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DVD Review

DVD cover

Series 1-3


Starring: Ian McCulloch, Lucy Fleming, Carolyn Seymour and Denis Lill
RRP: £79.99
Certificate: PG
Available 24 November 2008

A deadly virus, accidentally unleashed onto the world, kills 90 per cent of humanity. The survivors of the plague are faced with a world in ruins, totally unequipped to cope with a way of life that hasn’t existed since the Middle Ages. There’s no technology, no central government, no medical help, no law and order. In a world without structure how will the remnants of the human race cope...?

The idea for a series that pitted people against an alien world - their own world turn upside down - was thought up by Terry Nation, most famous for creating the Daleks. He imagined what it would be like to wake up one morning and find that everything you knew was worthless; of no help in surviving a world were nothing works.

This simple premise was the basis for a series that was nothing short of brilliant. It arrived on our screens in the spring of 1975 and immediately became one of the most talked about shows of its day. Could we, the viewers, do any better than our on-screen heroes? Where would we stand in the moral maze created by the destruction of our way of life?

To guide us through these dilemmas were Abby Grant, a mother looking for her son, Jenny Richards, a young women with a desk job, and Greg Preston, a natural survivor with a fundamental sense of justice. The three companions, thrown together by fate and circumstances, set out building a new life for themselves, unsure what tomorrow might hold. If, indeed, there will be a tomorrow.

Terry Nation’s scripts and overall format work exceedingly well for the first series, unfolding a world of hope and optimism build around setbacks and pitfalls. Will it be possible to build a new world of new communities? The viewer was left wondering what would happen when the characters returned for series two.

Sadly, Terry Nation’s vision was not revealed as he fell out with producer Terrance Dudley [who had also fallen out with the writers of Doomwatch, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis] and as a result left his own series [as also happened with Pedler and Davis]. Dudley was now in charge and things were about to change.

For series two our survivors have created a community, White Cross, which starts to offer a return to normality - a theme that would be developed during the second run’s 13 episodes, to the point where an element of soap opera starts to permeate the action. Under Dudley’s tutelage Survivors’ characters operate with little heed being taken of the collapse of civilisation that has wrecked their world.

And then there’s series three... 13 episodes that see everything put right. Back on comes the electricity; here we are back to normality. Yes, there are good dramatic moments along the way but this isn’t the series that Terry Nation intended and although his vision was far more apocalyptic than might have been sustainable for three years, the neat and tidy conclusion designed by Dudley still looks false and forced.

So there we have it - a series that is both brilliant and bewildering, but even at its worst there is always something to get you thinking. Part morality tale, part thriller, part soap opera, Survivors, for all its faults is still landmark TV and therefore deserves a place in your DVD collection.


Anthony Clark

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