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26 November 2008 @ 09:46 am
Survivors 1.02  
Much like the first episode this came across as a competent and watchable piece of TV but still missing that vital spark. If it weren't for my fondness for the original and my interest in playing compare and contrast with this new version I'm not one hundred per cent sure I'd still be watching.

I was surprised to find that Max Beesley's Tom Price was easily the most compelling thing about the episode. The character re-make from feckless chancer to a more fixed and calculating amorality makes him both more interesting and turns him into a bit of a mystery. In the original we knew Tom Price was hanging around the survivor group almost entirely because they would have him and he wasn't making a successful go of it on his own. It's much harder to work out what is motivating the new Tom Price though a form of loyalty to Anye clearly plays a part in it. And, like Greg, it's possible he recognises the validity of Abby's stance and so perceives a vested interest in making the set up work. Given I'm fairly sure this Survivors run is going to cover the "Law and Order" episode of the original (IIUC that was the last episode Terry Nation had a strong hand in) and that (again IIUC) Jenny was originally supposed to take Wendy's role in that episode and Anye is something of a Jenny replacement... well let's just say I can't see this set up ending well.

In general this episode appeared much less in thrall to the original (although I have to caveat that with noting that I haven't read Nation's book) than the previous one and I think it benefitted from that. It resulted in making Tom Price a much more interesting character and benefitted from suggesting that, even integrated as he is into the "nice" crowd, Tom was nevertheless actually far more dangerous than the ill-disciplined Dexter and his gang (and was I the only one who thought Dexter's girlfriend was being deliberately portrayed as a kind of dumbed-down Rose gone bad?). I was in two minds about the changes to the Vic/Bob plotline. Sarah struck me as a considerably less interesting character than Anne, coming across as simply self-centred and dim where Anne always appeared more intelligently manipulative. Bob was made to seem creepier and less sympathetic than Vic but, again, less intelligent. The story was reduced to being about two rather thick people being unpleasant to each other leaving me, at least, with relatively little interest in either. However, given Bob's direct encounter with Dexter, it will be interesting to see how that all pans out in later plotlines and portrayed, as it was, it fitted in well with the episode's themes of ownership and securing supply.

The persistent use of the sound of distant dogs barking was a clever way to increase tension in several places though one that was probably only working for those of us who have watched the original. I kept expecting our foragers to suddenly come face to face with a pack of feral dogs.

Al and Najid's run-in with the old man in the sweet shop was, I thought, surprisingly effective and Al's delayed reaction to the events was well portrayed. I didn't think I'd like Al much, it looked like he was going to be portrayed as the "superficial" one on the team - the modern day equivalent of the dumb blonde, but in relatively few scenes here he was given more depth and made into a more interesting and sympathetic person.

Going into nit-pick mode our survivors seem to be being quite slow to grasp the necessity of securing livestock quickly. Farmed animals don't feed themselves you know! I would also note that they seem to be being slow to grasp the necessity of not only stockpiling supplies but subsequently defending that stockpile. But it may be that, following on from the events here, we will see them turn their minds to defense next time. The trailer certainly suggested direct confrontation of some kind.

Talking of trailers....

I was a little surprised that all the sex we were promised last week failed to materialise. I realise you want your trailer to act as a hook in for viewers but if you go down the "sex sells" route I vaguely feel you should deliver on your promises otherwise surely you fail to maintain your viewer base? or do I misunderstand marketing. Based on this week's trailer it looks like my original guess that our government minister would turn out to be the new Wormley may have been more accurate than I thought. But we'll see whether next week really does deliver the action-packed episode the trailer was attempting to suggest.
gervase_fengervase_fen on November 26th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
The trailers remind me of the ones for Doctor Who, especially the first series - one imagines something much more exciting and dramatic than what one gets.

I thought the stand-off outside the supermarket with only one shot in the rifle was very much in Nation's style, but I don't think it was in the original series.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'm used to trailers hyping up a show somewhat but last week's seemed to suggest an almost entirely different show to what we got. I was expecting "Steamy Survivors" headlines and some kind of Torchwood-like Survivors-but-with-added-sex-cos-we're-grown-up-now-and-can type of reworking - but this was clearly entirely in the mind of the man who made the trailer.

It must be said, once that last shot was fired outside the supermarket depot, I was half expecting Tom to make his move, appropriate the gun, and see off Dexter's gang. Tom+Greg against Dexter and two cronies didn't look like bad odds to me, but it seems that Tom is playing a longer term game than that.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on November 26th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
The trailers remind me of the ones for Doctor Who, especially the first series - one imagines something much more exciting and dramatic than what one gets.

