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Survival was the fourth and final serial of season 26 of Doctor Who.

As the final broadcast story of the series' classic era, following the airing of its last episode, the series would enter a period of wilderness years devoid of new full televised seasons. However, during these years there were various one-off offerings, such as Search Out Space and Dimensions in Time. Eventually an attempt was made to revive the series in 1996. As a TV show, Doctor Who would not see any regular airings for 15 years. While the show was officially discontinued, there were attempts to revive it and the BBC officially classified the wilderness years as a hiatus during and after its occurrence. The next story in the show to be part of a regularly airing programme would be Rose, broadcast in 2005.

It marks the final appearance of Sophie Aldred as Ace in a regular television serial; although she would reappear for the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time. It was also the last time that Anthony Ainley appeared as the Master in a regular televised story; he appeared one more time in the video game Destiny of the Doctors. Ainley's final portrayal of the Master in the original series is considerably different — subtle and darker than the often bombastic and forceful impression he had been told to deliver since Logopolis; Ainley had always intended to portray the Master with this calmer characterisation.

Lisa Bowerman would ironically make her debut in Doctor Who during its final classic episode, as Karra. However, she would later become more widely recognisable for her portrayal as Bernice Summerfield, a character introduced in and adapted from the Virgin New Adventures novels which continued the series and the adventures of the Seventh Doctor in printed format.

Despite making his final full appearance in Survival, Sylvester McCoy would return as the Doctor in the 1996 television film, marking his final outing as the Doctor both chronologically and from a production standpoint. Since the film focused mainly on his immediate successor, McCoy was brought in to mark his own departure, with the Seventh Doctor regenerating into the Eighth shortly into the film.

Additionally, Survival is the last televised adventure to feature Tom Yardley-Jones's TARDIS prop commissioned by John Nathan-Turner, which debuted in The Leisure Hive and remained in use for the whole of his time as producer. It saw one more brief use in the Search Out Space special.

The final story to be recorded on analogue tape, it was also the final story to be broadcast from a videotape master.


The Doctor brings Ace back to her hometown of Perivale. Her old friends are being kidnapped by a race of alien hunters called the Cheetah People, who were shown the way to Earth by the Doctor's old enemy the Master.


The Doctor is in search of a special kind of cat

Part one[]

The Seventh Doctor brings Ace back to her hometown of Perivale in the suburbs of North West London. A mysterious black cat is wandering around and humans are hunted down and made to disappear to another world. Ace grows worried as most of her old friends seem to have disappeared along with several others, but the Doctor is preoccupied with the behaviour of the strange cat. It becomes apparent it is controlled by a strange being in the other world, viewing Perivale through its eyes and choosing which humans to chase and transport. An unhappy young man, Stuart, is his next victim. Ace follows soon afterwards, hunted down by a Cheetah Person on horseback, with a hunting affinity with the curious cat. The Doctor and a keep-fit instructor called Paterson are the next to be chosen and teleported to another world, bathed in a blood-red sky, where the Doctor finds his nemesis the Master greeting him.

Part two[]

The Master is evidently unwell. His eyes and mouth show feline characteristics and he uses the black cat, a kitling, to create a dimensional bridge for the Cheetah People to hunt prey on Earth. His reasons are unclear; he seems keen to keep the Cheetah People occupied. He tells the Doctor the planet is alive and has a bewitching influence. The indigenes bred the kitlings and had a great civilisation, then regressed into animals. The Master is beginning to show changes and needs the Doctor's help to escape.

Ace has seen some of her friends, Shreela and Midge, hiding in woods with a young man called Derek. The planet is clearly dangerous. Ace and her friends find the Doctor and Paterson. The Time Lord deduces they are on an ancient, dying planet. A Cheetah Person hunts and kills a terrified milkman, prompting a Cheetah pack to attack the Doctor, Ace and friends. During the fight, Midge kills one Cheetah person and Ace injures another, called Karra. Ace forms an attachment to Karra and tends her injuries. Karra is intrigued by Captain Sorin's shiny cap insignia which Ace has on her jacket, (TV: The Curse of Fenric) and gently paws at it. This worries the Doctor. He says that the only way they can return to Earth is if one of them turns into a Cheetah and then brings his prey home. That happens with Midge and the Master uses him to return to Earth. Karra appears again and Ace's eyes change and she begins to transform into a Cheetah herself.

