Tag Archives: The Savages

The Macra Terror

Standard

Image

Science Fiction is the perfect genre for disguised social commentary. Subjects deemed too sensitive, or politically charged, to examine in mainstream drama can be critiqued in Science Fiction beneath the cloak of fantasy.  Doctor Who in the 21st Century has been the vehicle for political exploration, particularly in respect of same sex marriage.  Whilst the Eleventh Doctor’s companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, conformed to the Judeo-Christian tradition of being legally married (even if the Doctor, in his naivety, thought single bunk beds were fun), same sex marriage has been displayed between Madame Vastra, a warrior Silurian and her Victorian maid, and subsequent wife, Jenny Flint. Hence, whilst seemingly supporting the status quo for present day human companions, Doctor Who radically offers an alternate agenda in which same sex marriage is in itself uncontroversial when between an alien and a human.

New Series Doctor Who has broached the subject of same-sex marriage.  Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny Flint, are seen here in the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen

New Series Doctor Who has broached the subject of same-sex marriage. Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny Flint, are seen here in the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen

The Series Three story, Gridlock, features an elderly human same sex couple,  Alice and May Cassini, who have been trapped on the motorway for  23 years.   Their relationship, whilst millions of years away in the far future, is disguised under the humour of a cat, Thomas Kincade Brannigan, who is married to a human, Valerie.  Notwithstanding his own less than conventional marriage, Brannigan is nonetheless unable to wrap his mind around the concept of two women being married to each other.  He continues to refer to the couple as the “Cassini Sisters”.  More about Gridlock, and its relationship to The Macra Terror¸ later in this review.

In 2007's Gridlock Thomas Kincade Brannigan, a cat, is married to a human, Valerie, but finds same-sex marriage difficult to comprehend

In 2007’s Gridlock Thomas Kincade Brannigan, a cat, is married to a human, Valerie, but finds same-sex marriage difficult to comprehend

The "Cassini Sisters", Alice and May, are actually a married couple.

The “Cassini Sisters”, Alice and May, are actually a married couple.

Whilst seemingly a story about giant killer crabs, The Macra Terror, is actually a biting social commentary on British working class recreation and totalitarian regimes. The third and final Doctor Who script written by Ian Stuart Black, The Macra Terror is a continuation of Black’s concerns surrounding colonialism which were raised in his first Who penned serial, The Savages. Black’s second serial, The War Machines, examined amongst other things, mind control which is another of the concerns of The Macra Terror.

Ian Stuart Black, writer of The Macra Terror, The Savages and The War Machines

Ian Stuart Black, writer of The Macra Terror, The Savages and The War Machines

The Macra Terror is set on an unnamed planet far in the future.  Colonized by Earth at some time in the past, this planet is the natural home of the Macra, giant crabs that are reliant up gases toxic to humans for their survival. Perhaps because humans had changed the above ground atmosphere of the planet, the Macra now reside underground, except at night when they visit the planet’s surface.  The Macra have enslaved the human population  and compels them to work mines to produce the toxic gas so essential for their survival.  The human residents, however, are ignorant of the Macra’s control of their colony and blissfully unaware that they have become enslaved through mind control. Believing themselves to reside in a utopian society, the human colony bears an uncanny resemblance to mid 20th Century British Holiday Camps.  Life is regimented, happiness compulsory and dissent considered a mental illness requiring treatment.

The Macra kills the Colony's Controller

The Macra kills the Colony’s Controller

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming.  Note that the Controller's hair and make up is different from the Australian Censors saved film clip

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming. Note that the Controller’s hair and make up is different from the Australian Censors saved film clip

A reasonable familiarity of the British holiday camp culture is required to understand the biting commentary of The Macra Terror.  As an Australian I found the story’s references to holiday camps oblique and the holiday camp atmosphere more akin to a prison.  Whilst that was certainly one of Black’s messages, British residents would have been a great deal more conversant with commercialized leisure culture that holiday camps were a part of.  These holiday camps were usually in seaside areas and were an immensely popular annual holiday for working class families.  Having suffered from the restrictions and rationing of the Second World War, the British were keen to escape from their work day drudgery into a world of organized leisure for a week or two a year.  Suitably priced for low income earners, the holiday camps offered affordable accommodation in acceptable, but rudimentary, accommodation and communal meals.  Activities for all the family were offered with these centring upon the communal nature of the holiday experience.  Competitions would be run for the best “Knobbly Knees” or the most “Glamorous Grannies”, for example, and holidayers would be conscripted into performing on stage.  Swimming pools, ballrooms, tennis courts, bars and funfairs could be found at these establishments.  Crèches provided child care for children, thereby allowing their parents the opportunity for valuable down time together.

