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Doctor Who story number 25

Ian Stuart Black's children, like all good children, were Doctor Who fans. They insisted he try to submit a script - he says they didn't believe he was a writer until he'd done a Doctor Who story, though he was the associate producer for the first 12 episodes of Danger Man and wrote for many other shows. Kids.... He submitted this story under the title The White Savages which was meant to be a reference to the colour of said savages skin after having their life essense drained. What a crappy explanation, it would have been just as good in reference to the main villains as they were. It's probably for the best that they cropped the title back to just The Savages.

Peter Purves' contract would run out at the end of The Savages, and the new director, Innes Lloyd, and story editor, Gerry Davis, wanted to drop his character anyway while they took their turn at fiddling with the series. Purves himself wasn't happy with the lack of development for his character - though given that he'd had a few stories where Steven got more air time than the Doctor he can't have been too upset with his time on the show looking back. He actually admits he complained about the role, and doesn't have any problem with being written out, saying "The producer got a bit fed up with me moaning - and quite rightly so. If I was a producer I'd get fed up with an artist who was always complaining." - he thought it was only because of the complaints that the character was written out, but I think it was probably more a desire to change the character. Steven's replacement would turn up in the next story.

The central theme of the story is exploitation, with a highly advanced society draining the life force of a primitive tribe. The funny thing is though the tribe are referred to as savages it's the high tech people who really behave like bastards. You can compare them to the Aztec civilization, which was powerful but was centered on ritual mass murder, or draw a parallel to our own treatment of the environment - though the core idea is the treatment of races we see as inferior, different or simple. There's also the fact that the antagonists are dead keen to exploit the people they view as equals, despite holding them in high regard - they know of the Doctor, and have been able to track his movements but jump at the chance to grab his life force for their own gain when he doesn't follow their views. It's pretty deep for a children's show, and it's really great. It's a shame they lost this one.

It's claimed that nobody dies in this story, it's hard to say from the scripts but it looks like that's the case. What is noticeable is that the plot echoes The Daleks - advanced people in city, primitive people outside, differences fueling conflict - but of course the motivation is different here. Nothing much happens in terms of plot, just the usual "heroes get caught, heroes get away, heroes destroy villains" run around that most Doctor Who scripts have in abundance in the first three seasons. Don't worry, the next three seasons will have a different format to overuse for their stories.... All in all it's not too bad, it's a shame they didn't have time to touch on more of the social issues here, or even the science fiction elements - the planet seems to have had no study of ethics, and the idea that the only concept the primitive people can keep after having their abilities drained is religion is interesting.

There is no useable footage known to exist (a few minutes recorded on 8mm film from a TV set is all), but the audio track survives, and has been released on CD with linking narration by Peter Purves. You can read the script here:

And there is a photonovel on the BBC website here so you actually see what was happening (the captions are pretty bad though):

Ian Stuart Black

This story has 4 episodes

Plot Overview
The TARDIS has already materialized, on a desolate planet, and the Doctor says they are in the distant future again, in a peaceful era. He grabs some device he wants to test and sods off to play with it outside, leaving Steven and Dodo in the TARDIS - and followed by a man in animal skins carrying a club. Back in the TARDIS Steven gets worried - the Doctor is late, as usual. Dodo tells him that he should have gone with the Doctor, after all Steven is grown up and can make his own decisions, right? Steven goes and looks for the Doctor, partly because he doesn't feel like getting a hard time from a girl and partly because he wants to get off this rock. As he looks for the Doctor Dodo sees one of the primitive people, and they both decide they're in the past, not the future.

The two savage men stalking the Doctor are about to jump out from the bushes and kill him when two soldiers arrive wearing futuristic outfits and greet the Doctor. They tell him their people have been plotting his course for "many light years" (Yeah, we all know this sounds stupid), and the know a lot about him - but not his name, or that he travels with others. They do know he doesn't carry weapons, and he Doctor explains that he isn't carrying one now, it's his Reacting Vibrator (we don't see it after this story, I wonder which companion steals it?). Edal takes the Doctor to the city and Exorse goes to fetch Steven and Dodo. This is a good thing, because he saves them from a hail of spears.

