Puzzle of the Daleks : Why did Davros seek the ‘Final Mutational Form’ of the Kaleds?
With undeniable expertise in genetic engineering why did Davros seek the final form rather than steering Kaled evolution toward a more ambulatory one?
It’s impossible to deny that the Daleks are one of the most menacing and ruthless adversaries in the history of science fiction, but one key stage in their development, by their creator Davros, has always puzzled me.
The Bunker on Skaro
The Doctor is then sent back in time to the planet Skaro with a mission to either ‘avert their creation’ or ‘affect their genetic development’ in some way such they they evolve into ‘less aggressive creatures’. Failing that perhaps he may discover ‘some inherent weakness’ presumably that may be used against them at a later date.
On Skaro two warring races, the Kaleds and the Thals, are fighting a thousand year long war of attrition. Davros is the chief Kaled scientist, in charge of all research at a Kaled facility called ‘the bunker’.
The Future of the Kaleds
During the initial episodes the Doctor encounters Mutos, ‘scarred relics’ of nuclear and chemical weapons used during the first century of the war. Mutos were cast out from the Kaled dome, left to wonder the wastelands between the two warring peoples, as the Kaled race must be ‘kept pure’.
It subsequently comes to pass that Davros has been genetically experimenting to discover the final mutational form of the Kaled race — as the Kaleds themselves are mutating from the use of chemical weapons during the war, and Davros has stated that he has unable to reverse the process.
In order that the final form may survive Davros has also developed a ‘travel machine’ such that the form may move around and interact more easily with the world. The machine, when populated with the future Kaled mutational form, is named by Davros as the Dalek.
However, Davros’ experiments also interfered deliberately with the genetic code of the future form, removing the key moral and ethical components much to the chagrin of many of his fellow scientists at the time.
This does not end well, as you can imagine, and forms the basis of the Dalek’s ruthless warlike evolution from that point onward.
A Question of Genetics
Why did Davros not use his extensive knowledge and expertise in genetic engineering to develop a mutational form that can more easily exist in the world — i.e. did not require an elaborate large travel machine?
Let’s explore this from the perspective of Davros and his aims, assuming that his intent on producing a final mutational form is the preservation of the Kaled race’s genetic form. Or not…
Lack of Knowledge in Genetic Engineering
Davros’ abilities were limited to tinkering — he doesn’t have as great a knowledge as he claims and is only able to evolve the form to its ultimate state and not steer its actual physical structure in a specific direction.
During the accelerated evolving state he is able to remove, but not modify, psychological traits such as morals because he already understood them from pervious nefarious experiments or they were easily discovered during his experiments. Perhaps it was also just easier, and quicker, to brute force remove a trait than modify an existing one. Time was, after all, of the essence.
Davros then went on to develop a hardened, weaponised, travel machine to protect the fragile final form and allow it to project more physical power into the world via conventional and available technology.
Lack of Knowledge and Resources in Computing
Davros was not overly concerned with the actual final physical form of the Kaleds because his agenda was solely about projecting overwhelming dominating power to win the war, preserve the Kaled race genetically as far as possible, and ultimately continue his experiments without interference.
Whether his experiments were to subsequently forge a Kaled empire or just his own don’t matter too much in this case, the point being he needed a powerful, dangerous, weapon and he needed it quickly.
His original thought was to develop an autonomous device such as a robot (we do in fact encounter non-biological Daleks later in the canon) with which to win the war and go on to conquer. A computer controlled machine that he could control via its programming. He could program it to use pure logic, no emotions, and a ruthless directive to win at any cost. The Davros directive.
In this case the computing technology and/or his own skills may not have been sufficient to develop an artificial intelligence with which to power the machine he was developing. Either its functionality was too limited or it required continual external control.
On Skaro we see little evidence of advanced computing and perhaps the grinding attrition of the war had all but eroded existing high technology and halted research and development in this direction.
However, the resources and tools did still exist to perform biological experiments and genetic engineering along with the production of a limited weaponised travel machine using the parts to hand.
We see Davros demonstrating his priority for technological supplies in the first episode when requisitioning supplies from the armed forces Revon replies ‘I’m expected to fight a war without equipment. Very well, I’ll have these things out to the bunker by dawn’.
A Devotion to Kaled Purity
Davros’ intention was to save the Kaled race at any cost, to maintain as much of their pure genetic code as possible given that mutation was inevitable, and was forced to adopt whatever resultant form was produced when the effects of mutation settled down to a final state.
His ability in genetic engineering was secondary as he wished the Kaled from to evolve as naturally as possible, at least physically, in order to preserve as much of the original DNA as possible. Perhaps, indeed, it was his intention to address the mutation in some future as yet undiscovered way and ultimately reverse the mutational process? We may never know, though it makes an intriguing story idea as we do see later stories addressing Dalek amalgamation with the human race, certainly moving in a more evolutionary direction. It may be that this was envisaged at bringing the evolved Kaled back toward a more human form. But, I digress.
In this case Davros would just have to live with whatever the final form was and create some kind of ambulatory device with which it could function as well as possible in the physical world. With limited tools at his disposal he was able to produce a rudimentary machine.
As a result of this focus on Kaled purity his desire was that the Kaleds themselves should never again be in a position as they are now — vulnerable — fighting an endless war of attribution that has the capability to erase the race completely.
To this end he removed the moral and ethical traits of the Kaleds in the hope that they can overcome all adversaries with overwhelming focus and aggression. Davros, through his fervour of purity, creates a ruthless, yet as pure as possible, genetic mutation and gave it all of the power he can to survive.
Davros has little interest in the Kaleds, as in the story he sacrifices his own race so that his experiments can continue, and is solely focussed on domination at any cost.
He accelerates development of the final mutational form of the Kaleds as a means to an end, to utterly crush anyone who stands in their way giving them what he thinks is the most capable genetic profile possible for war along with the most capable technology to hand. Their final form, again, is of little interest and could have been evolved from anything — even the Thals — as he is focussed only on power and domination to be achieved through the technology to hand.
He either does not foresee the inherent flaws of such an exercise (they continually rebel against him in several stories, get mired in stalemate during war with the artificial Movellan race in ‘Destiny of the Daleks’, and generally their unrealised arrogance is their undoing) or is utterly convinced that the Daleks will overcome all challenges and survive through brute force.
He, as leader of the Daleks, will go on to rule.
An Even Deeper Question
Using the cover of patriotism to his own kind, the ultimate survival of the race, genetic purity, fighting against the dying of the light as it were, is a common tactic to gain support and crush opposition to questionable actions.
Perhaps we will never knew what drove Davros at this time — whether it was the survival of Kaled purity indoctrinated into him in his childhood during the Thousand Year War on Skaro, whether it was the need to end the damaging war at all costs for everyone on Skaro, or just that he become someone extremely talented and able who had just had enough of everything.
Doctor Who remains utterly fascinating and the writers are to be commended. Science fiction gives us insights not only into the future but into ourselvs.