"If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!"

Part three[]

Ace abandons the Doctor to go hunting with Karra but he eventually wins her around. Midge has fallen to the power of the planet and is turning into a beast. The Master seizes on this and has Midge teleport back to Earth, away from the dying world. He possesses Midge and goes with him to the youth club, using his hypnotic powers to enslave Paterson's students. The Doctor persuades Ace to help him return to Perivale, also letting Paterson, Derek and Shreela flee the planet. Paterson insists nothing is amiss, falling back on his "survival of the fittest" mantras and self-defence classes. The Doctor and Ace roam Perivale in search of Midge and the Master. They find them at the youth club. They have killed Paterson for sport; Midge, too, is killed in the Master's machinations. Karra's arrival brings comfort to Ace, whose transformation continues, but the Master kills Karra too. As she dies, she transforms into a human woman, her metamorphosis having been reversed by death. With her final breath, Karra praises the hunt before another Cheetah Person teleports her dead body away.

Meanwhile, the Doctor catches up to the Master and finds him trying to pick the lock to the TARDIS. The Master gloats that he is capable of controlling the raw power given to him by the planet and declares that he will use it to destroy the Doctor, before grabbing him and taking him back to the Cheetah Planet for a final confrontation. In the ensuing struggle, the Master starts out having the upper hand, but the Doctor, drawing from the planet's power, manages to turn the tables on him, and soon has him at his mercy, and raises a skull to bash him with. But in a moment of clarity, the Doctor realises what he is doing is wrong and manages to resist the planet's pull, turning away from violence. The Master demands that they finish their fight, but the Doctor tries to convince him to let go of the violence too, pointing out that they will destroy both the planet and themselves if they keep fighting. The Master, however, rejects this and, grabbing the Doctor in a stranglehold, he spitefully tells him that he should have killed him while he had the chance. The Doctor screams out "If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!", as the Master raises a club over his head to hit him with. But before the Master can strike him, the Doctor is teleported away. The Master is left for dead as the planet begins to break up.

The Doctor has gone back to the TARDIS and Earth, where he finds Ace. Her metamorphosis has reversed. He tells her she will have grown through the experience; the element of the Cheetah Planet, however, will remain within her forever. Ace is glad; it gave her a wonderful feeling. She then asks what happened to the Master. "Who knows?" answers the Doctor with a hint of sadness, before he asks Ace where they should go to now. "Home," answers Ace with a smile, "The TARDIS." The two walk off into the distance arm in arm, as the Doctor talks of adventures that await. As they walk, the Seventh Doctor ponders "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's getting cold!" Knowing his place in the world, the Doctor assures Ace "We've got work to do."


Uncredited cast[]



  • The Doctor exhibits the ability to juggle and ride a horse and motorcycle. He also has a calculator/scanner fob watch and regards Earth and/or the TARDIS as his home.
  • The Doctor has heard of the Cheetah People, but knows nothing about them.
  • The Doctor buys (with Ace's money) cat food to tempt the kitlings.
  • Derek wears a David Bowie t-shirt.
  • Ace gets the money (as mentioned above) by breaking into a fruit machine.
  • Ace learns from Ange that their mutual friend Flo married a "brain-dead plumber" whom they had nicknamed "Darth Vader".
  • Ace had friends named Jay and Stevie.
  • The Doctor looks at a poster for Cats.

