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Ben Austwick [Cathode Ray Mission 11.26.08] Tuvalu post apocalyptic review

Year: 2008
DVD Release date: January 26th, 2009
Directors: John Alexander / Andrew Gunn
Writers: Various
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 5 out of 10

Part two of Survivors sees the characters of the opening episode step out into the newly depopulated streets of Manchester to forage for food. Tensions rise as they come across a violent rival group, armed with shotguns and drunk on looted alcohol, who want to keep the easy pickings of the local supermarket and shopping center to themselves. Meanwhile, a nearby warehouse piled high with produce is presided over by a young ex-employee who uses sex as currency to protect the building which, she hopes, will make her rich as she sells the goods in the new, post-virus world.

While spoiled by a gaping plot hole (why don't our group of survivors just drive to another part of the city and loot there?), the first plot strand is tense, clever and even a little scary, the armed gang's leader a well acted power-crazed nobody, who looks like he could have been the supermarket's manager in his former life. The second plot strand isn't so good, the decent ideas behind it undermined by poor performances and writing.

Indeed survivors is still held back considerably by the clumsy script and some awful acting, which will probably dog the series until its end. Too much time is spent on pointless subplots shoehorned in to develop the badly-drawn characters (with escaped prisoner Tom, played by Max Beesley, a notable exception), and this episode felt directionless, fluffed-out to fill its hour long slot, and even a bit boring.

On the plus side, lingering elevated shots of the deserted city, trees rustling in the wind and quiet birdsong effectively convey the atmosphere of an empty world, creepy in a subtle way, and quite refreshing if you've been brought up on the horror-around-any-corner atmosphere of other post-apocalyptic genres like the zombie movie. The storyline could still surprise, a preview of the next episode promising forays into sustainable energy and a look at what is left of the British government. There is the interesting possibility Survivors could turn into a utopian rather than dystopian study, and the still unresolved bio lab sub-plot remains intriguing.

However, two episodes into the series Survivors is shaping up into a dumbed-down and rather disappointing remake of the 1970s classic. It has its good points and I'm interested to know what will happen next, but it's going to take a few surprises and an improved script to rescue it from mediocrity.

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trogen (10 years ago) Reply

you know, the second episode was a LOT better!!! I think they wanted to get the first episode over and done with so we can focus on the aftermath of the flu, which is what the story is really about. I actually excited to see the next one now, GIVE IT A CHANCE PEOPLE!


dissy pointed (10 years ago) Reply

Could be good, but hampered by some (unintentionally) hilarious acting. The villain only needs a thin moustache, black cape and top hat and I’ll be booing his every appearance. Also, what was with his Billie Piper-esque side kick??


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

Only the BBC could of made this more twee and cheesy than the original. They really seem to have missed the whole point with this one.


Paul (10 years ago) Reply

Good review - and I pretty much agree with you. The first episode was a disappointment but this second installment really did feel like an hour's worth of filler.


J-man (10 years ago) Reply

I think that they are moving ahead too fast...They have already become a group, selected a leader, found a place to live, starting to collect stuff and now the little boy has begun collecting animals for the future farm. And they are just two episodes in to the series. That could have been the entire first season if I had directed this. But then again, perhaps we should be lucky that I´m not... (sorry if spelling is not correct...long time reader, first time writer from Sweden here on this excellent page...)


rek (10 years ago) Reply

I'm disappointed not a single one of the survivors has read the classic British sci fi story Day of the Triffids. Load up trucks with supplies (not just food) and head for the country. You avoid rival gangs and disease, you don't have this nonsense of "foraging every day like it's a job", and you get started on sustainable self-reliance by starting a farm. Now the preview suggests they go to the country for some reason, but who knows if it's to stay... I would have moved there by day 3.


Nick N. (10 years ago) Reply

Utter, utter tosh. Just woeful in every department except the basic storyline which stands. Watchable purely in a 'so bad it's good' fashion.


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

The real problem with this show is that the BBC is still, as always going for the 'doctor who' demographic. In trying to make it work for the great unwashed, they;ve removed its fangs. It's a waste of time.


Paul Stapleton (10 years ago) Reply

My - isn't everyone a critic?!

I thought it was great. Go back and reread Terry Nation's original novel; it's far more faithful to the spirit of that than the padfast that made up pretty much everything past episode 6 of the 70's series.


davey (10 years ago) Reply

i agree with the reviewer on this.
it was a NETTO for lords sake. there's a couple in every town. why wouldnt you go to the next one. it made sense in the 70's when a supermarket was a rare beast in the UK; but they could have said so much by pointing out just how many supermarkets there are. also, wouldnt you go raid somewhere fancier like M&S or Waitrose if you didnt have to pay?


Ben Austwick (10 years ago) Reply

Anon: I think you're right about the Doctor Who demographic. It seems they've tried to make this a bit more adult but don't really know how.

Paul: I've just ordered the book, good idea. The two random episodes of the original series I saw ages ago seemed like boring hippie tosh. I keep an open mind though because they were seen out of context and I didn't really know what was going on.


X-Bumble (10 years ago) Reply

I can handle a slow program, I crave for slow intellectual programs to be back on TV.

