Doctor Who: Revisiting THE SAVAGES

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Christopher Morley looks back at the First Doctor story The Savages, originally broadcast from May 28th 1966.

After no doubt gratefully escaping from a hullabaloo in the Wild West (The Gunfighters), the First Doctor, Steven Taylor & Dodo Chaplet - who despite her name isn't actually a large & now extinct flightless bird, more's the pity - find themselves flung into the far future. Their handy old Type 40, which the Doctor at this stage probably wouldn't even dream of calling 'Sexy', reserving that privilege for Cameca (The Aztecs), promptly drops them off on what appears to be a colony world.

And so begins The Savages, a four part adventure first broadcast from the 28th May 1966, and one that holds the honour of being the first Doctor Who adventure to not have individual episode titles, instead we have Episode 1, Episode 2, etc. The Savages is also one of the unfortunate stories junked by the BBC in the late 1960s/1970s, and so only fragments and still images from the episodes exist in the archives today.

After landing on the colony world, the Doctor is content to dust off his lapels & have a look around the place, but can't escape the feeling that he's being watched. There's a good reason for that - which we'll come back to. His companions, who've decided for now to stay safely inside the TARDIS, have a bit of a barney which causes a worried Steven to go & have a look for him. Remember that sensation that somebody might be watching (other than the 4.8 million who've tuned in to BBC One this Saturday tea-time)? Somebody is! And the man who so hates being called 'Doc' is too busy telling himself his friends will be in for a surprise & feeling tetchy at Steven for the heinous crime of calling after him to notice...even back alongside 'Sexy', Dodo can't escape the sensation that she too is being eyed up. Some raggedy-looking primitives appear to have their eye on the trio. Have the Stone Age tribe from An Unearthly Child somehow mastered time travel? It looks like it, as one of them is clad in rather fashionable animal skins & holding an axe.....

Maybe he thinks Dodo really is a dodo. Luckily for her, her screech of pure terror is loud enough to bring Steven scrambling back to her side & have the caveman running for the hills (if there are any). Perhaps understandably & certainly logically Mr Taylor then comes to the conclusion that they must indeed be in the extremely distant past. The First shares his confidence, & two of the titular 'savages', Chal & Tor, are busy trying to work out who & indeed what the strange man in the smoking jacket is. He's not one of them & he hasn't got a gun.

You'd think this would persuade them that he's a likeable sort, at least sometimes - but no. They decide the best thing to do would be to kill him, not knowing that he'll simply regenerate, run off to find a recorder & attempt to make good on an escape while having to explain to Steven & Dodo just why he now looks like he should be on the cover of Rubber Soul stood on the right of the picture, next to Ringo Starr. But perhaps mindful of that very eventuality, he tells anyone who might have their beady peepers trained on him that he means no harm - which alerts two more observers.

They're soldiers, going by the names of Captain Edal & Exorse. And they've been expecting him - in the legends of their superiors, the Elders, the Doctor is known as 'The Traveller From Beyond Time'. Given their vocation, they're somewhat shocked to see him carrying a 'weapon'- actually a rather more scientific & less violent if slightly dodgy-sounding reacting vibrator. At least they let him bring his pals along, eh? An audience with the Elder leader Jano & his councillors follows- they've tracked his trips through space & time and are sufficiently impressed to offer him a position as a High Elder.

Steven & Dodo even get presents, too - a dagger for the man from Mechanus (The Chase) & a lovely jewel-encrusted mirror for Ms Chaplet. They even get a tour of the city while Jano picks the brains of their young oldish guest. Turns out the Elders use the Savages as little more than a sort of slave labour, and the Doctor really isn't cool with how they drain their life-force & all that! A certain mistrust between the two parties quickly starts to creep in after that, unsurprisingly.....

With the Elders turning to spying on our heroes, a sort of Cold War atmosphere creeps in. The Doctor won't have to literally deal with such a conflict until renewing acquaintance with the Ice Warriors, or at least one of them (in the literal Cold War), but he does at least have a quite spectacular rant at the Elders, lashing out at them as a clear & present threat to the institution of humanity & even comparing them to perhaps his most potent nemesis - the Daleks.
Do they deserve such scorn? Well, take into account that in essence what they do to preserve their own lives is drain energy from innocents & you could say the inhabitants of Skaro might be eager to pick up the phone & talk, if indeed they had the means to hold anything for any great length of time.

But things could be about to get interesting - Steven & Dodo are trying to inspire these 'savages' into a rebellion against the Elders! Chal, though, is pessimistic, mostly because their foes have advanced light-guns, while they have next to nothing. If it all seems lost there, it might be about to get even worse for the Doctor, who's about to be vaporised, with his life energy transferred into the thoroughly undeserving Jano. Steven proves himself to have quite a good grasp on strategy & is quickly elected leader of the rebelling savages - the revolution is on!

What the Doctor might make of the whole business, having experienced similar further back in time (The Reign Of Terror, The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve - which is notable also for delving into Dodo's family history, featuring her great-grandmother Anne Chaplet) is unrecorded. He's resting up after having been somewhat drained, but would no doubt be pleased to learn that his energy's putting itself to good use!

Following the transfer procedure, Jano is quite literally changed. Turns out that in the process of absorbing some of the Doctor's pep for himself, he's also taken on aspects of his personality - which creates a sort of schizophrenia. One minute he sounds like his old self, the next he believes he's everyone's favourite space-grandpa, acknowledging Steven & Dodo as friends and forgetting that the colony is his home. This all comes in very handy when his 'companions' stumble into trouble at the hands of Edal - Jano in his 'Doctor' personality aiding in their escape.

Which makes the later meeting of perhaps the original 'two Doctors' all the more compelling. What the junior of the two does next comes as perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire narrative. Leading a march back to the colony, he decrees the Elders & Savages equal & orders the transference equipment (part of the life-force draining process) be destroyed. He's realised the need for democracy, and in future the two parties will work as one. With the help of the senior Doctor & his companions, the equipment is destroyed.

Jano asks the Doctor to stay behind & help the community to rebuild - an offer the First refuses. But Steven's built up quite a fan-club during the turmoil, and following some initial reluctance he agrees to stay on, the Doctor justifiably proud of his young charge. Dodo gives him a nice hug & he thanks the Doctor for letting him share in his adventures before embarking on a new career in politics, of a sort. And with that Dodo is left to accompany the Doctor back into the TARDIS, the two of them leaving for wherever 'Sexy' is drawn to next - as it happens, it'll be Swinging Sixties London, just in time for The War Machines............

But if you're desperate for another First & Dodo caper before then, there are several in the literary canon of Who - as just one example, The Man In The Velvet Mask, in which the duo arrive in a parallel universe's French Revolution. Who's in charge? Why, its First Deputy Minski! And the Doctor can sense a massive change coming...he's about to experience his first regeneration & gain his second heart (which Time Lords apparently do during their first such radical change of appearance).

Chuck in a cameo from the Marquis De Sade, as a prisoner in the New Bastille (the old one having been stormed in 1789 as the first real sign of discontent at the reign of King Louis & his good lady wife/queen Marie Antoinette) & you've got yourself a humdinger of a saga - all in the First's favourite period of history, too. The Reign Of Terror turned on its head, you might say......

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