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THE LAST TRAIN

ITV

Last Train Logo



Series Overview



Harriet Ambrose -
Nicola Walker

Mick Sizer -
Treva Etienne

Austin Danforth -
James Hazeldine

Ian Hart -
Christopher Fulford

Jean Wilson -
Janet Dale

Roe Germaine -
ZoŽ Telford

Jandra Nixon -
Amita Dhiri

Anita Nixon -
Dinita Gohil

Leo Nixon -
Sacha Dhawan

Colin Wallis -
Steve Huison


OTHER POST APOCALYPSE SHOWS
Jericho
Dark Angel
Cleopatra 2525
Day of the Triffids
Logan's Run
Planet of the Apes







Series Overview

A catastrophe of global proportions wipes out almost the entire human race. A group of passengers on a train are saved because one of them is transporting a canister containing material that freezes them in suspended animation until they finally thaw out into the shattered aftermath. This small group of survivors will have to find a way to survive, to find water and food and to make their way across a destroyed landscape to a place called Ark where there is the promise of rescue. They are not, however, alone.

The show starts off beng very reminiscent of the BBC post apocalypse series SURVIVORS, but this is not about those left alive trying to face the prospect of rebuilding society in the aftermath, but rather about a small group of people merely trying not to starve and trying to find a reason, any reason, to carry on. They are faced with wild dogs, collapsing factories, big cats, strange tribespeople and the ever present spectre of starvation. The BBC version couldn't boast most of that.

Plot, though, is not the main strength of this production. That lies in the characterisation of the survivors and their depiction by a well-chosen group of actors. The group may seem like a bunch of cliches to start with (practical northerner, dodgy geezer, slightly pompous copper, driven scientist, caring mother, selfish teenager, etc), but they round out throughout the series, revealing their depths as they go. There aren't any long speeches about motivation, just people getting on with it and showing who they are by how they do.

The depiction of the future world, all broken and messy, is less well realised. There are some dodgy matte shots and the addition of litter isn't necessarily the best way to suggest apocalypse, but then but budget wouldn't have broken any blocks along the way.

THE LAST TRAIN is a nicely self-contained mini-series that even at only six episodes feels like it could have been trimmed a bit, but it proves to be a train trip worth taking.


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Episode 1

A variety of ordinary people get ona train bound for Sheffield. One of them, a young woman, is far more nervous than your average inter-city traveller and she is not surprised when suddenly the world caves in as the train goes into a tunnel. somethign she is carrying in her bag is released and everyone freezes. When they defrost they find that the rest of the world is a pile of ruins and wild dogs roam the streets looking for prey.

There's something more than a little SURVIVORS about this first episode of ITV's postapocalyptic series. It's not a disease that killed off the human race this time around, but a chunk of rock the size of Birmingham smacking into Africa at high speed, but the shock, disbelief and general interpersonal drama is very reminiscent of the BBC show. The group of survivors are more determinedly working class and feel a bit like they've been carefully chosen to make sure that the whole of society is included. It's an ensemble cast and there aren't any big names amongst them which means that anyone is expendable and nobody hogs the limelight.

The train crash is impressive and the effect of being frozen also works very well. The escape from the train is tense and exciting and there is happily very little in the way of 'getting to know you' introductions.

There's not all that much here that's new or innovative, but it does what it does well enough and on the evidence of this first episode this could be an interesting show.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Stuart Orme
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Episode 2

The survivors from the train begin to explore the shattered remnants of Sheffield in search of the bunker where Harriet's boyfriend should be holed up with all the answers. The bunker does contain a supply of clean water, but it also contains a deadly trap. Outside, they encounter the first sign that they are not the only people left alive.

This second episode starts off much like the first with the exploration of the ruins and the coming to terms with grief and loss, but then the bunker is found, the truth is learned about the amount of time that the survivors were frozen on their train and a new destination, in Scotland this time, is decided upon.

