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03 December 2008 @ 11:29 am
Survivors 1.03  
As this reworking of Survivors moves further away from the original series I find myself becoming more engrossed. I was quite gripped at points in last night's episode despite thinking that neither story was terribly interesting in and of itself.

I was interested that this episode was so clearly compartmentalised into an "ARC plot", an "A (or possibly B) plot" and something resembling a "C plot" although calling it a plot at all is probably elevating it to a status it doesn't deserve. However since the original Survivors tended to have extraneous characters off-stage "about the house" getting them to build a chicken run probably counts as an improvement.

Taking the ARC plot on its own merits I thought there was lots of interest. This was easily Julie Graham's best performance so far and the contrast of her natural and instinctive leadership compared to Samantha's more thoughtful but largely unself-confident manner was very nicely done. It was also good to see a visualisation of what could tenuously be termed a successful and well thought-out survival attempt. We see here a group of survivors who've identified a location with a good range of useful resources, who've looked to defending it, building upon it and have an eye to a wider range of issues and needs and then examines some of the challenges faced by that group. This plot strand was also of interest in comparison to the equivalent from the original series and to the original's much remembered Law and Order episode. I'm not sure how well it succeeded in steering a line between Wormley's "might is right" style of governance from the original (where Wormley is presented largely as a bully, intent on seizing resources for his own personal gain) and the genuine issues of how a small community with limited resources should manage and enforce its own codes of behaviour. It lacked the punch of making our viewpoint characters actually face the dilemma of law enforcement. Since Adrian Hodges has said this series is intended to be more optimistic and upbeat than the original I wonder if this is as close as we will come to confronting the issue.

The A/B plot of the family who had been isolated from the disease was less successful despite powerful performances from Beesley, the girl playing Katie and her father. On a general level Katie's grasp of the situation and the risks seemed unrealistically poor given her age. I think the same story could have been told without making her appear a little retarded in places. On a more specific level it is clearly a reworking of the Gone to the Angels episode of the original. In Gone to the Angels the isolated community (which distractingly includes Robin of Sherwood's Sheriff of Nottingham) are welcoming to the survivors and then all promptly catch the disease and die. The shift in the story to one of paranoia made it a lot more interesting but, knowing the ending of the original, I was left wondering about the eventual fate of this isolated family and was made uncomfortable by the implicit happy ending. Was this another example of the "more optimistic" take of this version or was it deliberately ironic? I have a vague memory of my mother explaining to me, when watching the original, that some of the characters had been saved through being isolated from the disease during a Foot and Mouth epidemic, in which case it would seem the original series was contradicting itself on whether the disease survived in people who had apparently escaped from it. Of course if Tom and Greg are not infectious then the continued paranoia (not to mention continuing research) of the secret genetics lab seems misplaced. The other thing that sprung out at me was that Greg, as a character, was clearly the second string here to Max Beesley's, Tom Price. I commented last episode that I thought Beesley was stealing the show from Joseph but here it was clear that the writing is all on Beesley's side. In pretty much every story beat here it was Greg who made matters worse and Tom who then resolved the problem. I'm not really sure where they're going here and I really hope this isn't the case of Adrian Hodges falling in love with the character he's largely created...

I'm not going to discuss the tacked on secret research facility plot except to comment that I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the Indian/Pakistani extraction character is referred to as "Sammy".

Oh, and they seem to have settled on a survival rate of about 1 in 100 which is mostly consistent, I would say, with the number of survivors we appear to be being shown.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 3rd, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
I definitely enjoyed the episode. I think the bit where Samantha shot the attempted thief was powerful, but lacked some of the deeper and darker aspects of the original. I agree that Tom is very much stealing the show. It's certainly developing into a very watchable series, though.
louisedennislouisedennis on December 3rd, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm torn between thinking that it benefits from cutting it's ties to the original a bit and that it suffers from not being prepared to hit quite as hard.

Given Jenny was killed off in the first hour or so I wonder if its been deliberately written with Abby and Tom as the key two survivors. If so, I'd be distinctly p*ssed off if I were Paterson Joseph.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 3rd, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
I don't quite understand why Adrian Hodges seems so keen to have made it less dark. It's airing after the watershed, after all.
louisedennislouisedennis on December 3rd, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
The interview I saw had some b*llocks about how the scenario was so much more plausible these days that they felt the need to tone it down.

