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21 April 2012 @ 05:56 pm
The Randomizer: The Savages  
Well this was the first real challenge the randomiser threw our way. The Savages no longer exists in the BBC archives, though there are off-air sound recordings and a tele-snap archive. I'm not quite sure who is responsible for the combination of these into a set of videos on YouTube, but someone has done so and I somewhat dubiously mentioned this to my tame "normal viewer" who responded with surprising enthusiasm to the idea of watching them and added, as a rider, that the "randomiser had spoken".

The tele-snap pictures are actually of reasonable, if not great, quality

and you can browse them all via a BBC photo novel. However by the time they reach YouTube they are really very blobby.

Even so, after about 10 minutes, my tame viewer commented that the whole was "surprisingly watchable" which makes me somewhat doubt his everyman credentials when it comes to watching Dr Who.

The Savages itself, as far as one can judge in these circumstances, is a pretty good story. Despite expectations, the pacing doesn't drag though it is considerably more leisurely than modern television. The story is mostly fairly linear and there is a fair bit of wandering back and forth between the city of "the Elders" and the eponymous savages' cave. The "surprise revelation" about the nature of the unnamed civilisation of the Elders is telegraphed early on but doesn't drag out and has the advantage of being an interesting idea even if it isn't explored in much depth. Most of the denizens of the city seem somewhat blinkered and complacent, but that probably follows on from the civilisation.

Jackie Lane, as Dodo Chaplet, has an odd tendency to stand out, at least in the few episodes of Doctor Who I have seen with her in, and this is no exception - hopefully the randomiser will give me an opportunity to watch her more and form a more definite opinion. Certainly, in The Savages, while Steven is wandering around the city, doing as he's told and exhorting Dodo not to cause trouble or ask difficult questions, she is off investigating things and generally getting herself into and out of trouble. She fades into the background a bit in the later episodes, but there is no doubt that she is carrying the bulk of the plot and action in the first couple. It is easy to consider Dodo as yet another of the long run of sixties "screamer" companions who served little purpose beyond asking questions and getting captured but she often seems to do better than most, possibly carried by a spirited performance.

The final resolution of the story seems naive, even by Doctor Who standards, as disparate parties unite in the face of a few items of smashed equipment and the promise of a new leader drawn from neither faction. However the savages have a powerful ally, in the form of Jano, the former leader of the elders, so possibly things will work out as the Doctor anticipates. Frederick Jaeger, as Jano, certainly sounds like he's having fun with his role, particularly the bits that call upon him to imitate William Hartnell's Doctor.

I would be lying if I pretended that this was something that could be enjoyed by anyone but hard-core fans of the show. But underneath the poor visuals and sound is a nicely engaging story with what seem like decent performances. It is a shame a better version is no longer available.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/65875.html.
reggietatereggietate on April 21st, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
I never knew the history behind the telesnaps - most interesting :-) It's a shame this adventure doesn't exist in full, I'm very fond of Frederic Jaeger, loved him in Planet of Evil.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 21st, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
I was surprisingly impressed by it. It had never really captured my attention when reading summaries or even the novel, but actually watching even this shadow of a version made me wish I could see the original.
Megsdqbunny on April 21st, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, Dodo. Embracing the companion's commandment: "Thou shalt not do as the Doctor tells you." ^_~ I agree, this is surprisingly watchable with the tele-snaps and audio overlays. I love the banter thus far between Dodo and Steven.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
I was pleasantly surprised with it, to be honest.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on April 21st, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
My prefered 'viewing' method for lost stories is to look over the telesnaps and then listen to the cleaned up, narrated CDs with the photos close at hand.

I agree that The Savages is a surprisingly good story, despite sounding bland on paper. But I was surprised by this:

It is easy to consider Dodo as yet another of the long run of sixties "screamer" companions who served little purpose beyond asking questions and getting captured but she often seems to do better than most, possibly carried by a spirited performance

I don't really consider the sixties companions as 'screamers' but I thought of Dodo and maybe Victoria as the exceptions. Still, she didn't deserve the fate(s) the books inflicted on her (I can't remember what The Sarah Jane Adventures said happened to her).

Out of curiosity, how are you generating the randomised stories?
parrot_knight: SarahJaneSmithparrot_knight on April 21st, 2012 10:26 pm (UTC)
I don't think SJA mentioned her - the Dorothy mentioned is Ace. She truly was left the forgotten companion.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on April 22nd, 2012 11:45 am (UTC)
I knew Ace was mentioned, but I couldn't remember if Dodo was as well.

According to Wikipedia, Dodo wasn't mentioned at all, but neither was Victoria, so I don't know how much to read into it.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2012 11:42 am (UTC)
Screamer may have been short-hand but its definitely frustrating watching many companions up to and including about Jo Grant how often they are written as incredibly stupid and/or timid. It's a reflection of the times, of course, and there are exceptions like Liz Shaw and Barbara Wright who seem to fare much better (possibly because the writers perceived them as more mature) and some companions (e.g. Zoe) seem to come off well more often than others (e.g. Victoria). I do want to watch more Dodo though because I was pleasantly surprised by this and I like her performance in the War Machines (minimal as it is). I've also seen The Gunfighters and an episode of The Celestial Toymaker but don't recall a great deal about her from either.

Out of curiosity, how are you generating the randomised stories?

I wrote a program, though it's really just a big list of titles and then a random number generator picks a title out of the list.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on April 22nd, 2012 11:51 am (UTC)
I've long thought that the sixties companions that come off badly are often (not always) written as 'children' rather than 'stupid women.' Vicki seems to become more proactive when Barbara (clearly not a child) isn't around and especially once Ian and Barbara leave and Vicki becomes senior companion. Likewise Jamie, despite being male, is often written as quite childlike and becomes a bit of a comic stooge once the super-clever Zoe arrives.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
You may have a point there. Something to bear in mind if the randomiser ever stops throwing endless Tom Baker at us (which it has to at some point, if only because it will run out of Tom Baker episodes!)
parrot_knight: Hartnell wordsparrot_knight on April 21st, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
This is one of the stories with which I'm near-unfamiliar. I should watch it. The evolution/devolution of Dodo is a subject of some fascination.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2012 11:46 am (UTC)
She's not as pretty as many of the other companions, and her stories don't generally have a good reputation though I've been pleasantly surprised by this, The Gunfighters and The War Machines when I've seen them. In my addition of The Making of Doctor Who her arrival in the TARDIS isn't even mentioned and I recall being very surprised at her sudden appearance as a companion in the summary of The Ark but I suspect that contributed in a subtle way to the general sense that she's not a very important or interesting companion.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that Jackie Lane's performance brings a lot to the part that isn't on the page.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on April 22nd, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
A theory in need of verification:

One thing that occured to me the other day was that ALL the regular characters suffered from roughly seasons three to five, because the production teams were interested in other things: John Wiles and Donald Tosh in concepts and Innes Lloyd and his script editors in monsters. Hartnell and Troughton were good enough actors to stand out (but the Doctor gets little to do in The Massacre and The Celestial Toymaker even when Hartnell is in the studio), as were some of the companion actors, but others got a bit lost.