The Colony is run along the lines of a Holiday Camp.  Here Drum Majorettes perform

The Colony is run along the lines of a Holiday Camp. Here Drum Majorettes perform

Ben has a complimentary massage in the Refreshing Department

Ben has a complimentary massage in the Refreshing Department

These holiday camps, however, had an aura of regimentation around them.  Many of the camps had been resumed by the military during the war and still retained ghosts of soldiers’ past.  Public announcements were made through public address systems and some establishments, such as Butlins which was the UK’s largest holiday camp provider, awoke campers at the same time every morning with muzak.  Undoubtedly because of wartime austerity and regimentation, the average punter holidaying at these camps would have found such scheduling of their leisure unsurprising. An intriguing pictorial history of British Holiday camps can be accessed here.

Cinema release commercial for Butlins Holiday Camps

The music  you’d be woken up to each day at Butlins, together with postcards from the 1960s.

The Macra Terror opens with drum majorettes performing to a colony tune.  The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie have found themselves on the planet and unwittingly captured an escaped patient of enforced conformity, Medok.  They are welcomed to the colony like honoured guests and afforded the services of the Refreshing Department.   A complete choice of all treatments is offered including steam baths, beauty treatments, massages, clothes cleaning, sunlight treatment, moonlight treatment, and sparkling and effervescent sprays.  Whilst Polly gleefully accepts a shampoo, the Doctor is put into a clothes reviver where both his body and his clothes are cleaned and he emerges immaculately groomed.  Although Polly thinks he looks gorgeous, the Doctor has other ideas.  Discovering the” rough and tumble machine” for the toning of muscles, the Doctor jumps in and emerges as his usual dishevelled self.  If only all four episodes of this serial weren’t lost, because this would be an incredible scene to see.

Paul Android, Colonial Dance, The Macra Terror.  The uploader describes himself as a hardcore Whovian who loves everything Doctor Who.  On his YouTube Channel he has over 100 piano arrangements of themes for Doctor Who.  Bless him!

The Doctor is quick to discover that all is not peachy in the colony.  The public address system announcements willing people to happiness have a sinister air about them. Whilst the humans are sleeping at night the Macra pump subliminal messages into their heads however the Doctor is able to awaken both Polly and Jamie before they come under its effects.  Ben is not so lucky and is successfully brainwashed.  This indoctrination ensures that all humans are compliant and are effectively in denial as to the Macra’s existence.  This indoctrination makes Ben turn against his friends and interestingly, loose his Cockney accent.   All is resolved at the end, however, when Ben saves the day by destroying the gas pumping equipment.  In doing so the Macra are killed and the colony again has its freedom.  Notwithstanding all the colony has been through, it appears to be happy to continue with its traditions of holiday camp style, enforced happiness.  When it’s suggested that the Doctor might become the Colony’s next Pilot (leader), the Tardis Crew is quick to decamp but not before Jamie does the Highland Fling as they exit through the door.  Now that’s another scene I’d love to have been able to see.

Jamie is a restless sleeper and cannot be indoctrinated.  Ben, however, is a victim of the mind control

Jamie is a restless sleeper and cannot be indoctrinated. Ben, however, is a victim of the mind control

The enforced happiness that is an essential element of the Macra controlled colony, is a theme that is taken up 21 years later in the Seventh Doctor story, The Happiness Patrol. Another biting political saga in disguise, The Happiness Patrol is scathingly critical of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Macra, however, would not be seen in Doctor Who for another 40 years and currently hold the record for the second longest gap in appearances of any Who monster or character.  They made their return in the 2007 story, Gridlock, which bears some similarities with The Macra Terror. The character with the longest interval between appearances is The Great Intelligence, with 44 years between outings. In Gridlock the Macra have infiltrated the city of New New York in New Earth, whereas in The Macra Terror it is humans that have colonized the Macra’s planet. In both instances the Macra are reliant upon noxious gas, with the Gridlock variety thriving on the toxic fumes of motor vehicles.  The Tenth Doctor states that the Macra have devolved since last he met them, and again in Gridlock they appear to be doomed as the roof to the motorway opens, thereby allowing the gas on which they are reliant to escape.

