Doctor Who: Survival by Rona Munro (DVD review).

May 29, 2021 | By | Reply More

The Doctor returns Ace to Perivale so she can look up old friends, only to find things have changed and some thing she’d even died, especially Sergeant Patterson (actor Julian Holloway) at the self-defence class where the youth club used to be. However, people are disappearing and the Doctor suspects it’s to do with a mysterious black cat and endeavours to catch it.

When they split up, the Doctor attempts to attract the black cat with food. Ace keeps on looking for her old friends, she encounters a cheetah-man (?) and a horse in the park and they all vanish to arrive on an alien quarry and eventually finds some of her mates. The Doctor finally tracks the black cat down and Patterson, as a member of the neighbourhood watch, thinks he’s being a nuisance but they are also teleported away but arrive in the cheetah-people’s camp. The Doctor warns Patterson not to run, which he ignores, and in a tent sees the Master. Realising the trouble they are in, the Doctor grabs a horse and Patterson and flees.

Ace learns from her old mates about staying hidden in the forest and not to run but seeing their apathy decides to try to capture one of the cheetah-men and ends up with the Doctor and Patterson instead. He leads them all away, warning about running but they run into a trap and flee in all directions. Midge (actor William Barton) does kill one of the cheetah-men after they fight over him. Alternatively, Ace helps a fallen cheetah-man who is thirsty and she gives it more water after it speaks a little English. The Doctor meets the Master (actor Anthony Ainley) again, who has gained some cheetah properties and needs some help to leave the planet and explains that the planet is dying.

Although he doesn’t tell him, he overhears the Doctor telling some of the others that they need some creature from Earth to help them return home. Midge returns but is already gaining cheetah properties and the Master traps him and uses him to get to Earth. The same thing is also happening to Ace and she runs off with Karra, the cheetah-lady (actress Lisa Bowerman, same creature as we discover later) she saved, to go on the hunt. The Doctor tells the others to stay there and chases after them and gets on Ace’s human side. She returns and they all go home, right next to the TARDIS. The gang thanks the Doctor and Ace and go and Patterson is in a sense of disbelief in what happened.

Elsewhere, the Master thinks he is conquering the cheetah aspect and takes command of Midge, allowing some aspects of his original persona to surface aggressively. At the youth club, they take command of the class and Midge kills Patterson. The Doctor and Ace go in pursuit and so must you to see the conclusion.

There are a couple puzzles. A lesson is not to drink the water. The other is if it takes someone who’s become partial cheetah to return to your home planet, how did the other cheetah-lady and its horse get to Earth? There is a realisation that this is Karra in the third episode but it’s not obvious until then. When I was polishing this review, I decided to keep referring to them as ‘cheetah-men’ mostly because there simply is no way to distinguish which sex they are. Not that I would give them busts, but it does present a problem.

Saying that, although this is the final story in the McCoy tenure it is also one of the best. Contrary to what is said in the audio commentary, I think the cheetah-people are some of the best realised aliens we’ve ever had in ‘Doctor Who’ and it’s a shame no one’s thought to bring them back. I mean, they couldn’t all have died when their planet blew up. McCoy as the Doctor really is on the beam here and the Master couldn’t be more sinister or dangerous.

The audio commentary is with actors Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred with script editor Andrew Cartmel. The animated cat, Sooty, was only supposed to be in a couple scenes but that got increased simply because the real cats were less than co-operative. Oh, Aldred and Cartmel are allergic to cats. It was also the real Perivale. They also noticed the comparisons to Rose and her first season, which I also spotted in their last season. Cartmel didn’t think the cheetah-people were particularly scary with their immobile faces and big paws, although I think that’s a disservice. The quarry was also one of the BBC favourites and was also used for ‘Tenko’.

Julian Holloway had a bad back and hung onto McCoy when riding the horse. I assumed McCoy was a trained juggler but had to learn for the series. For the motorbikes stunt, it was Eddie Kydd and Tip Tipping, although that is corrected in the extras. Andrew Cartmel wrote the final speech as they didn’t think there would be any more seasons of ‘Doctor Who’. Well, not for 16 years. They were always running out of time.

The extras start with the two-part (28 and 34 minutes) ‘Cat Flap’, the original name for the story by Rona Munro. The cast and crew discuss ‘Survival’. Sylvester McCoy, along with Andrew Cartmel, were pleased that they had gotten the Doctor darker and more mysterious. Mind you, when you look at the more current surprises, they were barely starting. They do think their last season was a major contribution to the Eccleston Doctor season.

The second part looks at Perivale, contact lenses and the problems with artificial cats. It’s rather telling when they compare it to the one in the American ‘Sabrina The Teen-Age Witch’, that it had similar problems. William Barton points out that Eddie Kydd only did the jump up the hill on the motorbike. Oh, all the cheetah-people were female dancers and survived the hellish heat at the quarry.

Watching the 16 minutes of ‘Outtakes’ at the shop to line fluffs and things going over the top did make me think about one aspect. It’s pretty obvious that they all get on and have to be pretty tactile. Saying that, it did make me wonder if anyone would record when with any show where the cast didn’t get on in the UK.

The 8 minute ‘Deleted And Extended Scenes’ also show the differences between the scenes before the atmosphere is changed and some things

Running at nearly 9 minutes is the ‘Photo Gallery’ and the only thing I wish they had covered was seeing the cheetah-people with their masks off.

The second DVD really concentrates on the demise of ‘Doctor Who’, starting with ‘Endgame’, running at 44 minutes. Much of the start focuses on Andrew Cartmel’s plan to make the Doctor more mysterious, more god-like and less Time Lord. Oddly, this looks like the direction that the Whittaker Doctor is now moving towards. The cancellation is more to do with the BBC brass not liking Science Fiction and Peter Credeen, head of drama, at the time explains they also had several long running series at the time and wanting to cut back.

He thought ‘Doctor Who’ needed a rest for 4 years and not the 16 years that it became. Then we go back to Cartmel and his writing team and what they were thinking of doing and some ending up as new adventures.

‘Search Out Science’ is really a 19 minute ‘The Ultimate Challenge’ with the Doctor (actor Sylvester McCoy), Ace (actress Sophie Aldred), K9 (voiced by John Leeson) and Cedric (who? Beats me, actor Stephen Johnson) asking questions about the Earth, the planets and the universe. Oddly, no answers so hope your science is as good as mine.

‘Little Girl Lost’ provides 16 minutes for actress Sophie Aldred to explain how she got the part and, from her perspective, got the companion role as Bonnie Langford wanted to move on and a new scene to give her that role.

Finally, ‘Destiny Of The Doctors’ is a 14 minute monologue written by Terrance Dicks and brilliantly performed by Anthony Ainley as the Master in 2007 is a great way to end this double DVD.

As the final full story in the Sylvester McCoy Doctor tenure, it is historically important. Watching the last season in order is also important, even if they did film them in a different order. I haven’t seen these stories since they first came out but think they are better than I thought the first time around.

GF Willmetts

May 2021

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 2 DVDs 72 minutes 3 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 7.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD1834)

cast: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Julian Holloway, Lidsa Bowerman, William Barton, Sakuntala Ramanee, Savid John and Sean Oliver

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Category: Doctor Who, TV

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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