New study of performance and production in Survivors

A NEW BOOK which examines the way in which actors perform in television drama, and the way in which their performance is captured by the camera, uses Survivors as one of its illuminating case studies.

In The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama, author and researcher Richard Hewett scrutines the craft of actors and performers working on The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors.

He looks at the interplay between custom and practice, acting theory, evolving technology and other factors in shaping how performance for television is realised. Hewett pays particular attention to the distinction between studio and ‘on location’ production, exploring the influence that ‘place’ exerts on the way that a story is translated from page to screen.

Hewett’s book builds on the research that he undertook for the doctoral thesis, and an academic journal article that he published as one of the outputs of his research findings. Yet it’s clear that the aim of the book is to reach a non-academic as well as an academic audience.

For those interested in the history of British television production, there’s a great deal in Hewett’s book to capture the attention.

Enthusiasts with a particular interest in Survivors will be able to enjoy some fascinating and original reflections on the making of the show, informed by new interviews with cast members (including Lucy Fleming and Denis Lill and Roger Lloyd-Pack), and illustrated with numerous screencaptures from different episodes of the show.

In a Q&A with publishers Manchester University Press, Hewett explains that he enjoyed “every aspect of writing the book, from re-viewing the case studies to poring over archive documents.” He suggests that conducting interviews was the most satisfying part. “It was fascinating to have my theories challenged by the practitioners who originally worked on my case studies,” he says – people who were on set at the time and who were able to offer “their own unique perspectives.”

This book provides a historical overview and then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama. By examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production – studio realism and location realism – it makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium. The book compares the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment (BBC, 1953), Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89) and Survivors (BBC, 1975-77) with their respective modern-day re-makes, unpacking the effects of the shift from multi-camera studio to single-camera location production. Textual analysis is combined with extensive archival research into production process and reception, alongside interviews with numerous actors and production personnel from more than sixty years of television production.

Richard Hewett. 2020. The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, ISBN 9781526148636.

The Mad Death – interview and review in Starburst

Richard Heffer - The Mad Death - Starburst #449

RICHARD HEFFER (JIMMY Garland, Survivors) is interviewed in the current print edition of Starburst magazine, discussing his leading role in the three-part 1983 rabies mini-series The Mad Death.

Coinciding with the release of The Mad Death on DVD for the first time, Heffer recalls the making of the series, the topicality of its dramatic themes, the chilling and memorable opening titles, and his evident delight in taking on the role of no-nonsense government vet Michael Hilliard.

The DVD release is also reviewed in the online edition of Starburst magazine. The review concludes that the series:

remains gripping, thought-provoking, unsettling and disturbing; an overdue release from the TV archives from an era when the BBC made more shows that deserved those kinds of adjectives.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Interview – Richard Heffer: The Mad Death’. Starburst, No 449, p.92.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst, 3 May. https://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/mad-death-1983.

UPDATE 16 JUNE 2018: My review of The Mad Death appears in the print edition of Starburst magazine No 450.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst. No 450, p.85.

The Mad Death - DVD review - Starburst No 450

Series seven of Survivors audios previewed in Vortex 105

Vortex - Big Finish - No 105 - Survivors - series seven - preview feature

THE SEVENTH SERIES of original Survivors audio adventures, released later this month, is previewed in a four-page full-colour feature in the new free-to-read issue of Big Finish’s Vortex magazine..

Discussing the upcoming series are director Ken Bentley, producer David Richardson, script editor Matt Fitton, writers Simon Clark, Christopher Hatherall and Roland Moore, and Helen Goldwyn (Ruth).

Of his opening episode “Journey’s End”, new-to-Survivors writer Moore says, enticingly:

In story terms we are picking up Abby’s search for her son after other events had taken up her time. And as Matt and I discussed various approaches to the opening episode, Matt wondered if Abby’s faith in Peter’s survival could be finally faltering and she might face the possibility that she’d never find him. So I took that and ran with it. In fact, when I submitted my idea I was worried it might be too much – but it wasn’t

Series seven is still available for pre-order (in both CD and digital download formats) on the Big Finish site, while the previous six series (and the audiobook version of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel) are all available for purchase.

Series eight of Survivors audios will be released in June 2018; with series nine following in November 2018.

Big Finish. ‘Survival guide: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse,’ Vortex, 105, pp.18-21.

