Here is my review from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide of this month's DVD release, Survival:
A show that can surviveSurvival can be purchased from here.
The original BBC series began in a London suburb and so it returns to another for its final story. Previously most stories set on contemporary Earth have been set either in a rural environment or around public buildings. Survival differs by taking the TARDIS to a London suburb and materialising outside someone's front door - a dream of many fans. Perivale has been run down by Ace throughout the previous two seasons and we get to see just why she hates it so much. Like many disaffected teenagers she comes from a place where there is little to actually do and so gets caught in a cycle of boredom and despair. No attempt at all is made to glamorise Perivale and so we get an environment that many viewers can truly relate to. Rona Munro's script is fast and packed, focusing heavily on the characters. The Master appears for the first time in three years, but is a far cry from his usual schemes to either conquer a planet or destroy the Doctor. Here he merely wishes to escape from the planet of the Cheetah People before he is transformed into one himself. Anthony Ainley gives a performance indicating that the Master is much older and wearier than when he last appeared, making for a fine contrast with the Doctor and adding to a sense of foreclosure.
The Cheetah People are not the most detailed race seen in the series but everything sufficient is explained about them so that their true level of threat becomes apparent, as do their origins. Karra gradually develops so that when she appears to help Ace and gets killed by the Master there is a real sense of loss as Ace sees her 'sister' die. The very concept of the Master and Ace and even the Doctor succumbing to the influence of the planet is strong and works as a metaphor for how easy it is to descend into savagery. This subtle parody of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies works and in the process challenges some of the ethics the series has advocated in the past, such as the need to fight.
One of the key themes of the story is where 'home' is for Ace (and in hindsight much can be read into the Doctor's 'home' from this as well). It is telling that when she does take the others 'home' she arrives by the TARDIS and at the end this is where she and the Doctor depart for, showing how she has changed, not only in this story but throughout her time since she first met him. The final monologue as the Doctor and Ace walk off into the sunset makes for a wonderful pause for the series, promising more things to come and making it clear that the show can go on.
This story predominantly revolves around the regular characters, with McCoy, Aldred and Ainley all giving good performances. Most of the rest of the cast are predominantly onlookers, though Julian Holoway (Paterson) gives a tough performance, making the character seem rough and ready despite being the story's symbol of authority. The production is strong as well, with the Cheetah People's planet looking realistic due to the excellent video effects and there are only a few shots where the trickery becomes noticeable, something that would have been exceedingly difficult to have sorted out back in 1989. Survival is a strong story that works both on its own and as a 'last adventure' for the series as it indeed was for some years and ensures that viewers are left wanting more. 9/10