This post was supposed to be sticking up for a Who that I wasn’t at all sure about the first time round, or have acquired a reputation for being a bit, well, rubbish. But having got hold of Silver Nemesis over the weekend, I’m on a bit of a 7th Doctor fest, so I’ll write about “Love & Monsters” next time.
So this one is about a story that I hadn’t seen since 1989. One that used to make me cringe and bristle with irritation. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it was the end. I mean, of course, Survival.
A bit like Bjork, it’s a curiously beguiling little package, this. Mysterious disappearances in Perivale, an abundance of stray cats (that can only snarl at people under remote control), a mouthy Scottish chap giving self defence classes, Cheetah People, and the Master… It’s all rather spooky.
I remember feeling really rather uneasy about it when I saw it – but watching it again, I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was pretty sinister. It certainly wasn’t about the special effects particularly: although the Cheetah People’s costumes were alright, actually. And the cats eyes effect on the humans – Midge and Ace particularly – were really good touches. The robotic cat is a little obvious, though, and I can’t imagine even a 10 year-old me not noticing that.
The Doctor in this is an altogether darker being too – which I suppose is well known as the way the character was going. Much more brooding that the clown-like Doctor that had graced our screens in season 24 (“Delta and the Bannermen”, anyone?). Ace is great in it, confused to be back in her old haunt, and the story makes good use of her youth and energy. She gets to do a lot of running in this – and its proper running, not the totter-away-from-the-strange-latex-shape-as-fast-as-my-high-heels-will-let-me kind of running that Tegan seemed particularly suited to. There’s more development here for her too, even at the end of the series, with the bond she makes with Karra. It all holds up pretty well after so long.
And I love the last speech. It’s a bit obviously dubbed over after the shoot, and Sylv delivers it a little fast for my liking, but it’s lovely. And a bit sad. The last two seasons of the classic Who are still wonderful to me. I know the shortcomings, and the failures of it, but I love the ambition, the restoration of the mystery when the character had started to become either a grumpy, grumpy sod or a fool. And best of all, it is fun to watch.
But the extras on the DVD are brilliant too. For a start, the continuity announcements from the original broadcast are on there, which helped me recreate an evening as a 10 year-old (Doctor Who at 7.35 followed by Bergerac at 8 – marvellous…). Then on disc 2 there is a documentary about Ace (the first companion I followed from start to finish) and “Endgame” – a longer documentary about the cancellation of the series and what was planned for season 27 (The Ice Warriors would have been back! Ace would have been trained as a Time Lord!)…
It all fills me with nostalgic intrigue – and a bit of regret at not having read more of the Virgin New Adventures when I had the chance…
I hated my memories of Survival. But I’m glad I returned to it 20 years later – it’s not half bad, and certainly an exception to the reputation of 80s Who. If Hale and Pace couldn’t spoil it, then it had to be quite good, after all.