Thursday, 5 October 2017
Inspirations - The Savages
The first adventure to have an on-screen title with episode numbering, so no more arguments about what these stories are called. The writer is Ian Stuart Black. He had gone in to visit the BBC to discuss another set of scripts when he noticed the Doctor Who office next door, so popped in and asked if he could contribute something. He knew that this would make him popular with his children. (He's one of a handful who have said that their kids didn't accept they were real writers until they had done a Who).
This story is represented by very few photographs in the archives, and no clips exist save for some rough Super-8 footage. What it looked like is important in telling us where it came from, as you'll see below.
The Savages is basically a role reversal story. There had been an attempt very early on to have a story about a planet identical to Earth except on the other side of the Sun, where things were reversed. Barbara would have turned out to be the double of the planet's ruler. 'The Hidden Planet', possibly also titled 'Beyond the Sun', was submitted by Malcolm Hulke. (That second title has been attributed to more than one story of the first season). Hulke clearly meant that a world run buy a woman was a big thing. In other words, the notion of a woman being in charge is a mad science-fiction idea in 1963 / 4, worthy of a Doctor Who story.
For the role reversal gimmick of this story, we need to look at what its' original title was, and examine the telesnaps. The story was due to be called 'The White Savages'. The implication being that savages are usually black. No other way of looking at it as far as I can see. I have had a good look at the telesnaps, and if you can get decent quality versions you will see that Jano and the rest of the Elders are wearing dark make-up. It's really quite noticeable in some images. The writer and, by implication, the story editor appear to be saying that white people are by default the more advanced race, but on this planet it is dark-skinned people who are the ones with the science and technology, whilst white people are primitive cave dwellers. In other words, the notion of dark-skinned people being superior to white people is a mad science-fiction idea in 1966, worthy of a Doctor Who story.
We can't ask Black or Davis about their motivations for writing or script-editing this, and it does not necessarily follow that they intended this to be in any way explicitly about ethnicity. The word "White" was dropped from the title, and the make-up and casting decisions lay with the producer and director. It should be pointed out that the story was first developed under the producership of John Wiles, who had quit his native South Africa due to his hatred of Apartheid.
What Ian Stuart Black would have been much more interested in was telling a story about class inequality, and what the story looks like may have skewed our ideas about it. In some ways this story benefits from having been lost, available only as a soundtrack.
The Savages begins with the TARDIS arriving in what the Doctor claims to be a period of great peace and prosperity. How he deduces this from his controls we never learn, but compare with The End of the World and what the Doctor tells Rose he expects to see if he opens the doors as they travel forward in time, or what Satellite 5 ought to be like. Setting off on his own, the Doctor encounters some guards who take him to their city, and here he learns that the unnamed people of this unnamed planet know all about him, as they've been following his adventures. (We tend to call them all Elders, though this name should only really refer to Jano and his council).
They've been watching Doctor Who, basically, but only episodes prior to when the BBC started making them, as they don't expect him to have any companions. They must have had poor sound and picture quality, as they don't seem to realise that the Doctor will find fault with the manner in which their perfect society is maintained and want to stop them. To keep themselves smart and healthy, they have been capturing the cavemen who live nearby, in order to extract and bottle their life-force. Not enough to kill them - just to leave them weakened. Steven and Dodo get taken on a tour of the city, by a pair of empty-headed young people named Avon and Flower, who don't need to do anything all day except relax and play.
So we have a spoilt, decadent elite exploiting an underclass. They're not just taking advantage of their labour, if you are going to start looking at socialism and communism as inspirations. This being science-fiction, the Elders are exploiting the Savages' very essence.
Political economy is far too big a subject to go into here. If at all interested, start with Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (first published in 1776) and go from there, taking in Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto of 1848 as you head towards John Maynard Keynes. Balance things with a bit of Milton Friedman if you must.
A quick word about political bias. The BBC is always being accused of left-wing bias, and this has been the case for many, many years. The fact is that most of the writers, producers and story editors on Doctor Who have held left-wing views, and this has bled into the programme, and into the character of the Doctor. As far as Ian Stuart Black is concerned, political elites are parasites that leech off of others, and the Doctor is the sort of person who automatically finds this abhorrent and sees it as his role to stop them. Black isn't alone in this view, and this certainly won't be the last time he brings down an oppressive regime within a few hours of arriving on a new planet.
Back to the story... Jano decides to extract the Doctor's life-force, and rather than share it out he will have it all for himself. His greed proves to be his people's undoing, for he takes on the Doctor's ethics and moral standards along with the odd vocal characteristic. He now sees that exploiting the Savages is wrong, and so sets out to make an end of it. He allies himself with the recovering Doctor, Steven and Dodo, as well as the Savages themselves. The laboratory and the equipment which is used for the transferences is smashed.
The Doctor - and his surrogate Jano - bring the Elders' society crashing down. Only a neutral leader can take the community forward, with both races learning from each other. The Doctor proposes Steven for this role.
Since Innes Lloyd took over as producer, he has been itching to clear out the TARDIS and bring in a couple of contemporary bright young things as companions. Moves are still afoot to replace Hartnell in the very near future. This story provided yet another opportunity to do so - in that an actor could have been cast as Jano who, stuck with the Doctor's life-force, became the new version of the Doctor.
Of the companions, Peter Purves is the first to leave. He has since said that it would have been a good idea for a story to have had the Doctor revisit the planet, only to find that he had made a bad job of leadership and become a tyrant. (Only Big Finish have taken the bait). Jackie Lane is due for the chop in the next story, thus clearing the way for Terry and Julie - sorry, Ben and Polly.
Next time: Doc-torr Who iss re-quired. Dodo isn't...