Updated: December 23 2020 09:43
Abby Grant's search for her son unwittingly puts the residents of an isolated community in grave danger
SEEKING SHELTER FROM a night-time storm, Abby Grant comes across Sam Fulcher trapping rabbits in the woods. Thinking he has been caught poaching, Sam runs off but falls badly and twists his ankle. Abby agrees to help him make his way back to the village of Hertsby, which was already her intended destination. Worried he will be in trouble with the Countess who leads the estate, Sam declines to accompany Abby to the manor house. When she is detained and questioned, Abby realises to her horror that the residents of Hertsby have isolated themselves in seclusion since the onset of the Death, and have never faced exposure to the plague. Abby convinces Lady Colhurst and her Head Keeper Mangham that it is essential that Sam be found and quarantined before anyone else in the village is exposed. When a search turns up nothing, Lady Colhurst commands that the estate be put into lockdown until the crisis has been dealt with. Mangham is worried that the residents of Hertsby will rebel against the diktat, and see the wanted Sam as a folk hero who has done something to upset his "betters". Can the risk to the community be contained, and if the truth of Sam's condition emerges, will Hertsby disintegrate in chaos as the Death overwhelms the estate...?
SERIES SIX OF Big Finish's Survivors audio adventures begins with the first of a set of four essentially standalone episodes, the first three of which focus on one of the original trio of leading characters from the TV series. If it can be said that Beating the Bounds possesses a great deal of atmosphere and many of the hallmarks of a series one TV episode of Survivors, that is entirely to its credit: it's a story which feels authentic and entirely in-keeping with the dramatic ambience of the television series. What makes Beating the Bounds so strongly reminiscent of a series one TV story (even though it is set 2-3 years since The Death) is that it features Abby arriving alone at an isolated settlement and then raises the spectre of a plague carrier unwittingly spreading the infection to a group not yet exposed to the virus.
Hertsby is a settlement that has hermetically sealed itself away from the world
Hertsby is a community estate like none other yet revealed in the series. Unlike the religious hermits seen in the TV series' episode Gone to the Angels this is not a settlement of Christian devotees who have withdrawn from the world to pursue spiritual enlightenment, "untained" by distraction from the modern world. Hertsby is a settlement that has hermetically sealed itself away from the world, in full knowledge of the plague, in order to protect itself from the contagion.
Separation from the outside has enabled the redoubtable Lady Colhurst to maintain her position as head of the Hertsby estate, and protect what is essentially a feudalist way of life, with its subjects tied to the estate as its indentured workforce; although they are paid for their labour (with the old coins of the realm recirculating in what is a closed economy). Although Abby does not mention her association with evicted head of the Waterhouse estate, Jimmy Garland would certainly be impressed to see the Colhurst community apparently thriving by relying on the paternalist (or, in this case, maternalist) ways of old. Colhurst has been sufficiently wily to ensure that the two pre-Death foundations of the old village have survived in tact - the pub and the church - and they clearly continue to play a key role in keeping life in the community turning over.
This is an Abby Grant episode, and writer Ian Potter's characterisation of the impulsive, determined and empathic woman of principle is spot on. As Abby is put through action sequences, passionate arguments and moments of tenderness and sympathy, Carolyn Seymour is on fantastic form. Andrew Wincott gives a bravura performance as the gruff, no-nonsense Head Keeper Mangham, his stentorian tones and pitch-perfect West Country accent, giving just the right sense of gravitas and self-regard, while Sheila Reid captures just the right tone of entitlement and detachment in her role as the Countess.
Beneath the surface it's clear that Lady Colhurst's authority is far from total
As the story unfolds, it is clear that, beneath the surface of apparent obedience and compliance, Lady Colhurst's authority is far from total. Mangham considers that he effectively runs Hertsby, with the lady of the manor in reality having the role of a figurehead and symbol. (Greg makes a similar comparison to his and Abby's respective positions at The Grange in the TV series one finale A Beginning.) As the new lockdown protocols are put in place, there's evidence of growing disquiet, and even defiance, amongst Hertsby's workforce, and Mangham (who shows himself ready to challenge the lady of the manor over key decisions) counsels that Sam could become a popular folk hero (for defying the settlement's rules) if the situation is not handled correctly.
Even though the threat to Hertsby is potentially devastating, Abby's persuasiveness, together with Mangham's unflappability, ensure that the crisis does not descend into calamity, even if for the Fulchers contact with Abby ends in personal tragedy, things could have turned out far worse. Abby leaves Hertsby somewhat chastened, with her understanding of the pernicious nature of the original Death virus reinforced: it's a killer still able to wreak devastation even though it has been superseded by the vicious new strain seen in series five.
The reputation that Abby Grant has left behind her after visiting different community has not always been a positive one (Knox was dismissive, Manny frustrated, Charlotte disappointed, Vinnie outraged). But on her departure from Hertsby, Abby must deal with a novel experience: not only has she failed to convince a community to set aside its commitment to isolation, she also faces the prospect of becoming a totem and a warning in Hertsby's folklore: a symbol of the disaster that awaits the community should they ever consider venturing into the wider world. Abby's triumph is to avert disaster and to escape, but she has won no new allies in the process. What for Abby is a cautionary tale provides a winning opening gambit for Survivors' sixth audio series.
POTTER'S STORY IS a textbook example of what Survivors does best: it's a story about tiny stakes which are massively important... It's a strong opening.
Alasdair Stuart, Sci-Fi Bulletin
WE PARTICULARLY ENJOYED Abby's scenes with Sheila Reid's Countess who probed her fears that Peter might not really know her any more, if he survives.
Ian McArdell, Indie Mac User
ABBY IS COMPELLED to do her redoubtable best to redeem herself after she becomes the unwitting harbinger of a disaster that could engulf a precarious rural community headed by an old-school "lady of the manor."
Rich Cross, Starburst
THIS IS A tense opener – the community is on borrowed time but only Abby can see it the residents are just too close to their lives to see any different. Bleak and cautionary.
Ed Watkinson, Planet Mondas
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