Home > Production > Matt Fitton (Script editor / writer)
Updated: December 23 2020 09:43
It's a wonderfully collaborative environment to work in... and we feel that we've managed to achieve exactly what we set out to create.
How familiar were you with the Survivors canon when you received the commission?
I was only five years old when the original series went out on TV. I must have seen something of the later series at the time - I seem to remember the character of Paul and his exit [in "Greater Love"], plus the classic "Mad Dog" episode, but only very vague impressions. I think in those days the watershed had yet to be invented, and quite challenging material was going out before 9 o’clock at night. Both Survivors and The Omega Factor were prime-time shows, put out between 8 and 9pm, with pretty graphic violence and adult themes.
Of course now, as a fan of cult TV, I am fully aware of the series concept, its influences and its writers. I was a keen watcher of the post-apocalyptic and 'outbreak' genre dramas in the early 80s, when things like Threads, The Mad Death and The Last Train were on. So when Big Finish producer David Richardson told me about the commission, I happily bought the DVD box set and so came to these original episodes pretty much with fresh eyes. It was something of a revelation. We think we know the story, but to actually see the execution, it's quite remarkable television, and it holds up really well today. "The Fourth Horseman" stands up in particular as an incredibly effective pilot episode, and as the series progresses there are many stand-out episodes along the way.
Authenticity was our watchword. We wanted to make sure that everything we did was in keeping with the tone of the TV seriesMatt Fitton
How did you go about the task of scoping out the storylines of this first series?
Producer David Richardson came up with some of our original new characters which would sit at the core of this series, and then we got together with the other writers to discuss how to approach the overall arc of the four stories. We very much wanted to begin at the beginning, to retell the story of the outbreak of The Death, but from the perspectives of a new set of characters. It was important to believe that these events were happening in tandem with those of the TV series. In fact, there are potentially so many ways of telling that story, you could almost do four new 'pilot' episodes presenting the end of the world from a range of locations and perspectives.
Then, when we'd worked out how we wanted to involve Greg and Jenny (at this stage we didn't know that Carolyn Seymour would be available or willing to reprise Abby, so all the planning was done with only Greg and Jenny in mind), the series became a game of two halves. The opening two are contemporaneous with "The Fourth Horseman" and "Genesis". While the second part of the series is set some time later, slotting between episodes 12 and 13 of the TV show.
The main canon of Big Finish's work can be found in the traditions of science fiction, of the supernatural and of the fantastic. Survivors is a different proposition. What impact did that have on how you approached the writing of a Big Finish Survivors script?
I do generally try, even in the wildest and most fantastical worlds of Doctor Who, to make the characters – the human or near-human ones at least! – behave in as realistic a way as possible. That's always the challenge – while the situation may be fantastical, the emotions and reactions of the people within it should be real. But with Survivors we're given the opportunity to start much closer to home. The only sci-fi aspect is the set-up, but beyond that, I wanted the characters to live and breathe, and to be as real as possible.
How challenging was it to have to situate your drama in the very specific time-and-place of mid-1970s Britain? Although the themes of Survivors are timeless, the context is very particular, isn't it?
It just required some research. I mean, I was alive in the seventies, so I remember it (just!). But you need to make sure the technological and linguistic usage all fits with the society of the time. For example, with London Airport, or Heathrow as it was increasingly known by then, I looked at the geography of it, the old control tower and ATC [Air Traffic Control] procedures. In fact during this era of strikes and power cuts it would be even more believable that the majority of the population would just shrug off the inconvenience at first and push on through. Without the instant social media connectivity we have today, there's still some space for confusion and lack of information. In a way – albeit allowing for the 'sci-fi' accelerated spread of the infection - I think that even in the 1970s, no-one would quite believe what was happening until it was far too late: the scale is too terrifying to contemplate.
I am very much looking forward to working on Survivors in the future. Scripts are already well underway for series twoMatt Fitton
What can listeners look forward to from the new Survivors audio adventures? Is this something directed at Survivors enthusiasts, or can you come at this with no knowledge of the original series?
I think it works on both accounts. I would hope that existing Survivors enthusiasts will find it true to the show that they know and love - in particular that first series. But equally, it's been written in such a way that listeners can come to it anew, with no experience of the TV show at all. Though I'd hope that they would then be encouraged to go and seek it out - it is a wonderful British drama that stands up to viewing today.
What else have I not asked you about that I should have?
I think your questions have been pretty comprehensive! But I just wanted to say a word in praise of producer David Richardson. It is his creative vision that shaped the series into what it has become. It's a wonderfully collaborative environment to work in, and director Ken Bentley has been involved at every stage along the scripting process too, and along with the excellent Jonathan Morris, Andrew Smith and John Dorney, we feel that we've managed to achieve exactly what we set out to create.
Read a review of Revelation (by Matt Fitton)
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