I’ve loved Survivors in every one of its incarnations, from the original BBC series to the version created by Terry Nation in his original novel – continued in John Eyers’ novel Genesis of a Hero – and the reboot by Adrian Hodges a few years back (which had to be based on the first novel not the TV series). And the Big Finish series maintains the proud tradition.
Very sensibly, the team have told a parallel outbreak story in this first hour, which gets progressively darker as the time elapses. The plague doesn’t differentiate between people – so far as we know; maybe that’s an avenue the series will explore down the line – so there is no way of telling who’s going to survive, and who’s going to succumb. Survivors have to experience the illness so you can’t even guess from people starting to display the symptoms.
Script editor Matt Fitton has written this first story and introduces various groupings of characters – including a bossy American trying to get home (Chase Masterson) who feels she’s being given the runaround at Heathrow Airport by civil servant John Redgrave (Terry Molloy), and a journalist and his editor (John Banks and Caroline Langrishe) whose pursuit of the story has to take second place when things start to strike much closer to home – who are exactly what they need to be for this series to work. They’re ordinary people, not heroes, who are caught up in a situation completely beyond their control. Some will be able to cope; some clearly won’t – but I’m willing to bet that some of those you’d write off at this stage might not make it all the way… even if they are played by Big Finish stalwarts!
Director Ken Bentley lets this story tell out at a much slower pace than you’d find in most Big Finish releases – we need to grasp the length of time that this unfolds over – and encourages performances which tell us clearly what state of physical and mental health the characters are in. It may just be me making connections that aren’t there, but Nick Briggs’ music has the feel of The Dead Planet to it – extremely appropriate if that’s the case – and Neil Gardner’s sound design layers in the necessary coughs without them even becoming annoying (the scene with the students works particularly well in this context) and provides what for some of us is a nostalgic set of 1970s sounds.
It’s a big cast and inevitably we hear more in this story of some threads than others, but this is a very worthy continuation and extrapolation of the original.
Verdict: A very strong start. 9/10