THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

BBC
Survival

Episodes 3 Meow
Story No# 159
Production Code 7P
Season 26
Dates Nov. 22, 1989 -
Dec. 6, 1989

With Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred.
Written by Rona Munro. Script-edited by Andrew Cartmel.
Directed by Alan Wareing. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The galaxy roaming Cheetah people extend their claws to Earth, catching the Doctor, Ace, and an old enemy.


Reviews

A Poignant Farewell by Kevin Guhl 9/1/97

Then came Survival the last story of Doctor Who's original run. While not your traditional final episode fanfare, Survival still ended on a poignant note, as those episodes are apt to do. Cheetah people kidnap humans to their home planet, for hunting purposes! Sounds like traditional Who? Don't be fooled. As the Doctor and companions struggle against the cheetah planet's primitive drive, the issue becomes "survival of the fittest". Are people restricted to the law which guides all nature? The Doctor, Ace, the Master and all others are put to this test. The maturity begun with Sylvester McCoy's second season fully blossoms in Survival. Ace is forced to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life, and the Doctor seems to have a true bond with her. The plot, while intelligent, also manages to maintain the excitement and humour essential to good Who. After Survival's climax, we sigh, knowing the final lines are near. As the background score bids a sad farewell, the Doctor and Ace walk off towards the sunset, he telling of wondrous sites yet to behold. The sky then explodes into a starscape and the closing credits. Next time we see the Doctor, he's about to regenerate and Ace has departed for parts unknown. A meaningful close to sci-fi's longest running TV series.


Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? by Jason Fraser 9/1/97

The story opens with the mysterious - a man washing his car. A strange looking cat watches him from a near by fence. The Doctor takes Ace back to Perivale, the boredom capital of the universe where she hopes to meet up with her old gang. But where are they? What is happening with the feline population? Why don't they have houses in Perivale? and Why do the two shopkeepers look so familiar? (cameo by Hale and Pace). All these questions will be answered over the next 75 minutes. We are presented with a story revolving around various Perivale inhabitants being teleported to another planet, paying tribute to werewolf legends, an exploration of the "tough guy" image, how the veneer of civilisation lurks a beast, PLUS we get a special twist, the appearance of the Master who engages him in his last encounter. Survival is multi-layered with an intelligent, straight-forward plot, good use of it's immensely action-packed 3 episode format and even a sprinkling of humour. Overall, the story is quite enjoyable and very original. This is quite clearly not the end of Doctor Who. 7.5/10


A Review by Matt Michael 23/4/98

Survival is, of course, the final screened Doctor Who story prior to Enemy Within. It is also the seventh Doctor and Ace's final pairing outside of the New Adventures. It's place in Who history is thus assured.

Survival is actually a very good story in its own right, although it tends to be overshadowed by the fact that it is the last. If one approaches it as another McCoy serial then it is highly entertaining. The themes of survival have been explored perhaps more successfully in The Caves of Androzani, but here they are framed by an epic struggle between the seventh Doctor and the Master.

In his finest performance as the Master, Ainley succeeds in recapturing Delgado's original portrayal. He is the very model of a well-spoken gentleman, without a single "bwa-ha-ha" in sight. His portrayal of the degenerating Master is both impressive and disturbing.

McCoy is also good, although he does tend to overact in parts. However, although his performance here is less polished than those in The Curse of Fenric and (especially) Ghost Light, his interplay with the Master is beautifully done, and I don't even mind the "if we fight like animals" bit. Sophie Aldred again impresses as Ace, forced to return to her home.

The script is full of marvellous one liners ("I thought you'd died. Or gone to Birmingham"), and the plot, though simple compared to the rest of Season 26, is none the worse for it. The special effects are also good - especially the Cheetah planet.

Unfortunately, this story was the last and so it had to be extra special. It disappoints rather in this respect, although the final lines almost make up for this as the Doctor and Ace discuss the wonders of the universe-- never a dry eye in our house when that comes on. There is also some sense of conclusion as the series ends where it began-- present day London with the Doctor and a young female companion. Overall, a decent story but a bit of an anti-climax. 8/10


"If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!" by Will Jones 25/7/99

Survival - one of the most endlessly overanalysed stories of the Seventh Doctor's era and indeed Doctor Who as a whole. Can there really be anything new to say about it? Well, probably not, but I'll try anyway.

Rarely in the series' history was a theme made just as important to the basis of the story as the plot itself. Although a similar thing had happened in Ghost Light, earlier in the season where the theme of evolution was just as important, the strongly related theme of survival of the fittest is explored in depth and to the benefit of the tale.

This is excellent stuff from first-time Who writer Rona Munro. It's insightful, adult and most of all acted in a dead serious way, even when it comes to otherwise comical characters such as Julian Holloway's survivalist Sergeant Paterson. It is a vivid demonstration of how today's society has blunted the edges of true tooth-and-claw survival that Holloway, who on SAS camp was "the only one who ate the worm stew", is one of the least adept at surviving on the planet of the Cheetah People.

Aptly for a story about nature, the script is harsh and unfair, having no compunction about killing off characters just when it seems they've survived the story. In a traditional Doctor Who story, no more would have been seen of Patterson after he returned to Earth, and Midge would have gone free having had his humanity restored by the motorcycle crash. Here the Master's hypnotised goons kill them both. Also of note are the convincing shots of Kitlings feasting on some sort of animal carcass.

However 'convincing' is not normally a word I'd apply to the Kitlings. It takes some kind of bravery to cut from a real black cat to an obviously fake Kitling model and back again, and expect to get away with it. Other than this, though, the special effects in the story are generally good. Yes we are yet again presented with a quarry masquerading as an alien world, but just for once it doesn't look like a pit just outside London thanks to those excellent background vistas of a decaying planet.

We all know how good the three central performances are, and I won't dwell on them overmuch except to say that it's a shame we never saw Anthony Ainley be this good before. It is obvious not just in the false teeth and false eyes but in his whole performance that the Master is regressing to the level of an animal, believing he has control over the planet when really it may well control him. Conversely he has only been this evil before in Logopolis - only now, with desperation driving him, can the Master be quite so callous about death.

Survival is brilliant, and wraps up the series wonderfully to the extent that I often wish this was, to quote Troughton in The Evil of the Daleks, "The final end." It sort of cheapens the memory of this tale, and particularly that beautiful final monologue, to have The Enemy Within come afterwards. Still this is great stuff, and occupies a highly deserved place in the history of the programme. 9/10


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 25/7/99

Like the recent movie The Phantom Menace, Survival took me back to a time of endless, long summer holidays. After all, this is what Survival is primarily about, growing up. It is easy to spot that it was written by a woman and Rona Munro does a wonderful job in mixing the normal with the alien and telling a great story along the way.

