The Basics

A guide to the key dramatic themes of Survivors

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Survivors: Themes and plot ‘arcs’

Each of the three series of Survivors has its own distinctive atmosphere and set of narrative themes and preoccupations — this reflected producer Terry Dudley's determination to overhaul and refresh the ethos of the programme with each new series.

Screen captures from the first series of Survivors

The first series is concerned with the calamity and devastation of The Death, which wipes out more than 95% of the population of planet Earth: a global catastrophe which occurs largely unseen in the events of the opening episode The Fourth Horseman. The first thirteen episodes of the show deal with the reaction of the initial disparate and scattered groups of survivors, the coming together of the first settlements and moves on to focus on the efforts of the Grange community — founded by Abby, Greg and Jenny — to cope with the various trials, challenges and threats by which they are confronted. A recurring theme of the first six episodes is the effort of Abby Grant to locate her missing son Peter, away at boarding school at the time the pandemic strikes, who she hopes may have been fortunate enough to have survived the catastrophe. Her efforts are given an unexpected, and very positive, resolution in the closing episode of series one, A Beginning.

Screen captures from the second series of Survivors

Series two of Survivors is concerned in principle with the business of long-term survival. Moving past the first efforts at coping and adjustment, and going on from the initial shock and chaos that followed The Death. Beginning in Birth of a Hope with the devastating fire which decimates the Grange community and takes the lives of so many of the first series’ ensemble cast, the second series depicts the arrival of the surviving refugees at Whitecross. Focusing on the travails of the Whitecross community, headed by the charismatic figure of Charles Vaughan, series two combines introspective stories which focus on the tensions of communal living; the challenges of the collective-run smallholding; and the place of faith, commitment, self-preservation and self-sacrifice; alongside outward-looking action and adventure-orientated stories – all within the context of the struggle to survive. Series two concludes with the dramatic opening up of the vista of Survivors. In New World, the arrival of visitors from Norway leads the Whitecross settlers to agree to move beyond simple pastoral self-sufficiency to support a concerted effort for countrywide economic and social revival. As a result, the show’s main protagonists leave the settlement behind to become involved with a pan-European plan for industrial and political recovery.

Screen captures from the third series of Survivors

The third and final series of Survivors is concerned with the business of long-term revival and reconstruction. The events of the opening episode Manhunt set in motion the programme’s new twin themes: the effort of Jenny, Charles and Hubert to locate and reunite with the missing Greg Preston (now returned from Norway and roaming the country as an autonomous emissary for the Norwegian plan, rallying support for the reconstruction project); and their separate and combined efforts to put that ambitious plan into practice. These themes are ultimately resolved in the events of the show's final three episodes. In The Last Laugh, Greg exacts deadly revenge on a group of rapacious roving bandits — by isolating and infecting them with the smallpox he knows will shortly take his own life. Following Greg’s demise, the series concludes with a series of triumphs for the vanguard group of British survivors — ending with the formation of a governing council, the revival of trade and the return of a primitive monetary system in Long Live the King and the reconnection of the first electric power supplies, in the series’ finale Power.

Survivors: The Basics

An introduction to Survivors
Episode guide
Themes and plot 'arcs'
Survivors: main characters
Survivors on satellite & cable TV
The BBC Worldwide video release
The Sovereign Video re-release
The DD Video re-release
Survivors series one on DVD

Survivors series two on DVD
Survivors series three on DVD
Survivors three series DVD box-set
Survivors Italian DVD releases
Survivors Region 1 DVD box-set
Survivors novelisations
'Making of' and Survivors Guide Books
Fanzines and other publications
Reviving and remaking Survivors


Front cover of The End of the World?: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Survivors

Cover price: £ 12.99.

More information and reviews >>>

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. Plans to publish an updated edition of the book are currently on hold.


Home | Survivors: The Basics

Basics: Introduction | Episode guide | Characters | Themes | Videos | DVDs | Novels | 'Making of...' books
Behind-the-scenes:Unseen series one location shots
Books: Survivors book: The End of the World? | Survivors book: Worlds Apart
Terry Nation study - Bignell and O'Day | Terry Nation study - Turner | Hitch-Hiker's Guide to Survivors
Cast and crew: Memorabilia 2011 | Pennant Roberts: 1940-2010
DVDs: Series 1 DVD | Series 2 DVD | Series 3 DVD | DVD news
DVD studio day photo galleries: Series 1 | Series 2 | Series 3
Interviews: Jonathan Bignell | Peter Duncan | Don Shaw | Roger Monk | Alwyn W Turner | Pete Wallbank
Locations: Genesis: 2005 location finds | Genesis: 2013 location finds | Genesis: Greg Preston's home
Gone Away: 2013 location finds | Hampton Court interiors | The Last Laugh locations
TV: 'The Cult of...' Survivors | Survivors Australian trailer | See The Enemy in 'TV Heaven'
Writing: Writings on Survivors | SciFi Now: Survivors | Action TV: Survivors
More: 'Goofs and Gaffes' | Survivors at the BFI | Survivors in SFX 'best ever' poll
Survivors on Mastermind | How to annoy a Survivors fan

Survivors book: The End of the World?

Survivors: Mad Dog