Entertainment Focus enjoys a full rewatch of Survivors

Portraits of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell by artists Tom Bailey - illustrating the critical rewatch of Survivors by Entertainment Focus
Portraits of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell by artist Tom Bailey

TWO JOURNALISTS FROM Entertainment Focus have recently been enjoying a full rewatch of all 38 episodes of Survivors from all three series of the show, and sharing their thoughts, criticisms and observations in a series of linked articles in the online magazine.

Good-humoured, interesting, sometimes contentious, but usually well-informed, Greg Jameson and Samuel Payne began their journey with The Fourth Horseman several weeks ago and are working their way right through to Power.

The five linked articles published so far take the form of a conversation between the two. As you track their critical rewatch through each of the three series, you’ll find yourself nodding in vigorous agreement at some points, and shaking your head in disbelief at others – but then that’s a key part of the fun in hearing someone else’s perspective on what might well be your favourite TV show.

As well as screen-shots from different episodes, the series includes an original artwork by Tom Bailey – which presents six portrait caricatures of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell (see above).

Series one

Series two

Series three

Portraits of Sam, the Laird, Alec, Agnes, Brod and Hubert from series three of Survivors by artist Tom Bailey

Survivors ‘reaction videos’

There’s a different perspective on the early episodes of Survivors‘ first series in the form of a new set of ‘reaction videos’ available on YouTube. ‘Reaction videos’ are now a common format of fan participation on the platform. In them, fans video their reactions to watching film and TV shows, so the viewer sees their responses to the drama as it unfolds on-screen.

YouTuber medusa cascade produces ‘reaction videos’ exploring a variety of sci-fi, cult and TV shows, and has uploaded her responses to the first nine episodes of series one of Survivors. Each video is a 10-15 minute edit of the highlights of each episode view. Medusa Cascade is new to Survivors so her reactions are those of a first time viewer – and she has a particularly intense and emotional reaction to seeing Law and Order for the first time.

Dystopian BBC drama 1990 secures DVD release

1990 - Series 1 - DVD cover

SERIES ONE OF the critically acclaimed 1970s’ BBC drama 1990 has just been released on DVD by Simply Media. This is the first time that the programme, which stars Edward Woodward and Barbara Kellerman, has been released for sale in any format.

A dystopian, rather than a post-apocalyptic drama, 1990 was part of the same wave of darker TV dramas that began to emerge in the late 1970s of which Survivors was a key part. These shows, and others, such as The Guardians (1971), The Changes (1975), Noah’s Castle (1980) and The Knights of God (1987), imagined how society might be overturned by disasters or calamities of different sorts, and how humanity might respond to the loss of civilisation.

Clearly taking inspiration from George Orwell’s seminal treatise on authoritarianism 1984, 1990 depicts life in a then-future Britain that has isolated itself from the world and slid into tyranny. In a country in which freedom of speech has been outlawed and surveillance of citizens’ lives has become all powerful, small groups of rebels and dissidents attempt to outwit the authorities and subvert the system; even if that means finding ways to escape the country’s closed borders in the hope of finding a freer life.

The central protagonist in 1990 is Jim Kyle (Woodward), a journalist who attempts to rebuff the attentions of the spies and snoopers of the Public Control Department whilst secretly working for the underground resistance movement. The pressures and contradictions of Kyle’s life are made more intense by his entanglement with the beguiling senior PCD official Delly Lomas (Kellerman). Can Kyle continue to resist the PCD, aid the fightback, and still retain his secure and relatively-privileged position in the new Britain? Series one sets off to find out…

My review of the DVD release of series one and series two of 1990 both appear in the online edition of Starburst magazine.

It is excellent news that, by the time series one was released, Simply Media had already committed to releasing the second (and final) series of 1990 on DVD on 1 May 2017.

1990 - Edward Woodward, Barbara Kellerman, series one, Simply Media

1990 – series one

Britain, 1990. Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) stars as Jim Kyle, renegade leader of a resistance movement, in the BBC’s cult dystopian drama set in a totalitarian Britain.

The country is run by the bureaucrats of the Home Office’s all-powerful Public Control Department (PCD). Hundreds of thousands of civil servants work hard at monitoring and exposing all possible and imaginary threats to the country.

They routinely command sophisticated surveillance of anyone suspected of opposing the status quo; ruthless suppression of independent thought in Special State brainwashing units cunningly disguised as caring rest-homes; and strict rationing of food, alcohol, and travel.

Free speech is forbidden. The rule of law no longer protects the vulnerable. Civil liberties are consigned to history as the Orwellian bureaucrats tyrannically impose their intimidating control.

Jim Kyle (Edward Woodward), journalist for The Star, resists the forces of the Establishment. He’s smart, witty and charming. But is subversive acts aren’t going unnoticed, and he risks prison or death at the hands of the PCD’s ruthless controller Herbert Skardon, (Robert Lang), and his provocatively alluring deputy, Delly Lomas (Barbara Kellerman).

Series One and Series Two were first broadcast on BBC 2 in 1977 and 1978 to critical acclaim. The series was never released on video or DVD until now.

1990 - Series 2 - DVD cover

By way of a personal aside…

Back in the early 2000s, when I was working with Andy Priestner on the special features accompanying the release of all three series of Survivors on DVD by DD Video/DDHE (the forerunners of Simply Media), I pitched to the company the idea of licensing 1990 for DVD release, and outlined the special features that I would like to have compiled as part of the DVD package. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the project did not proceed at that time, and this Simply Media release is ‘vanilla’ in format, and uses an untreated archival tape source. Despite this, this release comes very highly recommended to all enthusiasts of intelligent, high quality BBC genre TV drama from that classic period.

