1. Get the name of the programme wrong
In the later winter of 1974, while this new end-of-the-world show was in pre-production, it was briefly called 'The Survivors' before wiser counsel prevailed and the redundant prefix was dropped. Since the day the first Radio Times listing for the show appeared in April 1975 there has been no ambiguity whatsoever about its name.
It is not 'The Survivors' any more than it's 'The Star Wars', 'The Blake's 7' or 'The Doctor Who'.
It's Survivors — plain, simple and perfectly suited.
Say it with me, people.
2. Get the cause of the global catastrophe wrong
This one is alarmingly popular amongst the editors of
guidebooks and directories of genre and sci-fi television. Indicative
of diligent and exhaustive research, the most common error is to
'explain' that Survivors is a story of 'post-nuclear survival'.
As mistakes go, it's not the end of the world… but it's close. The
clumsy man with the beaker full of virus in that Far East lab would
tell you a different story. If he hadn't dropped dead in the title
sequence of the very first episode — patient zero in an all-consuming
3. Make lazy, repetitive and ill-informed comparisons
between Survivors and other shows
Many genre magazine reviewers have an obsession bordering on compulsion about this one. There must be a special entry under "The Survivors" in certain specialist editions of The Chicago Manual of Style: "When writing about "The Survivors" [sic] it is mandatory to compare the programme either to (a) the renowned BBC self-sufficiency sitcom of the same era; or (b) the long-running ITV soap set in a small fictional farming community. Acceptable examples are: 'Survivors is like The Good Life — with guns' and 'Survivors is a post-apocalyptic Emmerdale Farm'. There are no exceptions to this rule."
When it comes to this issue, many journalists express a deep commitment to recycling. It's a good thing that it gets funnier each and every time you read it. "Survivors: it's a bit like The Good Life, you know?" Oh, be still my aching sides. Have you heard the one about Daleks and staircases?
4. Explain how the show ‘is, actually, in fact,
a one-series wonder’
This one is particularly popular amongst people with only the haziest knowledge of series two or three. Yes, series one of Survivors represents an exemplary, historic moment in the history of British television. Fans of Survivors are big supporters of series one too. But to suggest that viewers can turn off after the events of A Beginning without any concern that they're going to miss anything is so wrong it's just wrong. If you dismiss the subsequent 25 episodes of this classic drama with a throw-away phrase that they're not worthy of consideration, you need to block out some quality personal time and sit down to appreciate Greater Love, Face of the Tiger, Over the Hills, Mad Dog and The Last Laugh (just for starters). When you're ready to apologise, you know where to come.
5. Insist that the show ‘went downhill after [insert
name here] left’
This one is particularly popular amongst loyal advocates of several of the key people involved bringing Survivors to the screen — Terry Nation, Carolyn Seymour and Ian McCulloch amongst them. The more complicated — if perhaps unsurprising — truth is that the brilliance of Survivors did not rely solely on the creative input of any one individual, but on the sum of inputs from an evolving ensemble of in-front-of and behind-the-scenes talent. And a pretty darned talented bunch they proved to be.
Of course, all of those listed in the closing credits did not exert an equal amount of influence on the programme; and few wielded as much leverage as Terry Nation or Terence Dudley. And, yes, the balance of influence amongst those most involved in shaping the evolution programme changed over time. But at no point was Survivors ever a one-person phenomenon. Even amongst those who try to promote this argument, there's no consistency about who the vital individual was supposed to have been.
Personally, I reckon it was all over when that bloke in the credits died in The Fourth Horseman. It was never the same after they got rid of him.
SFX: one sentence; three crimes
1. Get the name wrong; 2. trot out the 'middle class' myth; 3.
refer to The Good Life
SFX, March 2007
6. Point out that ‘all the survivors are middle
OK, there is a strictly limited validity to the argument that a disproportionate number of those who emerge unscathed from The Death in series one were previously fully paid-up members of the 'professional classes'. But it's not good enough to leave things there.
