Doctor Who #123: The Savages Part 4

"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."TECHNICAL SPECS: Except for some tiny clips shot on film from a television screen, no video exists of this episode. I have, as usual, used a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Jun.18 1966.

IN THIS ONE... With the help of a Doctorized Jano, the Doctor destroys the city dwellers' means of exploiting the savages, and Steven stays behind to help the planet's two populations reconcile.

REVIEW: As they dragged him, zombie-like, through corridors and patches of wasteland, I thought for a second there that Hartnell would be denied yet another performance on his own show. Thankfully, the Doctor wakes up from his daze sooner than later and gets back to the things he's really good at doing - thinking ahead, taking a moral stand, and saying goodbye to companions. There's quite a bit of action in the episode, mostly thanks to Steven's handiness with a light gun (completely at odds with how he handled himself in The Gunfighters), but without video, those sequences come off as terrible noise. Somehow, I don't think they were that spectacular on screen either. Still, it keeps Steven on the front line, and makes him a character to be admired by the savages.

The real focus of the episode is on the Doctor turning Jano so the Elder can put a stop to his culture's exploitation of another. It seems that the transference process has given Jano some of the Doctor's morality (a relatively recent development for him, you could argue), and can't now allow it to continue. The fact that the Doctor and Jano have the same idea on how to resolve matters may confirm my theory that some telepathic link was at work between the two men. The Doctor claims to know this was going to happen, so unless he's lying (see Rule #1), we have to entertain the possibility that he was mentally active during the incident, unlocking something in Jano's brain. The scientist Sento appears completely amoral, buying into the vicious circle that the Savages are incapable of development so should be used as a resource, while that use prevents them from developing in the first place. But there's hope for the culture in the person of Exorse who, after a struggle with his loyalties, chooses to side with the Savages, finally convinced by Nanina's compassion. In other words, it's possible for these two societies to come together, and not just because the Doctor's blown up their lab. (It's a small world when the one lab has the means to drain the entire Savage population of its vitality.)

It's not a bad story for Steven to go out on, and we're lucky that a number of the brief clips we have are from his departure scene. Small moments, like Dodo running to him, or the Doctor's proud handshake, Steven's look back before he leaves the room to become mediator. It's just about touching. The Doctor seems to push him into this destiny, much like he did with Susan (see Theories), but he 's no less sad about it. In comforting Dodo, he tells her that they mustn't look back, which has really become the Doctor's credo. An important line, that. Is it a satisfying end for Steven? Not entirely. They did set up his attraction to the future city and then his charisma with the Savages, so he CAN be seen as a man of two worlds. But is he the best man for the job? Rocket jock becomes diplomat? It's more like the Doctor's passed the buck, and though treaties can take a long time to forge, couldn't the Doctor and Dodo have stuck around until it was done? But those are contrivances we have to expect in this kind of a program.

THEORIES: Can the Doctor sense his companions' role in the Web of Time? There's some evidence that the TARDIS has some of that sense, landing where it can pick up people, or where it can drop them off. But this isn't the first time the Doctor's actively decided to drop someone off when they had every intention of staying with him. Is it a matter of sensing what points in time are fixed or safe for people displaced in history to thrive? The Savages takes place in the far future, perhaps even in the billions A.D. range like The End of the World and New Earth, so there's little risk of Steven damaging the timeline. The Doctor may not see the future, but he can at least see that Steven can contribute to history and have a life worthy of him without risk to the the fabric of space-time. He nudges him out of the nest in case another opportunity doesn't present itself.

VERSIONS: There is of course a Target novelization of this story, but I am unaware of any substantial changes it might make.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The action bits don't do much except keep Steven present in this, his last episode. Noisy, but worthy.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Savages has a strong theme running through it, and of course, is important for Steven's departure. You'll sometimes get flashbacks to 100,000 B.C., but overall, a good Doctor vs. Utopia serial.

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