Monday 22 October 2012

699 Survival Part One

"I though you were dead! That's what they said, either dead or go to Birmingham"

EPISODE: Survival Part One
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 22 November 1989
WRITER: Rona Munro
DIRECTOR: Alan Wareing
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Survival

In a suburban London street a man is washing his car observed by a cat when something leaps on him, vanishing in a burst of light just before The Doctor & Ace arrive. They have brought Ace home to Perivale so she can see her old friends. Elsewhere the cat is observing some children playing, a sight also observed by it's master who comments on what he sees. They visit a youth club she used to go to where she finds martial arts classes being run by former army sergeant Patterson who tells her most of her friends have moved on. He remembers Ace's Mum had listed her as missing and tells them four more children had vanished that month. The Doctor takes an interest in the local cats and buys some food to tempt them. The shopkeepers he buys from find their pet cat dead. Ace meets her friend Ange out collecting money for charity who tells here that all her other friends are gone. The cat finds one of the youngsters from the youth club for it's master. The youth is stalked & vanishes. While the Doctor tries to lure a cat to him Ace finds one in a playground before being confronted with a catlike humanoid on horseback which stalks her. She shouts for the Doctor but by the time he arrives she is gone, transported to a desolate alien world where she finds the body of the man seen cleaning his car. The Doctor finally finds a cat, but is grabbed by Patterson, acting for the neighbourhood watch, allowing it to escape. Ace is stalked by the cat person who id distracted by the youth which she kills. Ace is found by her friend Shreela and taken to her other friend Midge as the Doctor chases the cat but is pursued by Patterson. The Doctor finds the cat as Patterson finds him and both are transported to the alien world where they are cornered by a number of the cheetah creatures who take them to their village where The Doctor finds his old foe The Master waiting for him.

That's good stuff there. Straight forward to follow: there's something odd going on with the cat and it turns out it's linked to the cat like people (Cheetah People in the script) on the alien world who in turn are being controlled by the Master, who we got see in the shadows with weird glowy eyes but only is unveiled right at the end. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel moans about both the animatronic cat and the Cheetah People in his book as being effects that spoil the show but both work for me, as does the effect of suddenly getting higher as the victim is stalked, presumably insinuating the moment where the cat is replaced by the Cheetah Person on horseback. And there's a nice little tip of the hat with the teleport effect from Earth to the Cheetah planet: the circular white flash used is in the McCoy title sequence.

In a way there's some nice thematic stuff going on here: in the last two stories Ace has confronted her fear of the haunted house in Perivale and her feelings towards her mother: now she suddenly wants to come back home. She says she wants to see her friends but you wonder if the encounter between her and the baby Audrey has made her want to seek her mother out. But there's not just the Ace stuff going on here: this is the first episode of the final televised story in the original run and also contains the 700th episode of the series. It started with the Doctor taking two people away from their London home in an Unearthly Child comes to an end as he brings a lost girl back home to London. There's some evidence that this idea was floating around with the production team as the idea of getting home keeps popping up throughout the serial.

All of Survival is filmed on location and in fact many of the locations for the story are in Perivale, the town in West London where the story is set, rather than somewhere else substituting for them lending the story an extra element of realism. Colwyn Avenue in Perivale serves at the street where the car is washed while Bleasdale Avenue is where the Tardis lands. Horsenden Hill provides the high ground overlooking the town seen in the story, while Woodhouse Avenue is one of the other streets The Doctor & Ace walk down. The David Lloyd Centre in nearby Greenford stands on the site of the EYC Martial Arts Centre, part of the North Ealing Sports Centre, which was the youth centre in the story. Medway Parade provides the shops with number 20 Medway Parade forming the interior of the shop. Avenue West Ealing provides the pub that Ace goes in while Ealing Central Sportsground is the playground where Ace is attacked by Karra. Finally Colwyn Avenue Alley is the alley that the Doctor chases the cat down.

I'll be honest: casting comedians Gareth Hale & Norman Pace as shopkeepers Len & Harvey looks rather like stunt casting designed to attract a few column inches to the program. In 1993 they made their only other notable venture into straight acting staring as the police detectives Dalziel and Pascoe in a dramatisation of a Pinch of Snuff. When the Dalziel and Pascoe TV Series started three years later they found themselves replaced by Warren Clarke & Colin Buchanan who are now firmly associated with the roles in the minds of the viewing public whereas Hale & Pace's version is long forgotten!

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