Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 126: The Savages, Episode Two
Worryingly, I’m about to compare this story to The Space Museum. Yes! I can feel your collective shudder as you read that. What I mean is that there’s several elements common to both of these stories. Not particularly in-depth ones, but a few all the same. The main thing is that you’ve a group of ‘leaders’ (The Moroks/The Elders) and a group of people ready to rise up against them (The Xerons/The Savages). Were Vicki here, she’d have incited a rebellion by now. I’m guessing that’s going to be Steven or Dodo’s role before too long.
Then there’s the Doctor being strapped down and prepared for an experiment. In The Space Museum, it works as a threat because we’ve already seen the outcome – the Doctor and his friends frozen in the glass display cases. Here, the threat comes from having just watched the experiment performed on Nanina, and having seen the after-effects of the experiment on Wylda, who’s left to ‘recover’ outside the city.
There's also the fact that there's no easily identifiable 'monsters' in either of these two stories. In both cases, we're very much presented with a side of 'good' and 'bad', but there's no rubber suits on display, and no monster-of-the-week to latch onto. In some ways, it feels like this could be a historical story - there just happens to be a laboratory of advanced equipment and some light guns dropped in.
Thankfully, I’m enjoying this story more than I did The Space Museum. Today is a bit of a step down from yesterday (but then we’ve yet to have two 9/10 days in a row in this marathon, so it doesn’t come as a massive surprise), but it’s still kept me interested.
One of the things that I’m really enjoying is the look of this tale. Regular readers will know that I tend to experience the missing episodes by listening to the narrated soundtracks (recons tend to let my mind wander too much), so often my idea of what a story looks like is based on any surviving episodes, half-remembered photos from the tales, or simply what my head decides to come up with. The Myth Makers, for example was entirely in my mind, with the exception of the horse, which I can remember from plenty of promo images.
This time around, though, I’m supplementing the soundtracks by having a look through the recent First Doctor tele-snap special from the guys at DWM. I’m not sticking slavishly to following along the images in time with the soundtrack, it’s more of a case where I listen to the episode and have a glance over them. Occasionally, I've nipped over to the BBC's Doctor Who website, where they're available at a larger size.
And some of them are gorgeous! That corridor down to the lab is stunning (and there’s plenty of photos of it, too. I keep waiting for one to show it up as being awful, but it hasn’t happened yet. Hooray!). The design of the savages is pretty great, too. They’re one of those images from Doctor Who that I was always aware of but didn’t really know anything about them. When the story began, I figured that they were the Elders. Here they are, though, and they look fantastic. Bizarre, yes. Unsettling, perhaps. But great!
(Actually, in some ways, I'm a bit saddened that they aren't the Elders. In my mind, these strange, ancient men were savages who lived on a barren planet - most of the photos show them in the shrubbery - and that the story was going to involve them. Now I've experienced half the tale, I really love the idea of these people tracking the Doctor across time and space using primitive technology! Ah well.)
The tele-snaps also show plenty of the location filming from Doctor Who’s first alien quarry planet. From what we can see, it looks pretty impressive, and it actually works! It's on display better in the first episode than it is here today, but I'm really taken aback by it - Doctor Who's quarry planets are the stuff comedians have joked about for years, but they've nailed it on the first attempt!
The images don’t really give much of an indication of how the piece will have been directed, but thinking back over Chris Barry’s previous work, I can’t remember being floored by it. I’m choosing to imagine it as directed by Douggie Camfield instead – his camera work in those corridors would be gorgeous! That's not to say that Christopher Barry wouldn't have done a great job with it - but since I've got the free-reign to imagine…!
My worry now is where the story may go from here. It’s been quite a strong start, and the cliffhanger is pretty good as well (it’s always of interest when the Doctor is incapacitated like this, and separated from his companions – and, therefore, from help!). The danger is that rebellion seems the next logical step for the story, but I don’t know wether that’ll be enough to fill the next 50 minutes. The Space Museum didn’t really hold a great deal of interest for me once the rebellion started, so I’m concerned for the future of this one…