Doctor Who C26.4: Survival review


SurvivalSurvival review

Ace: I felt like I could run forever…

Story Code: C26.4.
Production Code: 7P.
Story Number: 155.
Countdown week: 1…

The final season of Classic Doctor Who – the final Classic Doctor Who story.

The production team of the time only knew this would be “the final one” during post-production – the only part of the story to reflect this is the “farewell speech” about rivers dreaming and the like written late in the day and overdubbed. However, the story does seem quite an appropriate “end”, for various reasons. It concludes the “Ace trilogy”, so Classic DW ends with this dénouement of this excellent three-story sequence. (Like the previous two stories, Ace achieves another catharsis, this time “moving on” from Perivale.)

Another reason – a satisfying “final battle” for the Doctor and the Master (after some fairly abstract foes this season, his polar opposite returns). Their battle of wits happens during the turmoil of a crumbling planet, which gives these scenes a suitably epic atmosphere. (Also, this story features a superb performance from Ainley as the Master.)

“The last battle”, though a battle reflecting the tenets of the show Doctor Who – the Doctor refuses to fight in the end, and so “wins”. This also links into one of the themes of the story, the idea of the wrongness of “survival of the fittest” as a civilised philosophy. The script has various layers though they all start from this central theme.

The production design is great, the realisation of the planet especially, with the glowering sky and misty volcanos in the distance simple but effective. The alien “cat” and the costumes of the Cheetah people are thought of as lowlights of the story by some, but this blog reckons they are just fine. All in all, one of the greatest DW stories.

Survival reviewThe focus on the emotional life of the companion (exemplified by this “Ace trilogy”) is something that the show would run with as it returned in 2005 (via an hour in 1996), and with the Perivale towerblocks contrasting to an alien planet a precursor to the way the Powell Estate would feature in the programme, (and – at three 25 minute eps – a lot of plot and ideas in a compact screentime) this is in many ways a template of sorts for 21st Century Doctor Who.

A great “final” story for Doctor Who and a template for the future of Doctor Who

Rating: 5/5

The BBC has put the story on SeeSaw – Survival on (link)

That’s the last of these 39 weekly Classic Doctor Who reviews – later today another season of Doctor Who begins…


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