SF TV Episode Reviews: Survivors (1975-1977): Season 1, Ep. 2, “Genesis”

Preliminary Note: I’ve decided to try Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors (1975-1977). For the background and history of the show check out the Wikipedia entry. Terry Nation might be best known as the creator of the Daleks in Dr. Who and Blake’s 7 (1978-1981).

You are welcome to watch along with me (episode 2 is on YouTube). I cannot promise how many episodes I’ll get through or at what rate I’ll watch the show.

This will not be a formal review but rather an informal/brief collection of ruminations.

Previously on Survivors (episode 1)…

In the first episode “The Fourth Horseman” (full review), the narrative followed the flight of two women, Abby and Jenny, in the immediate aftermath of “The Death.” This disease wipes out 4,999 out of every 5,000 humans on the planet within a few weeks. Abby, who lives a normal upper middle-class life outside London, contracts the disease and miraculously survives. Her husband is less fortunate. She sets off to find her son Peter, who might have survived the pandemic at his boarding school. When she arrives, the school is empty but for one elderly teacher, Dr. Bronson, who warns her of the horror to come. Abby resolves to find new survivors and sever herself from her previous life: she cuts her hair, burns the her house with her husband’s body, and sets off to find her son. Jenny, a working class London dweller, flees the city after the death of her roommate and the warnings of a kindly doctor. She encounters a range of fellow survivors—from street hooligans to money hoarders waiting for it all to end.

Take-away line/thematic thread:

Dr. Bronson: “The real survivors will be those who will come through what will follow.”

Jenny, Grant, and Abby

Season 1, Episode 2: “Genesis”

Basic Plot

Greg Preston, an engineer, arrives from mainland Europe (also devastated by “The Death”) to discover his wife dead. He encounters Anne, an upper class survivor without practical skills, who begs for his assistance in rescuing her companion Vic, crushed by a tractor. Despite Vic’s extreme injuries, Greg attempts to ease his suffering. However, Greg grows frustrated with Anne’s fixation on acquiring servants, supplies, and resurrecting her blood right to power and wealth. She orders Greg to “find people who would be willing to work for us.” His desire to assist Vic compels him to set off for additional medical supplies. When he returns, Anne lies that Vic is dead. They set off, leaving Vic suffering and alone.

Jenny continues her aimless wandering–desperate to encounter anyone who will keep her company. She meets up with Grant. Abby continues her search for her son Peter and encounters Arthur Wormley, who has gathered a group of men with guns in a house with a well and electrical generator. Wormley, a former trade union president, proclaims his divine right to rule: “Somebody’s got to unite those groups. To bring them under control.” Abby, inspired by the words of Dr. Bronson, unveils her desire to create a society that is “more and more self-reliant.” Wormly’s power resides with the gun and visions of autocratic power. And when Abby emerges from a hot shower, his brand of justice results in the murder of an armed man from a similar gang as his own.

Abby flees. And sets up a beacon at a church–she will create her own community. Grant and Jenny see her beacon at night and set off for her church.

Grant and Vic

Final Assessment

I found “Genesis” to be an improvement over “The Fourth Horseman.” The seeds of future strife unfurl in disturbing directions: including class conflict, contrasting ideologies over the role of government, whether to scavenge or create anew, and autocratic dreams of petty men and women in the post-democratic landscape. The first villains and unsettling figures emerge. Anne desires to recreate her high class existence, replete with wealth and servants. Her true colors emerge when she lies about Vic—and leaves him, crippled, to suffer alone. Arthur Wormley, the leader of an armed gang, proclaims his divine right to resurrect England’s government and dole out justice at gun point. Future conflict is inevitable.

The main characters are evolving as well. Jenny’s desperation to find others willing to stay with her grows. She begs assistance from whoever she encounters: “Take me with you, I don’t want to be by myself anymore.” Abby, who as of now is my favorite character, takes Dr. Bronson’s warning to heart that the real survivors will be those who live through the aftermath. However, her idealism informs the manner of her survival. She flees the brutality of Wormley, and sets off to create her own community. Force will not be the ties that bind. Greg seems to be a legitimately good person horrified by Anne’s grasping visions.

In the discussion on my review of episode 1, Survivor‘s use of music and sound came up. The overall feel, cemented by episode 2, clashes with the thriller-esque theme music of the title credits. The show itself resorts to the sounds of nature—running water, the mechanical tractor lift, fires, birds, sheep—to emphasize the drastic changes that have occurred. I suspect this is due to the complete lack of a budget for more than the theme song. Regardless, it adds to the air of realism.

Next Episode: “Gone Away”

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22 thoughts on “SF TV Episode Reviews: Survivors (1975-1977): Season 1, Ep. 2, “Genesis”

  1. You felt more kindly than I did! I screeched at the screen for him to go check on Vic when Anne lied to Thingydude and damn near had an aneurysm when Abby, my fave so far as well, got in that shower…what is it with her and showers? Two eps, two bains douches.
    Let’s see how three unfolds.