The scenes set in Perivale set the scene that something bad will happen; the comforting reassurance of a sleepy town giving way to something hostile. With Sophie Aldred taking centre stage as Ace, she gives a great performance as a young girl, possessed by the creature inside of her. There are magical scenes aplenty, when she reveals herself (at the end of part two), complete with yellow eyes, being a case in point. Sylvester McCoy is nothing less than enchanting as The Doctor, although his struggle with The Master proved to be anticlimatic (and which would be repeated in the TV Movie.) Anthony Ainley is an absolute joy to behold in this story, he was never better than here, and it is a shame that this was his last story.

There are minor flaws with Survival however, the cameos from Hale and Pace seem superfluous, surely there would have been some of food in the TARDIS to use as bait, the animatronic cat doesn`t work too well and neither do the Cheetah costumes when seen up close. But on the whole Survival is a wonderful example of what Doctor Who could be when it was at its best. Pure nostalgia.


A Review by Mark Irvin 11/10/01

First of all I would like to make a bit of a confession. In my earlier review of Silver Nemesis I condemned many of McCoy's stories by insinuating that the majority were "rubbish". I have to admit that this assessment was somewhat unfair and that this may have been an over reaction due to the sour taste left in my mouth after watching The Happiness Patrol. I think that at least his last couple of seasons, although nowhere near the class of Tom Baker's offering, were far from "rubbish". When comparing them to some of the less enjoyable outings that sometimes occurred during Pertwee and Davison's reigns, I concluded that these stories could more accurately be defined as "rubbish". (Although it's been years since I've seen McCoy's first season - according to reports and my faint recollection it was probably less than memorable)

Anyway, now that I've got that of my back, what did I think of Survival?

Not bad, not bad at all - considering it had the unenviable task of concluding the greatest science fiction show of all time! The first thing I noticed about it was that appears to have an air of finality about it. It also has the impression of a story that was tailor made for McCoy.

The theme behind Survival is an interesting one, being the survival of the fittest, the weak die and the strong survive. I thought the inclusion of Sergent Paterson was delightfully ironic, in that one of the points here is that fighting and aggression will often do you no good. His interaction with the Doctor is very amusing, showing slight shades of resemblance of to that of the fourth Doctor and Duggan in City of Death.

The Cheetah people were fairly well realised, but not really anything particularly special. I'm surprised by the fact that the unusually violent scene where Midge stabs a Cheetah is not mentioned more often. If it had happened in one of poor old Colin Baker's stories, you would probably have never heard the end of it. The Kitlings worked effectively, building the intrigue early when the viewer isn't sure exactly what's going on. (O.K, I admit it, I love cats.)

To be honest I can't quite seem to fathom criticisms raised by Stuart Gutteridge concerning the Hale and Pace cameo. Initially during it's original broadcast I didn't know who they were (I'm Australian), thinking that they were just a couple of hilariously realistic shopkeepers. And rather well played I might add. Surely it doesn't matter who is selected for a role, so long as it's done well and the intended purpose is achieved.

Anthony Ainley impresses in one of his better performances as the Master, superbly underplaying the ultimate villain in this case. The Master has always worked best when portrayed as a more believable foe. Not some ridiculously evil, megalomaniac madman that's hell bent on killing the Doctor and ruling the universe - for seemingly no reason apparent. Here he's reminiscent of Roger Delgardo in The Frontier in Space, being considerably more suave and sophisticated. This is in complete contrast to the idiotic performance given by Eric Roberts who played him in The Telemovie. Way too over the top.

Sophie Aldred continues her good work with yet another impressive performance as Ace. Once again she plays a pivotal role in the plot - avoiding usual companion folly of just being there to ask stupid questions and scream. I especially enjoyed her comment following the Doctor's description of the Master. "One of my oldest and deadliest of enemies". To which Ace replied "Do you know any nice people?....You know.... ordinary people, not power crazed nutters trying to take of the galaxy?"

McCoy does possibly overacts at times, but only slightly. I didn't really mind the "If we fight like animals we die like animal" part. The famous speech at the end was also very special and I honestly couldn't think of better words to end the series. The motorbike stand-off game of chicken has often been criticized, but personally I thought it was quite good - very original and something the series had never really seen before.

Survival does however lack a certain sense of magic that prevents it from being put there with the truly great stories - I can't really put my finger on it. At times it does feel a little rushed lacking a certain amount of required plot development. It may have worked better as a four-parter, perhaps including more of an explanation of how the Master came to be the planet in the first place. Although the 26th season is of a reasonably high standard, it is often hard to follow, sometimes brushing over details which are vitally important - commanding a great deal from the viewer. This is what tends to let these stories down to a certain degree.

I think for once give this one a rough rating. Let's make it a 7/10 - but keep in mind like all Who fans - tomorrow I might have changed my mind!


Whew! Ainley can act! by Joe Ford 4/8/02

Survival has a lot to live up to. After all it is the last television outing for a show that is over twenty-six years old and that show is Doctor Who at that. I believe this show comes in for too much flack for that reason alone. To be fair to the Survival writer she wasn't aiming to write the last story ever as she didn't know it was going to be the last one, all she was trying to was write a stonking good story, an aim she more than manages.

Survival is absolutely astonishing in it's maturity. That's not the guns'n'politics maturity of the Pertwee era (fun as it was) but getting in touch with the characters emotions and connecting with the audience with very little dialouge. That takes not only a fantastic director but good, solid actors too. Fortunately the director this time around is Alan Wareing, who revealed his considerable talents with the superlative Greatest Show and the moody Ghost Light. His work here is stunning. The camera never stops... gripping chase scenes, panning smoothly around corners and capturing all that emotion in the Dorset heat. All the scenes on the Cheetah planet are not only gorgeous to look at but (and this is forgotten about a whole lot in current SF) highly atmospheric too. Given the idea of the planet and the people connecting emotionally Wareing reveals a planet that is hostile, agressive and violent. Direction must be good when you can give a planet a personality! His work on Earth is just as good, revealing the gritty under class eighties in all it's grimy glory... god I remember those days of flat blocks and youth wings... it makes me feel nostalgic!

If people thought I was too harsh on McCoy in my Curse of Fenric review then calm down, he is at his best here. Yes okay he does overdo the "Don't move!" fight but generally I could make a good case for his Doctor based on this story alone. After two stories of throwing Ace's fears in her face he is finally rewarded as she runs off to enjoy her dark side and McCoy's frightened look is just phenomenal. Also the scene where he asks her to come back to him, throwing a look at Karra is as gripping as it is fantastic pay off for this plot thread. I don't even mind his larking around in episode one! Sophie Aldred is, of course, better. Ace has come into for a lot of flack recently for her overuse in all medias but let's not forget people how refreshing she was when she first bolted onto our screens. Aside from struggling with that horrible eighties slang I cannot think of a poor moment Ms Aldred gave us. You can tell she is having a lot of fun with the role and she was a highly engaging character. As a resolution for her character this is about as perfect as closure gets! Her moments with Karra by the lake are dripping with emotion and as she cries over her death I found myself tearing up too. There is one scene, where she tells the Doctor she is excited by her emerging wild side and it made me sit up in horror more than perhaps any other scene in Doctor Who.

