Doctor Who (Classic): S03E09 “The Savages”

Season 3
Directed by Christopher Barry
Written by Ian Stuart Black

Hey everyone, it’s been a while but it’s time for more adventures in Doctor Who Classic. Ok, I know we had been through a bit of a rough spell but things are going to get better eventually. Every show has these spells and while I know “The Celestial Toymaker” and “The Gunfighters” were bad and things don’t exactly improve this week all that much, there’s no reason for alarm. We return to the show with a completely missing serial featuring the First Doctor, Steven, and Dodo and a story of two groups, a technocratic and the class they exploit. It’s Doctor Who at its most familiar.

This is the second time The Doctor has been known in the histories of the people there (“The Ark”) but it’s the first time it’s not by direct contact. It establishes him as an actual noteworthy historical figure and while we don’t know which of his travels left enough of an impact where records of his existence are made (though hilariously, his companions have made no such impact), it’s nice to see a basic acknowledgment that this figure who was at so many pivotal moments in history already, has left a trace. It’s the kind of thing NuWho has done a lot more of for better or worse.

The travelers are greeted with open arms, The Doctor is offered a position as a high elder, and his companion given fine gifts and a nice tour. The Doctor seems very accepting of these people even though he wants to know how they achieved such success and understandably so considering how many he’s seen with a dark secret so far. This time, that secret is that the so called civilized are hunting (with a light gun that puts people under their control) the “savages” and draining them of “life energy” which is how they are able to achieve their little utopia. The Doctor proves a quick study in this serial, figuring out they are actually evil fairly quickly and able to discern the entire plot by midway through the second episode. Which of course means he has to be incapacitated for the third episode and much of the fourth as the serial comes to a screeching halt in quality.

Things proceed as all these type serials do until ultimately the Doctor wins the day thanks to his innate goodness, a fact which makes me rather angry. The writing keeps trying to make a point of saying that all people are equal only for it to say “Nope, actually The Doctor is superior to everyone”. Besides making it apparent that they hadn’t planned the whole regeneration thing (which would have make for an effective ending when all the power from The Doctor’s life force inevitably breaks the machine), it just reeks of a writer who didn’t know how to end things.

Steven departs when both sides decide they want him to be their new leader and The Doctor badgers him into accepting. Aside from dooming the perilous peace this planet faces going forth with an easily angered and fairly dimwitted Steven, there’s no way The Doctor would have approved this if he didn’t want Steven gone (or more accurately the producers didn’t want to move on). And really, the only one who seems all that broken up about it is Dodo, who for the time being is the first solo female companion. So goodbye Steven, you were certainly a middle of the road companion though your contribution to “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve is undeniable.

Grade: C-

Stray Observations
– Gone are the individual episode titles which I’ve never really made a point of mentioning and I can’t say their loss affects me.
– Anyone who says that NuWho makes The Doctor Mary Sue-ish at times should be pointed towards this serial.
– The Doctor feels confident Dodo can take care of herself and while I appreciate his confidence in her, it always feels just a bit like he is doing nothing because he really doesn’t care. There is always a fine line Hartnell seems to be walking between putting on airs and it being just an act but more often than not it feels like the former.
– Sorry all for the long delay but a combination of needing a break from talking about the bad run and other related things taking up my time made it unavoidable (that’s a slight exaggeration) and then that just kind of snowballed. I was hoping to at least make it through the end of the First Doctor’s run before I took a break but that didn’t happen and well now it’s months later and I doubt anyone even remembers this.
– If it makes you feel any better, this the third time I’ve had to watch this serial (once in my original attempt to make it through classic Doctor Who, once in my original attempt to write about this, and now a third time).
– I am mostly hoping to catch up in time for the end of “The Power of the Daleks” (which started on November 19th in the US) so here is my anticipated schedule to achieve this.
– “The War Machines” – November 28th
– “The Smugglers” – December 5th
– “The Tenth Planet” – December 12th
– “The Power of the Daleks” – December 24th
– This Week in Cliffhangers: The Doctor and Dodo depart alone on the desert plan

Next Up: I can assure you, things improve next time as we close out Season 3 with “The War Machines”.

Also, since it’s been a long while (and for my personal reference) here is a link to every serial I’ve covered so far.

Season 1
“An Unearthly Child”
“The Daleks”
“The Edge of Destruction”
“Marco Polo”
“The Keys of Marinus”
“The Aztecs”
“The Sensorites”
”The Reign of Terror”

Season 2
“Planet of Giants”
“The Dalek Invasion of Earth”
“The Rescue”
“The Romans”
“The Web Planet”
“The Crusade”
“The Space Museum”
“The Chase”
“The Time Meddler”

Season 3
“Galaxy 4”
“Mission to the Unknown”
“The Myth Makers”
“The Daleks’ Master Plan”
“The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve
“The Ark”
“The Celestial Toymaker”
“The Gunfighters”