TARDIS Index File

Survival (TV story)

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Survival main
Novelised as: Survival
Doctor: Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace
Main enemy: The Master
The Cheetah People
The Kitlings
Main setting: Perivale, circa 1989
The Cheetah World, circa 1989
Key crew
Writer: Rona Munro
Director: Alan Wareing
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Release details
Story number: 155
Number of episodes: 3
Season/series: Season 26
Premiere broadcast: 22 November - 6 December 1989
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 3x25-minute episodes
Production code: 7P
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Doctor Who television stories
The Curse of Fenric Doctor Who
Production order
Battlefield Ghost Light
DWM's "New Adventures order"
none Timewyrm: Genesys
Memorable moment
The Master traps the Doctor - Survival - BBC02:31

The Master traps the Doctor - Survival - BBC

Another memorable moment
The Doctor and Midge play chicken - Survival - BBC01:35

The Doctor and Midge play chicken - Survival - BBC

One more memorable moment
The Doctor and the Master fight - Survival - BBC02:19

The Doctor and the Master fight - Survival - BBC

Survival was the fourth and final story of season 26 of Doctor Who. As such it was the final story to be broadcast, although not produced, of the show's original run. Following the airing of its last episode, the series would enter a period of wilderness years devoid of new televised adventures until an attempt was made to revive it in 1996.

It marks the final appearance of Sophie Aldred as Ace in a regular television serial, though she would reappear for the special 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time. It was also the last time that Anthony Ainley appeared as the Master in a regular televised story; he appeared one more time in the video game Destiny of the Doctors. Ainley's final portrayal of the Master in the original series is considerably different- subtle and darker than the often bombastic and forceful impression he had been told to give up until this final story, which he had wanted as his intended portrayal for the character.

Lisa Bowerman would ironically make her debut in Doctor Who during its final classic episode, as Karra. However, she would later become more widely recognisable for her portrayal as Bernice Summerfield, a character introduced in and adapted from the Virgin New Adventures novels which continued the series and the adventures of the Seventh Doctor in printed format.

Sylvester McCoy would return as the Doctor in the 1996 television film. Additionally, it is the last canonical televised adventure to feature Tom Yardley-Jones's TARDIS prop commissioned by John Nathan-Turner, which debuted in TV: The Leisure Hive and remained in use for the whole of his time as producer. It saw one more brief use in the Search Out Space special Doctor Who crossover episode of Search Out Science and had a final outing in Dimensions in Time before being retired.

It was the last Doctor Who story to be completely broadcast in a videotape format. When the series returned in 2005, it was still shot on videotape, but was processed to give a film-like look, which was not done in 1989.

Synopsis Edit

The Doctor brings Ace back to her home town of Perivale. Her old friends are being kidnapped by a race of alien hunters called the Cheetah People, who were shown the way to Earth by the Doctor's old enemy the Master.

Plot Edit

Survival ep1

The Doctor is in search of a special kind of cat

Part one Edit

The Seventh Doctor brings Ace back to her home town of Perivale in the suburbs of North West London. A mysterious black cat is wandering around and humans are hunted down and made to disappear to another world. Ace grows worried; most of her old friends seem to have disappeared, but the Doctor is preoccupied with the behaviour of the strange cat. It becomes apparent it is controlled by a strange being in the other world, viewing Perivale through its eyes and choosing which humans to chase and transport. An unhappy young man, Stuart, is his next victim. Ace follows soon afterwards, hunted down by a Cheetah Person on horseback, with a hunting affinity with the curious cat. The Doctor and a keep-fit instructor called Paterson are chosen and teleported to another world, bathed in a blood-red sky, where the Doctor finds his nemesis the Master greeting him.

Survival ep2

Ace and Karra on the Cheetah World

Part two Edit

The Master is evidently unwell. His eyes and mouth show feline characteristics and he uses the black cat, a kitling, to create a dimensional bridge for the Cheetah People to hunt prey on Earth. His reasons are unclear; he seems keen to keep the Cheetah People occupied. He tells the Doctor the planet is alive and has a bewitching influence. The indigenes bred the kitlings and had a great civilisation, then regressed into animals. The Master is beginning to show changes and needs the Doctor's help to escape.