Matt Hills had something to say about this at the Cardiff conference - modern Doctor Who is a 'diffused text' where some material is written and shot with the composition of trailers in mind, so a different mini-drama can be extracted from an episode which could be considered distinct in terms of theme and plot.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Hmmm.... the purpose of the trailer though presumably remains to attract people who might, plausibly, be interested in watching the next episode into watching the next episode.
gervase_fengervase_fen on November 26th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
There's definitely a dissertation to be done on the evolution of the 'throw forward' in British TV drama. I can remember how effective they were on "Queer as Folk", and I think "The Bill" introduced them round about the same time. The best in recent years, I would say, were those used on "Life on Mars" - teasing the viewer with clues and non-clues to Sam's situation.
reggietatereggietate on November 26th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
When I originally saw the series, aged about 11, Vic was one of the characters who lingered in my mind until I saw it again on DVD. Bob's acident and probably death hasn't quite the same resonance, but it still made me wince for the poor sod. Kind of agree about Sarah. Anne was more interesting, even if not likeable.

Tom's certainly more interesting this time round, but his prominence relegates Greg to third banana, rather than Abby's umber two. BUt if they are going to go the Wendy-murder route, perhaps that won't be a problem for long :-)

I was surprised to see the Minister in next week's trailer, apparently fronting some sort of community with similarities to the one Charles and Pet came across in the second series. Seems a bit early for that kind of stuff to develop.

I still have a few peeves. The one thing we don't seem to be getting in this series compared to the last is the sense of desolation and desperation, the emptiness of the depopulated world, the isolation of people struggling to survive alone. There was a hint of it with the old man Al killed, but everyone else seems to be having it too easy right now. Possibly some of this lack of bleakness is down to the weather, which is much better here than in the 70s version.

Also, because it's so much shorter than the original was, we get much less of the characters own wanderings and encounters with various problems, etc.

Agree about the animals. They need to be thinking like Charles, and they need to get out of the city. The secret conspiracy thing is still a bit stupid, I think.

Thought it was pretty good, though, on the whole.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing Bob will survive. It was certainly implied that Dexter didn't actually have the stomach to kill anyone. Quite how that will be put together escapes me, but I fully expect Sarah's betrayal and abandonment of Bob to come back to haunt the group and, frankly, Greg was far to ready to believe her assertion that he was dead. It was much less plausible than when Anne made it, and even that stretched things a little.

You're right about Tom eclipsing Greg. I was expected Patterson Joseph to be dominating this show but right now Beesley's stealing it from him. I can think of several reasons why its happening: Tom has been made a more interesting character; in the original Greg is largely there (at least initially) because of his attraction to Jenny, take that away and he becomes a disciple of Abby which puts him in a much more directly second string role; and lastly making the group bigger, quicker, is making it harder to get to know the core characters. Of course, if the rumours are true about Joseph getting the Who role and Survivors goes to a second series they will need to jettison Greg anyway (lots of ifs there though).
reggietatereggietate on November 26th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Quite how that will be put together escapes me, but I fully expect Sarah's betrayal and abandonment of Bob to come back to haunt the group and, frankly, Greg was far to ready to believe her assertion that he was dead.

Perhaps because he wanted to - he obviously doesn't want to get involved with others, particularly when they're going to be a burden. He's not callous enough to do nothing at all, though. Perhaps if he'd known Anya is actually a doctor he'd have behaved differently.

the original Greg is largely there (at least initially) because of his attraction to Jenny, take that away and he becomes a disciple of Abby which puts him in a much more directly second string role; and lastly making the group bigger, quicker, is making it harder to get to know the core characters.

I think there are too many characters, really. The original series soon discovered how hard it is to do something of the Survivors type with a large group of on-going characters - hence the fire at the Grange. And because they've come together so quickly, we haven't time to know them gradually. Maybe they'll be whittled down a bit later on.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
Perhaps if he'd known Anya is actually a doctor he'd have behaved differently.

Yes, I thought that looked like another conflict in the making.

But you're correct. Greg probably wants nothing to do with either Sarah or Bob, they are both likely to bring more problems than benefits with them.


Assuming we get the Law and Order episode, then we are likely to lose at least one character there. Plus the various conflicts that arise. I'd lay money on Abby, Najid and Greg making it through to the end of the season, though not necessarily surviving the last episode. Everyone else is probably fair game.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on November 26th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on practically everything here. I thought Dexter's girlfriend was probably cast for her physical similarity to Billie Piper and was dressed after series one Rose; I wasn't surprised to see that Doctor Who and Survivors shared a casting director in Andy Prior. The actor playing Dexter looked like an elongated David Morrissey, but alongside the Rosealike, he seemed a sort of degenerate Eccleston.

I spent most of the episode wondering how long it would take for any of these people to be made watchable, and noting that Sarah was more obviously unbalanced than when she was Anne Tranter, and Bob seedier than when he was Vic. Otherwise I share your outlook on Tom; for most of the episode I was thinking that this version ('created and written by Adrian Hodges' indeed..!) was more cynical than the original, but much will depend on how Tom's character is realised.

