The Doctor brings Ace to present-day Perivale to visit her friends, but she discovers that most of them have gone missing. Perivale is now a tense place where parents fear for their children’s lives and Sergeant Paterson teaches self-defense classes in hopes that the residents of Perivale can help themselves when the time comes. Unusually vicious black cats stalk the streets, marking their territory in the deadliest ways. When Ace joins the ranks of the other missing teenagers, the Doctor follows her, finding himself on the planet of the feral Cheetah People, a hostile world whose inherent violence infects all who go there. The Master has also somehow become trapped here, enslaved by the Cheetah People’s primitive bloodlust, and hoping to escape by using the new visitors from Perivale. The Doctor is left to face the dilemma: where is the Master more dangerous, on this alien world which will soon destroy itself, or running loose on Earth?
written by Rona Munro
directed by Alan Wareing
music by Dominic Glynn
Guest Cast: Anthony Ainley (The Master), Julian Holloway (Sergeant Paterson), Lisa Bowerman (Karra), Will Barton (Midge), Sakuntala Ramanee (Shreela), David John (Derek), Sean Oliver (Stuart), Gareth Hale (Harvey), Norman Pace (Len), Kate Eaton (Ange), Adele Silva (Squeak), Michelle Martin (Neighbor), Kathleen Bidmead (Woman)
Broadcast from November 22 through December 6, 1989
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: This was the last BBC episode of Doctor Who, and if it had been the Doctor’s final televised adventure, it would have ended on a high note. Survival is one of my favorite Sylvester McCoy stories, if for no other reason than its break away from the long line of shows in which the seventh Doctor pulls the strings, hurts Ace’s feelings, and knows what’s going on all along. It takes a while for the Doctor to realize what the real danger is, and it’s even a refreshing take on the Master, whose presence isn’t made clear until the end of part one. That the Master isn’t really in control of the situation or himself makes his character more interesting and dangerous than he had been in years, and Anthony Ainley really sinks those new pointed teeth of his into this new aspect of the Master.
The New Adventures books quickly dismissed the infection of the Cheetah Planet as a passing problem, which I’ve always thought was a big mistake. In Survival, it was established that once one had fallen under the planet’s spell, one too many violent impulses could send one over the edge, past the point of no return. In the final confrontation, the Doctor prevents Ace from fighting, fearing that she’s too close to that edge – and in his own final struggle with the Master, he himself almost goes too far. It would have made life much more interesting if the Doctor and Ace would have had to find ways to deal with this problem for a while longer, though I can see where it would’ve been limiting to make it a permanent condition.
The real tragedy of Survival is that it was the final outing for Doctor Who as a continuing series. Sure, the death of the television show gave rise to the immensely creative series of original novels that followed, and the seventh Doctor was brought back one last time in the 1996 TV movie, but the 26th season of Doctor Who demonstrated that the series was finally getting back on its feet after the missteps of the Colin Baker era; Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, the writers, and the production team were really hitting their stride, and the show was quickly heading for another epoch of sophistication and popularity, the like of which hadn’t been seen since early in Tom Baker’s tenure.
And then…Doctor Who was gone. For a very long time.