I remember seeing this first time round and it wasn’t vey good then so expect it to be as bad as you say, chrisno1!
I think the Doctor has a tooth extracted by Doc Holliday which was a nice touc, but the accents were terrible, they made Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in Mary Poppins sound perfect 😂
The First Doctor - William Hartnell
Ian Stuart Black’s The Savages sees the TARDIS land on an unnamed planet. The Doctor seems to have prior knowledge of the world and sets off to carry out some rudimentary scientific surveys. He is met by a delegation of Elders, the representatives of the planet’s highly advanced and civilised society, who appear to know who he is. Their leader, Jano, bestows great honours of state upon the Doctor. Once again, the Doctor responds favourably to flattery.
However, it soon becomes clear something is amiss within this city-bound civilisation. Primitive ‘savages’ who live outside the confines are regularly harvested for their life-force, which is subsequently transferred into the Elders, prolonging their lives and increasing their intellect and strength. The ‘savages’ meanwhile become gaunt and eventually die. During one of a number of brilliant, rousing debates, the Doctor accuses Jano of genocide: “This, sir, is protracted murder!” Now considered a threat, the Doctor is forced to undergo a transference, but when Jano takes on his life-force, he also takes on part of the Doctor’s nature, attitudes and conscience. Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo, in trying to rescue their friend, must battle both the guards and the primitives, who are all set to try and destroy each other.
The Savages can easily be viewed as a cliched revolution story, but it does feature several aspects which rise it above some of the other early examples of the fare (The Space Museum, The Ark). Firstly, despite only watching via Loose Cannon stills & audio reproduction, I found this adventure more exciting than much of what surrounds it. There is genuine tension. The cliff hanger endings are uniformly excellent: a strange figure lurches down a corridor menacing Dodo; the Doctor endures the transference procedure; a passage fills with debilitating smoke choking the travellers. Other moments of suspense: Steven and Dodo pursued into an underground tunnel by the Guards; Nanina, a female savage, is captured by a Guard after a chase in a quarry; Steven evades the Guards in the jungle; the Doctor seems not to recover from his transfer experience; there is a strong, visual, destructive climax. All these, coupled with the exemplary playing [from aural impressions only] push The Savages up a notch or two from the mundane.
The adventure benefits from solid production values. Stuart Walker’s city stages are uniformly excellent, all angles, lights and corridors, open spaces with slick shiny surfaces, glass and neon. Some camera shots have that haunting, shadowy Universal Horror look to them. The jungle sets may well have been reused from The Ark, but they are convincing. It’s fair to say the costume design is once more a little uninspired. The Elders are wearing another set of Roman togas, the Guards are saddled with silly helmets and daft-looking light-guns. The Savages meanwhile are done up in animal skins and Clare Jenkins’ Nanina looks like she’s escaped from the set of One Million Years B.C. so skimpy is her prehistoric outfit. It’s worth noting Sonia Markham’s make-up, which ages some of the primitives far more than others, suggesting they have endured more transfer treatments.
Christopher Barry is used to directing in cities – he helmed The Daleks – and he does solid work here, giving full range to the tensions in the story. There is conflict everywhere. The Guards have little respect for the Elders and seek to undermine them if they can. They are not adverse to delivering summary justice on members of the population they deem as being at fault. This high-handedness eventually leads to an attempted coup. The scientists argue with the Elder leaders. The primitives have their own internal battles. Characters bicker and squabble. Even Steven and Dodo are at it. There’s a neat reversal of the companions’ expected roles here as this time Dodo becomes the watchful one while Steven is fully taken in by the advanced, supposably civilised society. These conflicts allow for a splendid series of rasping exchanges. William Hartnell is primarily involved and his Doctor has never been more forceful and forthright. He’s in command, even when under arrest, and you can really sense Hartnell getting his teeth into the role like never before.
The supporting cast of characters are all given fine portrayals, but a special mention must go to Frederick Jaeger as Jano. Early on he plays the senior Elder as a conceited model of authority and order. Later, when Jano first assumes some of the Doctor’s characteristics, Jaeger gives a superb impersonation of Hartnell, all bluster and persnicketiness. When he assumes the mantel of leadership again, Jaeger combines both portraits to create a believable, humane statesman. Ewen Solon’s Chal and Patrick Godfrey’s Tor give the Savages some energy and verve. They’re not adverse to shouting at each other to make a point. This both emphasises the Savages lack of hierarchical development and demonstrates how restrictive and modulated the Elders existence is.
