An introduction to Survivors

By Rich Cross   Last updated on 23 December 2020, 14:30:46

Survivors: The Basics - An introduction to the post-apocalyptic TV drama Survivors


The title plate from the opening credits of 1970s TV series Survivors

 SURVIVORS IS A 38 episode, three-series post-apocalyptic TV drama produced by the BBC between 1975 and 1977. Conceived by Terry Nation (one of the creative talents behind Doctor Who and the originator of the Blake's 7 sci-fi drama) the series follows the travails and adventures of a group of British survivors who emerge unscathed from a deadly biological epidemic — unleashed by a laboratory accident which wipes out more than 95% of the world's population — into a desolate and almost empty world.

These isolated survivors flee the ruins of urban industrial civilisation and, searching each other out, begin to establish new rural agricultural settlements. It becomes clear that these survivors must establish new ways of living — both self-sufficient and interdependent — which do not rely on modern technology, if they are to secure a future for themselves and their offspring. For some, these new communities must serve as the catalyst, and the foundation stones, for a new social order. Others are more pre-occupied with avoiding starvation, cold and isolation in the here-and-now.

To its enthusiasts, Survivors offers diverse and compelling human drama of the highest quality. Intelligent, thought-provoking and — at its best — brilliantly written and performed, Survivors explores the terrain of its terrible new world through stories which combine high adventure with the exploration of critically important cultural, political and social themes.

Including the programme in its 'Top 50 British Telefantasy Shows', genre magazine SFX reflected that: "Survivors was an intelligent, thought-provoking approach to the post-apocalyptic fiction which took advantage of its TV... limitations to personalise the tragedy and show the minor effects as well as the major ones."

 Three series

Broadcast in a primetime weekday slot on BBC 1, Survivors attracted healthy ratings from the outset. The narrative focus of each series, and the ensemble cast which fleshed out its stories, changed considerably across Survivors' three-year run. The series — which began with the immediate aftermath of the devastating plague — concluded with the re-establishment of a new federation of trading communities across southern England and the reactivation of the first hydroelectric power plant in Scotland.

The BBC sold Survivors to television networks across Europe (notably to Italy, where the first two series were particularly well-received, although the third never aired), in Canada and the USA and in Australia. In recent years the programme has been re-broadcast on stations in those latter two countries.

Inexplicably, the BBC has never repeated the series on its domestic terrestrial channels. In the 1980s, fan interest in the show was kept alive in the pages of the genre and sci-fi press, which ran retrospective pieces on the pioneering drama. The release, in 1993, of the first series on VHS video by BBC Worldwide (in a six volume set) reignited more widespread interest in the programme.

The subsequent release of all three series of the programme on DVD between 2003 and 2005 returned the show to the public domain, to the delight of fans old and new.

 In print

Terry Nation wrote a revised and extended novelisation of the first-half of series one, that was published in the UK and USA (and soon after in Italy) in 1976. The Survivors novel retells the story of Nation's opening episodes, and then explores the setting up of a different type of settlement to the one pictured on screen.

The last section of the book documents the community's attempt to migrate to the southern Mediterranean, by crossing the English Channel into France.

The book also presents a very different resolution to Abby's efforts to reunite with her missing son Peter than the one suggested in the TV series.

A follow-up novel Genesis of a Hero, credited to author John Eyres, returns the focus to the UK to tell the story of Peter Grant's rise to prominence and power and the unfolding of a new English civil war.

 Remake

The commercial and critical reception garnered by the DVD release of Survivors can only have had a positive influence on the BBC's announcement, in July 2006, that it was considering a revival of the show. On 22 November 2007, the BBC confirmed that a new series of Survivors would enter production during 2008.

This remake of Survivors broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Before the final episode was broadcast, the BBC confirmed that a second series of Survivors had been commissioned and would be shown in the latter part of 2009. Prior to the close of 2008, Orion publishing released a new version of Terry Nation's 1976 Survivors novelisation, and 2 | entertain issued a three-series DVD box-set of the original series.

The first series of the new Survivors was released on DVD in January 2009. The second series of the revived Survivors was shown on BBC One and BBC HD in January and February 2010. Series two was released on DVD in March 2010, along with a two series box set. On 7 April, a new unofficial guidebook to the series entitled Worlds Apart, written by the author of the Survivors: A World Away site, was published by Classic TV Press. In early April 2010 the BBC announced that no third series of Survivors had been commissioned, signalling the cancellation of the show.

 On audio

In June 2014, audio drama specialists Big Finish released the first series of original audio adventures, set in the time and place of the original series.

Including apperances by Carolyn Seymour (Abby), Lucy Fleming (Jenny) and Ian McCulloch (Greg), a total of nine series (comprising 36 episodes in total) were released between 2014 and June 2019.

In addition, an unabridged reading of Terry Nation's 1976 Survivors novel, voiced by Seymour, was released in 2014.


Cite this web page
20 September 2021202131 January

 Cross, R. (2021). 'An introduction to Survivors,' [online] Survivors: A World Away, 31 January. Available at: https://survivors-mad-dog.org.uk/a-world-away/Basics_Introduction.php. Accessed on: 20 September 2021.

 
   

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Terry Nation's Survivors

 Survivors is a 38-episode, three series British post-apocalyptic TV series, created by Terry Nation, and first shown on BBC 1 between 1975 and 1977

 Two Survivors novel were published in the UK, USA and Italy in the seventies: Terry Nation's part-novelisation of the first TV series Survivors was published in 1976; with John Eyers' original follow-up Genesis of a Hero appearing the following year

 A 12-episode, two series remake of Survivors was broadcast on BBC One between 2008 and 2010

 A 36-episode, nine series run of new and original Survivors audio adventures, set in the time and place of the original programme, were released by Big Finish between 2014 and 2019

 Terry Nation's Survivors novel was released as an audiobook, voiced by Carolyn Seymour, in 2014

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 A sequel to Genesis of a Hero, entitled Survivors: Salvation, was published in February 2021

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