Twenty years today since Survivors was last shown on British TV

Terry Nation's Survivors - on satellite and cable TV in the 1990s

TODAY MARKS THE twentieth anniversary of Survivors‘ last appearance on British TV.

Beginning in 1993, the entire three-series run of Survivors enjoyed several repeat showings on the satellite-cable channel UK Gold. As the BBC never ran repeats of Survivors, this was the first time that the programme had been seen on British television since Survivors‘ original transmission on BBC 1 between 1975 and 1977.

The final transmission on UK Gold concluded, with the broadcast of series three finale “Power”,  shortly after midnight on Monday 27 April 1998. This concluding episode was preceded by an episode of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image and followed by an instalment of crime drama The Equalizer.

The first series of Survivors was released on VHS cassette by BBC Video the same year that the UK Gold transmissions began, and again by Sovereign Video in 1998, before series one secured its first DVD release (and its third VHS release) courtesy of DD Video in 2003.

TV and Satellite Week - 26 April 1997

Dystopian BBC drama 1990 secures DVD release

1990 - Series 1 - DVD cover

SERIES ONE OF the critically acclaimed 1970s’ BBC drama 1990 has just been released on DVD by Simply Media. This is the first time that the programme, which stars Edward Woodward and Barbara Kellerman, has been released for sale in any format.

A dystopian, rather than a post-apocalyptic drama, 1990 was part of the same wave of darker TV dramas that began to emerge in the late 1970s of which Survivors was a key part. These shows, and others, such as The Guardians (1971), The Changes (1975), Noah’s Castle (1980) and The Knights of God (1987), imagined how society might be overturned by disasters or calamities of different sorts, and how humanity might respond to the loss of civilisation.

Clearly taking inspiration from George Orwell’s seminal treatise on authoritarianism 1984, 1990 depicts life in a then-future Britain that has isolated itself from the world and slid into tyranny. In a country in which freedom of speech has been outlawed and surveillance of citizens’ lives has become all powerful, small groups of rebels and dissidents attempt to outwit the authorities and subvert the system; even if that means finding ways to escape the country’s closed borders in the hope of finding a freer life.

The central protagonist in 1990 is Jim Kyle (Woodward), a journalist who attempts to rebuff the attentions of the spies and snoopers of the Public Control Department whilst secretly working for the underground resistance movement. The pressures and contradictions of Kyle’s life are made more intense by his entanglement with the beguiling senior PCD official Delly Lomas (Kellerman). Can Kyle continue to resist the PCD, aid the fightback, and still retain his secure and relatively-privileged position in the new Britain? Series one sets off to find out…

My review of the DVD release of series one and series two of 1990 both appear in the online edition of Starburst magazine.

It is excellent news that, by the time series one was released, Simply Media had already committed to releasing the second (and final) series of 1990 on DVD on 1 May 2017.

1990 - Edward Woodward, Barbara Kellerman, series one, Simply Media

1990 – series one

Britain, 1990. Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) stars as Jim Kyle, renegade leader of a resistance movement, in the BBC’s cult dystopian drama set in a totalitarian Britain.

The country is run by the bureaucrats of the Home Office’s all-powerful Public Control Department (PCD). Hundreds of thousands of civil servants work hard at monitoring and exposing all possible and imaginary threats to the country.

They routinely command sophisticated surveillance of anyone suspected of opposing the status quo; ruthless suppression of independent thought in Special State brainwashing units cunningly disguised as caring rest-homes; and strict rationing of food, alcohol, and travel.

Free speech is forbidden. The rule of law no longer protects the vulnerable. Civil liberties are consigned to history as the Orwellian bureaucrats tyrannically impose their intimidating control.

Jim Kyle (Edward Woodward), journalist for The Star, resists the forces of the Establishment. He’s smart, witty and charming. But is subversive acts aren’t going unnoticed, and he risks prison or death at the hands of the PCD’s ruthless controller Herbert Skardon, (Robert Lang), and his provocatively alluring deputy, Delly Lomas (Barbara Kellerman).

Series One and Series Two were first broadcast on BBC 2 in 1977 and 1978 to critical acclaim. The series was never released on video or DVD until now.

1990 - Series 2 - DVD cover

By way of a personal aside…

Back in the early 2000s, when I was working with Andy Priestner on the special features accompanying the release of all three series of Survivors on DVD by DD Video/DDHE (the forerunners of Simply Media), I pitched to the company the idea of licensing 1990 for DVD release, and outlined the special features that I would like to have compiled as part of the DVD package. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the project did not proceed at that time, and this Simply Media release is ‘vanilla’ in format, and uses an untreated archival tape source. Despite this, this release comes very highly recommended to all enthusiasts of intelligent, high quality BBC genre TV drama from that classic period.

