The Savages

Written by Ian Stuart Black

Directed by Christopher Barry

Yeah, so the production team at this point gave up naming every episode seperately, so i’m giving up counting them. I’ve probably gotten it wrong so far anyway.

Anyway, it looks like long running Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner has been retconned into the upper echelons of society and has been accused of inappropriate fiddling like some common priest or politician*. Or rather he hasn’t, the Mirror have just reported it that way because they like having a go at the BBC because they give away news for free, like some sort of communists. In the very article with the attention grabbing headline the man making the claims is quoted as saying “What you had was a promiscuous gay bloke who had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and liked getting off with young guys. I don’t think he was predatory, particularly. I don’t think he forced himself on the unwilling.” “Gay Bloke Tried to Get Laid in the 80s” doesn’t have the same impact for a front page somehow though. Who knows though, maybe he was a monster, I guess we might find out when Marson’s book comes out.

As far as we’re concerned, however, Nathan-Turner is not particularly relevant because as of yet he hasn’t even arrived as a runner, or whatever it was he first did, for the second incarnation of the Doctor. We’re concerned with a much earlier Who period, and specifically The Savages.

For a long time Europe, and Britain in particular, took the view that because they were christian, lived in houses made of stone and wore elaborate clothes, that they were somehow better and more advanced than civilizations that did not. Over several centuries these european countries, and the places that europeans settled in, set up a system whereby they exploited the ‘lesser’ peoples in order to gain great wealth. This exploitation naturally lead to the countries being exploited becoming poorer by comparison, and to the myth of some sort of fundamental difference between peoples  persisted, and was perhaps even exaggerated. Although there are no longer slaves in America or British owned countries in Africa, this system is, to a large extent, still around today. Doctor Who has a habit of commenting on this, and pointing out the injustice of it. The recent story, Planet of the Ood, for example, is largely an allegory about just that. I literally yelped with delight** when the Doctor responded to Donna taking issue with his suggestion that she had slaves with “Who d’you think made your clothes?”. The most obvious attack on this sort of attitude, however, has got to be The Savages.

The Doctor, as you would well expect by this point, does not take kindly to the Elders, the ruling civilization who exploit the weaker ‘savages’ in order to perpetuate their otherwise idyllic lifestyle. It is a rare thing for him to overthrow a human government, let alone be the cause of an entire revolution ending in the collapse of a civilisation, but he does so here. The apparent ease with which he does so perhaps gives us a glimpse into why he does not regularly, in his view anyway, meddle in time. Someone with his capabilities and intelligence set loose on the universe could have devastating consequences.

What comes next is perhaps not such a good thing. Steven, the Doctor’s sometimes likeable, sometimes punchable, always too fucking handsome companion, played by Pre-***Peter Peter Purves, is left in charge of a planet he hardly knows. Without any form of free or fair elections. There was some sort of general consensus on both sides that he would make a good leader, but as Kropotkin pointed out, any hierarchical power structure is inherently corrupt. Purves has stated on a DVD commentary**** that he thought a great story would be for the Doctor to go back to that planet and discover that Steven was a tyrannical despot. I for one agree, I think it could be a fantastic story.

Even with the perhaps ropey ending The Savages remains one of my all time favorite Doctor Who stories. political message aside, it has one of the most interesting plots of the era. The whole cast are on form as well, with Frederick Jaeger perhaps giving the standout turn as Jano, the foolish Elder who tries to absorb energy taken from the Doctor and ends up completely taken over by the time lord’s powerful personality.

So the Doctor’s left one of his friends behind on a war torn planet far out of the time which they were originally from. Again. In fact, so far only Ian and Barbara have been sent back home to their own time anyone else traveling with the Doctor has just been dumped on some desolate battleground. Will Dodo get returned to her unloving Aunt, or will the Doctor find some equally appealing locale to strand her on? Find out next time, as we take on The War Machines.

*Obviously other people are capable of inappropriate behaviour, its just that their the examples that have come up in this blog before.

** In a manly way, of course

*** Blue

**** probably for The Time Meddler, but maybe for The Ark, I can’t remember

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