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131b. Survival of the Fittest

Synopsis
(3-Part Story)

The hive of the Vrill bears the scars of a terrifying cataclysm. Only a handful remain alive, hatched after the holocaust of the mysterious Winterlack. The Vrill seek a new Authority. They find the Doctor, a two-legged creature who can lead them to survival. He must solve the mystery of the Carrion beast that haunts the lower chambers. He must face the Winterlack that still stalk the mountains. And he must find a path that does not lead to extinction...
Starring
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Elizabeth Klein), Rupert Wickham (Faber), Adrian Bower (Steffen), Hannah Smith (Rose), Evie Dawnay (Lilly), Mark Donovan (Jackson), Alex Mallinson (The Carrion), Paul McGann (Johann Schmidt)
Written By
Directed By
John Ainsworth

Ratings

RatingMembers
10
(13)
9
(19)
8
(40)
7
(19)
6
(11)
5
(1)
4
(0)
3
(0)
2
(0)
1
(0)
8
103 rating(s) submitted

100% (8/8) of raters say this story requires listening to previous stories.

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Rated 10/10 on 3/2/14 8:22 pm
Rated 8/10 on 2/25/14 7:16 am
Rated 8/10 on 2/1/14 10:40 am
Rated 9/10 on 1/26/14 1:21 pm
Rated 9/10 on 12/18/13 1:58 pm
Rated 7/10 on 12/4/13 1:52 am
Rated 7/10 on 11/20/13 11:31 am
Rated 9/10 on 10/30/13 5:36 pm
Rated 8/10 on 10/1/13 12:50 am
Rated 9/10 on 8/14/13 11:26 am

Reviews

(Highest - Lowest)

10
Review By Wordsmith
Rated 10/10 on 9/23/10 5:11 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
I've just listened to this again and it's brilliantly realised. While Klein's Story is a bit 'by the numbers' but interesting enough for fleshing out her character, Survival of the Fittest is a great concept with the smell/sounds crossover working so exceptionally well on audio. Perhaps because it was trimmed to three episodes, it doesn't outstay its welcome either.
8
Review By komodo
Rated 8/10 on 4/30/13 9:07 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
My third listen to this and I have concluded that this is a very good story, yet appears to be a poor story padding out a trilogy.

It has two very solid strengths. First the exploration of the TARDIS's language abilities, particularly in how it works with a scent based language was very fascinating and well thought out. Being able to hear the voices of the past changed the whole communication method.

The second strength of the story was the last ten minutes and the way the next story was set up.

In fact all the cliff hangers were good.
Reviewer Says: Previous stories required!
8
Review By Eiphel
Rated 8/10 on 8/18/10 5:33 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Klein's Story is a great little nugget of character history. Survival of the Fittest, on the other hand, is stranger fruit. It opens some time after Klein's story, and I confess at this point I threw up my hands and cried 'What have they done?' If you're going to bring back a decade-old character to capitalise on the fantastic material she provides, it's crazy to have a great chunk of her development happening off screen! I understand why it was done - Klein needs to be in the position she has reached for the purposes of these two stories - but when there is clearly so much more material to be had, it feels like the solution would have been to keep her around for longer. Or perhaps to take a leaf out of Key 2 Time or the Jamie trilogy's book, and include a tie-in Companion Chronicle to cover the missing events.

As it is, the story opens with a more open-minded Klein in a fairly traditional, friendly relationship with the Doctor. It's exactly the sort of mellowing of the character I was concerned would occur. That said, it's not terrible. Had we reached this point more gradually it would have been completely acceptable. It's just to jump from the anger and awkwardness of the atmosphere in Klein's Story to the far more traditional companion relationship in Survival is jarring and disappointing. Klein comes off in the early minutes as far too starry-eyed and innocent. Some of this fades away, but some of it persists. It's hard to understand why Klein sides with the Vrill when she recognises that the argument against them is the very ideology she supports. Some of her behaviour can be understood as her desire to convince the Doctor that he's changed her (the wide-eyed behaviour at the beginning, for instance), but some of it, like her sympathy for the Vrill, is clearly her genuine feeling. Of course, this is partially the point - to portray a contradiction in Klein's thinking - but once Klein has realised this is the case it's strange that she doesn't reconsider things in light of it.

Whilst this is a sizable niggle, it's the only one, and ultimately Survival of the Fittest is a very good story. It's trad sci-fi in a 50s/60s heyday mold, with some really strong ideas. In particular, the Vrill are a very intelligently designed, brilliantly realised race. With aliens grounded in real-world animals, there tends to be a lot of silliness, clich├ęs and genericism, but taking the concept of aliens with a bee-like social system (there's that trad SF vibe), Johnathan Clements has produced a detailed and original race. In particular the smell-language is a strong suite of intermeshed ideas that produce something very coherent and rather intriguing.

Special mention should be made at this point to the sound design guys, who have done absolutely excellent work on realising the Vrill. Not just their speech, but all the other noises which make up their realisation. It's just a pity the music is so horrible this month (and in places sounds like Torchwood).

The story develops along fairly traditional lines, with human colonists and resource-wars, but whilst it's never radical or unpredictable, neither does it feel tired or old. Similar to Tiny Wings, the Social Darwinism theme (addressed under the rather blanket term of 'fasicism') provides various entertaining character moments, but the discussion never strays from fairly well trodden paths. A sense of missed opportunity is beginning to creep into this trilogy, but it's not a flaw of the story taken in-and-of-itself.

The guest cast are solid - BF hasn't dropped the ball on casting for a fair while now - but the standout performances are Childs and McCoy, who are proving to be one of the range's best pairings. As of the Magic Mousetrap, McCoy seems to have become much better at restraining his performance, and his seasons are becoming notably less variable as a result.

So, the onus is on the Architects of History to really make the arc succesful, but as to the stories themselves, we've got a great little character drama and some intelligent, old-fashioned (in a good way) science fiction. 8/10
7
Review By Gcookscotland
Rated 7/10 on 5/11/13 7:16 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Not impressed with this one.
Reviewer Says: Previous stories required!
6
Review By chriswannell
Rated 6/10 on 7/22/11 1:53 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.
OK in general but to me a mediocre residents verses invaders. It was an interesting concept that the TARDIS could translate scent language into spoken words.
6
Review By jhuxford
Rated 6/10 on 8/18/10 5:33 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.
There's something about giant insects and Dr Who that really don't mix - see the over-ambitious "The Web Planet" from the classic series and the awful "Creed of the Kromon" from BF. It's possible that, logical as it may be that intelligent insects rule the roost elsewhere in the universe, it's just too difficult to sympathize with the motivations of a dung beetle...

It means that. sadly, this release gives itself a mountain to climb from the outset. Even so, the story is relatively strong, and the developing relationship between the Doctor and Klein holds our interest throughout. It also ends on a cracking cliffhanger, that leaves you panting for "Architcts of History."

Overall, then, the weakest in a splendid trilogy - probably the best of the BF miniseries to date. But the continuing arc itself, and the excellent "Klein's Story" which is also in the release, make it well worth the cover price.