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Browse Classic Who reviews

The Master channels Salem to recruit a Rex Kwon Do class as human catnip. Dear God, Ace, get some actual friends!

In the very last serial of Classic Doctor Who, The Seventh Doctor and Ace finally return to Perivale only to find the town in a dismal state: stray cats maraud the back gardens; the local youth centre has been turned into a fight club; and most of Ace’s old friends have vanished without a trace. The locals don’t appear particularly concerned, but Doc immediately gets on with his usual investigations and tracks down the most fake looking cat prop in Greater London.

The so-called Kitling is indeed behind the disappearances, but isn’t acting on its own accord. In fact, it is merely a pawn of The Master’s, who is controlling it from far away on the planet of the Cheetah People. Himself trapped there, The Master is sending Kitlings and Cheetahs to kidnap the youths of Perivale, use them as food and playthings for his new feline compatriots, and maybe as bait for Doc and Ace to come help him leave, possibly, not sure, perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of it in our review.

Doc and Ace are obviously kidnapped as well and taken to a quarry on the far side of the universe. There, they join forces with the surviving Perivale kidnappees and must somehow navigate the ultimate of Catch-22s: if they don’t fight, they can’t leave; if they do fight, they’ll turn into cheetahs; if they remain, they turn into cheetahs; if they turn into cheetahs, they can leave. We’re not doing it justice, Podcastland. It’s all really rather profoundly poignant stuff from the writer of Eaters of Light.

Here's what we think of C159 Survival

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.5

Drew | @drewbackwhen

2.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.7

Here's what we think of C159 Survival

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.5

Drew | @drewbackwhen

2.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.7

Here's what you think 10 Responses to “C159 Survival”
  1. Jess Wilkinson

    Hiya guys Jess from Australia here

    This classic serial, though not the best, captured my heart. It marked the end of an era, filled with cherished memories and adventures alongside the enigmatic Doctor. Despite this there were flaws, here are my likes and dislikes.

    Likes:
    The last scene was a sweet send-off for Ace and the Doctor, leaving room for future off-screen adventures and sparking fans’ imagination.
    Ace calling the TARDIS ‘home’ was a sweet gesture
    The inclusion of the Master felt fitting for Doctor Who’s swan song, considering their history as formidable enemies.
    The cheetah costumes looked epic

    Dislikes:

    Returning to Perivale, a place Ace despises, seemed illogical given her traumatic past and boredom associated with it, the reason given for their return also seems out of character for Ace.
    The Cheetah people storyline felt out of place and slightly nonsensical. Also why were they riding horses???
    The sudden and underwhelming teleportation to Perivale lacked dramatic impact.
    Is Ace a cheetah person forever now???

    Before we get into a rating, here is one random fact about Survival, the Doctor’s final speech was filmed last minute and written after the filming of the rest of the episode.

    Despite its underwhelming plot and nonsensical aspects, this unplanned swan song of Classic Who evoked strong emotions in me, making me really love this serial. So yes I will be rating this story very high, and no nothing you can say will change my mind
    Therefore, I rate “Survival” 4.8/5, Cheetahs running around an abandoned quarry.

  2. Derek Moore

    My Dearest Whovians,
    Alas, it is a bittersweet day as I write this review. Goodbye 7th Doctor, goodbye Ace. Not sure how to feel about this serial, other than it felt like a lot of 7th Doctor and Ace stories—great actors, great moments, but a mostly silly script. Subtle Master is always the best, and it’s a shame Anthony Ainley gives his best Master performance in the last classic Doctor Who story. The Ace-yellow eyes and creepy smile cliffhanger in episode 2 was outstanding! But alas, not really sure what the whole meaning of the story was, particularly the last 15 minutes. I am glad Ace never had a goodbye scene with the Doctor, particularly in that she didn’t fall in love with a man she just met and decided to leave. Speaking of, the same-sex relationship innuendos between Ace and the cat-person were great, and I like the statement (albeit very subtle) of inclusivity. Hell, why limit a relationship to the same species?

    I give this 3.5/5 inter-species special relationships.

    On another note, if you are looking to continue on with another great British classic sci-fi series, know that I will be waiting eagerly. And if it doesn’t, know how much I have appreciated all of you in this temporal trek across the known and unknown universe!

