Monday, 30 May 2016

Story 155 - Survival

In which the Doctor takes Ace back to Perivale, following her recent traumatic experiences at Gabriel Chase and with Fenric. She would like to catch up with some of her friends. No-one seems to be about, however. Ace meets one old acquaintance, Ange, who is collecting money for hunt saboteurs. She confirms that a lot of the old crowd have not been seen recently. At the local youth club, Territorial Army Sgt. Paterson is running self-defence lessons. He preaches survival of the fittest, but the Doctor recognises him as a mere bully. He has noticed a strange black cat that seems to be following them around, watching them intently, and so decides to capture it. He goes to the mini-market and buys various tins of cat food to use as bait. Shop owners Len and Harvey later find their own pet cat has been mauled to death. Ace is sitting in a nearby playground when a Cheetah-like creature mounted on a horse appears out of nowhere. When the Doctor comes looking for her, she has vanished. His efforts to catch the black cat are hindered by Paterson, in his capacity as head of the local neighbourhood watch. When the Doctor finally captures the feline, he and Paterson suddenly find themselves transported to another planet - a desolate volcanic world. They are in a campsite inhabited by Cheetah People. As they begin to toy with Paterson, the Doctor finds himself maneuvered towards a tent. Sitting within is the Master.

The Doctor creates a distraction that allows him and Paterson to escape. As they travel across the bleak terrain on a stolen horse, the Doctor tries to convince the sergeant that they have been transported to another world. They come across a rope trap, which the Doctor triggers. He is hauled up into the air. His captors turn out to be a group of young Londoners - Ace and some of her old friends who have also been transported here. Ace is later almost captured by one of the Cheetah People, named Karra. Instead of killing her, Karra seems to bond with her and Ace feels a strange affinity towards her. The Doctor and Master meet, and the Doctor learns some of the history of this planet. The Cheetah People like nothing more than to play, hunt and feast. They employ small black cats - Kitlings - which can transport themselves and their prey through space. There was once a great civilisation here, but the Cheetah people are descending into brute animalism. They are psychically linked to the planet, and the volcanic disturbances increase as they degenerate. Exposure to the planet affects those who come here. The Master is slowly turning into a Cheetah, his eyes becoming cat-like and his teeth becoming fanged. He is struggling to maintain his true self here. He needs to find a way to escape this planet before it is consumed by fire.

One of Ace's friends - Midge - is transforming. The process becomes complete when he kills one of the Cheetah People. The Master uses him to transport himself away from the planet. The Doctor realises that Ace is also transforming, and uses her to take himself and her other friends away. They find themselves back in Perivale. The Doctor must find the Master - for Midge would have brought him here as well, since the instinct to travel always takes you back to what you regard as "home". Ace brought the Doctor, Paterson and the others to where the TARDIS was - as that is what she thinks of as home. Paterson goes off to the youth club to resume his classes, refusing to accept that he has been to another planet. He thinks that he has been hypnotised somehow. At the club he finds the Master and Midge. They have taken mental control over the class members, and use them to kill the sergeant. The Doctor tracks his foe to nearby Horsenden Hill. Midge is killed when he attempts to destroy the Doctor in a motorbike joust. As the club members close in on Ace, Karra suddenly appears and causes them to flee. The Master murders her. Dying, she reverts to her original form - that of a young woman. The Doctor and the Master find themselves transported back to the planet, in its dying moments. The Doctor is now beginning to transform, but he maintains his "humanity" long enough to refrain from killing his old enemy and finds himself transported back to Perivale. He finds Ace on the Hill. The planet is gone, its inhabitants transported to somewhere else. It lives on, though, within Ace. Of the Master's fate, the Doctor knows not. He and Ace head off back to the TARDIS, and adventures new...

This three part adventure was written by Rona Munro, and was broadcast between 22nd November and 6th December, 1989.
It was the final story to be broadcast by the BBC of the original series first broadcast from 23rd November, 1963. Sylvester McCoy will be back one more time, but it is the last time we see Sophie Aldred as Ace, and Anthony Ainley as the Master. It is the last story to be produced by the series' longest running producer, John Nathan-Turner, and the final script edited by Andrew Cartmel.
For the last few years, every season was going to be JNT's final season - he was always asking to be allowed to resign and move on to other projects. Each year, he was asked to stay on, as the BBC did not have anyone else who they felt could save the programme's declining fortunes. Some people expressed an interest in taking it on, but ultimately it was felt to have run its course, and the money could be spent on other things. The decision was made to "rest " it. Owing to the production schedules, Survival may have been the last story broadcast, but the cast and crew still had another story to make. Ghostlight would be the final story to be recorded, and the team headed off on their holidays fully expecting to be back in a couple of months' time. When it came to transmission time, JNT and Cartmel knew that the series would not be coming back, and so Cartmel wrote the elegiac speech for the Doctor and Ace as they headed off into the woods on Horsenden Hill - for once these days a location actually playing itself. The Perivale scenes are filmed in Perivale.
JNT notified McCoy that the series had ended, and McCoy called Aldred to inform her. The production team had already started putting together ideas for Season 27, which would have seen Ace written out, and a new companion introduced, and Cartmel had already planned his exit, and handover to someone new - probably Ben Aaronovitch.

