Classic ‘Doctor Who’ revisited: ‘Survival’ (1989)

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The Doctor takes Ace back to her home in Perivale, where they find that her friends have all mysteriously disappeared; a discovery that leads them to a dying planet full of savage Cheetah People and one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies…

Buy ‘Survival’ on DVD on Amazon here.


Best moments

The Doctor goes shopping for cat food… and bumps into a pair of shopkeepers played by comedy double act Hale & Pace. On paper it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the dialogue is witty and the final moments of the scene are genuinely quite creepy and unsettling. And not just because it’s Hale & Pace!

The Doctor and Sargent Patterson arrive on the planet of the Cheetah People, and come face to face with the Master, who is slowly turning into a Cheetah Person. Don’t you just wish you could’ve watched that big reveal live on telly in 1989? We do.

The Master and the Doctor fight as the planet dies around them. A visually impressive and incredibly savage scene that almost brings the two Time Lords relationship full circle.

Ace and the Doctor walk off into the sunset on their next adventure. A subtle but uplifting ending to the show’s initial 26 year run, accompanied by one of the most beautiful speeches in the show’s history…



Cheetah Person Karra is played by Lisa Bowerman, a lovely lady who’d go on to become the voice of Bernice Summerfield in various Doctor Who spin-off audios for Big Finish. She’s also directed a number of Who stories for Big Finish as well.

At the eleventh hour, producer John Nathan Turner told script editor Andrew Cartmel to write the Doctor’s final speech, as he believed this was to be the final end for Doctor Who. The speech was recorded and dubbed over the final moments.


Best quotes

Ange: [to Ace] “That’s what they said – either you were dead or you’d gone to Birmingham.”

Ace: [to the Doctor, about the Master] “Do you know any nice people? Y’know, normal everyday people, not power-crazed nutters trying to take over the universe?”

The Doctor: “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 is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.”


The verdict

Like most of Sylvester McCoy’s best stories, ‘Survival’ feels like the show not only getting its mojo back, but also forging ahead in an exciting new direction. The contemporary setting, the cool and incidental music, the impressive special effects, the complex but clever writing – ‘Survival’ has them all.

Featuring some excellent performances from Sylvester McCoy, Anthony Ainley and Sophie Aldred, ‘Survival’ is not only one of the best Master stories but also one of the best Doctor Who adventures from the 1980s.

Emotional and atmospheric throughout, it’s a perfect coda to 26 years of Doctor Who, as well as a hopeful and optimistic look ahead to the future.


Buy ‘Survival’ on DVD on Amazon here.

What’s your favourite moment in ‘Survival’? Let us know below…