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The Master and the Cheetah-People with the Seventh Doctor and Ace
And now we come to the final story of Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’. To be honest, ‘Survival’ is my favourite story out of the entire season. It’s ironic considering it’s the last one to feature Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as well as being the last one of the classic era of the ‘Doctor Who’ series. 😦
It’s hard to believe and imagine that ‘Doctor Who’ would be taken off the air for a long period of time – sixteen years in fact – before it returned on UK television in 2005. But it did happen and it seemed that the show had died quietly at the turn of the 1990s. ‘Doctor Who’ was cancelled in 1989.
As I said in my ‘Battlefield’ review, I was born in May that year the TV show got cancelled. I also like to point out that my birth wasn’t the reason the show got cancelled in the first place. 😀 ‘Survival’ is a three-part TV story by Rona Munro and was shown from November to December in the year 1989.
The reason why I was unaware of ‘Doctor Who’ during the 1990s was the fact it never got shown on TV. My favourite TV shows ended up being ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ that went unashamedly into ‘Power Rangers’ and ‘Beast Wars: Transformers’ as I was growing up in the 1990s. Such happy days! 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed watching ‘Survival’ when it came out on a 2-disc DVD in 2007. I’ve enjoyed it even more on Blu-ray too. It was intriguing to discover especially in behind-the-scenes documentaries like ‘Endgame’ why the ‘Doctor Who’ TV show got cancelled at the end of the 1980s.
I’ve had my DVD cover of ‘Survival’ signed by Sylvester McCoy at the ‘Science of the Time Lords’ event at the National Space Centre in Leicester, January 2016. I’ve also had it signed by Sophie Aldred at the ‘Cardiff Film and Comic Con’ in March 2014. I’m very happy they signed my DVD cover.
When I saw Sophie in Cardiff 2014, I asked her whether she thought it was the right decision to cancel ‘Doctor Who’ in 1989. She said it was a decision made by the BBC bosses and believed that they made the wrong move in cancelling the show at the time. I wholeheartedly concur with Sophie.
I’m sure many ‘Doctor Who’ fans concur with her too. Again, as I said in my ‘Battlefield’ review, the series showed little or no interest in the BBC management at the time in 1989. Despite ‘Doctor Who’ finding its feet again in terms of storytelling, the BBC pulled the plug regardless which is a big shame.
In hindsight, the decision curtailed Sylvester McCoy’s era too quickly. This is especially when Sylvester had truncated seasons of 14 episodes in his three-year tenure compared to previous Doctors. With that said, I do find ‘Survival’ to be pretty decent story to close off the classic TV series.
It’s certainly a great story for Ace’s character and one that proves Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor at his best. The story also sets a stage for what Russell T. Davies would put into his vision for the TV show when it had triumphantly returned in 2005 with Rose’s character and the council estate atmosphere.
I like how script editor Andrew Cartmel comments on the comparison of Ace and the council estate setting in ‘Survival’ with Rose and the council estate setting in the new series of ‘Doctor Who’. I wonder if Russell T. Davies had ‘Survival’ in mind when he developed Rose and the council estate. 🙂
‘Survival’ also deals with some pretty strong themes. It looks into ‘survival (hence the title) of the fittest’ and tests our main characters to their limits when facing dangerous situations. Whilst I don’t like the Darwinism theme in ‘Ghost Light’, I appreciate it being reinforced in this three-part TV story.
The story takes place in Perivale, London 1989 where Ace was born. I like how Ace returns to where she came from in terms of the home she grew up in and tried to run away from since ‘Dragonfire’. We get to meet her friends from Perivale, though we do not actually get to meet her mother in this.
Yes I know, Ace doesn’t get on well with her mum as established pretty clearly in ‘Dragonfire’ and ‘The Curse of Fenric’. And I know you can’t fit a lot of things in a three-parter. But with a journey like Ace has been going on throughout Season 26, I’m surprised Ace’s mother didn’t appear in ‘Survival’.