Ace has seen some of her friends, Shreela and Midge, hiding in woods with a young man called Derek. The planet is clearly dangerous. Ace and her friends find the Doctor and Paterson. The Time Lord deduces they are on an ancient, dying planet. A Cheetah Person hunts and kills a terrified milkman, prompting a Cheetah pack to attack the Doctor, Ace and friends. During the fight, Midge kills one Cheetah person and Ace injures another, called Karra. Ace forms an attachment to Karra and tends her injuries. Karra is intrigued by Captain Sorin's shiny cap insignia which Ace has on her jacket, (TV: The Curse of Fenric) and gently paws at it. This worries the Doctor. He says that the only way they can return to Earth is if one of them turns into a Cheetah and then brings his prey home. That happens with Midge and the Master uses him to return to Earth. Karra appears again and Ace's eyes change and she begins to transform into a Cheetah herself.

Survival ep3

"If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!"

Part three Edit

Ace abandons the Doctor to go hunting with Karra but he eventually wins her around. Midge has fallen to the power of the planet and is turning into a beast. The Master seizes on this and has Midge teleport back to Earth, away from the dying world. He possesses Midge and goes with him to the youth club, using his hypnotic powers to enslave Paterson's students. The Doctor persuades Ace to help him return to Perivale, also letting Paterson, Derek and Shreela flee the planet. Patterson insists nothing is amiss, falling back on his "survival of the fittest" mantras and self-defence classes. The Doctor and Ace roam Perivale in search of Midge and the Master. They find them at the youth club. They have killed Paterson for sport; Midge, too, is killed in the Master's machinations. Karra's arrival brings comfort to Ace, whose transformation continues, but the Master kills Karra too. The Doctor catches up to the Master, and finds him trying to pick the lock to the TARDIS. The Master gloats that he is capable of controlling the raw power given to him by the planet and declares that he will use it to destroy the Doctor, before grabbing him and taking him back to the Cheetah Planet for a final confrontation.

In the ensuring struggle, the Master starts out having the upper hand, but the Doctor, drawing from the planets power, manages to turn the tables on him, and soon has him at his mercy, and raises a skull to bash him with. But in a moment of clarity, the Doctor realizes what he is doing is wrong and manages to resist the planet's pull, turning away from violence. The Master demands that they finish their fight, but the Doctor tries to convince him to let go of the violence too, pointing out that they will destroy both the planet and themselves if they keep fighting. The Master, however, rejects this and, grabbing the Doctor in a stranglehold, he spitefully tells him that he should have killed him while he had the chance. The Doctor screams out "If we fight like, animals we'll die like animals!", as the Master raises a club over his head to hit him with. But before the Master can strike him, the Doctor is teleported away. The Master seems doomed as the planet begins to break up.

The Doctor has gone back to the TARDIS and Earth, where he finds Ace. Her metamorphosis has reversed. He tells her she will have grown through the experience; the element of the Cheetah Planet, however, will remain within her forever. Ace is glad; it gave her a wonderful feeling. She then asks what happened to the Master. "Who knows?" answers the Doctor with a hit of sadness, before he asks Ace where they should go to now. "Home," answers Ace with a smile, "The TARDIS." The two walk off into the distance arm in arm, as the Doctor talks of adventures that await.

Cast Edit

Production Crew Edit

References Edit

  • In the scenes in Midge's flat, Ace grabs War, a gramophone record by rock band U2, and says, "Are they still going?" The group apparently had been around eleven years at the time Ace left Earth in 1987.
  • The Doctor exhibits the ability to stun with one finger (a skill displayed by his twelth incarnation), juggle, and ride a horse and motorcycle. He also has a calculator/scanner fob watch and regards Earth and/or the TARDIS as his home.
  • The Doctor has heard of the Cheetah People, but knows nothing about them.
  • The Doctor buys (with Ace's money) cat food to tempt the kitlings.
  • Derek wears a David Bowie t-shirt.
  • Ace gets the money (as mentioned above) by breaking into a fruit machine.
  • Ace learns from Ange that their mutual friend Flo married a "brain-dead plumber" whom they had nicknamed "Darth Vader".

