Survival (1989)

When Survival originally aired back in December 1989, not many people really cared for Doctor Who. Its heyday had long since gone, the BBC decided it was good enough to be pitted against the juggernaut that was Coronation Street and it’s a shame that not enough people were watching this story. For many years I perceived this as the perfect ending for a TV institution. This is a three part story which is how most of the Sylvester McCoy stories tended to be like. The story sees the Doctor return Ace to where she grew up in Perivale. People have been disappearing and it’s linked to a black cat that is moving around the town. The Master is behind the teleportation’s.

Ever since Ace boarded the TARDIS, the Doctor has seemed on a quest to try and get Ace to confront some of her personal demons. The house that she burnt down she visited in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ and also meeting her mother who she hates when she was a baby. In this the Doctor takes her back to the place where she grew up. I think it was a good idea to bring Ace back home because we get to see what she was like before she ended up in ‘Dragonfire’. Sophie Aldred puts in perhaps her best performance in this story because its how she connects with the Cheetah People especially Karra that shows that as well as being the cheeky Nitro9 loving maniac she can also be kind and sincere. Sylvester McCoy also puts in a great performance. His Doctor was just starting to make headway and was a far cry from ‘Time and the Rani’. There were flashes of genius from him and his “If we fight like animals, we’ll die like animals’ was a great line. There was also the moment where he is on the bike and he is heading for a collision and I thought that Jon Pertwee was back as this was a typically action packed moment.

The story sees the final appearance of Anthony Ainley as the Master in the TV series. Since his debut in the final Tom Baker stories I always thought of Ainley as a bit of a pantomime villain and a bit poorer that Roger Delgado. However in this story we got a Delgado performance from Ainley. The Master we have in this story is very different from any other time that we have seen him. This is because he seems to be possessed by the Cheetah People.

For all the dramatic moments there were some silly things that managed to slip through the net. The first is the casting of Hale and Pace (a comedy act quite famous in the 1980’s). They offer nothing in this story and seem to be there for Doctor Who to point out another big name in their show. At least when new Who gets a big name its in quite a substantial role. I also found the character of Midge to be particularly annoying. He just wasn’t believable when he was being possessed and that was a shame because the Master needed someone else to help carry the alien/human threat on a bit more. For six years this was the final bit of dialogue which is perhaps the saddest that I have ever heard in Doctor Who for quite some time.

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and 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!”

As a final McCoy story it’s quite a fitting end. It’s far better than his first and shows that Doctor Who was starting to get back on its feet. The story fits perfectly the three part that it was given. Rona Munro has written a superb script that is perhaps one of the strongest of the McCoy era if not of the 1980’s. Alan Wareing should also get a big pat on the back because his directing was brilliant and showed how Doctor Who could do superb drama even in the 1980’s. The pace was always consistent and despite the flaws that I referred to earlier he did a good job. It would have nice to see how Doctor Who would have looked in the 90’s but soon Big Finish are producing the ‘lost’ season 27.

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