THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
'SURVIVAL' DVD (BBC
IN APRIL 2007.
THE DOCTOR TAKES ACE
BACK TO HER HOME
TOWN OF PERIVALE,
ONLY TO FIND THAT
SOMETHING IS VERY,
VERY WRONG. MANY
OF ACE'S OLD FRIENDS
AND NEIGHBOURS HAVE
DOMESTIC PETS BECOME
VICTIMS OF UNSEEN
KILLERS. WILL THE
HUNTER BECOME THE
THE FITTEST SURVIVE?
#150 (ISBN 0-436-20
352-6) RELEASED IN
Ace had DREAMED OF
her homecoming BEING
spectacular. She had
imagined the amazed
greetings of her old
friends, the gasps of
surprise as she SPOKE
OF her adventures.
But Perivale on a
Sunday seems the
least lively place
in the universe. The
members of Ace's
old gang have gone
away - disappeared.
BUT The Doctor has
other things on his
mind. What is killing
the domestic pets of
Perivale? Who are
the horsemen whose
hoofprints scar the
Where have ALL the
missing persons been
taken? Is the Doctor
stepping into a well-
prepared trap? And
if so, can it be the
work of the Doctor's
old adversary the
As Harvey the grocer
said to his partner
Len: "I'm telling you,
you put a cat-flap in
and you get anything
coming in THE HOUSE."
22ND NOVEMBER 1989 - 6TH DECEMBER 1989
How could they? After twenty-six years of quality television, the Beeb quietly
let their greatest series die. But eighteen years on, with the series now revived and kicking, the Restoration Team bring us the final three historic episodes of classic Doctor Who, not only remastered and in glorious 5.1 surround sound, but also accompanied by a couple of hours’ worth of special features that chronicle the dying days of the world’s longest-running science-fiction television series.
To begin by looking at the serial itself, through listening to Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and script editor Andrew Cartmel discussing the programmes on the commentary track I got the impression that, although they all loved Scots playwright Rona Munro’s passionate script, they were quite disenchanted with its realisation. And, with the benefit of hindsight, I concede that a few elements – most notably the Cheetah people’s costumes – were a bit poor. They are certainly not Brannigan standard, but even for 1989 they aren’t as convincing as perhaps they could have been.
All the same, I think that Survival stands out as being a comparatively
lavish production. The burnt red skies above the Cheetah planet; those
ancient ruins; those high-angle horseback point of view shots… Some
of the visuals are astounding. And as for the score, Dominic Glynn has
truly excelled himself. Long, drawn-out guitar riffs fit the desolation like a
glove. Spanish strings and exploding planets - only in Doctor Who.
Moreover, much is often made of this story’s contemporary setting, and
rightly so. The scenes set in Perivale make the production feel far more
relevant than usual as most people in this country can relate to suburbia.
Most people can relate to realistic and gritty characters like the Serge,
Midge and Shreela. Most people can relate to high rises and milkmen.
And Survival is all the scarier for it.
Sophie Aldred’s final story as Ace (on television, at least) is probably her best. It’s certainly
her most beautiful – for some reason she looks much more attractive in Survival than she
does in previous stories. Perhaps it’s because she’s let her hair down and took her jacket
off. Or perhaps it’s the primal, romantic context – she’s being seduced by the Cheetahs. If she is to survive, she is to become an animal…
“I felt like I could run forever…”
And what an inspired title! Munro’s cheeky little working title - Cat-Flap - may have been far cleverer than it first sounds, but Survival is so much more apt. The title is commensurate with the show’s fate in the same way that The Dying Days was with that of the New Adventures novels. But more than that, at its heart this three-parter is all about survival. Ace’s survival. Midge’s survival. The Serge’s. The Doctor’s. And especially the Master’s.
It’s a great pity that Munro did not have the chance to write any further
scripts for the show; her dialogue has a real sense of poetry to it, yet it
doesn’t feel too forced. To say that she had the Master thrust upon her,
she does incredibly well with him and isn’t afraid to break from tradition.
