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The Savages — initially introduced as Dr. Who and the Savages by the "Next Episode" caption at the end of the previous adventure, The Gunfighters — was the ninth and penultimate serial of season 3 of Doctor Who. It was the final regular appearance of Peter Purves as Steven Taylor.

It was the first to be wholly commissioned and produced by producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis; it followed several serials which bore the duo's names, but had actually been substantially pre-produced by their predecessors, John Wiles and Donald Tosh.

It heralded the new production era in a couple of small but significant ways. It was the first story to use an overall on-screen title as opposed to being comprised of episodes with individual titles. It was also the first story to have a serial production code of more than a single character.

More significantly, it was the new production team's first opportunity to impact the casting of the regulars, including Purves' departure. It was also Jackie Lane's last full serial and the final televised off-Earth story for the First Doctor. William Hartnell showed a pre-regenerative weariness and was eased out of the series in twelve episodes. It, therefore, had a certain commonality with Warriors' Gate and Resurrection of the Daleks as the point at which an incarnation of the Doctor began to lose long-term companions before an impending regeneration.

The end of this story also marked the first time since "An Unearthly Child" that the First Doctor journeyed with just a single female companion. Narratively, therefore, the end of The Savages was an important point for writers in other media. Several books featured the Doctor/Dodo team in the wake of The Savages, such as the novel The Man in the Velvet Mask.

Currently, all four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives.


The TARDIS has arrived on a far-distant and seemingly idyllic world. Yet the Doctor, Steven and Dodo learn it hides a terrible secret: the apparently civilised Elders maintain their advanced society by draining and transferring to themselves the life-force of the defenceless Savages.

Outraged at this exploitation, the Doctor is seemingly helpless to prevent it when some of his own life-force is tapped by the Elders' leader. In the process, however, the leader, Jano, also acquires some of the Doctor's attitudes and conscience. Turning against his own people, he enlists the Savages to destroy the Elders' transference laboratory — a task with which the time travellers gladly assist.

Steven agrees to remain behind on the planet to become the leader of the newly united Elders and Savages.


Episode 1[]

The Doctor is exploring the bleak scrubland outside the TARDIS on this new vista. He takes with him an instrument with which he is investigating his surroundings.

Steven is concerned at the length of the Doctor's absence, but Dodo dismisses his worries. Dodo and Steven argue, which causes Steven to go off and search for the Doctor.

The Doctor is being watched, as he tells himself his friends will be in for a surprise. He hears Steven calling for him but ignores it tetchily.

Back at the TARDIS, Dodo suspects she is being watched. Unseen behind her, a group of primitive-looking men are observing her. Eventually, she spots a man in animal skins with an axe approaching her. She screams, bringing Steven back and causing the man to scrabble out of sight. Steven surmises they must be well in the past, and the Doctor must be mistaken.

The Doctor is certain where he is. As he continues to walk, two hiding savages, Chal and Tor, discuss this new creature: he is not of their people, but he doesn't carry a light gun. They decide to kill him. The Doctor calls out to whoever is hiding, saying he means no harm. To his surprise, two other figures are alerted by his presence: two soldiers, Captain Edal and Exorse. They welcome "the Traveller from Beyond Time", as they call him. They explain that he has been expected for many years. They are disturbed to find him carrying what they think is a weapon, but the Doctor corrects them — showing them his reacting vibrator, which is a scientific instrument. The pair seem surprised that the Doctor has companions, as they were not expecting anyone to be travelling with him. They insist he accompany Edal to the Elders of their city, while Exorse is instructed to find and bring the Doctor's friends.

Steven, still on bad terms with Dodo, accuses her of imagining the man. As he says this, a spear is thrown at Steven and Dodo. As more savages appear and attack, they make a dash back to the TARDIS. They are met by Exorse, who welcomes "the Traveller's companions", at which point the onslaught halts. He accompanies them to the city to be reunited with the Doctor.

The Doctor is met by the Elders' leader, Jano, and his councillors, who greet him like an old friend. Jano shows how they have charted the Doctor's voyages and tells him they wish to bestow upon him the office of a High Elder. He is offered robes of office, and they exchange compliments. Steven and Dodo arrive and are welcomed and presented with gifts: Steven, an ornate dagger; and Dodo, a jewel-studded mirror. As Steven and Dodo are led off on a tour, Jano has many questions for their honoured guest.

Edal, suspicious of these new arrivals, begins patrol with Exorse. Chal sends a young girl, Nanina, to the caves to warn their people the hunt has begun.

