Review by Ian McArdell
Returning for a sixth box set, the audio continuation of Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic drama continues to chronicle humanity’s struggle to survive in the wake of a deadly plague.
Following the lives of Abby, Jenny and Greg, the audios are now operating; in story terms, within the third series of the television and loosening their story arc approach. This box set offers individual stories for the show’s principal characters.
Beating the Bounds by Ian Potter
First up is Abby Grant, still searching for her lost son Peter; whom she remains to believe is still alive until proven otherwise. The trail brings her to Hurstby, a country estate which is home to over two hundred people. Barricaded in since the outbreak, initially more by luck than judgement, somehow the entire populace have remained healthy.
Still run by its Countess, Lady Colehurst, and administrated by her head keeper Mangham, Abby’s arrival brings danger to the community – both to their way of life and to life itself as she might still be a carrier for “the death”.
As ever, Carolyn Seymour gives a flawless performance as the practical, resolute Abby Grant and we particularly enjoyed her scenes with Sheila Reid’s Countess who probed Abby’s fears that Peter might not really know her any more, if he survives.
The Trapping Pit by Christopher Hatherall
Jenny gets an outing in this second story; paired with a new character for audio as Big Finish stalwart Helen Goldwyn recreates Survivors’ medic Ruth Anderson, who was a regular across the second series. Together, the pair are travelling to deliver medical supplies to Evelyn Piper’s Foundation when they accosted by a pair of young brigands.
After an altercation the lad, Craig, ends up falling into a pit and, feeling some sense of responsibility, Ruth endeavours to treat him although he is severely injured. Gripping and intense, there are no miracle cures on offer here and the tension keeps piling on across the story as Ruth struggles to keep the lad alive.
This is a distressing, but compelling listen and George Watson really makes an impression as the wounded Craig – not for the faint-hearted!
Revenge of Heaven by Simon Clark
The television series’ opening credits famously sell the global implications of “The Death” through shots of passport stamps and aircraft, but in the show itself there were only fleeting mentions of other parts of the world. That is, of course, until Greg Preston’s hot air balloon ride to Norway.
In Revenge of Heaven we catch up with Greg (Ian McCulloch) on that trip; working for the Norwegian Federation and embroiled in an epic race against time – one that would have been beyond the BBC’s 1970s budget, although we like to imagine this might have been a glamorous Bank Holiday special!
Writer Simon Clark throws everything at the pair, from wolves and thugs, to airborne dramas and a huskie ride courtesy of Sweden’s resurgent postal service; it has the relentless feel of an action movie and there is some brilliantly immersive sound design, courtesy of Benji Clifford, to pull you in for the ride.
Cast as Greg’s partner in this escapade is Julie Graham, who starred as Abby Grant in the 2008/9 remake of Survivors. Here she plays Katherine Tanner, who comes seeking his help to save a kidnapped Russian professor who might just hold a miracle cure.
Lockup by Andrew Smith
The final tale in the set brings Abby to Peacetown, a community operating in the environs of a former jail, where law and order is being brutally enforced by a prison officer. As Abby enters the community, she is horrified to discover the prison cells are occupied – and that one of the inmates is Greg!
Despite the situation, it is brilliant to hear these characters reconnect; Carolyn Seymour departed the show after the first series and Ian McCulloch only guested after the second run, so this feels like a genuine treat.
Of course, there is a deeply unpleasant regime to overthrow and Brendon Glover (James Wilby) makes for a thoroughly odious villain who has set himself up as the sole legal authority. When she aids Greg’s escape from a chain gang; he makes a vile threat towards Abby, so there is a certain thrill as she and her ally Sasha outmanoeuvre him in his own kangaroo court.
The story also makes a poignant reference back to an early television episode, where the residents of The Grange took the law into their own hands and got it terribly wrong.
Survivors continues to be a challenging and through provoking series; with the decision to split the characters up paying dividends and granting each of the stars their moment. The flip-side of this is that there is no major villain, as previous box-sets have offered, but in truth the characters trying to stay alive provides ample impetus to drive the stories.
The talk of the global situation is fascinating, especially the suggestion that the Russian government took to dropping atomic bombs on their own cities to wipe out the virus. In the same story, we learn of the beginnings of civilisation retuning to Sweden, and it helps to breed a sense of optimism – that humanity might just survive if it can learn to cooperate and avoid the mistakes of the past.
We are thrilled to see these audios have been commissioned through until Series 9, as it is clear that there are many more stories to tell.
Far more than simply surviving, Survivors is thriving on audio and I’m glad to give it a healthy 10/10
Available for download here: https://www.wbigfinish.com/releases/v/survivors-series-06-1507
Order CD from Amazon.
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