Doctor Who 119 – The Savages Part 1

Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by Christopher Barry

The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo arrive on a planet with a utopian city surrounded by a vast wilderness.

Oh! Pardon me, my boy, you gave me a start. For a moment I thought you were a Robo Man.

Once more I have to praise the sheer variety of the Hartnell era.  For the last four days, we have had an amusing, fun western.  Today, we have a darker science fiction story.  The dramatic shift in tone from one story to the next continually refreshes the show for me.  And with the run of four parters in this part of the season, that means that no story outstays its welcome.

At first it appears that, in spite of The Doctor’s proclamation that this is an advanced planet, our heroes have arrived in Iron Age Earth.  But we soon discover this story has less in common with The Doctor’s adventures with The Tribe of Gum and more with stories like Logan’s Run.  There is a vast city that houses a highly advanced race.  The people of the city want for nothing and seem quite content with the status quo.  Curiosity, however, seems discouraged.  This is bad for Dodo.  The Doctor is quickly taken in by these people as they have heard of him before.  Forget your Cymru Who “On Coming Storm”, this is one of the first stories to portray The Doctor’s reputation preceding him.  According to city leader Jano, The Doctor’s adventures have been followed by the people of the city with great interest.  They had even determined he would arrive in the city one day.  They should be count themselves lucky that they ended up with The First Doctor.  I’d hate to see what Nine or Ten would have done to their society.

The people of the city, as you might expect, have a dark secret.  The power that fuels the city and the essence that improves the abilities and lifespan of the people is actually taken from “a high level of animal life”.  The implications seem obvious.  In the wilderness outside the city are tribes of savages.  Human life would be considered a high level.  Thus, this story follows the tropes of many utopian society stories.  Progress comes at a dark price.  Connected to that is prejudice and fear of “the other”.  This utopian society that admires The Doctor is actually sustaining itself with actions that he will find atrocious.

Adding to the darker tone is the music.  Instead of electronica or ballad we have a string quartet providing some extremely effective atmosphere.  There are few classic era soundtracks that I would really be interested in, but The Savages is potentially enjoyable without the accompanying narrative.


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