And what about The Master? What a revelation! It wasn't Ainley's fault... all those dire performances during the Davison era I am convinced from this story alone that he genuinely WAS told to dumb down his performance. Here he is feral, violent, malevolant and pretty damn terrifying. Ainley is so subdued and yet so good it makes me weep this was the only chance he got to show his teeth.

The story is jammed full of memorable scenes be it due to brilliant direction (Ace first materialising on the Cheetah planet and watching that kid get mauled, the tense scenes as the Doctor uses Ace to chase The Master) or acting (Ace resisting her dark side looking in the lake). And there is one of the most devasting moments of the entire show with the final Doctor/Master fight with the Doc finally giving in to his feral nature and the Master's most revealing line ever ("We could escape"... "No, not this time..."). Genius on every level.

Survival makes a great last story showing how much ground the show has covered with the story being very similar to Unearthly Child (contempory Earth, characters in conflict, kidnapped from their home). It epitomises everything that is perfect about the JNT producership... quality writing, great music, stylish direction, a cast of assured actors and bags of atmosphere. It ends a five story run of excellence and makes me furious to think the show was cancelled as it was practically flawless.


Panic on the streets of Perivale by Andrew Wixon 25/8/02

There's a terrible silence at the end of Survival, the end of my off-air copy of it anyway. Not total silence, the theme tune is bingly-bonging away as usual, but at the moment when the continuity announcer should say 'Doctor Who will be back in the New Year'... well, as we all know, that bit got omitted for a good reason.

Did any of us realise Survival was going to be the last proper DW story at the time? I kind of had a suspicion we might be in for a delay before Season 27, but no-one said 'That's it, that's the end' - except perhaps the production team, by including the wonderfully evocative closing narration by McCoy. In any case watching this story now is a terribly bittersweet experience, simply because, well, It's The Last One.

But at least it's a pretty good one. It has the potential to be an absolutely great one: the first part is as fine an example of urban gothic as the series ever produced, the script, direction and music creating an eeriely oppressive atmosphere for the streets and commons of Perivale. The criticism of Thatcherism is fairly explicit too: both in terms of the ruthlessly competitive ethics of the time, and also the mindset that created a society where people can simply vanish without it being noticed.

The sequences on the Cheetah planet aren't quite so effective, unfortunately. But the series hadn't produced a proper 'run around the quarry' story in over two years so I suppose we must indulge it. Thankfully it's back to Perivale for the finale but even here the story has flaws (the sofa, the fact that Derek and Shreela both vanish from the story rather arbitrarily). But the climax is fine, apart from McCoy's operatic delivery of 'If we fight like animals...'

And it even manages to rehabilitate the Master, up to a point. Obviously the best Master stories are the ones where he's in a hole and needs the Doctor's help (willingly or not) to get out of it, and on these terms it works well. But the Master is also less annoyingly written than usual and apart from the occasional 'bwa-ha-ha' Tony Ainley does the business too, it's certainly his best performance since Season 18. This is probably because of the show being interested in theme and metaphor rather than the crunching literalism of the Saward years.

So it's stylish, politically engaged, thoughtful and energetic. It's also occasionally embarrassing, slightly wilfully oblique and has light-entertainment guest stars. It's Survival (it's also a pretty fair description of the McCoy era as a whole). It's (ironically, given the title) The Last One. And oh, how I still wish it weren't.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 27/11/02

Doctor Who finally shows up in suburbia. About damn time too!

Black Cats and Cheetah People, Social Darwinism and an old enemy are thrown into a three episode pot and simmered to perfection.

Not since An Unearthly Child has Doctor Who really been in the "Present" (except for a brief stop in South Croyden). There have been contemporary tales, but always at research centers, military bases and whatnot. Ace wonders what's going back in Perivale and the Seventh Doctor takes her there. Perivale may be West London, but it's suburbia, where teens are desperate to find anything to do, where nothing changes and everyone has dreams of escaping. Ace did -- by accident -- and upon her return is not to happy to see that things have changed. She may call it the "most boring place in the universe", but it's still Ace's home, and her disappointment is borne out in the early segments of the first episode. Audience identification at its simplest in DW.

Magic Realism has been brought up in terms of Doctor Who in regards to certain novels -- Paul Magrs' offerings, to be specific -- but Survival is probably the closest that the TV show has come in presenting a Magic Realist story. Shopkeepers and self-defence instructors mingle with Cheetah People on horseback and their black cat familiars. The opening scene sets up this surreality. A man washing his car is menaced by a kitling and then some monstrous apparition comes from nowhere and attacks him, blasting him who knows where.

Episode two reminded me of Land of the Lost. All that was missing were sleestaks. There are teens running around a desolate landscape aided by their wits, and avoiding the cheetah people. The Doctor does what he can, but he's dealing with adolescents with minds of their own, even his apprentice, Ace.

The final episode drags us back to reality, where the final battle between good and evil takes place. Ace learns a valuable lesson and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her friends, and especially the Doctor.

The old enemy that returns is the Master. Anthony Ainley is allowed to play the part with restraint, for once. It's a chilling portrayal, imbued with a desperation and a seriousness of a man trying to prevent his slide into a regressive animal state.

Syl and Sophie acquit themselves well, although the bit in episode three where she starts crying does press the plausibility envelope. Although Syl can't do angry, his "if we fight like animals, we die like animals" is well done and more desperate than anger.

It's a proper ending to the show, although not in terms of story, but in theme. It's about coming home and not letting anyone be left behind.

One of McCoy's best.


A Review by Owen A. Stinger 7/4/03

Survival is a frustrating story because it is very good in many respects while simultaneously disappointing and many others. The story is visually stunning, deals with a compelling central theme, has some of the best background music ever, and it features the Master to boot!

However, it is let down in three principle areas: performance, characterization, and script. Regarding performance, Survival suffers from the same poor pantomime level of acting/directing (it's hard to discern which is the cause) that all of the McCoy era stories seem to. The worst instances of this are when the Doctor attempts to stop everyone from running away from the Cheetah people (that tripping of a Cheetah and tipping of the hat is cringe-inducing), and the Doctor's hammy beseeching "If we fight like animals, we die like animals!" With the Doctor flinging his arms high above is head in exaggerated pantomime while delivering this line, the Master would have all the time in the world to run him through with a barbed bone. Yes, unfortunately, Survival is another in the long list of McCoy stories in which the viewer is never able to suspend their disbelief. The players never fully become their parts, never rising above the level of playhouse actors on a theatre stage, a shortcoming exacerbated by...