Polly and Ben are confronted by the Macra

Polly and Ben are confronted by the Macra

The 2007 Macra of Gridlock are much smaller and less intelligent creatures

The 2007 Macra of Gridlock are much smaller and less intelligent creatures

The Macra Terror is unfortunately Ben and Polly’s penultimate Doctor Who serial.  Join me at Gatwick Airport for The Faceless Ones as we sadly bid them farewell.

The Doctor finds another funny hat to wear

The Doctor finds another funny hat to wear

The Macra Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 March and 1 April 1967.  All four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives

The Macra Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 March and 1 April 1967. All four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Advertisements

Three seasons down, 30 to go!

Standard

Image

In terms of seasons, I’m now an eleventh of the way through my Doctor Who marathon – three seasons down and only 30 to go! William Hartnell has only two serials remaining as the Doctor, The Savages and The Tenth Planet, before Who’s first ever regeneration. I look forward to continuing my marathon with the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, even though every serial in Season 4 is incomplete.  Thank goodness for Loose Cannon’s superb reconstructions and the orphan episodes on Lost in Time. Please join me for Season 4, as my journey through Doctor Who continues.

Vivien Fleming

The War Machines

Standard

Image

The War Machines ushers in not only the end of Doctor Who’s third season,  but also the hasty, and unceremonious, exit of perhaps the most derided of all the Doctor’s companions, Dodo.  Having lost Steven only the previous week, when he decamped at the Doctor’s bidding to mediate a new world for the Savages and the Elders in The Savages, it looked for all of a minute that the Doctor might again be companion less. Although the Doctor’s ignorance seemingly lasted seven days until the next serial, The Smugglers, the audience well knew that Ben and Polly were new members of the Tardis Crew.  The cycle of companions continued, but more of that later.

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an "Out of Order" sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an “Out of Order” sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

The last of the First Doctor’s serials which is 100 percent complete, The War Machines, plays upon the increasing fear of the mid 1960s that computers would usurp humans. This was an era almost ten years before the introduction of the first personal computers and 15 years before the release of IBM’s first PC and Microsoft’s MS-DOS computer operating system in 1981. Although personal computers had made inroads into the business markets by the late 1980s (Microsoft Windows was released in 1985) it was not until the mid 1990s that home PCs became more affordable and popular.  After borrowing friends’ unwieldy home-made computers to write my BA (Hons) thesis in mid 1980s, it was not until 1990 that I bought my first PC.  A clone of the IBM XT, it had a mammoth 128 KB of RAM and a 5¼ inch floppy drive!  An early adaptor of computer technology, the wonders of this piece of computer history came at an outrageous price of around $3,000.00.

An IBM XT.  My first computer was a clone of this machine

An IBM XT. My first computer was a clone of this machine

At the time of The War Machines’ transmission, it was unlikely that more than a handful of viewers would have ever personally seen a computer.  Computers were massive objects that frequently were the size of a room.  Perhaps seen in educational documentaries or on science fiction shows, computers were a great unknown. The playthings of mad scientists and eccentric geniuses, the distance between computers and the general public was such that they were greatly shrouded with mystique. I went through the whole of my schooling in the 1970s without ever seeing a computer, and entered the “real world” under a misapprehension, that was most probably quite commonly shared, that computers were only the domain of mathematical geniuses.

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this - The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defense applications.  Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this – The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defence applications. Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the ordinary Joe or Joy Bloggs might find a Doctor Who story set in present day London in 1966, about a computer intent on human domination, an altogether feasible possibility.  Although plainly science fiction, there was a kernel of fear and mistrust among many that this may one day become science fact.  Watching Classic Series  Doctor Who with an eye to history exhibits time and again that science fiction sometimes does become reality.  In Who’s first episode, An Unearthly Child, Susan predicts the UK’s conversion to decimal currency eight years prior to its eventual introduction in February 1971. “Spooky”, you might think, however The Time Machines did it again in mid 1966 when it foreshadowed the internet.

