's estate to have the Daleks back. We now know they'll be back, but where does this leave Davros?
Well he's going to be around somewhere - isn't he? I dunno, you'll have to ask the production team about that one.
I'd love to get the phone call. I would love to do it again, I guess I'm probably one of the few people from the original series who could go back to the new series because of the nature of the part.
Because we're a time-based programme, you can jump to wherever you want in Davros' rise or fall. The way he was going there wasn't much of him left but a head at the end of the last series.
Drinking black dye completes the make-up
It really depends on what degree the new series is going to focus on the old style monsters, or newer ones. Although I have heard from one of the writers that the Daleks this time, are going to be truly scary.
There's a famous photo of you with a polystyrene cup whilst wearing the Davros mask, which is always captioned as 'Terry takes a break' – let's put that story to bed now.
Nobody has ever caught me drinking coffee as I drink tea. [He laughs] That picture was the end-game of the make-up process in that I was washing my mouth out with a ghastly black food dye in order to make my tongue black.
Everybody thinks it's Davros taking a coffee break, but no way, sorry. That was last part of the make-up process before I got into the chariot and trundled into the studio.
The make-up process wasn't too long as it was a whole head mask. The only thing they had to make up was my eyes, mouth and lips. Then they made up the mask which was a very odd sensation. I guess only about 40 minutes in make-up, then another 10 minutes in the chariot to get wired up on set.
Did the shooting of the episode always run smoothly?
Time on set was all very smooth, apart from when we did Revelations when I was in the revolving fish tank.
They built this fantastic contraption which I was inside on a swivel chair so I could spin round and it would look like a spinning head. What they failed to do was check my measurements, so when I tried to turn to the chair left or right I was taking my knee-caps off.
The only way around it was to tie my legs up under the chair and pull myself around by my hands with a special effect guy on the floor helping. Fortunately we shot through those scenes very quickly.
On a practical note – if you needed a wee, how difficult was it to get you in and out of the chariot?
It was a 20-minute operation as they had to unbolt the whole thing. All the electrics had to be unplugged, they had to take the panel off, it was quite a kerfuffle. I did say 'Look, I'll wear no knickers and just give me a large tin of sand and save all this fuss!'
Davros in Revelation of the Daleks
Did you go through a number of different voices for Davros before you settled on what you felt was right for the series?
No. I took it basically from Michael Wisher. I listened to the way he spoke. There was an element of Hitler, especially in the rants. He was very precise in the way he said things. Part of that was because he was behind the mask so you had to annunciate everything very clearly.
It is then a simple thing to lower the voice and [in a Davros voice] become more pedantic about what you are saying and get more grit into your voice and finally exterminate the Doctor.
You do a lot of work with charity and for the fans, these two passions come together later in the year for a special show.
There's a group up near Manchester called Hyde Fundraisers who are celebrating 20 years of fund-raising for children's charities.
About 15 years ago a play was written called The Trial Of Davros, written by Michael Wisher and Kevin Taylor who's chairman of Hyde. I had an input and we're going to re-create it at the Tameside Hippodrome in mid-July for one night only.
They've remade my head, the chariot and we're going to it for one day where Davros is put on trial for crimes against the universe, we'll just have to see how it turns out. Will the audience vote for him or against him. Press your red button now. [He laughs]
I'm looking forward to it. Davros is a mouldery old character, but he's been part of my life for a long time and I've a great fondness for him.
last updated: 02/07/2008 at 16:30
Have Your Say
As Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005, we asked what your memories were of the character Davros. Thanks for your comments.
alan walsh ,Liverpool
daniel sammut redhill
Charlotte (torchwood and doctor who fan)
samuel the dalek
The Lonely God
Des Cheers (Massive Fan of the tv series of Dr Who
Johnny Burrows, Sydney, Australia (31)
derek m brown
David from the US
dr jamie who
One who watches Doctor Who episodes
Charlotte Kane, age 11, moscow, russia
Kevin L. Wisneski
Patrick Devonshire (age 9)
Neil a pitts
robert from America
Marc - The Ultimate Dalek Fan
Joe from the who knows where?
jack (greatest fan in the world)
Zane Gracie. NZ
Christopher P. Dunne