Magic Bullet Productions

27 Cool Things about “Survival”
(And 23 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 457

1. To judge by the slope of its ears, even the cat seems unhappy that it's animatronic.

2. And the one watching the children play with an American football on Horsenden Hill has a bad case of crossed eyes.

3. Mad props to the car-washing gent at the start of the story, who heroically never lets go of his sponge, even when being attacked by equestrian Cheetah People and eaten by kitlings.

4. “Local woman still missing. Police abandon hope!” according to a sign outside the grocery shop. Since we learn the fates of all of the other people who vanish, including the car-washing man and the milkman, by implication, the woman must be Karra.

5. The basket the Doctor picks up in Hale and Pace's shop is just about rusted through. Not the most hygienic of establishments, really.

6. Although Rona Munro is a successful writer with many excellent plays to her credit, one really Stupid Thing about this story is the way that every single person in Perivale keeps banging on about survival of the fittest, meaning that the theme of the story could only be any more obvious if Sylvester McCoy reached out through the TV screen and beat you around the head with a copy of On the Origin of Species.

7. One of us saw this serial first in Canada, and spent the grocery store sequence wondering who the two shop-owning prats making all the jokes were.

8. How the hell does the cat in Hale and Pace's shop manage to open the front door?

9. “I got lucky on the fruit machines.” “Lucky?” “Well, they're all fixed anyway.” Meaning, Ace has broken into the fruit machine, and the Doctor's going to let it pass.

10. Who killed and partially ate Hale and Pace's cat Tiger? The implication is that it's the kitling that runs out of their shop, but why would it do that? At that, why does Midge kill his own cat when he gets back to Perivale?

11. Things to Watch Out For: a Land of the Giants annual on the table out front of the charity shop where Ace meets Ange.

12. Ace regularly carries a tin-opener around in her pocket.

13. Watching the DVD extras, where Sophie Aldred is interviewed in the same children's playground which features in Part One, indicates that the roundabout hasn't been painted for at least 18 years.

14. Yes, the Cheetah Person masks are stiff and artificial-looking. However, if they'd gone with Eighties-style feline makeup instead, the whole thing would just look embarrassingly like an Andrew Lloyd Webber production.

15. Also, although Andrew Cartmel said that he'd argued at the time that “it should all be done with contact lenses and fangs and the hands should be just like talons”, they'd already done humans with long talons, fangs and contact lenses in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” (which also featured Warmwell Quarry and the Doctor and Ace compared and contrasted with a villainous interplanetary traveller who manipulates his animal-like companion). So there.

16. One might uncharitably suggest that the Master's cat-eyes in this story were the inspiration for the idea running through "The US Telemovie with the Pertwee Logo", that Time Lords all have yellow eyes.

17. Also, the Master's new costume makes him look rather portly.

18. It is a bit ridiculous the way the Doctor and the Master keep running into each other all the time, given the size of the universe.

19. The Cheetah People being distracted by silver-coloured balls is a nod to cat owners everywhere.

20. All the Cheetah People, and the humans and Time Lords influenced by them, appear to develop a psychic connection.

21.One of the Cheetah People who pursues Paterson at the start of Part Two is swaying her hips in a most flirtatious fashion.

22. It Was Acceptable In The Eighties Department: black leather jackets, single earrings on men, baggy graffiti jackets over skinny trousers, aviator jackets, skinny braids, berets with badges; suits and ties for casualwear; cod-Darwinian theories of the “secret to success” being that the strong survive and the weak go to the wall; 1950s motorbike movies.

23. The scene where the Cheetah Person casually slices through Ace and Shreela's trip-wire with her claws is fun, but one can't help but remember that cats' claws don't actually work that way; they're for snaring and piercing, not slicing.

24. Just savour the fact that Sylvester McCoy is a good enough actor to say the line “feline vulture” without laughing.

25. “The Master, who's he?” “An evil genius, one of my oldest and deadliest of enemies.” Ace's response: “do you know any nice people? You know, ordinary people, not power-crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy.” She should know the answer to that by now.

26. Cheetahs are generally solitary animals, except when raising young. In fact, the only felines that habitually form groups are lions and domestic cats.