A couple of points are worth highlighting. The Elders are clearly a very advanced civilisation. The Doctor considers them to be living in an age of peace and prosperity. The Elder scientists, in addition to perfecting the life-essence transfer machines, have also been able to follow the Doctor’s TARDIS through time and space and are aware of his adventures and his own scientific knowledge. The Doctor is unsurprised by this. It suggests, like the Doctor’s speeches at the end of The Massacre, that he already has an awareness of the situation; he seems to have arrived not to carry out a survey [with his hilariously dubiously named ‘reactive vibrator’ machine] but to pass judgement on the Elders’ achievements. He’s almost anticipating having to do so.
As we shall later see, the Elder city functions in a similar manner to the Time Lord’s Capitol on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. One wonders if this planet – or island as Chal refers to it – was once a Time Lord colony. Of course, the similarities may be coincidental. However, looking at the story in retrospect, it would explain why the Doctor is so anxious to discover how this particular future world is functioning.
Lastly, we say goodbye to Steven Taylor. Peter Purves has proved more than capable in the role of the male companion. He’s done the rough stuff well and brought a fresh, vigorous approach to the TARDIS crew. This hasn’t excluded him from questioning the Doctor’s – or anyone’s motives – and Purves has often been allowed to give full vent to Steven’s frustrations. It’s a pity he’s leaving, as an audience identify far better with a companion who is visceral in his actions and words, rather than the more studious and passive Ian Chesterton, who even when fighting seemed never too far away from the classroom. Steven leaves to become the democratic leader of the planet’s new society. I like the manner in which the Doctor bids farewell. As with Susan and Vicki, he’s setting his young charge on a new course, leaving him a better person in a better place. This was quite unique to the First Doctor’s reign. Soon companions would simply get dropped back in their own time zone or arbitrarily fall in love. The fatherly, educational instruction handed by the first Doctor to his companions is justified by their choices to move on from the TARDIS. Steven though, unlike the girl companions, seems optimistic about his future away from time travel.
All in all The Savages is a fine story, with strong ideas presented in a vivid and enterprising manner. Even without the benefit of movie footage, I’m offering a much improved and very civilised:
4 from 5.
The First Doctor - William hartnell
THE WAR MACHINES
The War Machines is the second modern day story to grace the series. From the off, we know something is different because each episode opens with the titles resembling a computer punch card. Early bird’s eye views of London, some location footage shot around Covent Garden and a trip to “the hottest nightspot in town” lend an air of contemporary modernity to proceedings. This is much more of an obvious 1960s adventure than Planet of Giants.
Boffins from an unnamed government department have created a super-computer W.O.T.A.N. – the Will-Operating Thought Analogue Network computer. Installed in the newly constructed Post Office Tower, W.O.T.A.N. will be able to communicate with all other computers worldwide. It isn’t entirely clear why this should be desired, but there you have it. The Doctor is immediately sceptical. He suffers from a prickling sensation which seems to warn him of impending peril; he even senses evil inside the P.O. Tower. This is a new facet of the Doctor’s character. Like his granddaughter Susan’s telepathic qualities [see The Sensorites], there appears to be something other-worldly about the Doctor’s physiological make-up, something more than his superior intellect which marks him as different from other humans. It doesn’t stop him being able to ingratiate himself quickly into society. Immediately after the TARDIS materialises, the Doctor and Dodo are being offered a guided tour of the computer facility atop the P.O. Tower. It’s almost as if he’s known to the authorities. Later on several people, including the now vocal super-computer, refer to him as “Doctor Who” – which I always considered was purely a quote from Ian Chesterton [see An Unearthly Child].