The Doctor is introduced to a whole bunch of people, including the four Elders of the city. Jano is the leader and he's positively gushing about how pleased he is to see the Doctor and shows off how they have charted the Doctor's travels through space and time. They consider the Doctor the "greatest specialist in time-space exploration" (obviously they have knowledge of later events in his life and use something like a space time visualiser since they don't have space travel) and the Doctor says he always knew there was a highly advanced race around this segment of the galaxy (he might be making this up). Steven and Dodo are brought in, given an ornate dagger and a fancy mirror respectively and then herded off to be shown around by a young couple.

Outside the city Edal and Exorse are about to move off on patrol - Edal doesn't trust the Doctor and his companions. The guards are watched by some of the primitive people (Chal, Tor and Nanina). Nanina moves off and Tor and Chal comment to each other that the guards are hunting.... In the city we learn that they have their own sun (eh?), but the girl who is with the group, Flower, wants to feel real weather. Steven asks Avon how all these advances were managed, and he lets slip that the extreme advances were made possible by one simple discovery that let their people be better - but he won't say what it is. Meanwhile the Doctor tells the Elders that to accept their hospitality he must endorse their whole civilization - and he wants to know how they manage to be so far in advance of other worlds.

Jano begins by explaining that they have found a better way to stay alive, by tapping the life force of things. The Doctor is starting to get suspicious - they must need a very high form of life. Meanwhile, outside the city Nanina has been caught, and in the streets of the city Dodo and Steven have discovered that the general population never go into the wilderness. Dodo, already suspicious, notices Nanina being brought in by Exorse and whispers to Steven, but they can't get away to look around yet. Exorse takes Nanina into a laboratory, where a dazed savage is released. The scientist, Senta, berates him and then starts geting nosey about the visitors (a nice touch - they complacently accept their society and behave like people). When Exorse leaves the laboratory Dodo sees him and decides to check out what he's been up to, and gets attacked by the dazed zombie guy we saw let out before!

Only he's too zombified to do anything to her. Lame. He walks down into a dead end but when he crosses a beam of light the door opens (the audience probably went "ooooh wow how advanced" at this). He collapses and Dodo helps him out the door. What a nice young girl. Steven and the other two are looking for her:

Flower: She may be hiding - just a game
Steven: Not even Dodo would be as stupid as that.

Steven runs off looking and ends up back in the council chamber, where Jano is just telling the Doctor how that their wonderful science of life force draining allows their scientists to make greater advances. The Doctor doesn't worry about Dodo and sends Steven away. Dodo has managed to get into the laboratory and gets captured by two of the assistants, who think she's here for energy transferrence as well. Of course they're not used to the idea of people actually fighting them - she gets away and threatens to destroy the equipment. Senta eventually works out who she is, but has to rush to turn off the machinery draining Nanina before it explodes. Meanwhile Steven and the ditzy couple have been joined by Edal, who comes into the laboratory and gets her out. She tells the group what she thought of the place, and Edal is very interested.... Steven and Dodo are to be taken before the Elders, and Avon and Flower will be reported for negligence - they shrug it off in front of the time travellers but privately worry they will be exiled.

The Doctor is too busy discussing science with the Elders to worry about Dodo's story, and wants to head back to the TARDIS to get some stuff to show them (obviously they know about Reacting Vibrators already). On the way he tells Steven and Dodo that he doesn't completely trust the Elders, and wants to learn more. Dodo spots the man she helped earlier (Wylda, his names Wylda though no one says it for ages), and the Doctor's fears are confirmed, the advanced civilization is sucking the life out of the primitive people - literally. Steven and Dodo are sent to the TARDIS to return the Reacting Vibrator and bring back some medication, and while he's gone Edal turns up and starts kicking around what he calls a "lazy animal." When the Doctor protects Wylda Edal leaves the stricken man alone and takes the Doctor. Seven and Dodo return, and take Wylda with them, making him take tablets as they go.