Steven and Dodo are accompanied by Avon and Flower, who guide them through the city. The whole of the city is artificial. They explain to the travellers that, though they never go outside and have no concept of "real" things, they are allowed to develop and become what is best for each person. However, Flower expresses some regrets with regards to not being allowed to know how the city is run.

Nanina runs into Exorse. She hides but is finally caught by the soldier. He fires his light-gun, which seems to imprison and control her. He directs her out and leads her away. Chal appears and offers himself in her place but is ignored.

The Doctor questions the Elders on how they have become such an advanced society. Jano explains they have learned to tap life's vital force and transfer the energy directly into themselves. Energy, explains Jano, can be transferred directly to a member of their community when needed using a process he describes as "animal vitality".

On the outskirts of the city, Nanina is being directed further into the buildings.

As their tour continues, Steven gets more and more impressed with how the city is run, but Dodo is sceptical. She asks about the savages and is all but ignored by her tour guides. She is also blocked from going down a certain corridor in the city. Loitering behind, Dodo sees Nanina being led into a diamond-shaped entrance and tells Steven. She wants to go off on her own, but Steven keeps her with the tour.

Senta, a scientist, is in charge of the energy transfer process and is just finishing one when Exorse arrives. He releases a savage from the lab, and the half-conscious man is led down an exit corridor. Senta and Exorse engage in conversation about their new guests.

Dodo slips away from the tour through a door that she sees Exorse using on his exit. She comes across the savage Senta was draining, wide-eyed and stumbling, and his arms reach out towards her...

Episode 2[]

The savage drags himself past Dodo. A door at the end of the corridor opens, but he collapses. Dodo helps the savage outside. Chal and Tor are outside the door waiting. Dodo is shocked by the appearance of the men and goes back inside as the door closes.

In the laboratory, Nanina is being connected by Senta and his assistants for energy transfer; they ignore her cries and pleas. Dodo listens from outside. They put Nanina in a glass cubicle, which fills with a gas that extracts her vitality. Senta refers to this process as vaporisation.

Steven, Avon, and Flower continue to search for Dodo. Steven runs to find the Doctor, but the Doctor and Jano assure him that nothing could happen to her inside the city. Steven is unsure and continues the search.

Following the sounds of machinery, Dodo enters the laboratory and is detained by the scientists, who believe she must be there for transference.

Edal has joined Steven's search. Steven wants to search down the corridor where the laboratory is located, but Edal prevents him. Edal goes himself.

Dodo fights back, surprising the scientists, and threatens to smash some of the vital equipment in the laboratory if they don't back off. Senta is called to deal with Dodo. They realise that she is one of the travellers, and Edal arrives to escort her out of the laboratory. Meanwhile, the scientists have forgotten about Nanina, almost killing her. She is released in just the same way as the previous savage.

Steven and Dodo are reunited. Dodo is curious as to what was happening in the laboratory but is knocked back by Edal, who says they must be taken to the Elders. Avon and Flower are told to wait for the guards, as they will have to answer to the Elders for their negligence in allowing Dodo to wander off. Avon tries to take the blame so as to protect Flower. Edal then escorts Steven and Dodo away. Avon and Flower are left and try to reassure each other about their fate. Soon, a guard arrives and uses his light-gun on them.

Dodo and Steven are reunited with the Doctor, who shrugs off Dodo's inquiries as to the vaporisation process. The Doctor offers to show Jano files about his time travels, and all three travellers return to the TARDIS. Edal reports to Jano, who is very concerned as to what Dodo has seen and also says he is concerned about the Doctor. Jano orders Edal to follow the Doctor.

Once alone the Doctor confides he doesn't trust the Elders, hence why he didn't listen to Dodo whilst they were present with him. The three of them come across the man Dodo met in the lab, and the Doctor realises that the savages are the source of the Elders' power. Steven and Dodo return to the TARDIS to fetch medicine for the savage whilst the Doctor remains to care for him.

Edal interrupts this and roughly orders the savage away, revealing his contempt for them. The Doctor angrily insists that he leave the dazed man alone. Edal uses his light-gun to force the Doctor to return to the city.

Steven returns with the medicine for which the Doctor asked, but he is nowhere to be found. The capsules contained within the container are given to the savage, and he begins to recover. A group of savages watch and approach, spears ready. Tor, thinking that Steven and Dodo are from the city, wants to attack, but Chal warns against that. As they get closer, Tor calls for the attack and the savages break out of the undergrowth. Wylda, the injured savage, stops the party from harming Steven and Dodo, explaining that they were caring for him. He also tells them that the Doctor was taken to the city.

