Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by Christopher Barry
The Doctor, Jano, Steven, Dodo, and the savages make their move to end the oppression by The City, and Steven finds himself faced with an amazing opportunity.
It is all pretty much a downhill ride from here. Jano meets with the savages and convinces them that he has had a change of heart. The machine is evil and it must be destroyed. But he is also convinced that reason will not win out against the people of The City, so he devises a plan by which he can lead his new allies into the laboratory and destroy the equipment that has been oppressing the savages for so long. Even Exorse, who had been taken prisoner by Steven and the savages in the previous episode, joins in the destruction at the end. Again, experiencing the oppression of the savages has awakened a new perspective for Jano and Exorse.
Now that The City’s power has been destroyed, both Jano and the savages find themselves at the beginning of a new peace or a new war, depending on how the next few days and weeks progress. The people of The City will most-likely go into a type of withdrawal now that their power and energy is gone. The savages probably still won’t trust the people of The City for some time. Thus, Steven is chosen by the savages to be their new leader. They trust him, and so does Jano. It is hoped that Steven can reconcile both peoples to each other and find peace. Steven’s departure is rather abrupt and isn’t really foreshadowed at all, but at least it is a decent end. He gets to usher in a new age of peace as a leader. As exits go, it isn’t that bad. Just ask Adric or Dodo. But I’m jumping ahead a bit.
In the end The Savages is a decent story. It may not be the most compelling, but what it lacks in gripping drama (something that may actually be lacking as the story is video is lost) it makes up for in great mood music and thought-provoking thematic material. One can look at the conflict in The Savages and come up with quite a few different interpretations. It can be a technological cautionary tale. It can be a metaphor for the United States civil rights movement (even down to some of the language used). It can be a warning about progress and class struggle. But even though this is most-definitely a moral tale, the story isn’t quick to cast the people involved as necessarily evil. In many later Doctor Who stories, the society that does the oppressing is generally considered evil, and their lack of compassion for the oppressed is treated as vile and this is supposed to justify their eventual death and destruction. Look at the oppression of The Ood in Planet of the Ood for example. And while the oppression in The Savages is not portrayed as innocent by any means, the door is left wide open for hope and redemption. Jano wisely understands that while the machine exists it creates the potential for relapse. By destroying the machine, both sides are now on a level playing ground. Both sides must now choose to get along. It comes down to the individual choice for change, the individual choice to create a new, beneficial society. It is quite telling that no one is killed in the finale. Even the main voices against the destruction of the machine are left alive. There is always a chance for redemption, and I think this is one of the strongest and most noble aspects of this story. It reinforces that you can be in a system, you may even feel caught in it, but you can choose to escape. You can choose to change yourself and influence those around you. You don’t always need to beat down and destroy your enemies. Perhaps this is why in so many Doctor Who stories, The Doctor fights monsters. Monsters are not people. They do not have humanity and they are not sympathetic. They act as archetypes for various forms of evil. The moment they cease being one-dimensional, the moment they become nuanced, they cease to be monsters and perhaps it is wrong to destroy them when it would be better to convert them to a new point of view. It is wrong to kill people, but it is perfectly fine to kill monsters.