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Ben Austwick [Cathode Ray Mission 02.03.10] Tuvalu United Kingdom post apocalyptic review

Year: 2009
Directors: John Alexander / Andrew Gunn
Writers: Various
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben austwick
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The background details of Survivors, its empty cityscapes, minor characters and incidental storylines, are its most interesting aspect. They add colour to the post-apocalyptic landscape the often uninspiring central storyline takes place in. It's because of this that episode three of the second series, which takes a look at the way broader post-virus society is reorganizing itself, is probably the most successful yet.

The episode kicks off with Tom being kidnapped by the henchmen of Samantha Lewis, the only surviving member of the British government, who as we saw in series one has set up a heavily defended self-sufficient community (filmed, interestingly, at the disused Doncaster Earth Centre, a failed millennium project designed to promote environmental awareness). Tom shot dead one of Samantha's guards in series one, and is to be put on trial for the crime. In a rather childish sequence Abby is asked to act as his defence, and she and Samantha, acting as the prosecution, take part in an embarrassing attempt at courtroom drama. The writing in Survivors simply isn't up to such a dialogue-centric tradition.

This trial scene does however work well as a tool with which to explore the society Samantha has built. Despotic, corrupt, ruled by fear and threatened by its own thuggish elements, the idyllic-looking community of recycling and windmills is not all it seems. Samantha herself is a duplicitous and slippery character, well played by Nikki Amuka-Bird, who in her personable, smiling front, backstabbing machinations and unshakable self-belief seems to be modeled on the spin and power-obsessed Labour politician, or at least the public's image of one. A rabble-rousing speech from hired thug Dexter damning his leader, and Samantha's back-footed reaction, took this further into satire of the present day political climate.

Although the satire never goes as far as outright comedy, it does expose Survivors' previously po-faced take on its subject matter and goes some way to address it. It's a refreshing new direction that underlines one of the things that makes a good science fiction story - using exposition about the future to talk about the present day. This has been missing from Survivors so far, and could explain why it has seemed strangely flat and uninvolving. At the end of the episode, the unveiling of a surprisingly grim and frightening slave labour camp suggests that another science fiction staple, fear of a terrifying future, could come in to play. The joining of these two elements would make a proper science fiction story out of what has so far been an average human interest one, and would be very welcome indeed.

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Harry Fletcher (10 years ago) Reply

It's shallow, poorly written poorly acted drivel.

A few weeks?? after a global pandemic why would anyone be interested in mining coal?


Ben Austwick (10 years ago) Reply

I generally agree Harry, but thought this episode was a big improvement.

As for coal - well, heating immediately comes to mind. And in a world where petrol is becoming scarce, it's the best fuel for a makeshift generator. I'd like to say it'll all be explained, but knowing Survivors sloppiness so far, I doubt it.

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