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Serial Code


First Transmitted

22 November 1989

Final Ratings







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Regular Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace)

Guest Cast
Anthony Ainley (The Master), Julian Holloway (Paterson), Lisa Bowerman (Karra), Norman Pace (Harvey) [1], Gareth Hale (Len) [1], William Barton (Midge), Sakuntala Ramanee (Shreela), David John (Derek), Sean Oliver (Stuart) [1], Kate Eaton (Ange) [1], Kathleen Bidmead (Woman) [1], Adele Silva (Squeak) [3], Michelle Martin (Neighbour) [3]., Adele Silva (the girl)


Written by Rona Munro
Directed by Alan Wareing
Produced by John Nathan Turner


The Doctor takes Ace back home to Perivale so she can catch up with her old friends. But Perivale has changed, the old gang has split up, and some of them have vanished without trace. They are not the only ones – West London is plagued by unexplained disappearances.

Before long the mysterious kidnappers make themselves known. A race of galactic hunters called the Cheetah people have found a way to transport themselves to Earth – and the entire human race is their prey. They have been shown the doorway to the planet by an old foe of the Doctor, a bitter and desperate enemy who needs The Doctor’s help to free him from a diabolic enchantment.

As The Doctor tries to unravel the mystery, Ace finds some of her old friends, trapped on the savage and beautiful world of the Cheetah People. But the only way she can lead them to safety is to allow herself to succumb, like so many before her, to the curse of the planet.

The Doctor realises that Ace’s new powers will provide the only route home, but it will mean the sacrifice of her humanity to the most bestial and dark side of human nature…


  • Working titles for this story included Cat-Flap, Blood Hunt and The Survival.
  • Survival was one of only three Doctor Who serials to be recorded completely on BBC Outside Broadcast video, instead of the mix of OB and studio video that was more usual during the late 1980s, and the mix of film and video before them. This was probably possible because Ghost Light, the next story in production, was filmed completely in the studio. The other stories to be recorded solely on OB video were The Sontaran Experiment and The Curse of Fenric.
  • The part of Karra in this serial is played by Lisa Bowerman, now more familiar to fans as the voice of Bernice Summerfield in the Big Finish Productions audio dramas.
  • This serial features guest appearances of the comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace and actress Adele Silva (as an eight-year old, in her first television role). Hale and Pace swapped roles soon before recording, Hale was to have played Harvey and Pace Len.
  • Stunt legend Eddie Kidd doubles for William Barton in a motorcycle crash scene in Part 3. This led to the series’ regular stunt arranger Tip Tipping walking off the production, as Kidd was apparently not a member of the actors’ unedition Equity. Tipping’s anger was arguably misplaced, however. Margaret Thatcher’s government had abolished the requirement of performers to be Equity members earlier in 1988. In other words, Doctor Who was not in violation of any then-current union regulations. Tipping’s beef was really with the changes Thatcher – and not John Nathan-Turner – had brought in.
  • This story was the last to feature the face of the current Doctor in the title sequence, a tradition dating back to The Macra Terror until The Snowmen in 2012. The TV Movie that followed this and the first six and a half series of the 2005 revival had title sequences featuring a “time tunnel” effect with the TARDIS, but without The Doctor’s face. The TV movie did include an extreme close-up of The Master’s cat’s eyes in the opening sequence, harkening back to this story. It is also the last Doctor Who story in which the lead actors are not credited at the opening, a practice used in the movie and later in the 2005 revival.
  • In the novelisation, Derek escapes the planet but is later killed by Midge in Cheetah form. Len and Harvey are both transported to the Cheetah World.
  • The three lead actors in this story – Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Anthony Ainley – were all born on 20 August in 1932, 1962 and 1943 respectively.
  • David John (Derek) would play Ace’s younger brother Liam McShane in The Rapture.

    Order Survival BBC DVD
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