The Doctor confronts the Elders and condemns them as a threat to common humanity. Jano says the Doctor is standing in the way of human progress, and all progress is based on exploitation; the Doctor calls it protracted murder and compares them to the Daleks. The Doctor is given over to Senta.

In the outside world, Steven and Dodo try to incite the savages into an uprising, but Chal explains that this is futile due to the light guns. He also informs Steven and Dodo that the Doctor will be vaporised just like they were.

Edal leads the Doctor to the laboratory and introduces him to Senta. When he tells Senta that the Doctor is to be his next victim, Senta is unsure and warns it has never been tried on a higher form of life. Jano enters and order Senta to proceed. The Doctor tries to force his way past Edal but is captured by Edal's light-gun, strapped to a gurney, and wheeled into a cubicle. The experiment begins, but the readings appear too high. Senta and his assistants begin to worry, and Senta is on the verge of calling off the experiment, but it soon begins to be extracted in mammoth proportions. Senta announces that this is their greatest success as the assistants continue to call of the readings. Senta looks to the cubicle and sees the Doctor lying motionless on the gurney...

Episode 3[]

Jano is highly pleased with the success of the experiment and realises that the other time-travellers will make excellent sources as well. Edal is ordered to find and bring back Steven and Dodo.

Chal and the savages decide to protect the two strangers, as they have heard the guards are hunting them. They warn Steven and Dodo that the Doctor will never be the same again after the transference procedure.

Back at the laboratory, Jano orders the intransference of the Doctor's energy into himself. Senta tries to talk him out of it, but Jano frames it as an act of personal bravery and scientific exploration.

The savages have heard that Exorse is near and are left with only one possibility: to enter the caves, an area that even the guards are too scared to enter. Tor is concerned that this will provoke the guards into entering their only remaining place of safety but is overruled by Chal. Inside the caves, Nanina is recovering. Steven and Dodo marvel at the beauty of the carving and painting on the cave walls, and Chal laments that most of their talents have been taken from them by the process of transference. Exorse arrives at the caves and orders the strangers outside. Chal takes Steven and Dodo to hide inside the many passages of the cave; though there is no other way out, Exorse will have to find them. The guard reluctantly enters the cave and threatens Nanina and Wylda and eventually forces one of the savages to tell him which way the strangers have gone. As Exorse moves down the passage, he hears the footsteps of his victims ahead of him. Steven attempts to provoke Exorse into rash actions through name-calling. He also asks Chal how the light-gun works. Chal explains that it is a liquid light beam that controls you when it comes into contact with your eyes. Steven asks if it is capable of being reflected. When he receives an answer in the affirmative, he stops their fleeing and hides. As Exorse rounds the corner and fires at them Steven uses the mirror that Dodo was given by Jano to fire the beam back at Exorse, forcing him under Steven's control. As he leads Exorse back into the main section of the cave, he is praised as a god by the savages.

In the city, the Doctor is led to the guest apartments to recover. In secret, Senta performs the intransference on Jano.

In the cave, the companions and the savages plan what to do next. Tor suggests that they kill Exorse as revenge, but Chal overrules him. Chal hands all decision-making power over to Steven. Steven plans to use his light-gun to get into the city and asks Chal to show them a way in. Tor and Nanina stay to guard Exorse. As soon as Steven, Dodo and Chal leave, Tor tries to kill Exorse, but Nanina prevents it. Exorse is grateful.

Steven captures and disables the lone guard outside the city by firing the light gun directly into his eyes. Chal opens the door. Steven and Dodo go inside whilst Chal hides the body.

The intransference is complete. Jano does not respond to Senta immediately, but when Jano emerges from the intransference, he is a rather different man — he has taken on some of the personality of the Doctor. Jano alternates between sounding like himself and the Doctor; he also slips into believing he is actually the Doctor — referring to Dodo and Steven as his "young friends" and not knowing this is his home planet. He has to stop himself from damaging the equipment.

Edal and Senta have spotted Steven and Dodo on a scanner. Edal decides to set a trap for them, planning to leave the Doctor in one of the corridors for them to find.

Steven and Dodo find the Doctor, but the Doctor does not speak and doesn't seem to notice them. Suddenly, the door behind begins to close, but Steven catches hold of it. Dodo helps him keep it open, and they both yell for the Doctor to go through. However, the Doctor makes no effort to move. Steven and Dodo finally collapse and the door slams shut behind them.

Edal has a gas released in the corridor. He orders a group of guards to the corridor and instructs them to use the gas as cover from the light gun.