...Characterization. Successful literature relies on a balanced blend of characterization to the many archetypes inhabiting the narrative (the protagonist, the antagonist, the sidekick, the wise guardian, the love interest, etc. etc.) Unfortunately, the characters in Survival never become anything more than archetypes, Sgt. Paterson being the worst example, although Karra is also poor. As a result, the theme of survival (which, to the story's credit, is intriguing and ambitious), loses the subtlety required for effectiveness. Themes are essential to good story telling, but they should be underlying, not smothering. The audience should be only vaguely aware of the theme while they are viewing the story so that is seeps into their subconscious, thereby leaving that special "something" that makes the story thoroughly enjoyable. In the case of Survival, the audience is constantly assaulted with the theme, thus impairing its effectiveness. This is a shame, and could have been avoided if the characters were fleshed out rather being mere archetypes.

Survival is also let down by the script, which, while generally telling an interesting story, is deficient in several areas. Too often the audience is required to make a leap of imagination that is too grand for their belief to keep pace. The most glaring of these is the Master's extremely brief explanation that the Cheetah planet is somehow "linked" to its inhabitants and crumbles away when they fight. Uhm... huh? This is not science fiction, but pure fairyland fantasy. This really requires some scientific (or at least pseudo-scientific) explanation. For example: the planet was formed when the mind essence of some deposed social Darwinist despot, which was rocketed into space as a sentence passed by the people he formerly ruled, collided with a life-forming mixture of gasses and amino acids, with his essence disseminated throughout the resulting planet. Hence, the planet's inhabitants are willed by their creator into fighting to see who is the fittest for survival, and when they destroy each other, portions of the integrally linked planet are also destroyed. Such an explanation, or a similar one, would at least bridge the yawning gap between the viewer's ability to suspend disbelief and the extreme level of inexplicability they are asked to accept. Also required is an explanation for the Cheetah people's seemingly magical (for complete lack of any other reasoning) ability to teleport back and forth between the Cheetah planet and Earth and why this ability seems limited to arrival in Perivale (it would have made more sense had the Cheetah planet been an alternate reality Earth, with the location where the characters arrive being geographically the same as Perivale in our universe). Other unanswered questions include: How did the Master wind up on the Cheetah planet in the first place? Why does he need the Doctor's help, and why couldn't he figure out for himself the very simple solution of lassoing a hybrid and following it home?

It's too bad that Survival suffers from so many shortcomings, since it really has so much potential. Perhaps if it were four episodes...?


A show that can survive by Tim Roll-Pickering 17/8/03

The original BBC series began in a London suburb and so it returns to another for its final story. Previously most stories set on contemporary Earth have been set either in a rural environment or around public buildings. Survival differs by taking the TARDIS to a London suburb and materialising outside someone's front door - a dream of many fans. Perivale has been run down by Ace throughout the previous two seasons and we get to see just why she hates it so much. Like many disaffected teenagers she comes from a place where there is little to actually do and so gets caught in a cycle of boredom and despair. No attempt at all is made to glamorise Perivale and so we get an environment that many viewers can truly relate to. Rona Munro's script is fast and packed, focusing heavily on the characters. The Master appears for the first time in three years, but is a far cry from his usual schemes to either conquer a planet or destroy the Doctor. Here he merely wishes to escape from the planet of the Cheetah People before he is transformed into one himself. Anthony Ainley gives a performance indicating that the Master is much older and wearier than when he last appeared, making for a fine contrast with the Doctor and adding to a sense of foreclosure.

The Cheetah People are not the most detailed race seen in the series but everything sufficient is explained about them so that their true level of threat becomes apparent, as do their origins. Karra gradually develops so that when she appears to help Ace and gets killed by the Master there is a real sense of loss as Ace sees her 'sister' die. The very concept of the Master and Ace and even the Doctor succumbing to the influence of the planet is strong and works as a metaphor for how easy it is to descend into savagery. This subtle parody of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies works and in the process challenges some of the ethics the series has advocated in the past, such as the need to fight.

One of the key themes of the story is where 'home' is for Ace (and in hindsight much can be read into the Doctor's 'home' from this as well). It is telling that when she does take the others 'home' she arrives by the TARDIS and at the end this is where she and the Doctor depart for, showing how she has changed, not only in this story but throughout her time since she first met him. The final monologue as the Doctor and Ace walk off into the sunset makes for a wonderful pause for the series, promising more things to come and making it clear that the show can go on.

This story predominantly revolves around the regular characters, with McCoy, Aldred and Ainley all giving good performances. Most of the rest of the cast are predominantly onlookers, though Julian Holoway (Paterson) gives a tough performance, making the character seem rough and ready despite being the story's symbol of authority. The production is strong as well, with the Cheetah People's planet looking realistic due to the excellent video effects and there are only a few shots where the trickery becomes noticeable, something that would have been exceedingly difficult to have sorted out back in 1989. Survival is a strong story that works both on its own and as a 'last adventure' for the series as it indeed was for some years and ensures that viewers are left wanting more. 9/10


I'm going to see a man about a cat... by Steve Cassidy 12/8/06

Survival just works.

It's my favourite McCoy adventure and the reason is very simple. It's a very good story. A story which reaches deep inside every one of us and asks us to question our own civilised values. It's a story which is actually very sophisticated. Telling an interesting tale coherently and succinctly. Unlike many in season 26 there is no need to buy the DVD sixteen years after the event so you can understand what is going on when it is explained in the commentary.

OK, obligatory Andrew Cartmel jibe over with.

Thankfully the collaboration with writer Rona Munro pays off dividends here. She crafts a story where mankind is laid bare. Where our feral roots are exposed. This is set against the "civilised" Perivale with its twitching curtains, Victorian terraces and the middleclass values. The contrast between the savage Planet of the Cheetah people and cloying West-London suburbia is sharply drawn. What this adventure has with all the Who "greats" is atmosphere. A lot of this has to do with Dominic Glynn's incidental music and Alan Wareing's direction. From the first where he makes use of overhead cameras to show the looming terror of the boy washing his car, you realise that this adventure is going to work out fine. There are so many nice little camera touches in Survival: the spinning of the roundabout, Ace running at full speed and the hordes of Cheetah people/riders appearing over the horizon giving the viewer a shiver.