I wonder whether I would find the scientific conspiracy plot bolted on in the same way as I do if I didn't know that it wasn't there in Nation's original; and how far Samantha Willis is going to take over the function of Nation's Arthur Wormley (though the equivalent of Dexter's gang were working for Wormley in the original), with government nanny-statism supplanting Wormley's trade unionism (the name recalls 1970s miners' leader Joe Gormley).
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
The conspiracy plot certainly looks bolted on. If only because original Surviviors like Day of the Triffids (and they get kind of linked, I think, in the public memory because of the Triffids adaptation appearing relatively soon after Survivors) suggested that while the disaster was a man-made catastrophe it wasn't deliberately so.

Mind you, I thought this week, that there was a more ambiguous spin on the conspiracy. They could be some kind of secret last-ditch attempt to find a cure. Despite all the hoo-ha in the first episode about the government being to slow to react it seems plausible you could add a secret anti-bio-war research facility into the mix. I only say that because they obviously have neither a vaccine nor a cure and it seems a little stupid to deliberately inflict a killer disease on the world if you are not in possession of one or the other of those.

At the moment, however, since it's taken up less than five minutes screen time, I'm mostly just ignoring it.
fredbassettfredbassett on November 26th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on all these observations. I don't remember the original in as much detail as you, even though I was pretty addicted to it when it aired. I agree that Price is turning into one of teh most interesting characters so far. But tell me, which of this lot is teh reworking of the slimy, ratty faced guy, who might have been welsh, if memory serves me right, who murdered teh girl in the original and left the poor guy with learning difficulties to carry the can, and who was subsequently executed? Was that Price?
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
Price is, indeed, a reworking of our favorite comedy welsh tramp.

I only saw, I think, three episodes of Survivors when it originally aired though my memory conflated them to one (but I've read episode summaries since). However I watched the first series on DVD last year so that is pretty fresh in my mind. I keep swithering on whether to acquire series two - I get the impression the show starts to get a bit bogged down and I'm no longer on Amazon rental so it would mean purchasing the thing.
reggietatereggietate on November 26th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
The second series does perhaps go a bit domestic, in that it focusses on Charles's new community at Whitecross and various issues thereof(Abby having departed to find Peter), but despite a few slightly wonky eps, I still found it very good, and the third series, which dispenses with Whitecross and sends Charles and Jenny off cross-country with Hubert, has some good stuff in it too. I believe the whole lot is being re-released to coincide with the new series, so depending on the price, it may be worth your while.

Edit: In SciFiNow mag, it's says it's out now, going for 15.99 for all three series (whether they really mean as a single set isn't absolutely clear, but even at that price for each series, it isn't bad, I paid a good deal more for mine). The review is generally positive, too, acknowledging the slower pace of series and lack of special effects, but also praising its thought-provoking aspects and hard-hitting moments.

Edited at 2008-11-27 07:31 pm (UTC)
fredbassettfredbassett on November 27th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
The first series was the best.

I remember towards the end of the final series, it got a bit like Blake's 7 without Blake, as Greg was "elsewhere" and if memory serves me right, which it might not (!) he ended up in bloody Norway or somewhere, and someone (Jenny?) went after him in a hot air balloon, which was the equivalent of rising off into the sunset, or something.
reggietatereggietate on November 27th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Greg did indeed hoof off to Norway to help them revive their hydro-electric power, in a hot-air balloon which had arrived from there with a young Norwegian woman, who went back with him, and Jack, another community member. Greg and Jack return to England later, but most of the third series takes the form of a search for him by Charles and Jenny.

The third series has one of the most striking eps in it: Mad Dog. Filmed on the bleak Northern hills in snow and sleet, it's a really gruelling test of Charles's endurance, and the remake will have a long way to go to beat it.
fredbassettfredbassett on November 27th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Glad I wasn't imagining the Norway bit!!

The ep that really sticks in my mind is the one where they executed the wrong guy for the murder. I can still remember that vividly. It was gut wrenching.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 27th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
Mad Dog is one of the one's I remember from the first time around, along with Greg dying of smallpox and long live the King(Greg), the King is Dead (or sentiments thereabouts). I must have been about six at the time and suppose I probably wasn't allowed to watch the earlier seasons.

I might put survivors on my Amazon Wish List for Christmas, someone might then buy it for me and save me worrying about whether its justified as a luxury. I'll confess to curiosity about why Jenny and Charles chase Greg all over the country since, as far as I can make out from the synopses, it's not like he's in trouble and it's not like he doesn't know where they are - so it appears like a glorified "Oi! Get yourself home NOW!"