W.O.T.A.N. turns out to be your archetypical crazy computer. It learns to speak and uses electronic sound waves to hypnotise the department staff. W.O.T.A.N. has studied the history of Earth and decreed the human race to be a violent liability. It wants technology to assert control and will eliminate all those who show resistance. All across London, robotic War Machines are being built. Although it appears the action happens over a four day period, I rather fancy W.O.T.A.N. was already conscripting a mesmerised workforce down the telephone line for weeks so swiftly are the titular War Machines produced. It’s enough to explain that the Doctor saves the day. First he recognises that a War Machine will not attack if its prey displays no inclination to fight or flee. Secondly, having disabled one machine, he realises he can short circuit W.O.T.A.N.’s network by reprogramming it. These solutions are staple fare to any sci-fi ‘mad computer’ plot; you basically turn the pesky thing off. Stanley Kubrick recognised this, but turned the notion into a high point of tension in 2001. There’s nothing so watchable here. In fact, it’s rather anomalous that W.O.T.A.N. is powerful enough to learn speech, but not powerful enough to reprogram itself.
The War Machines is workmanlike television. It’s aims, beside entertaining an audience, are three-fold: present a modern-day threat, introduce two new companions, remove the current companion. It achieves these, after a fashion.
The modern day angle is fairly clear. The introduction of politicians, scientists and the army calls to mind the antics of Nigel Kneale’s Professor Quatermass. Later on, of course, the Doctor would have many dealings with political and military authority, but this is the very first. There’s a neat little parallel to James Bond c.2015 where Spectre’s aim is to infiltrate the world’s security systems by dialling into a new multi-national worldwide security network. As yet, OO7 hasn’t fought a super-computer though. Maybe we have that joy to come.
Two new companions are thrust on the Doctor: Polly, a secretary, and Ben, a de-mobbed sailor. They meet in the Inferno nightclub, a real jiving joint, stuffed full of a clientele so posh it has to be in Kensington! Ben, with his sailor suit and cockney accent, sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s impetuous, loud and has none of the gravitas of Ian or Steven. He’s like a keen little puppy, obeying the Doctor’s orders without quibble and making doe-eyes at Polly, “the Duchess.” Well, Polly’s eyes are conspicuously large. Her black mascara and long blonde hair calls to mind Dusty Springfield. I wonder if the idea of the rough and the smooth was a nod to the Modesty Blaise comic strip, popular at the time and made into a film the same year, with its refined heroine and gutter level sidekick. Neither newcomer makes a particularly grand impression, but it’s early days. Polly at least looks like a mature woman, which makes a change, although the Doctor still refers to her as “my child.”
Dodo makes an inauspicious exit. Hypnotised by W.O.T.A.N., she tries to enlist the Doctor to the computer’s cause. As he isn’t a human – although this isn’t exactly stated at the time – the Doctor doesn’t succumb to W.O.T.A.N.’s mind control and instead helps Dodo to partial recovery: midway in episode two the poor girl gets shipped to a country house to recover and isn’t seen again. It’s the worst departure ever, not helped by the fact it’s obvious her role isn’t even necessary to the plot. Jackie Lane never made much impact as Dodo. Her role was a continuation of Susan’s and, as such, it again calls to question why the producers wrote the Doctor’s granddaughter out in the first place. She could easily have lasted as far as this adventure, or perhaps left with Steven in The Savages. Speculation, of course.
So, after a fashion, all aims are achieved. Unfortunately, the adventure itself is rather flat, quite wordy and has too many plot holes. Episode three is particularly dull and ends with a tedious ten minute battle between the army and one of the War Machines. These lumbering contraptions are as bad a robot as we’ve seen so far on Dr Who. The Daleks looked great scouring London back in Season Two, yet Raymond London’s creations are indescribably ordinary, little more than a box with metal arms and wheels and a couple of lights. The gun barrel and the gripping hands are both virtual Dalek clones. Cheap and not even nasty.
It is good to see the production team attempting a new take on Dr Who. This type of story would become very familiar to the show’s fans as the years trickled by, but it isn’t executed very well here. You can only blame the writer [Ian Stuart Black, continuing less creditably from The Savages] and director [Michael Ferguson] who fail to inject any sense of tension. They’re let down by the poor standard of acting. Jackie Lane seems positively vibrant compared to most of the cast, and I haven’t often thought that. Most of the players are unfeasibly calm and rather pompous. Looking to the future, Anneke Wills as Polly certainly seems a hit, but I’ll reserve judgement on Michael Craze’s slightly crazed Ben Jackson.
