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.


The last fifth review of the classic series by Tom Berwick 26/3/16

The rediscovery of missing stories tends to lead to the consensus view of them changing. It hardly needs spelling out yet again that Tomb of the Cybermen had something of a fall from grace but The Enemy of the World soared up the opinion polls. So what would happen to the reputation of The Savages if it were recovered? Quite simply, it might actually acquire one. Just why, in all the years that the Ratings Guide has been going, has this story only attracted five reviews? (And that's a total I arrive at by flattering myself that this one will be published.) If it's remembered at all, it's as "the first one without episode titles".

At its heart, this has a similar "don't judge by appearances" message as seen in Galaxy 4. But it's played more subtly here. The Drahvins and Rills were evil and good without real nuance, but here the Elders aren't really evil at all. The story suggests that as few of their people (who are unnamed: the Elders are the leaders) are allowed to know anything about how their society is powered by stealing life energy from the Savages. The Elders themselves come across as more misguided than evil, echoing a depressingly common tendency for oppressors to see themselves as thoroughly moral and their victims as only getting what they deserve. It's this -- being more misguided than bad -- that ultimately enables them to change when they realise that the Savages don't deserve it at all. That's a lesson the Drahvins could never have learned.

But the Savages are a mixed bunch, too. Tor in particular is of the sort of oppressed who views the oppressor's people as all evil and beyond redemption, even when they had nothing to do with the oppression. It's hard to imagine a Rill wanting to kill a defenceless prisoner. Generally speaking, they are the good guys, but it's nice to see that they're not outright paragons. In fact, they're not really heroes either. Utterly defeated, they accept their fate until the visitors make them realise that liberty is possible. Even Tor only wants to hurt the Elders. He can't see them being defeated. (And, if I might be shallow for a minute here: Nunina. I mean, wow. It's good that she's not just eye candy, playing a vital role in Exorse's redemption, but still... I think she'd play a big part in the reputation the story hasn't got. There's a telesnap where some bum flesh is clearly visible.)

The key character here is of course Jano, who first appears as a generous host, is then revealed to be an amoral supremacist and then turns into an enlightened liberator. Each step is well handled and quite believable, with Frederick Jaeger's First Doctor impression a real highlight. One criticism I've heard of the story is why the Elders didn't pick up any sense of guilt from the Savages in the same way Jano did from the Doctor. The answer is simple: the Elders only took life energy from the Savages because that's all they thought they were good for (again, this ties in with the colonialist theme: natives viewed as only useful for labour). Jano realised that the Doctor had more to offer, and so decided to help himself. It's just that he got more than he bargained for.

What about the regulars? This story really indicates how far the Doctor has come throughout the single-letter production code days. (The story might also be remembered as AA.) His utter disgust at the Elders' behaviour is entirely his own: the Doctor who believes that evil must be fought has unquestionably arrived. But not fought violently: violence is reserved for the Elders' machines, not the Elders themselves. Rather, he defeats the Elders by the simplest method possible: he cooperates. He is aware of who he has become, so he knows who Jano will become. That's superb.

Steven has a good showing on his last story, too, realising that the guards' light guns can be turned against them with a simple hand mirror. The Savages were just too defeated to think of that. (Nice touch that the mirror was a gift to Dodo from the Elders. One might say it reflected back on them.) This is why he's appointed to be the new leader at the end: the thing both parties need at the end is someone who thinks differently. It's a fitting departure for a great companion. Incidentally, I would like to thank the unknown individual who pointed a camera at their screen and gave us proper glances of Dodo running to hug him and the Doctor shaking his hand. Lovely little moments, both of them. Even Dodo does okay in this. She's the sort of person who responds to being told to keep out of somewhere by going in to find out why. It's this that enables the Doctor to work out what the Elders are up to. (He's realised they're up to something, but has no real idea what.) She doesn't do much else, but I think Episode 1 actually belongs to her.

So why does this story lack a reputation? Of course, it's missing, but so are The Massacre and The Power of the Daleks, which certainly have them. I think it comes partly from the fact that very few people saw it when it got its one and only broadcast (put Batman on ITV, and it's POW!!! for Doctor Who's ratings). But I think it's mostly because the guide writers in the eighties didn't know which way to guess. In some ways, this is a good thing, given how badly they often guessed, but when it comes after "Immortal played by a great actor makes the crew play deadly games -- must have been brilliant!" and "The Doctor has a comedy trip to the Wild West and there's a song in it -- must have been dreadful!", it kind of fades away. "There's two groups and the advanced ones are stealing from the backwards ones until the Doctor puts things right -- must have been... erm... on telly..." which couldn't have given it much of a reputation.

Which is a pity, because The Savages deserves a reputation. It doesn't deserve to be forgotten. If it's found, I'm sure it will get one. And I think it'll be a good one.