In something of a departure from previous Master stories, here we know
that it is the Master behind the kitlings all along. There are no disguises.
No extravagant schemes. In fact, in Survival the Master displays little of
his customary cunning and guile. Even his suave manner is surrendered
as he becomes more and more an animal, and this is exacerbated far
more than I’m sure the script intended thanks to the performance of an
older, fatter, and greyer Anthony Ainley.
“Survival. It’s what he lives for.”
Furthermore, although nothing was official, it seems that behind the scenes a lot of people had an inkling that Survival could well be Doctor Who’s final serial, and as such the last few minutes certainly feel climactic. The ultimate showdown between the Doctor and the Master is a fitting end to the series - not only do we have the beautiful motorcycle showdown, but we also have the exquisite shots of the two Time Lords literally just beating the hell out of each other on a planet that’s exploding around them. It’s like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty going over the waterfall, only sadder, somehow. It’s just a shame that the final few lines between the two of them were cut; it would certainly have advanced the whole ‘Cartmel master plan’
a step or two.
The concluding moments of the final
episode are particularly memorable.
Ace, the tears rolling down her face.
The Doctor’s hat sat on her head and
his umbrella tight in her hand. For the
first time it really feels like the end. It
really is over.
And then they disappear over the horizon together; off to new adventures. Andrew Cartmel’s magnificently eloquent speech closes the final ever episode of classic Doctor Who. Credits roll, but no continuity announcement confirming the show’s return is heard. Peter Cregeen had seen to that.
“Come on Ace, we’ve got work to do…”
I don’t know how they swung it, but somehow the
Restoration Team managed to convince Cregeen –
the man who cancelled Doctor Who – to appear in
their Endgame documentary. They must have done
it on purpose to make him look like a fool, because
that’s how he comes across. Had he held his hands
and said “yeah, I made a mistake. Doctor Who is
brilliant, my kids all watch it now” etc, then fair dues.
Even if he were to pig-headedly maintain that he
cancelled the show for what he considered to be
good reasons, then more power to him. But rather
than either of the above, he has the cheek to imply
that he foresaw the series’ eventual rejuvenation and that it was all part of his long-term plan!
The man who nearly killed Doctor Who tries to take credit for the show’s enduring success!
It’s sickening. And what’s worse is that he suggests that had someone come along with the passion to keep the show alive and push it in an exciting new direction, then he would have given Season 27 the green-light. That’s about as big an insult as I can think of to the likes of Andrew Cartmel, Colin Brake, Marc Platt, Ben Aaronovitch, as well as many others I could name.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I should to say that
Endgame is an outstanding documentary. Aside from the
regular cast, we have Cartmel, Aaronovitch, Brake, Tucker,
and Ayres amongst others each offering their two-penneth
as to why the series ended and, more captivatingly, what
might have lay ahead, had the show gone on.
Above: Graphic designer Rob Hammond helps us to picture the season that never was...
Season 27 would likely have been McCoy’s last, and Aldred was
set to leave at the end of the season’s second serial. For the two
stories that were farthest along in development prior to the plug
being pulled, the Restoration Team playfully cobble together a
couple of ‘example scenes’ that really give us the flavour of the
stories. The first - Earth Aid by Aaronovitch - would have begun
with Ace apparently commanding a starship in the future. She
leaves the bridge, walks into her quarters to find the Doctor who
greets her by saying “this will never work”. Gold! The story would
also have featured some interesting honour-bound alien warriors,
the Metatraxi, who will only kill you if you’re armed. Clearly with the
Doctor, they’d have met their match! The second story - Marc Platt’s
Ice Time - would have introduced a new companion - a sexy (if
Rob Hammond’s terrific artwork is anything to go by), aristocratic
safe-cracker; Avengers-style. She cracks a safe only to find the
Doctor waiting for her inside it. Class.