Perhaps best of all is William Hartnell. As the show has progressed he’s come on stronger and stronger. The writers have toned down some of the Doctor’s abrasive edges, while still retaining his authoritative, condescending and impatient manner. They’ve made him less challenging to the audience’s perception of a hero. More human, I suppose. They’ve also played to Hartnell’s strength as a comic, although the best lines in this adventure aren’t even his: visiting the Inferno nightclub, the Doctor stands out in his velvet cape and cap; “I dig your fab gear,” compliments the sexy barmaid, stroking his arm seductively, “It’s not often we get the over-twenties in here.”
A partial success:
2 from 5.
Polly at least looks like a mature woman, which makes a change, although the Doctor still refers to her as “my child.”
I was just watching Anneke Wills in an episode of the Avengers ("Dressed to Kill" s3e14 December 28 1963), and though tiny she is definitely no child. She is a guest at a costume party flirting with Steed, in a skimpy cat costume, and the camera repeatedly zooms in on her costume's tail, also emphasising the highcut edge of her leotard, as Steed and other party guests comment on the PussyCat's tail (and Honor Blackman turns to the camera and winks, because she knows who the real Pussy is). So, pleased to see Wills is not playing yet another childlike Susan substitute in Doctor Who.
As I said upthread, I cant tell these early young lady companions apart, mostly because I've never seen their intro episodes that explain their character before they settle into formulaic plot function in their remaining stories. Amongst other things I've finally learned from this series of detailed reviews is which is which! and I'm surprised there were so many of them in seasons 2 and 3, I never realised the producers sometimes cast new companions at the beginning of a storyline and wrote them out in the same storyline having decided they weren't working. At least the actresses got a few weeks pay.
(EDIT: I know its offtopic but cannot resist the temptation: here is a shot of Blackman literally turning to the camera as Steed flirts with a character named PussyCat. Do you think she knew she'd already got the part in Goldfinger?)
Thanks for that little bit of cheekiness, caractacus !
Anneke Wills, rather tasty in that slender hipped sixties fashion.
The stories of the third season have proved generally inconsistent. This must be seen as a result of the change of producer and script editor. Verity Lambert produced the first nineteen stories and used two script editors. There was a constancy across each season marked by first David Whitaker’s and then Dennis Spooner’s astuteness. Subsequently to Galaxy Four, one team (John Wiles and Donald Tosh) arrived to be quickly replaced by another (Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis). It’s fair to surmise that the unevenness of the stories can be part-way explained by the lack of consistency in the back room operations. Despite this, the season does contain challenging themes which the generally straight-forward structure of the first and second seasons did not.
We have the idea of history as myth – or myth as history, if you wish – and how interfering with history is not always such a terrible notion; there’s the suggestion of predestination, one the Doctor seems to believe in; a race of Amazonian women; beauty can be evil and ugliness can be virtuous; intransigence and prejudice persists through the eons; perhaps most prescient, the rise of computer networks and artificial intelligence is anticipated. It also pays not to take holidays in Tombstone, Arizona, 1881. The problem with these core themes isn’t that they are not relevant, but that they are implemented without much care and attention. Too often the result of the Doctor’s interference and investigation leads to some kind of slaughter. The half-hearted philosophising doesn’t marry easily with the need to keep the audience entertained. Too often the driving narrative force isn’t the theme itself, but the impact of the theme on the travellers, who invariably end up getting incarcerated, separated, rescued and reunited. Events seem to occur around them rather than because of them. This is particularly true of Galaxy Four, The Massacre and The Gunfighters; even The Myth Makers and The Ark leave the impression the travellers are not so much influencing the outcome as being present at its inevitable inception.
Very little survives from the third season’s 1965-66 transmissions; what does is certainly worth a look, but three complete stories and a few snippets plus all that audio can’t adequately convey how poor or successful the stories are.
I am currently on another Dr Who break having made it to the end of Season 11. Just to keep you all amused:
DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. (1966)
Forgetting for a moment about the mouthful of a title, this cinematic return of Doctor Who, impersonated once again by Peter Cushing, passes the time ably and competently enough. It follows roughly the same outline as the original serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth, so holds no surprises. Once again, a film was produced to be released during the summer, when Dr Who took a holiday from television and when most kids would be free to go to watch their hero at the cinema.
