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 http://www.bigfinish.com.
Kenny Smith. 2014. ‘Survivors of the fittest for writer Andrew’, Daily Record, 24 July. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/survivors-fittest-writer-andrew-3901401.