Two other survivors are encountered, one a threatening and armed man, the other an eerie, silent young woman, her otherworldliness counterpointing the all-too-present soap elements such as the son berating his mother for running out on a marriage that he didn't know was full of domestic abuse. There are times when some of the characters and their friction is more annoying than dramatic, but on the whole this remains a good, solid drama.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Stuart Orme
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Episode 3

The survivors from the train are hungry as they trek across the landscape towards what they hope will be the Ark and civilisation in Scotland. They encounter a wild pig and chase it, but the van almost falls into a crevasse. They discover a huge industrial complex buried in the land ripped up by the impact of the asteroid and descend inside in search of the pig. Once there, they find that they are not the only ones doing the hunting.

This is a solid, dramatic episode and turns into an action piece once the pig runs into the complex and the big cat that lives there is revealed. There's plenty of running around in the dark spaces and escaping imminent cat attack by small margins. It's not original, but it does work well.

The dramatic content is less effective. The discovery of a farm that could be home is dispensed with in double quick time through an act of sabotage by Harriet before it even has time to register as an option and the relationship between Ian and Jandra develops so quickly as to be relatively unbelievable. Even so, it's still highly watchable stuff if you don't think about it too hard.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Alex Pillai
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Episode 4

Jandra has been seriously injured in her fall and it is going to take everyone to lift her out of the hole, but acid rain puts a dampener on things. Back on the road, in search now of medical help, the survivors find their route blocked by a river. Hild shows them where there are people with boats, but an attempt to take them goes disastrously wrong.

Things really aren't going well for the survivors of the train crash and this episode hits home more than any of the others to date. The action isn't great, but it's the quieter moments that really register. The characters have had time to build and have done so in a realistic fashion, just getting on with life in their own way, revealing themselves through what they do rather than what they say. The acting is solid enough to make them matter and so the events of this episode are more dramatic even though they are less showy than taking on a big cat or hordes of dogs or having a train crash.

The battle for survival is now on, enemies have been made and casualties taken. The show is getting into its stride more and more.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Alex Pillai
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Episode 5

Fleeing the tribes people who want Hild, or more accurately want Hild's baby, the survivors find a walled village that appears to have survived the ravages of time. There is food, water, heating, even music and alcohol. There's a chance for a brief respite before their pursuers show up and the village itself has a secret that might be as dangerous as the world outside.

For the first time since the train crashed back in Episode 1, the survivors of the crash have a chance to rest and think about their situation. Relationships between them deepen and bonds form, or break. This is done rather nicely without big speeches or defnining moments but just in the way that people come together or apart. This character development is more interesting and better handled than the rather dull truth about why there are only two people left in the village or the attack of the tribespeople, which looks like it could possibly been held off had everyone pulled together in defence of the gate rather than running away.

The characters have come out more and there is a cliffhanger ending that is as good as anything that has gone before.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Alex Pillai
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Episode 6

Before setting off to save Hild and Anita from the tribespeople, the train survivors follow Harriet to Ark. There, they come into conflict with the tribespeople again. Some manage to gain access to the refuge and learn the truth about Harriet's love, but with Hild's baby on the way the tribesfolk are willing to take extreme measures to gain access themselves.

It's an all-action final episode and a harsh one too, for the survivors of the train crash. The triumphant arrival at Ark proves to be less than triumphant and the show has the guts to take it to its inevitable conclusion, with a resolution for Harriet that probably couldn't be harder. It's also hard for Mick and Austin as they get crucified (literally) in order to force those inside the Ark to open the door.

Everyone gets a good chance to show what they can do whether they are being crucified or watching people being crucified. the characters continue to grow and reveal themselves right up to the very end.

There's a lot here that doesn't get wrapped up, but then life's like that and the story has run its natural course and come to an appropriate stopping point. The ultimate goal, Ark, has been achieved and a new one would have to be found for a future series. This is, as good a place as any to get off the train.

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Stuart Orme
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