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Recap / Doctor Who S3E9 "The Savages"

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One of Doctor Who's earliest budget-related forays into the BBC Quarry.

Oppose you! Indeed I am going to oppose you - just as in the same way that I oppose the Daleks, or any other menace to common humanity!
The Doctor

The one where we're the villains.

Written by Ian Stuart Black. This four-episode serial first aired from May 28 to June 18, 1966.

Another Sci-fi staple here as an apparently utopian society hides a dark secret. In this case, the civilised, advanced Elders are remaining that way only by draining the life force of the other inhabitants of the planet, The Savages.

The Doctor is outraged, but powerless to intervene when some of his own life-force is drained by Jano, leader of the Elders. With it, however, Jano absorbs some of the Doctor's conscience and knowledge, and destroys the life-force transference lab.

Steven stays behind to become the leader of the newly-united Elders and Savages.

This is the first story to label its episodes as "Episode 1", "Episode 2", etc. instead of giving the episodes individual titles.


  • Big Bad: Initially Jano. After his Heel–Face Turn, Captain Edal becomes the member of the Elders most determined to preserve the status quo.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Dodo's mirror, which Steven later uses to reflect one of the light gun attacks on Exorse.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The advanced and idyllic society of the Elders is maintained by draining the life force of savages living outside the city for the Elders.
  • Dehumanization: This is how the Elders of the city view the savages native to their world. They regard the savages as sub-human and have no qualms about using them in machines that drain them of their life energy and nearly kill them to keep their own society going.
  • Everybody Lives: The Elders are careful to ensure that the Savages survive processing so that they can recover and be harvested again. In the end, the lab is destroyed, but nobody is seriously harmed in the process.
  • Fur Bikini: Nanina wears one.
  • Grand Theft Me: a novel variation. The Elders steal the "life energy" of the savages to improve themselves via "energy transfer". When they steal the Doctor's energy and test the results on Jano, he begins to talk and act like the Doctor, and even gains the Doctor's code of ethics. It was his intention to gain the Doctor's knowledge only, but he got a lot more in the bargain.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Jano, thanks to the Doctor and Exorse, due to Nanina.
  • Human Resources
  • I Choose to Stay: Goodbye, Steven.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Steven taunts one of the guards that chases them through the Savages' caves to get him to slip up.
  • Life Energy: The Elders steal this from the Savages, whom they see as animals.
  • Lost Aesop: The advanced race was originally supposed to be played by actors in blackface (the story's original title was "The White Savages") as a parable about apartheid era South Africa. This got dropped except for the city's leader Jano. Given that it would have given us a race of black-skinned baddies and white-skinned goodies, this could well be viewed as a good thing.
  • Nubile Savage: Nanina, whose fur leotard could almost give Leela a run for her money.
  • Spanner in the Works: As a result of the attempt on using transference on the Doctor, Jano develops a case of conscience. Later, Exorse has the chance to rat out the Doctor's plan to Edal, but does not do so and, in the critical moment during the attack on the laboratory, turns on the machinery instead of the savages.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: The Doctor is strapped to a gurney before he undergoes the transference process.
  • Town with a Dark Secret
  • Trash the Set: The cast genuinely destroyed the laboratory set in the final episode, meaning the one and only take possible of the scene had to be absolutely perfect.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This is the first time the Doctor finds a planet that not only knows who he is but venerates him – a culture that drains life energy from an underclass to power the machines they use to watch his adventures.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Elders drain the Life Energy of the Savages who live outside their city to improve themselves.
  • Vampiric Draining
  • You Are in Command Now: Steven Taylor remains behind as the leader of both factions.