Doctor Who: The Savages
(4 episodes, s03e38-e41, 1966)
This serial kicks off with the Doctor pulling out his scientific tools again, and it’s good to see the him getting back to the exploits that we started Hartnell’s run with. What’s even more impressive is this story about class warfare and morality in the pursuit of utopia.
At first, I thought that the “savages” were supposed to be the cave-dwellers, but in truth the true savages are the technologically advanced upper class who power their entire lives with the life force of the lower class. It’s an allegory on progress, which depends on a certain amount of exploitation but requires a social conscience to prevent over-exploitation and unethical behavior. The story reminds me of countless Star Trek episodes, including the Next Generation pilot “Encounter at Farpoint“.
The cave dwellers and the light gun/mirror trick remind me Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It also plays into the continued deus ex machina of the Doctor and his travels.
Concerning both of those points, it was an great science fiction concept to place the Doctor in the vitality extractor. Would it extract only this incarnation’s life-force, or all twelve of his lives? It was also interesting that a life-energy transference would also bleed over some personality. The Doctor also never gets his energy back. Has this weakened him enough to prompt his regeneration in the near future?
Finally, Steven wasn’t my favorite companion, but this is a perfect ending for his voyage with the Doctor. His strong personality and morals will serve him well in negotiating a new civilization for both groups of savages.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The War Machines
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.