It was great to watch Ace’s story at this point in the season and see where she came from in terms of her background. At the time of watching ‘Survival’ on DVD, I was getting to know Ace and the Seventh Doctor. I’d only seen them for the first time in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. Great story! 🙂
Anyway, let’s talk about the plot of ‘Survival’. The Doctor takes Ace back to Perivale where she’s hoping to reunite and catch up with her ‘old gang’. But something’s wrong. It seems people are disappearing off the streets. Stray black cats are involved in this with their pretty scary, yellow eyes.
The cats also have razor sharp teeth when they open their mouths, snarling and hissing. Pretty soon, Ace gets chased by a Cheetah-woman on horseback. Trying to outrun the horse, Ace eventually finds herself on the home planet of the Cheetah-People. Soon, the Doctor joins Ace on that strange world.
The Doctor discovers to his horror that his old enemy, the Master, is waiting for him. It’s all a matter of survival, but can our heroes resist the animal instincts inside of them that could potentially lead to their deaths? Can they all return to their home? Ace will have to make a dangerous decision on that.
As I said, the story is by Rona Munro. Originally called ‘Cat Flap’ (thank goodness they changed the title to ‘Survival’) Rona writes a really captivating story embedded with themes of hunting; survival; the cat and the temptation to follow to your violent animal instincts. It’s all really gripping stuff here.
Some of the story is pretty gruesome in places, especially as the Cheetah-People and black cats called kitlings kill and eat people. I like how Rona Munro makes use of the council estate setting and the people who live in that area with how they would speak and sound. It makes it pretty authentic.
It’s a shame Rona’s first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series happened to be the last one for the classic era of ‘Doctor Who’. Thankfully it wasn’t her final contribution as she would later write a ‘Doctor Who’ episode for the new TV series called ‘The Eaters of Light’ with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. 🙂
By the way, the final story of Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’ was directed by Alan Wareing, who also directed episodes of ‘Casualty’. His first ‘Doctor Who’ contribution was ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ before he did ‘Ghost Light’. He directs a well-paced, action-packed ‘Doctor Who’ story here.
I found Sophie Aldred terrific as Ace in this. Sophie’s a friendly person in real life when I met her at conventions. She puts so much into the character of Ace and is a very good ‘Doctor Who’ actress. I like how she developed Ace’s character growing up from adolescence into womanhood in the series.
I also like how Sophie commented about there being a trilogy of stories for Ace in Season 26, with ‘Ghost Light’ focusing on her past fears; ‘The Curse of Fenric’ focusing on her present fears and ‘Survival’ focusing on her future fears. It’s intriguing how Sophie pinpoints what stage it’s at for Ace.
In ‘Survival’, Ace isn’t happy about returning to Perivale. Though she wants to reunite with her friends, she doesn’t like returning home since ‘nothing happens’. Ace finds herself transported to the Cheetah planet and has an unusual friendship/bond with Karra, a Cheetah-woman calling her ‘sister’.
Now I didn’t realise this at the time when I first saw ‘Survival’ on DVD, but apparently it’s suggested there was a hint of a lesbian subtext going on between Ace and Karra. It’s interesting how that gets raised. Whether Rona Munro deliberately included that into her story, it’s open to interpretation. 😀
When on the Cheetah planet, Ace starts to like the place as she feels she can run forever and is hungry inside. She gets infected with yellow eyes, almost becoming Cheetah-like. I was worried when Ace changed like that. I wondered if she’d be cat-like forever. Thankfully it was only temporary.
I enjoyed Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor in this adventure. I like how mysterious he is and that he already knows something is wrong when he sees a strange stray black cat staring at him with yellow eyes and barring sharp teeth. He doesn’t seem to be listening to Ace when she’s talking to him in this. 😀
I liked those scenes where Sylvester’s Doctor was buying tins of cat food from a general store owned by comedic duo Gareth Hale as Len and Norman Pace as Harvey. I’m not very familiar with Hale and Pace as a comedic duo, but it was fun to watch them in this story interacting with Sylvester’s Doctor.
Just on a side note, I’m surprised the Chuckle Brothers weren’t cast to play the comedic duo in the general store. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Hale and Pace fine, but the Chuckle Brothers were around in the late 1980s, weren’t they? Ah well, at least they featured in my story ‘The Space Hotel’. 😀
I also found it funny when Sylvester’s Doctor was trying to lure the stray black cat with appetising cat food. But it’s either the wrong cat and a dog going for it, which annoys Sylvester’s Doctor. Incidentally, the dog happened to be owned by producer John Nathan-Turner at the time of this story.
