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.

Survivors scriptwriter Martin Worth dies aged 91

Martin Worth - scriptwriter - Survivors

MARTIN WORTH, who wrote a total of seven scripts for the second and third series of Survivors (1975-1977), has died at the age of 91.

Born in Balham in London in November 1926, Martin Wigglesworth (who later changed his name to Worth), became a scriptwriter after a short stint as an actor in repertory and one-off theatrical productions. He went on to write for the stage, radio and television, penning memorable early TV scripts for Public Eye (1965, 1968), The Borderers (1970) and Special Branch (1970), before being hired by Terence Dudley to work on the eco-cautionary Doomwatch (1970-72). His script for the 1974 BBC documentary series Microbes and Men won him that year’s prestigious Best British Documentary award by the Writers’ Guild. The year that the first series of Survivors was shown, Worth penned all six episodes of the BBC’s adaptation of The Master of Ballantrae, which starred Brian Cox.

Worth’s work on Survivors’ second series

Worth joined the writing team on Survivors for series two, as the show’s centre of operations relocated to the Whitecross settlement, following the departure of Abby Grant and the blaze at The Grange. Worth was fascinated by life within the real-life community at Callow Hill, which provided the setting for the fictional Whitecross, “The location was wonderful,” he later explained to David Richardson, in an interview for TV Zone. “I took detailed photographs of everything.” Worth incorporated many of his observations and insights into his scripts, and plotted his stories to take best advantage of the layout of the landscape and buildings on site.

Worth’s first story, By Bread Alone, is a thoughtful reflection on the place of religious observance and theistic faith in the post-Death world. The impact of Lewis’ emergence from his crisis of faith drew directly on the life story of Worth’s own father; a priest who experienced his own existential angst when he came to doubt his long-held Christian beliefs. It was the kind of introspective, philosophical story which frustrated those looking to up the action-and-adventure quota on the show, but for those who warmed to its insightful themes and immersive atmosphere it marked an impressive debut for an incoming scriptwriter.

It was a measure of producer Dudley’s confidence in Worth that he was assigned writing duties on the closing two episodes of the second series of Survivors. The clash of generation and gender, brilliantly depicted in Over the Hills, is centre stage in the best of Worth’s three scripts for series two (and arguably his strongest single contribution to the show overall). It’s a script that shows Worth’s ability to craft a passionate clash of principles and strongly-held beliefs into an utterly compelling fifty-minutes drama, delivering something that is morally complex and which is determined to present the views of all the protagonists as valid and worthy of attention.

Series two closer New World is a cleverly-crafted mystery-adventure which signals the expansion of the series’ field of vision far beyond the environs of Whitecross. Worth’s script cleverly reveals the wider post-Death vista that the third series will set out to explore, and sets in motion Whitecross’ relegation to the fringes (finding a way to separate the two sparring actors playing the male leads on the show at the same time). Dudley required Worth to compress too many developments into a single episode, but with top-notch plotting and dialogue, and excellent guest characters, there’s a good case to be made for New World being the strongest of Survivors‘ three series finales.

In later years, Worth remained keen to put forward his conviction that the presence of the BBC Outside Broadcast crew at Callow Hill had a detrimental effect on the community, which – he suggested – unravelled under the pressures that filming brought. “We destroyed the very survivors we were trying to write the series about,” he explained to Timescreen. It was a contentious view, which many others who worked in-front-of and behind the cameras did not recognise. In contrast, they remember the friendships and ‘personal entanglements’ between residents and BBC visitors which developed during the spring and summer of 1976. They also recall the warm and high-spirited ceilidh that was held as the on-site ‘wrap party’ for the shoot, and note that Denis Lill and John Abineri continued to be welcome guests at Callow Hill for many years after the production left. It may simply be one of those rare cases where Worth’s evident love for a good story got the better of him.

Worth’s work on the third series of Survivors

This view aside, Worth was still disappointed by Dudley’s decision to break-up the Whitecross settlement and push the series out on the road, believing that there was untapped dramatic potential in the world of Whitecross commune and small-holding. He felt that abandoning that framework in favour of the struggle to rebuild civilisation could only accelerate the series’ demise. Setting his own misgivings aside, Worth embraced Dudley’s changed brief to deliver three contributions to what became the final series of Survivors that fully embodied the new perspective.

The riveting drama of Law of the Jungle, lit up by a bombastic performance by Brian Blessed, offered a chilling realisation of the ‘red in tooth and claw’ realities of humankind’s relation to nature in the post-Death world. It was a story that stood in complete contrast to the pastoral, bucolic and settled life of Whitecross, and was exactly the kind of the script that would have enthused Dudley. Bridgehead and Long Live the King each saw Worth very effectively wrangling the different elements that were the series’ metaphors for the revival of civilisation and of society. The scripts for both episodes again showed Worth’s talent for melding abstract themes and ideas with convincing, and very human-centred, drama.