I imagine, at some level, they are thinking that the show is aimed at the Doctor Who/Torchwood audience rather than the audience some of the grittier police procedurals and so forth are aimed at.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 3rd, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
*scratches floppy ears*, so he wants to use a scary scenario then tone it down so people aren't scared? That's a bit of a cop out. And he's certainly running true to his Primeval edict that no domestic pets get harmed. Which suits me as animals getting killed is the one thing I loathe on TV or the printed word, but it still lacks realism.
louisedennislouisedennis on December 3rd, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)

The above isn't the interview I saw but given its the press pack I'm willing to bet the "interview" I read was actually bits of that cobbled together. In which case its reads like Hodges liked the original but perceived it as an ultimately pessimistic series where he wants to write stuff that is ultimately optimistic.

Killing animals generally seems a bit pointless in most drama. I do have a fondness for what I term "pet peril" - where they try to up the tension by endangering a pet only for it to escape, mostly because it's such a blatant piece of lazy writing that, in the right circumstances, it simply enhances the cheesiness of the whole thing. My favourite moment of pet peril is in a made for TV, meteorite hits Earth movie in which the meteor hits, the goldfish bowl wobbles to the edge of the table, "Oh no! Will the goldfish survive?", phew! the wobbling stops and the goldfish is safe. I always wonder if the budget was so tight they couldn't afford a dog.
reggietate: quatermassreggietate on December 6th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
It should be dark, that's the whole point. Watching the original really made me think about what life might be like after such a catastrophe, and how I might survive - or not - myself. It isn't all bad, if you don't die. There's a freedom in it as well as all the horrors if you've got the courage and resourcefulness to face it. But it can also be pretty ugly, and that's what this new version seems to be missing. It hasn't got the strangeness of the original, the weird ways society can be warped.
louisedennislouisedennis on December 6th, 2008 11:21 am (UTC)
We've not really had time yet to see new societies set up - although advance publicity about next week suggests we may be getting a (no doubt sanitized) version of Lord of the Flies.

But this episode, in particular, seemed to be conspicuously pulling punches the original was not afraid to land.
reggietate: quatermassreggietate on December 6th, 2008 11:30 am (UTC)
We've not really had time yet to see new societies set up - although advance publicity about next week suggests we may be getting a (no doubt sanitized) version of Lord of the Flies

I think that's part of the problem - we're not seeing the passage of time.
reggietate: quatermassreggietate on December 6th, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)
Hadn't had time to watch this episode until tonight. I thought it started a bit slowly, and I was expecting not to like it much, but it quickly picked up speed and actually became pretty good, on the whole.

It definitely needs to be darker, though. I'm all for optimism and the triumph of the spirit and all that, but without the adversity first, it's slightly pointless.

Samantha's community is interesting; agree it's a sensible place to have used, and I liked the echoes of Law And Order from the original. And the summary execution was a shock - I'd expected the unpleasant Gavin to do the deed.

There's definitely something deeper going on with the secret vaccine producing plot, whether deliberate dodgeinesss or not it's too early to tell.

Tom's becoming a very interesting character, it's a shame Greg's not getting the same attention from the writers. Paterson Joseph is very good, it's not his performance that's at fault I think. I'm almost beginning to like Tom :-)

It definitely lacks the necessary bleakness, which the original had. At the same time, it's still highly entertaining. Still, I don't think modern audiences are too timid for the heavy stuff, if you're watching something like this, you're kind of expecting it to be bleak at least at first, because it really would be like that. That doesn't mean there'd be not hope or decency or goodness. But I really want to see the horrors, too, the loneliness, the struggle, the fear.

To be really good, it needs to have the courage to show things as they might well be.

louisedennislouisedennis on December 6th, 2008 11:19 am (UTC)
I'm in two minds about what is going on with Tom. I think either Hodges has become fond of his own creation and is going to emphasize his positive qualities - loyalty, resourcefulness, empathy (when he choses) over his negative ones: ruthless, violent. Or we're going through a process of deliberately showing him in a positive light so that its all the more shocking when his true nature is revealed. I can easily see this going down the route where Abby finds she's backed up by someone far worse than Gavin, because they are far less inclined to temper tantrums. On the other hand he could just turn out to be the equivalent of Greg from the original, who always had a distinctly pragmatic and ruthless streak...

reggietate: quatermassreggietate on December 6th, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)
The glimpses of next week's ep seem to suggest his less-sterling qualities getting an airing, so we shall see.

Good to see some older people in Samantha's community, too.