Story notes[]

  • Working titles for this story included Cat-Flap, Blood Hunt and The Survival.
  • Survival was one of only three Doctor Who serials to be recorded completely on BBC Outside Broadcast video, instead of the mix of on-location and studio video that was more usual since 1964's The Reign of Terror, and/or the mix of film and video that was utilised from the aforementioned serial to 1985's Revelation of the Daleks. This was probably possible because Ghost Light, the next story in production, was filmed completely in the studio. The only other stories filmed on OB video were The Sontaran Experiment and The Curse of Fenric.
  • The first part of this serial features guest appearances by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, collectively known as "Hale and Pace" and actress Adele Silva (as an eight-year-old, in her first television role). Hale and Pace swapped roles soon before recording; Hale was originally going to have played Harvey, while Pace was originally going to have played Len.
  • Stunt legend Eddie Kidd doubles for William Barton in a motorcycle crash scene in part three. This led to the series' regular stunt arranger Tip Tipping walking off the production, as Kidd was apparently not a member of the actors' union Equity. Doctor Who was not, however, in violation of union regulations; Margaret Thatcher's government had abolished the requirement of performers to be Equity members earlier in 1988.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black-and-white full-length cartoon illustration by Christian Adams depicting the Doctor and Ace with seven different ray-gun muzzles pointed at them, along with a single tentacle, with the accompanying caption "All-round trouble: the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) find that nostalgia ain't what it used to be / Doctor Who, 7.35 p.m. BBC1".
  • This was the last story until 2012 to feature the face of the current Doctor in the title sequence, a tradition dating back to The Macra Terror in 1967. The TV Movie that followed this and the first six and a half series of the 2005 revival had title sequences featuring a "time tunnel" effect with the TARDIS, but without the Doctor's face. The TV movie did include an extreme close-up of the Master's cat's eyes in the opening sequence, harkening back to this story. The Doctor's face would not be seen in the title sequence again until The Snowmen, approximately 23 years later. Survival is also the last Doctor Who story in which the lead actors are not credited at the opening, a practice used in the TV movie (in accordance with American production standards) and later in the 2005 revival.
  • The tradition of crediting the lead role as "The Doctor" did not immediately follow into the revived series, nor was there any such credit in the TV movie. The first series of the revived series credited the lead as "Doctor Who", though the credit reverted to "The Doctor" at the request of David Tennant in TV: The Christmas Invasion, and has continued as of 2021.
  • Midge's unexplained death is because BBC executives considered the original scripted fate for him (after he loses the motorbike-chicken game with the Doctor, the Master has the other cheetah-infected boys tear him apart for showing weakness) unacceptably gruesome.
  • Rona Munro approached Andrew Cartmel at a BBC script writing workshop and said that she'd "kill to write for Doctor Who".
  • Extras struggled with the cheetah suits in the hot weather. Reportedly, there was a delay in filming after one of the extras just stripped out of her suit and walked off set in her underwear having had enough.
  • According to Andrew Cartmel, the initial draft of the script did not feature the Master at all, and he was introduced because John Nathan-Turner wanted at least one story in the season to feature a "name" villain.
  • Paterson was originally a police sergeant (and it was in this capacity that he investigated complaints of the Doctor's behaviour), but this was changed to a Territorial Army sergeant as the producer did not want a negative portrayal of a policeman.
  • Rona Munro's original conception of the Cheetah People had been as basically human creatures, albeit with cat-like eyes and fangs, and perhaps a vaguely feline mouth.
  • In the original script, Ace was to burn Karra's body on a funeral pyre made up of the two wrecked motorcycles — connecting with her pyromania.
  • Originally, the Doctor was to transport both himself and the Master back to Perivale after their climactic duel on the planet of the Cheetah People. The Master would then confront the Doctor as to his true nature, accusing him of being something other than a Time Lord. The Doctor admits that he has evolved and is not "just" a Time Lord, before describing himself as "multi-talented". The Master then uses a Kitling lurking nearby to escape. John Nathan-Turner felt that this scene was too explicit in casting doubt on the Doctor's past, and had it excised, with the Doctor now returning to Earth alone.
  • The motorcycle duel between the Doctor and Midge was to have taken place in a disused lot or building site — thus better explaining the seemingly miraculous appearance of the old abandoned sofa on which the Doctor is shown to have landed.
  • It was Sylvester McCoy's idea to have a poster for Cats on the wall of the youth centre.
  • According to Andrew Cartmel, the production hired a man who had created a very good animatronic dog for the sitcom I Lovett to animated the black cat. They then discovered that cats are inherently more difficult because of their smaller size.
  • Rona Munro was disappointed by the realisation of the Cheetah People: "[They] should have just had cheetah eyes and a very faint pigmentation round of cheetah spots, and big canine teeth. And in fact, I think the actors that were cast, from what I was told, were doing all this wonderful expressive facial work, and then these 'Puss In Boots' things were dropped on them – and so then you can't see what they're doing under there. Particularly Karra and Ace, there were whole amazing scenes between them and for me, that was supposed to be my lesbian subtext – and you can't see it!"
  • There was originally a scene, abandoned due to lack of time, in which the Doctor tried to stuff a large gold coin into Ange's donations tin. He finally got the coin to drop by tapping it with one finger — which was meant to foreshadow the Doctor's later subduing of Paterson in a similar fashion.
  • Sophie Aldred managed to strike up a conversation with Anthony Ainley through their shared love of cricket.
  • John Nathan Turner called the story an oddball. He added the Master as buffer against a new writer.
  • Sylvester McCoy liked the story, but felt that it didn't quite work.
  • Anthony Ainley recalled that for the Doctor and the Master's final confrontation, Sylvester McCoy found the contact lenses he had to wear painful. Ainley accidentally struck him in the wrist with the bone and apologised. McCoy quipped that thanks to the pain in his wrist he couldn't feel the pain in his eyes.
  • Anthony Ainley had such difficulty speaking with fangs that he would remove the bottom set.
  • Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Anthony Ainley all shared the same birthday.


