Since his first appearance in 1975, Davros (the insane maker of the Daleks) has been a quintessential villain for Doctor Who. With Terry Molloy one of the guests at Supanova this year, we had a chat with the longest serving actor to sit in the motorised chair for the cause of galactic extermination.
In 1984 Molloy became the third actor to don the latex mask to portray Davros. “An actor always brings something of himself to his roles,” Molly says, but admits he was visiting interesting ground that had previously been gone over, drawing on the work of prior Davros actors Michael Wisher and David Gooderson.
Of course, the key factor in the characterisation is the distinctive costume and makeup appliances. “The old foam latex actually helped with the cadence of Davros. As it was stiff, it hampered movement, making the speech stilted and deliberate.” His voice and cadence change as he is saying this as he shifts into character effortlessly, and for a moment the creator of the Daleks is on the other end of the line.
Some of the shoots were tricky though. During the 1985 storyline, Revelation Of The Daleks, Davros was portrayed as “…a head in a fish tank.” The set was constructed in such a way that swivelling too quickly would bang Molloy’s knees into it. To solve this he actually had his legs tied beneath him for long sections of the shoot. “That was quite difficult as the legs were feeling gangrenous by the end.”
In fact playing Davros often brought a degree of physical challenge to the role. The chair is not as motorised as people assume and is basically “…pushed along by the actor’s toes and made heavier by the two 12 volt batteries.” Once while playing Davros on stage for the Children In Need charity event The Trial Of Davros, he left the chair after two hours on stage only to find the inside white with salt crystals.
Chosen for the role due to his stint as a DJ who often did funny voices in British TV series Radio Phoenix, Molloy initially had no idea as to who Davros was. Although a science fiction fan at a young age (watching Doctor Who, reading Asimov and listing to sci-fi radio drama on the BBC) he had stopped watching Doctor Who before Tom Baker’s time. However once shown the classic origins episode of Genesis Of The Daleks he fell in love with the role of the megalomaniac scientist, and the dark humour that his stint in the chair would often bring out in the role.
Since that time, Molloy has played the role across four Doctors (Davidson- McGann) on TV and radio. As part of the Big Finish Audio cast, he helped keep the adventures of The Doctor alive during its hiatus from TV – although radio is nothing new for Molloy, and indeed is a second home for him. In 1973 he started a five week role on the iconic radio series The Archers. The character proved popular, and he is still playing the part 40 years later. Molloy counts himself as fortunate to be part of “…two of the most iconic British shows in the last century.”
Terry Molloy is a guest at this year’s Supanova Pop Culture Expo, which runs at the Perth Convention And exhibition Centre from June 20 – 22. For information and tickets, head to supanova.com.au.