Survivors: 8:1 Bandit Train

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Updated: December 23 2020 09:43


Survivors audio dramas from Big Finish

Jenny's efforts to move supplies, and Abby's hopes of tracing Peter, come under threat when their train is attacked

Survivors - Big Finish - Series 8 - Episode 1 - 8:1 Bandit Train

SUMMARY series eight

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...

COMMENTARY

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.

REVIEW QUOTES

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


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Latest updates

 

Series nine reviews added

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Series five reviews added

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Links

Original TV series (1975-1977)
Survivors remake (2008-2010)