The moments of comedy are blended in well with the moments of seriousness in Sylvester’s Doctor. This is especially when he discovers the connection between Earth and the Cheetah-People’s home-world. He also connects to how the Master’s involved as he is determined to get people back home.
I liked it when Sylvester’s Doctor faced the Master in this story and when he tried to help Ace overcome her fears and brave through the animal instincts inside her. The Doctor gets to ride a motorbike instead of Ace as he drives at Midge riding towards him, getting caught in an explosion. 😮
I found Ace’s loud cry of “NO!!!!” very effective in the story. Incidentally, the reason Ace got cast in ‘Doctor Who’ was because she was able to ride a motorbike. That was when she originally auditioned to play Ray in ‘Delta and the Bannermen’. A shame she didn’t get to ride a motorbike as Ace in this tale.
Anthony Ainley returns as the Master in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I love Anthony Ainley’s Master! I enjoyed that reveal of him in ‘Part One’ once the Doctor uncovered the tent with the Master inside. Dominic Glynn’s music cue at the end of ‘Part One’ for the Master’s reveal helped. 😀
The Master’s got glowing yellow eyes and sharp teeth too, almost becoming animal-like in this tale. Anthony Ainley’s also wearing a different costume as the Master in this TV story. He’s still elegantly evil and he seems less restrained compared to the pantomime performances he’s had as the Master.
In the story, the Master has somehow gained command over the vulture-like kitling cats of the Cheetah-People as well as the Cheetah-People themselves. He’s trapped on the Cheetah world when we met him. How, I do not know. The Master needs the Doctor’s help in order to escape the planet.
Soon, the Master acquires Midge, one of Ace’s friends, who gets infected with yellow eyes. Midge and the Master transport from the Cheetah world to Earth where they stir trouble. That climatic fight between the Master and the Doctor on the dying Cheetah world was superb to watch in this. 🙂
I admit the fight lasts for a short amount time (a few minutes perhaps) and it could’ve been better if it was extended in the final edit. But the Doctor’s cry of “If we fight like animals, we’ll die like animals!” was really effective. Not sure what happened to the Master after the Doctor returned home.
The Cheetah-People are like the monsters of this ‘Doctor Who’ story. Some say the Cheetah-People aren’t very good, claiming the make-up is terrible and that they don’t look frightening enough. I admit, they do look rather cuddly and it would’ve worked better if they appeared more human-like.
But I didn’t mind the Cheetah-People much when I first saw ‘Survival’ on DVD. On my part, I found the Cheetah-People quite effective even though I know they’re actors in cat make-up and costume. And let’s be honest, the Cheetah-People in ‘Survival’ are way better than the cats in ‘Cats’ (2019). 😀
When one of them rides on horseback chasing after Ace; when one of them reaches out to grab at the Doctor and party; and when a lot of them chase and attack them, they can be frightening. I find the black cat kitlings frightening as well since they’re vultures for the Cheetah-People to feed on humans.
One of the Cheetah-People is a woman called Karra. Underneath that make-up is a lovely lady named Lisa Bowerman as Karra. This is Lisa’s first ‘Doctor Who’ role. She would later go on to play Bernice Summerfield in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ and in her own spin-off audio series. 🙂
In ‘Survival’, Lisa plays a Cheetah-woman who rides on horseback to chase her prey. I like the story Lisa told when her horse wouldn’t let a man ride on her and in the end she did most of the horse-riding herself. Karra chases Ace in the children’s playground before ending up on the Cheetah planet.
Karra eventually befriends Ace, calling her ‘sister’. I did like the way Lisa played Karra drinking water from Ace’s cupped hands. She laps it like a cat. Karra has a tendency to say “Good hunting, sister!” to Ace a lot. She dies after being stabbed by the Master once she came to rescue Ace in her time of need.
