TV UK TV

Survivors (BBC-1 1975-1977, Ian McCulloch, Denis Lill)

Survivors

Post plague drama series. When a deadly plague virus wipes out 90% of the worlds population a motley group of Survivors have to try and carry on.

Survivors, made in the mid 1970’s still seems remarkably prescient today with society even more dependant on technology for its very survival than it was then.

Each season of Survivors (there were three in all) had a slightly different theme, season one saw the setting up of the crisis and its aftermath and how the survivors dealt with it, main characters in season one were middle class housewife Abby Grant (who spent of the season searching for her son Peter whom she believed was still alive). Greg Preston, an engineer and Jenny Richards, a young woman who later became involved with Greg and had a child with him.

By the middle of season one this central trio along with a mismatched collection of other survivors had decided to become self sufficient and moved into a stately home (Hampton Court in fact which was undergoing renovations at the time and allowed the BBC to film there) to try and achieve their aims.

The rest of the season followed their attempts to do this (interspersed with action moments as other Survivors came to threaten them, a trio of crooks tried to steal their supply of petrol and another threatened their very existence after they sheltered his runaway pregnant girlfriend. Other residents of the stately home included Welsh petty crook Tom Price, the nice but dim Barney and agricultural student Paul Pitman.

The key episode of the season was probably Law and Order in which Barney was put on trial and then executed after another character (Wendy) was murdered and Barney emerged as prime suspect (Tom Price was the real culprit and also later met his death at the end of a gun).

Season two had more of a bucolic theme (Hampton Court was unavailable for this season) as the cast moved to a new home (a place called Whitecross in the series, Callow Hill in Wales in real life). When their home was destroyed in a fire the group (minus Abby who had embarked once more on a search for her son), moved Charles Vaughan’s settlement, Charles then became, along with Jenny and Greg, one of the main players in the series.

Survivors

Lucy Fleming as Jenny

This season was almost exclusively concerned with the growing of the settlement, apart from the intense two part story The Lights of London in which Charles and Greg travel to a devastated London to try and track down their doctor friend Ruth. (Ruth was part of the Whitecross community but travelled around to wherever she was needed.)

Apparently Denis Lill who played Charles and Ian McCulloch who played Greg were often at loggerheads during the making of this season leading to some changes for season three.

Season three developed into a sort of cross country chase (Greg and Charles never appeared in an episode together during this season, indeed Greg only appeared in two episodes). At the end of Season Two Greg had gone off to Norway in an hot air balloon to help the Survivors there restore power to their country. At the start of season three he was back and heading north to try and reunite the country. Jenny, who was by now Greg’s partner and had had a baby with him, a boy called Paul, persuaded Charles to travel north with her to try and find Greg, hence much of the episodes concerned their interaction with characters they came across.

Survivors

Lorna Lewis as Pet and Denis Lill as Charles Vaughan.

There were several stand out episodes in this season including Mad Dog where Charles almost contracts rabies, The Last Laugh where Greg actually contracts smallpox from a doctor he had been trying to find and last episode Power where Charles and Jenny do at last get some semblance of electrical light flowing through the land by means of hydro electricity up in Scotland. By the end of the series there was even “money” (in the shape of Greg Preston notes – Greg Preston was being set up as a kind of figurehead for the country).

There was some talk of a fourth season involving the use of a North Sea Ferry but this never came to fruition. Ian McCulloch, who also wrote several episodes of the series, spent quite a bit of the 1990’s trying to persuade the BBC to mount a revival but to no avail then out of the blue 2008 saw a re-boot which despite plenty of positive press and some great performances was cancelled after two seasons.

The original though remains a truly remarkable and original series and still very, very watchable today.

production details
UK / BBC-1 / 38×60 minute episodes / 1975-1977

Creator: Terry Nation / Music: Anthony Isaac / Producer: Terence Dudley

cast
CAROLYN SEYMOUR as Abby Grant (1975)
IAN McCULLOCH as Greg Preston
LUCY FLEMING as Jenny Richards
DENIS LILL as Charles Vaughan (1976-77)
JOHN ABINERI as Hubert Goss (1976-77)
LORNA LEWIS as Pet (1976-77)
GORDON SALKILLD as Jack (1976-77)
CELIA GREGORY as Ruth (1976-77)
TALFRYN THOMAS as Tom Price (1975)
CHRISTOPHER TRANCHELL as Paul Pitman (1975-76)