THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Galaxy 4
The Man in the Velvet Mask
BBC
The Savages

Episodes 4 The Doctor attempts to determine just who the savages are.
Story No# 26
Production Code AA
Season 3
Dates Mar. 28, 1966 -
Jun. 18, 1966

William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane.
Written by Ian Stuart Black. Script-edited by Gerry Davis.
Directed by Christopher Barry. Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are greeted warmly when they arrive in a highly civilized society in the far future that steals the life-force of helpless savages.

Note: Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

A Review by Robert Smith? 29/1/98

What a wonderful thing is the Telesnap Reconstruction! It allows us, as fans, to get as close as we are possibly going to get to seeing some of the lost stories. And so, for the first time ever, I was able to hear the sounds and see at least some of the pictures from a 1965 story called The Savages.

And I must say, I was impressed. The unfortunate thing about the telesnaps is that they tend to put you to sleep. They're a worthy project, certainly, but they simply can't substitute for the real thing. Nevertheless, I found I didn't have to struggle overly much to stay awake during The Savages. Partly, this was because it's a four part story, not as sleep-inducing as some of the longer stories. But it's also a nice little morality tale, with enough in it to keep rollicking along.

The nature of the villiany is quite well presented, especially for sixties television. Nobody dies in this story and yet there is a palpable sense of wrongness about the Elder's actions. At first they seem not only benign, but Doctorish. They have some limited time travel experience (at least insofar as they can observe the Doctor's travels), are cultured, intelligent and civilised. Indeed, the story plays with the Doctor's own cultured persona, making us think that, while he may not approve of the methods, he might just overlook the means because of the civilisation that has resulted.

Fortunately, we see that the Doctor is far, far better than this. His condemnation of the Elders and their ways sets up just how different he really is from them, despite appearances. Frederick Jaeger's performance of the chief Elder is absolutely flawless, especially when he has been taken over by the Doctor's personality. Indeed, for a while, I wondered if the lines were actually being dubbed by Hartnell, until you realise he's simply doing a wickedly accurate imitation of the first Doctor.

Steven comes across quite well, too and his decision to stay behind at the end makes a lot of sense. The scene where they smash the centre of the Elder's power is very satisfying and there are lots of little touches of Doctor Who morality in here, touches that rarely asserted themselves in the Hartnell era. Oh, and William Hartnell gets to prove once and for all that the first Doctor is human by uttering the wonderful line "They're men! Human beings like you and me!". If you can get a hold of the telesnap reconstruction of this story, I heartily recommend it.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 24/4/99

The Savages is an often overlooked story -- a pity as it has a great deal going for it. In one way it can be seen as a morality tale, which hints at themes such as possession and control; and in another way it can be seen as a simple tale of good versus evil. However what it does do is succeed, largely because of it`s simplicity.

The location work is cleverly used, being a quarry which actually reflects the dwellings of the titular savages, whilst the sets are minimal but effective. Although he doesn`t get to do a great deal, William Hartnell plays The Doctor with great gusto here delivering lines such as: "Oppose you! Indeed I am going to oppose you, just as in the same way I oppose the Daleks or any other menace to humanity" with great effect. Similairly Jackie Lane as Dodo isn`t in the thick of the action all the time, although she does seem to enjoy smashing the machinery in the fourth episode.

Really this story belongs to Peter Purves as Steven, who is given a sensible and understandable reason for leaving. Throughout, the tale his performance was never less than enjoyable. Of the guest cast Frederick Jaeger as Jago is the most impressive; even more so when he inherits some of The Doctor`s morals and nuances, and pulls off a clever imitation of William Hartnell to great effect.

Something in the story`s favour also is the incidental music, which works especially well when Dodo wanders the corridors on her own in the first episode; it gives the tale a sense of atmosphere and mystery. The only point that does jar is how the Elders were able to track the TARDIS, given that The Doctor has no real control over it. This is a small niggle, however, in a story that is otherwise highly enjoyable.


A strong allegory by Tim Roll-Pickering 6/11/01

Based on the Change of Identity reconstruction.

The Savages is an early example of a story containing a strong political message, in this case an attack on racism and apartheid. It makes little attempt to disguise this and even contains terms used in Apartheid South Africa such as 'apart' (the English for apartheid is 'apartness') and 'reserve' (the original term for Bantustan - an area set aside for a specific racial group). Like South Africa first appeared to some, the civilisation seems like a wonderful advanced society but out of sight and never talked about are those people who have been deemed 'inferior' and who are literally pushed aside and exploited to prolong and power the lives of the supposedly 'superior' beings. Even amongst the latter there are restrictions that are intended to prevent people from discovering and questioning the state of affairs. At the time of transmission this was highly topical, coming barely six months after the white settlers in South Africa's next door neighbour Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) had issue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in the hope of preserving a similar society post decolonisation and many in Britain believed that Rhodesia should be supported. The Savages is highly effective as a condemnation of such a society and the exposition that all humans are equal no matter what their state of advancement or physical attributes. Wisely Ian Stuart Black does not limit this realisation to being brought about directly by the Doctor and his companions alone but instead includes a wonderful sequence where the Elder guard Exorse is wounded but cared for by the 'savage' Nanina and realises that she is a human being the same as him.

Unfortunately one aspect of the production does not seem to have taken on board the story's message. The idea of a role reversal by making the 'savages' white and the leader of the Elders black is a good one (and foreshadows recent developments in Zimbabwe) but it is a pity that Jano is played by a white actor 'blacked up', as have been many other actors in the series' history. Whilst it must be acknowledged that this was quite common throughout the profession at the time it is a pity that this story followed suit. However Frederick Jaegar's portrayal of Jano is the highlight of the story, especially in the scenes where he has received the Doctor's life-force and starts to act like him. The rest of the cast are less memorable apart from Clare Jenkins (Nanina).

This is Steven's last story and interestingly he is written out by staying behind to lead the now reunited peoples on the planet. This is an interesting departure for the character and far more original than either 'finally gets back home' or 'falls in love' and thus highly appropriate for Steven, a companion whose history was never really revealed. However it seems a little strange that a man of action from a much earlier age would so rapidly be accepted as a uniting figure of a civilisation that can perform wonders such as tracking the TARDIS' movements. Fortunately the details of the Elders' civilisation are not dwelt upon. All three of the regulars have strong roles in this story. This is one of the highlights of the third season and severely deserves far more exposure than it has received so far. 8/10

This is the first of the Change of Identity reconstructions and so there are one or two points which now appear outdated, such as the blue tint in the 8mm sequences that constitute the only surviving footage from the story but it would be wrong to mark a reconstruction down for the limitations of the time. Everything going on in the story is completely clear, which is the main test of a reconstruction. As with any other telesnap reconstruction it will always seem inferior to one that doesn't use telesnaps and thus has a harder task, but this is a worthy addition to any video collection 8/10


A Review by Paul Williams 3/4/03

The Savages is essentially a story about racism, incorporating themes and situations touched upon in the first two Doctor Who stories. Whilst the themes have relevance to contemporary situations this production struck me as being rather dated.

William Hartnell is superb, especially when he realizes the evil of the system and has to oppose it, and some of the dialogue is excellent. However it denigrates into a depressingly familiar chase story with the regulars escaping from the citadel and returning to it.

Also I didn't buy the idea that Steven was the only man able to rule the new utopia since his only qualification was the ability to overpower a guard.