The Seventh Doctor and Ace walk off as the classic series' final episode comes to an end.

Having surmised that part three of Survival was likely to be the last episode of Doctor Who for some time and possibly the last ever, producer John Nathan-Turner decided close to airing that a more suitable conclusion should be given to the final episode. Script editor Andrew Cartmel wrote a short, melancholic closing monologue for the Doctor, which Sylvester McCoy recorded on 23 November 1989 — by coincidence, the show's twenty-sixth anniversary.

"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's getting cold! Come on, Ace — we've got work to do!"

The quote above was dubbed over the closing scene as the Doctor and Ace walked off into the distance, heading for further, unseen adventures. The Doctor Who production office at the BBC finally closed down, for the first time since 1963, in August 1990.

Although Survival was the last Doctor Who serial of the original series to be transmitted, it was not the last to be produced; that was Ghost Light, which had been broadcast some weeks earlier.

This story is the last to feature Anthony Ainley as the Master. He was not asked to return as the Master for the 1996 Doctor Who television movie. Instead, Gordon Tipple was cast as the Master for the prologue, and Eric Roberts played the Master (possessing another character's body, a-la Ainley) for the rest of the film. Ainley reprised the role of the Master for the 1997 computer game Destiny of the Doctors, which marked his final appearance as the character until his death. He continued to be active in Doctor Who, attending conventions and recording a commentary track for the DVD release of the 1981 serial The Keeper of Traken. Ainley died on 3 May 2004 after a lengthy period of ill-health, aged seventy-one. A sound-clip of his laugh was later used alongside excerpts of Roger Delgado's performance in The Dæmons for the 2007 episode Utopia.

This story was also the last to entirely feature Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. McCoy returned briefly to the role in 1996 at the start of the American television movie continuation of the series, Doctor Who, to regenerate into the Eighth Doctor.

Finally, this story was the last to feature Sophie Aldred as Ace. Aldred would have continued in her role had the series been renewed for Season 27; however, her contract was set to expire at the middle part of that season. The character of Ace was set to be written out of the series in an Ice Warrior story called Ice Time by Marc Platt, with her character joining the Prydonian Academy on Gallifrey to become a human Time Lord. According to interviews with the production team, the new companion would have been a female safecracker named Raine Cunningham, whom the Doctor would have taken under his wing, with her gangster father as a recurring character.