This time out, there’s no Jenny Linden or Roy Castle. Linden’s fetching Barbara morphs into Jill Curzon’s glamour-puss Louise, the Doctor’s niece, kitted out in Chelsea fashions. To replace Ian a new character, Tom Campbell, is introduced. He’s played by Bernard Cribbins, who had recently been involved in the Carry On series. Hence laboured comedy is often pushed to the forefront for his character. At least he’s better able to deal with both a comic scenario and being an unwelcome hero; Castle was lethargic at best.
Neither of these changes offer anything significantly different to the first movie. The action is diluted and congested into a short ninety-minute scenario. The best bits, much like the original, are the establishing sequences in an invasion torn London. Here, director Gordon Flemyng introduces one or two moments of suspense and a couple of genuine shocks to keep the kids gawping. The Daleks don’t have any iconic moments like they do in the T.V. show, but they certainly look menacing rolling around the rubble of a decaying Thameside dockyard. Unfortunately a few also seem to be falling apart. The Robo-Men are much better realised than on the telly. They move fast, they speak properly and they carry sonic ray guns. The underground resistance is the same motley crew as before. Andrew Kier has the largest role as Wyler, but Godfrey Quigley’s Dortmun is pretty good, probably better than Alan Judd. A few of the character names get shovelled around.
The absence of children – which I never noticed in the original – becomes rather obvious now Roberta Tovey’s twelve-year-old Susan is part of the action. She’s not given much to do this time around, but manages to wear her anorak through the whole story. Peter Cushing isn’t taxed much either. The companions are split up, which makes for three story arcs instead of one, and everything feels rushed because of it. Once or twice the silliness penetrates our consciousness. The huge chalk-written message which goes unseen was a highlight – or low-light, as it were – and the extended mime of Cribbins trying to collect and eat a Robo-Man dinner was plain awkward. There are however some neat little moments which come across quite well, for instance the two desperate widows who betray fugitives to the Daleks and a spiv-style informer named Brockley are reimagining’s which work admirably. The latter is played by Philip Madoc, who would grace Dr Who screens several times in the sixties and seventies, often as a villain.
The production design is as good as it was last time out. The team is virtually the same as before, so they know what they are doing and how to achieve it. I prefer the look of the cinematic telling to the original. The climax and the battle scenes seem more animated and furious than those before.
Overall, while Invasion Earth is a bit ham-fisted, I enjoyed it more than Dr Who and the Daleks. The story doesn’t hang about. It doesn’t need to. The undeniable daftness aids the telling. There’s nothing profound about this film; it’s a kid’s adventure, swift on explanation, action-packed and with a curious lop-sided charm. An awful lot has to be demonstrated and explained in one sentence, one minute, one moment. This makes it quite breathless. The Daleks, the Robo-Men and even characters such as the widows and Brockley are menacing and / or intriguing. The special effects are aren’t as naff as you expect; at least the alien space ship isn’t laughable, despite the presence of one supporting wire. For the beady-eyed it’s a bit remiss of the designers to feature a tatty underground billboard advertising James Mayo’s Hammerhead, introducing secret agent Charles Hood – or perhaps the Dalek invasion started in 1964 when that book was published…
The film’s no-where near as bad as some critics make out, but at the same time, it isn’t overly inventive. Interestingly, Invasion Earth does grab my attention, unlike the stately original. The movie’s run time is about the length of a four-episode Dr Who serial, so I wonder if my preference for this film over the original is because that was a slightly too long-winded six-part adventure...
A gentle smiley then. 🙂
This was great viewing for a 10 year old in 1966, once again seeing the action on the big screen in colour was a fabulous bonus. This is definitely an upgrade on the first movie and on retrospective viewings I’ve enjoyed the conciseness of the plot and the action is plentiful and energetic. Nice review, as always, chrisno1.
A few quick updates, to finish off William Hartnell's era:
This story is, to all intents and purposes, lost.
The Smugglers begins as Ben and Polly charge unannounced into the TARDIS at precisely the moment the Doctor starts the dematerialisation process. There comes another discussion about the bewildering internal dimensions of the ship and its ability to travel through time and space. While annoyed the two companions have entered unannounced, the Doctor finds their incomprehension of the situation amusing. He tries to explain several times that he can’t control his ship [that’s new – he never admitted it before!] and has no clue where or when it will land. Hence when the travellers disembark on a Cornish beach, Ben wants to catch the next train to London and the Doctor muses that there may not be any trains at all.