The War Machines foreshadowed the internet years before its introduction.  They even used funky computer graphics in the opening titles

WOTAN,  an acronym for Will Operated Thought ANalogue, is the most advanced computer in the world, although not necessarily the largest.  It’s advanced technological capacities were a perfect companion for the building in which it was housed, the new Post Office Tower. Officially opened on the 15th July 1966 by the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the Post Office Tower was the tallest building in London.  Towering 177 metres from the ground (581 feet), it held that title until 1980. “C Day”, or Computer Day was set for 16th July 1966, the day after the Post Office Tower’s official opening.  On that date all computers throughout the world were to be linked together under WOTAN’s (pronounced Votan) central control. The various sites to which WOTAN would be connected included the White House, Cape Kennedy, ELDO, TESTAR, RN, Woomera and EFTA.

Although not the world's largest computer, WOTAN in the most intelligent

Although not the world’s largest computer, WOTAN in the most intelligent

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN's roll out.  A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN’s roll out. A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

TELSTAR was the name of various telecommunications satellites which were launched in the early 1960s.  They provided the first transatlantic satellite television and telephone communications.  So heralded was the launch of the first TELSTAR in 1962 that an instrumental tune by the British band The Tornados became the first number one hit in the United States for a UK band.  Below, for your listening pleasure, is the Tornados with Telstar. ELDO was an acronym for the European Launcher Development Organisation (now the European Space Agency).  RN is presumably the British Royal Navy, EFTA is the European Free Trade Association (formed in 1960), and Woomera is a weapons testing range in South Australia.  Between 1946 and 1980 it was location for joint British and Australian weapons testing. The White House and Cape Kennedy require no explanation.

The Tornados – Telstar

The “C Day” linking of the world’s major computers foreshadowed the ARPANET, the first packet switching, in 1969. The Advanced Research Agencies Network (ARPANET) linked four university research centres together in the United States.  The World Wide Web as we know it now, did not reach fruition until the early 1990s. It could perhaps be rightly claimed that this serial of Doctor Who was the first television show to predict the emergence of the web.  Until I amended Wikipedia, a 1985 episode of Benson claimed to be the first such reference 🙂

Professor Brett - the inventor of WOTAN.  The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Professor Brett – the inventor of WOTAN. The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Although the staff designated with WOTAN’s installation and roll-out were quick to dispel fears that the super-computer may eventually  become destructive, it does not take long for the malignant nature of WOTAN to become evident. WOTAN can speak and is receptive to voice commands, although ordinarily its answers are printed on a dot matrix type printer.  Computer monitors had clearly not been envisaged.  More intelligent than humans, WOTAN knows the answer to all questions, including inexplicably, what TARDIS is an acronym for. WOTAN, however, has a hidden agenda.  it believes that the world cannot possibly progress with humans at its helm and seeks to usurp them by mobile computer killing machines – the War Machines.

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN uses mind control through the emission of sonic sounds and the humble telephone, to hypnotise humans into its sinister plan. Dodo is amongst its first victims and is instructed to co-opt the Doctor.  As luck would have it, his non-human form affords him protection from hypnosis, but not without him suffering physically nonetheless.   The Doctor’s magic ring again comes to the rescue as he is able to put Dodo to sleep, and snap her out of her hypnotic trance, merely by waving his hand before her face five times. Upon waking Dodo is dispatched to the country to recuperate and never again seen. Her subsequent decision to remain in London is communicated to the Doctor via a message from the companions-in-waiting, Ben and Polly.  A more pathetic companion departure had never been seen.

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor.  The already submissive Dodo looks on

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor. The already submissive Dodo looks on

