Published today – Survivors: Mad Dog (Silver Archive)

Obverse Books - Silver Imprint - Mad Dog - front cover (complete with title typo, corrected in the final version)

A NEW BOOK, offering an in-depth study of the classic third series Survivors episode Mad Dog, is published by Obverse Books today (17 February 2022).

Written by Survivors: A World Away site editor Rich Cross, this latest entry in Obverse Books’ Silver Archive imprint, turns a critical and analytical spotlight on one of the best remembered episodes from the show’s third and final series.

Silver Archive – Survivors: Mad Dog

“Saliva only has to make contact with the skin. Rabies doesn’t even need a scratch. If it’s in the bloodstream, it’s too late.”

Mad Dog (1977) is a standout instalment of the third and final series of the BBC’s post-apocalyptic series Survivors. A touchstone in the series’ switch to a tougher, bleaker sensibility, the episode is rightly remembered for its portrayal of rabies and its gripping chase sequences. But it’s also a story offering fascinating insights into the wider human predicament, which dramatise the tension between optimism and cynicism and between altruism and self-interest. Above all, it’s a story that foregrounds the complex relationship between humanity and the natural world in a fictional post-pandemic Britain.

Rich Cross has published widely about science fiction and genre TV and retains a singular fascination with post-apocalyptic and dystopian television drama.

In an exclusive interview for this site, Rich Cross explains:

“For long-standing, knowledgeable fans of Survivors, I’m sure that there will still be a great deal of new, and hopefully insightful, analysis about one of the best regarded episodes in the show’s entire run. And I’m confident that there is a wealth of new reflections which situates the story of Survivors and of Mad Dog in the cultural, political and social times in which it was made.”

“Even for those able to recite sections of dialogue from the script, and who know each and every location in which the episode was recorded, I’m hopeful that they’ll enjoy discussions about themes and ideas in the drama of Mad Dog that they may not have considered before. That’s something that should enhance their appreciation of the work of writer Don Shaw, director Tristan de Vere Cole, and their talented cast and crew, the next time they rewatch the episode.”

“There’s certainly no requirement to be a ‘Survivors expert’ to enjoy the book, and there’s a great deal in the book that should intrigue fans of 1970s genre television, as well as cultural and political historians of the UK in the 1970s.”

The Obverse Books’ Silver Archive entry Survivors: Mad Dog is available to buy direct from the Obverse Books site – in both print and electronic formats (and in a p&e combo).

Rich Cross. 2022. Survivors: Mad Dog. Obverse Books (Silver Archive), ISBN: 9781913456221, pp.168.

A Silver Archive study of Survivors third series’ classic Mad Dog

PUBLISHED THIS FEBRUARY, a new entry in the Obverse Books’ Silver Archive series turns the spotlight on the classic third series Survivors episode Mad Dog.

Written by the author of the Survivors: A World Away site, the book places this exemplarly series three adventure story in the context of its times and within the evolution of Survivors own narrative. It examines the resonance that the spectre of rabies had for TV audiences of the time, and explores the different themes and ideas that find expression in the script for Mad Dog and through its on-screen realisation.

‘Saliva only has to make contact with the skin. Rabies doesn’t even need a scratch. If it’s in the bloodstream, it’s too late.’

Mad Dog (1977) is a standout instalment of the third and final series of the BBC’s post-apocalyptic series Survivors. A touchstone in the series’ switch to a tougher, bleaker sensibility, the episode is rightly remembered for its portrayal of rabies and its gripping chase sequences. But it’s also a story offering fascinating insights into the wider human predicament, which dramatize the tension between optimism and cynicism and between altruism and self-interest. Above all, it’s a story that foregrounds the complex relationship between humanity and the natural world in a fictional post-pandemic Britain.

Published 17 February 2022.
Pages: 168
ISBN: 9781913456221
Author: Rich Cross

In an exclusive interview for the site, the author reveals the inspiration behind the book, describes the research and writing process, and outlines some of the new book’s key themes.

The Obverse Books’ Silver Archive entry Survivors: Mad Dog is available to pre-order ahead of its publication day from the Obverse Books site.

The illustration is a detail from the cover design by Cody Schell @kodiakschell

Rich Cross. 2022. Survivors: Mad Dog. Obverse Books (Silver Archive), ISBN: 9781913456221, pp.168.

