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A Cheetah Person Serial 7P:

Working Titles: Cat Flap, Blood Hunt, The Survival.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace).

Ace returns to Perivale to visit her friends, only to find many of them have gone missing. The Doctor discovers that they have been abducted to an alien planet by a race called the Cheetah People. Pursuing them, the time travellers find the Cheetah People are being controlled by the Master, who is trapped on the planet, and is slowly turning into a Cheetah Person himself. The Doctor must find a way off the planet, before they all succumb to the dying world's animalistic influences.

Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel had met Rona Munro at a BBC writers' training course, and invited her to submit ideas to the production office. Munro's storyline involved the Cheetah People, who hunted humans. Cartmel and producer John Nathan-Turner liked the concept, but wanted a return appearance by the Master for Season Twenty-Six, and asked Munro to incorporate him into her synopsis. The first episode of Munro's amended story, entitled Cat Flap, was commissioned on November 16th, 1988. As had been the case throughout the McCoy era, the final six episodes of Season Twenty-Six would comprise two three-part adventures, one made entirely on location and the other just in the studio; Cat Flap would occupy the former slot and would be the season's third serial into production, albeit the fourth and final one broadcast.

Several changes were made to Munro's storyline as she prepared her drafts. In particular, Cartmel asked the writer to better clarify the relationship between the Cheetah People, the Kitlings and their planet through dialogue. Paterson was originally a police officer instead of a retired Army Sergeant, and it was in this capacity that he investigated complaints of the Doctor's behaviour. His occupation was changed because the production office was concerned about portraying an officer of the law as behaving as violently as Paterson in the serial's late stages. Ace was also to burn Karra on a funeral pyre, connecting with her pyromania -- as suggested by her general fascination with Nitro Nine and made explicit in the season's studio-bound story, Ghost Light, in which Ace is revealed to have burned down an old mansion. 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 sofa on which the Doctor lands. Also, there was originally a scene in which the Doctor tries to stuff a large gold coin in Ange's donations tin. He finally gets the coin to drop by tapping it with one finger. This was meant to foreshadow the late scene where the Doctor similarly subdues Paterson.

Around April 1989, Cat Flap was renamed Blood Hunt and then The Survival, before the definite article was dropped to leave the title as simply Survival. The director assigned to the season's final six episodes was Alan Wareing, who had last worked on The Greatest Show In The Galaxy the year before. Rejoining Doctor Who was Anthony Ainley as the Master, making his first appearance in the programme since the final two episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord three years earlier. 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. The writer was therefore displeased with the far more literal interpretation of the name by make-up designer Joan Stribling.

Production on Serial 7P began on June 10th, at various locations in the Perivale region of London. A major change was made to episode three while taping on June 12th. 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 is not "just" a Time Lord, before describing himself as "multi-talented". The Master then uses a Kitling lurking nearby to escape. 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.

On the final day of recording in London, stunt arranger Tip Tipping had a dispute with famed motorcyclist Eddie Kidd over the motorcycle duel between the Doctor and Midge. Although Tipping completed the scene, he left Survival afterward and had to be replaced by Paul Heasman. This was Tipping's final Doctor Who contribution before his tragic death while working on the reality series 999 in 1993. Cast and crew then travelled to Warmwell Quarry in Dorset to film the scenes set on the Cheetah People planet. It had been decided that, for the struggle between the Doctor and the Master, Sylvester McCoy would not wear the cat-like contact lenses made for those "infected" by the planet, although a pair had been fashioned for him. At the last minute, though, McCoy elected to wear them anyhow. Taping then concluded on June 23rd.

While post-production was ongoing, it was becoming clear to Nathan-Turner and Cartmel that Season Twenty-Seven was going to be at the very least delayed, and possibly not occur at all. This would make Survival potentially the final Doctor Who story to be broadcast, and they felt that the serial should therefore end on an appropriate note; at this point, episode three simply concluded with the Doctor and Ace deciding to go back to the TARDIS. Cartmel wrote extra dialogue for McCoy and Sophie Aldred, to be dubbed over a scene of the two time travellers walking together into the distance.

Survival was Munro's only Doctor Who story, and also marked Ainley's final appearance in the programme. However, Ainley did return to play the Master for the Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors CD-ROM video game, released in 1998; he passed away following an illness on May 3rd, 2004. Meanwhile, Lisa Bowerman, who played Karra, would rejoin the Doctor Who fold (in a sense) when she took on the role of Bernice Summerfield -- one of the companions introduced in the New Adventures line of original Doctor Who novels -- for a series of audio plays produced by Big Finish Production beginning in 1998.

Survival episode three was broadcast on December 6th, 1989. Not only did it mark the end of Doctor Who in the Eighties, but it also brought its time as an ongoing series to a close. There would be no Season Twenty-Seven. But, as Mark Twain might have put it, the reports of the death of Doctor Who were greatly exaggerated...

Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 22nd November 1989 7.36pm 24'14" 5.0m (89th) 69%
2 29th November 1989 7.35pm 24'13" 4.8m (96th) 69%
3 6th December 1989 7.35pm 24'20" 5.0m (91st) 71%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writer Rona Munro
Director Alan Wareing
Designer Nick Somerville
Costume Ken Trew
Incidental Music Dominic Glynn

Principal Guest Cast: Anthony Ainley (The Master), Will Barton (Midge), Lisa Bowerman (Karra), Kate Eaton (Ange), Gareth Hale (Len), Julian Holloway (Paterson), David John (Derek), Norman Pace (Harvey), Sakuntala Ramanee (Shreela).

Novelisation: Survival by Rona Munro (book 150), September 1990; cover by Alister Pearson.

Video Release: Survival, episodic format, October 1995; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 5687) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1335) formats available; cover by Colin Howard.

Rankings: 52nd (69.85%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 54th (72.24%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).


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