this 1975-1977 BBC TV series alongside its 2008
remake is quite instructive; not merely in terms of how much film-making
techniques have changed in the interim but also how much British society has
The Noughties remake boasts a fully multiethnic cast
whilst the original show is lily white with loads of posh accents on
display. The only non-Whites (as they used to say in Apartheid South Africa)
we get to see are some nurses and orderlies one briefly glimpses in a
hospital in the pilot episode! The villain in this series is a union boss.
In the remake it is the only member of the UK government to have survived a
killer plague, namely a young Black woman. Make of that what you will . . .
(The plot is of course quite familiar by now: only about
10 000 people in the entire Britain survive a devastating flu-like epidemic
that has managed to kill off most of the planet’s population in a matter of
days. It may be over familiar today, but Survivors is quite ahead of
its time. Back in the 1970s most post-apocalypse sci-fi tales involved
nuclear war of some sort. Killer epidemics only became du jour after the
Cold War ended . . .)
THE DISCS: The entire series is spread over five
double-sided discs and one single-sided disc. We don’t particularly like
double-sided discs because they aren’t that easy to handle and smudge
easily, but a 10 disc set would have been prohibitively expensive. Sound and
video is quite good for a 35-year-old TV show.
WORTH IT? If you’re the sort who is hung up on
“modern” production values then it is best advised that you stick to the
2008 series which is slickly produced. The remake even throws in the sort of
X-Files conspiracy malarkey
that television audiences nowadays expect of their home entertainment. The
1975 series - created by Terry Nation, whose biggest contribution to Trivial
Pursuit is that he created the Daleks for
Doctor Who – is positively
primitive by comparison. Filmed on video, it takes a leaf from the Ingmar
Bergman handbook of film-making: there are no soundtrack music at all except
for the theme song played at the beginning and end of each episode.
In fact this version Survivors is closer to today’s
similarly titled reality TV show in that it often feels as if a small camera
crew is following around some city slickers as they try to cope with
roughing it in the countryside. It is a whole lot grittier than the new
series. The English countryside seems positively miserable. It is rainy,
muddy and cold the whole time, probably the last place on Earth where you’d
want to sit out the End of Civilization!
RECOMMENDATION: As you’d expect this series is a
lot less action-packed than the 2008 remake. It is also a bit more of a soap
opera, but that shouldn’t count against it. The ‘Seventies Survivors
holds its own particular fascination (it is a whole lot more realistic than
the new series) and anyone who grew up in the city instead of a farm will be
endlessly fascinated (horrified?) by the idea of milking cows, killing
chickens, plowing fields with horses, and so on.