A recent repeat showing of an episode of the quiz game Pointless Celebrities (Series 6: Episode 5, 12 April 2014) included a question challenging the contestants to identify the least recognised image from a number of 1970s’ TV shows. The selection included a publicity still from Survivors taken during the studio recording session of Gone Away.
None of the teams recognised the image from Survivors, which turned out to be a ‘nearly pointless’ answer – being recognised by only one of the panel of the general public surveyed by the programme. The spread of responses was as follows:
87 – Porridge
61 – Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
48 – Upstairs, Downstairs
18 – Abigail’s Party
1 – Survivors
The question on 1970s’ TV shows occurs 31ms into the episode, which can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer service (within the UK) until 21 January 2015.
Many thanks to Adrian H for providing this information
Since its publication, Nation’s novel has remained an intriguing entry in the Survivors canon. The book weaves its way in-and-out of the storylines of the first six episodes of the TV series (sidestepping the contributions and characters of other Survivors‘ scriptwriters) and rummages through elements of some later stories; rethinking, reworking and reinventing Nation’s own on-screen narrative – before heading off in some enticing new directions.
As a scriptwriter, Nation was often sensitive to criticism of his work by script editors, producers and directors. But he was rarely reverential when revisiting and re-editing his own words. As a result, this Survivors novel is far from being a perfunctory padding-out of original TV scripts to meet the contractual commitments of a TV tie-in. Instead, this ‘novelisation’ shows a writer evidently enjoying the opportunity to re-imagine the post-apocalyptic Britain of his own creation: killing off some characters, reconceiving others, introducing new survivors – and pitching them all into newly imagined perils.
Having assembled his original triumvirate of characters (Abby Grant, Greg Preston and Jenny Richards), Nation has them put down roots in a very different sort of settlement to the TV series’ Grange; surrounds them with a different community of settlers; and then uproots them to begin a journey towards the climes of the southern Mediterranean. The book culminates with the departure of the survivors from the shores of Britain, and a tragic and deadly encounter for one of the series’ protagonists.
Introduced with only a brief unsettling musical flourish, what follows is an expertly judged presentation of Nation’s storytelling, which allows the chilling context of his end-of-the-world setting, and the plight of his scattered ensemble of survivors, to shine through without distraction or gimmick.
The character of Abby Grant provided the emotional heart, and narrative drive, of series one of the TV series; making Carolyn Seymour (the original Abby) the ideal candidate to narrate the book. Seymour delivers a first-rate, finely-balanced performance which includes a range of effective vocalizations for the large collection of characters in the story. Under the direction of Neil Gardner, voice switches in the dialogue sections are pulled off with great aplomb (with the realization of Tom Price’s Welsh timbre a star turn in itself). Seymour has taken on many roles as a narrator, audio-book artist, and computer game voice-actor over the years, and that experience shows here. Hers is a winning, compelling performance, marked by a sense of complete conviction and focus.
The atmosphere of Nation’s drama is pretty intense, and in the opening sections of the novel the ominous sense of foreboding is palpable, as the world unravels in the catastrophe of the viral apocalypse. Seymour’s tone is spot-on throughout; be it through the understated description of the onset of the disaster; capturing the emotional turmoil of the survivors and the moments of genuine horror that they confront; and relishing those dramatic ‘heroes in peril’ motifs that were such a signature of Nation’s work.
Nation was never a florid writer, and (although a prolific scriptwriter) he was only an infrequent novelist. Here his prose has a simplicity and directness which helps to emphasize the natural, real-world setting of the story. Listening to Seymour read Nation’s words aloud, it’s evident just how used he was to writing pacey dialogue. Some audio adaptations stutter (literally or figuratively) as the author’s words are awkwardly exposed in the transition from page to voice. Not here. Shorn of all audio effects, this presentation of Nation’s novel relies entirely on the quality of the original story and the power of Seymour’s delivery.
It is a real pleasure to hear Seymour voice what are to Survivors‘ enthusiasts well-remembered and classic lines – Abby’s own and those of other characters. Seymour does not feel obliged to recreate the phrasing or emphasis of her original performance, but approaches then anew. This is not a reproduction of a delivery now nearly forty years old, but a confident contemporary revisiting. Tempo, rhythm, and pace remain on-target throughout, while the unabridged nature of the audio-book realization makes it an all-the-more immersive experience.
