Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Savages - "There is much work to be done."

The Savages (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Season 3, Story 9 (Overall Series Story #26) | Previous - Next | Index

The city guards' haberdashery convinces the Doctor this is a truly advanced society.
Bearing in mind my last Hartnell was the execrable "The Celestial Toymaker," you'll understand why I was not eager to queue up a story that had a working title of "The White Savages." Mercifully, this story was only tedious and (probably) not racist (much, anyways).  It has a few slight charms and what is almost certainly a well-intentioned anti-colonialist theme. So, huzzah for that.

If only it were watchable. And, no, I don't think if the original tapes were found it would make a lick of difference.

Steven elects to stay behind and work to broker the peace between the Elders and the Savages. It's a much more dignified departure than Dodo will get in "The War Machines," one that, by the end of this story it hardly seems he deserves. Dodo's the one carrying the load of keeping the plot moving and getting to the bottom of things in the first couple of episodes; Steven, meanwhile, is basically a dick to her the entire time, doubting everything she says and implying she's just flighty bird not worth paying attention to. The show doesn't really hold Steven accountable for his douche-y behavior either. Dodo is basically treated with contempt by all everyone and it's unbecoming.

Hartnell's thunder is a stolen in this one as the actor playing the leader of the Council of Elders gets to imitate him, delightfully, for most of episodes three and four after vampiring the Doctor's juice. (Or, whatever.) That's one of the slight charms I alluded to earlier. The Doctor refusing to leave until he's done something to help the oppressed people is a bright spot. The other, more dubiously, is the for-the-dads, derriere-revealing animal skin worn by the savage Nanina.


  • First story to have a title and episode numbers. Up until this point, all the episodes had names and we've backfilled the names of the stories.
  • The only surprising development in E2 is that the Doctor is captured and the technique used on him rather than Dodo or Steven. Like everything else in this story, it takes for ever for the events to unfold. 
  • Speaking of Dodo being treated with contempt, there's a scene where Steven asks to her give the drained Doctor some of the restorative capsules they used on the savage Tor after he had been sapped of his life force. They are on the only capsules mentioned in the episode and Steven couldn't possibly be referring to anything else. Dodo, she's cluelessly forgotten all about them. That's a character being mocked. It's grating. This story's biggest problem is its pace and we're taking time to make Dodo look like an idiot? Stop it, you guys.
  • At various times during this one, I found myself wishing it more like Star Trek's "The Cloud Minders,"
  • Even the anti-colonialist theme is somewhat undermined in the telling of the story. The savages don't liberate themselves, they're liberated by liberal elitist do-gooders. The Doctor's influence results in the leader of the Elders developing a conscience and issuing a directive to stop exploiting the defenseless. The story of a top-down revolution almost inevitably patronizes the liberated.
  • The planet in this one seems to consist of a small city surrounded by a small band of savages who stay within walking distance of their oppressors because ... ? No effort to go the extra mile here in terms of world-building. 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry

chakoteya.net transcript

Sandifer post

Shabogan Graffiti

Wife in Space post
Sue: So, is this story racist or not?
Me: Well, assuming that it’s possible to black-up and not be racist, I’m still not 100 per cent sure.
Sue: But what is it trying to say? Is it that you can be an arsehole regardless of the colour of your skin? Or is he black because he’s the bad guy? Why are all the savages white? It’s got to be intentional.
AV Club review

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