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The Savages

The TARDIS lands on a planet which offers a ‘golden age of peace and prosperity’. But this apparent utopia comes at a terrible price...

The Savages begins with the TARDIS landed on a barren plain, its crewmembers the target of raggedy Neanderthal types wielding crude weapons. “We must be back at the beginning of Man!” despairs companion Dodo. Back in 100,000 BC, even; back at the beginning of Doctor Who itself. By the end of the first episode, Dodo has found herself in the corridors of an ultra-modern City, and a sliding door has caused her to become separated from shipmate Steven Taylor; lost in those strange corridors, someone or something advances upon her, and she screams…

It’s rather reminiscent of the situation Barbara Wright found herself in, again back at the very beginning of Doctor Who; back on The Dead Planet (1963), also directed by Christopher Barry – who could have been forgiven a sense of déjà vu when he came to The Savages’ first cliffhanger.

Perhaps, though, that was the whole point of The Savages – to go to back to basics, after a sequence of wildly contrasting, rather atypical adventures. Newly installed producer Innes Lloyd seemed to think so. On 6 June 1966, he wrote to Christopher Barry to thank him for the ‘hard work and tremendous imagination’ he’d put into it: ‘From beginning to end it had a clarity of direction and purpose which, to my mind, is echoed in the finished product. I do believe, one way or another, you have managed to put Dr. Who [sic] back on the lines on which it was originally intended to be run…’

The Savages is most often recalled for the dull fact that it marked the end of Steven’s run as a TARDIS traveller. That’s unfair. The Savages wasn’t an ending… but a new beginning.

Episode 1


Dr Who (William Hartnell) tells his companions Steven (Peter Purves) and Dodo (Jackie Lane) that the TARDIS has landed in a future age. But as they head out of the Ship, the scanner shows the approach of a club-carrying Savage (John Raven, uncredited).

◾ Although a reprise from the closing moments of the final episode of The Gunfighters (1966), the scanner shot was filmed at a Surrey sandpit on Sunday 1 May 1966, as part of The Savages’ location shoot [see Sandpit of Horror box-out, page 61].

◾ Viewers in the ATV London region could have seen John Raven in a more substantial role two weeks after this opening episode’s transmission, playing ‘Chief Running Wolf’ in The Case of the Travelling Texan, an American West-themed episode of the period detective show Sergeant Cork (broadcast 11 June 1966).

The Doctor proceeds through Scrubland, taking readings on a measuring device – unaware that he’s being watched from behind bushes. Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo wait beside the TARDIS, stationed in a Ravine. Steven frets that the Doctor’s been gone too long.

◾ “The Doctor has no idea of time,” says Dodo – which is funny, she reckons, for someone who’s “travelled about in time as much as he has”. In writer Ian Stuart Black’s original line, Dodo actually claimed that the Doctor had “travelled about in time more than anyone else” – which would seem to accord with Jano’s comments later in the episode, about how the Doctor is “the greatest specialist in time-space exploration”.

Dodo and Steven set off to explore.

Two raggedly dressed figures are stalking the Doctor – one of whom picks up a club. The Doctor disregards the sound of Steven calling his name.

◾ “Well, I shan’t be long anyway…” the Doctor murmurs to himself. As scripted, he ‘rather faintly’ called back “I won’t be long” – but Steven didn’t hear him.

◾ Director Christopher Barry’s camera directions suggest a faintly comical shot here – when the two raggedy men dropped back behind the cover of the bushes as the Doctor turned, accidentally, in their direction: ‘MS [mid-shot] Dr. Pull back to see Chal & Tor duck in bgd [background].’

Dodo hears Steven call to tell her that he’s going to look for the Doctor. Then she hears pebbles trickling down from the top of the Ravine… and catches a glimpse of a watching Savage, holding an axe. Her scream brings Steven running. Meanwhile, the Doctor turns back – and club-wielding Chal (Ewen Solon) tells fellow watcher Tor (Patrick Godfrey): “We kill this man.”

◾ Made famous as Lucas, sidekick to Rupert Davies’ Maigret in the BBC TV series of 1960-63, Ewen Solon was only one of several actors whom director Christopher Barry considered for Chal. According to Barry’s casting notebook, Peter Thomas (eventually Edal) was his first choice, followed by Patrick O’Connell (previously Ashton in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, 1964). He also nominated Robert James, whom he’d previously directed in Smugglers’ Bay (1964) and would later cast as Lesterson in The Power of the Daleks (1966); and Ronald Fraser, eventually Joseph C in The Happiness Patrol (1988).

◾ Patrick Godfrey was Barry’s second choice for Tor. His first, in fact, was Milton Johns – later Benik in The Enemy of the World (1967-68), Crayford in The Android Invasion (1975) and Kelner in The Invasion of Time (1978). Also in the running: Bernard Finch, later a Mentiad in The Pirate Planet (1978); and John Rolfe, who’d take the first of his three Doctor Who roles in the subsequent serial, The War Machines (1966).

When the strap around the Doctor’s device catches on a twig, he stops – then hears a noise from the bushes.

◾ “I say, come out from underneath there,” he calls. The script required the Doctor to be ‘very unconcerned’ that someone might be hiding in the bushes: ‘It is as though he had expected to meet someone…’

“ The Elders of our city have been plotting the course of your space-time ship for many light years.”

Tor alerts Chal to the sight of two armed guards approaching down the path, behind the Doctor; the two Savages flee. The guards greet the Doctor: they are Captain Edal (Peter Thomas) and his subordinate Exorse (Geoffrey Frederick).

◾ Edal and Exorse’s arrival prompts the Doctor to say, “Well, I am expected. Do you know who I am?” As scripted, however, his line ran: ‘Just as I thought. I am expected. And I suppose you know who I am.’ It appears, therefore, that in rehearsals it was decided to eliminate the pretty inexplicable idea that the Doctor believed his arrival would have been anticipated by the people of this planet!

◾ Having played Hawkins in four episodes of the Barry-directed thriller serial No Cloak – No Dagger (1963), Peter Thomas was the director’s first choice for Edal. He also considered Nicholas Hawtrey, whom he’d later feature as Quinn in The Power of the Daleks; James Kerry, whom he’d used in an episode of hotel-set series The Flying Swan (1965); and Gary Hope, often cast as swarthy foreign types in adventure series including The Saint and Danger Man.

◾ Geoffrey Frederick was only the director’s third choice for Exorse, though – after Barry MacGregor, who’d featured as regular Hughie Turner in six Barry-directed episodes of Starr and Company (1958); then Mark Burns, another actor Barry had used in The Flying Swan. Also considered: Brian Jackson, again from Smugglers’ Bay; and Stephen Thorne, whom Barry would eventually cast as Azal in The Dæmons (1971).

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: An exclusive interview with Captain Jack actor John Barrowman; a preview of the first episodes of the new Doctor Who spin-off Class, featuring an interview with Patrick Ness; a preview of the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; exclusive chats with Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara, Ed Bazalgette and Daniel Nettheim on the art of being a director; The Fact of Fiction looks at 1966's The Savages; brand-new comic strip action for the Twelfth Doctor and Jess in Bloodsport by Mark Wright, illustrated by Staz Johnson; the Time Team watch 2010's The Lodger; the Watcher considers monster voices in Wotcha!; the latest merchandise previewed and reviewed; prize-winning competitions and more.