But for me this is slow, made slower by the fact that there is no atmosphere whatsoever.

It's all shot in bright daylight with lovely sun. No artistic lighting or filters to give it a stark edge. No edgy dusk lighting with driving rain to mute the sounds of an oncoming zombie.... er I mean scavenger.

The camera work is sluggish and uninspired. This is laughable when you think how often they film in a 'hand-held' way by randomly moving the camera around for completely inappropriate shows, yet one show like this that could benefit from it and it's messed up. I expect a Blair Witch type set-up for this, but instead we get Bugs.

The acting is truly woeful. Because the actors are all hackneyed old journeymen you've seen in endless old rubbish the BBC have rolled out for the last 20 years, there is no sense of isolation as you are just too familiar with the actors.

I've not seen the original series but will definitely watch it now. Terry Nation really deserves better than this.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the 1970's were a master at creating the tension as there were no good special effects so the producers and directors had to make other ways of highlighting the atmospehere - things like great acting, great story lines & character lines.

Day of the Triffids is still harrowing on the opening episode. OK you have to take the plants as they are, but the tension, isolation and utter despair it injects on a far lower budget than Survivors is superb and has stood the test of time. Again, Threads which was a fantastic film.

There is no way the BBC would even attempt to make such films now as their whole mindset is that of not offending and dumbing down.

Such a shame as they are wasting a golden opportunity at what is surely a golden age of TV.


Bendomac (10 years ago) Reply

This show is OK but a show that is much slower is the american hit Jerico similar in that the world has been f-ed up by nukes not bird flu but its a lot slower and interlectual. And to all these people saying its too fast theres only going to be 9 episodes normal series have around 20 but anyway waych Jericho its awesome


Anon (10 years ago) Reply

I really don't like this show. It's quite poor really and I'm surprised that I keep on watching. Guess I'm just hoping they pull a rabbit out the hat but the fact that everyone is famous in it really detracts from the show.
I'd rather see Last Train again. It was just all round better than this drivel.


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

An American here. Thought I would disclose upfront. Just finished the 6th episode. The series has gotten much better, I do remember sighing a bit in episode 2 (all eps watched in the span of 3 days) and wondering where this was all going. But, I think the writers have explored some thought provoking territory: what is a society? From where does political authority come? Does a government have the right to bring "free" people under it jurisdiction involuntarily? The relationship between God and hope (interesting point here: the show obviously comes from an atheistic point of view, a radical departure from how an American production would treat the topic - the majority of Americans believe in God while the majority of British don't).

Speaking of cultural differences in audience perception, one comment above bemoaned the fame of the actors. I guess I am lucky to be wholly ignorant of any of the actors and I have found all the characters to be quite well done. Perhaps some of the clumsy acting complained about is lost in the cultural/linguistic unfamiliarity as well.

I have been frustrated with the lack of the obvious in the charater's actions. Instead of asking why they didn't just go to another NETTO, I have been asking myself why they haven't gotten themselves a backpackers water filter, proper clothing, etc. And while I am at it, I know gun ownership (and by gun, I mean military purpose assault rifles, machine guns, etc) is strictly limited in the UK, but why has noone gone to a police station or military installation and gotten themselves properly armed? I know it has made for tense repeated encounters with the shotgun wielding thug, but the situation has been stretched pretty thin by shotgun shootout in episode 6. For God's sake, Tom has only just now gotten himself a defense shotgun and he doesn't even appear to have spare ammunition for it. I mean, if I was living in the burned out Manchester of episode 6 I would definitely be living rooftop with a good scoped hunting rifle, shotgun, and sidearm at the least; and I would have definitely taken a shot at that chopper about the third time I saw it and it didn't drop me a goodie basket of beef jerky and words of hope. But maybe I have seen and thought about I Am Legend and 28 Days Later too much. Plus, this situation, like that suggested above from Day of the Triffids would not allow the writers to explore the themes of society, family, trust, love, faith, fascism, fear, and hope that they have.

Regardless of my sniping, I have found the themes explored each week to be thought provoking and have enjoyed the series. I can't believe another comment extolled Jericho over Survivors, maybe the same cultural blindness to flaws that I overlooked in Survivors is at work from Brits watching Jericho, because as you all would say, Jericho was complete Tosh in my book.


MACSTU (10 years ago) Reply

Good to see that this abomination is finished it's 6
episode run, it's so weak, the writing is child like in
comparison to an american show like , well anything.
I have heard it's to be cancelled yipeee skippy thank you


Ben Austwick (10 years ago) Reply

If you're right Macstu I'm not that surprised, but I do think it showed signs of improvement as it went on and the problems could have been ironed out. Weren't the viewer ratings pretty high though?


macstu (10 years ago) Reply

Ben its ratings started OK 6.5m but fell consistently throughout only 4.8m for final. The show is expensive
4 times the price of american hour longs and BBC is under pressure to save money so look for the word in JAN as thats when yearly operating budgets are OKed or not.
My source said no chance though there doing some big
costume drama that will eat up the drama budget fast.


Sukhy (9 years ago) Reply

I have a quick question. At the end of each Survivors episode, there was a gorgeous shot of the Planet with a weird blue swirly type land mass.

Does anyone know what the blue swirl was?

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