    • My pet peeve so far is the complete lack of hording by the main characters. I mean, they should ransack Anne’s place for as much food, medicine, and supplies as possible. I’d want an ax, a hunting gun, survival tools, books on survival (find libraries people!), etc. And if they had, Grant would have seen through Anne’s pathetic lie! Abby talks and talks about needing the skills to survive but doesn’t seem to do much about it so far in a practical sense. Everyone assumes that they’ll find what they need wherever they go. I know, I know, she’s looking for her son.

      I think I’d want a shower after weeks of wandering. But, I’d like to think that more red flags would have gone up after Wormley’s sad wannabe dictator speech (pre-shower and pre-shooting).

      • Abby’s wandering has been in a 145 wagon, not exactly like poor Jenny who keeps missing Abby to get in on the cush afterlife. She’s the one who needs a long, hot shower!
        Yeah, I thought Abby looked a bit…uncertain…after the tinpot speechifyin’ but she stayed for the shower….

        • Yeah, why Jenny can’t find a car…. everyone else can.

          I’d approach this differently. Grab everything I need, set off for a great region for growing crops near some woods, round up sheep, chickens, and cattle, and THEN look for people. You could find a complete stocked and abandoned farm out in the countryside — the longer you wait the more uncared for dead animals you’ll find! Or, meet people on my way…. Or people would come to me looking for food and shelter.

          You could chalk Jenny’s aimless/sad wanderings as a product of her trauma.

          • I suspected that Jenny wasn’t able to drive, given her working-class background.
            Given how disabled I am, I’d do what the Doc did in “The Fourth Horseman”…sit in front of some communication device, try to facilitate people getting together, then quietly die. Although, if I’m honest, I’d prefer to go in the first wave. 4,999 out of 5,000 dead? Um, no.

            • Yeah, that makes sense. From a modern perspective I just assume (perhaps fallaciously) that the vast majority of people in their 20s can drive.

              Dr. Bronson’s character was really sad. I do not think he would be useless in the new society. Have they not heard of sign language? And, he clearly understands what new world will emerge and what technological knowledge is needed.

          • Maybe it’s too soon to be making final decisions. Maybe it’s like getting married, you want to find the right companions first before settling down to create a homestead. I just thought they were all in a wandering around stage to see what’s going on before deciding what to really do.

            • You’re probably right — and who knows how we would react in a scenario like this. It’s one thing to speculate, it’s another thing to be presented with the traumatic landscape of the mass dead.

  2. You’re almost making me want to go and rewatch. Watching it now requires a lot of mental re-writing and exasperation. I still like it though. Some of the later eps are crackers. If only Terry Nation crossed a post-apoc with an alien invasion–I’m thinking Blake’s 7 butts up against Survivors with a dash of old skool Dr Who.

    • I do not like the idea of alien invasion combined with post-apoc. If I knew this show had aliens, I’d never have watched episode one! hah.

      I want to avoid as many dashes of “old skool” Dr. Who has possible. I never got into the show. I know, I know, I’m poo pooing on all your favorites. That’s why you need to rewatch Survivors with me. For whatever reason, I’m getting into it.

      • i can’t remember a life without Dr Who. i’ve been watching it since the age of 4–at least. indoctrinated into it by older sibs. i was even a member of a local fan club from around age 11 to 16. its like DS9 for you—possibly even more potent…?

        • I had a lot of VHS tapes of Dr. Who as an older kid — maybe 13 or so? A guy walked into the rental store and sprayed all the Dr. Who tapes with sugar water. My dad bought a giant pile for less than 50 cents each (if I remember correctly). I watched quite a few but it didn’t resonate with me. I’m not sure what doctor or what decade they were (felt 70s?).

      • I agree — I wouldn’t want an alien invasion mixed in. We had that with The Day of the Triffids. Survivors is great just as it is, and doesn’t need any fantastic elements.

        Joachim, I wish you had a better quality print to watch. I might join y’all and rewatch it again.

  3. I remember watching this as a child and becoming terrified and now I am living a lesser version it seems. I don’t remember aliens though, just some odd societal changes, probably of their time.

      • Darn it about the aliens I was hoping for more season I had missed.

        I think as a kid the most compelling thing was the reality of the way it was filmed, lack of intrusive music was a big influence on this, it was almost as if you got the news them in the dramatic and the rest was reporting. I think also for the first time it brought to my attention that I could not rely on the adults around me to save me, I could be separated from my parents and they would not necessarily be available or even able to find me. Also that if a pandemic happens it could really mean governments stop functioning meaningfully.

        We started watching it again on an airplane ride, the sound was a bit jarring, it was however still compelling. It has also become more realistic with current events.

        • I missed this comment — sorry.

          I wonder how much the “reporting” feel was due to budget vs. choice. But yeah, I can imagine how shocking and revelatory it would be for a kid to watch–the breakdown of government, the offhanded brutality, etc.

          My episode 3 review is up!

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