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4.3 out of 5 stars59
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 August 2014
I bought this without a great expectation. I remember the last years of dr who being rubbished at the time. Now I've watched it I entirely revise my opinion. Sylvester McCoy plays the doctor admirably against arch villain the master who is transporting humans to a planet inhabited by man eating cheetahs on horseback. It's a good plot with a grand showdown between good and bad. Anthony Ainley excels in this role especially his first words "Why doctor what an unexpected pleasure. " delivered so politely yet utterly menacingly. These words sum up this hidden gem. What was the beeb up to cancelling this best of British shows. You can see what was in store had the next season been commissioned as an extra on the dvd so you have another good reason to acquire it.
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on 11 June 2012
It's an imperfect product, but there's a lot to enjoy in "Survival"; there were far worse ways the classic series could have bowed out. Anthony Ainley's performance makes you regret he wasn't allowed to play the Master with such dignity most of the time he was in the part. The Cheetah People are excellent, especially when monsters with fur don't often look convincing. It's a sign of how far design had improved by the end of the classic series, standing comparison with that in the new. I particularly like the way they cut the wire with their claws. The attack on the dog-eat-dog mentality fostered by Margaret Thatcher ("if we fight like animals, we die like animals!") is very political, but I have no quarrel with it. Indeed, considering the way Thatcherism has got so hideously out of control over the last thirty years - in her defence, it's probably gone much further than even she intended - it's a fitting tribute to all the show stands for. Paterson seems to be a swipe at the bigoted and aggressive attitudes often encountered in more right-wing institutions such as the armed forces, something which always sits oddly with the respect and affection generally held in the show for the Brigadier and UNIT.
The one scene the story could do without, of course, is that strange business where the Doctor's and Midge's bikes collide and literally vanish into thin air. There's no explanation (not that's easily apparent, anyway) nor justification for it, and it shows that the production team still didn't entirely appreciate how they might be damaging the show's credibility with viewers. You can do a lot of harm trying to be clever. Given that the show was now going to be off the air for sixteen years, though this wasn't fully realised at the time, it's merciful that the final line is lovely.
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on 14 September 2011
Survival has the dubious distinction of being the last classic Doctor Who serial to be screened, (Although Ghostlight was the last to be shot), but it also stands as a genuine classic, and it is all the more regrettable that the BBC axed the show at this point, just as it had returned to its former high standards, following a period of mediocrity from 1985-87.

This story makes excellent use of location filming, and actually makes the stock-in-trade Dr Who quarry actually feel exotic and alien. We have a memorable performance from Lisa Bowerman as Kara, one of the Cheetah people, and she is so believable that we are genuinely sad when her character is murdered by the Master. Julian Paterson is great as a gung-ho TA sergeant thrown into an alien world that is beyond his comprehension. Even Hale and Pace don't spoil the seriousness of the story. Sylvester McCoy is also superb, having toned down the "comedy" performace of his first year, and re-injected magic and mystery into the series. He also avoids any of the overacting and gurning that occasionally spoiled productions such as "Ghostlight" and "Battlefield".

This story succeeds because it creates a dark and sinster atmosphere from the start, and top marks have to go to Dominic Glyn for his brilliant score, one of the best ever heard in Doctor who, and a million times better than the dated, cheesy soundtracks of Keff McCulloch.

There are a few drawbacks though. The Cheetah people's outfits are a bit too fluffy pussy-cat for the role, but the acting rises above this limitation. Also, one can point at the rather unrealistic dead cats seen lying on people's living room floors, but these ultimately are minor quibbles.

Finally, this is also the last story to feature Anthony Aineley's Master and it is far and away his best performance in the role, as well as the best story he was given to work on. In contrast to the pantomime villain seen in stories such as "Timeflight", we have a measured, restrained and infinately more sinister performance, which is a fitting way to remember this actor, the seventh Doctor and the old series..
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on 13 December 2013
I have never seen the final episode before, the BBC's insane plan of pitting Doctor Who against Coronation Street meaning that in my shared student house, we were able to win and see the first 2 episodes, but we lost the vote and never saw the last one, as Coro won!

Its not a bad story, though the menace could be higher. I don't mind the animatronic cats not looking quite like real cats, since they AREN'T real cats, they are kitlings. And I didn't mind the over-furry cheatah people, in fact I had a mental cheer whenever Kara, or another on horseback, appeared. They definitely had a certain menace about them.

The plot was great, and the performances from McCoy, Sophie and Anthony Ainley were all good, even Hale and Pace did a hilarious skit in the shop!

But I feel that the underlying menace did not come through the story on screen as well as it should have.

The extras on the DVD were fantastic, both the very well done Catflap documentaries, and the Endgame documentary on the lost future for the series, following its cancellation.

