Survivors: Series 1 – The Fourth Horseman

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In the first of a new weekly series Andrew East goes back to 1975 to discover Survivors.

A little while ago I purchased Big Finish's audio version of Survivors based on the reams of positive reviews it has received. A few years back I watched and enjoyed the re-imagined version of the original series with Julie Graham and Paterson Joseph - and I'm aware it wasn't as popular as it could have been; I liked it though.

I thought, before listening to the audio series it might be a good idea to watch the original Terry Nation series which, although I've seen various clips of, I've never actually watched properly.

The first episode, The Fourth Horseman, details the outbreak of a mysterious virus which is infecting an unprecedented number of people. We are introduced to two main people, Abby Grant and Jenny Richards (played by Carolyn Seymour and Lucy Fleming). Abby's small village seems to be avoiding the virus; Jenny's flatmate is ill. As the episode progresses we slowly find, through these two characters, that the situation is much worse than the authorities want the public to believe. People are dying instead of recovering, and the rapidly implemented vaccination programme is a pointless exercise designed to placate the masses.

By the episode's end, Abby's husband (played by Peter Bowles) is dead and her son (who was away at boarding school) is missing. Jenny's flatmate is dead and she has been forced to flee London.

It is a very sombre piece of television, unsurprisingly. When Abby finds the church where people have died in the one place they hoped to find solace and reprieve, a shiver ran down my spine. Jenny's brief encounters with a gang of potential rapists, a tramp (played by Doctor Who Welsh favourite, Talfryn Thomas) and a sick man, emphasise how alone she is (the tramp won't come near her and the man dies overnight).

The dialogue Abby has with her husband and, later, with the only survivor at Peter's school (played by Peter "Dr Warlock" Copley) discuss the assumption that the modern world should be able to prevent such pandemics becoming as widespread as those from history and how a world devastated by a virus must re-learn the skills that have long been lost by the general public. This latter theme is, of course, where the rest of the series will go.

I'm fascinated by apocalyptic film and TV and was, rather perversely, looking forward to this first episode. I enjoyed it, but did feel it lacked some of the gut-wrenching terror which is often a feature of these programmes. I'll be interested to see where the series goes and, ultimately, how the Big Finish series (which retells these initial events from other points of view) adds to this strange and terrible world.

Andrew East is a primary school teacher and father of two, who finds respite in the worlds of Doctor Who, Disney and general geekiness. Unhealthily obsessed with Lance Parkin’s A History, his Doctor Who viewing marathon is slowly following Earth history from the Dawn of Time to the End of the World. He would live in a Disney theme park if given half the chance.

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