Big Finish Survivors scriptwriter Andrew Smith interviewed in Daily Record

An interview with Big Finish Survivors scriptwriter Andrew Smith is published today (24 July 2014) in the Scottish Daily Record.

Survivors of the fittest for writer Andrew

Rutherglen man’s tale in post-apocalyptic world

Imagine a world where the majority of the population has been wiped out by a virus, and how you’d survive that apocalypse.

Former Stonelaw High School pupil Andrew Smith has done just that, after writing a new hard-hitting audio play, which has just been released.

Having written for Doctor Who and Not The Nine O’Clock News on TV, Andy gave up on his writing career for many years, as he moved to London to join the police.

In recent years, he has returned to his former craft, writing Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 adventures on audio, for Big Finish, a London-based company that makes original stories based on hit TV shows.

Andy’s most recent work has been on Survivors, which is based on the 70s show of the same name, created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks and Blake’s 7.

Survivors ran from 1975-77, and featured the survivors of Earth after most of the world’s population is wiped out by a mysterious pandemic, accidentally unleashed by a Chinese scientist.

Andy, who formerly lived on Eskdale Drive, said: “I was a fan of the original series, so when the producer David Richardson got in touch and said they were looking to do a new series and asked if I’d be interested in doing one, I’d have bitten off his hand to be involved.

“I remember the first series on TV particularly well, so I knew the characters of Greg and Jenny, but it was very different to write from Doctor Who, in part because its drama is grittier, with more mature themes.

“Survivors does get categorised as science fiction, but it’s all about how real people would react in a realistic way, when there’s less than one per cent of the population left.

“It’s harsher and, basically, it’s more adult as well, to the point where there’s a caveat on the packaging saying that it’s got adult material and not suitable for younger listeners, as there’s people with traumatic backgrounds and experiences, across the four discs.”

Andy worked with his producer and script editor Matt Fitton, as well as the other writers on the box set, to create a dramatic series where you never know what will happen next – and who is going to live or die.

Andy continued: “David and Matt came up with a plan for the series, so I knew what elements of our story arc I had to include in my episode. My play was to reintroduce Greg and Jenny, and late on we added some scenes with Carolyn Seymour, who played Abby Grant, as they hadn’t been able to track her down at first, before she got in touch when she heard Big Finish were doing the series, so were able to include her to include her in a couple of scenes.”

Script editor Matt Fitton said: “Andrew’s Survivors story – Judges – effortlessly recaptures the voices of the original TV series characters Greg and Jenny – plus a cameo from Carolyn Seymour as Abby – while immediately hurling them into a new and dangerous situation.

“An Andrew Smith script typically delivers dynamic action, with some interesting moral issues at its centre. In the case of Judges, with its pivotal policeman character in our post-apocalyptic society, it’s a story Andrew has a unique perspective on as a writer.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with him, and I hope we get the chance to collaborate again in the future.”

With Scots actor Ian McCulloch as original series character Greg, and Lucy Fleming as Jenny, as well as a tremendous cast of other experienced actors, Andy found it a difficult but rewarding ask to ensure all of the leads were given sufficiently good material to work with.

He said: “There are so many lead characters in it, you’ve got to find the right balance for everyone. With, for example, a Doctor Who story, you have to make sure you give the Doctor and the companion meaty things to do, and with Judges, it was a case of making sure there were enough storylines going on for our regular actors, John Banks, Louise Jameson and Adrian Lukis, as well as Ian McCulloch and Lucy Fleming.

“I hope I pulled it off, and managed to create a good ensemble piece, and I was delighted with the calibre of actors we had. You can pick any of them out, and say what a great job they did. They’re all fantastic.”

Andy was able to apply some of his day job experience into his play.

He explained: “Phil Mulryne really impresses as the policeman, Phil Bailey. Deciding he was a policeman was one of the first things I knew I would do – it wasn’t in the plan but it seemed the right thing to do, have a policeman who’s gathered together some people and is being the one who says follow me. I really related to that.

“Something I was proud of in the play was a scene where they discussed theft, which is something I’ve had in real life, where you ask someone to describe theft – and most people would say it’s taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission.

“But what it you borrow something without permission and then return it – is that theft? What if someone shoots a duck flying overhead and it lands in your garden – is that theft? What if you want an extra bottle of milk and you take one and pay for it, but it would mean the milkman then doesn’t have enough milk to finish his round – is that theft?

“It’s a very difficult one to define.”

Survivors has won tremendous critical acclaim from reviewers, delighting the production team.

