Terry Nation created the menacing Daleks on Dr. Who that wanted to destroy mankind. But there would be no need for a giant bio-mechanical invasion force for the writer’s most diabolical plan for the Earth. The modern world was crushed by the butterfingers of a nerd. Survivors dared to imagine what would happen to civilization if a klutzy Asian scientist dropped the wrong glass flask in the lab. Resistance was futile for all but a handful of people that came down with the mystery illness. How would mankind handle only 1 in 50,000 people surviving a rapid pandemic? Would people just pitch in or would it be everyone for themselves? Survivors: The Complete Original Series has all 36 episodes that aired on the BBC from 1975 – 1977.
Instead of bogging down an episode setting up what caused the outbreak, Survivors sums up the issue in a few silent shots during the tittle sequence. An Asian scientist becomes infected when he loses grip on a flask that shatters. Instead of quarantining himself, the guy goes on a passenger jet. He drops dead and the germ spreads at an outrageous rate. “The Fourth Horseman” has the new plague spreading fast across England and the world. The action is followed through Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour), the wife of a rich executive, and Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming), a single woman in London. They witness the swift deaths of all those around them. The doctors are hopeless at finding a cure. Abby’s young son goes missing. She has hope that he has survived although there’s little chance. Nobody knows why certain people survived. Her journey crosses paths with Jenny. Society has broken down completely since there’s nobody to run the modern things like water, power, and phones. The computer systems of the mid-’70s weren’t able to control that much. Those that survive quickly turn into a scavenger society. Grocery stores become battlefields between rival bands. It is not the cute post-apocalyptic world that the government promotes.
Abby and Jenny meet Greg Preston (Ian MacCulloch). He’s an engineer who knows how to get things working. He also provides a little protection since every creepy survivor group seems intent to breed back the population with all available women. He eventually hooks up with Jenny. Abby is rather forceful in her new role of survivor. She has no need to be rescued since her goal is to rescue her son. The trio meet up with numerous others in attempts to rebuild a semblance of society. Once they get enough people they can trust, they go from scavengers to farmers. However the series doesn’t turn into a wasteland version of Good Neighbors. There’s still evil pushing against them in the form of humans, animals and other deadly germs. Characters end up dying and disappearing during the season. Nobody is immune from vanishing off the show which keeps it interesting. At the start of second two, one of the trio is gone. No need to spoil what happens.
Survivors is a bleak yet hopeful vision anchored in the reality of what humans are capable of doing during a major catastrophe. The actions of these characters reflect what happened in New Orleans. Some join together to survive while others see it as an opportunity to band together to take power. It’s not a clean solution as what people will do at humanity’s bleakest moment. It mixes the hopeful with the doom to create a captivating series.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are from the video source although there are parts that were exteriors scenes shot on 16mm film. The detail is rather good for a ‘70s video. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. There are moments that sound like the boom microphone missed it’s mark. Luckily there’s subtitles for this quieter times or if you have a problem with the English accents.
The Cult of Survivors (29:06) is a BBC documentary that reunites us with the cast. They discuss the budget limitations that lead to the wild dog pack. It’s disclosed that one case member left the show because of a drinking problem.
Photo Galleries cover all the seasons.
Survivors: The Complete Original Series is an engrossing vision of a society recovering from a shocking fate. It focuses on the human element instead of attempting to dazzle us with special effects of a decaying civilization. This is must viewing for fans of British science fiction.
BBC Worldwide presents Survivors: The Complete Original Series. Starring: Carolyn Seymour, Lucy Fleming and Ian MacCulloch. Boxset Contents: 38 Episodes on 6 DVDs (5 are flippers). Released on DVD: April 27, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.