We knew this was coming. The end of the original Doctor Who series came in 1989, and the last supercut of the 7th Doctor's (Sylvester McCoy) stories. The BBC has released a 20-minute cut-down of "Survival" on their YouTube channel. Once again, it's a personal story for Ace (Sophie Aldred). He takes her back to her old neighborhood in Perivale for a quick visit, only to find many of her friends have gone missing and a mysterious black cat has been lurking around. They discover that Ace's friends and some other people have been teleported to a dying planet where Cheetah women hunt them for sport and food. Anyone who succumbs to violence and bloodlust ends up becoming a were-cat and trapped on the planet forever. And of course, The Master is there.
Rona Munro is an Underrated Writer
Playwright Rona Munro's script still holds up to this day. Of course, there are some things that feel a bit dated, since it was the 1980s, but the dialogue still works, the characters and their motivations feel quite modern, closer to what the current show is like. Once again, the templates of the current version of the show are established here in story editor Andrew Cartmel's era. Munro's naturalistic style makes the story one of the most grounded in its contemporary setting than most Doctor Who stories. The current version of the show chooses that approach as often as possible. Munro was one of the few women to write for the show.
Munro was said to be disappointed by the Cheetah women's costumes. She had envisioned them with just yellow eyes, fangs, and some cheetah spots rather than full-on furry masks that obscured the actress's expressions. It obfuscated the lesbian subtext she wrote in the relationship between Ace and Karra.
A Little Gaffe
There's also a little boo-boo in this supercut. Maybe the editor fell asleep, but clearly nobody reviewed the final edit, because the middle section shows a character's death after he returns to Earth, but the earlier part of the story where he, The Doctor, and everyone else are whisked away to the Cheetah Planet. If you haven't seen the story before, you might be very confused.
The End at the End
"Survival" is also the last time Anthony Ainley played The Master on the show, and his only encounter with the 7th Doctor. It also featured Lisa Bowerman as Karra, the Cheetah woman who forms a bond with Ace. Bowerman would go on to play companion and archeologist Bernice Summerfield in the Big Finish audio plays, a role she continues to this day. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred would continue to play the Doctor and Ace in Big Finish audio plays to the present. The number of Big Finish stories they've starred in outnumber their TV stories by now.
When they realized the story would be the last Doctor Who, possibly forever, the producers wrote a new speech for the Doctor to give at the very end, which Sylvester McCoy recorded just weeks before the final episode aired. The speech played at the very end as The Doctor and Ace walked off, away from the camera:
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, 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's getting cold. Come on, Ace — we've got work to do!"