Big Finish: SURVIVORS: NEW DAWN 1 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: SURVIVORS: NEW DAWN 1 Review

Tony’s watching the dawn break.
Survivors at Big Finish has gone much further than the original TV show ever went. Free of TV budgets, it has taken us to places we never saw on screen. It’s also gone into far more extreme territory – and, depressingly, far more realistic territory – in terms of the degradation of humanity when faced with a cataclysmic world event.

With Survivors: New Dawn 1, Big Finish is taking Survivors further than it’s ever been before.

Starting 15 years further on than when we heard them last, what we’re dealing with here – at least, in theory – is a very different Britain and a very different world to that through which our Survivors have slogged.

The question though is whether, 15 years on, anything has REALLY changed, or whether it’s the same old world with stronger power structures.

Andrew Smith kicks off the set with Tethered, which you have to admit is a title that sends an immediate shiver down your spine.

Abby has been up in Scotland for the last 15 years, focusing on building memories and experiences with her son Peter, with whom she was finally reunited the last time we heard from her.

Now, she’s crossed the border back into England and is making her way back down the spine of the country, when she runs into a friendly stranger, who offers her shelter for the night and a steak dinner.

John Bedwell (Clive Hayward) at first seems like the kind of person you’d be lucky to meet on a journey like Abby’s. But a decade and a half since she was last around, things have changed, and Abby hasn’t kept up with the news.

There’s a new federal government in England, based in Cambridge, but the idea of a national authority is not welcomed by everyone – especially in more northern territories that have a history of being ignored and marginalised by such central authorities.

Bedwell’s no fan of the federal government, and to put it mildly, Abby finds out that if you go far enough from the immediate eyes of that government, a whole other, more primitive law kicks in. Bribes to those who are supposed to enforce the law are allowing a hideous system of forced labour to flourish.

But we’ve heard slavery, cannibalism, baby-farming and more in the Survivors full cast series before now. What makes this example of people doing heinous things so remarkable?

The answer’s very much tied up in the New Dawn premise – it’s now been decades since the original outbreak of the Death. The initial box sets of Survivors stories took us into some of the most ghastly places with people doing what they thought was necessary to survive. This is a post-Death world that HAS a system of overarching authority.

With Andrew Smith’s writing, you often get a moral of justice, crime, punishment or ethical divides, and Tethered is no different. It’s released at a time when our real-world headlines are filled with stories of police corruption, and without commenting directly on that, the story does as important questions. If you’re establishing a new world, based on principles of law and justice, what happens when those you appoint to enforce those rules can be subborned, allowing local fiefdoms to treat human beings as slaves? What does that say about the KIND of world you’re rebuilding?

It's a question underlined by the ‘other’ half of Tethered, which takes us to Cambridge and the new federal government in action. Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming), over the course of the last decade, has become Law Minister in Celia Tate’s government, while Jackie Burchall (Louise Jameson) is a local representative.

But when Tate (in a knife-edged performance by Belinda Lang) ropes Jenny into a foolhardy mission to move some gold around the country (on the basis that while the new world currently operates more on a barter system, there’ll be a use for gold one day), Jenny has her eyes opened about the realpolitik of the new regime during a run-in with bandits.

The opening act of New Dawn 1 is a double-handed drama of a society aiming to rebuild itself, but one that can be bought and sold to its baser instincts both far from the centre of power, and right at its heart. It’s a world that does not bode well for the likes of Abby, whose moral core is straightforward and strong. But the question is whether legal and ethical transgressions will be allowed to stand in this new world because they’re expedient – and if they are, whether Jenny or Jackie can still be a part of the rebuilding either.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the emotional oomph is in this story, we’re trying not to spoiler you, but trust us – Carolyn Seymour will absolutely break your heart in this episode, thanks to a particular story detail from Andrew Smith that comes early, and lets you know that Survivors still has the power to punch you in the guts in its tenth box set.

My Generation, by Katharine Armitage, is a story whose time has come, both in our real world and in the world of Survivors.

Young people, in the Survivors world we’ve heard up to now, have been more or less lumped in with everyone else as part of the drama. But with the re-establishment of a form of governmental authority, with elections allegedly coming soon, the young people who’ve grown up in the post-Death (Deathennials?) are a generation separate to themselves – and they’re less than happy.

