The Savages ★★★

Peter Purves bows out as companion Steven in a satire about progress and slavery

44

Season 3 – Story 26

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“The sacrifice of even one soul is far too great. You must put an end to this inhuman practice” – The Doctor

Storyline
The Tardis materialises on a distant world in a future time of “peace and prosperity”. But the Doctor, Steven and Dodo soon discover that there are two polarised cultures: the aloof, highly advanced Elders and barbaric, spear-throwing Savages. The Doctor’s arrival has been anticipated by the Elders, who welcome him to their city as “the traveller from beyond time” and present gifts to his companions. But the high society enjoyed by the Elders comes at a cost: their scientists extract life energy from the Savages and inject it into themselves. Elder leader Jano undergoes an “intransference” to absorb the Doctor’s force but in so doing acquires his conscience, and this leads to the destruction of the laboratories. Steven stays behind to help rebuild the civilisation.

First transmissions
Episode 1 – Saturday 28 May 1966
Episode 2 – Saturday 4 June 1966
Episode 3 – Saturday 11 June 1966
Episode 4 – Saturday 18 June 1966

Production
Location filming: April/May 1966 at Callow Hill sandpit, Virginia Water, Surrey; Shire Lane quarry, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks
Filming: April 1966 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: May/June 1966 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who – William Hartnell
Steven Taylor – Peter Purves
Dodo Chaplet – Jackie Lane
Jano – Frederick Jaeger
Chal – Ewen Solon
Tor – Patrick Godfrey
Captain Edal – Peter Thomas
Exorse – Geoffrey Frederick
Avon – Robert Sidaway
Flower – Kay Patrick
Nanina – Clare Jenkins
Senta – Norman Henry
Wylda – Edward Caddick

Crew
Writer – Ian Stuart Black
Incidental music – Raymond Jones
Designer – Stuart Walker
Story editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Director – Christopher Barry

RT Review by Mark Braxton
This penetrating, Swiftian satire about scientific progress was born of a period of change. William Hartnell was slowly nearing the expiry of his term as the Doctor, producer Innes Lloyd decided not to renew Peter Purves’ contract and Jackie Lane’s exit was just around the corner. Yet despite the backstage machinations, this remains a cogent essay on man’s inhumanity to man. Once again, however, we are robbed of the story visually – apart from the odd snatch of 8mm filmed from the television.

The Savages was the first of three serials that Ian Stuart Black wrote for the show, which was boosted by a “new look”, with episode numbers rather than separate titles (phew!) – as well as generous sprinkles of location filming.

In common with many of the best escapades, the opening scenes reel in the viewer with a neat mystery. We’re told it is the future and yet, as Dodo says, “I saw a man in animal skins and an axe”. And when the travellers do encounter an advanced race, we wonder how the two peoples co-exist. Viewers are also offered a titbit about the Doctor’s visit being preordained. In more than one way this foreshadowed 1977’s The Face of Evil, which also juxtaposed philistinism with sophistication.

Director Christopher Barry exposes the horrific discovery at the core of the story with an excellent piece of “show and tell”. As Jano tells the Doctor only what he wants him to hear about the marvels of their age, Dodo is seeing the reality first-hand, as poor Nanina (whose look predated Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC by six months!) is wheeled towards her fate in the laboratory.

If anything the story shows its hand too early, though at least this enables the Doctor to go off like a moral firework: “How dare you call your treatment of these people progress!”; “I will not submit to your nauseating experiments!” It’s the kind of vehement anti-authoritarianism for which we loved Hartnell.

Mercifully the companions have moved on from the figures of fun in the last story. Steven is more argumentative than ever, and we sense that he’ll take a stand after Dodo niggles him with “You’re a grown man. Or are you?” And though his departure is brisk and unrealistic, at least the dependable, lantern-jawed astronaut is given a suitably laudable off-screen quest.

Dodo, however, shows little initiative and, when she’s not whingeing about what to do, she’s tossed some of the writer’s bin scraps (“You’re really with it now, Doctor!”; “This equipment must cost a packet!”). Poor Jackie Lane. With fare of that calibre, she must have realised she was going the way of her character’s namesake.

There’s also a haunting score from Raymond Jones, whose cold, scratchy strings add an extra layer of gloom.

The way The Savages looks aghast at human advancement reminds me of one of Gandhi’s pithy observations when asked for his thoughts on Western civilisation. “I think it would be a good idea,” he said.

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Radio Times archive material

Savages feature
Savages billings

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[Soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]