When they reach the city a war party turns up. Tor wants to kill Steven and Dodo but Chal, the eldest of the tribe, will not let him, saying "revenge is no good" and also fearing reprisals, though he knows the city dwellers will not kill them - the outside dwellers are needed alive. Tor takes some men to kill the time travellers anyway, but Wylda has regained enough strength to protest. Chal is doubtful at first, but accepts their story. Wylda tells Steven and Dodo that the Doctor has been captured and they're surprised (he's always getting captured, they should be used to it by now). Back in the city Jano can't understand how the Doctor can condemn their whole civilization over a few barbarians.... The Doctor is infuriated, but Jano beleives their advances are worth the lives of a few savages. When the Doctor refuses to accept this he is taken away by Edal, with Jano sending special instructions to Senta.... When Edal gets to the laboratory the Doctor starts poking around while the guard captain tells Senta he has to make an emergency transference - Senta grumbles and asks where the savage is, and the Doctor refuses to watch - then he finds out he will be the subject.

Senta doesn't think it will be safe to use the energy transference on the Doctor - they have never used "such a high form of life" (obviously they either think the outsiders really are animals or the system isn't used to draining a trained mind). The Doctor refuses to allow it, but when he tries to walk out Edal just light guns him and drags him to a table. Much dramatic reading of dials and technobabble follows, but it works and the Doctor survives. Jano comes in and is very pleased - now they know it works on "higher" lifeforms they can drain the Doctor's companions, and patrols are sent out to find them. Jano offers to be the first and only to use the Doctor's life force, claiming that as leader he should take the risk of using the higher level of energy from a high life form (it seems from the rest of the story that the altruism is genuine).

Out in the wilderness the patrol has been spotted, and Chal offers to shelter Steven and Dodo in the caves. Tor doesn't like the idea, but grudgingly lets Chals's decision stand. The cave is very nice, and we learn they live on an island (which explains why the outsiders keep living near the techno-vampires). Their ancestors used to have more artistic aptitude but their capabilities have been drained away over the years - all they have left is their faith. Outside the caves Exorse has seen Tor, and he uses his light gun to find out where his prey is hiding. As he approaches the caves Chal leads Steven and Dodo to the tunnels at the back - there's no way out but it will buy time and they might be able to sneak out of the cave system. When Exorse comes in Nanina and Wylda don't speak, but one of the random unnamed extra is scared and tells him where to look. As Exorse proceeds down the tunnel calling out for the time travellers to surrender Steven shouts taunts back at him, eventually geting him mad enough to take the direct approach - he walks down the tunnel with the light gun on, and Steven reflects the light back into his face with Dodo's mirror. Exorse is stunned and Steven takes his weapon, and uses it to march him back into the main cave.

Back in the city Senta will not release the Doctor into the wilderness. He says that only the savages can survive out there, and instead has the Doctor sent to the guest apartments which he was to be given before Jano decided to drain him. Speaking of the devil.... Jano then arrives and gets his first hit of Doctor Lifeforce, which involves him being gassed. Zooming back to the caves Tor wants to kill Exorse, but Nanina won't let him. Steven of course is determined to get the Doctor back, and sets off with Dodo to do so. When he's gone Tor tries to kill Exorse but Nanina stops him and tends to Exorse, who we now know is going to be a good boy from now on. Out by the city Chal shows them the door, and Steven gets a chance to beat up a guard - they guards are complacent anyway so it's not that hard.