The audio-book version of a 38-year-old TV tie-in is unlikely to be a huge best seller, and Big Finish are to be commended for extending their enthusiasm for their new Survivors imprint into producing this. The 2008 remake of Survivors (cancelled by the BBC in 2010 following its second series) put paid to any prospect (already pretty remote) of a new TV series revisiting the world of the 1975 show. It seemed that the door has been closed on the original series’ canon. With Big Finish’s audio revival of Survivors now set to deliver (at least) three new series in total, in addition to this audio-book novelisation, that door has again been flung wide open (in the audio realm at least).
As a single-voice, unabridged audio-book, delivered with panache, commitment and believability by one of the original series’ best remembered cast, Big Finish’s latest Survivors offering simply could not be bettered.
Today (11 December 2014) Big Finish release the audio-book version of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel, voiced by none other than Carolyn Seymour (the original series’ Abby Grant). The audio is available to buy in both digital download and CD formats.
Carolyn Seymour’s chilling reading of Terry Nation’s Survivors novel is out today…
Big Finish are delighted to announce today’s release of Survivors by Terry Nation, a reading by TV series star Carolyn Seymour:
A deadly virus spreads across the world as quickly as the passenger jets that encircle it. Within weeks, most of the global population is dead.
The human race is thrown back into the dark ages. The few left alive must rely on the most basic skills to survive one day to the next.
Abby Grant ventures out into a strange new England, her husband dead, the fate of her son unknown. Jenny Richards flees London. Engineer Greg Preston arrives from abroad. Desperate lone travellers come together, their instinct to form a community, even if that means rebuilding civilisation from scratch. But not all who are left have such high ideals…
And while she has the chance of a new beginning, Abby cannot settle until she knows the truth. Has her son survived?
Full casting has been announced for the 2015 UK Tour of Twelve Angry Men. Seven actors who recently appeared in the West End revival will reprise their performances for the tour.
Joining the previously announced Tom Conti is: Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street), Robert Duncan (Drop The Dead Donkey), Andrew Frame (EastEnders), David Calvitto (These Shining Lives, The Odd Couple), Mark Carter (Hollyoaks, Utopia) and Sean Power (Secret Diary of a Call Girl). Jon Carver (Doctors) returns to play The Guard.
The cast is completed by: Denis Lill (The Royal, Only Fools And Horses), Paul Beech (King Lear, A Tale of Two Cities), Alexander Forsyth (Porcelain, It Never Ends), Edward Halsted (Holby City, Jonathan Creek) and Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood).
Twelve Angry Men opens on 27 January 2015 at the Theatre Royal Windsor with the current cast initially confirmed to play until 2 May 2015.
Twelve Angry Men is produced by Bill Kenwright and directed by Christopher Haydon, with design by Michael Pavelka. Originally written, by Reginald Rose, as a television play in 1954, Twelve Angry Men was adapted for the stage in 1955 and as an Oscar-nominated Hollywood film, produced by and starring Henry Fonda in 1957. The production was first seen in the West End last November, when it opened at the Garrick Theatre, London starring Robert Vaughn and Jeff Fahey.
UPDATE, 20 April 2015: The tour has now been extended until 27 June, with additional runs at theatres in Southend, Wolverhampton, Barnstable, Croydon, Newcastle and Glasgow. Tom Conti will not appear at the Southend or Wolverhampton runs; with the part of Juror No. 8 being taken on by Jason Merrells.
In the interview Seymour reflects on the continuing relevance of the themes of Survivors:
Nowadays, it’s so relevant, and very apt when you think of the danger that we’re facing today with the threat of Ebola. Survivors has never lost its appeal, as it’s so possible, and it’s not too difficult to imagine that something like that could really happen.
The Ghostface Girls produced daily video diaries from the festival. The screening of Contamination, and the question and answer session which followed, is discussed at 2ms 50s. One of the Ghostface Girls comments: “The Q&A was fantastic. It’s like one of those things that you only get from festivals; to get these people who’ve probably not seen each other for a long, long time, to suddenly sit down and talk about what they did, like, thirty years ago.”
‘An Evening with Ian McCulloch’ is discussed, and briefly illustrated at 2ms in, in this video log from the event.