Why a Survivors: Mad Dog site?
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The Survivors: Mad Dog website has it origins in the Mad Dog 2003 locations trip, organised by site editor Rich Cross. What began as an on-line reference source for fans attending this latest tour of the episode's filming locations then grew substantially to become a detailed and exhaustive study of one of the most celebrated and well-remembered episodes of the entire Survivors' run.
But why has Mad Dog been selected for this treatment? What is it about this episode that distinguishes it, and that has encouraged such a specific focus upon it?
Why pick the episode Mad Dog?
Survivors is unquestionably a classic TV series, and there are no shortage of stunning episodes across its 38-episode run. That said, Mad Dog has come to be recognised as one of the finest not just of Survivors third series, but of the entire run of the programme.
In the estimation of this site editor, it represents one of the best 50 minutes of drama broadcast on British television in the 1970s.
The episode takes some of the most powerful elements of the programme's post-apocalyptic premise, and, through a superlative script which combines action sequences; rich characterisation and superb dialogue; with multiple twists and surprises produces a startlingly engrossing adventure story. The drama unfolds in isolated and atmospheric rural settings, across the Derbyshire Peak District, which give the story a real sense of place and of space, and which provide a sense of realism and conviction that a studio-bound story could not hope to equal.
So it's the brilliance of the episode its realisation and its execution that provides the initial incentive.
A further attraction of Mad Dog is its distinctiveness. Mad Dog is a Survivors episode like no other. Only one of the regular cast appears in the storyline, and he encounters one of the most well-drawn guest-characters of the entire series. And while many of the most effective scenes involve little or no dialogue, the script includes some of the sharpest and best realised character exchanges anywhere in the programme. A single stunningly-executed chase-sequence takes up around half of the running-time; and (in contrast with other more static episodes) the drama is always on the move. In Mad Dog, both the weather and the landscape become characters woven into the story. Additionally, of the many settlements introduced in the third series, Mad Dog offers one of the most convincing illustrations of an isolated community coming to terms with their lot after The Death parochial, introspective, suspicious and protective of their own. This appears both horribly plausible, and a good indication of the obstacles facing those, like Charles, who are desperate to see the return of civilisation and society.
All of which means that the atmosphere evoked in Mad Dog is, in many respects, distinct from that found in any other single episode of the series.
So, firstly, there's the outstanding quality of Mad Dog, and, secondly, there's its singular nature. The third factor is the episode's filming locations.
Why focus such detailed attention on the locations where it was filmed?
The starting point for the site was the filming locations. Like the majority of Survivors episodes, Mad Dog was shot entirely 'on-location' using the twin cameras of a BBC OB (Outside Broadcast) Unit. The use of 'real-life' locations helped to give Survivors a palpable sense of realism. The locations used throughout Mad Dog fit the atmosphere of the story perfectly, with the beautiful and melancholy scenery of the Derbyshire Peak providing the ideal backdrop and context for the storyline.
In addition to the activities of researching, writing and web site designing, location hunting has become one of the readily enjoyable pleasures for the active Survivors fan. Although numerous sites from across all 38 episodes of the show have been identified, some locations remain frustratingly elusive. For example, in the case of the multiple 'missing' locations from the opening segments of the series' second episode Genesis, it took several years of hunting until those were discovered and documented.
However, by the time this site was set up, the majority of the filming locations from Mad Dog had been discovered, and with the sole exception of the finale scenes, shot on the Severn Valley Railway confirmed as in close proximity to one another. Other Survivors websites cover different aspects of the series, but there was not a site attempting to comprehensively document the shooting of a single episode on a scene-by-scene (and where possible a shot-buy-shot) basis. The challenge was there to attempt just that. Indeed, the setting up of the Mad Dog site has been an important catalyst in the discovery of several new locations from the episode that had not previously been identified.
The exhaustive guide to filming locations from Mad Dog has added something new to the existing coverage of Survivors locations found on other websites, and hopefully continues to encourage other genre fans to visit the locations for themselves.
The attraction of those particular rural locations has remained the final decisive incentive for constructing this site.
The site editor is an enthusiastic hill, fell and dale walker, and the white peaks and dark peaks of the Derbyshire valleys all less than two hours travel from his home are regular relaxation haunts. However brilliantly fitting the locations for the two-part The Lights of London adventure clearly are, this Survivors fan would struggle to find the enthusiasm to build a site dedicated exclusively to those busy urban and underground locations. But the solitary beauty of the Mad Dog locations at Monsal Dale and above the Dovedale gorge have proved irresistable...
Of course, there's far more to it than 'just' the locations.
Focusing on an individual episode of the show has provided the opportunity to study in depth all aspects of the production, broadcast, reception and reputation of a single instalment of the Survivors canon. This sharp and narrow focus allowed the site to develop into a fine expression of what one member of The Mausoleum Club's forum described as: 'Niche fan worship to the max' but, hopefully, one that doesn't feel obliged to surrender its critical faculties entirely
How popular is this Survivors site? Is it a worthwhile resource?
In setting up and running the Survivors: Mad Dog site, there were few expectations of huge volumes of site traffic. Survivors itself remains a minority taste even amongst genre enthusiasts, and this site focuses on a single episode from a 38 episode run. Furthermore, that episode has not been transmitted on satellite or cable in the UK since 1998; and was only broadcast once on primetime BBC during its original transmission back in 1977. It was only released on DVD, as part of the Survivors series three boxset on the DD Home Entertainment label in 2005.
Rather than competing for maximum 'hits', the primary concern of Survivors: Mad Dog has been to generate a compelling and all-inclusive resource, that could draw together all the available material on the episode and thereby appeal to: Survivors fans, researchers of TV filming locations in the UK; genre TV enthusiasts, and those interested in the work of the actors, cast and crew (and the writer, director and producer) involved in bringing Mad Dog to the screen.
Judging from the feedback received, many visitors are impressed by diligent attention to detail that the site offers. Survivors: Mad Dog is there as a resource both for the casual one-off surfer, intrigued by the premise of the site; and for the regular return visitor keen to explore the material on offer to the fullest.
Our sister site Survivors: A World Away ranges across different aspects of all three series (and all 38 episodes) of Survivors.
How is the site likely to develop?
From small origins in December 2002, the site has grown to the point where, in addition to its coverage of Mad Dog, it now offers material on the making of the Granada drama The Watercress Girl, and the history of the Eyam plague; as well as on many different aspects of Survivors more generally.
Some elements of the site notably the location guide are now effectively complete, but will continue to be refined, refreshed and updated as requried. Amongst recent additions are walkthrough guides to all three Mad Dog sites; and an exhaustive Making of Mad Dog guide. Survivors: Mad Dog is, of course, also committed to publicizing future organised fan trips to the episode's filming locations.
The site continues to be regularly updated and is actively maintained.
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