Thursday, 28 February 2013

Review: Survivors 2.1

These reviews are a bit late. The first two were written in December 2012 and were intended for the new year, but circumstance pushed them back a bit. Whatever, enjoy.

Survivors - Series Two, Episode One
Written 16/12/12 

Back in the glorious summer of 2010, I took advantage of a ridiculously underpriced boxset to review the first series of the 2008 reboot of Survivors, based on a story by Terry Nation that's best known for its far more popular adaption from the 70s. The new reboot did a lot of things rather differently, adding new characters and swapping a few ethnicities round to reflect Noughties Britain. While the second series had been planned for a while, the 2009 Swine Flu scare made the BBC reconsider broadcasting it, and while critical reaction was better the ratings for the second series suffered so much that the BBC threw in the towel.
Greg's life is on the line - and so are Anya and Al's when
they try to help.
     I'm going to turn around now and say that I was several million degrees too harsh on the first series of Survivors. It had its problems with characterisation and certain annoying acting decisions, but as a sci-fi concept it was fundamentally sound, and the direction and cinematography were always top-rank. Series Two starts off immeditately attempting to rectify the mistakes of the past by managing to flesh out all of our characters at once, and solidifying the dynamics between them.
     Stuck in Manchester after having to look for runaway Najid, the gang find themselves nursing a Greg whose been shot by Dexter. Stuck for medical supplies, Anja, Al and Tom head off to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, which is then collapsed by city-dwellers trying to eradicate what is essentially a disease hotspot. They all try to help, leaving Greg in the lurch, and Sarah has to sell her body for a jack. Meanwhile, Abby has been taken to the Evil Scientists' Lair, where she is told by David Whittaker (Nicholas Gleaves) that she's the only one to fight off the virus who wasn't immune and thus needs to be tested on to prevent the virus from mutating further and killing everyone. Anya and Al are rescued, and Greg recovers, but Tom is forced to leave the group when Greg denounces him as a murderer.
     One of the more surprising parts of the episode for me were the frequent flashbacks to life pre-virus for Greg, which felt very Lost-like. While they were certainly welcome, they did feel a bit belated and in the scheme of things it would have been wiser to have seen these back in the first series, when our characters were setting up. Meanwhile, Sarah, a character whom the writers seemed to spend the entire first series trying to get us to hate, gets some rather unpleasant character development when she is raped in  order to further the story. I don't know whether they were trying to be girtty or were taking her character to what they felt was a logical extreme, but it felt a tad unnecessary regardless. Worst of all was the fact that the guy playing the rapist is now on all those co-op ads. Eugh.
Abby's looking a bit worse for wear in the Scientists' compound.
     The scientist storyline was perhaps the most interesting part of this week's episode, with Nicholas Gleaves turning in another great performance as a troubled villain. The scientists, again, were a part of the first series that were very much left in the background, and that was a real shame. For all of the atmosphere and little personal stories that the first series gave us, it neglected to fill in on any of our actual characters or main villains. It felt very much like it'd been written like an American series and then they'd simply just forgotten that they only had six hours to work with.
     So, all in all, an improved start for Survivors. It feels very much like it's making up for lost time, and the result is an hour of compelling drama that both explores the post-apocalyptic world in a much more in-depth way but also advances a lot of our characterisations. I'm not sure that the flashbacks were well-placed and I really think that it's a little too late to be starting with that now, but I was glad for the character development they provided and it's certainly a trend that this series is going to continue.


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