SURVIVORS The Complete Original Series 1975-77 DVD Review

     June 2, 2010

Survivors ran on the BBC from 1975 to 1977, and it garnered a sizeable cult following that were likely disappointed by the swift cancellation of the show’s recent remake.  But remakes aside, The Survivors original series DVD set combines all three seasons of a landmark sci-fi series in a collection that is sadly lacking extras but is still quite a good show.  The show is set in England after a Bubonic Plague-like virus kills all but one percent of the population, leaving the remaining few to re-establish some sort of civilization in a world without modern technology.  Survivors has its flaws as a show, waning somewhat in the latter two seasons, but it remains ahead of its time as a sparse, chilling, and surprisingly real apocalyptic vision.  Hit the jump for more on Survivors.

Survivors was created by Terry Nation, who is best known for his work writing for Doctor Who and creating the Daleks.  Survivors preceded Nation’s next BBC series, Blake’s 7, which was considerably more popular.  Nation left the show after the first season, and this arguably had a significant impact on the direction of the second and third seasons.  The main characters of the first season are Jenny and Abby, an independent Londoner and a married housewife from the country, respectively.  The first episode introduces a number of characters and kills them off swiftly, giving the viewer little time to grow attached to anyone before they die.  I kept looking back at the DVD case every time a new person came on to see if they’d stick around!  Season one is excellent, and it sticks with you.  When Abby burns down her own house after the death of her husband in episode one and takes one long look back, it’s heartbreaking, and Carolyn Seymour gives a fantastic performance as a woman who loses everyone she loves but continues on.

The first season sees a select few plague survivors including Abby and Jenny coming together on a farm they call The Grange and trying desperately to rebuild their broken society.  The show is top-notch through their journey to London, and then the show changes.  In the box set’s only extra, the BBC documentary The Cult Of Survivors, star Carolyn Seymour explains her character’s absence frankly, blaming a substance abuse problem for her departure. The loss of Abby is a huge detriment to the show and it loses some of its weight after she and other characters are unceremoniously done away with.  Character death is never an episode-long ordeal, which is both an asset as well as a shortcoming of Survivors, and it made me reluctant to get emotionally invested in the characters’ lives.  The second and third seasons are honestly not as good as the first, and whether that’s due to Terry Nation’s lack of involvement or something else I’m not sure, but overall the show is worth a watch.  I started to like it during its informative, almost kitschy theme, which really tells you all you need to know, and I started to love it when I got an unexpected Patrick Troughton sighting.  Survivors does have its flaws, but it is far superior to most shows out there.

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