For this one has what a lot of McCoys are missing: real danger. Not everyone returns from the Planet of the Cheetah People (so obscure and legendary - it isn't even given a proper name). The boy taken while washing his car lies mangled and mauled in an obscure gulley, the milkman panics and is instantly torn to pieces by the Cheetah people - and it's certainly inferred by Midge, Shreela etc that they have lost friends - hunted at night by the Cheetah people. Grafted on to this is the premise that violence breeds violence. The Cheetah Planet itself is a stange creation; there is no scientific rationale behind it. It seems to be put together by feelings, real violent feelings, rather than strong science. In a galaxy which contains the domain of The Mind Robber and such fairytale planets such as Tara or Peladon, a planet created by a human emotion and then torn apart by another human desire is not out of proportion. Maybe the Planet of the Cheetah people is a simple metaphor for human violence.

It certainly is an enjoyably fiendish planet: red skies, burning deserts, rumbling volcanoes. It is a place where life is measured in days rather then years, where creatures are brought here for others to hunt and kill. I particularly like the "intergalacic vultures", the kitlings.

I've always found cats creepy; the way they look at you, their independence and most of all the way they use their claws without hesitation. If you are rather a felinophobe like me then the kitlings hissing from the flowerbeds and prowling around suburban Perivale are enjoyably creepy. The Cheetah people themselves are slightly less realised. At close range the costumes look a little bit tatty but the sight of them hunting people on horseback like they were mice is terrific. The camp is impressive as well: it looks dusty, makeshift and littered with bones. Whether it was there already, put up by previous survivalists or by the Master I don't know.

Ah, yes - Anthony Ainley's final appearance as the Master. He is finally given a script by JNT that he can, literally, sink his teeth into. The base urges of the Master, just like Ace, are brought to the surface. He is no longer an icily-cold calculating villain but simply a man who wants to escape the vile Planet of the Cheetahs. His savagery, which was always there under his civilised veneer, comes to the fore and he murders his way through the adventure. There seems to be a theme in season 26: Ghost Light highlighted the monsters beneath the Victorian veneer; Survival brings that to its ultimate conclusion.

The regulars do good work. McCoy will never be my favourite Doctor but I am warming to him (a lot of that has to do with laughing my way through Time and the Rani which I got on ebay for 1.50... after that any performance by him is good). He does struggle to do anger and the "If we fight like animals, we will die like animals" seems to be seriously overcooked. Certainly Pertwee or Colin Baker would have put a different spin on it. But where he is wonderfully effective is the first superb episode in Perivale. Even the boredom of the place is affecting the Doctor and there is a whimsical air about him as they wander around the quiet suburban streets. He even made me laugh with the "Haven't you forgotten something?" skit with Hale and Pace. Hale and Pace are the best example, bar Ken Dodd, of JNT stuntcasting I can think of. And their "joke" regarding lions almost brings the whole sequence to a grinding halt - but the first episode set in Perivale is so enchanting and haunting I really can't find it in my heart to damn them.

Sophie Aldred does very good work as Ace. She seems to succumb to the Planets influence much quicker then the others. This is another terrific character point: the planet latches onto the aggression and violence of the Ace we know. I like the fact that she is nearly seduced by the life of Karra, the urge to "run free like the wind" borders on cliche but it is nicely played and her concern for her friends is genuine. Despite her dysfunctionality, deep down Ace is a "people person" and tends to be loyal to her friends. The three-dimensional writing of the character of sesaon 26 is strong here.

There are a couple of other good roles; the survival part of the story is hammered home by Carry-On star Julian Holloway as gruff Sergeant Paterson. I love the way he is "neighbourhood watch" as well as the local "yoof club" trainer. And plaudits must also go to William Barton as Midge: his acting as he becomes more and more feral is brilliant. And I wonder if successive generations will get the Thatcherite references at the end as quickly as others did back in 1989.

There is a bittersweet reputation to Survival. This was the last Who adventure for sixteen years. And as others have pointed out it does predate the RTD era with a story more grounded in reality with its suburban streets and council estates. But at the same time there is strong storytelling, excellent ideas and some genuinely creepy moments.

Who fans will argue whether Survival is the best story of season 26, but for me it's my favourite of McCoy's entire run.


Bad Kitty by Greg Long 9/10/07

Survival is an awful lot better than the majority of stories from the McCoy years and contains some interesting, ambitious and promising ideas. However, to be brutally honest, it just isn't very good.

The biggest problem with the story is that elements are introduced without any concern about whether they make sense. Why are the aliens like cheetahs and domestic cats from Earth? Why do they ride Earth horses? Why is their violence contagious and, above all, why does their violence magically destroy their planet? For that matter, why does everyone the Doctor bump into on Earth happen to be talking about survival of the fittest? The arbitrariness of it all destroys any suspension of disbelief. Nor is there much internal logic to the resolutions of the final episode. Why does the Doctor charge Mitch on a motorbike, why do the bikes explode and how exactly does the Doctor escape from the Master at the end?

It was a great idea to set so much of the story on normal, contemporary Earth. However, the setting is never believable. Not only are too many of the accents wrong (most obviously, Ace's) but the characters aren't believable. Hale and Pace are wooden and the "sarge" is a cardboard stereotype. He starts off well and his initial combination of ruthlessness and genuine concern for the lads he trains gives him a whiff of three-dimensionality. However, he quickly proves unable to do anything but spout his survivalist philosophy at all times regardless of the situation, beginning with his strange haranguing of the Doctor on their first meeting and continuing with his strange inability to see that he is out of his depth on an alien planet and that the sane thing to do would be to listen to the Doctor, the one guy who seems to know what is going on. He exists only to represent a misguided philosophy and so fails to be a real human being.

It may seem like heresy to say that the last of classic Who stories is bad and it hurts me to say it, but this is not the classic some fans take it for. Still, for all its faults, Survival shows that the program should not have been cancelled. There is a genuine attempt here to take the show seriously and to play with interesting ideas, as there was in several of the stories this season. Survival may not have been the fittest Doctor Who adventure, but its descendants might have been if they had been given a chance.


We Shall Become Animals by Ben Kirkham 28/5/08

Survival is a truly remarkable Doctor Who story.

The subtexts within the story are legion. What we are being faced with here is really the destruction of self and the desire to metamorphose into something different. What if Ace could surrender to her darker nature, become something much more primitive? This in itself sets up a triangle of this story's main characters. First, we have the Doctor, desperate to stay in control and prevent change. He realises that everybody needs to be true to his or her own nature. Next, Ace. Ace's journey is the most intriguing. She is quite a damaged individual, and she's tested to her limits. Ace is offered a simpler feral existence, and is forced to re-examine her own values. Finally, the Master. By being so convinced that he is a strong survivor, in fact he is the weakest of the three. He has surrendered himself to his own savagery, whether through fear or desperation, and when asked why the Master does what he does, the Doctor replies, "Malice." So the Master's slide into his bestial nature was fairly inevitable.

