Doctor Who — The Savages


Season 3 – Episode 9 – (1966)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Dodo, Steven (Steven leaves)

Let’s start with points of interest! This is the first story that abandons episode titles[1] and uses the much more standard “part __” of the story. Up until now, each story hadn’t necessarily been titled but the episodes had been. From now until the end of the classic era, only the story receives a title.

Now whenever a production crew takes over in the series, there is usually a handover time. A lot of stories have been written or commissioned, and new producers will see these works to air. John Wiles’ and Verity Lambert’s echos are fading and Innes Lloyd’s power is growing. The show is about to change a lot. Beginning here, we are about to lose a lot of what we have come to know and love from Hartnell, particularly Steven. Steven was our reassurance that the series would continue without Ian and Barbara. He was one of those companions that clearly had The Doctor’s respect and fondness.

Let’s dive in to the story! It’s a Marxist dream – in that its critical of ruling classes. As the Doctor explores a new landscape he calls out that he means no harm. He is being watched by two “savages” and two soldiers – the soldiers have been expecting a traveller through time and escort him to the city. Meanwhile Dodo and Steven have a spear thrown at them, before a soldier arrives to escort them too.


The Doctor is asked to become high elder in the city and the companions are given a tour and it transpires that the society is a Utopia with a dark secret. They drain life force from the savages in order to maintain this Utopia. Dodo witnesses this happening and is nearly caught up in the process before being found and escorted back to The Doctor. He ignores her until the three make to head to the TARDIS, where he confides he doesn’t trust the elders and ignored her so as not to arouse suspicion. Of course they come across a wounded savage and The Doctor stays to care for him while the companions fetch first-aid. The Doctor is then captured and forced to the city.

The kindness shown allows Steven and Dodo to gain trust from the savages, meanwhile The Doctor is to have his life force drained – except the readings are very high. One of the city leaders volunteers to have the Doctor’s essence transferred to him. Meanwhile Steven takes over control of a guard, using their weapons against them and is hailed as a God. (You may see where this is going.)

So the city leader, Jano, begins to act like The Doctor and as Steven and Dodo meet Jano, they go in to rescue The Doctor and Jano follows them, beginning to help. It all sort of climaxes with Jano about to be killed by the savages but The Doctor, piecing everything together forbids this. It is time to destroy the evil laboratory, which is the source of this drain on the savage society. There follows a rather good rebellion that would have been nice to see (all episodes are lost so it’s like listening to a radio drama) and Jano declares the savages equals and the two societies are to develop together. The Doctor is asked to stay, he refuses. The savages want Steven, however, who accepts and bids goodbye to The Doctor and Dodo, who leave in the TARDIS.


It would have been nice to see this departure. Steven was a very solid and brilliant counterpoint to The Doctor with Peter Perves playing the part beautifully. The characters were absolutely fond of each other and so were the actors – as such it really does feel like the producers are unpicking the world around The Doctor to facilitate change. At least this is done with nobility. Next time we’ll see something far more crude and ham-fisted.

The savages is all well and good as a listenable story but only the really dedicated fans will really give it a go. It’s fine and let me assure you, Steven’s departure is suitably handled.


[1] – Just as an example, the story we know as The Daleks (Doctor Who’s second story) is actually composed of seven titles: 1- The Dead Planet, 2- The Survivors, 3- The Escape, 4- The Ambush, 5- The Expedition, 6- The Ordeal, and 7- The Rescue. You can see how it became tedious.

Favourite Quotes:

  • Jano: Doctor, for many light years we looked forward to your arrival on this planet. We always knew of your wisdom, but we never dreamed of the miracle that it would bring us.
    The Doctor: Thank you, Jano. And if ever you need the benefit of my wisdom again, I trust and hope you will allow me to express myself with my own free will, rather than place me in an oven, and try and cook it out of me.



Next time:

Back to the present – the now! (1966.) The Doctor and Dodo will see a super intelligence begin to take over the world. We’ll meet some new faces and see a real low point in the treatment of companions (by the production team). We’ll meet WOTAN – the computer – as a villain it is quite good but in my opinion it has one thing that really makes me hate it. He refers to our hero as… (shudder)… “Doctor Who”. Such a faux pas!


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