It’s when Ace goes to see Karra fallen on the ground that we see her as Lisa reverted to human form. I liked that moment and it’s interesting how Karra would’ve looked if she wasn’t fully immersed in cat fur and make-up. It does make me wonder what the Cheetah-People were like in human form. 🙂
The story also features Will Barton as Midge, one of Ace’s friends who gets the cat eyes. Will delivers a rough, edgy performance as Midge when with Ace’s other friends trying to survive on the Cheetah planet. He’s overcome by the Cheetah world’s effect as he stabs a Cheetah with a sharp sabre-tooth.
Midge receives his yellow eyes and sharp fangs in the process. He gets captured by the Master and becomes animal-like when he’s able to jump through portals back to Earth, taking the Master with him. It’s scary when Midge is overconfident in his animal-like persona and does the Master’s bidding.
Julian Holloway guest stars as Sergeant Paterson, who gives SAS survival courses for youngsters in Perivale. When Paterson joins the Doctor and Ace on the Cheetah planet though, he’s way out of his depth. He annoys the Doctor and seems to be rather thick-headed when he’s talking about ‘survival’.
There’s David John as Derek, a young man who tries to survive on the Cheetah planet. There’s also Sakuntala Ramanee as Shreela, one of Ace’s friends, who is the voice of reason. There’s also Adele Silva as Squeak, the little girl Ace and the Doctor meet. She’s very different as a grown-up nowadays. 😀
The last scene of the story is very touching. As you saw in the YouTube video, Ace believes the Doctor’s dead as she holds his umbrella and wears the panama hat on her head, kneeling down to the ground and distraught in tears. But then the Doctor appears behind her, taking the hat and umbrella from her. 🙂
I liked it when Ace smiled at that point. After coming to realise that it’s finished, Ace gets up and she and the Doctor head off back to the TARDIS. They continue to have more adventures in time and space. I really did like the final speech the Doctor gave about the ‘tea getting cold’ at the very end. 🙂
The speech was written by script editor Andrew Cartmel at the last minute to be given to Sylvester McCoy to read at the end, just in case the series did come to an end at that point. It of course closed off not just ‘Survival’ but also the classic TV series of ‘Doctor Who’, which did seem fitting in a way. 🙂
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was a two-part making-of documentary with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews called ‘Cat Flap’ where ‘Part 1’ focused on the story and pre-production stages whilst ‘Part 2’ focused on the filming; recording and post-production stages. There were deleted and extended scenes and outtakes to enjoy as well as BBC trailers and continuity announcements of the story. There was also a photo gallery of the story; an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story.
There were also five audio options. There was a stereo sound audio mix option for the story; a 5.1. surround sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and script editor Andrew Cartmel. There was also an isolated music option by Dominic Glynn to enjoy and a DVD fan audio commentary on ‘Part Three’, featuring winners of a ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ competition including Niall Boyce, Erica Brackenbury and Tim Kittel, moderated by Clayton Hickman.
There was the behind-the-scenes documentary called ‘Endgame’, looking into the reasons why ‘Doctor Who’ was cancelled in 1989 and what would’ve happened if the show was allowed to continue and did Season 27. There was also ‘Search Out Science’, a children’s school programme item that featured the Seventh Doctor, Ace, K-9 and an unlikely companion in Stephen Johnson. There was ‘Little Girl Lost’, a behind-the-scenes documentary into the character development of Ace, and there was ‘Destiny of the Doctors’, which had a selection of footage from the 1997 computer game featuring Anthony Ainley in his last ever appearance as the Master before he sadly died in 2004.
On Disc 6 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 26’ Blu-ray, the two-part making-of documentary ‘Cat Flap’, the outtakes; the stereo sound audio mix option; the DVD audio commentary and the DVD fan commentary can be found on there. The deleted and extended scenes (now called ‘The Evolution of Survival’); the BBC trailers and continuity announcements; the photo gallery; the info-text commentary option; the 5.1 surround sound audio mix option and the isolated music option for ‘Survival’ have been updated for 2020 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Survival’ with Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) and Sophie Aldred (Ace) as well as Anneke Wills (Polly); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) as well as new series writer Joy Wilkinson and new series writer Pete McTighe. There’s also a ‘Now & Then’ featurette on the locations of ‘Survival’; black-and-white location footage of the story and ‘The Writers’ Room: Season 26′ with Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Marc Platt, Ian Briggs and Rona Munro. There’s the ‘Stripped For Action – The Seventh Doctor’ documentary that looks into the comic book adventures of the Seventh Doctor era (taken from the ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ DVD) and ‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Seventh Doctor’ presented by Anneke Wills (taken from ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ DVD). There’s also ‘The Panopticon Archive’ panel interview with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents, scripts and Ken Trew’s costume designs for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
On Disc 7 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 26’ Blu-ray, the ‘Endgame’ documentary can be found on there.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Sophie Aldred: In Conversation’ interview with Matthew Sweet; the ‘Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner’ documentary and ‘The Seventh Doctor Revisited’ 50th anniversary documentary. There’s the ‘Who Peter: 1963-1989’ documentary (taken from ‘The Horns of Nimon’ DVD) and ‘The Promise’ Season 26 Blu-ray trailer.