It's quite fitting that this story should represent the final story of the classic series, as it sees all three of these characters meet a natural crossroads in their lives. We sense that Ace may finally be more comfortable within herself, having been plunged into the darkness and seeing how dangerous (yet tragically free) her other side could be. The Master, in doing what he can to survive, has in fact killed himself by giving up everything. The Master believes he's strong enough to control it, but we all have a dark side that we struggle to control. The Doctor has his worth re-affirmed after at least two stories that leave him with a self-doubt and fear about his abilities and his responsibilities to protect the universe. Here, he faces something deeply personal and involved. He is ready for the next stage of his life. It's hard to imagine the Seventh Doctor and Ace continuing for much longer after this story, though the New Adventures and the audios have done some interesting work with this. This would have been a good regeneration story, with the Seventh Doctor reaching his own inner calm and preparing for the next phase.

The structure of the story is very good, putting the Doctor and Ace in the middle of Perivale but not initially being alerted to anything strange going on. As Survival becomes more intricate in its plotting, so too do the emotions of its characters. Almost everyone is profoundly affected by the situation. An interesting addition to the story is Derek. Although not really a fleshed-out character in his own right, he represents something very important. Place him next to Midge, a scared young man full of bravado yet certain that he's the strongest. But through being so aggressive toward his situation, Midge opens himself up to anger and savagery. Derek, considered weaker, survives the ordeal. Midge doesn't. We're all animals and the sheer basic instinct of man is shown stripped bare.

I've barely scratched the surface of the issues raised here, there's so much to read from this. But as basic entertainment, Survival is well paced, has a gorgeous script, some precise acting, excellent direction, and a very successful musical score. The acting honours go to Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Anthony Ainley. Ainley, in particular, is brilliant in Survival. By far his best performance, he is allowed to play the Master as his version always should have been: reckless, ruthless, living on borrowed time. Whereas Delgado's Master had a cool, suave persona that belied his villainous nature and Pratt/Beevers had a violent and extremely dangerous brutality, Ainley's Master should always have been a natural progression of this. He'd stolen a body and been given a second chance, but JNT saw him as a Delgado clone. Here, the Master is calculated, cold, desperate and sinister. He comes across as more dangerous than he's been since The Deadly Assassin. Although that final fight scene could have been longer, it finishes off Ainley's incarnation beautifully. For once in this decade of the programme, the Master is not shoehorned into the story; it's as much about him as the Doctor and Ace.

In hindsight, it's probably for the best that JNT didn't know for sure that Doctor Who wasn't coming back, as he may have been tempted to end it forever by bringing back all the surviving Doctor's, as many companions as possible and set the thing on Gallifrey at the end of the Universe with Daleks, Cybermen and God knows what else. Survival ends the series at the natural point it was at during that time. It delves deep into the world of the Seventh Doctor and Ace, the contemporary team, and not back into the First Doctor's era, or the Final Doctor's. The ending is left open for the Doctor more than anyone else, obviously, and provides a good point for the New Adventures/audios/TV Movie to pick up from.

Survival certainly deserves its popularity. It is a deep and extremely dark story that finished the classic series on a high note. Very highly recommended.


A Review by Finn Clark 15/6/09

I remember not being particularly enthusiastic about Survival back in 1989. It's slow, it's drab and it has unthreatening monsters. Today though, it seems almost visionary, not to mention being the ultimate proof of Cartmel's superiority over his predecessor. Eric Saward is credited on thirty Doctor Who stories across five years and yet ended up scrabbling around for writers as the show degenerated ever further into bleakness and cynicism, like the boil on a diseased mind. He also had a restrictive vision of the show, so hated stories like Enlightenment even though they came out under his watch. Cartmel, on the other hand, improved. He found new writers and encouraged them to push the show in new directions. Watching Survival, it's clear that he didn't merely invent the NAs, as he's traditionally been credited with. He also invented New Who.

Back in 1989, we had no point of comparison for Survival. Today though, it's a forerunner of stories like The Idiot's Lantern and Fear Her, except immeasurably better. It has some dodgy acting and visual effects, but there's no comparison in writing, direction, camerawork, pacing and thematic exploration. What let it down for my 17-year-old self was that it's trying to be neither an adventure nor a horror film. The Doctor doesn't really oppose the Master, but what's more in the end doesn't even beat him. On the contrary, his victory lies in refusing to fight in the first place. This story is about competing philosophies and our struggle with our own worst instincts. The enemy is inside us, even for the Master. The Cheetah people are basically metaphors on legs.

Ironically, in one sense, this makes it the most traditional McCoy story, in that it's taking Hinchcliffe's body horror and addressing it more thoughtfully and deeply than ever before. What's the Master's plan, eh? He doesn't have one, of course. He's the embodiment of Darwinism, red in tooth and claw, and it's devouring him. Note that, in episode three, he could have simply walked away. He's a genius. I'm sure he could have overcome his condition, if only he'd been willing to make the peaceful choice for once. However, had that been in his character, he wouldn't have been fighting the Doctor in the first place. The Cheetah planet's done nothing but feed on what's already inside him, which is why he brings about his own doom.

For me, this story is still the most interesting use of the Master in Doctor Who, with second place going to Last of the Time Lords. For once, he's not just "the Doctor, but evil". He's the reason why I couldn't ask for a more fitting end to the classic series, while I also enjoy this being another of those consecutive Master stories. Season 7, the regeneration trilogy, King's Demons and The Five Doctors, Survival and the TVM, the end of "Series 3" (depending on your definition of a story) and tenuously even Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani.

From the entire series, old and new, only Ghost Light could lay a claim to comparable thematic strength. However, that's not the only way in which this story outclasses its 21st century descendants. It's better paced and is cleverly structured as a trilogy of episodes (Perivale, Cheetah planet, Perivale). It's better shot. Fear Her looks boring, while Survival always looks dynamic, despite having essentially the same setting. Finally, its world of ordinary people and boring council estates is still the most convincing I can remember in Doctor Who. Its descendants would be a little too glossy, while among its contemporaries are the Silver Nemesis skinheads. A crucial part of Survival's success is that it doesn't screw up. Remember we're talking here about 1980s' Doctor Who. There was a real risk of getting a bunch of BBC drama school ponces, whereas in the event it hits the ground running with Sergeant Paterson and his self-defence class. At times it's actually nasty. The deaths are ugly and you'll never have any difficulty in believing in people getting eaten.

That's not to say that it's perfect, of course. Karra's seductive poetry of blood and violence doesn't work, since it's being delivered to Sophie Aldred by by a teddy bear. Admittedly, I've always liked Sophie. I believe in her as a damaged tomboy and she had more charisma than any other companion since Romana. However, to me, she's also always seemed safe and wholesome, whereas this material wanted someone with real darkness and strength. As an aside, I was always disappointed that the later NAs and comic strips returned Ace to normal as if nothing had happened; although, admittedly, keeping her as a dangerous wild animal would have undermined the whole point of Rona Munro's story.

