All the wise world is little else in nature
But parasites or sub-parasites.
- Ben Jonson
Another weird one this. Ages and ages ago, when Homo reptilius ruled the Earth, I borrowed the audio version of The Savages from the local library. It was around about exactly the last thing I expected to find there, so I dived on it.
The BBC used to produce wonderful oversized plastic boxes of the audio versions of missing stories for libraries, mostly so they wouldn’t look out of place on the shelves in the LARGE PRINT section. After all, only the hard-of-looking would be wanting Doctor Who audios.1 I spent a good deal of the next fortnight falling asleep while listening to these CDs, making The Savages unique to me in that it’s one of the stories I’m both most familiar with and yet hardly know anything about.
Other than the location footage and the lack of carnage that is.
Our journey to the future begins with an unexpected bangin’ choon and a bit of animated lepidopteral flap-action. It’s like an ice-water injection in the temporal lobe. I imagine.
Me: What?! What's going on?
Him: It’s a butterfly. It was on Galaxy 4 as well.
Following this initial shock, the story proper wobbles into view in much the same way as usual, just with lots of subtitles filling in for the missing action. The Doctor’s ambled outside of the TARDIS and is looking around. It’s hard to tell what’s actually going on here.
Him: These recon guys aren’t as good.
Me: It’s certainly a lot different to what we’re used to.
The sound’s a bit whoo, which is probably a technical term. The main problem with it is that every time the Doctor chuckles - and we’re nearing the end of William Hartnell’s tenure so this happens quite a lot – he sounds a lot like a happy chimpanzee.
Steven and Dodo are waiting by the TARDIS. Dodo’s fed up with how long the Doctor’s taking and Steven’s concerned about him.
Me: Dodo hasn’t got a face.
Dodo: You don’t have to do everything he tells you. You’re a grown man. Or are you?
Me: Spot of foreshadowing there?
Two hairy men watch the Doctor from the foliage.
Steven wanders through what was probably location footage, calling for the Doctor whilst...
As Steven disappears from view, some pebbles drop down the cliff near Dodo. She looks but doesn’t spot anything. Stealthily, strangers advance on her. Dodo catches sight of one of them and screams. Steven returns quickly and asks Dodo what’s wrong.
Him: "Spear through the heart. Several through the head."
The Doctor has noticed his observers. Just as he’s failing to coax them out from under a bush two soldiers arrive. It seems he’s been expected.
The Doctor: Do you know who I am?
Edal: Not your name, of course, but our space observers have their own name for you.
The Elders of the city have been following the Doctor’s travels for some time. The Doctor shows the soldiers his Reacting Vibrator before agreeing to accompany them, as long as someone finds Steven and Dodo and tells them where he is and what’s going on.
Me: The music’s a bit cinematic.
Him: The screen’s a bit cinematic.
Steven and Dodo are spending their down-time fretting. Dodo spots observers again, but they duck out of sight before Steven clocks them. Comes a sudden thud.
Him: Is it Dodo?
Me: The music’s really good.
Me: Dodo’s doing a lot of screaming.
It starts to rain spears. Steven and Dodo make a dash for shelter in the TARDIS as fences grow around them. Exorse pops out from behind a bush, and the wooden precipitation slows somewhat. Exorse escorts them to the city, where the Doctor is already chatting to the elders, most specifically the Head Elder.
Jano: I am Jano.
Him: “Doncha know?”
Me: They’ve been following the Doctor.
The Doctor gets an honorary High Eldership. The Doctor reveals that he’s not entirely unfamiliar with this advanced culture.
Steven and Dodo arrive. The Doctor shows off his fab gear.
Dodo: You’re really with it now, Doctor.
Me: He’s hip to the scene.
Two city youngsters take Steven and Dodo off for a guided tour of the city, whilst Jano quizzes the Doctor.
Meanwhile, on location, Edal and Exorse are hunting a young lady savage known as Nanina.
Steven and Dodo are being shown some wondrous sights by Avon and Flower.
The Utopian ideal of the city is discussed. The sound on the copy we’ve got slows to the point it sounds slightly dreamy and bemused, which oddly enough, quite adds to it. The Elders have developed something that improves the lives and abilities of everyone within the city, but as to what this is… Well, that’s a secret.
On location, Nanina runs, falls, crawls and is caught.
Him: No-one dies in this one, remember?
The Doctor and Jano continue their discussion. The secret turns out to be that the Elders tap life energy and transfer it into themselves.
Him: What’s after this?
Me: The War Machines.
Him: You know what’s on The War Machines DVD?
Him: That Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre sketch.
Me: Oh yeah.
The Doctor and Jano’s conversation shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
Nanina is steered into the city.
Flower, Steven and Dodo are looking at sculptures and covering Basic Morality.
Flower: We do everything we want - we go everywhere we want -
Him: “Kill anyone we want.”
Dodo spots Nanina being herded. She catches up with Steven and tells him what she saw. Steven doesn’t believe her.
Me: I think we might have wandered into an analogy.
