TV Review: BBC’s Survivors (Post-Apocalyptic England is not a fun place to live)

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This BBC series ran for a short two seasons a few years ago. It ended with a hugely irritating cliff-hanger that had fans like myself cursing at the TV screen.  But over the 12 episodes we got to know the motley mix of characters fairly well and wondered how we would cope under similar circumstances.  Similar to the struggle of the gang in The Walking Dead, Survivors is a story about, well, survival in a post-apocalyptic world, minus zombies. It’s real, gritty in places, sinister and entertaining.

The opening episodes show an unknown flu sweeping across the country and the government attempting to keep control by lying through its teeth about a vaccine.  There’s no hope.  Within a few days virtually all the population is infected and over 90% succumb to death.  Those who are left behind wake up in an eerie world of quiet.  Electricity, running water, and law and order have been eradicated overnight.  The cast come together slowly over the hour and half episode.

Leading the pack is Abby Grant (Julie Graham), a mother determined to find her son. She appears to be the only one to have contracted and survived the virus.  Joining her is Greg (Paterson Joseph), a man of strength and honour who isn’t too happy to be reeled into her gang of survivors.  Then we have Anya (Zoe Tapper), a young doctor. Following the deaths of her friends she goes to the hospital pharmacy and finds the right concoction of pills to aid her suicide. In her mind, no one would want to live in this brave new world. She changes her mind and carries on, meeting an injured Tom (Max Beesley) in the middle of the road.

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Unbeknownst to the others, Tom is a convicted murderer.  He’s immediately drawn to Anya.  Next up are Playboy Al (Phillip Rhys) and twelve year old Naj (Chahak Patel) who form something of an older brother/younger brother bond.   Last to join the group is Sarah (Robyn Addison), an unlikeable, opportunistic woman who trades sexual favours for protection.  She is weak but dangerous.  Gradually, the horrors of this new world force her to change for the better and along the way she learns to have self-respect and put others before herself.  Tom straddles the line between hardened criminal and protector of his group.  He will kill anyone that threatens them, particularly Anya who tries to resist her feelings for him, recognising the violence within him.

Post-apocalyptic tales have been done before, and probably better.  The original series of Survivors, from the 70s was superior, according to a lot of fans online. I can’t comment as I haven’t seen it, but it finished the story at least. The same can’t be said for the infuriating end to the newer version.  These days we’re used to TV shows getting cancelled prematurely, but the way Survivors was left unfinished pissed me off, and showed a complete lack of respect for loyal viewers.

Tom & Anya
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There’s nothing new in the BBC version of Survivors.  Stephen King’s The Stand covered the struggles of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world probably better than anyone, over thirty years ago.  Likewise Jeremiah and Jericho broached similar themes, but Survivors is still enjoyable. The characters are real, and we feel for them.

We see the best and worst of humanity that only comes to the forefront in times of crisis.  Some of the survivors are vicious, using guns and weapons to protect food supplies and get their way.  What’s left of the government punishes thiefs with execution.  The vulnerability of women and children in particular is made evident.  Tom attempts to press home, time and time again, this is a new, brutal world.  There is no such thing as law and order, and a lot of the time it is a case of kill or be killed.  One menacing, vicious little thug Dexter will have you shouting at the screen. He’s a bully and couldn’t be happier with this new world where he is King as long as he has his gun.

The characters in Survivors are what kept me glued to the TV screen for all twelve episodes.  It’s just a pity we never got one final episode to wrap things up.

Note: Avoid the BBC America version.  From what I’ve read, episodes have been cut and censored.

Has anyone seen or heard of Survivors? Do you like post-apocalyptic shows like The Walking Dead, or are you sick of them?

About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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29 Responses to TV Review: BBC’s Survivors (Post-Apocalyptic England is not a fun place to live)

  1. Megan says:

    Thanks for the review! As a huge walking dead fan I have been meaning to check out this series. But I am kinda disappointed that there isn’t a last episode… :/

    • Emma says:

      Hi Megan,
      At least you’re warned now if you do check it out. It’s still worth watching.
      I’ve always been fascinated by how people would survive a worldwide disaster.

