Survivors: 5:1 The Second Coming

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Updated: January 07 2017 09:49


Survivors audio dramas from Big Finish

Is it possible that a mutated pandemic might again threaten the survivors with annihilation?

Survivors - Big Finish - Series 5 - Episode 1 - The Second Coming

 

SUMMARY series five

AFTER BEING THROWN from a horse, Abby Grant has been staying at the Maythorne community; run by the former army medic Carol Baker. Before she can leave, both women are seized by kidnappers who plan to ransom them for food and supplies. Evelyn and Hannah witness the abduction and track the gang to their temporary headquarters. Their gaoler Healy says they will be released unharmed once payment is made, and sends off a rider to deliver their demands. While Evelyn and Hannah rally a rescue party from Maythorne, Carol falls seriously ill. As his compatriots flee, Healy fires on the rescuers, injuring Hannah; before he too is shot and wounded. With Abby and Carol freed, the party return to Maythorne, taking Healy with them. When a deadly viral sickness quickly takes hold, Carol identifies a bacterial infection and sets up a quarantine. More residents fall ill and many die. When doctor Woodley arrives at the front gates, Abby is relieved. But, after a private meeting, Carol sends him away. Appalled, Abby sets off with Healy to learn the truth of the doctor's advice. What she learns will transform her understanding of the threat the survivors now face, and shatter her belief in Carol's motivations...

COMMENTARY

THE DRAMA OF series five of Big Finish's Survivors audio adventures is driven by a compelling premise: the horrifying idea that a mutation of the original Death plague could return to threaten the lives of those who survived the first pandemic and lay waste to communities only just emerging from its aftermath.

It is a brilliant conceit, and the series' three scriptwriters together get maximum value from the efforts of the show's heroes to contain the outbreak and prevent it overwhelming the southern counties of new England. Andrew Smith's energetic opener "The Second Coming" focuses on the impact of the new contagion on the community of Maythorne, and the fall from grace of the settlement's erstwhile leader Carol Baker: whose moral compass spins out of control as her world collapses. Carol is not "patient zero", the originator of the new disease, but it will be her reckless, selfish and criminal behaviour that leads to so much death and suffering, as she becomes the principal "carrier", visiting the virus on each new community she encounters.

Series five shows Big Finish exploring inventing ways to allow the stories of the original TV series' characters to interact, without contradicting the established canon. "The Second Coming" returns the focus to Abby Grant (played once again with huge relish by Carolyn Seymour), who is convalescing at Maythorne. Naturally, Abby is not afforded a peaceful recovery, and as she and Carol are kidnapped for ransom by a group led by the pragmatic Healy. Their seizure is the catalyst for Carol's exposure to the virus, and their release by the rescue party summoned by Evelyn Piper (Zoe Tapper) and Hannah (Fiona Sheehan) is the trigger for the transfer of the sickness to Maythorne itself.

While the disease consumes Carol's judgement, Abby's instincts tell her something is amiss

Smith presents Carol as a layered and conflicted character, rather than as an outright villain; and Neve NcIntosh puts in a sterling performance that convincingly explores Carol's unresolvable internal conflicts: as she wrestles to resolve the tensions between self-preservation and the survival of her community. Her efforts to manage the impact of the virus on her own settlement are, on one level, genuine and well-judged; but completely undermined by her refusal to accept the reality that she is the primary source of the infection now decimating Maythorne. Carol's insistence that the disease is not viral, but is in fact bacterial (something she knows is not true) completely undermines the containment strategy she has put in place, and worsens the virus' impact.

While the disease consumes Carol's judgement, Abby's instincts tell her something is amiss, and after the injured Hannah is struck down by the illness she feels forced to take action. It is Carol's insistence of meeting with the travelling doctor John Woodley alone that drives Abby to find out the truth for herself, and (with a pragmatic Healy in tow) discover the terrible truth about both the plague and Carol's culpability in its spread.

Since her introduction in "Mother's Courage" in series two, the full, awful truth of Hannah’s (previously Molly’s) experiences since the onset of the death have been revealed, and in the events of series four's "Forgive and Forget", she finally reached a level of acceptance and is able to "draw a line" (of sorts) over past horrors. Yet Hannah is denied any lasting sense of peace, as she uncovers the deception that Carol is engineering through her skewed blood tests. Up until this point, Carol has been able to practice a degree of self-denial. She may already be responsible for the unnecessary deaths of others, but through the agency of the virus she is a "murderer by proxy". When she strangles Hannah to death, to prevent her revealing the truth (the episode's most chilling moment of sound design) she suffocates any possibility of further self-delusion. Carol reveals herself as a calculating and self-aware killer.

When the terrified residents of Maythorne set fire to the impromptu infirmary (in the hope of immolating the infected amongst them) their callous actions are a harbinger of similar cruelties to come, as communities engage in the most barbaric acts of self-defence in the face of the virus's spread. That the roguish Healy should sacrifice himself, in the attempt to rescue others from the blaze, demonstrates that some survivors will respond to the viral threat with a degree of moral courage that others so evidently lack.

Communities engage in the most barbaric acts of self-defence in the face of the virus's spread

As the episode ends, in the chaotic disintegration of Maythorne, Abby and Evelyn share their stories and confirm some horrible truths: that a deadly viral contagion now haunts the land, and that a now-asymptomatic new "Typhoid Mary" threatens the future of other communities. For both Abby and Evelyn there is no question of retreating into isolation to wait out the pandemic; both forceful women are determined to do all they can to prevent its spread, even as it seems unavoidable that many more survivors will be doomed to die.

"The Second Coming" sets up the drama of series five to impressive effect, and gives life to arguably the most tortured (and ultimately nihilistic) "baddies" yet introduced in the show. Abby is fully recognisable as the driven, doubting and passionate stalwart amongst survivors, while the character of Evelyn already feels fully enmeshed in the fabric of the audio series. Episode two will see the Carol's story impact on the lives of Jenny and Greg, while episodes three and four will bring together the original series' heroes parallel efforts to quarantine the plague and its carriers before it decimates the country once more. One episode in, and series five is shaping up to be the most irresistible Survivors audio yet.

REVIEW QUOTES

AS IT EXPLORES the highest stakes possible, this develops into the most thrilling and compelling set of stories in Big Finish's Survivors series to date.
Rich Cross, Starburst

IT'S A BROKEN mirror to the world we live in, it's a character study, it's a battle of humanity against the virus but more than anything this is the story of Carol Baker
Ed Watkinson, Planet Mondas

THE WAY MCINTOSH, and Smith's script, begins to peel that curtain back makes for some of the most uncomfortable, and gripping, listening this series has produced to date.
Alasdair Stuart, SciFiBulletin

THE WRITING IS superb, effortlessly mixing personal drama with it's all too believable and realistic plot and displays an innate understanding of human nature
Tim Cundle, Mass Movement

SURVIVORS OFFERS A challenging listening experience, and this latest season continues to deliver some genuinely shocking moments, not least at culmination of the first episode.
Ian Mcardell, Cultbox


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Latest updates

 

Series nine reviews added

Added: 13 July 2019

 

Series eight reviews added

Added: 9 January 2019

 

Series seven reviews added

Added: 14 January 2018

 

Series six reviews added

Added: 12 July 2017

 

Series five reviews added

Added: 20 December 2016

 

Series four reviews added

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Series three reviews added

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New interviews added

Added: 21 November 2015

 

Links

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