Survivors: 9:4 Conflict

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Updated: July 13 2019 12:44


Survivors audio dramas from Big Finish

The showdown between the Protectorate and the Federation will settle the future direction of a country emerging from the shadow of the apocalypse

Survivors - Big Finish - Series 9 - Episode 4 - 9:4 Conflict

 

SUMMARY series nine

NOW IN SCOTLAND, Peter Grant is leading a routine patrol amongst the settlements. He decides to ransack the croft of Roddy Lawson, to the disgust of his mother Abby Grant and the irritation of his commander Robert Malcolm. A worried Malcolm shares with Pritchard news of recent rebel successes in cutting communication lines, disrupting transport links and winning over communities to their cause. With this rebel group now heading northwards, Pritchard is determined to trap the insurgents at a bottleneck near Carlisle. She overrules Malcolm's objections, and orders him to head south with a sizeable force to confront their opponents. Jenny is delighted to see the soldiers depart, but an attempt to gain local intelligence from Lawson ends in her capture by Peter and a confrontation with Abby, which leaves the Federation’s whole mission at risk. Lawson joins the rebels’ cause, and together with Jenny puts together an audacious plan to get them both inside Pritchard’s depleted encampment. Pritchard senses that their arrival is a Federation ruse, but is determined to find out what they are planning. She orders Malcolm to turn his attack force round and race back by train to defend their headquarters. As the assault on her camp begins, Pritchard decides that Abby and Jenny should both pay the ultimate price for their defiance. But this final confrontation between the Federation and the Protectorate compels everyone to decide where their loyalties ultimately lie, and the reverberations of this showdown will change the lives of everyone who survives...

COMMENTARY

THERE'S NO QUESTION that Andrew Smith would be entitled to feel the weight of expectation bearing down on him having won the opportunity to pen the last ever (well, for now at least) full-cast Survivors audio. But if Smith felt in any way daunted by the task confronting him, none of that shows in his assuredly successful finale. The script for Conflict succeeds in moving this final audio hour through a whole series of set-pieces and exciting tipping points, shifting the story through unexpected turn after unforeseen twist. It brings the current story of Survivors on audio to a thrilling conclusion fully in spirit with the tone, texture and reach of the proceeding eight series that have brought the show to this endpoint.

Smith has clearly considered the military conceits on both sides of the campaign very closely. It's entirely appropriate that the thinly stretched forces of the Federation launch a hit-and-run campaign against the Protectorate and avoid the risk of confronting a larger army on the field of battle. The Federation are entirely right in seeking to win the hearts-and-minds of communities and settlements, and inspire support for the aims of their campaign. In contrast, the Protectorate over-promise and under-deliver, and rely too much on enforcement and compliance rather than on conviction and argument.

The subterfuge of Jenny's journey north gives the rebels a much needed advantage

The various ruses of the Federation campaign have been well thought through. In joining the work of the mobile (and diversionary) guerilla campaign heading north, Ruth has completed her evolution from spirited medic to fully-fledged freedom fighter; taking on much of the mantle of the much-missed Craig. The subterfuge of Jenny's journey north, and the high risk disruption and distraction tactics give the rebels a much needed advantage, all the more so because Pritchard's impatience and self-regard leads her to take the rebels' bait and send her main forces south (overruling Malcolm's objections in the process).

The series eight finale Village of Dust delivered first-rate battle scenes, as the defenders' barricaded in the church tried to repel the assault by Malcolm's superior forces. It's right that Big Finish does not seek to repeat those same beats in this last finale. So while there's plenty of action and gunplay in evidence, the focus here is just as much on the conflict between belief systems as it is on the clash of brute force. That decision makes for drama that's just as thrilling but which has the right texture and sense of gravitas for the decisive reckoning that plays out here.

What's also brought to a powerful, credible solution is the dysfunctional dynamic between mother and son that has defined the relationship between Abby and Peter since their awkward reunion in The Lost Boys. This latest series has shown the extent to which Peter Grant is an psychologically damaged and emotionally scarred "boy soldier". In the previous two episodes the writers have, very skillfully, left open the question as to whether Peter can be rehabilitated, as his anguished mother hopes.

In Terry Nation's 1976 novel (the only other realisation of the original Survivors in which mother and son find each other again), their reunion is short and bloody - as Peter shoots his mother dead. In the closing scenes of Conflict, it is the imminent threat of his mother's death at the hands of the humiliated Meg Pritchard that compels Peter to take action; as he is struck by the recognition that he cannot contemplate losing her for a second time. It's a heart-stopping moment for the listener as, making the most of the ambiguity of the audio setting, it's not immediately clear who has fired the decisive shot and at whom. In contrast, the act of self-destruction by the defeated Malcolm is just as effective precisely because Robert signals its inevitability in advance.

Abby ultimately chooses motherhood over her relationship with her friends and her commitment to the Federation

What tempers Abby's and Jenny's joy at the routing of the Protectorate and the vindication of the Federation is the fate of Peter. There's no question that the young man is a murderer (whatever "mitigation" might be put forward to try to "justify" his actions) and that his crimes should be subject to the judgement and punishment. But Abby, who for most of the last two series has sacrificed a wider political perspectives in order to concentrate on the moral regeneration of her son, cannot countenance being separated from him.

The relationship between Abby and Jenny has nearly reached breaking point during the ebb and flow of the civil war, but here they are able to reach a lasting accommodation that leaves the pair unlikely to meet again, with Abby agreeing to abscond with Peter to some far away place in order to save him from incarceration and possible execution: Abby ultimately chooses motherhood over her relationship with her closest (living) friends and her commitment to the aims of the Federation. Whether this is a brave and loving, or a selfish and short-sighted, decision is, quite rightly, left to the listener to judge.

After the Federation's victory, Smith has one more upbeat surprise to deliver. A voice on the radio is the precursor to the spectacle of an American supply plane soaring in the skies overhead, bringing with it the promise of a new age of industry and power. With its transatlantic reach, its appearance also confirms that the huge distances separating survivors around the globe might become traversable once more. It's a tantalising prospect that brings the current run of full-cast audios to a rousing, optimistic conclusion in a setting a world away from the chaos and catastrophe of the first ever episode Revelation.

Five years and thirty six stories: to call the realisation and the dramatic trajectory of Survivors on audio extraordinary scarcely does it justice.

REVIEW QUOTES

SEYMOUR AND JOEL James Davison (who is startlingly good here as he has been throughout), along with Lucy Fleming as Jenny turn in series-highlight work.
Alasdair Stuart, SciFiBulletin

ABBY, JENNY, RUTH and their friends may be in a better state than when their odysseys began, but their world remains far from good.
Don Klees, We Are Cult

SURVIVORS, THROUGHOUT ITS nine series run on audio, has remained consistently provocative, shocking and compelling listening
Ian McArdell, Indie Mac User


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Latest updates

 

Series nine reviews added

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Series five reviews added

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Links

Original TV series (1975-1977)
Survivors remake (2008-2010)