27. Cats in groups also don't generally tend to conduct long, drawn-out fights, preferring instead brief scraps which mainly involve a lot of posturing and noisemaking.

28. The electronic distort on Karra's voice doesn't make her sound very feline, either.

29. Whatever the implications of Ace and Karra's conversion in Part Three, they also don't generally stalk and kill each other when there's no prey handy.

30. Cats also don't howl at each other, or at the moon. One is left with the suspicion that the only reason they didn't just make the aliens the Wolf People is because they'd already done that in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”.

31. Observation has also shown that cats who are hunting to eat usually don't play with their food or conduct long, elaborate chases, but stalk it quietly and kill it quickly. However, presumably the Cheetah People, like other cats, are hunting for fun as well. 

32. Where are the Cheetah People getting their clothes from? There's no industry on the planet, and they clearly aren't scavenging them off the corpses of the people who come in from Earth. To say nothing of their tents, stirrups, saddles, domesticated livestock...

33. The pinkish object in the sky is apparently supposed to be the planet's moon, but we only know that because we read the infotext.

34. The idea that the Cheetah People fighting hastens the planet's destruction has no basis in actual science, but it can have a pass on the grounds of being Cartmel-era magic realism.

35. Judging by the skull Midge gets the gigantic tooth from, there's another large, felimorph, predator on the planet, which we never actually encounter.

36. “It feels exciting.... Like I could run forever. I can smell things as clear as pictures.” “Anything else?” “Well... I've got this strange urge to bat at a piece of string, jump up on top of the wardrobe, curl up and sleep for hours”.

37. We defy you to watch the sequence where Ace and Karra run in slo-mo and not think of 1980s adverts for personal hygiene products.

38. “I thought cats hated water”, Ace says. What does she suppose they drink then?

39. Working titles for this story: “Blood-Hunt”, “Cat-Flap”, and “The Survival”. The last one actually makes the least sense. Were they planning a tie-in novel entitled “Doctor Who and the Survival”?

40. All the jokes about “Cat-Flap” have been made a thousand times before, so no, we're not going to go there. Except to quote Sophie Aldred's concerned observation on the DVD documentary that “all kinds of foxes, badgers, [and] space monsters could get through a cat flap”, because we're juvenile like that.

41. The cat corpse in Midge's flat is laughably fake. On the other hand, it's a lot better than having it be realistic.

42. Midge is a fan of U2 and The Doors, or, more likely, given Ace's disparaging remarks about the albums, his mother is.

43. Props to Adele Silva; she's a better child actor than 90% of them.

44. The Master, upon arriving in Perivale, takes Midge shopping and buys him a new suit of clothes, aviator sunglasses, and two motorbikes, one for Midge and one for someone else to ride later. What the hell was he thinking?

45. The idea with the motorbikes seems to be to set up a contest between Midge and Ace, thereby serving as an overcomplicated proxy fight between the Doctor and the Master. The Doctor, however, subverts this by taking the motorbike himself.

46. Midge's death would have been much better if, as originally scripted, he'd been killed by the self-defense class rather than just told to die by the Master, and, John Nathan-Turner's qualms about violence to the contrary notwithstanding, we fail to see why they didn't go there.

47. The Doctor's “Oh, very good, very amusing”, as he comes to on the discarded sofa suggests the Master intended him to be launched on to the rubbish heap by the explosion, but that makes no sense whatsoever.

48. “They want the animal, but do they keep it under control?” “Well, we try”. Since it's impossible to keep a cat under control, the metaphor in the Doctor's conversation with the Perivale woman falls flat.

49. It's never explained what the Doctor means when he says that the Cheetah People have “been taken back to the wilderness. The place is different but the hunt goes on”.

50. Things Russell T Davies ripped off from this serial for his revival: Return visits to companion's home turf, which is heavy on the council flats; aliens knocking around said home turf and killing people; Doctor's companion being listed as a missing person; aliens who are actually humans in animal-head costumes; gay subtexts; fascists; relationship-bollocks about the Doctor and the Master; the power of ordinary humans winning the day; long voiceovers about the diversity of the universe and how wonderful it all is.

Click to return home