On the PDF front, there are BBC Enterprises sales sheets. The ‘Search Out Science’ children’s school programme item and the ‘Destiny of the Doctors’ footage with Anthony Ainley aren’t included in the Season 26 Blu-ray box set. The ‘Little Girl Lost’ documentary about Ace is now included on the ‘Ghost Light’ Blu-ray disc for Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’.
I enjoyed ‘Survival’ when I first saw it on DVD in 2007 and enjoy it more on Blu-ray. I’m glad I’ve had my DVD cover of the story signed by Sylvester and Sophie. ‘Survival’ was the last TV story of the classic ‘Doctor Who’ TV series, but thankfully the show returned on a really triumphant note in 2005.
So in a sense, ‘Survival’ is not really an end. It’s more a new beginning, setting the standards of where ‘Doctor Who’ was going to go next. It’s a shame Sylvester and Sophie didn’t get to carry on and enjoy a longer run on TV, but thankfully the Big Finish audios make up for that disappointment. 🙂
Season 26 overall has been an enjoyable season of ‘Doctor Who’ from the classic TV series. It’s not exactly a favourite of mine, but I like how it tackled the Seventh Doctor and Ace’s relationship throughout. This is especially when Ace goes on a particular journey in three stories of the season. 🙂
Like I said, it’s a shame the BBC executives lost interest in the show and decided to cancel it without giving consideration as to how it’ll affect the fanbase. With that said, we wouldn’t have had the Big Finish audios, books and comics to enjoy more ‘Doctor Who’ in the wilderness years from the 1990s to the early 2000s.
There are now plenty of Seventh Doctor stories compared what’s in the TV series. I’ve written for the Seventh Doctor and Ace in one of my stories called ‘The Space Car’ and even had them cameo in ‘The Prime Factor’. I’ve even included Ace in my ‘five companions’ story called ‘The Robots of Lonmar’.
It’s been fun to revisit the four stories of Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’ on Blu-ray, especially through its many forms whether it’d be Special Edition movie versions or extended VHS versions. I have been able to gain more clarity in terms of what the stories were trying to aim for in an extended format. 🙂
As the Seventh Doctor era ended on a premature note, it did seem for a while that the TV show would never come back. But as already mentioned, the show returned with a cheer of glory under Russell T. Davies’ reign. Before that though, there was a certain TV movie where the Doctor went to America. 😀
‘Survival’ rating – 9/10
‘THE WRITERS’ ROOM: SEASON 26′
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It’s time for ‘The Writers’ Room’ again! This time it’s on Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’ with script editor Andrew Cartmel; writer Ben Aaronovitch of ‘Battlefield’; writer Marc Platt of ‘Ghost Light’; writer Ian Briggs of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ and writer Rona Munro of ‘Survival’. It was really nice to see these five people reunite here.
They meet each other in the pub over pints and such. The first part of the feature has Andrew Cartmel setting up what the planning of Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’ was like in the script department. We then have Ben Aaronovitch share his memories and his mixed feelings about writing ‘Battlefield’.
It was interesting to hear how Marc Platt approached the Target novelization of ‘Battlefield’ instead of Ben Aaronovitch and that he loved the scripts when novelizing them. We then move onto Marc Platt sharing his memories of writing ‘Ghost Light’ and how it all began being a totally different story.
That story was of course ‘Lungbarrow’. Marc Platt has fond memories of ‘Ghost Light’ when making it at the time and when re-watching it recently. Then we move onto Ian Briggs share his memories of writing ‘The Curse of Fenric’ and how it had a bigger budget compared to other stories of Season 26.
