Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse Classic Who reviews
Browse Classic Who reviews

An allegory about equality acted out by evil guys in blackface and fairly sophisticated cavemen. Also, The Doctor has a vibrator. No lie.

The 1st Doctor, Steven and Dodo materialise on a planet where two different races/people/societies (we’re never told which it is) are at war. Sort of. One of the factions – let’s just call them that – is based in one single cave and consists of raggedy cavemen and one smokin’ hot cavewoman, who lack intellect but have reasonably well-developed morals, while the other faction is based in one single city and consists of very clever, evildoers in blackface.

Two things worth noting here… Number one: The latter faction has been awaiting The Doctor’s arrival for some time and welcome him into their fold. Number two: The only reason they’re so clever and refined is that they occasionally kidnap the cavemen and drain them of their life energy. How that grants them greater intellectual faculties is anyone’s guess.

Obviously The Doctor and his companions disapprove and thus stick their noses where they don’t belong.

#DoctorWho #DrWho #ClassicWho

Here's what we think of C026 The Savages

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what we think of C026 The Savages

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Here's what you think 6 Responses to “C026 The Savages”
  1. Stephen | @sgamer82

    Before, I referred to “The Celestial Toymaker” as a favorite of the Hartnell era stories. After having re-listened to the audio book for “The Savages” I feel forced to amend that statement. At the very least, “The Savages” may be my favorite William Hartnell story that actually features William Hartnell.

    The main reason for this is because, on my second listen, it occurred to me that this serial, more than any other I can think of, highlights how the First Doctor has developed over the course of his run. Perhaps because this episode also features cave people, the question that came to my mind was “can you imagine the Doctor we met back in ‘An Unearthly Child’ being as disgusted with the Elders as he was here?” Even if he disapproved, would he have tried to lead a revolution on the planet to put an end to it? Or would have high-tailed it back to the TARDIS? The Doctor at the start of the series would probably have been more concerned with letting the Elders stroke his ego or getting off that planet before the Elders’ life drain was used on him. Here, the enjoyment of flattery stops as soon as he realizes what’s going on and, if anything, he counts on that life drain happening in order to get one of the Elders to his side.

    Another highlight was watching the Elder Jano, so serious when introduced, suddenly take on the mannerisms of the Doctor. A fun fact I remember that I’m sure jD can confirm is that this was another attempt at replacing/regenerating Hartnell that went unused. Also, while Jano had to be forced to see his actions through the Doctor’s eyes to recognize them as wrong, we have the soldier Exorse, who actually manages to pull it off entirely on his own with the help of the savage Nanina. Steven also handled himself well when going up against the soldiers and their light guns. He also got a good, proper, and heartfelt farewell from the Troupe. Neither rushed off like Vicki, nor suddenly killed like Katarina or Sara, Steven is able to bid his fellow travelers a heartwarming farewell.

    This serial is also the first to show signs of the Doctor’s eventually monumental reputation. The Elders are the first people with no prior connection to the Doctor to show that they are aware of who and what he is. The Monk came from the same planet as the Doctor, and the Daleks knew him from prior encounters. The Elders had never seen the Doctor in person (indeed, didn’t even know he traveled with companions) but were aware of his travels in Time and Space.

    This serial is not without its flaws. I felt there was an early inconsistency with the citizens of the city, as they seemed inclined to keep how they maintained their civilization a secret, or at least were reluctant to mention it, yet later these same characters seem unable to comprehend why what they’re doing is even wrong. It makes one wonder why they would worry about keeping it secret. I also feel like the “militant and distrustful second in command who hinders the heroes” (in this case Edal) is something that’s been used in Doctor Who enough times that it ends up feeling cliche, with other examples that come to mind being the #2 Monoid in “The Ark” and Gaston from “The Massacre.”

    Such flaws were not enough to dampen my enjoyment of the story. Listening with the thought of how this shows the Doctor’s change over time made me enjoy it even more than I did the first time I listened. I’m giving this story a 4.2.