A screen capture of the pitch to DDHE for a 1990 release
My original pitch to DDHE, for a 1990 DVD release, from more than a decade ago…

Twenty years since the death of Survivors’ creator Terry Nation

Terry Nation

Today (9 March) is the twentieth anniversary of the death of Survivors‘ creator Terry Nation, who died from emphysema in Los Angeles, US on 9 March 1997 at the age of 66.

Nation enjoyed a long and varied career as a scriptwriter and show creator, notable for his contributions to Doctor Who and his work on numerous other TV series throughout the sixties and seventies and into the eighties. As well as creating Blake’s 7, Nation also devised the small-screen post-apocalyptic classic Survivors.

After he relocated to Los Angeles in 1980, Nation tried unsuccessfully to convince a US TV network to remake Survivors for the American TV market. Nation could hardly have imagined what would have become of Doctor Who in the last two decades, but the story of Survivors has also continued to evolve in ways the series’ creator could not possibly have anticipated, including:

  • The release of Survivors on DVD in different formats and packages, and for different regions, in the UK, America, Australia and Italy
  • The arrival of the first commercially published book to explore the genesis and production of the series.
  • The broadcast of a two-series, twelve-episode ‘re-imagining’ of Survivors by the BBC between 2008 and 2010
  • The re-publication in 2008 of his out-of-print 1976 Survivors novel
  • The release of the first ever audio-book version of his Survivors novel by Big Finish in 2014, voiced by Survivors actress Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant)
  • The release of a series of new and original audio-adventures, set in the time and place of the original Survivors TV series, and involving the three original core stars of the show: Carolyn Seymour, Lucy Fleming (Jenny Richards) and Ian McCulloch (Greg Preston). This audio series will result in, at a minimum, 36 new original episodes, with releases (which began in 2013) now confirmed to continue until at least the end of 2018
  • The publication of two book exploring Nation’s talents as a scriptwriter (including his work on Survivors) – Jonathan Bignell and Andrew O’Day. 2004. Terry Nation, Manchester: Manchester University Press; and Alwyn W Turner, 2001 Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented the Daleks, London: Aurum


Lucy Fleming appears in Eastenders and The Archers

Lucy Fleming appeared as Judge Evelyn Heap in BBC One soap Eastenders (31 May 2015), an episode viewable (in the UK) on the BBC iPlayer until 30 June 2016.

Lucy Fleming as Judge Evelyn Heap in Eastenders 2016

In May, Fleming also appeared (alongside her husband Simon Williams) in and episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers (6 May 2016) playing Miranda Elliott (while Williams voiced Justin Elliott).

Denis Lill appears in Midsomer Murders episode “A Dying Art”

Denis Lill (Charles Vaughan, Survivors) appears in the current episode of Midsomer Murders (Series 18, Episode 4) “A Dying Art”, in the role of frustrated and under-achieving artist Simeon Rowling: one of number of suspects in a typical Midsomer Murders‘ killing spree.

Art comes to the picturesque Midsomer village of Angel’s Rise with the opening of a new Sculpture Park. But when its launch is marred by murder, DCI Barnaby and DS Nelson have to get creative to crack a case where art imitates death, and everything has a deeper meaning.

The episode, which was first broadcast on ITV on 3 February 2016, is available for streaming on the ITV hub until early March.

Since John Nettles stood down at the end of the thirteenth series, the lead role in Midsomer Murders (in the guise of DCI Barnaby) has been taken by Neil Dudgeon – who in 2008 appeared in a memorable guest starring role in the third episode of the remake of Survivors (as the paranoid former farmer Sean, who has locked himself and his young children in isolation in a vain attempt to protect them from contact with the infected).

Denis Lill - Midsomer Murders - A Dying Art - Series 18 - Episode 4
Denis Lill – Midsomer Murders – ‘A Dying Art’ – Series 18 – Episode 4

Doomwatch DVD cover published

The cover design of the forthcoming Doomwatch DVD box-set has been published by Simply Media. The title is not yet listed on the Simply Media site, but is available for pre-order on Amazon and other online retailer sites. The Doomwatch DVD boxset (containing all of the remaining episodes from all three series and the 2006 BBC documentary The Cult of… Doomwatch) is released on 4 April 2016.