Worth’s script for Power, the series last ever episode, is a fantastical ‘procedural’ story, showcasing the effort to bring the first Scottish hydroelectric power plant back online – while a saboteur in the survivors ranks attempts to wreck their plans. Worth placed great store in ensuring that the technical elements of this story were accurate, visiting both a power plant and a sub-station as part of his preparation. “I was shown exactly how it worked,” he explained later. “Getting it all right, doing accurate research, is very satisfying. Do it responsibly and you can always get dramatic value out of the difficulties you encounter.” This attention to detail did not lead Worth to turn in a ‘dry’ plot. In Survivors‘ closing fifty minutes, he ensures that the drama remained centred on the social and personal aspects of the struggle to reconnect the country’s first power supplies avoiding the narrowly mechanical. Power remains something of a contentious endpoint amongst Survivors enthusiasts, but very few of the controversies that this last episode give rise to are reflections of any shortcomings in the script. Worth crafts an assured sign-off for Survivors‘ sometimes disjointed final series, and delivers a number of welcome pay-offs in the process.

After Survivors

The year that Survivors came to an end, Worth also provided scripts for The Onedin Line and the BBC’s adaptation of Poldark. He would go on to write for Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), Gems and C.A.T.S. Eyes (1985) and Drummonds (1987), and continued to pen scripts for both theatre and radio until his retirement.

Worth was rightly proud of his contributions to Survivors, and was a keen supporter of anyone researching the history of the series. In 1988, Worth was interviewed by Andrew Pixley and Anthony McKay for Timescreen magazine, and discussed the full breath of his work on genre television, including but not limited to Survivors.

In the mid-1990s, he was interviewed by Kevin Marshall during his research for his self-published tome The Making of Terry Nation’s Survivors, and appeared as one of the panelists for the Survivors session at the ‘Dreamwatch 94’ convention, chaired by Marshall, which was one of the first public reunions of cast-and-crew to discuss the series ever held. In December 2006, Worth appeared as one of the interviewees in BBC Four’s The Cult of…Survivors retrospective documentary on the series (also appearing in the Doomwatch, The Onedin Line and Poldark episodes).

When Andy Priester and myself were writing The End of the World?: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Survivors, we sadly did not have the opportunity to interview Martin Worth. It was not until 2010 that I was fortunate enough to arrange to meet with him for a fascinating afternoon of discussion about his work on both Doomwatch and Survivors. Worth had been unaware of the publication of our Survivors book, but was effusive and animated in his praise when I was able to provide a copy for him to read, and full of helpful comments and suggestions for a second, updated edition.

He remained convinced that uprooting the series at the close of series two had marked a premature death-knell for the show. Terence Dudley had, he charged:

made a mistake in allowing the survivors to succeed in getting the country organized again. Though it was fun to write, it effectively killed off the series. If we’d stayed with the community in Wales trying to get by through their own self-sufficiency, it could have gone on for many more seasons.

That is certainly an enticing and and intriguing prospect from one of the most accomplished and perceptive scriptwriters to have worked on the original Survivors.

* His ex-wife, Angela Wigglesworth wrote an obituary for Worth that was published in The Guardian (6 August 2018).

Twenty years today since Survivors was last shown on British TV

Terry Nation's Survivors - on satellite and cable TV in the 1990s

TODAY MARKS THE twentieth anniversary of Survivors‘ last appearance on British TV.

Beginning in 1993, the entire three-series run of Survivors enjoyed several repeat showings on the satellite-cable channel UK Gold. As the BBC never ran repeats of Survivors, this was the first time that the programme had been seen on British television since Survivors‘ original transmission on BBC 1 between 1975 and 1977.

The final transmission on UK Gold concluded, with the broadcast of series three finale “Power”,  shortly after midnight on Monday 27 April 1998. This concluding episode was preceded by an episode of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image and followed by an instalment of crime drama The Equalizer.

The first series of Survivors was released on VHS cassette by BBC Video the same year that the UK Gold transmissions began, and again by Sovereign Video in 1998, before series one secured its first DVD release (and its third VHS release) courtesy of DD Video in 2003.

TV and Satellite Week - 26 April 1997

Survivors’ location enjoys annual open weekend

The abandoned village of Imber on Salisbury Plain (the principal filming location for series three Survivors episode Sparks) enjoyed its annual ‘open’ weekend over the Easter holiday break; an event covered this year by an illustrated feature in The Mirror (27 March 2016).