Him: An analogy?
Me: Almost certainly.
Nanina is guided into a lab where Senta and his assistants are waiting. Vitality is being measured. Exorse gets a row for being late. The strangers are discussed. Exorse leaves. Beeping happens.
Elsewhere in the city, the tour’s continuing.
Dodo notices Exorse and wanders off for an investigative follow.
Jano is justifying the Elders’ policy of life-energy theft to the Doctor.
Dodo’s investigative follow is leading her down corridors towards noises and dramatic string instruments. Abruptly, Wylda, a life-drained Savage appears. Dodo screams.
Him: You’re not writing anything. This is going to be really boring.
The credits occur.
Him: That was short. And the credits are terrible.
Me: Music by Raymond Jones, eh?
1. Being hard-of-looking myself, I admit that there may be some truth to this.
Him: I wish I could summon the Kraken with a click of my fingers.
Me: I’m quite glad that you can’t.
Just before we recap, we flap flap flap.
Him: It’s the Neon Butterfly!
Following the funk, and the greatest theme in the history of ever, we drop back into the action with some seriously dramatic stringwork. Wylda’s stumbling towards Dodo and, for some reason, this causes the Him to start quoting Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.
Me: Fair enough.
Wylda collapses. Dodo picks Wylda up and helps him stumble through a door that’s just opened to the outside, where two further beardies await. The door closes and Dodo slips through back into the City.
Elsewhere, Nanina is being gassed; a process refered to as ‘vapourisation’. Vats begin to bubble.
Steven still can’t find Dodo. Neither can Avon and Flower.
The Doctor and Jano have their interminable discussion interrupted by an over-excited Steven.
Back with the vats and the bubbling’s getting worse. Dodo has wandered in. She’s spotted and grabbed. As the Assistants can’t identify her, they decide they’d better vapourise her, just to be on the safe side.
Steven has teamed up with Edal, as well as Flower and Avon, hunting for Dodo. This time around, they’ve decided to check places that young people wouldn’t dream of being seen in. Consequently, Dodo is recovered.
Me: Youthful ignorance twinned with aged exploitation.
Edal gives Senta a ticking off. After Dodo has left, Nanina is wheeled out. With all the fuss that Dodo’s been causing, Nanina’s nearly drained away. Skin like an old bible. Tch.
Him: Did he just say ‘Where the Dickens’?
Me: Yup. That happened.
Dodo: It was all so sterile and inhuman.
Steven: She imagines things.
Him: “As any fool can plainly see.”
Flower: I can see that.
The Doctor and Jano finally wrap up the chat. Dodo and Steven rejoin the Doctor who tries to return to the TARDIS to pick up some documentation. Jano watches, realising that the jig might, in fact, be up. He asks Edal where they stand.
Him: “’What about the Doctor?’ See? It’s not hard to say at all.”
The Doctor, Steven and Dodo stomp their way through scrubland and have an ambulatory debrief on the way. They stumble across Wylda, and the Doctor begins to slot his theory together. The Elders are absorbing the life-force of the Savages. He sends Steven and Dodo to the TARDIS emergency cabinet for some containers marked D-403. After they have gone, the Doctor comforts Wylda until Edal turns up. The confrontation between the two is quite classy. Hartnell’s on top form. A bird calls.
Me: That was good.
Him: What? The crow?
Me: No. That confrontation.
Dodo and Steven return to find Wylda there, but no sign of the Doctor. Dodo gives Wylda a capsule. The Savages emerge from the shrubbery. Wylda recovers and fills everyone in on what they missed.
Back in the city, the Doctor’s furious with Jano.
Me: It’s great.
At this point, something happens to the copy that we’ve found, and it all goes a bit wibbly.
Him: This is awful, it’s a terrible copy. I could do a better one than this.
Me: Go on then.
Him: There’s no point now.
Me: I think it’s alright. It’s not up to the usual standard, but it does the job and it’s got to look as different as it can to not be accused of ripping the Loose Cannon bods off.
The outcome of the shouting match is that the Doctor’s to be drained, and so off to the vats he’s carried.
Me: “I am no Podling, sir!”
Jano and Sentas disagree…
Following the butterfly (and the credits) there’s a countdown.
Me: They’re draining his essence.
Him: His benevelessence.
Me: If you like. It’s like a first draft of The Dark Crystal. Before Jim Henson got involved.
Jano wanders in to see how much of the Doctor is now in a bubbly vat.
Edal is sent to obtain Steven and Dodo as dessert.
Me: Keep an eye on Jano from here on in…
Steven and Dodo are being shown around by the Savages.
As Jano prepares to mainline the Doctor, I get an odd image of Freddy Jaeger as a Skeksis. Luckily, it fades over the next week.
The Dodo hunt is leading soldiers towards a cave.
Me: There’s some interesting stuff going on under the surface of this story.
Dodo and Steven are reunited with Nanina and Wylda in the cave. The Savages have done wonders with it – some throws, the odd cushion and the whole place looks lovely. Chal, the lead decorator, reveals something interesting.