It's also worth mentioning that neither the Cheetah people and the kitlings are exactly scary. The former are convincing, but cute. The latter are, um, neither of those things. Obviously they're Doctor Who's goofiest special effect since the Kandyman, but - believe it or not - I rather like them. Their very ludicrousness makes them more diverting than a real cat would have been, had it been possible to make one perform on cue.

Oh, and while on the subject of production quirks... (a) the motorcycle crash; (b) Midge's Dynasty audition suit; (c) the fake dead cat; (d) that scene in episode three where Sylvester has his hand on Sophie's shoulder in close-up but is nowhere near her in long shot.

As for the actors, they're a mixed bag. There's a correlation between life expectancy and acting ability, so the man washing his car at the beginning is painful while William Barton's Midge is very watchable. Hale and Pace are fine, although it's obvious that Pace is the only one of the two who's acting. However, my favourite non-regular is Julian Holloway as Sergeant Paterson, managing to create a real person out of a role that could easily have been a cartoon. Paterson never says or thinks a word that isn't completely wrong-headed, yet manages to be such a good foil for the Doctor that he never feels like a temporary companion despite being just that for a good chunk of the middle section. It's also nice to have a character who's not a teenager. Young actors, harrumph.

Of the regulars, the most surprising is Anthony Ainley. I'm a fan of his, but it's bizarre to see him reining it in like this. "I must keep control." I wouldn't have minded a little more of his usual intensity and flamboyance, actually. "I never thought of it that way" is underplayed! For once, the Master's in a dour mood, fighting to keep himself under control, but he gave me the creeps in episode three by laughing for the first time only after killing someone with his own hands. There's also something reassuring about seeing him walk out of that tent for the episode one cliffhanger.

I have mixed feelings about Sylvester McCoy. I really like his Doctor, but this story pushes both him and the show out of their respective comfort zones. It's clear from this story that he's a talented physical performer more accustomed to stage acting and who doesn't always find the most appropriate line readings for the TV cameras. "Oldest and deadliest enemies." "Midge, wait." "If we fight like animals, we die like animals." In addition, I'm not wild about his delivery of, "So much for the SAS survival course." The man's just been murdered. He was an idiot, yes, but that's no reason to sound so dismissive. The 7th Doctor could be manipulative, yes, but it surprised me to hear him sound so cold. Having said that though, Sylvester also gets some really good moments. I loved his "Come home" to Ace and even in an odd way him getting caught in the noose trap. Not many Doctors would seem so right dangling upside-down from a tree.

Survival really surprised me. It's a far better and more important story than I'd thought, with my wildest thematic speculations all coming true in a parable that makes most of Doctor Who look like the shallow runaround it too often is. It's rich in themes and symbolism, both subtle and blatant. It makes an oddly fitting bookend with An Unearthly Child, in that both have humans from contemporary Earth being kidnapped and taken to a survivalist world of animal skins and savagery. Both stories also star two Time Lords and have a famous "wonders of the universe" speech for the Doctor, although I'd have been happier if this one had been less obviously dubbed in. More specifically, returning to Survival, the production is a triumph in its own modest way instead of being buttock-clenchingly disastrous, but my favourite thing about it is the fact that you need to watch with your brain in gear. Maybe that's why I didn't like it when I was seventeen! For once, the neverending Doctor-Master duel is being used to say something, with whole worlds of meaning being brought to something as simple as a shot of Ace wearing the Doctor's hat and carrying his umbrella.

Episode one is eccentrically sinister and the story even gives Ainley the chance to bow out with dignity. You couldn't call it a crowd-pleaser, but in its own understated way I think I respect it as much as almost any other story from the classic series.


A Review by Brian May 7/10/09

Season 26 is an impressive return to form for the troubled late-1980s Doctor Who, proving there was life in the old programme yet. Of course, it was a renaissance that came too late to save it from being pulled off the screen, but the calibre of stories was high - and Survival is no exception. Rona Munro has written a very intelligent script. It's a critique of Social Darwinism - survival of the fittest - particularly the economic brand thrust upon the world in this decade. Conflict and competition result in a futile struggle, when we should in fact be cooperating. Critics may dismiss this as a utopian pipedream, the more right-wing detractors could even accuse it of being socialist or communist. In its final story classic Doctor Who could still make a point, perhaps better than it had ever done previously!

Perivale and the planet of the Cheetah People are ideal locations to serve as battlegrounds for this pointless fight. The static dullness of the former is well contrasted and juxtaposed against the harsh desolation of the latter (yes, a quarry, but one of the best uses of the number one Who location). The moodiness is helped by good direction and excellent artwork: the backdrops of the Cheetah world's sky are astounding, especially in its death throes, while the Ry Cooder/Paris, Texas inspired music is wonderful. The overall feel has twinges of Hinchcliffe-era suspense combined with Saward-era cynicism, while the graphic-novel look is true to the programme at the time (which is not always a good thing;this would have looked so much better on film, especially as it was shot entirely on location).

Okay, I suppose I'd better get the other negative points out of the way. The animatronic cats are rubbish and the costumes of the Cheetah People are ill-fitting. But that's about it; oh, and the motorcycle duel. It's just superfluous. Is it intended as a brief action sidetrack from a grim and gritty story? In my opinion, it's this very same grittiness that keeps the viewer hooked anyway, so there's no real need for such a diversion.

The acting is superb; everyone is excellent. Even the typically eighties stunt casting of Hale and Pace works; thankfully, the comedians underplay it and their appearance is brief anyway. Sylvester McCoy continues the sinister and secretive Doctor he has gradually honed, but ironically there's no manipulation for him to do here; he's landed in Perivale at Ace's request and stumbles into the story. Sophie Aldred is fantastic. As Ace's coming of age draws to a close, both actress and character have travelled a long way; her moments of possession are particularly fine, controlled pieces of acting, as are her interactions with Karra. It's also Anthony Ainley's best ever turn as the Master: one of those performances that makes you realise what a raw deal he received in earlier outings, written as a pantomime villain with ridiculous disguises, madcap schemes and inexplicable escapes. In Survival, we see the Master as a physically corrupted, malevolent and desperate character - as he always should have been. For a swansong, this is the way to bow out.

But that could be said for the classic series. It's easy to say this in hindsight of course, but if Doctor Who hadn't returned, if Survival had indeed been the final end - as we had all thought for years - hey, what a way to go! 8.5/10


What Happens When You Mix Monkey Magic With Motorcycles by Michael Bayliss 8/12/09

First the Good:

The Cheetah planet is probably, in visual terms, the best realized alien landscape pre CGI. While the foreground is quarry by numbers, the background is a visual feast: steamy volcanoes, storm clouds, lightning, splashes of sensuous pinks and blues. This really evokes a sense of a planet that is not only alive, but sensuous, tropical, lethargic but dangerous. Kudos to the special effects team for pulling this off with a modest budget.

