Review by Ian McArdell
New Dawn 1 is the first of two 3-story boxsets which picks up the tale some fifteen years after we last heard from Terry Nation’s Survivors.
Although it eschews a move into double figures, making a fresh start with the subtitle New Dawn, this is effectively the tenth audio series. With six new episodes adding to the thirty-six already released, there’s now more Survivors on audio than were made for television in the mid-1970s, which is a remarkable achievement. However, it’s not the Seventies that we are concerned with here; though it’s not specified, by my reckoning the events of New Dawn occur somewhere in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Abby Grant returns: Fifteen years after she went into hiding, having prized her conflicted teenage son Peter from the clutches of the quasi-military operation he’d become a part of, and despite his crimes, the pair fled.
Some fifteen years later, after spending time in seclusion, Tethered brings Abby (Carolyn Seymour) back into society. Befriended en-route to Gloucester, her former home, the kindly John Bedwell (Clive Hayward) fills her, and us, in on the state of society. The country is divided into zones, each with a Governor, and each providing representatives to a Parliament sitting which sits in Cambridge (London’s still utterly no-go). Above that, there’s a provisional government with a Prime Minister, although the true power resides with the zone Governors; they administrate day to day affairs with little oversight, backed by a police force of sorts – the Rangers.
While Abby learns all this (she’s been in Scotland, which went its own way) we also catch up with Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming) who serves as the Law Minister in that government. She’s using a car, powered by bio-fuel, to collect another old friend; Jackie Burchall (Louise Jameson) is now a parliamentary representative and has been on a trip to Sweden – by aeroplane, no less!
Jackie’s covert aiding of those who wish to leave has put her on the radar of Prime Minister Celia Tate, a determined and devious, power-hungry politician (and Jenny’s boss) brilliantly played by Belinda Lang. With one eye on the future, Tate is keen to ensure Britain’s advantage as international society reconnects. Despite the need to re-establish this world, and document its transitions, Andrew Smith’s story handles all the necessary exposition in an unforced, natural manner. From Abby’s questions to the reunion of old friends, we’re soon up to speed on the new status quo, and its problems; being Survivors, it’s not long before gut-wrenching events wrestle control of the narrative.
As the story develops, across Katharine Armitage’s My Generation, I enjoyed the reunion of old friends. There’s also a sense that our heroes are the old guard, with the presence of a new generation. Activists are pushing for change; so long from the outbreak of the Death, these adults were children at the time or have been born since. Naturally, they seek representation in the new political system. After a recent census, parliamentary elections are imminent, but they exclude those under twenty-six, who don’t have lived experience of the time before. Other freedoms are at risk – homophobia is rife, with the state turning a blind eye. As Abby hooks up with The Veil, truth-telling activists, this puts Jenny’s position in danger. Jackie’s experience of spiriting people out of the country comes into play, but it also puts them all at risk with Celia Tate closing in.
This is a really interesting tale, with Jenny an establishment figure that the young people distrust and seek to rebel against. It’s not a position we’ve seen one of the show’s leads in before. Abby, of course, remains a counter-culture icon throughout!
Finally, in Behind You, Jonathan Rigby puts in a remarkable performance as the embittered, deluded Leonard Cross, a former magician who once performed at one of Peter’s birthday parties. Written by Roland Moore, it’s a terrifically dark and melancholic tale with an unstable, troubled man at its heart; he has issues with technology and is keen to protect his place in this new world at any cost.
The story also sees Jenny discover another local governor who makes rules of his own. Glen McCready entertains as the corrupt Ulrich Larsson and the tale concludes with a tense stand-off.
Survivors has lost none of its power to shock and devastate. This trio of stories dives into themes of modern slavery and refugees, as well as the dynamics of power in the emergent new world. It’s clear that life remains as precious and precarious as it was at the start of the Death.
New Dawn serves as a soft reboot of the show, bringing the timeline on fifteen years to show the green shoots of civilisation’s resurgence. However, while much has changed, the need for our principal characters to step up remains. There’s also a suggestion that the English/British state has lurched to the right, demonising those who choose to leave it as traitors and with little sympathy for refugees – it’s not hard to see parallels with the present day.
The set is directed by Ken Bentley, who allows us enough time to explore the landscape but maintains a powerful intensity for the action sequences. As ever, Benji Clifford provides immersive sound design while the score, by, is now augmented with chimes, inspired by the show’s theme.
I’m really conscious that I’ve danced around the events of this set, but the revelations are meant to be experienced first-hand, not blurted out in a review. Suffice to say, there’s plenty to enjoy here and by the end of the set, a mission established for the second volume too. Roll on February!
In the meantime, a Survivors audiobook, Ghosts and Demons has just been released too. Set in the timeframe of the television show, with Abby, Jenny and Greg Preston, it’s narrated by Carolyn Seymour.
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