WOTAN has its staff of hypnotised human slaves building a dozen War Machines in a disused warehouse in Covent Garden.  Professor Brett, the computer scientist who invented WOTAN, is quickly a victim of WOTAN’s hypnosis, and dispatched to the warehouse to oversee construction.  Polly, Brett’s secretary, also comes under WOTAN’s spell and is rescued by the Cockney sailor, Ben, who was sent on a mission by the Doctor to investigate. These War Machines were mobile computers but not in a form that we have today.  Extraordinarily large, they were more like wartime tanks than the laptops, net books and tablets that we know today.  Programmed by WOTAN, the War Machines are able to disable the firing mechanisms of Army guns and ammunition, and as such are seemingly unstoppable.  In an Army raid of the warehouse, the single operational War Machine is able to effect the deaths of many personnel.  On a rampage through the streets of Covent Garden, the War Machine is eventually outwitted by the Doctor’s cunning.  After the stupendous cliff hanger of episode three where the Doctor comes face to face with the War Machine and stares it down, he eventually stops the machine in its tracks by setting up an electromagnetic field around it.  An adept computer programmer, as he is of all manner of things scientific, the Doctor is able to reprogramme the War Machine. The machine is then sent on a mission to the Post Office Tower where it is able to reach the top floor, where WOTAN is housed, and destroy it. Commentators frequently joke about how the War Machine was able to fit in the lift, let alone press the floor buttons!

WOTAN's slave labour force construct War Machines

WOTAN’s slave labour force construct War Machines

Polly, Professor Brett's secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Polly, Professor Brett’s secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Save for the first episode of An Unearthly Child, in which you only see Coal Hill School and 76, Totter’s Lane,  and Planet of Giants, where the Tardis Crew are miniaturized in a suburban back yard and house, this is the first time Doctor Who has been set in modern day London. It affords the opportunity for many shots of 1966 London and naturally, the most innovative building of the day, the Post Office Tower. There are a number of very interesting special features on the DVD including Now and Then, a look at the locations used in the making of the story in which those used in 1966 are compared with the present day; Blue Peter, which includes a compilation of segments on the War Machines, and One Foot in the Past, in which the Politician and ex-Postmaster General Tony Benn investigates the history of the Post Office Tower. It’s all fascinating stuff.

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

Perhaps the most visually memorable part of The War Machines is when the Doctor enters the Inferno nightclub via a flight of stairs.  Resplendent in his cape, he enters the “hottest” night club in London, only to be told by one of the hipsters that his gear looked “fab”. It was not many episodes earlier that the Doctor had severely reprimanded Dodo for the use of the word “fab” and questioned if she could speak English properly.   Times were a-changing for Doctor Who and this was even more evident by the new companions.  Polly is a young London secretary who dresses in trendy clothes and is phenomenally forthright.  Ben is a Cockney merchant sailor who breaks the hitherto unwritten rule that all major cast members of Doctor Who must speak in “BBC English” or Received Pronunciation.  It was but a mere three months earlier that Dodo’s Manchurian accent lasted but 10 minutes. For the rest of Dodo’s tenure as a companion her accent changed from episode to episode and became increasingly more posh.  As groundbreaking as it was to have a companion without an RP accent, it took until the Seventh Doctor’s incarnation in 1987 for the Doctor to have his first regional accent.

Ben and Polly in "The Inferno", the hottest nightclub in London

Ben and Polly in “The Inferno”, the hottest nightclub in London

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

Join me for my next review where you’ll encounter the predecessor to 2011’s The Curse of the Black Spot, The Smugglers, in which every conceivable pirate cliché is presented before us.  It’s sure to be fun!

The Doctor is about to have two new companions.  Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The Doctor is about to have two new companions. Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Lance Parkin & Lars Pearson, AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe 3rd Edition. Des Monies, Mad Norwegian Press, 2012.

The Savages – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

Standard

The Savages - Loose Cannon VHS cover

All four episodes of The Savages are missing from the BBC Archives.  For the purposes of this marathon I viewed Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, the links for which are below.

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 2 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Savages, Episode 4 Part 2

The Savages

Standard

The Savages - Book

Watching The Savages was somewhat of a rare treat.  Not only was it a serial that I’d never before watched, but also one that I’d neither read nor heard spoken about.  I entered its viewing, therefore, with no preconceptions and an entirely open mind.  I’m very pleased that I did because I was thoroughly taken by this 1960’s tale of morality.  I enjoy looking for the political in serials, even if a message was not intentionally left.  The Savages, however, proudly flaunts its political design.  Whether it was intended to be a tale against South Africa’s apartheid regime, the association of eugenics with Nazi Germany, or a cutting condemnation of the British Class system, it matters not.  What is important in my mind is that The Savages is as equally as relevant today as it was in 1966.

