Terry Nation will probably be best remembered as the man who created the Daleks on Doctor Who . He will also be remembered by the hardcore seventies British science fiction fan as the man behind the dark and flawed characters of Blake’s 7. But he had a third television masterpiece that he should be remembered for, Survivors.
Survivors is a bleak, yet hopeful vision of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by fast acting plague released during the opening credits. The show ran for three series on the BBC from 1975 to 1977. I first encountered it on KERA, a PBS station in Texas when I was a kid. Having always been a fan of post-apocalyptic films like The Omega Man, the series was right up my alley.
Terry Nation didn’t like the direction the producer wanted to take the show after the first series and he removed himself from the production. Personally, I do believe the first series is the best of the three.
The BBC offered up a re-tooled series a few years ago. I watched a bit on BBC America, but it didn’t have the same impact that the original offering did. I was thrilled to find that they released the original show on DVD. I’m currently in the process of re-watching it for the first time in 20 years and I’m as enthralled as I was the first time I viewed it.
The beauty of Survivors was the mundane elements of existence that the series focused on. It’s about as far away from the post-apocalyptic stylings of the countless good and bad films of the eighties. There aren’t Mad Max styled hero’s fighting leather clad hooligans. Just normal people from a modern world, having to figure out how to make their way from scratch. An aged school teacher drives home the point that in order for society to survive, they will have to relearn all of the tasks that society was built upon. He points out that although he could read in a book how electricity is made, it wouldn’t tell him where or how to dig in the earth to find the ore to make the metal to build the parts of the generator. Obviously, there is a bit of hyperbole involved, but his point is well made.
If you are a fan of intelligent dramas, I highly recommend checking out the Survivors. And if you watched in the past, I recommend you watch it again. I’ve found that it has held up well.