Russell T Davies reveals reason behind change to iconic Doctor Who villain: ‘Society has moved on’

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has revealed why he decided to make an important change to the show’s iconic villain Davros.

Davros, the creator of the Daleks, debuted on the long-running BBC sci-fi series back in 1975, with actor Julian Bleach taking on the role in a special scene which aired during the Children in Need telethon on Friday night (17 November).

Throughout Doctor Who history, the villainous character has typically appeared in a Dalek-esque support unit, with significant scarring on his face, but in the new scene, this wasn’t the case: the support unit was nowhere to be seen and his face appeared unmarked.

In a new interview, Davies has explained why he and his production team chose to change Davros’ appearance for the new series, to prevent “associating disability with evil”.

“We 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 told on BBC Three companion series Doctor Who Unleashed. “And there’s a problem with the Davros of old in that he’s a wheelchair user, who is evil.

“And I had problems with that. And a lot of us on the production team had problems with that, of associating disability with evil. And trust me, there’s a very long tradition of this.”

“I’m not blaming people in the past at all, but the world changes and when the world changes, Doctor Who has to change as well,” he continued. “So we made the choice to bring back Davros without the facial scarring and without the wheelchair, or his support unit, which functions as a wheelchair.

Julian Bleach as Davros (BBC)
Julian Bleach as Davros (BBC)

“I say, this is how we see Davros now, this is what he looks like. This is 2023. This is our lens. This is our eye. Things used to be black and white, they’re not in black and white anymore, and Davros used to look like that and he looks like this now, and that we are absolutely standing by.”

The showrunner added that it was especially important to debut this change during Children in Need, “a night where issues of disability or otherness or being excluded from society come right to the front of the conversation”.

“Of all the nights to make this change, I thought it was absolutely vital to do this,” he said. “And I’m very, very, very proud of the fact that we have.”

Davies, a lifelong fan of the BBC show, previously helmed Doctor Who from 2005 to 2010, presiding over its comeback following a 16-year hiatus. Last year, it was announced that he would be returning to the series in time for its 60th anniversary.

The first of three special Doctor Who episodes is set to air on 25 November, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprising their roles as the Doctor and his companion Donna Noble.

Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa will then take on the iconic role, making his debut as the Fifteenth Doctor over Christmas.