Munro's story had the original title of "Cat-Flap". She used a lot of imagery related to felines, and also themes of survival of the fittest from Darwinism - tying in with those of the partner story Ghostlight, also directed by Alan Wareing. The Cheetah People like nothing better than to hunt - which is mirrored by Ange's support for hunt saboteurs. The production team rise to the occasion - having adverts for the musical Cats on view, and the youth club has many posters for boxing events - tying in with Paterson's self-defence classes. The Kitling was derided at the time as a poor piece of animatronics. Had it been a dog - much larger - it would have worked better, but the prop black cat failed to convince. A real black cat is often seen, but this did not always follow direction. Another problem is the realisation of the Cheetah People. Designed by Ken Trew, they were a disappointment as they looked a bit too cuddly and not feral enough. Compare the masks with the later Cat Nuns of the 2006 series. Credit to Trew, they do actually resemble cheetahs.
Trew also designs a brand new outfit for the Master - finally getting him out of that thick velvet Trakenite costume he has worn since he was first introduced back in the closing seconds of Keeper of Traken, Special mention must be made of Ainley's more understated performance. This is how he wanted to play the part all along.
The cast includes Julian Holloway, noted for a number of Carry On film appearances, as Paterson. A credible Scottish accent. He is the son of that great actor Stanley Holloway. Karra is Lisa Bowerman. Ironically, Doctor Who will continue after this story in the form of Virgins' New Adventures range, which introduce the new companion Bernice Summerfield. When the character transfers to the audio productions, it is Bowerman who plays her, and she has also gone on to play other characters in other spin-off ranges, as well as directing some. In keeping with JNT's stunt-casting of light entertainment persons in the series, the shop owners Len and Harvey are played by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace respectively. Midge is Will Barton.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor opens the flap of a tent in the Cheetah People's camp, and finds the Master sitting within - his eyes yellow and feline...
  2. The Doctor knows that one of his young friends must start to transform in order to transport them off of this planet. He is shocked to see that this appears to be Ace...
  3. The Doctor and Ace head for home - the TARDIS...

Overall, a wonderful story to end the series. McCoy, Aldred and Ainley are all great. Some lovely visual effects on the planet. After the misfire that was Battlefield, Season 26 has been a critical success, so it is a great shame that the plug was pulled at this point.
Things you might like to know:
  • For reasons never explained, Hale and Pace swapped roles at the last minute.
  • JNT's dog Pepsi makes its final cameo - eating the cat food that the Doctor has left out in Part One. 
  • Aldred was allergic to cats, so had a great deal of discomfort having to handle the feline playing the Kitling in the playground near the end of Part One.
  • The planet sequences were, as usual, filmed in a quarry. The summer heat was too much for one of the Cheetah extras. She stripped off and then stormed off the production.
  • Real animal carcasses were used to dress the location, which stank in the hot conditions.
  • The shot of Gabriel Chase, from Ghostlight, was filmed whilst the crew were away on the quarry filming location.
  • The stunt sequence of the Doctor and Midge racing motorbikes towards each other involved regular stunt performer Tip Tipping playing the Doctor, and well-known motorcyclist Eddie Kidd playing Midge. Tipping was not happy, as Kidd was not in the actor's union Equity at the time. Just the year before, the anti-union Thatcher government had broken Equity's monopoly, so the production team could use Kidd.
  • Aldred, Barton and Ainley all got their yellow contact lenses in advance so as to get used to them. It was only late in the day on location that it was decided that McCoy would also wear contacts for the climactic fight with the Master. McCoy found them intolerable in the hot and dusty conditions, not having had the chance to break them in.
  • They obviously didn't know at the time that this was to be the last story broadcast, but it does have a bit of synchronicity with the very first story - where we go from present day London to a sandy wilderness full of animal bones.
  • We never find out how the Master came to be on this planet - clearly without his TARDIS. In fact, the Master is never seen with his TARDIS after the final section of Trial of a Time Lord. Next we will see of him is on Skaro, on trial by the Daleks - where he still has odd yellow eyes.
  • Anthony Ainley had pretty much retired from acting by this point, and only agreed to reprise the Master on occasion. He was much more interested in watching and playing cricket. He had a private income, and acted as his own agent. The editors of DWM tell of how one day he would charge very little for them to publish a photograph of him, and the next to charge an exorbitant fee. He would appear as the Master one final time in the truly bonkers links for the Destiny of the Doctors video game. Sadly he was only ever given one chance to provide a DVD commentary - for his first story - before he passed away in May 2004, aged 71. His laugh will be heard in the 2007 episode Utopia.
  • Another last for this story - the TARDIS prop that had been built for The Leisure Hive - so spanned JNT's full tenure as producer.
  • One obvious influence on this story - animals on horseback hunting humans = Planet of the Apes.
  • This will be the last time that the Doctor's face appears in the opening titles until 2012. 
  • Sylvester McCoy recorded the extra closing monologue on 23rd November, 1989 - 26 years to the day since the programme first started.

"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, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.  Come on, Ace - we've got work to do..."

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