In particular, a group of would-be representatives calling themselves The Veil are advocating for inclusion in the governmental processes and agenda. When the new government was formed, it put an age bar on those who could stand as representatives, and like young people everywhere, The Veil are demanding their right to have a voice. Especially when it comes to things like LGBTQIA+ issues, they’re certain the government is planning to simply re-instate the bigotry and exclusion of the pre-Death era.

To prove the point that LGBTQIA+ people are not only unvoiced but still actively victimised in the post-Death world, there are clashes between members of The Veil and a gang of thugs in this episode. But there’s also some excellent drawing out of the issues – Jenny, as a member of the government, “has nothing against” same-sex marriages, but doesn’t initially see the need for laws that legalise them, meaning, as it’s explained to her, that when it comes to a challenge, officials who DO have something against them will claim that marriages can only be validated if they’re heterosexual in nature.

The different perspectives of the generations are well delineated, too, in a way that echoes our own reality. There’s a sense in the wider world that the post-Death generations don’t have the right to be representatives because they didn’t live through the Death, and so cannot possibly have enough breadth of understanding to be an effective representative for those who did.

But all three of our main survivors have a more modern take on the situation than that – albeit both Jenny and Abby hold their positivity in a kind of conflict with their older generation issues.

This is an interesting placement of an important modern issue within the Survivors framework. Very often, those of older generations have trouble seeing young people’s voices and experiences as anything more than “kids stamping their feet and having tantrums,” while younger people frequently see those from older generations as hopeless reactionaries, unable to understand the modern world and its changing realities. Social media is full of people throwing “Woke snowflake!” and “OK, Boomer!” at one another.

Putting that divide into the Survivors world feels relevant and drives the overall arc of New Dawn 1 forward, with Jackie being a secret supporter of The Veil, Abby vacillating on whether to share her story on one of their radio broadcasts, to expose the weakness of Prime Minister Tate’s authority in the north, and Jenny flying ever closer to the wind of her leader’s open hostility.

It also shows the difference between the era of New Dawn and the immediately post-Death years, when there was little by way of a fight to have one’s voice and identity recognised because of the pre-eminent struggles for food, shelter, and any kind of safety.

By the end of this episode, the personal journeys of our core survivors have been changed, potentially forever, with Abby a wanted women in her own country, Jenny the woman who’s supposed to see she’s caught, and Jackie, being Jackie, having the contacts to get her out of the country.

Despite the fact that Jenny and Jackie are still technically representatives of the federal government, older loyalties and friendships prevail, and the three of them get on a private plane out of England, at least to make sure that Abby lands safely.

Behind You, by Roland Moore, is an unmistakably weird episode. Hitting trouble mid-air, our three survivors and their pilot don’t end up where they’d hoped, but madly, Abby runs into a dire comedian and children’s entertainer who once played at Peter’s birthday party, after the boy saw him on TV and asked for him specifically.

Now with a son of his own, Leonard Cross takes Abby on a journey into the past, while determined to make the post-Death world the way he wants it.

That means keeping things exactly as they were before three women and a plane invaded his territory. If Batman has taught us anything, it’s that not all clowns are funny or well-meaning, and Cross and his son play out some serious lessons of fear and acceptance in response to Abby’s arrival.

Meanwhile, Jenny’s busy bullying local bureaucrats who insist there’s never any trouble in their regions, and uncovering resource-fraud while looking for something else entirely.

If all of this sounds fairly low-impact, as with Tethered, that’s because we’re shielding you. We’re not about to blow the episode’s biggest secrets, but it’s no exaggeration to say the lives of our Survivors will never be the same after they encounter Leonard Cross.

New Dawn feels like a great evolution of ‘Classic’ Survivors, and like it might well be worth taking forward with more than two box sets. But certainly for now, it looks as though New Dawn 2 is set to be the end of the story. With governmental authority getting established, however corruptible it is, there’s a sense that the post-Death world is coming round to a ‘new normal’ that could serve as an end-point – at least for now. And the events of New Dawn 1 absolutely punch that sense of impending finality home. You’re going to need the tissues handy for at least two of these episodes.

Survivors: New Dawn 1 shows us a world recovering from the Death, bringing both hope and corruption from the old world to the new. But who survives, and who can leave their past behind, will determine what the new dawn looks like. If you’ve come all this way with our Survivors, you can’t afford to miss out on New Dawn 1. Still punching hard, still feeling real, New Dawn 1 delivers top Survivors action with more shocks, and more heartbreak, than you’ll see coming.

Survivors: New Dawn 1 is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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