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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doctor Who - Survival
Doctor Who - Survival
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // August 14, 2007
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Nick Lyons | posted October 3, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
The 3-part "Survival," which aired in 1989, turned out to be the final episode of the classic "Dr. Who" series. It would be 8 years before the "Dr. Who" TV movie and another 8 years before the series was resurrected in 2005. As a finale, the episode is rather unspectacular, but as with most "Dr. Who" episodes, it's entertaining nonetheless.

The plot: The Doctor and Ace travel back to Ace's hometown of Perivale only to find people have vanished. After some investigating, the two are whisked to another world to discover the odd Cheetah People and the Master are behind the disappearances. Can the Doctor and Ace survive the two foes and avoid the world's strange powers?

"Survival" is a rather silly episode with obvious themes about the survival of the fittest and a person's animalistic nature. Even sillier are the teleporting cats and cheetahs who rid horses and howl like coyotes. Why Cheetahs (the fastest animals on Earth) need to ride horses is beyond me. As the episode nears the conclusion, however, the story really picks up. I know some fans were no doubt angry about the ending, but I felt it was fitting. I think an elaborate grandiose ending would have been defeated the purpose of the show. I'd much rather see what did happen- the Doctor faced off against the Master, the Master disappears, the Doc and Ace walk off towards the Tardis before embarking on another adventure. It's a perfect send-off if you think about it.

Even with the story flaws the episode is saved by the marvelous cast. Sophie Aldred as Ace is hands down one of the best companions of all time. Instead of standing in the corner and shrieking like Mel, Ace takes action and fights back (see Ace attack the Cybermen in "Silver Nemesis"). Sylvester McCoy is also memorable as the Doctor. I know fans either love him or hate him, but I personally like McCoy. Having McCoy's Doctor revert back to a more secretive and heroic figure was a smart move on the showrunners part. I was also a fan of the decision to make the Doctor become a father figure to Ace. It is certainly more appealing than the Doctor falling in love with his companions like in the new series.

Last, but not least, it was nice to see Anthony Ainley as the Master. While not quite as riveting as Roger Delgado, Ainley held his own, especially when he had scenes with the Doctors (see "Mark Of The Rani" for a great performance).

The DVD

Video:
The 4:3 fullscreen picture arguably looks as good if not better than the original broadcast. I did notice some fuzz during the dusty scenes.

Sound: The stereo track picked up way too much background noise and often contained overly loud music and sound f/x like the cheetahs growling.

Extras: Disk 1:

* 16 1/2 minutes of outtakes.

* Radio Times Listings.

* Photo gallery.

* Isolated music score.

* 9 minutes of extended and deleted scenes including alternate openings and endings of part 1.

* BBC commercials for "Survival."

* Subtitles and Info text that can play during each part.

* "Cat Flap" Parts 1 and 2- A 62 minute making of "Survival" that discusses how Ace matures, how "Cat Flap" was the original title of "Survival," and the complications of the yellow contact lenses, motorbikes, and the funky mechanical cat.

* A commentary track by Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Andrew Cartmel. To be honest, this is a quiet and rather flat commentary track. There's a lot of ass-kissing and discussions about crane shots, lack of money, and so forth. It lacks the humor and fun of the Tom Baker commentaries.

* Commentary by the editor of "Doctor Who" magazine and 3 fans (who won a contest)on part 3 only- Now this is a great commentary track! Everyone seems to be having the time of their life as the pick apart the episode. The highlight- talking about how sad it is that the Master has resorted to recruiting youth club members.

Disk 2:

* "Destiny of the Doctors"- 14 minutes of video game footage of Anthony Ainley.

* "Little Girl Lost"- A splendid 16 1/2 minute featurette on the evolution of the character Ace. Interviews with Sophie Aldred and writers are included.

* "Search Out Science"- An educational school program that discusses the shape of the Earth and Moon, etc. K-9, Ace, and McCoy's Doctor narrate and appear in the program. If I saw this program at school as a child I would have jumped up with excitement.

* Subtitles.

* Endgame- A 44 minute look at the end of "Doctor Who." The highlight includes discussions of episodes and story arcs that could have occurred in season 27 such as Ace becoming a Time Lord and the return of the Ice Warriors.

Final Thoughts:
"Survival" may not be one of the best episodes, but it's worth picking up to see how the classic series came to an end. In addition, the DVD is jam-packed with extras that will delight Whovians everywhere.

Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.

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