Andy added: “It does make you think, this series, and that’s one of the secrets of Survivors – it makes you think what skills have you got, would you be able to use them to survive? Put yourself in that situation, and think about the knowledge you have.

“When writing my plan, I thought a policeman would have a good range of skills in the community.

“But then you wonder, what if you are older and weak, or ill – what part would you play in the new communities?

“Hopefully, it will make the listener think, and I believe that’s why it’s been such a huge success with the people who’ve heard the whole series.”

Survivors is available on download and on CD, from

Kenny Smith. 2014. ‘Survivors of the fittest for writer Andrew’, Daily Record, 24 July.

Denis Lill appears in the final episode of 24: Live Another Day

Denis Lill (Charles Vaughan) appears briefly in the dramatic closing episode of the latest Jack Bauer ‘real-time’ adventure drama 24: Live Another Day, playing the role of the captain of the ship Letitcia, whose vessel, based at Southampton docks, is intended to provide the escape route for one of the series’ main villains – until Bauer intervenes. This ninth series of 24 (which was twelve one-hour episodes long, rather than the customary twenty-four) was based in London, and featured a large number of British actors in supporting roles – including Stephen Fry, who took the role of the British Prime Minister Alastair Davies. The final episode of the series, which was shown on Sky 1 and Sky 1 HD in the UK, was first broadcast on 16 July 2014.

Denis Lill - 24: Live Another Day
Denis Lill – 24: Live Another Day

Big Finish new Survivors feature in Vortex 65

The new edition of Big Finish’s free-to-download Vortex magazine (No 65) includes a fully-illustrated four-page feature on the new Survivors audio adventures.

The feature includes quotes from cast and crew, and confirms the release of the series one box-set as gaining “universal praise and outstanding critical success in reviews”.

Big Finish - Vortex 65 - Survivors feature
Big Finish - Vortex 65 - Survivors feature

Doctor Who Cares convention includes appearances by Hudson and Brown

Appearing at the Doctor Who Cares Tenth Planet convention at Copthorne Hotel, Windsor SL1 2YE on 9 August 2014 (as part of an extensive line-up of Doctor Who cast and crew members) are original series Survivors costume designer June Hudson and June Brown (who appeared, in the role of Susan, in the opening episode of series three Manhunt).

The convention is a benefit for the retired actors’ home Denville Hall.

June Hudson - appearing at Doctor Who Cares
June Hudson – appearing at Doctor Who Cares
June Brown - appearing at Doctor Who Cares
June Brown – appearing at Doctor Who Cares

Interview with The Night of the Triffids author Simon Clark

Author Simon Clark discusses with the Survivors: A World Away site how he approached the task of adapting his The Night of the Triffids novel for the forthcoming full-cast audio version from Big Finish.

Since you published The Night of the Triffids in 2001, has the idea of the Triffids universe continued to intrigue you?

SC: Yes, definitely. I first read The Day of the Triffids as a child and the story of people suffering the collapse of civilization fascinated me. I imagined what it would be like to one of those people, foraging for food amongst the ruins while evading the Triffids. I searched for a sequel to The Day of the Triffids for years. Of course, there isn’t one, which is the reason I wanted to write my own so I could re-enter that world where survivors were trying to rebuild civilization.

Has the idea of an audio book version of your Triffids book been germinating for long? Did you approach Big Finish or did they reach out to you?

SC: The idea of an audio version hadn’t been with me that long. I’d been having e-mail chats with the Big Finish producer, John Ainsworth, and it was almost a case of me thinking aloud that an audio version of The Night of the Triffids might work quite well. He agreed, referred it back to Big Finish, and to my surprise – and absolute delight – came back and said ‘yes, we’d like produce an audio drama of the book.’

Had you always ‘heard’ the characters’ voices in your head, or was it a novel experience to think about these words being spoken out loud?

SC: I did hear the characters’ voices in my head when I wrote the novel. It’s odd how it works out. In my mind’s ear one minor character always spoke like Sid James and another like James Stewart. When I realized that the dialogue would be spoken by actors I started to examine each line and speak them aloud myself to make sure they would work in such a dramatic context.

Could you have countenanced the idea of anyone else adapting your words for the audio version?

SC: My first thought when I heard that Big Finish would produce the audio drama was ‘I hope they hire a script writer for the adaptation.’ When they asked me to do it I thought (or cried) ‘Aargh!’. For a nerve-shredding ten minutes I told myself I couldn’t possibly write the script, because I’d never done anything like it before. Then I took a deep breath, walked round the park, calmed down, and then realized that if I approached the adaptation step-by-step I could write the script. Within a few pages I got the hang of what I was doing and it became such a satisfying experience.

