Doctor Who #705: Survival Part 2

"Do you know any nice people? You know, ordinary people, not power-crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.29 1989.

IN THIS ONE... To get off Cheetah world, one must give in to it and turn into a Cheetah.

REVIEW: You can add The Stolen Earth to the list of New Who episodes that reference this story, thanks to the scene where a milkman is "vanished" by a Kitling, leaving his truck abandoned. You might also remember Part 1 of Survival making a point of saying the action takes place on a Sunday, a day where nothing happens, a point also made in The Stolen Earth. And what else is in The Stolen Earth/Journey's End two-parter? Davros accusing the Doctor of turning his companions into weapons. And that's the dark side of the Doctor's manipulations concerning Ace since she joined him in Dragonfire. One way of looking at their relationship is that he's been grooming her for big things, teaching her, making her face and defeat her fears, the TARDIS as a metaphor for growing up. Another is to say he's been using her. To trick Fenric, to seek out Light, to do the violent things he says he doesn't want to do (why else forbid her to carry Nitro 9, yet encourage her by always asking for some?). In Survival, this takes a very literal form. Realizing they can only return to Earth and the TARDIS if an Earth native gives in to the lycanthropic influence of the Cheetah world, he not only lets it happen to Ace, but he also suggests it. It's her choice, perhaps, but is it any different than the way the Master treats HIM?

Giving in to this strange effect is equivalent to giving in to one's animal instincts - aggression and selfishness - and on this world, the more intellectual path the Doctor represents, one of understanding and pacifism, is progressively closed off. Perhaps that's what pushes him to callously give his companion over to it. He's not immune. The effect is evident to anyone who's watched the rest of the season. The sequence in which the Doctor shouts at the humans to stop running and fighting, lest the Cheetah People kill them, is an echo of Battlefield's much more successful attempt. On Earth, the Doctor can stop two armies from fighting. On this decaying world - the parable being that we destroy our world with every act of violence and that such acts are against the natural order - the Doctor can't stop scared teenagers from attacking fearsome, clawed predators, even when it's against their best interests. And it's not like the Cheetah People are inherently violent despite being meat eaters. Their reputation is that they're a fun-loving people, and the Doctor finds their cruel behavior towards their prey unusual (even if it mirrors what we know of cats). The Doctor's values are under attack in this story, and the universe itself seeks to corrupt him and his companion.

Obviously, the Master has always been a kind of corrupting element in Doctor Who, often representing what the Doctor might have become without his particular moral compass guiding him. This was lost during Anthony Ainley's tenure in the role, as the character became more and more pantomimic, an outrageous and frequently ridiculous two-dimensional villain dropped into stories that had no real need of him. We haven't seen him in a few years, and the break (and perhaps, a new writing team) has done him a world of good. THIS Ainley Master is worthy of the name, has a much better costume, and though his howling at the moon is in keeping with the character's campy past, his performance is the most restrained he's ever given. I can believe this Master is the Doctor's opposite, a manipulator just like the seventh incarnation (who may just be the closest to the Master any Doctor's ever been), running around with his own companion, Midge... on a leash! This is shaping up to be a real fight between Good and Evil, one that includes a Last Temptation for the Doctor.

REWATCHABILITY: High - After viewing, I want to give each chapter of Survival a Medium-High, but then I start writing, and I'm forced to admit how strong the themes are, and just have to upgrade their rating.



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