Anthony Ainley's Master is at his best here. No over-the-top histrionics here and no megalomaniac plots by numbers (well, not until episode three anyway). Rather, for the better part of episode two, he's far more low key and subdued than he's been in the past, every bit as sensuously threatening as the planet itself. He also gets himself a hot sidekick in episode three.

Survival has many striking and powerful scenes: Episode one subverts the dullness of a normal English suburb (Perivale) by the suspenseful opening scene, the TARDIS landing on someone's driveway (a fan's wet dream) and the empty swing; Episode two gives us the sublime lake scene where Ace tends the wounded cheetah woman, the Master's eyes glowing yellow as he howls in animal rage and the planet shakes, and Ace's eyes glowing yellow as she rides off with her new friend; Episode three has the final fight between the Doctor and Master on the disintegrating planet (the Doctor holding up the skull with the volcanoes and lightning exploding all around him) and of course, that last poignant monologue.

The Neutral:

Is this just me, or does anyone feel at times like they're not so much watching an episode of Doctor Who but rather an episode of Monkey Magic? The first time I saw a Cheetah Person (obviously a cuddly cat costume no matter how much you try suspend your disbelief) riding a horse and chasing Ace, my initial reaction was to start humming the Monkey Magic theme tune. By the time I sunk in the hilarity of cheetahs and black cats teleporting themselves and others across two planets in a white flash of light, and the curiously choreographed fight scenes in the village and quarry, I was screaming "Monkey Magic - der der - Monkey Magic!" With this story, one has to realize that, despite the murky Dawinism pretensions, pseudo-science has really stood aside for full blown fantasy. I'm not saying that any of this is a bad thing; if anything, this was great escapism and provided a few good laughs, but it doesn't feel like watching good Doctor Who, where the fantasy is rationalized by pseudo-science to make the plot semi-plausible. No risk of plausibility here!

The idea that the Master needs the Doctor's help in finding a way back "home" in episode two is really an obvious and rather weak excuse to bring both parties together. I would have been far better for me if the Doctor and Ace had teleported without the Master's accord and had bumped into him accidentally (apparently I have nothing against convenient coincidences). However, by now we're used implausible reasons for the Master's presence, and compared with previous Master stories, these plot holes are not nearly as offensive.

The little black cat looks very, very, funny and mechanical in close up. Ahh the days before CGI...

I am not disposed either way towards the presence of Hale and Pace in episode one. It was completely unnecessary and contrived, but by the same token I do like Hale and Pace a great deal and they performed well.

The Bad:

Episode three. IS A MESS!! The Master returns to Earth, decides to hatch up a megalomaniac plan after all, recruits a bunch of Perivale skinheads, who end up merely standing around while Midge and the Doctor try to clothesline each other with revved motorcycles, Midge dies while Doctor survives, him and the Master teleport in and out of the Cheetah planet and the master disappears off to god knows where. Did I miss something, or does episode three make no sense at all? While the motorcycle scene is one of the most pointless, pathetic scenes ever to insult my television screen and my precious time, what gutted me most was that, until episode three, I was under the elated delusion that I was finally watching a Master story where he doesn't hatch some convoluted world domination plan that goes nowhere, only to have my dreams cruelly crushed.

After some gripping, manipulative, morally ambiguous performances in Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric, the Doctor seems a bit ineffectual here. In episode one, he spends much of the time stalking a small black cat without much success and looking like a dope, completely oblivious that Ace is being chased around by a feline some 30 times larger. In episode two, he nasally shouts "If we fight like animals we'll die like animals" while everyone runs around, fighting like animals, completely ignoring him, which makes him comes across as incapable of taking control of a situation. In episode three, he shows he's very capable of driving a motorcycle full speed into another one coming the opposite direction, for no evident reason. He slightly redeems himself when he almost cracks the Master open with a skull and his end speech, but all in all I'm left a little cold to old Sylvester.

The Verdict:

It's a story you watch for several stunning scenes, and try and deal with the patchiness that surrounds it. I think one moral we can pick up here is that Monkey Magic and Motorcycles don't mix.


Surviving Survival by Nathan Mullins 8/5/10

What I love about Survival is that the episode itself sums up a lot to do with Doctor Who and how many of the episodes before this were all exceptional in their own way. For example, The Curse of Fenric was a terrific episode, with great special effects and excellent monsters that came over as gratifying and believable. Ghost Light was another episode that I truly adore and proves how well Doctor Who can do period dramas. Survival, however, was the last episode to go out before the show was cancelled and for some, it left a feeling like, so after some great episodes, why choose to cancel the show? It must have felt disappointing at the time and must have really angered lots of people. It had been going since 1963 and then finished, rather abruptly. Thanking our lucky stars we now have the new series and how delightful it has stayed faithful to the classic era.

But... back to Survival. Here, Ace arrives back in Perivale to catch up with some old mates, though none can be found. Something to do with... Ah, I can't begin to let on. If your a fan of the new series but haven't yet seen most of the classic era, then Survival is one of those episodes you simply can't miss. What I like about this episode is that it reminds me a lot of the new series and how elements of the show began to catch up with the reality of being taken away from friends and family to travel the universe with this strange man from Gallifrey.

I don't intend to give too much away to those who haven't seen Survival. Though it's surprising that lots of people haven't caught this episode on DVD. I have mates who call themselves fans of the show but who haven't seen many of the old episodes that truly define the character of the Doctor and of the show. Here, in this episode, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldread are superb, and the 7th Doctor by this time has somewhat taken hold of who he is, by enhancing the character giving him a sense of loss and affection. Maybe not here so much as in The Curse of Fenric, but the character has become a fully fledged Time Lord, knowing who he is and really taking hold of what his responsibilities are. Ace reminds me a lot of Rose in the second series of the show featuring David Tennant, acting up on occasions where she chooses not to listen to the Doctor.

One of the Doctor's feared foes makes a welcome return, and hopes to use the Doctor to escape the world where the Cheetah people live. But this episode is just astonishing, maybe not for all the right reasons; for example, the ending where the Doctor and Ace walk of into the distance, and the Doctor utters something about 'la la la la la... we've got work to do!' I mean, it was memorable and surely, someone there may have shed a tear or two, but for Doctor Who to go out with a whimsical two lines, just gave the impression the show had been somewhat forgotten about by all involved. When the show was cancelled, although it wasn't for the first time, there must have been a real sense of 'the show might not be back for a very long time' and to be fair, when it came back in 2005, it came back with a fantastic set of writers and a team of geniuses. Surviving Survival? I'd have to say 'yes, of course it did' and would have to give this episode 8/10. Very reasonable.