Survivors: Complete Seasons One & Two

Actors: Paterson Joseph, Sarah Paul, Zoe Tapper, Max Beesley, Phillip Rhys
Directors: Andrew Gunn, David Evans, Farren Blackburn, Iain B. MacDonald, Jamie Payne
Writers: Adrian Hodges, Gaby Chiappe
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Subtitles: English
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 5
Studio: BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
Run Time: 641 minutes

Extra Features:

  • Easter Egg
  • A New World - The Making of Survivors
  • Character Profiles
  • Survivors FX Featurette



This 2008 BBC television series is a "reimagining" of a 1970s show of the same name, which was in turn based on a novel by Terry Nation. (Nation's biggest contribution to popular culture is that he thought up Doctor Who's Daleks.)

Like in the original series a virulent new flu virus kills off more than 90% of the world's population literally overnight. Now what's left of humanity has to survive in a world without any police, army, cell phones, electricity, laptops, running water, drive-thru, etc.

The original series made a bit of a fuss about how modern then-20th century man has fewer "real" skills than those of a medieval peasant.

You may know how to operate a computer or drive a car, but if you had to, can you kill and pluck a chicken? Grow a vegetable garden? Hunt for food? Make a campfire without any matches? (Think that is easy? Then you've forgotten about that movie with Tom Hanks marooned on a desert island . . .) Build a chicken coop? Install an aqueduct? And so on.

Most people can't do any of these things because modern Western civilization doesn't require us to do any of them any more, and thus we've become several steps removed from the reality of our situation. (Most people for example do not think of what happens at an abattoir when they chow down on a McDonald's burger, for instance. Our distant ancestors usually had to kill what they ate.)

This remake of Survivors isn't particularly concerned with these issues. Instead we have the obligatory post-apocalyptic scenes with ragtag groups of survivors going to their local deserted Tesco for some "shopping" and coming into conflict with other people over potentially scarce resources.

When one thinks about it, the post-apocalypse movie or novel in which the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away has become a genre in itself. It has been a retelling of the biblical creation tale ever since William Golding's 1954 novel Lord of the Flies about a group of schoolboys who, stranded on an island, degenerate into savagery. Its basic message is that people are basically bad. After all, there were only four people on the entire planet in the Book of Genesis and already one was killing the other!

You may or may not agree that people are inherently evil. You can always argue that if humanity is inherently rotten, then why did we bother with civilization - which protects the weak and vulnerable - in the first place? But the fact remains that the best post-apocalyptic tales are the ones in which in people are shitheads: Mad Max, The Trigger Effect, The Road Warrior, Panic in the Year Zero, etc.

When it comes to the movies, happy people are boring people. Without any conflict there isn't any dramatic interest. The biggest problem with the first season of Survivors, written by Primeval scribe Adrian Hodges, is that the show is never entirely convinced of the subgenre's ideological belief that people ain't no good.

In fact it proudly wears its Politically Correct credentials on its sleeves right from the start with its multi-ethnic cast of "heroes" who band together. You'd think that you're in a 1980s South African beer commercial! (Beer commercials in Apartheid-era South Africa blithely ignored racial realities of the day by presenting whites and blacks cheerfully socially interacting with one another as equals!)

As far as post-apocalypses go, this starts off awfully British and polite as we have, gasp!, scenes of people co-operating and negotiating! Sure the absence of firearms in British society - not even your average British police patrolman carry any guns! - probably has something to do with it.

Watching the first season of Survivors one however cannot help but be reminded of the cultural stereotype of the bowler-hatted Anglo-Saxon gentleman on the crowded bus being too polite to mention that you're actually standing on his toes. Even the villains (with one exception) are all well-intentioned individuals who can be reasoned with. It makes for unexciting television.

By the end of the first season things luckily begin to heat up as Survivors the show's heroes come into conflict with some self-proclaimed "authorities." These scenes reminds one of Max Stirner's famous quote that the state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.

Things improve markedly in the second season, which is so action-packed that it barely takes a pause for a breather. It also gives the writers less time to spend on some of the show’s more annoying character. It all ends with a cliff-hanger and one can only hope that a third season does indeed get made.

THE DISC: Twelve fifty-minute episodes are spread over five discs. There is a making of featurette titled A New World as well as one on the special effects. Image and sound is crystal clear as one would expect. Whoever put the disc together however made the annoying amateur mistake of not allowing one to skip over the opening credits using the Next button. If one does that, the viewer misses out on a chunk of that episode's narrative in the process. Sloppy, especially for a BBC DVD.

WORTH IT? Flawed yet imminently watchable, this British TV series will reward patient viewers who stick it out to the end.

RECOMMENDATION: Worth checking out, especially for post-apocalypse junkies . . .



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