Finally we have Rona Munro share her memories of writing ‘Survival’. The other three writers and Andrew Cartmel praise her script highly. The lesbian subtext between Ace and Karra gets addressed. The feature concludes with the five writers talking about the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series getting cancelled.
‘TOMORROW’S TIMES – THE SEVENTH DOCTOR’
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‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Seventh Doctor’ was available on ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ DVD. Now it’s available on the ‘Survival’ disc for the Season 26 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’.
‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Seventh Doctor’ is presented by Anneke Wills, who played Polly Wright in ‘Doctor Who’ with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. I enjoyed Anneke Wills as the presenter for this ‘Tomorrow’s Times’ item. She takes a relaxed stance in telling the story of this era via the newspapers.
It was interesting to hear how the Seventh Doctor was criticised by the newspapers at an early stage. Due to the damaged reputation it gained from the previous era, it was scrutinised by critics and fans of the show especially in terms of how it was being handled in a very pantomime atmosphere for Season 24.
The stories ‘Time and the Rani’ and ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ get criticised by newspaper reviewers whilst ‘Dragonfire’ seems to receive positive attention. The 25th anniversary celebrations of ‘Doctor Who’ get criticised by the press, especially the Daleks. A surprise since ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is great!
‘Silver Nemesis’ does get a sort-of positive reception in being the show’s 25th anniversary story as well as ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’, the finale of Season 25. It get highlighted how ‘Doctor Who’ suffered competition with being shown on BBC1 alongside ‘Coronation Street’ on ITV1 simultaneously.
It’s funny how Nicholas Parsons’ guest role in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ was very mis-reviewed by the press. The item concludes with the eventual cancellation of the classic ‘Doctor Who’ TV series in 1989 and how producer John Nathan-Turner and Sylvester McCoy were hopeful the show would continue despite this.
‘SOPHIE ALDRED: IN CONVERSATION’
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I enjoyed seeing Sophie Aldred being interviewed by Matthew Sweet for the Season 26 Blu-ray box set. Having met Sophie at conventions and becoming friends with her, it was nice to see her share her experiences of working on ‘Doctor Who’. Her insight into the making of the show was intriguing.
Sophie shares her early memories of working on ‘Dragonfire’. It was intriguing how she started work at BBC’s Television Centre, starring with Bonnie Langford, Tony Selby, Edward Peel and Sylvester McCoy. It was also interesting how producer John Nathan-Turner agreed to her as a new companion.
It was amusing how Sophie was introduced to the ‘Doctor Who’ fans as the new companion at a DWAS convention. Fans were venomous towards her when she seemed to win a trip to visit the set of ‘Doctor Who’ first. Then, once she was revealed as the new companion, the fans flocked to her. 😀
I was unsettled that Sophie didn’t get on well with producer JNT at first. This was due to her upbringing compared to his. Sophie also disapproved of JNT’s smoking on set, which I sympathise. I didn’t know anything about the friction between Sophie and JNT when I was watching this interview.
I enjoyed Sophie share her memories of being in Manchester working men’s clubs before doing ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed her titbits of Topol in a stage version of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’; her fondness of working with Sylvester McCoy and how she shared her near-death experience at a convention. 😮
‘SHOWMAN: THE LIFE OF JOHN NATHAN-TURNER’
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This feature-length documentary looks into the life and career of ‘Doctor Who’s longest-serving producer, John Nathan-Turner. This features contributions from people like Peter Davison; Colin Baker; Janet Fielding; author Richard Marson and many who knew him personally and professionally.
It was interesting to see and hear what JNT’s life was like before he became a ‘Doctor Who’ producer. His early life gets touched on with where he came from; what his school life was like; his love for pantomime and how he very soon worked in the theatre and got to work behind-the-scenes.
We soon move to JNT working at the BBC and how he started work on ‘Doctor Who’ behind-the-scenes on ‘The Space Pirates’. He became a production manager and a production unit manager on many shows such as ‘The Pallisers’, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ and ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.
