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Disability isn't evil: Why Doctor Who is changing one of its most iconic villains, Davros

The classic Whovian villain appeared, sans wheelchair, in a Children in Need sketch also featuring David Tennant's Fourteenth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Change is the only constant on Doctor Who, with the titular character shifting their appearance every couple of years. But the Doctor's not the only one who can swap looks.

In a recent sketch aired for this year's Children in Need special on the BBC, classic archvillain Davros showed off a very different image, without the wheelchair the character's had since his creation. And according to head writer Russel T. Davies, it was an image change long overdue.

Speaking on BBC Three's behind-the-scenes series Doctor Who: Unleashed (and reported by RadioTimes), Davies said that the new Doctor Who creative team "had long conversations about bringing Davros back, because he's a fantastic character, [but] time and society and culture and taste has moved on."

Davies said that he and many members of the production team "had problems with" Davros as a wheelchair user, saying that the character could lead to viewers "associating disability with evil."

"This is 2023," said the writer. "Davros used to look like that and he looks like this now, and that we are absolutely standing by."

Also standing by the change is former Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall, who was recently at the helm of Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor adventures. Chibnall praised Davies choices in a discussion with RadioTimes, saying of Doctor Who: "It has to keep evolving, it has to keep checking itself against the world and being a little bit ahead of the world."

It should be noted that, while this special is the first time we've seen Davros without the wheelchair, it doesn't exactly separate him from one moving forward. The Children in Need sketch takes place at, in the Doctor's words, the "genesis of the Daleks." Canonically, this would be before the character undergoes the accident that scars him and puts him in the wheelchair in the first place. In order to dissasociate Davros from disability entirely, he's going to have to get out of the wheelchair not just in the past, but in the future.

However, if Davies's comments are to be believed, that's that's the direction in which the show is heading. Interestingly, there's a line that Davros has in the special that's relevant to the situation. Speaking of his latest creation, the Dalek shell that Whovians know so well, Davros says "Within this casing we can evolve, we can start anew, we can become stronger." Being the villain that he is, he means this in a sinister way, but his line speaks to an important truth:

If the even the Daleks can evolve, so can we.

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