Doctor Who: Survival (Story #158)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Fun creatures, short story

Sad to see the Doctor go


Never trust a feral cat…

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) have returned to Ace’s home of Perivale.  When Ace and the Doctor find mysterious disappearances around the town, they discover that something is preying on Ace’s friends.  The Doctor and Ace find themselves transported with Ace’s friends to a strange planet of Cheetah people which is falling apart.  When the Doctor learns his old enemy the Master (Anthony Ainley) is also trapped, the danger of the Cheetah planet is revealed!

Doctor Who:  Survival was the final serial of the twenty-six season of the long running BBC series.  The story aired in three parts from November 22, 1989 to December 6, 1989 and marked the final regular episode of the series before its cancellation.  Following Doctor Who:  The Curse of Fenric, Doctor Who:  Survival has been collected as part of The Sylvester McCoy Years as Story #159 (or Story #158 depending on how you count the unaired Tom Baker story Doctor Who:  Shada).


Nope…feeling fine. Why?

I approach Doctor Who:  Survival with some sadness.  Though I don’t enjoy most of the Doctor’s adventures in the later serials, the idea that the characters and series went on and on for years was a comfort.  Even today, I realize that Doctor Who goes on, but this serial still feels like an ending.  Though the new series frequently references the past, it feels disconnected from adventures like this.

This season of Doctor Who is also a bit odd.  The show spent a lot of time delving into the past of Ace…something that many companions didn’t receive at this point.  You saw her origins and in this entry, you see her hometown.  Apparently, you shouldn’t be around Ace because she’s been haunted all her life by the weird and unusual…the writers had more plans for Ace, but due to the series cancellation, they never happened (though more stories were told in different formats).


Did someone say there was tilapia?

I like the cheetah characters.  The series was starting to get slightly better looking special effects (I thought the creatures in The Curse of Fenric were also quite creepy).  We later saw cat people in the relaunched Doctor Who series (called Catkind), but I’d like to see the evil cheetahs show up in a new series (and maybe establish a link to Catkind).

It is appropriate that the last story is a Master’s story.  I always enjoyed the Master and seeing him with the cheetah eyes and teeth is fun.  The actual plot however is pretty convoluted for the last show.  The showdown on the cheetah planet where the Doctor gets in a physical fight with the Master is a bit out of character (but does fit with the story’s themes).  The wrap of the series is unfortunately just a little speech given by the Doctor to Ace as the episode ends.


The Doctor and Ace walk off into the sunset…or this grove of trees.

Doctor Who:  Survival marked the end of the series that began airing on November 23, 1963.  The cancellation had been long time coming with slipping ratings and weaker stories for years.  There had been plans lined up for a new season, but the Doctor’s adventures ended here.  With the end, Sophie Aldred never wrapped up her Ace character and Anthony Ainley made his last appearance as the Master.  The actors did do some charity work including a crossover series with The Eastenders.  Sylvester McCoy did reprise his role for a regeneration in Doctor Who:  The Movie which aired in 1996 in which Paul McGann took over as the Eighth Doctor.

Preceded By:

Doctor Who:  The Curse of Fenric (Story #157)

Followed By:

Doctor Who:  The Movie (1996)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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