The two-part Cat-Flap documentary is a more run of the mill making of-type feature. As I’m a big fan of this serial, I found it fascinating; particularly the first half that focuses on the story’s conception. The deleted and extended scenes are also quite remarkable, though thanks to Hale and Pace many of the out-takes are pure, unadulterated filth.
“Either you were dead or you’d gone to Birmingham.”
Little Girl Lost is a nice little ten-minute look at Ace’s character development between her first appearance in Dragonfire and her last televised appearance in Survival. My beef with features like this is that after reading who knows how many novels about Ace, and now also having listened to ten or more audio dramas featuring her character too, television serials feel like just the tip of the iceberg as far as she’s concerned, yet inevitably none of the extra-curricular stuff is covered. Still, I suppose they’d probably need an extra disc if it were.
The rest of the special features are much shorter in length and much less interesting with it. I’m never going to complain about having things like the Search Out Science episode or the Destiny of the Doctors clips included for posterity, but after the first viewing they’ll never get watched again.
“If we fight like animals, we die like animals.”
Once again I can’t fault those fellers in Restoration. Survival is a release that I have looked forward to seeing for a long time, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The serial is first-class and the special features are quite easily equal to it. And the added bonus is that these days the Restoration Team are not only pumping out quality, but quantity - at this rate it might only be another five years or so until all those gaps are plugged on the shelf!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
As a keen proponent of Survival as it appeared on television, I was interested to see how award-winning Edinburgh playwright Rona Munro’s script would fare following its transition into prose. I was half-expecting a lush, Kate Orman-style affair abounding with romance and vigour, but instead I got a fairly straight novelisation, albeit one buoyed by a few interesting shifts in emphasis and tone.
To say that, by its author’s own admission, this book is “virtually a transcription” of her initial television script, she does a grand job of fleshing out her dialogue with insightful, and often quite harrowing, introspective scenes. Unfettered access to Ace’s memories is a particular boon – the antagonism between her at Midge is much more manifest here, for instance, and her relationship with each of the old friends and acquaintances that she encounters takes on a new level of significance. Similarly, the Kitling gains some personality here, and even the likes of Sergeant Patterson - who was flawlessly portrayed by Julian Holloway on the telly - benefits from the cracking open. The police background that was only lightly touched upon on television is now as much a part of his raison d’être as his obsession with survival is. For him, there’s nothing to his life outside the two.
This novelisation also deals with
the background to the story that
the television serial was a little
vague about. The Doctor and
Ace’s trip to Perivale and their
subsequent encounter with the
Master wasn’t a quirk of fate - it
was design. The time travellers
were hunted by the Master. For
me, this added a lot to the story as a whole, affording it context as well as heightening its primal themes.
The biggest difference between this and the television serial though is one of tone. Whereas Ben Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks adaptation put in place many of the core conceits that the New Adventures would be built upon, the Survival novelisation establishes their adult feel. Whilst you won’t find any bad language or sex here, the sheer level of brutality and gore is quite easily tenfold that depicted on television. These Cheetahs don’t just growl at you and play - they chew your leg off and then leave you alone for days before returning to finish you off. This serves as a much more effective counterpoint to their incredibly seductive side, really getting across the idea that these people are animals, their passion and fervour swinging both ways with equal gusto.
Nevertheless, with just three twenty-five minute episodes being spread across a whole book, Munro’s novelisation lacks the sense of pace and urgency that the televised Survival had in spates. This isn’t helped by the comparatively long chapters, which feel padded even though this isn’t actually the case. Worst of all though, Munro excises that beautiful, overdubbed line at the end of the story, electing to conclude her book as she’d originally intended rather than dovetail into Peter Darvill-Evans’ era-ending post-script with the promise of new adventures.
The novelisation of classic Doctor Who’s final television serial might not have been the final Target book, but it does still feel like an ending. The subsequent novelisations were arguably an improvement on the light Target tomes of yesteryear, but they would lack the accessibility of the first hundred and fifty. And so Survival closes the door not just on an era of television, but on an era of literature too. I just hope there’s a cat-flap somewhere in that door…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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