Starburst preview of Big Finish Survivors series six now available online

The feature previewing the release of series six of Big Finish’s Survivors audio dramas, first published in the print edition of Starburst (Issue 438, June 2017 – before the series was released), has now been made freely available to read online on the Starburst web site.

In addition to the review of the new series published in the online edition of Starburst, individual episode reviews of each of the episode reviews in the series have also been published on the S:AWA Big Finish mini-site.

Starburst - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview - online

Starburst #438 - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview

Starburst preview of series six of Survivors audio adventures

A two-page, full-colour feature, previewing the sixth series of Big Finish’s Survivors audio adventures released later this month, appears in the new edition of Starburst magazine (Issue 438). The feature includes comments from producer David Richardson and from scriptwriters Andrew Smith, Christopher Hatherall and Simon Clark.

Starburst #438 - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview

Rich Cross. 2017. ‘True Survivors can stand alone’, Starburst, Issue 438, June, pp. 52-53.

Series six remains available for pre-order on the Big Finish web site (alongside the previous five series and Carolyn Seymour’s reading of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel). Series seven (November 2017), eight (June 2018) and nine (November 2018) are also available for pre-order.

Preview of series six of Survivors audio adventures in Big Finish’s Vortex

The new edition of Big Finish’s free-to-download Vortex magazine (Issue 100, June 2017), includes a four-page, full-colour feature previewing the release, later this month, of series six of Survivors audio adventures.

The article includes commentary from producer David Richardson, and from writers Ian Potter, Christopher Hatherall, Simon Clark and Andrew Smith.

Series six remains available for pre-order on the Big Finish web site (alongside the previous five series and Carolyn Seymour’s reading of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel). Series seven (November 2017), eight (June 2018) and nine (November 2018) are also available for pre-order.

Vortex 100 - Big Finish - series six - preview

Kenny Smith. 2017. ‘Keep on Surviving’, Vortex, No 100, June, pp.14-17.

Starburst preview feature of Big Finish Survivors series five – now online

My Starburst feature, previewing the release of series five of Big Finish’s Survivors audio adventures, which appeared in the November print edition of the magazine (No 430), is now available to read (for free) online (the web version was published on 21 November 2016).

These latest episodes also bring to the fore the ‘Whitecross’ community, the centre of operations in Series Two of the TV series, and explore efforts to reconnect the first electricity supplies; one of the central themes of the third TV series. But with the new virus threatening everything and everyone, the finale of the audio Series Five shows how merciless its impact can be. Despite the death toll, with Series Six and Seven now confirmed, Big Finish’s Survivors series is itself clearly in rude and vibrant health.

Starburst - Big Finish - Survivors - preview feature

Lucy Fleming recalls her mother’s work on Brief Encounter

An article in yesterday’s Daily Mail (11 December 2015), which revisits the making of the 1945 classic British film Brief Encounter, includes reflections on the work of Celia Johnson by her daughter, Survivors‘ actress Lucy Fleming. She recalls:

Celia Johnson was in many ways just like Laura Jesson, agrees her daughter, the actress Lucy Fleming, today. ‘She was very moral and wouldn’t have liked that kind of situation to arise in her own life,’ says Lucy, 68, who is married to the actor Simon Williams and was best known for her role in Seventies series Survivors. ‘People loved working with her. She was fun. She had a great sense of humour.’

Brief Encounter - Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard

Big Finish Survivors series two feature in Vortex magazine 76

Issue 76 (June 2015) of Big Finish’s free-to-download Vortex magazine contains a three page behind-the-scenes feature on the making of series two of the new Survivors audio adventures, penned by Kenny Smith.

Big Finish - Survivors - Series 2 - feature in Vortex 76

Survivors’ video sleeve illustrator Pete Wallbank creates new artwork

Artist Pete Wallbank, who created the sleeve artwork for the Sovereign VHS release of series one of Survivors in 1998, has been commissioned by fan David Tulley to create a new original piece of Survivors art.

In the style of a Survivors video sleeve cover, Pete has produced a new and original design inspired by the classic series three episode The Last Laugh, which the artist and new owner have kindly agreed can be published on the Survivors: A World Away site.

Pete Wallbank - The Last Laugh
Pete Wallbank – The Last Laugh

With thanks to Pete Wallbank; from the collection of David Tulley

To learn more about his work on the Sovereign video release of Survivors, read an interview with Pete from 2007.