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Ben Austwick [Cathode Ray Mission 01.13.10] Tuvalu post apocalyptic review

Year: 2009
Directors: John Alexander / Andrew Gunn
Writers: Various
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 7 out of 10

The first series of Survivors was a ratings success for the BBC but badly received by critics, and for good reason. Despite some engaging and imaginative set pieces, bad acting, worse writing, cheesy direction and a tendency to pad out episodes with irrelevant filler dragged Survivors down considerably. The hope was that the BBC would take these criticisms on board and come back with an improved second series. Thankfully early impressions are positive, although old problems still persist.

In case you missed series one, Survivors is the story of a group of people brought together by circumstance after a devastating 'flu epidemic wipes out most of the world's population. It's an adaptation of an original 1970s BBC series by Terry Nation which was a much slower paced affair, often concentrating on the basics of survival such as food production. Times change, and for better or worse the new Survivors is a fast paced, pulpy offering moved from the rural setting of the original to a well-realised post-apocalyptic Manchester.

The first half of the hour long first episode of Survivors: series two ripped along at a hectic pace as the gang dealt with the aftermath of series one's violent conclusion. Abby has been kidnapped and taken to the sinister laboratory complex seen in series one, while Greg has suffered a shotgun wound and is in need of urgent medical attention. The latter plot strand provides an exciting and fast-paced journey through a burning hospital full of rotting corpses to locate medical supplies, with the collapse of the hospital on top of Al and Anya and the subsequent bargaining with a local feudal gangster to free them being an example of just how dynamic and exciting Survivors can be. The grim surrounds of the hospital and Sarah's desperate bargaining with the gangster point to a more mature series than the last and a darker, more adult sensibility.

Abby's storyline is similarly bleak as her virus-resistant body is prepared for vivisection in the government laboratory complex. This slower story is set to continue for a few episodes yet and provided a nice counterbalance to the rest of the cast's fast-paced narrative. Unfortunately, while Abby's story grew more intriguing, the at first surprisingly well written mayhem experienced by Al, Anya, Sarah and Tom descended into the mawkish filler that so often dogged the first series. Orchestral strings soared, tears were wept and long, meaningful glances exchanged to such an extent that a substantial chunk could have been cut from the episode. The injured Greg's flashbacks to life before the outbreak were similarly irrelevant and pointless. Hopefully, as in series one, later episodes will be a sharper and a more suitable half hour long.

The BBC have gone a long way to correcting some of Survivors' flaws, not least in the writing and direction, which feels much slicker than the disjointed and often surprisingly amateur efforts of before. Better pacing and a darker feel build on the rapidly improving final episodes of the first series. This episode's main flaw was its length, and an increasing flabbiness towards the end. Hopefully a shorter running time in future episodes will address this. Add some of the imagination that at times shone through in series one, and maybe Survivors could become a critical as well as a ratings success after all.

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Harry Fletcher (10 years ago) Reply

"Hopefully a shorter running time in future episodes....."

Survivors running time is to be six one hour episodes.

It'll never be classic TV that's for sure!


Ben Austwick (10 years ago) Reply

Am I right in thinking the last series' episodes were shorter? It's a long time ago and I'm not sure any more...


Matov (10 years ago) Reply

Its nothing like the original survivors and is just a generic action thriller designed for people with short attention spans which just swaps a plane crash on a mysterious Island or 24 hours to save the world for a world wide pandemic. And its no ‘Lost’ or ’24’.

Are we really meant to just accept that when our heros go to a hospital to collect medicines that its been deliberately torched by another group of worthy would be survivors who have not cleared it out of all the supplies inside ?

I’ll watch it because at least it has a post apoc theme but it makes me want to weep because it could have been done so so much better. The BBC need to realise that everything does not have to be aimed solely at the MTV generation especially since it does not have to depend on advertisers.


Mike (10 years ago) Reply

@ Matov: Funny, I wouldn't have even thought about it as an action thriller, but your comments versus the reviewer opinion show how hard it is to please everyone. Ben feels the last series was padded and that this episode was generally better paced, you suggest that it's aimed at people with short attention spans, which suggest too fast a pace. I don't think for a minute that the BBC aim everything at the "MTV generation" (which is what, everyone under 40?), just that not every programme has the benefit of the best actors/writers/directors etc.

However, I agree that it could certainly be better, and I'm a little annoyed that they didn't have the guts to follow through on the apparent death within the episode, instead backing out with an over-optimistic ending that suggested it's not really a big deal if a building collapses on you, so long as you have some people around to get you out again.


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

I was so disappointed in series 2 episode 1 I switched off half way through. A simply terrible plot line with weak dialogue underpinned by glaring medical errors. If she cut open his chest he would be unable to breath. There is no way she could feel shot close to his aorta by sticking a finger in a tiddly little hole in his chest andlead shot, which isnice and round and smooth could in no way chop his aorta if he moved. Then of course we're supposed to believe that they would enter a burning building and that a fire higher up would cause structural insability. When was the last time you saw a building collapse without being so absolutly gutted by flames. Pure nonesense. then of course there is the acting! Bring back the wooden tops is what I say. At least the first series had a bit of human interest and the development of relationships was interesting. Nothing of the sort as far as I could see in the first 25 minutes. An oppertunity lost.

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