Abby Grant -
Tom Price -
Anya Raczynski -
Al Sadiq -
Najid Hanif -
Samantha Willis -
Greg Preston -
Sarah Bowyer -
OTHER POST APOCALYPSE SHOWS
Day of the Triffids
The Last Train
Planet of the Apes
A flu epidemic rages across England and then turns out to be far worse than first thought. The vast majority of the population is wiped out in a matter of months, leaving a few shell-shocked survivors roaming the empty shell of a civilisation. A few of these damaged people come together under the loose leadership of Abby Grant, a mother looking for her missing son.
Terry Nation created the daleks in DOCTOR WHO, but his 70s show was arguably a greater triumph. A gritty look at the fight for survival of a group of survivors beset all around by other hostile groups, dwindling food supplies and their own internal problems.
When that show first appeared, genetic engineering was news, but nothing on the scale of today's advances. With Ebola, AIDS and SARS running around scaring the world and news of the latest advances in gene-splicing almost daily occurences, the story is as timely now as it was then, perhaps even more so. And so the remake comes.
Nowadays, gritty drama isn't enough. Thus, the new show has action along with its drama. We're harder to shock, so the show has to work harder to acheive that. The original was about characters, though, and the new version sticks to that principle, taking some fairly stock characters and rounding them out, making them more interesting. Abby, the leader, is perhaps the least interesting, having only the search for her son to drive her on. This is unfortunate since she happens to be the main character. Far more interesting are the prison inmate Tom, who hovers on the line between good and very, very bad, or Greg who wants to be a good man, but sees the hard things that have to be done in order to survive. Anya is a doctor devastated by what she witnessed during the plague. Sarah is a selfish, shallow woman latching onto any man who can protect, offering sex for safety and Ali is a playboy who suddenly finds that he has to grow up.
SURVIVORS is a rollercoaster ride - there are ups and there are downs, there are thrills to be had and moments when it isn't as impressive as it looked. Fortunately, there is far more on the positive side than the negative. Though it may not be able to match up to the memory of its illustrious predecessor, it can hold its head up in the ranks of current post-apocalypses.
European flu is sweeping across the nation. Everyday there are more people off sick and the hospitals are more full. The government's not calling it a crisis yet, but it is one and far more serious than anyone can know. The flu is more than that, it's a disease that will leave more than 90% of the world's population dead and only a handful of survivors wandering the stunned aftermath.
With the nuclear threat receding (in people's minds at least), the possibility of a devastating epidemic beyond the skill of doctors to treat is one that sits in a corner of the public consciousness, overshadowed perhaps by terrorism's constant threat, but there nonetheless. A timely moment, then to resurrect Terry Nation's seventies postapocalyptic drama.
The feature length opening episode deals with the day civilisation died, the apocalypse itself, and yet it feels far from apocalyptic. There is no sense of the mounting scale of the disaster. The government are keeping the facts from the public, but they're also keeping them from the minister left in charge, so there's little sense of the millions sick or dying, of hospitals failing to cope (except in one short sequence) of morgues filled to overflowing (same sequence). There's no fear, no panic. Is this the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a sniffle? Following the hysterical frenzy over a few worldwide deaths from Asian bird flu that seems hardly likely.
How is it, also, that everyone seems to die overnight? A whole mosque of praying people die in considerate quiet so as not to wake a sleeping boy; a playboy's lover dies in her sleep without so much as asking for a glass of water and yet there are hints that it's not the most peaceful of deaths. Following the apocalypse the show feels a bit lost, much like its cast of stock characters as they wander around wondering what to do next. There's the mother searching for her son, the hardened killer, the doctor who's lived through the worst of it, the playboy, the child...
Even so, there are moments of persuasive power. How could there not be in a story about the end of life as we know it? Abby looking for someone to help when she wakes to find her husband dead, searching through an outward bound centre's corpses for that of her son, the playboy drinking champagne and eating caviar because that's all he's got in the fridge. And of course the vista of empty city streets and silent motorways. These never fail to impress, even without the cacophony of birdsong blasted over the soundtrack to amplify the lack of human noise.
The characters are all together now and drama will begin to get personal as the hardships begin to set in. There's promise in SURVIVORS and its good cast, but it's a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by John Alexander
Abby and her group have found a large house to set up base in and start to scout out the area for food supplies and water. What they hadn't counted on was Dexter, a man with an attitude, a shotgun and a determination to keep everything in the area his. After the first run in with him, Abby believes that she's seen the teacher from the outward bound centre who took her son to hospital when the plague first started, so she goes back and nearly gets her head blown off. Greg, meanwhile, follows the paper trail of the supermarket back to the main distribution centre where he finds a woman with big dreams, a seductive manner and an injured man. Al is also having a bad time after he accidentally kills an old man that he has a run in with.
It's only minutes since the plague wiped out humanity and already civilisation is a faintly remembered ideal. A single shotgun is now enough to lord it over everyone, that and an alcohol-fuelled hair trigger. Dexter, though, is the obvious face of humanity's downfall whilst Sarah, the girl at the distribution centre, is just as degenerate, but in a much more subtle way. Well, not that subtle as it turns out.