    One last thing I want to mention is another reason I enjoyed the episode, separate from the episode itself: It brought to mind a book written by one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. Any Pratchett fans will probably be able to guess which one I refer to but to give some detail, the book is called “Carpe Jugulum” and features the main character, witch Granny Weatherwax, being bitten by a vampire with much the same end result as here with the Doctor and Jano. I can even imagine the Doctor’s version of her own line in that story: “I have not been Savaged, my dear fellow. Oh, no. Instead, you have been Doctored, hm.”

    (The original line was “I ain’t been vampired. You’ve been Weatherwaxed.”)

  2. Gallifreyan Buccaneer | @aluntrussler

    The Savages is, according to Doctor Who Magazine, the least watched/listened to in all of Who. It’s for this reason that I honestly can’t be bothered to re-listen to it again. I listened to the audio book version about 5 months ago and can’t remember anything much beyond Steven leaving and some unflattering racial undertones.

    It’s sort of an anti-The Ark in that the savages are seen to be worthy of leading their own civilisation. But then again, they aren’t aliens so of course they are – it’s a typical 60’s attitude towards the whole thing. But I suppose it is a step in the right direction.

    Steven is a very underrated companion, and one of favourites. Peter Purves plays him brilliantly and he always had a back bone to stand against the crotchety First Doctor. Pity he didn’t have a better story to leave but considering Dodo’s departure in the next serial maybe it’s a good thing!

    The Savages, it’s not bad, it’s just dull – which is the worse crime? 0.8.

  3. Kyle Rath | @sinistersprspy

    Doctor Who Classic Series Review – Season 3 Episode 9 “The Savages”

    Engage Reconstruction Mode. Reconstruction Mode engaged.

    Morality is in the blood. Or life essence, whichever gets your vibrator reacting.

    Arriving on an unnamed, seemingly idyllic planet, The Doctor, Steven and Dodo encounter two groups living at odds with each other. Again. The first group, viewed initially at a distance, are The Savages, a tribe of suppressed yet compassionate humanoids eeking out life amid the wilderness. The second, The Elders, live within comfortable and highly technological surroundings, keeping the rabble at bay, because being higher on the local food chain means they know better. The Elders have apparently been tracking The Doctor, “The Traveller from Beyond Time”, through Time and Space, knowing he would one day visit. (NO EXPLANATION GIVEN).

    When the leader of the Elders, Jano, steals some of The Doctors life essence, he is imbued with The Doctors morality, and begins to change his ways.

    Despite the reconstruction, this is a somewhat dark, yet straightforward morality tale, not out of place for The First Doctor. Specifically, the idea that our morality, our conscientiousness, can be contained within our genes, and even shared via transfusions, either literally or figuratively. It acts somewhat as a positive spiritual precursor to stories where transplant patients receive parts from a serial killer, and begin uncontrollably attacking innocent victims.

    While this serial was important for being the first without individual episode titles, it also marks the departure of Peter Purvis as Steven, who stays behind to lead the now mixed bag of Elders and Savages. In addition, the attack on The Doctor via the Light Beam Life Essence Removal System (patent pending), was another in a series of increasing number of causes which will have long-lasting effects through the next two serials, and indeed, the rest of the shows history. (SPOILER ALERT: REGENERATION)

    Something to mention: Every time the guard Exorse was mentioned or shown, i couldn’t help but think of Exorcism (from Greek ἐξορκισμός, exorkismos – binding by oath), which is the practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or an area they are believed to have possessed.

    The life essence is effectively exorcised from its hosts – though without the nefarious connotations. Likely not related but i thought it was interesting.

    Finally, the score. 2.5 out of 5. It’s always difficult scoring recons, missing the very important parts of dramatic portrayal and emotional inference. So i try to grade them as if they are radio dramas with accompanying pictures. This serial wasn’t too bad. Not too hot, not too cold. But still somewhat pedestrian in content and storytelling. Frederick Jaeger took acting lessons from William Hartnell to nail down those elements of The First Doctors mannerisms, and it was a quaint, if curious method to show in transferrence. I also had no idea that The Doctor left so much of his DNA lying about the universe. First a tooth; now some of his life essence – where will it stop?

    Having wrote this before the broadcast of “The Gunfighters” episode, this bit of pan-global mind melding is for Ponken: Imagine if an unscrupulous ne’er-do-well rogue Time Lord or Lady wished to do ill towards the universe by collecting the bits of The Doctor throughout Time and made a patchwork clone to do his or her bidding?

