Survivors: Complete Original Series (1975-1977)

Actors: Lucy Fleming, Ian McCulloch, Denis Lill, Stephen Dudley, Tanya Ronder
Writers: Terry Nation
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles: English
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 6
Studio: BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
Run Time: 1879 minutes



Watching this 1975-1977 BBC TV series alongside its 2008 remake is quite instructive; not merely in terms of how much film-making techniques have changed in the interim but also how much British society has changed.

The Noughties remake boasts a fully multiethnic cast whilst the original show is lily white with loads of posh accents on display. The only non-Whites (as they used to say in Apartheid South Africa) we get to see are some nurses and orderlies one briefly glimpses in a hospital in the pilot episode! The villain in this series is a union boss. In the remake it is the only member of the UK government to have survived a killer plague, namely a young Black woman. Make of that what you will . . .

(The plot is of course quite familiar by now: only about 10 000 people in the entire Britain survive a devastating flu-like epidemic that has managed to kill off most of the planet’s population in a matter of days. It may be over familiar today, but Survivors is quite ahead of its time. Back in the 1970s most post-apocalypse sci-fi tales involved nuclear war of some sort. Killer epidemics only became du jour after the Cold War ended . . .)

THE DISCS: The entire series is spread over five double-sided discs and one single-sided disc. We don’t particularly like double-sided discs because they aren’t that easy to handle and smudge easily, but a 10 disc set would have been prohibitively expensive. Sound and video is quite good for a 35-year-old TV show.

WORTH IT? If you’re the sort who is hung up on “modern” production values then it is best advised that you stick to the 2008 series which is slickly produced. The remake even throws in the sort of X-Files conspiracy malarkey that television audiences nowadays expect of their home entertainment. The 1975 series - created by Terry Nation, whose biggest contribution to Trivial Pursuit is that he created the Daleks for Doctor Who – is positively primitive by comparison. Filmed on video, it takes a leaf from the Ingmar Bergman handbook of film-making: there are no soundtrack music at all except for the theme song played at the beginning and end of each episode.

In fact this version Survivors is closer to today’s similarly titled reality TV show in that it often feels as if a small camera crew is following around some city slickers as they try to cope with roughing it in the countryside. It is a whole lot grittier than the new series. The English countryside seems positively miserable. It is rainy, muddy and cold the whole time, probably the last place on Earth where you’d want to sit out the End of Civilization!

RECOMMENDATION: As you’d expect this series is a lot less action-packed than the 2008 remake. It is also a bit more of a soap opera, but that shouldn’t count against it. The ‘Seventies Survivors holds its own particular fascination (it is a whole lot more realistic than the new series) and anyone who grew up in the city instead of a farm will be endlessly fascinated (horrified?) by the idea of milking cows, killing chickens, plowing fields with horses, and so on.



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