Story notes Edit

  • Working titles for this story included Cat-Flap, Blood Hunt and The Survival.
  • Survival was one of only three Doctor Who serials to be recorded completely on BBC Outside Broadcast video, instead of the mix of OB and studio video that was more usual during the late 1980s, and the mix of film and video before them. This was probably possible because Ghost Light, the next story in production, was filmed completely in the studio. The other stories to be recorded solely on OB video were The Sontaran Experiment and The Curse of Fenric.
  • The first part of this serial features guest appearances by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, collectively known as "Hale and Pace" and actress Adele Silva (as an eight-year old, in her first television role). Hale and Pace swapped roles soon before recording; Hale was originally to have played Harvey, while Pace was originally to have played Len.
  • Stunt legend Eddie Kidd doubles for William Barton in a motorcycle crash scene in part three. This led to the series' regular stunt arranger Tip Tipping walking off the production, as Kidd was apparently not a member of the actors' union Equity. Tipping's anger was arguably misplaced, however. Margaret Thatcher's government had abolished the requirement of performers to be Equity members earlier in 1988. In other words, Doctor Who was not in violation of any then-current union regulations. Tipping's beef was really with the changes Thatcher — and not John Nathan-Turner — had brought in.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black and white full-length cartoon illustration by Christian Adams depicting the Doctor and Ace with seven different ray-gun muzzles pointed at them, along with a single tentacle, with the accompanying caption "All-round trouble: the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) find that nostalgia ain't what it used to be / Doctor Who, 7.35 p.m. BBC1".
  • This story was the last to feature the face of the current Doctor in the title sequence, a tradition dating back to The Macra Terror until The Snowmen in 2012. The TV Movie that followed this and the first six and a half series of the 2005 revival had title sequences featuring a "time tunnel" effect with the TARDIS, but without the Doctor's face. The TV movie did include an extreme close-up of the Master's cat's eyes in the opening sequence, harkening back to this story. It is also the last Doctor Who story in which the lead actors are not credited at the opening, a practice used in the TV movie and later in the 2005 revival.
  • In the novelisation, Derek escapes the planet but is later killed by Midge in Cheetah form. Len and Harvey are both transported to the Cheetah World.

Cancellation Edit

Survival final

The Seventh Doctor and Ace walk off as the classic series' final episode comes to an end.

Having surmised that part three of Survival was likely to be the last episode of Doctor Who for some time and possibly the last ever, producer John Nathan-Turner decided close to airing that a more suitable conclusion should be given to the final episode. Script editor Andrew Cartmel wrote a short, melancholic closing monologue for actor Sylvester McCoy, which McCoy recorded on 23 November 1989 - by coincidence, the show's twenty-sixth anniversary.

"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea's getting cold! Come on, Ace — we've got work to do!"

The quote above was dubbed over the closing scene as the Doctor and Ace walked off into the distance, heading for further, unseen adventures. The Doctor Who production office at the BBC finally closed down, for the first time since 1963, in August 1990.

Although Survival was the last Doctor Who serial of the original series to be transmitted, it was not the last to be produced; that was Ghost Light, which had been broadcast some weeks earlier.

This story is the last to feature Anthony Ainley as the Master. He was not asked to return as the Master for the 1996 Doctor Who television movie. Instead, Gordon Tipple was cast as the Master for the prologue, and Eric Roberts played the Master for the rest of the movie. Ainley reprised the role of the Master for the 1997 computer game Destiny of the Doctors. He continued to be active in Doctor Who, attending conventions and recording a commentary track for the DVD of the 1981 serial The Keeper of Traken. Ainley died on 3 May 2004 after a lengthy period of ill-health, aged seventy-one. A sound-clip of his voice was later used, along with one of Roger Delgado for the 2007 episode Utopia.