How did you approach the adaptation? What brief did Big Finish give you in terms of approach? Was it a lengthy process?

SC: John Ainsworth gave me brilliant advice, and what amounted to a master class of how to write an audio script. As he talked, I jotted down notes, which helped me enormously. The main brief was the length of the audio: approximately two hours, which would be broken into two one hour segments. John also suggested that we focus on the core of the story, beginning with David Masen’s journey from the Isle of Wight to New York, and his adventures along the way. The first draft took around two months to write. I have to admit to defacing one of my own copies of The Night of the Triffids. I went through the book highlighting the scenes that must be in there to make the story work.

How do you feel about the finished audio script? How does it compare to the original novel?

SC: I’m very proud of the finished script. It’s very much faithful to the original novel. Of course, some scenes had to be cut or compressed otherwise the production would run for about twenty hours! I’ve also invented some new scenes that don’t exist in the novel because I saw opportunities to create exciting, and sometimes disturbing events by ‘painting in sound’ as it were.

Have you had the chance to visit the studio to be present for the recording? What was that experience like?

SC: Yes, I was there for the recording. The actors’ performances blew me away. I must have told them all more than once that they made that cold black print on the pages of my script come so vividly alive.

How do you feel about the cast and the approach they’ve taken to the story?

SC: When I knew that Sam Troughton and Nicola Bryant would play the lead roles, I just knew that they’d be perfect. They and the support actors have such an amazing vocal range, and the emotion and the depth they gave to the lines left me holding my breath as I sat in the control room. What struck me was that they really did care about the delivery of their lines. Numerous times an actor would say to the director, “I can do that line better. Can we go again?” Or: “This is a vital section of dialogue, do you mind if we try it in a few different ways?” They cared so much about the script and that meant such a lot to me.

The soundscape of the drama will have to include the ‘sound of the Triffids’ – did you have clear ideas of what that ought to sound like?

SC: There are three main sounds of the Triffids: the sound of their ‘taking’ when they tap their sticks against the trunks, the sound of their sting lashing through the air, and the rustling as they walk. It struck me that the tapping sound they made should sound almost like muttering, and should be ominous and sinister. The lash of the sting should be as dramatic and frightening as possible. The rustling of leaves should suggest predatory movements, like a dangerous creature stalking its victim. I know Big Finish take great care with their sound effects and I’m confident that the soundscape will contribute so much to the listeners’ enjoyment of this drama.

What can Triffids’ fans look forward to from this audio version?

SC: I’m a huge fan of The Day of the Triffids and I wanted my The Night of the Triffids to be faithful to the original, and that the Triffids should be disturbing and ominous and powerful. I think we’ve not only done that with the audio version but that we’ve also evolved the Triffids into being bigger and even more menacing and dangerous to human beings. Fans of the Triffids will, I hope, be in for some pleasant surprises as well as a satisfying adventure.

You must be excited at this new creative avenue opening up. If this is well received, is there any possibility of further audio adventures set in the world of the Triffids?

SC: I am incredibly excited. There were times in the recording studio when I had to ask myself, ‘Am I dreaming this, or am I actually sitting here listening to the recording?’ I wouldn’t rule out anything for the future. All I can say at this moment is ‘Who knows?’ I’d love to continue writing more scripts for audio.

You’ve been a long-time fan of the original Survivors TV series. What, for you, makes the series so compelling?

SC: Survivors works on so many levels: Firstly, it’s a terrific TV drama that tells exciting stories. Terry Nation’s genius flows through that first series especially. He created an extraordinary vision of the collapse of civilization, yet the characters are ordinary enough and ‘real’ enough to make it so believable. We care what happens to these vulnerable people as they try to find food, or keep warm, or even find another human being to talk to. On a deeper level it deals with our own fears that civilization is a fragile thing. After all, we can survive without water for only a couple of days. What happens if the water supplies to our houses fail on a massive scale? How long would bottled juice and water last? Surely we can’t safely drink from ponds and streams? Even more compelling is not only the fear of the end of the world, but what it would be like to rebuild the world after such a disaster as global plague. Nearly all mythologies tell stories where the end isn’t really the end, it is only the beginning of something new. For me the notion of new beginnings is as gripping as the end of the world we’ve grown up in.

Did you watch the 2008-2010 remake of Survivors, and, if you did, what did you think of it?