A screen capture of the pitch to DDHE for a 1990 release
My original pitch to DDHE, for a 1990 DVD release, from more than a decade ago…

Survivors – The Fourth Horseman – broadcast forty years ago today

Today (16 April 2015) is the fortieth anniversary of the original broadcast of “The Fourth Horseman” (the opening episode of the first series of Survivors). The first ever episode of Survivors was shown at 20:10 on Wednesday 16 April 1975 on BBC 1, and was seen by just over 7m viewers. “The Fourth Horseman” was written by Survivors‘ creator Terry Nation, directed by Pennant Roberts, and introduced the characters of Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) and Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming) – the character of Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) was introduced in the second episode (“Genesis”).

In The End of the World? The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Survivors, the authors introduce their review of the episode as follows:

“The Fourth Horseman” must rank as one of Terry Nation’s finest single scripts, and sets an incredibly high standard for the drama that will follow. The opening episode of a new drama series imposes multiple challenges for the television writer: the series’ premise must be established; key characters introduced; and audience interest in the fate of the programme’s central characters secured. In the case of Survivors, Nation is required to achieve all that, whilst at the same time evoking a plausible picture of a global catastrophe using only the personal experiences of a few disparate individuals. In doing so, as Anthony Brown observed in DWB in 1993, he ‘avoids all the clichés of disaster fiction.’

The Fourth Horseman - titles

The Fourth Horseman - Abby Grant

The Fourth Horseman - Jenny Richards

Survivors ‘nearly pointless’ reveals BBC quiz

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

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television - choices A-E

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television - choices A-E

 

New Big Finish Survivors audio adventure interviews

New interviews with John Banks (Daniel Connor), Sinead Keenan (Suzie Edwards), Adrian Lukis (James Gillison), Chase Masterson (Maddie Price), and San Shella (Sayed) have been added to the Survivors: A World Away Big Finish mini-site.

These latest interviews join those with producer David Richardson, director Ken Bentley, script editor and writer Matt Fitton and writers Jonathan Morris and Andrew Smith.

There are also reviews of all four episodes in the first series. More interviews with cast and crew will be added soon!

Survivors: A World Away - Big Finish Survivors

Big Finish release series one of new Survivors audio dramas

Audio drama specialists Big Finish have today (5 June 2014) released series one of their new Survivors audio adventures set in the time of place of Terry Nation’s original TV drama. Big Finish say:

WE ARE IMMENSELY proud to announce the release of Terry Nation’s Survivors – Series 1.

The original TV series ran from 1975 to 1977, and portrayed the outbreak of a plague that wipes out most of the world’s population, and told the story of the few people who survived…

Our original audio series begins again with the plague outbreak, introducing new characters before running parallel with that TV show, as Lucy Fleming (Jenny) and Ian McCulloch (Greg) reprise their roles. Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant) also has a cameo role, and will appear in a larger capacity in Series 2.

It begins with just a few people falling ill. Another flu virus that spreads around the globe. And then the reports begin that people are dying…

When most of the world’s population is wiped out, a handful of survivors are left to pick up the pieces.

Cities become graveyards. Technology becomes largely obsolete. Mankind must start again…

Series one of the new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD format or by digital download) from the Big Finish web site. Series two will be released in June 2015.

Survivors - series one - CD artwork - Big Finish

New audio adventure Survivors cast Tweet as recording begins

As recording on the first series of the new Survivors adventures from Big Finish got underway last week, cast members including John Banks and Terry Molloy took to Twitter to comment:

John Banks - Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording
John Banks – Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording

 
John Banks - Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording
John Banks – Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording

 
Terry Molloy  - Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording
Terry Molloy – Tweets about Big Finish Survivors recording

Sinead Keenan is Susie Edwards in new Big Finish Survivors audio

Audio drama production company Big Finish have announced that Sinead Keenan (Being Human, London Irish will be appearing in the forthcoming first series of Survivors audio adventures in the role of Susie Edwards.

Sinead Keenan is Susie Edwards, who finds that the future for humanity is dark and terrifying…

Series one of the new Survivors audio adventures is available for pre-order from the Big Finish site.

Big Finish - Survivors - Sinead Keenan
Big Finish – Survivors – Sinead Keenan

Adrian Lukis is James Gillison in new Big Finish Survivors audio

Adrian Lukis will be appearing in the first series of the new Survivors audio adventures. Big Finish have announced that Lukis will take on the role of university lecturer James Gillison.

Adrian Lukis is polytechnic lecturer James Gillison…

Series one of the new Survivors audio adventures is available for pre-order from the Big Finish site.

Big Finish - Survivors - Adrian Lukis
Big Finish – Survivors – Adrian Lukis

John Banks is Daniel Connor in new Big Finish Survivors audio

John Banks will be joining the cast of the first series of new Survivors audio adventures, in the role of journalist Daniel Conner, Big Finish have confirmed.

John Banks is journalist Daniel Connor, who is onto the biggest story in the world… the end of the world!

Series one of the new Survivors audio adventures is available for pre-order from the Big Finish site.

Big Finish - Survivors - John Banks
Big Finish – Survivors – John Banks