Doctor Who episode 122: The Savages – Episode 4 (18/6/1966)
Having absorbed both the Doctor’s intellect and his conscience, Jano helps Steven and Dodo escape, and they take the spaced-out Doctor to the Savages’ cave. Once he’s recovered, the plot is resolved fairly swiftly, as you might expect when both sides are now being led by the same man. A minor insurrection by Guard Captain Edal and a final bit of trouble from Tor are quickly dealt with, after which the Elders’ vampire machine is smashed up, while Steven is unexpectedly elected as the new overlord of the planet.
This a briskly efficient episode which prioritises wrapping things up at pace rather than dwelling on any of the implications of Jano’s dual personality, or the ongoing tensions even within the factions of Elders and Savages. The script and, from the scraps we have, the direction are punchy, with a lot of short scenes that counterpoint what’s happening in the City and the Caves. It helps that the Doctor has foreseen the consequences of Jano’s in-transference, and knows that it will bring Jano over to the Savages’ side.
The episode at least partly answers the question on Jano’s motivation: ‘You’re not the type of man to allow others to take risks,’ says the Doctor. He’s recognised a man of intellect and courage – it just took an infusion of wisdom and morality to get him to do the right thing, to ‘give up the means that give him power’ by destroying the life-transfer machine that has elevated the Elders and terrorised the Savages.
The smashing up of the laboratory looks like it was impressive – a brief clip shows Jackie Lane really going for it with a big stick. And just to keep things even more concise, the denouement happens at the same time as the climax, with the decision to adopt Steven as the unity candidate being taken as the revolution goes on in the background.
The election of Steven as ‘the only man’ who can unite both sides doesn’t quite come from nowhere – he’s been instrumental in getting the Savages to act against the Elders, and (via the in-transference) Jano clearly recognises his strength of character. Given at the start of the story Dodo was questioning whether he was a man at all, there’s at least a suggestion that Steven’s actions on the planet – taken largely without the Doctor’s guidance – have qualified him for the job. But it’s only the barest hint – this is almost as weak as Vicki’s.
Across his year in the show, Purves has been a solid backbone, present through a rapid turnover of female companions, the revolving door of producers and script editors, and Hartnell’s slow, now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t exit from the programme. Even if The Savages doesn’t quite pull off the details of his departure, there’s a genuine sense that Steven has proved himself capable of being the lead in his own show, so to speak, rather than being a supporting character in someone else’s.
As Steven heads off into a no-doubt difficult future, the Doctor and Dodo make their sad way to the TARDIS and new adventures. ‘We mustn’t look back.’
Next episode: The War Machines