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Entry updated 19 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

1. UK tv series (1975-1977). BBC TV. Created by Terry Nation. Produced by Terence Dudley. Directed by Pennant Roberts, Terence Williams, Eric Hills. Written by Nation (seven episodes in season one), Roger Parkes, Jack Ronder, Martin Worth. Cast included John Abineri, Stephen Dudley, Lucy Fleming, Lorna Lewis, Denis Lill, Ian McCulloch, Tanya Ronder and many others. Three seasons; 38 50-minute episodes in all. Colour.

The Post-Holocaust novel is a particularly UK subgenre of sf, and so it is not surprising that the theme's first significant appearance on Television should come from the BBC. The accidental release of a deadly Genetically Engineered virus kills almost everyone; in the UK only about 7000 people are left alive. Survivors follows the adventures of small groups of mostly middle-class survivors, their efforts to cope without Technology and their encounters with other, less sympathetic groups. The main characters initially include Abby Grant, a housewife (Seymour), Jenny Richards, a secretary (Fleming), Greg Preston, an engineer (McCulloch) and Charles Vaughan, an architect (Lill). But with the departure of Terry Nation, Ian McCulloch and Carolyn Seymour, all of whom were unhappy with a change of focus after the first season, the early gloom is gradually replaced by a Cosy-Catastrophe atmosphere, with aspects of a rural paradise: not only have all those smelly Cities disappeared, but also the working classes. The subtext involves a very English political myth (which in literature goes back beyond Richard Jefferies's After London [1885]) about the strengths of a life lived close to the land. The overnight disappearance of technology and in particular the shortage of petrol are never adequately rationalized. Nation's partial novelization is The Survivors (1976), whose deviation from the televised action is described in his entry; Survivors: Genesis of a Hero (1977), by Peter Hill writing as by John Eyers, carries the action forward into a grim Post-Holocaust world, and to the near triumph of a Dystopian tyranny; Hill returned to this setting after many years with the further sequel Survivors: Salvation (2021), again as by John Eyers.

It should perhaps be noted that – unlike a film such as the slightly later Contagion (2011) directed by Steven Soderbergh – Survivors spends relatively little time on the Pandemic itself, most of the narrative being directed toward the aftermath creation of a community, whose trials are effectively detached from their cause.

2. A remake of the series, the abortive Survivors (2008-2010) created by Adrian Hodges, more directly confronts the Pandemic itself, but soon veers sharply into aftermath melodrama, with the evil biotech company responsible for release of the virus creating a secret Island occupied by members of the elite, and by those destined to serve as guinea pigs in further experiments; the series was seemingly designed to focus on this Dystopia, but was cancelled. [JB/PN/JC]


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