I first heard of Survivors through
some long lost Doctor Who
magazine or fanzine. The post
apocalyptic show (a favorite sub-genre of mine) was created by Terry
brilliant mind behind many of the best classic Doctor Who adventures (he created
the Daleks) as well as
Blake's 7, and I couldn't wait
to see it.
Well, it turns out that I had to wait a couple of decades before
able to track down the series, but eventually I did and was rewarded
smart, entertaining, and very engrossing look at what life might be
99% of humanity dies. Now, at long last,
the original series (it was recently remade... I'll be reviewing that too
week or so) has been released on DVD here in the US
thanks to the BBC. While I'm not enamored
with the double sided discs
that the series was released on, it's still a great program and well
As is related during the opening credits, a scientist
accidently drops a flask and breaks it, and gets unknowingly
an artificial virus. Traveling to a
conference in another country, he soon infects enough people to spread
disease across the globe. People soon
start dying in every country, and though scientists try to come up with
or vaccine, there just isn't enough time.
In a matter of days 99% of the world has been killed, only the
have a natural immunity survive.
For the few survivors, life would never be the same
again. With no electricity, water
system, or police people have been reduced to a pre-technological
living. Though it's easy to find canned
and preserved food in stores and the houses of the dead, which soon
run out, and people band together for protection, comfort, and to share
arduous task of surviving off the land.
The series follows one such group. Abby
Grant was a typical housewife who came
down with the disease and somehow survived.
Her husband is dead but her son, Peter, was away at boarding
school. She knows in her heart that he's
still alive and starts to look for him.
She soon meets up with Greg, an engineer, and a young woman
Jenny. After encountering paramilitary
bandits, and a man obsessed with repopulating the Earth (by
woman he encounters) the group realize that they must band together and
place where they can farm the land, raise animals, and defend
themselves. They eventually find a large
estate house with
land, called The Grange, which is more than ample for their needs.
As the first season progresses, other people join the small
commune: The Welsh hobo, Tom Price who
is fond of drink, a scheming, selfish, and callous woman named Anne, a
man named Barney, and the attractive and kind-hearted Wendy. They all come from different backgrounds and
their personalities sometimes clash, but they have a common goal of
out an existence in the new scarcely inhabited Earth.
The second season saw the departure of creator Terry Nation,
and there was a slight drop in the overall quality of the show, but it
a strong, well written program.
Season two starts out with a disaster: the
Grange burns down. There are some
casualties, but life goes
on. Without shelter the group has few
options and they finally decide to join another community several days
away. It's another small group, and
there are some tensions at first. Life
in the new world is explored as a large group of survivors are
discovered in London,
and a Parson
arrives who wants to start up regular religious services.
The work load is also very high, it takes a
lot of time and energy to farm, and that causes some strife in the
well. In addition to all of this, there
are sanitation problems, and rats, some carrying the plague, cause more
The series ends with a surprising twist and a main character
leaves to investigate the possibility of trade with other counties.
The final season was the weakest of the three but still
presented a very good SF story. The
member who left (it's not really a big surprise, but I don't want to
with revealing who it is) is rumored to have returned to England
of characters set off in search of him.
They meet a lot of different groups of survivors, and it's clear
civilization has not died out, and is coming back.
This is a great series, with a nice overall story arc that's
ultimately uplifting. The brilliance of
the show is that it manages to pull the viewer in, especially in the
season, and make them wonder what they'd do in such circumstances. How would you run a community?
What would you do if you caught someone
The best episodes in the series deal with moral grey areas,
and how hard it would be to make the right choices.
The most haunting installment deals with
justice. After having a party to celebrate
surviving the long winter, Wendy is found in her room dead. She was stabbed to death after being
raped. The last person she was seen with
at the party was Barney. They were
dancing together but Wendy left after she got tired and Barney kept
her to dance some more. A quick search
is made and Barney can't be found in the house, and when he's tracked
the nearby woods, he has blood on his hands.
A trial is held but Barney, being retarded and almost
totally unable to talk, doesn't understand what's being asked of him
defend himself. He's found guilty, but
what can be done with him? They can't
lock him up and keep him fed; they have enough trouble feeding the
are working. Exiling him isn't a solution
either, as he may rape and kill someone else.
During a fierce dispute that nearly destroys the community, Greg
successfully argues that Barney has to be executed.
He is taken out into the yard and shot.
The problem is that Barney is innocent. Wracked
with guilt, Tom eventually confesses
to Greg that he's the rapist/murderer.
Barney was his best friend and he can't live with the pain of
that he caused his death. But, if Greg
admits that he was wrong and killed an innocent person, the community
disintegrate. He's left with few
This is a great series that asks a lot of tough
questions. The show doesn't have
anything in the way of fancy special effects, but with a strong script
top-notch actors you don't need eye candy.
It's well worth checking out.
All three seasons (38 episodes) are contained on 6 DVDs,
five of them double-sided affairs. These
come in a fold out booklet with two overlapping disc on each of the
pages. I'm not a fan of double sided
discs, and even less so of overlapping cases, but there's not much I
about the less than ideal packaging.
The show is presented with its original mono soundtrack that
sounds very good given the time the show was made.
The dialog is clear though sometime American
viewers might have trouble with the accents, mainly with the minor
characters. The range is adequate,
thought it was limited by the technology of the time.
There are subtitles for the hearing impared.
The full frame color image looked better than I was
expecting it to. The picture was quite
clear and the level of detail was fine.
The colors weren't bright but realistic and the flesh tones
looked good. There weren't any print
defects and things on
the digital side looked nice as well. Overall
it's a good looking collection.
The set comes with only a few extras. There
are a couple of photo galleries
scattered across the discs, and a 2006 documentary on the series, The Cult of... Survivors. This
roughly half hour featurette was a nice,
if a bit too brief, look at the show with members of the cast and crew
reminiscing about their times on the set.
This is a classic SF show that has largely been ignored on these shores. I'm pretty sure it was
never shown on broadcast TV here in the states. (Update: I've been informed that it was shown on at least some PBS stations in the late 80's/early 90's. Thanks to Chris K for the information!)
Hopefully this set will bring a new set of fans to this great
program. Highly recommended.