Dodo spots a figure through the smoke. Steven fires at it, but the light-gun's beam fails to penetrate the gas. Steven and Dodo begin to hammer on the door, but both of them begin to cough as two gas-masked guards emerge from the smoke. Steven is still frantically beating on the door as the gas begins to weaken Dodo. Despite all these events, the Doctor has not moved. The cloud of gas begins to swirl around them as Steven frantically tries to open the door...

Episode 4[]

Edal emerges from the smoke and commands Steven and Dodo give up their light-guns. Dodo does so, but Steven resists. Jano witnesses the troubles of his friends via a video screen and opens the doors while Steven still has his light-gun. Dodo escapes with the Doctor while Steven tries to disarm Edal.

Edal doubles back and discovers Jano at the security controls and accuses him of aiding the fugitives. Jano denies having released the strangers and orders that he will lead the patrol to find them.

Chal seems shocked when the Doctor and his companions make it out of the city. He helps Dodo carry the Doctor to the caves; Steven remains behind to hold off the patrol. Jano splits up the patrol, intending to go on alone to the Valley of Caves whilst the rest of the guards go to the TARDIS. Edal is suspicious of Jano and goes with him. Steven engages Jano and Edal in a gunfight, more to stall them than to cause any harm.

As Chal, Dodo and the Doctor reach the caves, Chal is surprised to find no-one guarding the entrance. In the caves, Nanina fights to protect Exorse from Tor, who is inciting the savages to turn against him. Nanina even goes so far as to say she will fight to save Exorse's life. This is interrupted by the arrival of Chal, Dodo and the Doctor.

Steven is pursued by Edal and Jano, who are catching up with him. Jano lines his gun up to shoot him but is unable to. Steven escapes into the caves, whilst Jano and Edal wait outside. The Doctor is given the same capsules he gave to Wylda. Steven, at the mouth of the cave, lines up a shot to strike Jano, but the Doctor recovers suddenly and orders that Jano is not to be harmed. Dodo is overjoyed that the Doctor is better as they can escape to the TARDIS, but the Doctor announces that he has decided they must destroy the source of the Elders' power, the transfer laboratory, and hopes they already have a friend on the inside who will help them and tells them to expect a visitor come nightfall.

Jano orders Edal and his guards to return to the city; he will bring back the Doctor and his companions. Edal agrees, but under protest.

Edal returns to the city and reports to Senta and the Elders that he believes Jano has changed, and that they are betrayed.

Jano meets the Doctor in the caves, and the savages are terrified at his presence. The Doctor knows it is safe, and Chal tells his people to trust the Doctor. The Doctor tells Jano that he knew Jano would take the intransference himself, and as well as receiving the Doctor's intellect he has also received a sense of conscience. Jano admits that he has grown aware of the evil that he has done and is determined to end it by siding with the savages. During this conversation, Exorse frees himself and escapes. Nanina follows and tries to reason with him, saying he owes her his life, but he leaves her.

Jano and the savages march to the city accompanied by the Doctor, Steven and Dodo.

At the city, Senta tells the Elders about the secret intransference, and Edal takes command. Exorse reports back to the city; however, affected by what Nanina has said, he informs that he has not seen Jano. Edal is sceptical of this and sends Exorse to the interrogators. When Exorse says that he cannot do this, Edal explains he is the leader now Jano is gone. At this moment, Jano triumphantly enters the laboratory with his prisoners and has Edal removed. Sealing the doors, he asks Senta to destroy his equipment. Senta protests, arguing that the savages are not capable of the development that their people have achieved. Jano says the savages are their equals, and that he must right the wrong inflicted upon them. With Edal and the guards locked outside, Senta is powerless as Jano, the Doctor, Steven, Dodo, Chal, Tor, Nanina, and even Exorse destroy the laboratory equipment with their bare hands. Amongst the chaos, Jano and Chal agree they need to work together in the future. Edal breaks in and threatens to kill the Doctor and Steven and calls for the arrest of Jano. Jano provokes Edal, who goes to shoot him; however, Steven responds too quickly and shoots Edal using Exorse's light-gun. In the aftermath, Jano asks the Doctor to be a mediator, to help during the early days of this new community when mistrust will still be present. The Doctor refuses, but Chal knows the leader he wants: Steven. Jano agrees, but Steven is very reluctant to leave the Doctor and Dodo. With both sides asking for his guidance, and the Doctor beaming with pride, Steven accepts. Dodo runs over, crying, to hug him. Jano and Chal leave Steven to say goodbye. The Doctor tells Steven he is very proud of him. Steven thanks the Doctor for all he has done for him, but does say he is a little uncertain as to whether he can do it. He meekly waves goodbye to the Doctor and a saddened Dodo and disappears through the door.