The voiceover as McCoy and Sophie walk into the distance sent chills down my spine knowing that I would only ever see them hence in the New Adventure novelisations...
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on 11 July 2007
Survival is a watershed story in Doctor Who history and it doesn't disappoint. After this story it was a long wait for new Who and Survival ensured it had a hard act to follow. Sylvester McCoy is at the top of his game here and the 'dark Doctor' of his final season makes for a gripping showdown with his nemesis, the evil Master, played once again by the inimitable Anthony Ainley. The pair of them play cat and mouse for the first couple of episodes, before a thrilling fight at the stories climax leaves..........well, i won't spoil the surprise! Brilliantly directed, superbly acted and full of wonderful performances (Hale and Pace give a wonderful comic turn), this story will not disappoint. Fans of the new series will enjoy this, it fits very much into the style of episodes like 'New Earth'. Enjoy.
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on 20 July 2007
Although no one appeared to be aware that this was to be the last ever Doctor Who, the whole company seemed to have been aware that this was the finish and unlike stories earlier in the broadcast order (not quite the last to be filmed - TV land has a time sense that would awe a Time Lord) the principals put in truly excellent performances with Ace going back to Perrivale to seek out her old friends only to find virtually all of them gone somewhere. When she tells the one old friend she does find that people just don't do that, she's rather brutally reminded that she'd done just that...

The saddest part of this story is the difference between the script writer's vision of the story and what the designers were able to achieve with the ever more limited resources they had to play with - a constant problem throughout the old series. Personally I found the Cheetah People's costumes reasonably OK - they aren't Terran cheetahs after all :-).

Even Athony Ainsley's performance as the Master was restrained (for a performance of the Master).

All-in-all a gem and the final speech from the Doctor was excellent especially as there was no obvious prospect of the series ever returning...
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on 22 April 2007
"Survival" just arrived in Saturday's mail and got a chance to watch quite a lot of it.

Knowing the novelization from Rona Munro is the definitive edition, and how the TV version had to be produced without the gory elements, the fact this story was palatable back then and still manages to retain much of what works for it is stellar enough. Then add another great 5.1 audio remix...

Now add in the extras and documentaries, and this becomes an absolute must-buy. The best documentary of the bunch, "Endgame", has a lot of input from various production, cast, and senior BBC officials as to why the show was canceled and what the future would have been. And if you thought "Eastenders" was a soap opera, you ain't seen nothin' yet. This stuff is great.

As is the piece on Ace's development throughout the 7th Doctor's tenure.

While future releases ('Robot' and 'Timelash'?!) seem a little bit bizarre, 'Survival' was a terrific choice for release, extras and all.
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on 9 July 2012
I am a huge fan of both the classic series and new series, but I started watching classic Doctor Who with this very story. It introduced me to the entire classic series. If you are thinking of buying this purely for the episodes then you shall not be disappointed as they are well presented in seperate parts. Yes, the costumes of the Cheetah People look less than realistic, but taken with a pinch of salt, the story is very enjoyable.
The special features are shared on both discs and offers a two-part documentary on the making of Survival and how and why the show ended suddenly.
But with everything taken into account, the DVD set is well worth the money and a simple must for any Doctor Who fan.
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on 20 November 2009
I really cannot add any more to what has been said in the other reviews regarding storyline, so I shall be brief and to the point.

McCoy and Aldred have found their feet and are in fine form. Anthony Ainley is superb as The Master. The story has many interesting ideas.

I do find myself agreeing with much of the commentary on the DVD, and I'm afraid that the cheap feel of the production is verging on the embarrasing.

I've given this three stars, but that is a scrape. It is down to the professionalism of the cast that this story is watchable.
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on 1 August 2007
Story: 4/5 - Extras: 5/5

"Survival", by Rona Munro, is, if nothing else, very well-timed as the final televised story of the original series of Doctor Who. With its running themes of "survival of the fittest" and companion Ace's struggle to retain her own identity, the story is on one level an allegory to the situation the television series found itself in 1989, cancelled just as it was beginning to rediscover itself and deliver something really special once more.
"Survival" is blessed with a refreshing sense of reality because of the suburban London setting in which much of the action takes place, which grounds the story in a way not unlike the new series, in which many episodes of the first two seasons revolved around the character of Rose and her family living in the council estates of London. Rona Munro, the only female writer to have written solo for the original series of Doctor Who, makes a great effort to make her guest characters seem real, too, with each major guest character displaying distinct human traits. The young guest cast generally respond well to the effort put into the script, and as a result we are witness to a convincing group of young adults who find themselves in an impossible situation, rather than a group of ciphers existing solely to scream and die on cue.
For the fantastical element, we have the much-criticised Cheetah People and their rugged wilderness planet. The Cheetah People costumes divide fans, but I feel that they have a certain beauty that lends credibility to the seductive power that they seem to exert over their human victims. Their planet, meanwhile, is made to seem very atmospheric and alien by the red sky and distant volcanoes. Their minions, the Kitlings, which resemble ordinary black cats, are great until the animatronic version comes out... but the less said about that, probably, the better.
Also returning to the series for the last time is Anthony Ainley as the master, and he delivers one of his best performances, playing up the sinister side of his character with less of the pantomime villainy seen in some of his previous stories. The Master's struggle with the Cheetah within him is intriguing to watch.
One has to admit that the final action sequence, involving a motorbike, is somewhat hare-brained, but the visual effects, for once, can't be faulted. "Survival" goes out with a bang and concludes with a consoling word from the Doctor, reminding us that, perhaps, the end of the series isn't the end of the world after all.
As the final story of the original series, "Survival" gets the bonanza treatment on DVD. There are several documentaries, which cover both the making of "Survival" and the end of the series as whole in great detail. The commentary by cast regulars Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred and script editor Andrew Cartmel is interesting, and there's also an entertaining fan commentary for the final episode of the story. As ever, there is also a variety of excerpts from the archives of relevance to the story. Overall, an excellent DVD package that is well worth the purchase price
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