Doomwatch - DVD - boxset - cover

Doomwatch secures DVD release in April 2016

Celebrated edge-of-the-apocalypse drama (and Survivors pregenitor) Doomwatch will secure its first full DVD release in April 2016, when a boxset of all remaining episodes is released by Simply Media.

Doomwatch was produced by Survivors producer Terry Dudley, and several of its scriptwriters (Don Shaw, Roger Parkes and Martin Worth), and directors (including Eric Hills and Pennant Roberts) would go on to work on Survivors. Numerous Survivors cast members (including Stephen Dudley, Talfryn Thomas, Julie Neubert, Eileen Helsby, Lorna Lewis, Robert Gillespie and many others) appeared on-screen in Doomwatch.

With many Doomwatch episodes long-since lost from the archives, the Simply Media boxset will include all twenty-four of the surviving stories (across all three series of the show), including the infamous and never-transmitted Sex and Violence. Released on 4 April 2016, the new boxset will also include the 2006 BBC Four documentary The Cult of… Doomwatch. Says Simply Media:

Doomwatch was devised by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, who had previously worked together on the science-fiction programme Doctor Who, and who were responsible for creating the part-human, part-machine race known as the Cybermen. The Department of Observation and Measurement of Scientific Work – nicknamed ‘Doomwatch’ – is a section of the Ministry of National Security whose remit is to act as a watchdog group investigating current scientific work, and ensuring that the welfare of the general public and the environmental is not compromised. It is led by Doctor Spencer Quist, a gruff and no-nonsense Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who is assisted by Doctor John Ridge, a chemist in his late thirties who is not only a ladies’ man, but who also has a shady past and connections to MI6 and Toby Wren, a physics postgraduate from Cambridge played by Robert Powell.



The release is discussed on Archive TV Musings; while Wiped News provides a detailed guide to the lost episodes.

Simply Media is not yet (23 December) listing the title in its forthcoming catalogue, but the Doomwatch DVD set is available for pre-order on Amazon in the UK.

Survivors ‘nearly pointless’ reveals BBC quiz

A recent repeat showing of an episode of the quiz game Pointless Celebrities (Series 6: Episode 5, 12 April 2014) included a question challenging the contestants to identify the least recognised image from a number of 1970s’ TV shows. The selection included a publicity still from Survivors taken during the studio recording session of Gone Away.

None of the teams recognised the image from Survivors, which turned out to be a ‘nearly pointless’ answer – being recognised by only one of the panel of the general public surveyed by the programme. The spread of responses was as follows:

  • 87 – Porridge
  • 61 – Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
  • 48 – Upstairs, Downstairs
  • 18 – Abigail’s Party
  • 1 – Survivors

The question on 1970s’ TV shows occurs 31ms into the episode, which can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer service (within the UK) until 21 January 2015.

Many thanks to Adrian H for providing this information

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television - choices A-E

Pointless Celebrities - 12 April 2014 - Classic 1970s Television - choices A-E


Monsal Dale Survivors filming locations back on TV screens

Tony Robinson’s Channel 4 show Walking Through History is the latest documentary series to revisit the Monsal Dale filming locations used in the classic third series Survivors episode Mad Dog.

New episode ‘King John’s Ruin: Peak District‘ sees Robinson visiting Monsal Dale to discuss the king’s troubled reign with historian Lauren Johnson. The episode includes impressive aerial views of the viaduct and valley.

Monsal Dale also featured in recent installments of BBC Four’s Tales from the National Parks and BBC Two’s Ian Hislop’s Olden Days.

All of these appearances are illustrated on the news pages of the Survivors Mad Dog site.

Monsal Dale - as seen in Walking Through History

Brian Blessed – Who Do You Think You Are?

The force of nature that is Brian Blessed (whose memorable turn as Brod in series three Survivors episode Law of the Jungle is one of the guest-starring highlights of the final series) is the focus of the latest episode of the BBC personal family history show Who Do You Think You Are? (14 August 2014)

Interviewed for the Radio Times, Blessed revealed: “I didn’t want to find some boring king or duke or baron; I was hoping to find normal people 
with all their turmoil and suffering and joy. And by God, we have done! It’s more Dickensian than Dickens. Even the camera crew was weeping. They’re saying it’s the best they’ve ever filmed.”

Who Do You Think You Are? Series 11: 2. Brian Blessed is available (in the UK) on the BBC iPlayer until 23 October 2014.

Brian Blessed - Brod, original Survivors
Brian Blessed – Brod, original Survivors