An introduction to the post-apocalyptic TV drama Survivors
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An introduction to Survivors
Survivors is a 38 episode, three-series post-apocalyptic
TV drama produced by the BBC between 1975 and 1977. Conceived by Terry
Nation (one of the creative talents behind Doctor Who and the
originator of the Blake's 7 sci-fi drama) the series follows
the travails and adventures of a group of British survivors who emerge
unscathed from a deadly biological epidemic — unleashed by a laboratory
accident which wipes out more than 95% of the world's population — into
a desolate and almost empty world.
These isolated survivors flee the ruins of urban industrial civilisation and, searching each other out, begin to establish new rural agricultural settlements. It becomes clear that these survivors must establish new ways of living — both self-sufficient and interdependent — which do not rely on modern technology, if they are to secure a future for themselves and their offspring. For some, these new communities must serve as the catalyst, and the foundation stones, for a new social order. Others are more pre-occupied with avoiding starvation, cold and isolation in the here-and-now.
To its enthusiasts, Survivors offers diverse and compelling human drama of the highest quality. Intelligent, thought-provoking and — at its best — brilliantly written and performed, Survivors explores the terrain of its terrible new world through stories which combine high adventure with the exploration of critically important cultural, political and social themes.
Including the programme in its 'Top 50 British Telefantasy Shows', genre magazine SFX reflected that: "Survivors was an intelligent, thought-provoking approach to the post-apocalyptic fiction which took advantage of its TV... limitations to personalise the tragedy and show the minor effects as well as the major ones."
Broadcast in a primetime weekday slot on BBC 1, Survivors attracted healthy ratings from the outset. The narrative focus of each series, and the ensemble cast which fleshed out its stories, changed considerably across Survivors' three-year run. The series — which began with the immediate aftermath of the devastating plague — concluded with the re-establishment of a new federation of trading communities across southern England and the reactivation of the first hydroelectric power plant in Scotland.
The BBC sold Survivors to television networks across Europe (notably to Italy, where the first two series were particularly well-received, although the third never aired), in Canada and the USA and in Australia. In recent years the programme has been re-broadcast on stations in those latter two countries.
Inexplicably, the BBC has never repeated the series on its domestic terrestrial channels. In the 1980s, fan interest in the show was kept alive in the pages of the genre and sci-fi press, which ran retrospective pieces on the pioneering drama. The release, in 1993, of the first series on VHS video by BBC Worldwide (in a six volume set) reignited more widespread interest in the programme. The subsequent release of all three series of the programme on DVD between 2003 and 2005 returned the show to the public domain, to the delight of fans old and new.
The commercial and critical reception garnered by the DVD release of Survivors can only have had a positive influence on the BBC's announcement, in July 2006, that it was considering a revival of the show. On 22 November 2007, the BBC confirmed that a new series of Survivors would enter production during 2008.
This remake of Survivors broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Before the final episode was broadcast, the BBC confirmed that a second series of Survivors had been commissioned and would be shown in the latter part of 2009. Prior to the close of 2008, Orion publishing released a new version of Terry Nation's 1976 Survivors novelisation, and 2 | entertain issued a three-series DVD box-set of the original series.
The first series of the new Survivors was released on DVD in January 2009. The second series of the revived Survivors was shown on BBC One and BBC HD in January and February 2010. Series two was released on DVD in March 2010, along with a two series box set. On 7 April, a new unofficial guidebook to the series entitled Worlds Apart, written by the author of the Survivors: A World Away site, was published by Classic TV Press. In early April 2010 the BBC announced that no third series of Survivors had been commissioned, signalling the cancellation of the show.
Cover price: £ 12.99.
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The End of the World?
An authoritative and comprehensive guide to all aspects of Survivors is provided in The End of the World?: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Survivors, co-authored by Rich Cross and Andy Priestner. Richly illustrated with behind-the-scenes photos, the book includes: Guides to the production of each of the three series of the show; reviews and analysis of all 38 episodes; assessments of the core themes of each series; character and location guides... and much more besides.
Published by Telos Publishing in December 2005, the title is currently out of print. An announcement about plans for the publication of an updated edition of the book will be made later in 2013.