Him: Oh – it’s set on an island.
Showing no respect for furnishing, Exorse attacks. Chaos reigns. Kind of.
Me: The music’s great.
Steven and Dodo are directed into some tunnels. Exorse soon works out where they’ve gone and starts to follow. Steven has an idea, and brandishes a mirror with grim purpose.
The Him arfs.
Me: He said ‘masters’.
Exorse fires his light gun, but the beam reflects off Steven’s mirror and Exorse himself is overtaken by its shiny power.
Me: Y’know, if Steven decides to run for mayor or something, that’ll turn out to have been a good PR move.
Back in the City, the Doctor recovers slowly.
Jano absorbs the Doctor’s essence with Senta’s help.
Me: Sound like it was filmed in a pet shop.
The transference noises change from bloops to something altogether different.
Me: Well, it doesn’t now.
Back in the caves, the Savages are gloating over Exorse. Steven heads back to the City to save the Doctor. As they all leave, the frustrated Tor tosses a club as Nanina begins befriending Exorse.
Him: “Razz’n, frazz’n, razz’n, frazz’n…”
The City guard is soon overcome - I should admit that we’re reading the subtitles aloud at this point – Steven’s party enter the City.
Jano has drained his delicious Docshake, and a change is coming over him as a result.
Him: “Ah, so you’re Daleks are you, hmm? Very good, carry on. I’m the Doctor, doncha know?”2
Me: Jano’s doing a good William Hartnell impression.
Him: So… Does that mean that the Doctor thinks that Dodo has a dreadful name?
Me: Yup. Jano’s also absorbed Professor Yaffle by the sound of it.
Him: Doctor Jano and Mr Hyde?
Him: Movement?! Sweet, sweet movement! Blink and you’ll miss it though.
Dodo recognises a T-junction that leads to the laboratory. The Doctor is released and Steven and Dodo grab him. He’s in a right mess. Edal has been watching all this on the monitor and closes the escape route. Smoke begins to fill the corridor…
2. The Him channelling Paul Merton.
Suddenly, it’s the final full-on four-to-the-floor flap-flap Goa. Jano Reactor, I’ll wager.3
Anyway, Jano has been watching the smoky corridor shenanigans, and saves our chums. Edal is furious at this escape and pretty quickly works out that it could only have been Jano who helped. Jano covers his weird actions by offering to lead the patrol to recapture our chums.
Outside, Dodo and Steven drag the Doctor through many shrubs toward the caves. They bump into Chal, who takes over for Steven so he can double back and distract the pursuers.
Him: “Is there/Life on MARS?!”
No comment is forthcoming.
Steven aims at the patrol and-
Him: Movement! I love movement. Oh, it’s gone.
Steven hits a guard, and the patrol’s pinned down. The wind rises.
Deeper in the shrubs and the Doctor’s still out of it.
In the caves themselves, Exorse and Nanina have really made a connection.
Me: Apart from the Skeksis and Podlings there aren’t any monsters in this one. Not a Land Strider. Not even Fizzgig.
Make good drinks!”
Steven manages to make it to the caves, but he’s been followed by the patrol. The Doctor slowly recovers. He fills the time plotting his revenge – and moving for a moment.
The Doctor decides that they’ll wait until dark and then destroy the Elders’ power totally.
Having sent everyone else back to the City, Jano comes over to the caves for a chat. He offers to help. During this conflab, Exorse escapes. Nanina runs after him and tries to change his mind. It doesn’t work.
In the City, the Elders have worked out that Jano’s Docshake was spiked with conscience. They await his return suspiciously.
Exorse makes it to the City, just as Jano appears, with prisoners. The doors are sealed and Edal is taken away.
Jano tries to persuade the Elders to give up their power and destroy their equipment. The Elders aren’t as taken with this idea as Jano and an emergency alarm begins to sound. The laboratory is destroyed. We’re still reading the subtitles.
Following the wholesale vandalism, everyone decides to put their troubles aside.
Jano: We may need a new leader. Someone who can unite us.
And, as he must be, Steven is selected for the job.
Steven accepts and there’s more movement.
Me: Oh, wow.
Him: He shouldn’t.
Me: You alright?
Him: The next one can’t be The War Machines.
Me: It is.
Him: But that’s the one where Dodo leaves.
Me: Or gets pushed.
The Doctor and Dodo say goodbye to Steven. There’s a wonderful speech from the Doctor, some final movement and the TARDIS leaves.
Me: Peter Purves has said on several occasions he’d like the series to revisit Steven and find that he’d become a tyrant. It’s a great idea.
Him: I’d just like to visit him again.
Me: You liked Steven didn’t you?
Him: Yeah. All the companions are dropping like flies. Well, no – they’re leaving. Katarina dropped like a fly.
Me: Like a Menoptra.
I don’t mention Bret Vyon or Sara as the Him’s made it clear that they don’t actually count as companions. Even if they should.3
Him: I miss Steven.
3. “It is not heresy and I will not recant!”