Doctor Who eventually returned to production as a BBC television series in 2004, produced by BBC Wales. Rose, the first episode of the new series, aired on 26 March 2005. As the new series is produced as 45-minute episodes, this makes Survival the final serial in the series proper to date to be produced in 25-minute instalments, which had been the standard for the series since 1963 (except for a one-season experiment with forty-five-minute episodes in 1985). A spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which debuted in 2007, returned to the 25-minute, serialised episode format.


  • Part one - 5.0 million viewers
  • Part two - 4.8 million viewers
  • Part three - 5.0 million viewers

Filming locations[]

  • The battle at the climax of the story was recorded and is set on the site of the ancient hill fort at Horsenden Hill, Perivale. The majority of location recording was done in and around Perivale, with small sections shot at nearby Ealing, outside and near The Drayton Court pub.
  • Medway Drive, Perivale, London
  • Medway Parade, Perivale, London
  • Medway Estate, Perivale, London
  • Bleasdale Avenue, Perivale, London
  • Colwyn Avenue, Perivale, London
  • Alley (between Colwyn Avenue and Woodhouse Avenue), Perivale, London
  • Horsenden Hill, Horsenden Lane North, Perivale, Middlesex
  • The Avenue, West Ealing, London
  • Ealing Central Sports Ground, Horsenden Lane South, Perivale, London
  • Woodhouse Avenue, Perivale, London
  • EYJ Martial Arts Centre (now known as David Lloyd Centre (creche)), Greenford, Middlesex
  • Warmwell Quarry, Warmwell, Dorset

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The production team's efforts to use an early audio-animatronic cat was unconvincing; there is an extremely obvious variance between shots that use a real black cat and ones that use the 'robot double'.
  • In part two (on the VHS release), there is an obvious Power of Kroll-esque juddering between the special effects alien pink sky of the planet and the quarry location, which occurs in the long shot as the Doctor and Paterson ride away from the Cheetah camp prior to the characters' conversation regarding "worm stew". (This has been digitally stabilised for the DVD release.)


  • The gap between Survival and the Doctor Who television movie was filled by British publisher Virgin Publishing, who from 1991 onwards produced the Virgin New Adventures range of novels, carrying on the adventures of the Doctor and Ace following the end of Survival.
  • The Master rids himself of the Cheetah virus and gains a new body in PROSE: First Frontier; a Kitling also appears in that story.
    • However, at the start of the 1996 TV movie, the Master is shown still sporting cat's eyes (and apparently in the same body). Yet because these yellow eyes are only explicitly seen when the Master possesses Bruce's body, they may just serve as a visual indication of the latter's possession (while also harking back to Survival).
      • By the time of the Master's next appearance after that (TV: Utopia) there is no longer any visible sign of the affliction. He had since been "resurrected" by the Time Lords.

DVD, video, and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

Survival uk dvd.jpg
Survival region1.jpg
  • This story was released as Doctor Who: Survival (2 discs).
  • It was released:
  • Contents:
    • Commentary by Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Andrew Cartmel
    • Fan Commentary by the winners of a recent Doctor Who Magazine competition (Part 3 only).
    • Cat-Flap - A two-part documentary covering the making of Survival.
    • Out-takes
    • Continuities
    • Photo Gallery
    • Isolated Score
    • Radio Times Listings
    • Subtitle Production Notes
    • Endgame - A documentary delving into why Doctor Who was cancelled at the end of Season 26 and what might have been in store for the Doctor and Ace if the series had continued into Season 27.
    • Search Out Science - A schools programme featuring the Doctor and Ace, with Stephen Johnson and K9.
    • Little Girl Lost - A retrospective look at the development of Sophie Aldred's character, Ace.
    • Destiny of the Doctors - Anthony Ainley's last appearance as the Master, in these links from the 1997 computer game.
  • Notes:
    • Restoration and remastering for the DVD release (including an optional Dolby Digital 5.1 mix) was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

VHS releases[]

  • This story was released as Doctor Who: Survival.

External links[]