The "Savage" inhabitants of the planet.  They are humans, just like the Elders, whoever they are considered barbarians

The “Savage” inhabitants of the planet. They are humans, just like the Elders, however they are considered barbarians by the Elders

The Doctor and his companions find themselves on an unnamed planet amongst a civilization which the Doctor considers highly advanced. Although the landscape is somewhat arid and populated by people leading an almost caveman like existence (the Savages), there is built on the planet a sparkling city.  Freedom is afforded to the city’s occupants sufficient to allow them as much leisure time as they so desire.  Their wants are always met, however they are unable to exit the city to the real world.  The city is entirely enclosed with no access to natural air, light, sun, rain or wind, however the occupants don’t consider themselves to suffer materially or physically as a consequence.  The occupants of both the city (the Elders) and the outside world (the Savages) are human and save for the vast differences in their qualities of life, are nonetheless identical physically and psychologically.

 Steven and Dodo are confronted by a Savage.  They run to the Tardis for cover


Steven and Dodo are confronted by a Savage. They run to the Tardis for cover

The Elders consider themselves superior in all ways to the Savages, who are treated as barbarians.  The Elders welcome the Doctor’s arrival and claim that they have been tracking the course of his spaceship for many eons. His arrival is considered a time of momentous historical importance. The Doctor is treated as a folk hero and a man of very high regard,  and is afforded the honorary office of High Elder. The Council of Elders, however, is nonetheless surprised that the Doctor is travelling with companions.  Dodo and Steven are welcomed and given gifts of a mirror inlaid with precious gemstones (for Dodo) and an ornamental dagger (for Steven).  The mirror plays an important role in the story at a later stage.

The Doctor and Jago, the Elder's leader

The Doctor and Jago, the Elder’s leader

The Elders are proud of their intellectual and scientific progress and extol its virtues to the Doctor.  Jano’s discussion of race perfection is chillingly reminiscent of eugenics:

“Doctor, do you realise that with our knowledge, we can make the brave man braver, the wise man wiser, the strong man stronger.  We can make the beautiful girl more beautiful still.  You will see the advantages of that in the perfection of our race”.

Nanina is a Savage whose life force the Elders use to make their own people more beautiful

Nanina is a Savage whose life force the Elders use to make their own people more beautiful

Whilst initially impressed by the Elders’ “vast scientific research” and their race of “great intelligence”, the Doctor soon became suspicious and had an uncomfortable feeling about this  place which otherwise evidenced a greatly advanced society.  On coming upon one of the Savages in the Elders’ facility the Doctor was quickly cognisant of what was occurring.  The Elders had “discovered a way of extracting life’s force from human beings, and absorbing it into themselves, leaving the victim, as you see, almost dead”.

The Elders escorting Nanina from their laboratory following a transference

The Elders escorting Nanina from their laboratory following a transference

Once aware of the horrors that were perpetrated against the Savages, the Doctor was quick to condemn the travesty.  In doing so, however, he found himself an unwilling participant in the Elders’ immoral “medical” procedure.  The Doctor’s powerful conversation with the Elder leader, Jano, is worthy of quoting verbatim.

JANO:  We do not understand you, Doctor. You have accepted our honours gladly, how can you condemn this great artistic and scientific civilisation because of a few wretched barbarians?

DOCTOR: So your rewards are only for the people that agree with you ?

JANO: No. No, of course not.  But if you are going to oppose us.

DOCTOR: Oppose you? Indeed I am going to oppose you, just in the same way that I oppose the Daleks or any other menace to common humanity.

JANO: I am sorry you take this attitude, Doctor.  It is most unscientific.  You are standing in the way of human progress.

DOCTOR: Human progress, sir?  How dare you call your treatment of these people progress!

JANO: They are hardly people, Doctor.  They are not like us.

DOCTOR: I fail to see the difference.

JANO: Do you not realise that all progress is based on exploitation.

DOCTOR: Exploitation indeed!  This, sir, is protracted murder!

JANO: We have achieved a very great deal merely by the sacrifice of a few savages.

DOCTOR: The sacrifice of even one soul is far too great!  You must put an end to this inhuman practice.

JANO: You leave me no choice.  Take him away, Captain.  And tell Senta that we have an emergency.  I shall be sending him special instructions.