Robert Gillespie launches new book of reminiscences

ROBERT GILLESPIE, WHO appeared in two separate roles in Survivors, is about to publish his second book of reminiscences about “a life in sitcom, TV, film and theatre”.

Gillespie’s first role in Survivors came in 1975 in the third episode Gone Away, when he featured as John Milner – a reluctant member of Wormley’s militia, who is disarmed by Jenny Richards at the Cash-and-Carry stand-off, and who later enables Abby, Greg and Jenny to escape after the gang track down their centre of operations at the church.

Gillespie returned to Survivors in 1977, featuring in three episodes of the third series as Sam Meade, a recovering heroin addict who is determined to prevent the return of power and industry in post-Death Britain. As Charles’ group works to bring the first Scottish hydroelectric station online, would-be saboteur Meade falls to his death in the plant’s inlet turbines.

Two roles

No other actor in the original Survivors appeared in two completely distinct and unconnected roles.

Gillespie’s new book Are You Going to do That Little Jump?, is a sequel to a first volume of recollections from a supporting and character actor’s life and career published in 2017. “Robert was pleased enough with sales to launch part two which picks up where part one left off,” his publicist explains. “Part one was mostly about theatre, but part two has more of a focus on TV and film” and in particular his career in sitcom.

This new volume does include a “passing reference” to Gillespie’s work on Survivors and a photo of him as Sam Meade. “His memories of the production are hazy”, the publicist concedes, “but he does talk about going down a live mine shaft whilst on location.” That would have been during the production of The Enemy, the first episode in which Meade’s character appears.

Book launch

As part of the promotional campaign, Gillespie is hosting a “big bash book launch” featuring “chats, clips and Q&As” at 19:00 on 6 October 2021. Advanced registration for the event is available online.

Ordering details for Are You Going to do That Little Jump? will be available shortly. “Robert is launching a new website very soon,” the publicist explains. It is anticipated that the book will be available for sale direct from Gillespie’s site. The new website will also offer “extensive archive material” from across the actor’s decades’ long career.

The Spectator observes Survivors on Britbox

The Spectator - Survivors feature - 21 August 2021 edition

THE LATEST EDITION of the UK political weekly The Spectator (21 August 2021) includes a feature reflecting on the availability of Survivors on the Britbox platform.

The inclusion of all three series of Survivors on Britbox has led to renewed media interest in the show, of which The Spectator‘s TV review is one of the latest examples.

Reviewer James Delingpole relies on many of the familiar ‘isn’t old TV funny, and wasn’t everything gentle and innocent in the old days’ tropes that afflict many contemporary press reflections on Survivors and other shows from the same decade.

He misrepresents Brian Aldiss’ conception of the ‘cosy catastrophe’. Whilst skimming through series one, he’s clearly skipped Corn Dolly (and he has not ventured beyond A Beginning at all). His understanding of 1970s’ Outside Broadcast production techniques is also pretty limited.

However, he does resist the temptation to use any of the tedious comparisons between Survivors and other shows that many of his contemporaries sucuumb to. He also concludes that, from his observations so far, he’d “much rather live in post-apocalyptic 1970s Britain than the much uglier and more freedom-deprived modern one.”

James Delingpole. 2021. ‘Apocalypse, Seventies-style: BritBox Survivors reviewed’, The Spectator, 21 August.

* The online version of The Spectator allows guest access to a small number of free article views without subscription.

Sequel to ‘Genesis of a Hero’ published

AUTHOR JOHN EYERS has just published Survivors: Salvation, a long-awaited sequel to his ‘cult classic’ novel Survivors: Genesis of a Hero.

Forty-five years have passed since the paperback and hardback edition were originally published. “I thought a follow-up was due,” says the author.

First published in 1977, Survivors: Genesis of a Hero was itself the sequel to Terry Nation’s original Survivors novel which had hit the bookshelves the previous year.

Eyers’ novel picked up Nation’s story just four hours on from its shocking conclusion – the fateful reunion of Abby Grant and her long-missing son Peter.