The village of Imber was forcibly evacuated in December 1943, as the military commandeered sites that could be used to prepare troops for the street fighting that would follow the Normandy landings of D-Day. The emptied village was repurposed as a Ministry of Defence training ground. Villagers were never able to return, and the site became sealed-off from public access all year round – except for a single annual open weekend, when visitors were welcomed to view the landmark church and other buildings.

St Giles Church, the main interior and exterior location in Sparks, benefited from a £300,000 restoration project in 2008, sponsored by the Churches Conservation Trust, which prevented the building from falling into a state of complete disrepair.

Imber - open weekend - 2016

Survivors series three DVD studio day – ten years ago today

It is exactly ten years ago to-the-day (4 August 2015) that Tristan de Vere Cole, Peter Jefferies, Lucy Fleming, Morris Perry and Stephen Dudley were reunited at a studio in central London to record the ‘special features’ for the Survivors series three DVD release.

De Vere Cole and Perry recorded a memorable episode commentary for the classic Mad Dog, while Fleming and Jefferies watched and discussed Law of the Jungle. All five attendees recorded interviews for the series three ‘making of’ documentary New World Rising; while Stephen Dudley provided an extra interview reflecting on his work on series one (which was included as an ‘Easter Egg’ on the DVD release).

To mark the decennial anniversary of this event, we’re publishing a set of never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photos from the day.

A gallery of previously-published photos from the day is available on the main Survivors: A World Away site.

Survivors directors Tristan de Vere Cole and Peter Jefferies at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005
Survivors directors Tristan de Vere Cole and Peter Jefferies at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005

Survivors director Tristan de Vere Cole and Morris Perry at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005
Survivors director Tristan de Vere Cole and Morris Perry at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005

The participants break for lunch at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005
Participants break for lunch at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005

Raising a toast at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005
Raising a toast at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005

Director Tristan de Vere Cole on set at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005
Director Tristan de Vere Cole on set at the Survivors series three DVD studio day, August 4 2005

Big Finish release cover design for Survivors series three audios

Audio drama company Big Finish have published the cover artwork for the third series of Survivors audio adventures scheduled for release in November 2015 (and available for pre-order).

The design features the characters (l-r) of Daniel Connor (John Banks), Maddie Price (Chase Masterson), Molly (Fiona Sheehan) and Vinnie Vincent (Paul Thornley), and the background shows the iconic image of London’s Post Office Tower.

Big Finish - Survivors - series three - cover

A list of published credits for series three has also been extended:

Written By: Jonathan Morris, Simon Clark, Andrew Smith, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast: Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant), Richard Heffer (Jimmy Garland), Chase Masterson (Maddie Price), John Banks (Daniel Conner), Fiona Sheehan (Molly), Andrew French (Dalton Roberts), Paul Thornley (John Vincent), Damian Lynch (Marcus), Miranda Raison (Janet), Lisa Bowerman (Gloria), Christopher Hatherall (Tyler), James Joyce (Jonathon), Louisa Clein (Pam), John Voce (Walter)

Producer David Richardson | Script Editor Matt Fitton | Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Bernard Kay (Sanders in Mad Dog) dies aged 86

Bernard Kay - Mad Dog

Bernard Kay (who memorably played the role of Sanders in the third series Survivors episode Mad Dog) has died at the age of 86.

Kay was found deceased at his home on 29 December 2014, though details of his passing have only been published today.

In 1977, Kay arrived on location in Derbyshire to record his role in Mad Dog only days after the death of his wife Patricia Haines, who passed away aged 45. Mad Dog director Tristan de Vere Cole later recalled: “She had literally just died the week before shooting. And he arrived.. and I had said to him ‘look Bernard, we can leave your scenes.’ He said ‘no, no — I want to work.’ So we stayed up, when he’d arrived that first night at the hotel, until three o’clock playing backgammon.” Come the next morning: “he did his job, he was so professional.”

Kay enjoyed a long and varied career on the small screen, in film and on stage. On TV, he appeared in Z Cars, Doctor Who, The Professionals, Coronation Street and Foyle’s War amongst many other productions.

Toby Hadoke recalls of Kay’s work: “He was one of those superb understated but versatile actors that we don’t seem to have any more. He never gave a bad performance. He was greatly admired by his peers. His sense of humour was combative but there wasn’t any meanness in him.”

News of Kay’s passing appears in today’s (1 January 2015) The Mirror, Manchester Evening News, The Courier and The Daily Mail.

