50 for 50 — The Greatest Stories in Doctor Who History — #28

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The classic era of Doctor Who drew to a close on a pleasingly memorable high note with Rona Munro’s satisfying and intelligently written tale Survival.

This not only brought out the best from Sylvester McCoy, but was surely Anthony Ainley’s finest hour as the Master, exchanging a sometimes pantomime-like performance for a superb portrayal of evil desperation that any great thespian should be proud of.  In this dark story, which thoughtfully explores the concept of ‘home’, the manipulative renegade is trapped in a dire predicament where the influence of the Cheetah planet is causing his own ‘animal’ nature to start taking over and he is determined to free himself from the fate of evolving into one of the Cheetah people himself. The dramatic scene of the Doctor confronting the Master, framed by the backdrop of the fiery red sky of a disintegrating planet, certainly leaves an indelible impression on the memory.

Survival also persevered with the rewarding character development and growing maturity of Ace, which was a feature of the 26th Season, complementing the theme of evolution that was central to this serial. Finally, the notion of belonging and attachment to a particular place is exquisitely challenged when Ace rejects Perivale and the rest of her past in favour of the Tardis and the inevitable uncertainty that it brings.

As a piece of quality drama, Survival deserves a place in the top 50 in its own right, but this is further cemented by its significance as a fitting finale to the classic era and a huge punctuation mark in the overall history of Doctor Who.

There are many who would say that, after 26 years, the show had become tired and had forgotten how to take itself seriously – but as the Doctor and Ace strolled off to stop the tea from getting cold in another world, Survival thankfully left us with a very positive ‘final’ remembrance of something very special – and it left us hungry (as a starving cat) for more..  — Alan

Andy’s #28 — The Dæmons
David’s #28 — The Doctor’s Wife
Steve’s #28 — The Dalek Invasion of Earth

No new Doctor Who next week?  Fear not!  We have a new countdown selection with #27… next week.