With the remainder of Abby’s group having arrived in France, following their sea-crossing, Eyers focused attention back on British shores. Genesis of a Hero tells the story of the now-orphaned Peter Grant’s rise through the ranks of the Wormley’s National Unity Force and his eventual emergence as a leader of the fiercely independent Welsh rebels The Red Dragons. This force destroys the army of Wormley’s successor, and secures the future of the Welsh clans – at least for now…

Survivors: Salvation continues the story of Peter Grant’s struggles against new threats to his rule, and to the society he’s now responsible for – and his growing anguish about his past actions.

Tortured by guilt for killing his mother, in post-pandemic Britain, Peter Grant is still and haunted by the fiery holocaust that he devised to ensure his victory at Llyn Edno.

He has found a passionate love with Branwen, the feisty warrior and clan leader of the Red Dragons.

But his family brings with it new challenges and responsibilities, and he struggles to make sense of his roles as war leader, father and husband in this fractured, conflicted world.

Spurred on by the deaths of his mentors, Chad and Daniel, Peter seeks to protect his people by forging a path to peace with the adversary he thought he had defeated five years before.

Just when it seems his hopes might be realised he finds himself facing an enemy he did not know existed, an enemy so pitiless, so numerous, that it could lay waste to friend and foe alike, an enemy of such horrendous proportions that for the first time Peter faces utter defeat.

This time he won’t be able to kill his way to victory.

As Britain plunges once more into chaos will a young woman with the Sight and her warrior sister be the Saviours, or is there yet another threat looming, just over the horizon?

‘John Eyers’ is the pen name of author Peter Hill, who also wrote the TV tie-in Special Branch: In At The Kill using the same pseudonym that was first published in 1976.

Peter has also published many works under his own name, including The Staunton and Wyndsor series, The Hunters, The Liars, The Enthusiast, and The Savages. He’s also authored the Commander Allan Dice books, The Fanatics and The Washermen.

“I have returned to novel writing after a career in TV drama,” Peter explains, “and published Killing Tomorrow, the first of a new series, Evolutions Path, as an ebook. I have recently published the second book in the series, The Ladies’ Game and started work on the third one. These are future fiction novels in the same genre as Genesis of a Hero.”

Survivors Salvation has been published in both paperback and Kindle formats (released on 11 March), and can be purchased by visiting Peter’s author page on Amazon.

Peter has also republished Survivors: Genesis of a Hero, which is now also available as a new paperback and as a Kindle title.

A review of Survivors: Salvation, and an interview with Peter Hill, will both be published on the Survivors: A World Away site in the coming weeks.

As Peter is producing his new works as an independent author, he is asking those who enjoy Survivors: Salvation to help promote the book by posting a review online.

“It would be great if you could spare a few minutes to post a review, which will help others when searching for books,” he says. Those producing books in this way “have to rely very much on word-of-mouth referrals like reviews to bring our books to the attention of readers,” he explains. “I’d really appreciate a few words.”

Peter Hill. 2021. Survivors: Salvation. ISBN: 9798598531433 – paperback (14 February); Kindle (11 March).

UPDATE 21 May 2021: Read an interview with Peter Hill and a detailed review of Survivors: Salvation on the main Survivors: A World Away site.

New study of performance and production in Survivors

A NEW BOOK which examines the way in which actors perform in television drama, and the way in which their performance is captured by the camera, uses Survivors as one of its illuminating case studies.

In The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama, author and researcher Richard Hewett scrutines the craft of actors and performers working on The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors.

He looks at the interplay between custom and practice, acting theory, evolving technology and other factors in shaping how performance for television is realised. Hewett pays particular attention to the distinction between studio and ‘on location’ production, exploring the influence that ‘place’ exerts on the way that a story is translated from page to screen.

Hewett’s book builds on the research that he undertook for the doctoral thesis, and an academic journal article that he published as one of the outputs of his research findings. Yet it’s clear that the aim of the book is to reach a non-academic as well as an academic audience.

For those interested in the history of British television production, there’s a great deal in Hewett’s book to capture the attention.

Enthusiasts with a particular interest in Survivors will be able to enjoy some fascinating and original reflections on the making of the show, informed by new interviews with cast members (including Lucy Fleming and Denis Lill and Roger Lloyd-Pack), and illustrated with numerous screencaptures from different episodes of the show.