The Doctor is placed on a gurney and strapped down.  Wheeled into the vaporization unit, the Doctor undergoes transference.  This procedure is considered by the Elders to be the most impressive ever undertaken because no person of such high intellect has previously been subjected to it. The Doctor is rendered unconscious and upon waking he is weak, groggy and disorientated.  He is unable to speak for the rest of the episode.

The Doctor is an unwilling donor in the Elders' life force extraction

The Doctor is an unwilling donor in the Elders’ life force extraction

Given the unique nature of the Doctor’s transference the Elder leader, Jano, volunteers to be the recipient of the Doctor’s life force. Unbeknownst to all, Jano receives more than he bargained for.  Perhaps because of the Doctor’s non-human DNA, Jano develops a conscience and the speech mannerisms of the Doctor. Rob Shearman argues in Running Through Corridors that this was a ploy by the Doctor Who production team to see if the Doctor could be performed by someone other than William Hartnell.  In my review of The Celestial Toymaker I noted that Hartnell was lucky to have escaped the chop during that production run.  Shearman goes on to state that Frederick Jaeger, the actor who played Jano, was unsuccessful in pulling it off.  Had he done so, and replaced Hartnell, then the series is unlikely to have lasted more than a short period of time.  It was the radical reworking of the title character in the form of Patrick Troughton, Shearman argues, that secured Doctor Who’s future.

Dodo in the tunnels of the Elders' city

Dodo in the tunnels of the Elders’ city

It is the emergence of Jano’s conscience that facilitates his treason against the Elders and support of the Doctor, his companions and the Savages in the destruction of the Elders’ scientific equipment.  The Doctor’s acquiescence to the wilful destruction evidences a distinct change to his previous “no interference” policy.  The Doctor is changing history and quite proudly doing so.  The devastation of the equipment is undertaken in a most luddite like manner and is perhaps a hint that this serial is just as much about the perils of technology, and its effect upon the working classes, as it is about issues pertaining to racism or eugenics. Given that the writer, Ian Sturt Black, died in 1997 we are unlikely to ever know for sure.

The Doctor and Exorse, one of the Elders. Note Exorse's less than flattering head gear

The Doctor and Exorse, one of the Elders. Note Exorse’s less than flattering head gear

It has been argued that The Savages is essentially the same story as The Ark. Both involve a society residing in an artificial environment in which one group oppresses the other.  There is no logical basis for this discrimination and in both serials the oppressed rise up and usurp their overlords.  Both end with the need for co-operation between the former enemies.  When reviewing The Ark I noted that there was no guarantee that the Monoids would accept the Guardians’ proposals for peace.  In The Savages, however, peace is assured by the intervention of an independent third party as mediator.  Much to Steven’s  dismay, the Doctor volunteered him to remain and facilitate the transformation to a fair and just society. Although initially hesitant, Steven quickly accepts the challenge and the Doctor and Dodo depart to the Tardis. Although Steven’s retreat  is only slightly less hasty than Vicki’s, at least he is not the victim of a quick romance and marriage.  As our next serial, The War Machines, will show, there are a lot worse companion exits to come.

The Doctor says farewell to Steven as the distressed Dodo looks on

The Doctor says farewell to Steven as the distressed Dodo looks on

For the record, The Savages is the first serial to not have its episodes individually titled. Henceforth the viewers are better able to know when a serial starts and finishes.  Unfortunately for diehard fans of the series it also means that there will no longer be any arguments on what the serial’s correct title is! A sign of the more innocent times of the 1960s can be seen in the Doctor’s unique calculating apparatus – a Reacting Vibrator.  Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again. This serial is also unique in that there are absolutely no monsters.  The inhumanity of humans to their own kind is monstrous enough. The four episodes of The Savages are among the 106 episodes that are no longer held in the BBC archives.  This marathon was undertaken by viewing Loose Cannon’s excellent reconstructions.

The Doctor and his strangely named RV - Reacting Vibrator.  Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again?

The Doctor and his strangely named RV – Reacting Vibrator. Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again?

Loose Cannon's VHS Cover art for their The Savages reconstructions.  The Savages was originally broadcast in the UK between 28th May and 18th June 1966

Loose Cannon’s VHS Cover art for their The Savages reconstructions. The Savages was originally broadcast in the UK between 28th May and 18th June 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke, Running Through Corridors.  Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who (Mad Norwegian Press, Des Moines, Iowa: 2011),