Back in he laboratory the transference has finished, the gas subsiding to show Jano.... holding his lapels and looking down his nose at everything. Eh? Senta snaps him out of it and leaves him to recuperate, and as soon as he's gone Jano tries to smash the machinery, and then switches back to normal again. Somethings not right, and he knows it. Elsewhere Steven and Dodo are moving through the city, watched on camera by Edal, who has the Doctor moved to the end of a coridoor so they can find him (this is proof that they ran out of money for this story). Steven and Dodo find the zombie-like Doctor, and then a door starts to close, so they run and hold it open, but the Doctor doesn't move, so they end up trapped. Edal orders he guards to move in, saying "Use destructive vapours as protection against the light gun" - Oh no, Destructive Vapours! Destructive Vapours seem to be toxic and you can't fire the light guns through them, so it's just going to take acouple of guys in gasmasks to sort out these time travellers. Dodo throws her gun away when ordered to, and Steven is about to when the door opens, and so they just escape. Edal goes running off to the control room and finds Jano there. Edal is suspicious, but Jano says he will head the parol to recapture the time travellers.

Steven tells Chal to take Dodo and the Doctor back to the cave while he tries to keep the pursuers busy. Jano sugests sending some men to the TARDIS and is dissapointed when Edal doesn't go. Steven tries to shoot Jano, but Edal knocks him aside and Random Unnamed Guard gets taken out. More rnadom running around in the shrubbery ensues. In the caves Nanina ends up defending Exorse by holding the rest at bay with a spear until Chal returns with the Doctor. Steven ends up at the cave mouth and is about to shoot Jano when the Doctor stops him. Leaving someone on guard they go inside and the Doctor outlines his plan - he knows he will never convince the Elders that what they do is wrong, so he's going to go for the next best thing - smash their laboratory. Jano sends the rest of the guards back to the city, saying he plans to capture the time travellers himself. Back at the city Edal tells the other leaders whats been going on, and they learn of the transferece from Senta and they conclude that Jano has absorbed dangerous ideas from the Doctor.

Later that night Jano comes into the cave, and the Doctor tells everyone that he'd assumed the transference process would give Jano some of the Doctor's morals - presumably ethics is one field of study that never really got off the ground on this planet. Sot he plan is for Jano to take a bunch of people back to the city - But Edal has just taken over a the city and now Exorse is escaping from the cave - Nanina pursues him and asks him not to let anyone know whats happening, but gets no reply - however back at the city Exorse chooses to not tell the others what he knows. Jano turns up and has Edal taken away, and then seals off the laboraory. Jano tells Senta and the other Elders that they must stop the exploitation, but Senta doesn't believe the savages are their equals and sounds the alarm. Jano and the savages smash the equipment, and after that Edal and the guards arrive. Edal tries to shoot Jano but Steven grabs a gun from Exorse (the only guard who has been there through the whole scene) and shoots Edal. Jano asks the Doctor to remain on their planet and help them build a new civilization, but he refuses, and Chal voices his opinion: Seven should become their leader. The Doctor thinks this is a splendid idea, so Steven thinks about it for two seconds and decides to stay.

So we get a sad and moving leaving scene. Or at least I assume so, as some git threw the whole damn story into a furnace in the 70's. All we have now is the script and the still photos, which don't give us much apart from the usual "I'm so upset, I need comforting" act from Dodo. Steven heads off to the council chamber, and the Doctor and Dodo leave. Standard long shot ofthe TARDIS dematerializing, roll credits.

Main Cast

  • Ewen Solon - Chal
  • Patrick Godfrey - Tor
  • Peter Thomas - Edal
  • Geoffery Frederick - Exorce
  • Frederick Jaeger - Jano
  • Robert Sidaway - Avon
  • Kay Patrick - Flower
  • Clare Jenkins - Nanina
  • Norman Henry - Senta
  • Edward Caddick - Wylda
  • Andrew Lodge, Christopher Denham, Tony Holland - (Lab) Assistants
  • John Dillon, John Raven - Savages
  • Tim Goodman - Guard
  • Notes

    • We never find out what the name of the planet is, or the era - not that it matters.
    • Pretty much every scientific aspect of the story seems to be total bollocks that serves only to tell the story.

    Oppose you? Indeed I'm going to oppose you, just in the same way that I opposed the Daleks or any other menace to common humanity. - The Doctor

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