SURVIVORS - Episode Six

BBC HD - 23rd December - 9.00pm

All the strands set up in the previous five episodes are gathered together here into a pacy and violent climax. The rather evil Dexter, whom we encountered in Episode Two, is revealed to now be the enforcer of Samantha Willis' new totalitarianism. The Tom, Anya and Sarah relationship goes through some further twists and there's a dash into the city to find Naj after he sulkily runs off because Abby shouted at him! Kids, eh?

The arrival of Willis and Dexter not only prompts us into thinking about how and why we elect our governments and hold democracy to our hearts but it also violently forces Anya and Tom into revealing their true identities. Willis is symbolic of the 'government by fear' brigade that we're currently having to put up with here and now. Anya, although known to the group as a doctor, tries to hide the fact from Willis. Dexter forces Sarah to go back with them to look after Bob, the warehouse manager she abandoned and claimed was dead back in Episode Two, and it is thus entirely predictable that the blonde twig will betray Anya. Tom, meanwhile, is forced to reveal to Abby his status as ex-con. Director Jamie Payne handles these scenes very well, maintaining a tension that reaches a climax as Anya is dragged away by Willis and Dexter.

A non-too-subtle go at crappy parenting skills
Meanwhile, writer Adrian Hodges plonks in a sub-plot about Craig and June, the Fagin and Nancy of a devastated Manchester, using child labour to stock pile everything from food to oil for generators. They brainwash the kids by offering them treats like playing on the Nintendo Wii in exchange for a day's work. A non-too-subtle go at crappy parenting skills and kids deprived of any other cultural reference points other than electronic games. Craig and June are genuinely creepy and the poor kids are starved into submission if they don't go out on their bikes scavenging. Some great visuals of them pedalling their way through a deserted Trafford Shopping Centre and the empty streets of Manchester.

There's a great confrontation between Tom and Sarah and you honestly think he's going to kill her there and then (and let's face it we'd be glad if he did) but he resists the urge and obviously thinks it best to leave her alive to put her through some mental torture instead. Tom, Greg and Al take off after Anya and Willis' men and ambush them. Tom's true nature comes out here as he finally gets to complete a task he started when he was staying at Willis' kill Gavin, her henchman. He shoots him down in cold blood and this act is the catalyst for everything else that follows. The scene on the stairway with Abby is a key one - he lies to her about how Gavin was killed, calling it a 'dispute' when in fact he just simply shot him where he stood, and he's pretty much the same as Dexter at this moment, using force to get his own way and, strangely, as a perverse form of pleasure. He's a complex character and the series has been blessed to have him as part of the group of survivors.

She gets ear marked for lab rat treatment.
Fearing reprisals from Mrs. Fascist, the survivors decide to up sticks and take off for the south coast. Well, it is grim up North. However, Naj buggers off and joins Fagin's gang whilst returning from a visit to his home, not realising he's now a member of 'Child Abuse R Us'. Craig's cure for for one of the kid's coughing is to steal him away in the night and er...dispose...of him. Whilst this is going on Dexter is given orders to track Abby and Co down and to kill them as a punishment for Gavin's murder. And then as those two sub-plots crank up, yet a third sub-plot dragging in the scientists holed up in their bunker also makes an appearance after Ronny Jhuti finds out that Abby had the virus and survived. She gets ear marked for lab rat treatment.

This makes for a very busy second half of the episode, including some nice visual touches of a wrecked Manchester city centre complete with good effects sequences of burning apartment buildings. However, I only counted one decomposing corpse and one rat which is hardly realistic is it? Still, the story really moves up a pace and the race is on to find Naj and get out of the city before either Dexter or the scientists can track them down. The sub-plots collide and Tom ends up in a shoot out with Dexter, Al gives Craig a good thumping for his exploitation of the kids and rescues Naj and the military descend upon Abby and ferry her off into one of their military vehicles. There's barely a chance to pause for breath but an attempt is made with one scene set in deserted department store where Abby and Greg have a chin-wag about their kids. We get some scant information about Greg's marriage breakdown and his kids and that's it. If there is one thing that the series has singly failed to do is to engage the audience with Greg as a character. It has made Greg completely anonymous and surplus to requirements. Paterson Joseph has had very little to really get his teeth into and I think they've wasted his talent. Wonder if that's why Greg gets shot at the end?

It's an exciting conclusion to the series with plenty going on to keep the interest up. Quite a nail biter, in fact. I could have done without that little sequence at the end of Peter Grant running joyfully through the bright greenery to get on a horse and tell the audience that yes, Peter, is alive and Abby was right to have hope. Oh, hell. That means she's going to be as annoying in the second series as she was in the first. A second series has been commissioned and I know that Julie and Max are confirmed as returning but no word on Paterson. I wonder if he'll be working in Cardiff on a certain show when filming commences again in Manchester? Anyway, I enjoyed Survivors but it has barely touched upon the issues that the original series was rightly praised for. Certainly the final three episodes were far stronger than the start of the series. But its tone is still wrong and that's down to Adrian Hodges refusal to get bleaker and grittier and the whole premise of the original series, re-learning the skills that we've abandoned for our technology, has clearly been dumped. No homilies on starting a farm, planting crops in rotation, creating medicines from plants...more a reflection of what we're like now, plague or no plague. Just depressing, then.

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3 Responses to “SURVIVORS - Episode Six”
  1. A decent summation of episode six and indeed the whole series. However, I think Adrian Hodges has been right to try and tell a different 'Survivors' story to the original, focussing a bit more on human nature in the immediate aftermath of the disease (as, indeed, the first series of the original did) and painting a pretty bleak view of humanity without a great deal of optimism for the future - which actually surprised me as in the pre-publicity Hodges was promising the show wouldn't be bleak but fairly upbeat! I didn't get much of that, certainly not in this exciting last episode. I'm actually pleased the new show hasn't just been a carbon copy of the original - remember how the second series in 1976 was a bit on the dull side, less of an adventure and more a homily to self-sufficiency? I expect the second series to be 'more of the same' with a lot more revealed about the secret lab and its goings-on and its conflict with Sam and her self-appointed 'New Government'.

  2. Thanks Paul. I did enjoy the series but couldn't help compare it to the original. You're right, it is a different series. My big problem is that they've tended to show the aftermath of the plague in a rather idealised light and that's just buggered up the tone. G'won Hodges, get bleaker!

  3. Did it not have enough gravitas for you, Frank? :-D

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