Getting to know Who: Survival

By Christopher Allen

The relationship between the Doctor and Ace grew deeper and darker in Season 26, with his unorthodox “teaching” methods challenging her to become a stronger person. The season finished just before Christmas 1989. Doctor Who was not recommissioned for the new decade. Survival came to mark the end of an era.


The Seventh Doctor


Ace, in her final televised appearance.


Ace returns to the place of her birth, but her friends have all but disappeared. The Doctor is suspicious of the local cats, and with good reason. When they’re transported to the dying planet of the Cheetah People, he meets an old enemy looking for a way home…

The story so far…

  • Survival is set in the London suburb of Perivale, where Ace originally grew up. In her teenage years, a chemistry experiment whisked her away to Iceworld, where she met the Doctor (in reality, the time-storm was caused by Fenric, who used Ace as part of a trap for the Doctor). Her mum reported her as missing, her friends assumed she was dead.
  • The Master has escaped from the trap set by the Valeyard at the end of the Sixth Doctor’s trial. At some point after that, he travelled to the Cheetah Planet and became “bewitched” by it.

Best bit:

The Doctor’s final battle with the Master?


Key quote:

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, somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on Ace, we’ve got work to do.

Why it’s worth a watch

Survival is the culmination of the previous three adventures, which see Ace grow from scrappy teenage girl to powerful young woman. And her journey echoes a change in the series - the storylines and dialogue maturing to suit a more discerning young adult audience - illustrated best by the haunting and intimate scene where Ace feeds the injured Cheetah Kara. Anthony Ainley turns in his best performance as a brutal, bestial Master, and the developments in computer effects (combined with a long hot summer!) make the Cheetah Planet look extraordinary. Seeing the TARDIS parked on the drive of a suburban house still packs a real thrill, as does Andrew Cartmel’s lump-in-the-throat final monologue for the Doctor.


Read more about Survival at the BBC Doctor Who website, or get to know more Doctor Who adventures.

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