In a Q&A with publishers Manchester University Press, Hewett explains that he enjoyed “every aspect of writing the book, from re-viewing the case studies to poring over archive documents.” He suggests that conducting interviews was the most satisfying part. “It was fascinating to have my theories challenged by the practitioners who originally worked on my case studies,” he says – people who were on set at the time and who were able to offer “their own unique perspectives.”

This book provides a historical overview and then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama. By examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production – studio realism and location realism – it makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium. The book compares the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment (BBC, 1953), Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89) and Survivors (BBC, 1975-77) with their respective modern-day re-makes, unpacking the effects of the shift from multi-camera studio to single-camera location production. Textual analysis is combined with extensive archival research into production process and reception, alongside interviews with numerous actors and production personnel from more than sixty years of television production.

Richard Hewett. 2020. The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, ISBN 9781526148636.

The Mad Death – interview and review in Starburst

Richard Heffer - The Mad Death - Starburst #449

RICHARD HEFFER (JIMMY Garland, Survivors) is interviewed in the current print edition of Starburst magazine, discussing his leading role in the three-part 1983 rabies mini-series The Mad Death.

Coinciding with the release of The Mad Death on DVD for the first time, Heffer recalls the making of the series, the topicality of its dramatic themes, the chilling and memorable opening titles, and his evident delight in taking on the role of no-nonsense government vet Michael Hilliard.

The DVD release is also reviewed in the online edition of Starburst magazine. The review concludes that the series:

remains gripping, thought-provoking, unsettling and disturbing; an overdue release from the TV archives from an era when the BBC made more shows that deserved those kinds of adjectives.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Interview – Richard Heffer: The Mad Death’. Starburst, No 449, p.92.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst, 3 May.

UPDATE 16 JUNE 2018: My review of The Mad Death appears in the print edition of Starburst magazine No 450.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst. No 450, p.85.

The Mad Death - DVD review - Starburst No 450

Series seven of Survivors audios previewed in Vortex 105

Vortex - Big Finish - No 105 - Survivors - series seven - preview feature

THE SEVENTH SERIES of original Survivors audio adventures, released later this month, is previewed in a four-page full-colour feature in the new free-to-read issue of Big Finish’s Vortex magazine..

Discussing the upcoming series are director Ken Bentley, producer David Richardson, script editor Matt Fitton, writers Simon Clark, Christopher Hatherall and Roland Moore, and Helen Goldwyn (Ruth).

Of his opening episode “Journey’s End”, new-to-Survivors writer Moore says, enticingly:

In story terms we are picking up Abby’s search for her son after other events had taken up her time. And as Matt and I discussed various approaches to the opening episode, Matt wondered if Abby’s faith in Peter’s survival could be finally faltering and she might face the possibility that she’d never find him. So I took that and ran with it. In fact, when I submitted my idea I was worried it might be too much – but it wasn’t

Series seven is still available for pre-order (in both CD and digital download formats) on the Big Finish site, while the previous six series (and the audiobook version of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel) are all available for purchase.

Series eight of Survivors audios will be released in June 2018; with series nine following in November 2018.

Big Finish. ‘Survival guide: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse,’ Vortex, 105, pp.18-21.

Starburst preview of Big Finish Survivors series six now available online

The feature previewing the release of series six of Big Finish’s Survivors audio dramas, first published in the print edition of Starburst (Issue 438, June 2017 – before the series was released), has now been made freely available to read online on the Starburst web site.

In addition to the review of the new series published in the online edition of Starburst, individual episode reviews of each of the episode reviews in the series have also been published on the S:AWA Big Finish mini-site.

Starburst - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview - online

Starburst #438 - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview

Starburst preview of series six of Survivors audio adventures

A two-page, full-colour feature, previewing the sixth series of Big Finish’s Survivors audio adventures released later this month, appears in the new edition of Starburst magazine (Issue 438). The feature includes comments from producer David Richardson and from scriptwriters Andrew Smith, Christopher Hatherall and Simon Clark.

Starburst #438 - Big Finish - Survivors - series six - preview

Rich Cross. 2017. ‘True Survivors can stand alone’, Starburst, Issue 438, June, pp. 52-53.

Series six remains available for pre-order on the Big Finish web site (alongside the previous five series and Carolyn Seymour’s reading of Terry Nation’s 1976 Survivors novel). Series seven (November 2017), eight (June 2018) and nine (November 2018) are also available for pre-order.