How things change. A mere 17 years ago today, I was a little into my third year at school – Class 3’s room on the ground floor of the main building, just a stone’s throw from the chapel.
At the end of each day, I’d run the mile-or-so to St Denys station and just catch the earlier train home. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be home earlier, or just not to hang around in the dark for the later train. The earlier one also featured real, live girls from the schools in the centre of town.
They must have been impressed by the itchingly nervous, spotty, lanky boy in his fetching brown blazer with gold braid. Especially if I wasn’t shutting up about Dr Who or comics.
Would have got home and eaten and then settled down to watch episode 3 of “Survival”. Even then, Dr Who was a guilty pleasure – a video of “Brain of Morbius” had proven it wasn’t as good as it used to be, and the schoolmates who dared watch the new stuff spoke of it only in whispers.
But “Survival” seemed like something else, strange and new and amazing. Ace, played by Sophie Aldred, is turning into a wild cat lady, egged on by cat lady Kara (Lisa Bowerman). The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) pursues Ace, hoping to coax her from the lusty desires to do nothing but fight and feast.
It all ties in to script editor Andrew Cartmel’s efforts to develop Ace’s character, and grow her up on screen. Gary Gillatt has also pointed out how similar the feel and locations and emotional depth are to the first new episode, “Rose”.
Yes, the effects are a bit wobbly, the animatronic cats and the Cheetah People make-up are a bit crude, and there’s a rather odd bit when the Doctor plays chicken on a motorbike.
Yet sun-drenched and bright from a mid-summer filming, the coloured-in skies of the Cheetah People’s world are actually rather epic. Anthony Ainley gives his best and most scary performance of the Master, and gives Sylvester something to step up to. Their final confrontation is played as a stand off between two small gods.
Rona Munro’s clever script is also crammed with stuff that my 13 year-old brain was only just starting to notice. There’s this slow-motion sequence of Ace running after Kara...
And at the end Ace has left home – “home” is now the TARDIS, and she and the Doctor walk off to thrilling new adventures, just as the Beeb pulled the plug. (I didn’t know that until a year later, when I started getting DWM.)
But the oddest thing about all this remembrance is that on the same day, Codename Moose would have been eight.