Friday, August 20, 2010

Flipping Cats!

This week I finally chanced upon the method by which to watch Classic 'Doctor Who' with my wife (she only enjoys the modern series).  When she (exhausted from her theatrical exertions at the Fringe festival) passed into slumber beside me on the couch, I popped 'Survival' in the DVD player and we had a wonderful time!

She was awakened by the synthesized theme music long enough to see one of the villains of the piece: a teleporting alien feline scavenger called a Kitling.  To her, of course, it was 'Basement Cat'.  I lookeded that up here.  Soon she was in dreamland once more.  
And, albeit still conscious, so was I!

'Survival' was the final aired story of classic 'Doctor Who' in 1989. Written by Rona Munro, directed by Alan Wareing, it has a poetic, dream-logic quality and could rightly be called a fairy tale as much as a science fiction story.  Here are some of the things that make it wonderful, despite its (mostly budgetary) limitations.

Here we soon see the Doctor's long-serving companion, Ace, on the run as usual. In three short episodes, she goes on the offense, on the defense, helps someone in need, needs help herself, and leaves her old home behind for her new home.  Always a survivor.

"Don't you know any nice people?  Not power crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy?"

We see the Master again in his 1980's body.  He's on the prowl here, slave to a strange maddening malady turning him more feral.  Hunting, cutting, putting a young man called Midge on a leash, putting Midge under his control, putting Midge to death.  The Master leads his pack, culls the herd, finally gets his claws around the Doctor's throat once more.  And he is seemingly destroyed, but by now we can be sure of his survival.  

"We shall become animals." he snarls, in one of this incarnations' most menacing turns ever.

We see the Doctor trying to catch a cat.  Setting up elaborate traps, but only falling into them himself.  We see him scared and poised to run, but standing his ground.  We see him solve a mystery and pose further questions.  He juggles cat toys and rides a deadly motorcycle chicken race with equal bravery.  
At one point in the final episode he is up-ended and looking foolish on the rubbish heap (where he started long ago), but he saves the day by refusing to give in to his own aggression, and strides off arm in arm with his companion.  

"Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, somewhere else the tea's getting cold.  Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."

It's all here.  The song, even diminished, even humbled by a crescendo of American sci-fi, still remains.  This was a good show and getting better, but all things end.

I praise it here as a personal favorite, not only because August 20th is MY birthday (1976), but the birthday of all three leads in 'Survival', the final classic story.  Sylvester 'The Doctor' McCoy (1943), Anthony 'The Master' Ainley (1932), and Sophie 'Ace' Aldred (1962) are all August 20th Leos in a story about cats!

So 'run beyond the horizon and catch your hunger', but keep your head: 'if we live like animals, we die like animals'!

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