SC: In a way, I wish it hadn’t been a remake, because I constantly found myself comparing to the original. For me it would have worked better as something completely new with a new title. I thought it had a lot going for it, with interesting plotlines and imaginative locations. If anything, the new Survivors seemed to find its feet and its self-confidence in the last few episodes. Unfortunately another series wasn’t commissioned just as it seemed as if the remake was really starting to take off.

Have you had the chance to check out the new Big Finish audio Survivors adventures? If so, what’s your take on this ‘revival’ of the original premise?

SC: I’ve only just bought it and hadn’t had chance to listen to the stories yet. Though just the sound of the ominous, growling theme music sent shivers of excitement down my backbone.

Two new editions of The Night of the Triffids are being republished, this time in in eBook format.

The Constable and Robinson ebook will be released in the UK in August:

The ebook has already been released in the US and Canada by Rosetta:

The new audio adaptation of The Night of the Triffids can be pre-ordered (in either CD or digital download formats) from the Big Finish site.

Big Finish - The Night of the Triffids

Big Finish Survivors cast and crew at London Film and Comic Con

Chase Masterson (Maddie Price) will be appearing alongside Big Finish Survivors audio drama producer David Richardson, script editor and scriptwriter Matt Fitton, director Ken Bentley and executive producer Nicholas Briggs at the London Film and Comic Con on 12-13 July in Earls Court, London.

Masterson will be be available to sign copies of the series one Survivors CD boxset, but, like Briggs, will be “unable to sign any photography from TV series that they have appeared in.”

More details of the event are available from the Big Finish and London Film and Comic Con sites.

Big Finish - Survivors - quotation

Ian McCulloch’s 1964 ‘Down by the River’ Decca B-Side

The B-Side of the single that Ian McCulloch (Greg Preston) recorded in 1964 for the Decca label, during his brief pop career, is currently available on YouTube.

Ian McCulloch - Decca - Down by the River

The 7-inch single (Catalogue number F11855) had as its A-Side the track Come On Home, which was backed with the track made available here Down by the River. Released in March 1964, the single was produced by Peter Attwood, with arrangement provided by Charles Blackwell.

The single is a collectible, and only rarely appears for sale on auction sites, or in the listings of record collector magazines.

New Big Finish Survivors audio adventure interviews

New interviews with John Banks (Daniel Connor), Sinead Keenan (Suzie Edwards), Adrian Lukis (James Gillison), Chase Masterson (Maddie Price), and San Shella (Sayed) have been added to the Survivors: A World Away Big Finish mini-site.

These latest interviews join those with producer David Richardson, director Ken Bentley, script editor and writer Matt Fitton and writers Jonathan Morris and Andrew Smith.

There are also reviews of all four episodes in the first series. More interviews with cast and crew will be added soon!

Survivors: A World Away - Big Finish Survivors

Network release ‘Memoirs of a Survivor’ on DVD

On 23 June 2014, Network released on DVD a brand new transfer of the 1981 post-apocalyptic film Memoirs of a Survivor. The movie directed by David Gladwell, and starring Julie Christie and Nigel Hawthorne, is an adaptation of a dystopian novel The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing first published in 1974.

Network - Memoirs of a Survivor

Julie Christie stars in an award-winning adaptation of Doris Lessing’s famous dystopian novel. This complex, haunting science-fiction feature – screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 – is presented in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.

Set in Britain at an unspecified point in the near-future, Memoirs of a Survivor tells the story of ‘D’, a housewife trying to carry on after a cataclysmic war that has left society in a state of collapse. Rubbish is piled high in the streets among near-derelict buildings covered with graffiti; the electricity supply is variable, and water is now collected from a van. ‘D’ spends her time examining her relations with authority, with the marauding gangs of brutalised children who roam the streets, and with Emily, the traumatised, orphaned teenager who is delivered into her care.

British Invaders – two-part Survivors podcast from 2011

British Invaders - podcastsThis blog only recently tracked down a two-part podcast on the original Survivors published in 2011 by the British Invaders podcast site which aims to provide: “a lively two-person exchange about different television series, tele-films and mini-series. These discussions serve as both an introduction and an entertaining conversation, catering to both those who have seen and those who have yet to see these British science fiction and fantasy shows.”

The two Survivors shows are very much ‘complete beginner’ introductions to the series (but one does includes a brief, complimentary reference to the Survivors: Mad Dog site!)

Part one is 29m 30s in length; part two is 43m 03s, and both podcast can be streamed or downloaded from the British Invaders site, which contains a large and growing archive of podcasts on a wide range of genre shows.

British Invaders – Survivors – podcast part one


British Invaders – Survivors – podcast part two