Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold!
I ain't gonna lie: I teared up a bit at 7:37 am when I reached the closing credits of the final episode of the Classic Who era. In one way it feels like I have been doing this ridiculous project forever, and in another it seems like only yesterday that I stepped on the Time Treadmill and said hello to Susan, Ian, Barbara, and the Doctor for the first time. I still have about another four months to go before I complete the entire project, but to day was a huge milestone. As of this morning I can say with absolute certainty that I have watched every single episode of Doctor Who that has ever been broadcast (including the lost episodes, in the form of reconstructions). Along the way I have completely transformed my body and my health. That's no small thing.
As for this last story, well, it was a bit of a disappointment. So let's talk about that.
Survival - Parts 1, 2, & 3
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
The plot of Survival is reasonably straightforward. The Doctor brings Ace home to then-modern-day Perivale, where she wants to visit her old group of friends. Unfortunately most of them are missing, and the town has a serious stray cat problem. Not surprisingly, the stray cats turn out to actually be alien hunters who teleport their prey back to their homeworld. The plot moves back and forth between Perivale and the Planet of the Cheetahs, with an additional sub-plot involving the Master who had become trapped on CatWorld. The planet infects anyone who spends too much time there, turning them into giant humanoid felines. The Master is already infected, and ultimately Ace becomes infected as well.
First of all the good: Anthony Ainley's performance here as the Master is easily his best ever. This is largely because he is finally allowed to play the Master as a much darker, controlled character instead of the over-the-top Pantomime villain he was forced into for his other appearances. Instead of gleeful taunts and evil laughter, Ainley plays it straight as a sinister and controlling fiend. Would that he had been written that way all along.
Also good, as usual, are Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred - particularly the scenes towards the end when Ace is struggling to avoid the transformation into an animal while the Doctor grimly tries to keep her anchored in humanity. The two have been magical together from day one, and at least on that front they got to go out strong.
Unfortunately, the bad is pretty bad. After a rocky start with Time and the Rani, the production designers really managed to do amazing things with very little budget. Aside from that first stumble they strung together ten stories that made the most with what they had, and in the case of The Curse of Fenric they rose well above their station. Then along comes Survival with obviously bad black cat puppets, and even worse Cat People costumes. I can appreciate when a show's reach exceeds its grasp, and Lord knows Doctor Who has a long and proud history of shockingly bad creature effects. That being said, it was something that the Seventh Doctor era managed to avoid for almost its entire run, and to have it go out on such a weak visual design really hurts.
Even so, the story goes out on a lovely poetic note. When it became obvious that the show was not going to return to air any time soon, a closing voiceover monologue was written for Sylvester McCoy to perform as the Doctor and Ace stride off into the sunset just before the credits roll. As fate would have it, that voiceover was recorded on November 23, 1989 - exactly twenty six years to the day that the show originally premiered.
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold! Come on, Ace — we've got work to do!"
And so it is that my time with Ace has come to an end - Sophie Aldred has never returned to the televised program. I do get to spend a few more minutes with the Seventh Doctor tomorrow morning before he is gunned down and regenerates, so that will be nice. Tomorrow it's the 1996 TV movie, and then Wednesday I begin with the modern series.
It's all going by so quickly!
Episode(s): Survival - Parts 1, 2, & 3
Steps Walked: 9,267 today, 2,523,725 total
Distance Walked: 4.58 miles today, 1,309.23 miles total
Push-ups Compleeted: 33 today, 244 total
Weight: 250.06 lbs (five day moving average), net change -57.24 lbs