    Nah – that’s too crazy.

  4. Peter Zunitch

    Like the gunfighters, this was better on subsequent viewings than the first time I watched it. Part of that however might be that I now have a much better recon this time than I used to.

    It’s a solid story with some decent acting, and a few moments of brilliance. Menina was phenomenal. The regulars were in top form. I saw few of the logic flaws and plot holes talked about, and agree with even less. Most are easily explained with just the slightest bit of thought or imagination. (No offense intended, I just think ponken is busy reviewing and sees things from a first time viewers perspective with an angle towards humor).

    That said, the story is extremely straight forward and 1 dimensional. There are no sub-plots to speak of, let alone plot twists. This left me a little bored at times and, as stated in the podcast, left me thinking about the wasted opportunity of a civilisation we never really;ly explore.

    It’s obvious that Steven’s departure scene was tacked on last minute, and while adequately emotional, was ultimately an injustice for a character such as his. It should have been integrated into the story better and built up more.

    Overallma not a bad story, but nothing great either.


    • None taken, amigo. ;-)

      You’re racing through these mini reviews – well done! I may have myself a re-audit, and possible re-view, of ‘The Savages’ just to see if I disagree with my past self as well. In any event, hope you enjoyed the show.



  5. The Doctor tries to convince Steven and Dodo that they have landed in the far future – a land of peace and plenty. But the spear-throwing cavemen don’t seem to back up his theory. It turns out that the planet is split between the civilised city-dwellers and the savages in the badlands, and that the civility of the city hides a shameful secret.

    They are draining the life-energies of the ‘savages’ to keep themselves young, healthy and strong, while leaving the savages to wither away and deteriorate generation after generation. Furious at this outrage, the Doctor intends to put a stop to them, but soon finds himself strapped to the laboratory table, ready for draining.

    The central idea of this story is a brilliant sci-fi concept. At it’s best, sci-fi and fantasy can hold up a mirror to our own society and make us re-evaluate ourselves. “The Savages” highlights the horrors of exploitation, and the ways in which that can occur in a hyper-capitalist society. The scene in which the ‘energy-draining’ procedure is portrayed in viscerally sordid: a beautiful young woman is crying hysterically as she is strapped down by men in white coats. Later, she is seen crawling around helpless and hopeless, and the whole thing begins to look like institutional mass-rape. The villain is not any one individual, but the society that allows such evil to flourish, and calls is good.

    This story is missing from the BBC archives, and I feel that subsequently a lot of its power and energy is lost when you can’t see the performances, design or camerawork. This really flattens the story, possibly more than most missing episodes, and I felt I was really missing out. Much of the potential enjoyment of the story wasn’t there, and it was a bit of a slog, overall.

    – The Doctor carries a ‘Reacting Vibrator’, whatever that might be.
    – The Doctor is expected by Jano and the elders: the ‘traveller from beyond the stars’. It’s a recurring trope in later stories that the reputation of the Doctor precedes him, but I think it might be a first here. It’s nice to see it!
    – The Doctor, referring to Stephen and Dodo: “They’re very pleasant, apart from their juvenile exuberance!”
    – On the reconstruction I saw, one of the ‘young people’ in the city had incredibly pointed ears like a bat, which nobody ever mentioned.
    – Jano’s invention “can make the strong man stronger and the beautiful girl more beautiful”. It’s perhaps no surprise that sexism endures to the end of time, but it is really so blatant?
    – The Doctor: “Oppose you? Indeed I am going to oppose you! Just in the same way as I opposed the Daleks or any other menace to common humanity!” (Preach it, Doctor!)
    – Jano, once he has absorbed the Doctor’s essences, does a brilliant imitation of Hartnell’s Doctor. Remarkably accurate!

    Should this story ever be recovered, it doubtless would rise quite a few points on my scorecard, but unfortunately it remains very forgettable. It’s a good concept, but there’s only one guest character, Jano, whose name I remember and the reconstruction did the story little justice.

    OVERALL: 2.1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you haven't already... Subscribe now!

Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.

We last reviewed...

N183 73 Yards