Updated: December 23 2020 09:43
Jenny's efforts to move supplies, and Abby's hopes of tracing Peter, come under threat when their train is attacked
JENNY RICHARDS AND Abby Grant are travelling on a supply train, crewed by driver Derek Gibb and driver's mate Craig. More than three years on from the devastation of The Death, efforts to build a thriving network of co-operative communities are progressing well. When the train is brought to a halt by a blocked line, the locomotive is attacked by an armed group of raiders; many of them on horseback. Realising that the assailants are a gang of young children and teenagers, Abby is reluctant to open fire on the attackers in case her son Peter Grant is amongst their ranks. While Jenny has few such qualms, and is determined to protect their vital materials, she only fires warning shots. Despite their efforts, the attackers injure Derek and threaten to take control of the train. The group are unexpectedly rescued by another armed patrol, who arrive just in time to see off the raiders. Jenny's and Abby's gratitude and relief is tempered when the leader of their saviours, a man named Robert Malcolm, who reveals that his own settlement offers a 'sanctuary' for youngsters, turns out to be an obstinate and inflexible character, determined that things should be done his way. His obvious charisma persuades Craig to decamp to Robert's group, but Abby is frustrated that Robert seems to want to delay her quest to discover if Peter is a member of his group...
THE FIRST HALF of Christopher Hatherall's fast-moving Bandit Train is all action and visceral adventure, as the train on which Abby and Jenny are travelling comes under attack from well-equipped and well-organised raiders. With the end-point of the TV series, as depicted in the final episode Power now left behind in Big Finish's expanded timeline, there's a clear sense of added jeopardy for all of the protagonists involved as the constraints of the established Survivors canon are removed. That sense of characters being at risk is soon reinforced, as the catalogue of those mortally injured soon rises.
A steam train hurtling along the rails through an empty post-apocalyptic landscape, being chased by determined marauders on horseback, offers an audio kaleidoscope to Big Finish's sound designer, and the very capable efforts of Benji Clifford do not disappoint. This is an immersive, atmospheric story, with a strong and convincing sense of place. Director Ken Bentley displays his usual gift for wringing the best possible value from action sequences, while he also brings great clarity to what could be a confusing picture of 'who's where' even as the momentum ratchets up.
Lucy Fleming continues to excel as Jenny reinvents herself as a woman of action and of commitment
As well as the high adventure, Hatherall is also able to deliver some excellent character development for his recurring characters. The switcharound in the relationship dynamic between Abby and Jenny comes across as entirely plausible: hardships and tough experiences have stiffened Jenny's resilience and her sense of self-confidence; while it's the proximity of the longed-for Peter that is clouding Abby's judgement in self-doubt. Of course, it helps that Hatherall's well-honed dialogue is delivered by two actors who are clearly reveling in the rewarding developments in their respective roles. Lucy Fleming continues to excel as Jenny reinvents herself as a woman of action and of commitment; while Carolyn Seymour channels Abby's mounting anxiety with her trademark skill and sensitivity.
Introduced here as the group's apparent saviour, Robert Malcolm is an immediately intriguing protagonist. Hywel Morgan easily convinces as the conniving Robert, able to combine a superficial veneer of decency with duplicitous behaviour that masks his real, and far uglier, intentions. So effective is Robert in portraying the sense of camaraderie and the familial nature of his settlement, that Craig is quickly convinced to throw in his lot with this would-be father figure - as yet unaware of the impossibly grim fate that awaits him at a tormentor's hand.
Craig is too eager to accept Robert's offer to seriously evaluate what it might entail
It's great to hear George Watkins return as a now enthused and re-energised Craig, optimistic about the future and eager to find a new purpose and identity - which, unfortunately for Craig, is exactly the kind of aspiration that Robert is keen to exploit. While Craig is too eager to accept Robert's offer to seriously evaluate what it might entail, Abby is suspicious about Robert's efforts to obstruct her; concerned (rightly, as it transpires) that his objections hide a set of ulterior motives. Neither Craig nor Abby yet realise quite how destructive and damaging Robert's true ambitions really are.
The decision to introduce Robert in this first episode before flipping the clock to tell his backstory in the second is inspired, and injects this boxset of stories with an additional enticing rhythm. Aware that the story arc of Robert Malcolm (and his later-to-be-revealed Scottish backers) will shape these last two series of current Survivors audios has allowed the Big Finish team to set in motion all of the elements required for a big scale, big stakes finale. Listeners will only have to wait until the summer to learn who will be left standing at this new Survivors endpoint, and whose vision of life in post post-apocalyptic Britain will finally win out.
A DECEPTIVELY CLEVER set up with a very big surprise in the final minutes, it's one of the strongest season openers the show has ever done.
Alasdair Stuart, SciFi Bulletin
THE FIRST HALF of this episode plays out like an action movie with the train stopped and our heroes attacked
Ian McArdell, Indie Mac User
THE CONCEPT OF a single train being coveted in a largely powerless world is one that's always worked particularly well in post-apocalyptic fiction and it's no exception here.
Alex Jones, Blogtor Who
The ninth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"There's still great potential here, as the UK begins to emerge from the dark ages of The Death, for more stories set in this uniquely realised dystopia, should sufficient numbers of those who have yet to purchase copies of this extraordinary audio series belatedly recognise the error of their ways. If that doesn't happen, this will remain a stunning finale for what must be celebrated as a consistently compelling audio drama, 5/5"
The eight series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"This latest boxset delivers an impressive mix of large scale, high stakes and small scale, intimate stories which set in motion the events which will come to an explosive conclusion in the final set in this current run of post-apocalyptic dramas, 5/5 " - Cultbox
The seventh series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"At times harrowing, at other moments uplifting, and never anything other than completely riveting listening, this latest series of Survivors audios delivers drama that is simply unmissable. As the series leaves behind the timeline of the TV incarnation of the show, Big Finish's writers, cast and crew are all clearly brimming with fully deserved confidence. The two series of new Survivors audios coming in 2018 could scarcely be a more exciting or (in the best sense of the word) a more unpredictable prospect, 10/10" - Starburst
The sixth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"After five extraordinarily well-received box sets, each of which offered a self-contained and themed collection of four episodes, the sixth series of Survivors audio adventures confidently takes a fresh approach... It's a liberating shift in format and, under the keenly judged direction of Ken Bentley, these scripts make exceptional use of the opportunity to tell diverse, if equally compelling, standalone stories, 10/10" - Starburst
The fifth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"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: which, considering the exceptional quality of the drama in the preceding four instalments, is quite some achievement. This is extraordinary, exemplary human drama; by any standard, 10/10" - Starburst
The fourth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"Intelligent, literate and superbly scripted and performed, this is a post-apocalyptic drama of the highest possible calibre. Determined to avoid the predictable tropes of that genre, it invites its listeners to navigate a moral minefield in a way that few other dramas of this type would attempt. This comes recommended without reservation" - Starburst
The third series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
The second series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
A full-length audiobook of Terry Nation's Survivors novel (in CD and download formats) read by Carolyn Seymour.
The first series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
Series nine reviews addedAdded: 13 July 2019
Series eight reviews addedAdded: 9 January 2019
Series seven reviews addedAdded: 14 January 2018
Series six reviews addedAdded: 12 July 2017
Series five reviews addedAdded: 20 December 2016
Series four reviews addedAdded: 26 June 2016
Series three reviews addedAdded: 18 December 2015
New interviews addedAdded: 21 November 2015