  2. beckyday6 says:

    Hmmm…. I might of caught a couple of minutes of this back when they were showing it…

  3. Indiewritersreview says:

    Thanks for sharing:) Great post!

  4. What? They leave you hanging? That would bug me so bad! But then again, I suppose you could make up your own ending to the show, couldn’t you? We just watched the last Sherlock last night and it’s killing me that we have to wait forever to find out what’s going on. Kind of like Downton… they need to get those British shows over here faster! Or, I need to move to Britain. Yes!

    • Emma says:

      They do leave you hanging but like you say, I guess the viewer can create their own ending.
      I haven’t seen Sherlock but I’ve heard great things about in online. Go ahead & move to Britain; I’ll pop over to visit you 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard of this show. I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic shows, but I did really like The Stand. Because, you know, it’s Stephen King. LOL

  6. I watched this show on Netflix one weekend. It was a great show, except for the lack of an ending. I didn’t even know there was another show in the 70s, but post-apocalyptic shows aren’t normally my thing.

  7. I love the post-apocalyptic theme, but I really would not want to live in that kind of world. My husband and I are huge fans of Walking Dead, and are waiting to find out what happens in season 3. Here in the States, we have people and groups who are hoping (and praying, ironically enough) for an end-of-the-world scenario to really happen. There’s even a reality TV show; Doomsday Preppers. Not sure if they’re planning on having to dispatch brain-eating zombies or just the riff-raff that would rise in that sort of world. Ugh. Interesting to read/watch but I like my electricity, thank you!

    • Emma says:

      Doomsday Preppers! I’m going to check that out. Why would anyone be hoping for the world to end?
      I’m like you, I couldn’t deal with a world without electricity. What would I do with my tv, laptop and hair straightener! 🙂

      • I’ve never watched it, but it might be entertaining…or scary. I have heard (from other sources) some downright frightening comments from some who are hoping for that end-of-the-world thing, along the lines of “I don’t need to prep, I have a gun and I’ll just shoot you and take what I want.” Eeeeek! I’m with you, laptop and modern conveniences!

  8. Sounds like a series worth viewing. May be a common theme, but alway interesting to see how the characters adapt and reinvent themselves. Nice review

    • Emma says:

      Thanks. Yeah watching other people trying to survive makes you wonder how you’d cope yourself should something similar happen in real life. I’d take my bottled water, canned food and head for the hills!!

  9. Lindsay says:

    I loved Survivors! It wasn’t perfect but I really liked all the characters. Which, well let’s face it, is really the point of shows like this. I was disappointed it didn’t get some time to wrap up what they set up for a third series.

  10. Pingback: TV Review: Tru Calling (It’s Groundhog Day for Eliza Dushku) | Emma's Ramblings on Supernatural Fiction

  11. LJ says:

    I really got into the show and started reading about it before finishing the first season. I was dreading getting to the final episode. The characters are so likeable, just like the walking dead. I’m hoping maybe netflx will make the original available or better yet AMC pick up the bbc version.

    • Emma says:

      The characters are what made this show. There were just too few episodes, only twelve in total. Thanks for stopping by, L.J.

    • Macy Hill says:

      I know it’s been a few years since anyone posted anything here but I just found this. I binge watched Survivors on Netflix a few years ago and Loved it! I’m just getting into the Walking Dead but so far I think Survivors was better. I loved Tom and Anya. And Sara and Al and Sarah…if you can watch their story w/out crying you’re a stronger person than I am.

  12. Steve McLaughlin says:

    I miss survivors and would love to see it end – damn the bbc!

  13. Doug Brown says:

    Emma, have you ever watched the film “The Road”? There’s a post apocalyptic world setup that will stick with you. In comparison, I found Survivors remarkably tame, even innocent. I was hoping for a darker edge so that the characters would have something more memorable to play in front of. Good post – thank you.

  14. Kecia Adams says:

    I read a post-apocalyptic short story set in England in the New Yorker one time. The setting was really well done and chilling. It stuck with me in an eerie way, though I can’t remember the author’s name. We got hooked this summer on a reality TV show called ‘Naked and Afraid’ where they drop two survival experts a man and a woman into a harsh environment naked (!) and see how they fare for 21 days. There’s the real survivor. The women tended to fare better than the men, go figure. 🙂

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