It’s an irritating beginning, not because it reruns conversations we’ve heard with Ian and Barbara, Steven, then Dodo, but because the two newcomers don’t seem troubled enough by their circumstances. They both accept the situation at face value and rather than argue and fight, as Ian did in An Unearthly Child, they seem to blindly accept the Doctor’s eccentricities while not actually listening to what he’s telling them. This trusting nature – trusting of the Doctor or anybody – gets them into all sorts of trouble in The Smugglers.
The adventure pitches the Doctor into late 17th Century history, a time when pirates and rogues and smugglers roamed the coastal waters of England. Captain Pike and an unnamed local Squire are in competition for a cache of treasure and a horde of contraband goods. Michael Godfrey interprets the vicious pirate as a man who considers himself a seafaring gentleman, while Paul Whitsun Jones’ Squire is all bluster as a gentleman who believes he can be a smuggler. They are betrayed at turns by the uncouth, obsessive Cherub (George Cooper) and the slimy Kewper (David Kelly Blake). Everyone meets suitably bloodthirsty ends. The very few seconds of footage which remain are censored cuts of the murders, scenes considered unsuitable for an Australian TV audience and excised appropriately down under. They are some remarkably nasty killings.
The familiar plot lines of mistaken identity, incarceration and escape, investigate and reveal, fight and flight, are played out along the windswept coast, an inn, an abandoned church, its crypt and a pirate ship. It’s fun and occasionally frenzied. The acting is a bit melodramatic. Accents are all over the place. The portrayal of a West Indian shipman wouldn’t be written with such condescension today; full marks to Elroy Joseph for trying to give his character some dignity. Of the companions, Polly comes off best, vivacious and practical. Ben is wisecracking and impetuous. He provides several moments of humour when the locals fail to grasp his cockney slang. It does defy belief however that the very womanly Polly manages to go the entire adventure disguised as a boy.
If I’m honest, I enjoyed The Smugglers, even with only an audio track and photos. The tale rattles along at a fair lick. Chapter 4 is particularly action packed. Richard Hunt’s designs are on point. Brian Hayles’ writing is assured. I can’t comment adequately on Julia Smith’s direction, but the brief glimpses suggest a story told with vigour and energy. Listening to it now, it’s hard to understand why the serial received the lowest combined average ratings for the show until 1986.
The Smugglers was one of the very last purely historical stories. This format was deemed by producer Innes Lloyd to be of a lesser value than the futuristic sci-fi style serials. Now, the decision to stop making them seems rather short-sighted. An audience has a vague knowledge of the past and setting adventures in a historical context [e.g. The Reign of Terror, The Massacre] but not necessarily alluding to a recorded historical moment [e.g. The Aztecs, The Smugglers] can often create empathy for characters and location which cannot exist in the future based stories. It is also noticeable, especially in these early seasons, how much better the production values are for these adventures.
Lastly, a note on William Hartnell. Although The Smugglers was the opening story of Season 4, it was recorded in the production cycle for Season 3. After the story’s completion, Innes Lloyd took the difficult decision to replace Hartnell as the Doctor. The reason given is that he had difficulty learning his lines. This may have been true and was due to undiagnosed arteriosclerosis, not alcohol abuse or dementia, as is often claimed. If Hartnell was struggling, it certainly isn’t noticeable on screen. His performances across Season 3 and in The Smugglers far outstrip his work in Seasons 1 & 2. He grew steadily into the role. The early moments of character confusion have been replaced by a clarity and knowingness which can only develop over time as a personality takes shape both in the actor’s and the writer’s minds. He still occasionally displays irritability, a certain bolshiness, especially towards male authority which plays at odds to his kind and jovial manner with women and youngsters. Sometimes he really is like a befuddled old grandad and at others he’s a statesman, a scientist, a scholar. Always curious, never quite certain, yet ultimately always wise and smart enough to get one step ahead of his rivals in time to save the day, William Hartnell, while perhaps not quite being the very best Doctor, certainly set a high standard of achievement which would be hard for his immediate successors to emulate.
Back to The Smugglers: a rattlingly good:
3 from 5.