EDIT – 2 January 2015: Listen to Tony Hadoke’s original podcast interview with Bernard Kay and its sequel on the Big Finish site.

Original scripts of The Face of the Tiger and Reunion for sale by auction bid

The Face of the Tiger
The Face of the Tiger

Survivors‘ scriptwriter Don Shaw is selling his personal copy of his Survivors scripts for his series two episode The Face of the Tiger and series three story Reunion.

These are the scriptwriter’s copies of the shooting script for each episode, kept in Don’s personal archive since 1976 and 1977.

The scripts for The Face of the Tiger and Reunion are being sold separately, and independent offers (with an opening price for each script of £250) are invited. Each script is in very good condition and will be signed by Don. An additional handwritten message can be added to either script at the buyer’s request.

In the past couple of years, Don has sold a signed copy of one of his Doomwatch scripts for more than £200, while a copy of an signed script from his contribution to the Hammer House of Horror anthology sold for more than £400. Last year, Don sold his personal copy of his script for his series three Survivors episode Mad Dog.

If you are interested in making a bid on either the The Face of The Tiger or Reunion scripts, please submit your bid via the contact form on the Survivors: A World Away site, by the end of Wednesday 19 March. (Please note, the Survivors: A World Away site is just helping Don to get word out to Survivors‘ fans about this offer – and will not receive a penny from any sale). Remember to indicate which script you are bidding on (or if you are making separate bids for both).

If no suitable offers are received directly from the Survivors fan community (which is receiving first sight of the sale), then the script will be listed in open auction on eBay.

Reunion
Reunion

UPDATE (1 April 2014): As a result of the auction, the script for The Face of the Tiger was purchased by a member of the Survivors fan community. As with the previous successful sale of his personal script copy of Mad Dog, Don Shaw was pleased that the script was acquired by a dedicated Survivors fan. No successful bids were received for the script for Reunion, so this item will be listed for open auction on the eBay site shortly. A further update will follow once the Reunion script has been listed on eBay.

Original Survivors Mad Dog script up for auction

Survivors‘ scriptwriter Don Shaw is selling off a number of original copies from his personal archive of his own TV scripts – including his own copy of his script for the series three classic Survivors episode Mad Dog.

Don recently sold a signed copy of one of his Doomwatch scripts for more than £200, while a copy of an signed script from his contribution to the Hammer House of Horror anthology sold for more than £400.

Of the Mad Dog script he is now auctioning off Don says:

“It comes with a 3 page lengthy analysis and synopsis, cast list, viewing figure, locations. transmission date and time etc. It will also have my letter signed by myself to the winning buyer giving something of the background as I remember it with a tale of an actor in risk of hypothermia as we shot footage near Ilam in the Peak District. It’s in very good condition. I’m looking for offers above £250.”

If you are interested in making a bid on the Mad Dog script, please register your interest via the contact form on the Survivors: Mad Dog site, by the end of Tuesday 14 May. (Please note, the Survivors: Mad Dog site is just helping Don to get word out to Survivors‘ fans about this offer – and won’t receive a penny from any sale).

If no suitable offers are received directly from the Survivors fan community (which is receiving first sight of the sale), then the script will be auctioned off on eBay.

UPDATE: 28 May 2013: The auction of Don Shaw’s original script for Mad Dog has concluded – and the successful highest bidder will shortly receive their signed manuscript in the post. Don has expressed his pleasure that the script has a new owner “within the Survivors fan community”. Thanks go to everyone who took part in the auction, or expressed an interest.

Original series episode Law of the Jungle (with Brian Blessed) on the big screen in Derby

A rare opportunity to enjoy an episode from the original Survivors on the big screen is provided during the ID Fest film festival in Derby later in May.

The series three episode Law of the Jungle, which features a memorable guest appearance by Brian Blessed is being screened on Saturday 26 May at 12:45pm. The ‘Brian Blessed Television Showcase’ also includes an equally rare cinematic outing for one of the earliest installments of the Tales of the Unexpected anthology Lamb to the Slaughter, in which Blessed also co-stars.

At 7:00pm on the same day, the festival plays host to Brian Blessed: live in conversation, an opportunity to hear the actor and raconteur reflect on decades of work on the big and small screen.

Blessed’s appearance is followed by a screening of the kitch 1980s space-opera Flash Gordon, which features a scene-stealing peformance from Blessed as Prince Vultan.

Brian Blessed - Brod, original Survivors
Brian Blessed - Brod, original Survivors

Tickets for the Brian Blessed Television Showcase and Brian Blessed: live in conversation events are available from the Quad venue web site.

Brian Blessed Television Showcase