Eventually we get to JNT becoming a production unit manager of ‘Doctor Who’ during the Graham Williams era before he became producer of the show in 1980. JNT’s sexuality gets talked about including his relationship with Gary Downie. Intriguing he had an affair with a make-up girl one time.
JNT’s successes as a ‘Doctor Who’ producer get touched on including the 20th anniversary year with ‘The Five Doctors’. Sadly it goes downhill with JNT once the show’s under pressures by BBC bosses in the late 1980s. The post-‘Doctor Who’ part of his life is saddening and moving. Superb documentary!
‘DOCTOR WHO – SURVIVAL’
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Good Hunting Brothers and Sisters
It’s good timing I read/heard this after watching Season 26 of ‘Doctor Who’ on Blu-ray!
I’ve read and heard the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘Survival’ by Rona Munro! I’ve greatly enjoyed reading/hearing this Target novelization/audiobook. It adds more depth to the final TV story of the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’ whilst keeping to the original plot and not changing too much. 🙂
The Target novelization of ‘Survival’ was published in October 1990, a year after the TV story was broadcast between November and December of 1989. It was technically the second writing contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ by Rona Munro. The first contribution was the TV story ‘Survival’ itself.
The third contribution would later happen with ‘The Eaters of Light’ starring Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in 2017. It’s amazing how far Rona’s come writing two TV stories of ‘Doctor Who’ as well as a Target novelization for one of them. Hopefully Rona will contribute more ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the future.
It’s also important to note that ‘Survival’ was the second ‘Doctor Who’ novelization to be written by a solo female writer in Rona Munro. The first was Barbara Clegg for ‘Enlightenment’. Jane Baker had been involved with writing Target novelizations for ‘Doctor Who’ but she wrote them with Pip Baker.
‘Survival’ came at a time when ‘Doctor Who’ was no longer loved by the BBC. The TV show was cancelled in 1989. A lot of ‘Doctor Who’ fans were relying upon books and comics in the early 1990s to fill in the absence of the TV show. Thankfully it was not just novelizations of TV tales in book form.
Very soon, there would be original novels of ‘Doctor Who’ stories by writers from the world of Virgin Publishing called ‘The New Adventures’ starring the Seventh Doctor as well as ‘The Missing Adventures’ starring past Doctors in the early 1990s. That’s something to address later in this review.
The Target novelization of ‘Survival’ is a very gripping read as well as a very gripping listen. I purchased the Target novelization from a shop in Cardiff recently in late 2019 before Christmas. I eventually purchased the Target audiobook of ‘Survival’ as a download from Audible in early 2020. 🙂
The story of ‘Survival’ is divided into 8 chapters in the book. There is a postscript by Peter Darvill-Evans, who was the editor of W H Allen’s ‘Doctor Who’ books at the time the novelization was published. I will address this aspect at the end of the review after sharing what’s in the novelization.
For the audiobook of ‘Survival’, the story is read by Lisa Bowerman. Lisa is well-known for playing Bernice Summerfield in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ as well as Benny’s own spin-off series. She’s also known for playing Karra, the Cheetah-Woman that befriends Ace during the story itself. 🙂
I’ve met Lisa Bowerman at conventions and have found her to be a very friendly lady. She’s very easy to listen to on audio. It was great to have read the novelization of this story since it was essentially her first ‘Doctor Who’ role. She gets into the characters of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Ace so well.
Having worked with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred before in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’, she knows how to get the tone of their voices spot-on in the story. This is especially with getting Sylvester’s rounding on the ‘r’s as the Seventh Doctor as well as Ace’s rough, street attitude.
Equally, Lisa does well with voicing for the other characters in the story in matching how they would sound in the TV version. As well as Karra, she does well with voicing for Anthony Ainley’s Master; Paterson; Shreela; Midge; Derek; etc. Lisa reading the story helped to put me in mind of the TV tale.
The structure of the ‘Survival’ novelization goes like this. The first three chapters comprise of ‘Part One’ of the story, the second two chapters comprise of ‘Part Two’ and the final three chapters comprise of ‘Part Three’. Of course, Rona Munro didn’t do a Terrance Dicks way of writing the book.
Chapter 5 is the longest chapter of the book as it comprises a lot of the second half of ‘Part Two’ with the Doctor and party getting attacked by Cheetahs before the Master took control of Midge and before Ace got yellow eyes. Reading that chapter with the audiobook did last for about an hour.