There is some good character work here with Max Beesley's criminal type still straddling the line between bad and good guy whilst Paterson Joseph's Greg struggles between his will to go it alone and what he knows to be the greater good.
What isn't so good is the plotting. Dexter pops up virtually everywhere that the survivors go. It's not just at the supermarket, which is understandable, but then the bookstore and finally at the warehouse distribution centre. Once or twice might be coincidence but four times is just unbelievable. The set up at the distribution centre and events that transpire there are well handled, but the incident with the old man is pure melodrama.
SURVIVORS is still rocky in places, but there is enough going on that is good to make it worthwhile coming back next time.
Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Andrew Gunn
Abby happens upon a community being led by the last member of the government left alive. They have set up in an eco-centre and so have electricity and water and a plan. It's everything that Abby wants following the plague, but then the raiders are caught stealing and some harsh truths turn everything sour.
This third episode is a big step up in quality thanks to the two central mroal dilemmas that the situation throws up. With no prisons to hold people in and the need to protect what is held then justice becomes a matter of simple retribution. It's more disturbing than anything that has come before it.
The second dilemma falls to Greg and Tom when they encounter a family of people who are shunning all contact with others as they have never been exposed to the disease. When the daughter is unknowingly affected then it becomes a question of whether life is more important than living.
Both of these have all sorts of levels and are most intelligent questions to be raised so far. If the show manages to maintain this new level then it might aspire to being more than just another failed remake.
Written by Gaby Chiappe
Directed by Andrew Gunn
Part of Abby's group head off for the government compound, but find their welcome to be less that universal. Abby meanwhile finds herself caught up in a struggle between a bunch of teenage boys and a madman in the woods. Greg and and Anya learn that there really is safety in numbers - numbers that they no longer have.
After last week's improvement, SURVIVORS slips back. The plotting has hints of THE LORD OF THE FLIES about it, but the multiplicity of the storylines means that none of them are properly covered. The most successful continues to be compound run by the government minister where the semblance of civilisation is undercut by a sense of rising tyranny brought about by necessity.
Greg and Abby's story feels almost tacked on as though to give the actors something to do and Abby's story is never less than obvious in where it is going.
SURVIVORS remains watchable, mainly thanks to some of the performances, but it is far from the gritty drama that we were hoping for.
Written by Simon Tyrrel
Directed by Ian B MacDonald
A small group led by a religious fanatic take shelter with Abby's group whilst a pregnant woman amongst their group gives birth. This causes Anya to reveal that she was a doctor. She recognises the leader's worsening condition as paranoid schizophrenia, but not before he chooses to kidnap her and go on the run.
The character work in this episode is both good and poor, making for a very uneasy mix. Anya's inability to deal with her helplessness against the virus is a bit obvious and the dialogue as Abby tries to persuade her to help the pregnant woman is really clunky. On the other hand, the three-handed relationship between Anya, Tom and Sarah is much more interesting and subtle, most especially in the character of Tom.
Compared to this, the main story of the religious leader's descent into madness is almost caricature it is so broad. The man is so obviously a nutcase from the start that the length of time that it takes for anyone else to recognise it just doesn't register.
Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Ian B MacDonald
Samantha's group is growing stronger and have started to move amongst the scattered groups of survivors taking details of past lives to find out who is useful and who isn't. One person she has found useful is Dexter, who is now her personal army. When they learn that Anya is a doctor, they take her by force, but the men of the group aren't about to let that happen and one of Samantha's group ends up dead. Naj runs away back to the city, forcing the others to go look for him. The scientists holed up in the city realise that Abby Grant is a unique individual whose blood might lead to a vaccine and so set about tracking her down.
Whatever else you might want to say about the last episode of SURVIVORS, but you won't be saying that it's dull. Several threads of the story come winding back together into an incident-packed last instalment that leaves several cliffhangers for the second series that has already been announced, but it isn't just incident piled on incident, but actions coming out of characters who are evolving. Some are still a bit broad brush strokes, but they are defining and they have certainly earned our sympathies, even the spineless Sarah.
There's also stuff to think about such as how society could be brought back together. Mention of the Domesday book suggests that a return to the feudal system would be the only way to go and there is also the question of whether security would outweigh the need for freedom, a subject that is clearly topical now. It's a little heavy handed, this subtext, but not rammed home more than it can survive.
The subplot with Naj running off to the city is a bit more disappointing. How far away from the city were they because he seems to get there pretty quick on his bike and surely he only had a few minutes head start so they should have caught him in their cars? He falls in with a modern day Fagin who is so clearly ripped off from Oliver Twist that he even has a Nancy by his side.
There's no need to ask if SURVIVORS will return because the BBC have already announced a second series, but even though there have been flaws with the show, it has shown enough intelligence, character and action to make us happy that we will see it continue, not least to have those cliffhangers resolved.
Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Jamie Payne
If this page was useful to you please sign our