Survivors: New Dawn 2 / 1 Bad Blood

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Updated: March 01 2022 23:18


Survivors audio dramas from Big Finish

A political clash between two sisters exposes bitter rifts that have worrying implications for the future of the England now emerging decades on from The Death

Survivors - Big Finish - New Dawn 2 - Episode 1 - Bad Blood

 

SUMMARY New Dawn 2

ABBY HAS CONVINCED law minister Jenny of the need to investigate the horrors of Governor Dominic Crayle’s fiefdom in person. En route to meet with their ranger escort, the pair find themselves drawn into a power struggle between two sisters in an area of Lincolnshire. After their mother, the officially appointed Governor died, the twins clashed over which of them should rule in her place. Their visions of the future are starkly different. Helen Maxwell seeks to align herself with the national government, based in Cambridge. Emma Maxwell insists that the area break free of centralized rule and set up an autonomous and independent region. The relationship between the estranged sisters is made worse by the intervention of Sean Douglas, the former fiancé of Helen who's now abandoned their relationship to throw in his lot with his new love Emma. With the sisters at loggerheads, the economic and political fabric of the district is coming apart, with growing shortages and acts of lawlessness on the rise. When Abby and Jenny take time out from the pursuit of Crayle to investigate the crisis, they quickly find themselves in great peril. As they come to realize that neither sister has been completely honest with them from the outset, they seek a way to broker a peaceful resolution between the siblings. But when it becomes apparent that Sean will go to any lengths to ensure Emma's victory over her sister, it is not only the fate of the Lincolnshire Zone that hangs in the balance, but the life and liberty of both Abby and Jenny too...

COMMENTARY

THE SPECTRE OF the renegade Governor Dominic Crayle has loomed large over the whole storyline of New Dawn. Introduced (by reputation at least) during Abby's horrific experiences of enslavement in Tethered, he remained an unseen figure throughout Part 1. And while the full, brutal reality of his rule will be brought into the light in the closing two stories of this box set, New Dawn 2 begins with a diverting examination of the political and familial conflict in the farmlands and estates of Lincolnshire.

The drama of Tethered and My Generation brought out the complex realities of political and cultural life in England's new capital city. Cambridge is a place where technology, industry and civil society have all begun to revive in earnest, despite the threat from gold-robbing brigands.

Yet the stories of New Dawn 2 show (without overselling the fact) that the fabric of life in this new England is far from uniform. Away from Cambridge, some Governors run their Zones in 'autonomous' ways that would alarm the central government. It feels entirely plausible that as England began to put in place a new post-Death political order, different Zones would want to follow divergent paths - some benign, others repellant.

The fact that a government minister such as Jenny Richards would not be aware that some Zones are 'opting out' of alignment with the centre is evidence of the provisional government's tenuous grasp of the true 'state of the nation'. The fact that Crayle has been able to build a fiefdom built on exploitation and slavery with complete impunity shows that the Cambridge government is not compiling accurate information about what’s really happening to the population in the wider country.

This is a new phenomenon - sibling rivalry between twins born years after the pandemic devastated the world

In the original TV series, characters return time and again to the question of connections between those who've emerged from the genetic lottery of survival. While Abby Grant continued to search for her missing son Peter in the months following the Death, Charles Vaughan insisted that her agonized hunt is likely to end in disappointment. "No two members of the same family have survived anywhere," he suggests in Corn Dolly. "In fact, no two people who knew each other, or knew of each other, have survived." But by the time of the events of Reunion, it became evident that a mother and a son could share a natural immunity to the virus. Abby's eventual reunion with Peter in Village of Dust (in this audio incarnation of Survivors) confirmed it. The story of Bad Blood introduces a new phenomenon: sibling rivalry between twins born years after the pandemic devastated the world.

One of the most intriguing new aspects of the New Dawn world of Survivors is the existence of a generation of young people who've been born after The Death and grown to maturity knowing only the post-pandemic world. As the conflicts in My Generation showed Their expectations and aspirations will inevitably be in sharp contrast to those who have survived the transition from the old world to the new.

Using that notion as its springboard, Bad Blood works very effectively as an action-and-adventure thriller, with lots of 'palace intrigue' weaved into the conflict between the two sisters. Their dispute, although rooted in genuine differences, is made completely toxic by the appalling behaviour of Sean Douglas, who lies, manipulates and deceives both his ex- and his current beau. An important but also understated aspect of the story is the generational shift it exposes. Abby and Jenny have to confront conflicts between what is a younger cohort of survivors.

Lizbeth Myles' assured script handles the action and the intrigue of Bad Blood equally well, adding texture and substance to the believable characterisation of her squabbling sisters and their corrosive suitor. Sheena Bhattessa (as Helen Maxwell) teases out the complex aspirations of an essentially decent would-be Governor, while Sheetal Kapoor (as Emma Maxwell) ensures that her rivalry with her sister feels like it's motivated by something reasonable and justified.

This story reveals more about the complex realities of life in the UK two decades on from The Death

The action sequences, particularly those that unfold at the burning Governor's HQ, are powerfully rendered, and are 'lit up' by Lee Adams' atmospheric sound design. The characters of both Jenny and Abby are in the midst of the action: Abby as leading the escape efforts from within; Jenny co-ordinating from without. Throughout the New Dawn series Abby and Jenny, characters now twenty years older than they were at the time of The Death, are depicted as brave, resourceful, full of initiative, and hands-on participants in the conflicts that unfold. This is one of the evident strengths of this foray into the alternate future of Survivors. It's clear from both Carolyn Seymour's and Lucy Fleming's performances how much they relish this kind of interpretation of their roles.

It's revealing that the Cambridge government is unaware of the death of the previous incumbent many weeks after the Governor's death. There's no awareness amongst the Prime Minister Tate's new Cabinet that lawlessness in the Zone is on the rise and the food shortages (caused by the competition between the two sisters' forces) are worsening. It is also telling that, despite her stated loyalty to the central government, Helen Maxwell's instinct is to assume the office of Governor (by right of birth) and to worry about the validation of her authority later. The question of who's really in charge in this new England remains far from settled.

Bad Blood reveals more about the complex realities of life in the UK two decades on from The Death than had been teased out in the first New Dawn box set, tempering the optimistic view of good governance and political stability suggested by the events of Tethered. The appalling cruelties and abuse of Crayle's regime are on the extreme end of a spectrum, but centrifgual pressures are straining the unity of the country elsewhere too. But with some kind of equilibrium established by this story's end, all of Jenny's and Abby's attention can now be focused on the effort to unearth the full extent of Crayle's misrule.

REVIEW QUOTES

LIZBETH MYLES HERE sets the tone of New Dawn 2 perfectly – the tantalising hint of an achievable stability, threatened by personal interest, emotional responses to intellectual problems, and the potential actions of people trained by the post-Death years to act purely in the interests of themselves and their people.
Tony Fyler, Warped Factor

THROUGH EXCELLENT PERFORMANCES from Sheena Bhattessa and Sheetal Kapoor as Helen and Emma Maxwell, Lizbeth Myles' story pleasingly avoids the obvious
Ian McArdell, IndieMacUser

TWO ORPHANED SISTERS lead the opposing factions and Myles does superb work balancing sibling rivalry and idealism with the harsh realities of the new world.
Alasdair Stuart, Sci-Fi Bulletin


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Links

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