Home > Production > Jonathan Morris (Writer)
Updated: December 23 2020 09:43
The original TV series doesn't spare the viewer. It's not gentle in how it tells the story. There's no light relief, it's played absolutely for real. It's not a cosy apocalypse
How familiar were you with Survivors when you received the commission?
I watched the whole series back when it was repeated in UK Gold in the 1990s and have seen odd episodes since, mostly from the first series. I watched the first two episodes again as research for Exodus. The main thing I took from it, I think, was that it doesn’t spare the viewer, it's not gentle in how it tells the story. There's no light relief, it's played absolutely for real. It's not a cosy apocalypse.
The main canon of Big Finish's work can be found in the traditions of science fiction. Survivors is a different proposition. What impact did that have on how you approached the writing of your Survivors script?
It's a very different world. The whole point of Survivors is that it's a 'what-if' scenario which means it has to be played out as realistically as possible. The closer to home it is, the more real it is, the more effective. So that dictated the tone, the characters, the style of dialogue. Nobody is trying to be witty or clever; everyone is mentally running on empty - with no sleep, and in a state of shock. So the dialogue should reflect that, by being direct and economical.
Nobody is trying to be witty or clever; everyone is mentally running on empty, so the dialogue should reflect that, by being direct and economical.Jonathan Morris
What brief did the Big Finish producers or script editor Matt Fitton give you – what were they looking for?
It wasn't one person’s idea, we had a meeting in a coffee shop and everyone, I think, was agreed that the stories should be as hard-hitting as possible, with strong continuity between each episode, so there was a sense of a greater story being told, that it was moving forward. So you want to be tough with the characters, put them through hell, not give them easy rides.
The original series was produced on a modest budget, with most of its stories small in scale. Have you kept to that 'world in microcosm' approach, or have you expanded the horizons of the drama? Have you gone 'bigger'?
Well, we could've gone bigger, and told stories set across the world, but then the characters wouldn't meet each other, it would just be several isolated storylines. But in order to have our characters meet the characters from the TV show, that kind of dictated the scale. And audio, because it’s so intimate, so immersive, it's better usually to go small-scale, to concentrate on a small number of characters and get to know them in detail, rather than go for sweeping spectacle.
Would you agree that one of the appeals of the original Survivors is the way it plunges fallible human beings into situations of extremis – and pits their humanity against the challenges of survival?
I think it's appeal is twofold. Firstly, the situation is inherently incredibly dramatic. People are making life-or-death decisions. You don't know who’s going to still be alive by the end credits. And that generates great stories, because everything that happens matters. If someone burns the dinner, it matters, because you don’t know where the next dinner is coming from. It's a situation devoid of triviality.
And secondly, it invites the viewer, or listener, to put themselves in the situation, and ask themselves what they would do. And the characters are a way into that, they can see what choices Jenny or Abi make, and go 'I would do that' or 'I wouldn't be prepared to do that'. You're not outside the characters, judging them, you're in the situation with them. You're almost watching it for tips just in case you find yourself in the same situation.
The production is fab: the direction, the performances and sound design take the script and amplify it tenfold, making it so much more powerful,Jonathan Morris
Can you introduce and say a little about your own story Exodus?
My episode runs parallel with the first two episodes of Survivors, set in the immediate aftermath of the plague hitting. It's one of my bugbears with apocalyptic dramas that they tend to go 28 Days Later or whatever, when it's the immediate aftermath that is the most exciting, most dramatic point. It's when the world is still a shock to the characters, before they’ve come to terms with it, where they’re still in a state of grief. So when it came to writing Survivors, I was very keen to write a story set at that point, and that's what Exodus is.
What elements of Exodus are you most pleased with or proud of?
Writing-wise, I think there are a few moments which pack an emotional punch, and that's what you’re always trying to do, as a writer, whether it's a shock or a moment of emotion or tension. Beyond that, listening to it, the production is fab: the direction, the performances and sound design take the script and amplify it tenfold, making it so much more powerful, more real, and because it's on audio, more immersive.
What can listeners look forward to from the new Survivors audio adventures?
Excitement. Tension. Thought-provoking drama about moral dilemmas, no holds barred. Extreme situations and extreme emotions. Maybe some nightmares. A few gut-wrenches.
Are you looking forward to contributing to series two of Survivors – and beyond! Is this a series which has the potential to run and run?
I haven't been asked back yet. I'd like to do another one, to tell a story about the characters dealing with a moral issue in the manner of the later TV episodes. The audio series certainly has the potential to run and run; we can always go back and tell more stories in the early days, if we like, and I imagine we'll create a larger and larger canvas of characters (except for the ones we kill off).
Read a review of Exodus (by Jonathan Morris)
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