In terms of what’s similar and what’s different between the TV version and novelization/audiobook of ‘Survival’, a lot of scenes are very similar to the TV version in the book with dialogue unchanged. More emphasis gets given for setting descriptions as well as character backgrounds by Rona Munro.
I was amazed to read/hear a page or two given by Rona Munro on the relationship between the Doctor and the Master and what their history was like when they confront each other on the Cheetah planet. Terrance Dicks would come up with something like that. It is nice Rona does it too. 🙂
I like how Rona Munro explores more of the relationship between the Doctor and Ace in the Target novelization of ‘Survival’. This is especially when exploring Ace’s melancholy in returning to Perviale and in connecting to previous adventure’s with the Doctor in ‘Ghost Light’ and ‘The Curse of Fenric’.
Certain lines given to Ace in the original TV scripts that were vetoed by producer John Nathan Turner are now put back into the Target novelization. This includes lines of Ace being ‘legal’ to enter a pub as well as saying to Paterson what he can do once saying “One finger can become a deadly weapon.”
Minor changes are made to certain characters like making Paterson a police sergeant in the book instead of a territory army sergeant as in the TV story. This makes sense and works better in the book. I didn’t get why Paterson as an army sergeant would be giving survival exercises to youngsters.
I can assume from reading the book that Paterson was once a former army sergeant that got a job as a police sergeant in order to give the survival exercises to the youngsters in Perivale. It’s not something that properly elaborated upon in the novelization, but I think it is safe to assume that bit.
Another difference in the book compared to the TV story is that Dave – the man who washed the car at the beginning of the story – is given the name ‘Aitken’. Also, instead of being the son of Mrs. Aitken as in the TV story, he’s now the husband in the novelization. Not sure why Rona changed this.
Harvey and Len get a second scene later on in the story via novelization as opposed to just one scene via the TV version. It’s an odd second scene mind as Harvey and Len are met by Midge and the Master who come to their shop. They’re sent to the Cheetah World when threatened to give money.
I don’t know why Rona would do that to Harvey and Len. Maybe it was in the original scripts for the TV story, I don’t know. There’s also no resolution to what happened to Harvey and Len when they get sent to the Cheetah World. I assume they died once the Cheetah World got blown up. That is harsh!
Another harsh thing that happens in the story is when Derek gets killed by Midge under Cheetah control with yellow eyes, canine teeth and such. This is when he’s playing football outside after being returned home from the Cheetah World. Why did Derek deserve to die after being sent home?
In the TV version of the story, Derek says the “Thanks Ace. Thanks Doctor. Thanks for saving my life and getting me back home!” line instead of Paterson. Derek simply says “Thanks” to the Doctor and Ace in the ‘Survival’ novelization. I would’ve preferred it if he said all of that line from the TV version. 😦
The climax of the story has the Master being chased by Karra before he picks up the sabre-tooth dagger from Midge and stabbing the Cheetah-Woman with it. That was more effective in the book than in the TV version as the Master just stood there before Karra leapt at him before being stabbed.
Shreela does see Ace again during the climax of the story after Karra got killed by the Master. There’s a conversation between them about whether the Doctor’s coming back for Ace. Ace soon asks Shreela for a petrol can from her dad before she burns up the bodies of Karra and Midge in this.
The Target novelization doesn’t include the concluding monologue that the Doctor makes from the final episode of the story about the ‘tea getting cold’ and he and Ace have ‘got work to do’. Admittedly, it was written by script editor Andrew Cartmel and probably wasn’t in the original scripts.
Just to go back to the postscript by Peter Darvill-Evans at the end of the book, essentially it’s him detailing what the situation is with the BBC not producing any more future ‘Doctor Who’ seasons and that W H Allen reassure the fans that new original ‘Doctor Who’ novels will be made. Nice that. 🙂
I’ve greatly enjoyed the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘Survival’. It’s well-written by Rona Munro who goes into more depth in her story with characters and settings and it’s well-read by Lisa Bowerman. Hopefully Rona will contribute some more ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the near future here.
‘Doctor Who – Survival’ rating – 9/10
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