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The Cheetah people from ‘Survival’

I wonder if it’s possible to populate an entire zoo with science-fiction monsters who have the heads of Earth animals. You’d have the Judoon in the rhino enclosure, Planet of the Apes over in the monkey house, Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars in a big lobster pot, and these Cheetah People from the Seventh Doctor adventure Survival (who are known as the Cheetah People because they are effectively cheetahs, crossed with people) roaming the fake safari area, looking for the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland for a quick snack.

The curious thing about these Cheetah folk is that this isn’t their true genetic form. They have been genetically modified into the image of an Earth cheetah by a malevolent planet, which is about to explode. Having been reduced to the status of wild beasts by the change (albeit wild beasts that can tame and ride horses, which, if you know anything about horses and how they generally feel about carrying big cats on their backs, is an almost miraculous feat), they have resorted to making dimension jumps via black cats called kitlings and hunting humans to eat. The Master is helping them, but even he is not immune from the planet’s transformations, having grown long canines and developed a terrible case of cat-eye.

And one of the places they like to hunt is the London suburb of Perivale, home to Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s companion:

So they appear to be somewhere between feral beasts and callous hunting creatures, and it’s only when a Cheetah person called Karra is injured and placed in Ace’s care that it becomes apparent that they’re simply trying to stay alive. However, Ace’s attachment to Karra also causes her to start to develop a cattish demeanor, so they’re hard to befriend, unless you really enjoy shaving.

But still, it doesn’t seem to be their fault. The transformation from calm, sentient ape-based lifeform to huntycat appears to be like a radioactive mutation, albeit of a more organic sort. That’s why we don’t really know a lot about them as individuals or as a race. They’re the Cheetah people from the Cheetah planet. They’re no more themselves than a zombie is the person whose body it uses to get about.

In the end, the planet destroys itself and takes the Master with it, so that no more unwary travellers can be transformed, which of course means the Cheetah people will eventually die out. Or revert to their previous forms, just as Ace does once she’s back in Perivale.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the Sisters of Plenitude.

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By Fraser McAlpine