The Savages is best known for being A] the one where Peter Purves leaves to go to Blue Peter and B] the one by Ian Stuart Black that isn’t The War Machines. It’s a strange story, full of the B-Movie science typical of the show’s early day where nobody knows the difference between a solar system and a galaxy.
And it’s another one of those stories where everybody has weird names that sound like something else – Jano sounds like Jay No, Exorse sounds like Ex Horse, Senta sounds like Centre, Nanina sounds like she was named by Minions and don’t get me started on Flower! On the plus side, it does have the first of three appearances in the show by the brilliant Freddie Jaeger as Jay No, head honcho of the life-force nabbing Elders and Christopher Barry is doing the directing. So it’s not all bad, even if the Light Guns are utterly ridiculous…
For a story all about a bunch of peeps who literally suck the life out of you, sort of Dorian Grey on an industrial scale, we start off with a lot of nonsense about how Jay No and his chums have been tracking the Doctor’s journey through Time and Space. Quite how they are able to do that without Time Lord technology is not only a mystery but pretty damn baffling. Not only that, it has no bearing on the resolution of the plot so it’s curious as to why it’s in there at all, with the result that we gloss over that as quickly as we can and move on.
Jay No’s elders are knowledge vampires and I’m sure there’s a social commentary in there somewhere about imperialism and exploitation but I really can’t be arsed looking for it. And it does seem rather strange that, as far as we can tell from the telesnaps, Freddie Jaeger appears to be “blacking up” as Jay No, as if he’s just wandered in from playing the lead in a production of Othello. But then, he’s not alone, everybody seems to smothered in fake tan. Bizarre.
Of course the whole thing comes a cropper when they try to suck the life out of the Doctor and as a result Jay No’s personality ends up getting muddled up with his. Not only does this mean we get a rather amusing impersonation of Hartnell by Jaeger [I bet that went down well in rehearsals!], storywise it means the Doctor’s influence helps Jay No to see the error of his ways and put a stop to the whole thing. Hooray. And then, for no apparent reason, Steven decides to stay, something that comes completely out of the blue and is as abrupt as Leela falling for Andred offscreen. Steven was always the Not Ian of the show and Peter Purves’ performance was sometimes a little too over-enthusiastic for my liking, he could have done with dialling it back a bit on more than one occasion. But he still warranted a better exit than he gets here. Mind you, he gets off lightly compared to poor old Dodo in the next story!
It’s here, on my 29th and final Hartnell story, that I began to find myself getting just a little bit irritated by all those Billy-isms that came to inform his performance as the Doctor, all that giggling and alternating between grumpy-shouty and whispery-thinky. You have to wonder how different the Hartnell Doctor would have been if Billy hadn’t been ill and the show had been recorded without the imposition of limited recording breaks. A First Doctor without all those fluffed lines, without the additional pressure of limited retakes, might have been a very different Doctor indeed. What a shame we never got to see it.
The edit itself is the usual Doctor-centric affair, and it’s interesting to note just how much of a back seat Hartnell takes in proceedings. He’s hardly in the second and third episodes at all, no doubt something done on purpose to minimise him by John Wiles, who was still in charge when this script was commissioned. And in terms of the fiction, this is the second of three occasions when the Doctor will undergo something that could well have hastened his demise prematurely.
The only real difficulty was working around the capture of Ex Horse, which I cut for time, along with his romance subplot with NaNaNina, the one with the nice arse in that telesnap. That required a slight reworking of things so that Steven gets his gun from the fruit-eating guard with his guard down instead. When it came to Steven’s departure, it felt a little empty so I bunged in an extra music cue to help make things a little bit more dramatic since it is a goodbye scene after all. Next stop – Wotan!
With The Savages, we come to the end of our Fan Edit journey with the Hartnell Doctor. Every single one of his stories has now been edited, on video and audio. Yay! How strangely appropriate that a story about losing who you are, about having it drained away from you, should bring his era to a close given that Billy himself was slowly experiencing the same thing in real life due to the ateriosclerosis that forced him to leave the role he loved and originated.
The Hartnell Era is where it all began, and often we forget that nobody back then knew he was a Time Lord, there was no continuity as such to be mindful of, and they could, and often did, tell any kind of story they liked. It was only later, as the audience developed a shorthand for what the series was that it come to be distilled down to just Dr Who And The Monsters.
And with the Tenth Anniversary of the New Series just around the corner it’ll be fascinating not only to revisit that journey, with Eccles and Billie, but to then go back to the very beginning and work my way through the original trip of a lifetime that started it all, all the way from Cavemen to Cybermen. And with this edit, now you can too.