Thursday, 16 September 2021

Inspirations - Survival

The most obvious inspiration for this story is all things feline. At one point this was going to be called "Cat-flap" , as in the little hatch you have at the bottom of your door which allows puss to come and go as he or she pleases.
I almost just wrote "she" in that last sentence. For some reason I've always thought of cats as female, and dogs as male, despite the genders probably being around 50% for each.
Apparently I'm not alone in this impression. I suspect it goes back to old, rather sexist, notions about male and female personality traits.
These notions may have been in the mind of the writer back in 1989, as Survival also has a lot to say about women and feminism.
The other thing to say about the story revolves around what it eventually came to be called - survival of the fittest etc. It's the second story this year to look at Darwinism. 
Letting the feline go first, we have that working title. It's a very good one, referring to the way the Cheetah People can just slink in and out of our world as though through a cat-flap, thanks to the Kittlings. 
The Cheetah People are bipedal big cats. The Kittlings look like ordinary black cats.
We also have a lot of cat imagery, such as posters for the musical Cats. It may be just coincidence but one of the characters wears a David Bowie t-shirt. He had turned his hand to acting since the late 1970's, and one of his appearances was in a remake of the classic psychological horror The Cat People. Except it had absolutely nothing to do with the original, beyond the name.
The food store owners have a pet cat, and the Doctor shops there for cat food. Later, a pet cat is killed by Midge.
The story's broadcast title can refer to the fact that people transported to the Cheetah planet have to fight to survive. Sergeant Patterson teaches self-defence classes, but these appear to be as much about being aggressive and beating your opponent as they are about defending yourself. The youth club walls are covered in posters promoting boxing events, again suggesting belligerence.
Ace's friend is collecting funds for hunt saboteurs. Those who hunt foxes try to maintain that they do the fox population a favour, by hunting out the weaker members of the species.
We only ever see one of the Cheetah People in human form, and it's a she. You can tell that all the others are played by women from their body shape (in the same way you can tell all the new Silurian warriors are played by women).
Ace becomes rather enamoured by this Cheetah prior to her turning back into a person. There's a definite lesbian vibe going on. These days they would have easily made the character gay from the outset, as with Bill. With Ace it is more subtle. She does appear at times to hit it off with male characters, like Mike Smith, but in his case she might have been more into what he did than who he was. Her big chat-up of a soldier in the last story was a ruse to distract him, and she wasn't terribly good at chat-up lines anyway. 
The final thing to say about this story is, of course, that it is an ending.
Cast and crew did not know at the time that the entire season would be coming to an end, but the previous story had brought Ace's personal story pretty much to a conclusion, with this story allowing her to move forward, seeing that she no longer felt connected to Perivale and any of her old friends. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had to write a closing speech for the Doctor to say, which Sylvester McCoy recorded as a voice over. This gave the season a coda, but would also act as one for the entire season. McCoy recorded his speech on the 23rd November, the programme's birthday...

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