As long-term fans will know, Survival first aired in 1989 and was the last story of the original Doctor Who series. The next series of Doctor Who story to be broadcast was the 2005 Christopher Eccleston series with just the one-off Paul McGann TV Movie airing between the two. As befits a story with such a special status Survival has been granted one of 2|Entertain’s occasional 2 disc releases.
In many ways this story isn’t a million miles removed from the show currently coming out of BBC Wales – the Doctor brings his companion Ace back to contemporary Earth where a reunion with some of her friends propels the pair into an adventure which largely takes place in suburbia.
Along with a mention of Ace’s mum there’s a cameo appearance by two big stars of the day (Hale and Pace) and a wealth of location filming which helps the story avoid the usual accusations of wobbly sets. Oh, and there are ‘cat people’ too.
These similarities shouldn’t be overplayed but their existence is worth noting because this story deserves to picked up and enjoyed by a sizable number of the millions who watch the new series but have yet to sample the classic Who DVD range.
They’re also noted in Cat Flap, a two part documentary on the first disc which looks at the creation and filming of the series including contributions from series regulars Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred plus guest stars including Lisa Bowerman and Will Barton and crew members Andrew Cartmel, Alan Wareing and Mike Tucker.
Doctor Who fans are lucky both that so many of the cast and crew have such good recollections of their time on the show and that the DVD producers are so good at bringing out the best of those recollections.
Cat Flap is an excellent example of this with many of the anecdotes feeling quite fresh – not always easy to do when the subject is an 18 year old piece of work. The documentary feels very comprehensive and by the time part two had finished I came away feeling I knew all there was to know about the production.
As well as the usual cast and crew commentary which accompanies the story there’s a second commentary on episode three featuring winners of a recent Doctor Who Magazine competition.
There’s also a package of deleted and extended scenes plus some outakes, Radio Times listings in pdf format and original BBC One trailers and continuity announcements. For music loving fans there’s an option to view the story with an isolated music score.
The star attraction on disc 2 is ‘Endgame’ which interviews cast and crew members about the reasons for cancellation and plans for the unmade season 27. Those who bemoan what they see as ‘mutual back patting’ on Doctor Who Confidential will find in Endgame all the honesty and frankness that they crave!
Special mention has to go to the fantastic artwork by Rob Hammond which illustrates the discussions of what might have been had the series continued.
The other main inclusion on the second disc is Little Girl Lost, an exploration of the character of Ace and her creation. The discussion of Ace’s relationship with her mother, her views on racism and her falling in love in Curse of Fenric serves as a reminder that Ace, and not Rose, who holds the mantle of the show’s first fully rounded companion.
Rounding off the disc are Search out Science, a schools programme featuring the Doctor and Ace and a selection of links from the Destiny of the Doctors computer game featuring Anthony Ainley’s final appearance as The Master. I recall remarking at time the game was released that these links contain some of Ainley’s better performances in the role. I still think that’s true so it’s great to seem them included.
As I said at the outset this is a special story within the history of the show and it’s great to see 2|Entertain and the Restoration Team have given it an equally special DVD release.
If you’re reading this and have yet to discover the delights of ‘classic Who’ Survival serves as an excellent jumping on point.
Doctor Who: Survival is released on DVD on 16th April and can be pre-ordered from BBC Shop.com