Written by Matt Fitton, Jonathan Morris, Andrew Smith, John Dorney Directed by Ken Bentley Starring: Lucy Fleming , Ian McCulloch, John Banks, Louise Jameson, Sinead Keenan, Caroline Langrishe, Adrian Lukis, Chase Masterson, Terry Molloy, and Carolyn Seymour Big Finish Productions – June 2014Having been a fan of the re-imagined TV version of Survivors which ran between 2008 and 2010 and never actually watched the original 1970s version I ought to have had very few expectations for this boxset except for the fact that upon release last year it garnered many favourable reviews. This series of audio adventures is designed to sit alongside the first series televised in 1975, written by Terry Nation. The first episode, Revelation, by Matt Fitton introduces a host of new characters in a story which vividly brings to life mid-70s Britain with its typewriters and telephones where the computer age has yet to arrive. Listening to a story full of people falling ill and in most cases dying is perhaps not to be recommended if, like this reviewer was at the time, you are feeling unwell and this may perhaps have explained why I didn’t much care for this first episode. Some of the performances such as Terry Molloy as Redgrave work very well but I’m afraid I found the American character Maddie Price (Chase Masterson, who seems to be becoming as ubiquitous to Big Finish as Beth Chalmers) to be rather grating although she did improve in the second episode.
I am however glad that I persevered with this boxset. Exodus by Jonathan Morris introduces Louise Jameson to the proceedings. Her performance as Jackie is a revelation and brings some much needed sympathy to the proceedings. In the meantime, the focus shifts onto the emergence of a colony at Feltham College headed by the sinister former lecturer, James Gillison (brilliantly played throughout by Adrian Lukis). This story also sees the first intersection between the new characters and the original series with a welcome cameo from Lucy Fleming reprising her role as Jenny Richards.
The third episode, Judges by Andrew Smith, moves events on several months from the initial outbreak of the epidemic to a point towards the end of the 1975 series. Opening with a scene featuring three of the original series characters – Greg, Jenny and Abby – it sees Greg and Jenny head towards the outskirts of London to look for supplies. This brings them into the web that has grown around Gillison and his colony in Feltham and thus reunites them with the other new protagonists. As the story progresses the apparent truth that Gillison is increasingly paranoid and clearly believes that his ruthless actions such as judicial murder are justified. The scene is set for a suitably explosive finale.
Esther by John Dorney picks up the story from the end of Judges with all the protagonists finding themselves held in virtual imprisonment within Gillison’s colony. There are some neat twists of characters switching sides but the end result is a satisfying if somewhat grim conclusion to this boxset. Despite some initial misgivings, the second half of the box set was a particularly enjoyable, despite the original series characters inevitably sounding slightly older than they were in 1975. There certainly seems to be a rich seem to be mined of new stories for these characters, even after forty years. I will be looking forward to the second audio series, particularly as this offers the prospect of a more prominent returning role for Carolyn Seymour as Abby Grant.