    Sincerely,
    Derek, the person who always wants “Moore”

  3. Kristaps Paddock

    Had it occupied any other position in the Classic Who series, it would have been fairly forgettable, but as it’s the Very (sob) Last (sniff) Serial (weep) Ever (bawl), it gets a lot of attention. Who tackles contemporary issues of racism, there’s urban decay, we have yet more social workers, and in all, we have a very real, very modern end to the Classic era. Yeah, there are furries, but that’s just part of the fabric of contemporary Britain, is it not? The Master pops in, maybe he didn’t need to, but it’s still a very Master-y plot. We have more of Ace’s backstory though she’s no longer a pawn in The Doctor’s chess game. The show feels like it’s successfully reinvented itself and found steady footing. Cancelling it at this point seems a horrendous mistake. Three point eight pots of tea getting cold out of five.

    Kristaps Paddock

  4. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    In the words of the late Jon Pertwee “Oh but of course, I’ve always been very keen on survival” (Monster of Peladon Part 4 14:00).

    And I think that sums it up. It is a story I like but don’t love, a good but not great story, a fitting end but a terrible finale. It’s just a very decent story but isn’t anything special.

    And really, why should we have expected anything different with the production nightmare of the show’s cancellation.

    It has no captivating mystery, no engaging Sci Fi premise, not even a small lesson to be learned. It is a simple fun romp. It is representative of the show. A good bit of fun with some stand out moments.

    It’s bittersweet in a complete unintentional way.

    It’s been a fun ride, see you all in “Dimensions in Time!” And then the movie, then Curse of the Fatal Death, then I suppose you’re going to want to do Scream of the Shalka as well, oh and let’s not forget Downtime, and you better do P.R.O.B.E. and the Stranger for good measure…

    … or maybe you don’t and you can just end it here and no one would blame you but keep an eye on you inboxes for minis.

    Overall this story earns 3.9 cups of cold tea out of 5.

    Steven From Canada

  5. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    ‘If we fight like animals, we die like animals!’

    Weirdly fitting that we end where we began (and will start again…) in contemporary london. Maybe it’s just the setting but I get a very NuWho feel to this one, it being the only story like it of the classic run. Speaking of different, what a change in the Master’s performance. JNT’s instructions to Ainley to ham it up are no more and we get a Master that feels closer to Delgado. Him and McCoy feel like a good pairing in this one. Seeing the Seventh Doctor creeping around suburbia is very strange.

    Yes, going to Birmingham is indistinguishable from death (I’m from nearby).

    Not exactly convincing cat puppets. Apparently some bits should have been trained cats but the cats being cats ran off. The cheetah costumes are a bit ropey and not what the writer Rona Munro (The Easters of Light) had intended at all with her plan for them to be a lot more subtle.

    Speaking of the Cheetah people, we have Lisa Bowerman as Karra who would go on to play Big Finish’s version of Benny Summerfield, a time travelling archaeologist with more than a passing resemblance to River Song. Benny is originally from the Virgin New Adventures, which are Seventh Doctor novels set after Survival and often take a more adult tone. Lisa also has directed various things for BF.

    I had a great time rewatching this with only some of the effects and dialogue being iffy, 4.3/5

    ‘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.’

    Cheers

    Kieren

  6. Oli Raven | @FoggyDrWho

    Hello there!
    “Last time I saw you, you were half cat!” “A man’s allowed to experiment.”
    And boy, did the men in charge of the show ever experiment once again here. Although, erm, this one was actually written by a woman.

    For the second time this series, it actually matters that they established Ace is from Perivale two seasons prior. Not only was this the end of standard annual Who output, it was unfortunately also the only face-off between Seven and the Ainley Master.

    Suburbia, motorbikes, red skies, sand dunes, cheetah people, oh my! I only have a slightly greater idea what’s going in this one than I did during ‘Ghost Light’ but the whole setting captured my imagination a fair chunk more for whatever reason.

    Do you think Adele Silva enjoyed being reminded that she’d been in Classic Who when the programme was first revived while she was in Emmerdale? Probably made her sound much older than she actually is.

    One last bit of light entertainment stunt casting (Hale & Pace) that the show has never been averse to – although it feels most prominent in the JNT and RTD eras – and we’re done, with only a closing speech added in post-production to remember the show by for most of the subsequent 15 years. *sigh*

    Way to break a five-year-old’s heart, Michael Grade! Apologies for the uncensored swear words there.

    Overall, I rate it 3.3 tins of cat food being smeared on the pavement out of 5.