First off, Survivors is being unfairly singled out here from amongst a raft of other BBC shows of the era the characters of which are drawn from the same nicely-off Home Counties milieu: shows which never seem to have the same criticism levelled at them. No, Survivors didn't escape the dominant dramatic culture of the BBC of the era — but neither did it define or create it.
Secondly, the point has been repeatedly made over the years that the device of thrusting those from positions of relative privilege (those who rarely got their hands literally or figuratively dirty) into a new medieval present in which they had either to fend for themselves or starve made for a number of particularly interesting dramatic juxtapositions between the old and the new worlds. The middle classes are repeatedly shown to be rubbish at the business of survival, and to find its privations and hardships acutely challenging.
Thirdly, Survivors is rarely given credit for its attempts to take on board the criticism about perceived social imbalance (some of which was voiced by critics at the time) and to introduce a more diverse range of characters from a fuller range of social backgrounds as the programme developed. The 'sociology' of Survivors in series three is just not the same as it is in series one. Lastly, as a bald statement of fact — that only the well-to-do made it through — it's simply not true.
7. Go on to explain how ‘all the villains are
working class, actually’
Hang on a minute; didn't you just insist that all the survivors were middle-class? Oh, so now you're claiming that the only good survivors come from bourgeois backgrounds; while all the crims and n'er-do-wells are drawn from the ranks of the proletariat as-was (the sum total of which you previously claimed had all perished in The Death). Honestly, make your mind up.
Have you actually watched the programme at all? Yes, there are working class thugs and bad-boys in the storylines of Survivors, but there is also a veritable Who's Who of middle class nasties, bully boys, thieves and megalomaniacs across 38 episodes.
It's almost as if Survivors is quite a grown up and intelligent programme, populated by believable and rounded characters rather than simple social stereotypes. Try watching the programme from beginning to end, while you think about what you did…
8. Complain that series one is ‘all about three
men in a Landrover with guns’
The fact that it's difficult to claim that Survivors is a 'one-series wonder' and then go on to criticise the first series as 'flawed' rarely concerns the continuously carping critic.
Those keen to have a swipe at series one sometimes insist that the
first set of thirteen episodes are full of three blokes in a Landrover
waving shotguns who turn up to threaten the programme's heroes.
The point could be made that this theory has more holes in it than
Tom Price's string vest -— oh, the endless shoot-outs in Corn
Dolly, Gone to the Angels, and Revenge: it's just non-stop bullet-fuelled
carnage, isn't it?
However, let's ignore the fact that the accusation is
rubbish and just pretend. OK then, there's too much action
and gunplay in the first series of Survivors — and
not enough attention paid to the difficult business of survival,
or the battle to make a go of it in the long-term. Well the good
news is that even if I can't convince you otherwise, at least you're
sure to enjoy the very different preoccupations of series two…
9. Complain that series two is ‘all about pig
manure and making soap’
Having blasted series one for being too much concerned
with gangs and shoot-outs, series two is then criticised for having
too few armed gangs and not enough shoot-outs.
The 'downfall' of the series, according to this view,
is that it has lost its adventurous edge and become too preoccupied
with business of survival. Series two, so this story goes, should
be more like series one (see point 8 about the problem with series
one —- that it is not enough like series two). A further problem
with series two, in this view, is that it is too introspective and
settled, and that it should be much more expansive and outward looking.
Once again, let's leave aside the fact that this theory
is more leaky than Hubert's roof. At least this should mean that
anyone making this criticism is bound to go a bundle on the constantly
mobile, restless and roaming series three (and can I recommend series
one if you're looking for gunmen in Landrovers).
10. Complain that series three is ‘all about looking
for Greg, and, er… all about electricity too’
While series two is criticised for being too introspective
and settled and having too much of the formula feel of the soap
opera (you know, a bit like — and I've just come up with this;
this is brilliant, this is — 'a post-apocalyptic Emmerdale
Farm'), series three is criticised for being too unsettled,
lacking in focus and suffering from 'attention deficit disorder'.
In short the 'problem' here is that series three is not enough like
series two (see point 9 for the problem that series two is not sufficiently
like series one; see point 8 for the problem with series one, that
it is not enough like series two). Hard to please much?