Not long afterwards, the TARDIS dematerialises from the planet with one less companion on board.


Uncredited cast[]



  • The Doctor uses a portable reacting vibrator for calculations, mistaken for a weapon.
  • In the TARDIS's emergency cabinet, there are capsules marked D403 able to restore life force in the victims of the Elders.

Story notes[]

  • This story had a working title of The White Savages.
  • No episodes of this four-part story exist in the BBC Archives.
  • This is the first Doctor Who story to have an overall story title rather than each episode having individual titles.
  • William Hartnell struggled to remember his lines, so he was effectively given a respite for episode three, where the Doctor had no dialogue. Hartnell instead worked with Frederick Jaeger to incorporate the Doctor's mannerisms into Jano's personality.
  • A regular viewer of the show, Ian Stuart Black thought that a Doctor Who credit would impress his children.
  • For a time, it was thought that this serial might replace The Gunfighters, which neither Innes Lloyd nor Gerry Davis liked.
  • This is the first incomplete serial since The Crusade to have a full set of tele-snaps and begins a long run of stories with tele-snaps that ultimately ends with The Mind Robber (or, The Wheel in Space if one only includes incomplete serials). This is because Innes Lloyd was a lot more keen on employing John Cura's services than his predecessor (John Wiles) was and Peter Bryant was much the same as Lloyd after he took over as producer.
  • The advanced race was originally supposed to be played by actors in blackface as a parable about apartheid era South Africa. This got dropped except for the city's leader Jano.
  • This is the first Doctor Who story to feature no on-screen deaths of any additional cast members. Although The Edge of Destruction was the first story to feature no deaths, it also had no additional cast members apart from the Doctor and his companions.
  • Christopher Barry was impressed with the script, thinking that the series had become stale.
  • William Hartnell was furious at Peter Purves's departure, as the two had become good friends, while Purves didn't leave by his own accord; his contract was simply not renewed.
  • Ewen Solon spent three hours in makeup so he could be made up to play one of the Savages.
  • Unusually, the first eight scenes of episode four were recorded immediately after part three was completed. This ensured that the dry ice used to represent the gas attack on Steven and Dodo would not have to be used a second time.
  • Although Peter Purves was ready to move on from the series, he pitched an idea for a sequel to this story where the Doctor returns to the planet of the Elders and the Savages, only to discover that Steven's leadership has become thoroughly corrupt.
  • William Hartnell was upset at Peter Purves' departure, as he had returned from the location shoot for The War Machines, where he'd failed to get on with Michael Craze and Anneke Wills.


  • Episode 1 - 4.8m viewers
  • Episode 2 - 5.6m viewers
  • Episode 3 - 5.0m viewers
  • Episode 4 - 4.5m viewers


  • The Elders' light guns were realised on screen simply by means of a powerful light positioned at the end of the prop. (Although they did incorporate a light, the guns also emitted dry ice smoke to give the impression of the weapon being fired.)

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

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  • The Doctor experiences an energy drain here after already experiencing advanced ageing, (TV: The Daleks' Master Plan) having a remnant of a Vardan clinging to his body while draining his energy, (AUDIO: The Locked Room) and overexertion while fighting the Toymaker, (TV: The Celestial Toymaker) and will soon experience a second life-force depletion before his first regeneration. (TV: The Tenth Planet)
  • On the planet that he chose as his new home, Steven became king and had three daughters. His youngest, Dodo, was his favourite. He was eventually deposed by his two other daughters. He also had a granddaughter named Sida. (AUDIO: The War To End All Wars)
  • When Steven is close to a hundred years of age, it is revealed that he is in the same time zone as the Doctor is when he is fighting the Cybermen in December 1986. Considering Steven's apparent age, this would likely place this story sometime in the early 20th century. Although this does contradict the Doctor's initial assessment of the TARDIS landing in the far future, such mistakes are hardly uncommon, especially for the First Doctor. This may also explain why the Doctor misjudged how peaceful and prosperous that this world truly was. (AUDIO: The Locked Room)
  • The Ninth Doctor will also defeat a plot involving life energies being drained from the perceived lower classes to benefit the self-identified upper classes; he also defeats this plot by tricking his enemy into taking on some of his own morality by provoking them into trying to absorb too much of the Doctor's own life force. (AUDIO: Retail Therapy)

Home video and audio releases[]

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