    Oli Raven
    (Insta: the rarely-updated @FoggyDrWho)

    P.S. May or may not join you guys for the remaining New Who stuff and/or The TV Movie. I do own the latter’s Special Edition plus two of Jodie’s specials (look, they were a well-intentioned gift, okay) on DVD so I could rewatch them. Besides, I did quote one of those specials at the start of the above mini.
    P.P.S. If I don’t see you in either of those reviews, then… well, it’s been a blast! Rock on!! 🤘

  7. GP Haynes | @FindingGspots (Insta & YouTube)

    Hello everyone!

    Here is my mini review for “ Survival”

    Well, we made it to the end of Classic Who. However, I think it ended with a bit of a whimper and not a bang though…Meow!

    Overall, both Doc and Ace were adequate here, and it was again interesting to delve into Ace’s backstory.

    But the execution was not really up to scratch.

    These were a couple of genuinely creepy, atmospheric parts in the first episode, but then it all fell away quite a bit.

    The supporting cast were poor, and the Master was disappointing to say the least.

    I did enjoy the location shooting, which did add some scope to this serial, and the production was perfectly fine with some great
    shots. I especially the enjoyed the empty swing, moving back and forth after Ace was sent to the other dimension/ planet.

    Ultimately it fell flat, with a bland story. Even the Cheetah costumes just felt dated and probably belonged to another era.

    The final words of McCoy were wonderful, so that was a nice note on which to end his era.

    What’s new pussycat?

    Rating: 1.8 Glowing eyes watching you from the bushes

    Cheers

    GP Haynes

    Australia.

    PS I hope you continue doing the podcast in some form after you’ve finished all the episodes!

    Perhaps you could do a “Season” of New Who every year, in conjunction with the current season screening of Dr Who?

    Or you could do a series of specials in addition to the new Who stories, such as the best Stories of each era. The best Dalek Episodes etc?

    You could even poll the listeners for their best stories and do a special on it. Another idea, do some segments on general sci-fi movies and TV,
    Everyone seems to reference other shows and movies all the time, so I guess most people are fans! Blakes Seven, Aliens, Hitch Hikers episode anyone??

    If you decide to start again from the beginning, I’ll be there with you…!!!

  8. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:
    • The eerie, dilapidated estate and the gritty violence.
    • A convincingly inhospitable alien planet.
    • A nuanced Master. Until he tries to eat the Doctor and clobber him with a bone.
    • Ace clearly tempted to become a full-on Cheetah person.

    Beefs:
    • I feel like we needed another part. Who built the ruins? Were the Cheetah people once civilised, and if so, what happened? We see them gnawing on meat but we never see them knitting.
    • I feel like we needed another season (sniff).

    Observations:
    • My mum went to school with the two guys who worked in the off-licence.
    • My mum, a horserider, says riding horses in a cheetah costume takes skill.

    Rating: 5/5 1980s BBC Executives banished to the Planet of the Cheetah People as punishment for cancelling this show. Ha Ha Ha!

  9. Peter Zunitch

    I don’t get it. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. I mean I understand it’s a story about survival instinct, nature vs nurture, and civilization vs anarchy, but why? Why decisively define good vs evil if the whole point is that nature isn’t necessarily evil and nurture isn’t necessarily good? Perhaps the implication is that animals are vile because they hunt to survive, and instinct destroys worlds? If so, then why make a hunter the only sympathetic character?

    Doc is great, Ace is great. Cara is okay, the Master is once again disrespected, and all other characters are sadly dislikable. Why tell a tale where everyone is the village idiot? If your characters do nothing and learn nothing, consider writing better characters. The necessary rewrites abound but I’ll just say focusing on the theme of primal corruption would have worked far better, and leave it at that.

    I love the premise, I love the idea, and I do love that each time I watch it I get incited to set free the part of me that thrills in running as fast and as far as possible. But wait… that’s not what the story was supposed to be about. That’s supposed to be bad. So many contradictions it’s pointless.

    There’s a lot to like here, but I just don’t, because I don’t get it. 1.8 awesome puppet cats that turn into sad 80’s exercise clothing wearing furry convention cosplayers with magical horses appearing under their asses.

  10. Peter Zunitch

    I always thought that the doctor convinced the master at the last minute and he’s the one who teleported them both off the planet. Of course that still doesn’t make sense though.

    I figured Kara was a human from Perrivale who became a cheetah person. That’s why she turns back when she does. However not all cheetah people were originally humans so they would be something different when they die. Also maybe she when you are for long enough the change is permeant even after death.

    Finally, here’s a Dr. Who writing tip. If you want to imply a romantic relationship, it might be best to refrain your characters from repeatedly referring to one another as “sister”. Maybe it’s just me though.

    Great episode gentlemen! Thank you!

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