THE AUGUST 2020 edition of SFX magazine features a six-page retrospective feature on Adrian Hodges’ 2008-10 remake of Survivors.
The article includes recollections and reminiscences from Hodges, Paterson Joseph (Greg Preston), Julie Graham (Abby Grant) and Robyn Addison (Sarah Boyer).
It’s clear from the feature that Hodges’ disappointment at the abrupt cancellation of the show at the close of the second series is still keenly felt. Although he suggests that the Survivors‘ prospects suffered as a result of management changes at the BBC, he concedes that lower-than-hoped-for viewing figures played a key role in the axeing of Survivors. “The show had probably not managed to get the kind of numbers the BBC wanted,” he reflects, “it certainly wasn’t a show that had a massive audience.”
As the showrunner Hodges reveals some of the key components of his plans for the show if a third (and subsequent) series had been commisioned.
He also accepts that closing the second series with a (now never to be resolved) cliffhanger left many loyal viewers dissatisfied. “With the benefit of hindsight, I perhaps should have given it a slightly more rounded ending”, Hodges says.
Written by Steve O’Brien, research for the SFX feature also informed the briefretrospective on the Survivors remake published in The Guardianback in May.
Steve O’Brien. 2020. ‘Survivors unseen’, SFX, No 329, August, pp.60-65.
TWO JOURNALISTS FROM Entertainment Focus have recently been enjoying a full rewatch of all 38 episodes of Survivors from all three series of the show, and sharing their thoughts, criticisms and observations in a series of linked articles in the online magazine.
Good-humoured, interesting, sometimes contentious, but usually well-informed, Greg Jameson and Samuel Payne began their journey with The Fourth Horseman several weeks ago and are working their way right through to Power.
The five linked articles published so far take the form of a conversation between the two. As you track their critical rewatch through each of the three series, you’ll find yourself nodding in vigorous agreement at some points, and shaking your head in disbelief at others – but then that’s a key part of the fun in hearing someone else’s perspective on what might well be your favourite TV show.
As well as screen-shots from different episodes, the series includes an original artwork by Tom Bailey – which presents six portrait caricatures of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell (see above).
There’s a different perspective on the early episodes of Survivors‘ first series in the form of a new set of ‘reaction videos’ available on YouTube. ‘Reaction videos’ are now a common format of fan participation on the platform. In them, fans video their reactions to watching film and TV shows, so the viewer sees their responses to the drama as it unfolds on-screen.
YouTuber medusa cascade produces ‘reaction videos’ exploring a variety of sci-fi, cult and TV shows, and has uploaded her responses to the first nine episodes of series one of Survivors. Each video is a 10-15 minute edit of the highlights of each episode view. Medusa Cascade is new to Survivors so her reactions are those of a first time viewer – and she has a particularly intense and emotional reaction to seeing Law and Order for the first time.
MY REVIEW OF the ninth and final series of the current run of Big Finish’s original full-cast Survivors audios has now been published on the Cultbox site.
The review concludes:
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.
THE NETWORK ON AIR site has published a well-crafted appreciation of the screen career of Sydney Tafler, an actor who memorably appeared as Manny, the morally-dubious settlement leader, in the well-regarded two-part series two Survivors story Lights of London.
In the modern world of drama production, it is commonplace for actors to move back and forward between cinema and TV work in a ‘blended’ screen career. But in the 1970s, fewer British actors regularly traversed the demarcation separating a film from a television identity. Some actors known mainly for television (including the series’ leads of Survivors) made irregular film appearances, but far fewer flitted seamlessly between the two screen worlds.
For an actor with big-screen credentials like Tafler’s to be contracted for a guest role in a BBC serial like Survivors was not something that all of his contemporaries would have thanked their agents for arranging.
Tafler however had bridged the large-and-small screen divide from the earliest days of his career, which began with stage appearances in the 1930s after he graduated from RADA. As he established himself over the following years, he would mix appearances in TV shows such as Dixon of Dock Green,Hadleigh and The Gentle Killers with roles in movies such as The Counterfeit Plan, The Bulldog Breed and Sink the Bismarck! amongst numerous others.
He was a prolific performer, although he was usually rewarded with relatively minor or supporting roles. Film historian Andrew Roberts revisits Tafler’s winning performances in classic films such as The Lavender Hill Mob, It Always Rains on Sunday,Too Many Crooks and Mystery Junction, celebrating his talents as the consumate character actor.
Roberts notes how Tafler frequently outshone the quality of the screenplays he was given and how he was able to “save films that could be fairly described as ‘Worst of British’.” Regardless of the source material, Tafler could be relied upon to delivered performances that were committed, believable and layered.
Tafler’s portrayal of the chancer Manny in Lights of London reveals just that sort of approach to a role, which sees him becoming a commanding on-screen presence, and a credible and unnerving villain, without overshadowing the series’ regulars with whom he shares the story.
Inhabiting the role of Manny was not a particular stretch for Tafler. The character of the “Cockney spiv who comes to a bad end” was one that he had played, in different variants, several times in his career – although the stakes in Lights of London (which the characters believe could be the fate of the human race itself) are significantly higher than in most of Tafler’s earlier crime capers, comedies and thrillers.
In fact, when Lights of London I director Terence Williams first read Jack Ronder’s script for the episode and considered who he might recruit to play the pivotal character of Manny, he might well have thought – “We need someone like Sydney Tafler for this role.”
His appearance in Survivors in 1976 turned out to be one of the last of Tafler’s long and creditable career. The following year, he returned to the big screen to play the role of the captain of supertanker The Liparus in the James Bond caper The Spy Who Loved Me. Tafler died on 8 November 1979.
Several extracts from the original Survivors first series episode Genesis feature in Dominic Sandbrook’s new BBC 2 documentary TV series The ’70s.
In the third of four episodes, which focuses on the mid-1970s [‘Goodbye Great Britain 75-77’], Sandbrook makes reference to the resonances between the widespread ‘pessimism and paranoia’ gripping Britain at the time and the post-apocalyptic preoccupations of Survivors.
Sandbrook’s commentary (33ms 20s – 35ms 04s) is illustrated with extracts from Genesis (showing Anne Tranter’s first meeting with Greg Preston; and Abby Grant’s encounter with Arthur Wormley) and an oddly irrelevant aerial shot of some moorland (sourced from some other show).
Viewers in the UK can catch the episode on the BBC iPlayer service (until 9.59pm on Monday, 21 May 2012)