This story was also the last to entirely feature Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. McCoy returned briefly to the role in 1996 at the start of the American television movie continuation of the series, Doctor Who, to regenerate into the Eighth Doctor.

Finally, this story was the last to feature Sophie Aldred as Ace. Aldred would have continued in her role had the series been renewed for Season 27; however, her contract was set to expire at the middle part of that season. The character of Ace was set to be written out of the series in an Ice Warrior story called Ice Time by Marc Platt. According to interviews with the production team, the new companion would have been a female safecracker named Raine Cunningham whom the Doctor would have taken under his wing, with her gangster father as a recurring character.

Doctor Who eventually returned to production as a BBC television series in 2004, produced by BBC Wales. Rose, the first episode of the new series, aired on 26 March 2005. As the new series is produced as 45-minute episodes, this makes Survival the final serial to date to be produced in 25-minute instalments, which had been the standard for the series since 1963 (except for a one-season experiment with forty-five-minute episodes in 1985). A spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which debuted in 2007, returned to the 25-minute, serialised episode format.

Ratings Edit

  • Part one - 5.0 million viewers
  • Part two - 4.8 million viewers
  • Part three - 5.0 million viewers

Filming locations Edit

  • The battle at the climax of the story was recorded and is set on the site of the ancient hill fort at Horsenden Hill, Perivale. The majority of location recording was done in and around Perivale, with small sections shot at nearby Ealing, outside and near The Drayton Court pub.
  • Medway Drive, Perivale, London
  • Medway Parade, Perivale, London
  • Medway Estate, Perivale, London
  • Bleasdale Avenue, Perivale, London
  • Colwyn Avenue, Perivale, London
  • Alley (between Colwyn Avenue and Woodhouse Avenue), Perivale, London
  • Horsenden Hill, Horsenden Lane North, Perivale, Middlesex
  • The Avenue, West Ealing, London
  • Ealing Central Sports Ground, Horsenden Lane South, Perivale, London
  • Woodhouse Avenue, Perivale, London
  • EYJ Martial Arts Centre (now known as David Lloyd Centre (creche)), Greenford, Middlesex
  • Warmwell Quarry, Warmwell, Dorset

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The production team's efforts to use an early audio-animatronic cat was not convincing. There is an extremely obvious variance between shots that use a real black cat, and ones that use the 'robot double'.
  • In part two (on the VHS release version — may have been fixed since for the DVD release), there is an obvious Power of Kroll-esque juddering between the special effects sky and the quarry location, as the Doctor and Paterson ride away from the Cheetah camp (in the long shot prior to the "worm stew" conversation).

Continuity Edit

  • By the time of his next appearance after that (TV: Utopia) there is no longer any visible sign of the affliction. He had since been "resurrected" by the Time Lords.

DVD, video, and audio releases Edit

DVD releases

Survival uk dvd
Survival region1
  • This story was released as Doctor Who: Survival (2 discs).
  • It was released:
  • Contents:
    • Commentary by Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Andrew Cartmel
    • Fan Commentary by the winners of a recent Doctor Who Magazine competition (Part 3 only).
    • Cat-Flap - A two-part documentary covering the making of Survival.
    • Out-takes
    • Continuities
    • Photo Gallery
    • Isolated Score
    • Radio Times Listings
    • Subtitle Production Notes
    • Endgame - A documentary delving into why Doctor Who was cancelled at the end of Season 26 and what might have been in store for the Doctor and Ace if the series had continued into Season 27.
    • Search Out Science - A schools programme featuring the Doctor and Ace, with Stephen Johnson and K9.
    • Little Girl Lost - A retrospective look at the development of Sophie Aldred's character, Ace.
    • Destiny of the Doctors - Anthony Ainley's last appearance as the Master, in these links from the 1997 computer game.
  • Notes:
    • Restoration and remastering for the DVD release (including an optional Dolby Digital 5.1 mix) was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

VHS Releases

  • This story was released as Doctor Who: Survival.

External links Edit

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