The second half of this first audio series of Survivors kicks off with a pre-credits sequence that features the original cast, recreating the dynamic quickly and efficiently in the period between the penultimate and final episodes of the original’s opening season. Carolyn Seymour is only in the story for a brief time, but makes her presence felt, Abby’s words hanging over Ian McCulloch’s Greg and Lucy Fleming’s Jenny throughout the story.
The emphasis though is on what’s going on at Feltham Concentration Camp… er, Polytechnic. Gillison’s control is pretty much total, even there are some, like Daniel who aren’t totally enamoured with his ways. They may not know what he did to John Redgrave, or indeed Susie and Sayed a few months earlier, but there is some dissent – although Gillison and his assistant, the damaged Fiona Bell (a nicely judged performance from Camilla Power), try to keep things as buttoned up as possible.
Enter former copper Phil Bailey whose loyalty to the concept of justice isn’t going to be swayed just because someone’s pointing a load of guns at him – and is equally at home discussing matters of jurisprudence with civilians (the bit where he quotes the Theft Act 1968 took me back to my days studying law lo these many decades ago…). I know a number of former officers who have brought that absolute self-certainty into other walks of life (and sometimes found that it’s at odds with the way that ordinary citizens lead their lives), and Phil Mulryne nails it. His irresistible force against Gillison’s immoveable object sets up one strand of the cliffhanger.
The other is linked to Greg and Jenny, and a facet of Greg’s abilities which wasn’t used that much in the TV series – his flying knowledge. Gillison’s almost lustful desire to make use of it allows Greg and Jenny to be separated; she becomes embroiled in Gillison’s deceit – alongside Jackie Burchall – while Greg has problems of his own.
Author Andrew Smith skilfully balances the drama between the characters and ensures that they continue to grow. There are as many nasty bits in this episode as its predecessors, with some underplayed but no less present analogies with life in less well-off countries today. A system of law run riot was examined in earlier incarnations of the programme, but this one – in every sense of the word – has the edge.
Verdict: Compelling drama with Adrian Lukis’ Gillison one of the most horribly convincing characters Big Finish has created. 9/10