Survivors TV Series

DVD cover for Survivors first seriesIn 1975 a British TV series from Terry Nation and the BBC tackled the issue of the collapse of society after a worldwide virus. Survivors became a cult classic and is still available now on DVD, having been reissued in 2003-2005. It was also adapted into a book. Alys my partner loved it in repeats, but I’d never heard of it until a year ago. We borrowed the DVD set from a friend and became addicted to it when the Lost season was over.

Survivors screen shots showing initial plague laboratory

The initial premise is that Abby, the lead character – a woman forsooth! How modern are we? – is travelling the English-Welsh border looking for her son who has been in a boarding school. She meets people along the way and some come with her (most notably Greg) and some try to keep her with them, either by persuasion or force. There are some harrowing scenes of the destruction and what is left after most people are dead, but the nature of the drama is psychological, suspense and leaving things to the viewer’s imagination. There is little reliance on gore for horror. The introduction to the program every episode shows how the plague started by accidental infection in a laboratory.

I have for a long time been attracted to stories with ‘everyone else is dead, only us left’ storylines, more technically referred to as apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and have started writing several novels in this genre. There are plenty of films and books to draw inspiration from, and the Seventies Survivors is one of the better.

DVD cover for Survivors first seriesNow it transpires that Survivors is being remade, thank goodness still British or it would reek of American sentimentalism (it might still, I have yet to see). Early reports suggest that there is a lesbian storyline (hurrah!) but that the character in question dies (boo). Also pleased to note that the actor who plays Martha Jones in Dr Who will be in this new Survivors. I wonder if the Beeb are hoping for the same level of success with Survivors as they had in resurrecting The Doctor (Terry Nation was the creator of the Daleks after all). As far as I can tell, only the name, the virus and some of the character profiles are the same as the original. It will be an interesting comparison to make.

One shift in attitude to note is that the Seventies series focussed on the despair and the various pockets of survivors were often quite dysfunctional. According to Wikipedia the new series will focus on hope and humanity and will be more optimistic. So perhaps we will see some sickly American influence in our hard-hitting British drama after all. “This is in an attempt to make it less depressing to watch as the kind of disaster depicted has moved out of the realm of pure science fiction.” Interesting to note that people think that we are more likely to have a global event now than before – considering we’ve been under the nuclear threat for decades. What else do they know that we don’t? I don’t think it ever was ‘pure science fiction’ as these stories have often been about a very real, immediate danger.

I wonder if they’re going to bring back Blake’s 7?

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


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