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 3 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 2)…
In the second episode “Genesis” (full review), the narrative followed three main characters–Jenny, Abby, and Greg—and the events leading up to their meeting. After Abby’s disturbing encounter with Wormley, one of many armed survivors with visions of power and conquest, she decides that she cannot cast in her lot with a potential amoral/violent individual, but rather create her own community. Greg, initially in the orbit of the elitist Anne with her desperate claims to blood right, decides that her company isn’t enough–a more equitable society based on equality should be created in the wreckage of England. He meets up with Jenny, desperate for any individual that will survive with her. The triumphant music hits as all three meet at a church! What will be the result of their meeting? Stay tuned.
Take-away line/thematic thread we’ll keep an eye on in episode 3:
Companionship isn’t enough in the wreckage of the world. On what morals and relationships should a new society be formed?
Season 1, Episode 3: “Gone Away”
Tom, a scavenger whom Jenny encountered earlier in the series, continues his wanderings. He kills chickens. Eats eggs raw. Ransacks kitchens. His path will soon cross that of our main characters–Abby, Greg, and Jenny. The three set out to create a new community at their church base. Abby continues to be the ideologue of the group: “We’ll have to grow food and things.” Greg and Jenny seem to take her message to heart—and at least momentarily, a unity of purpose emerges.
The three head-off to look for supplies. And in the midst of a grocery story they encounter a grisly sign of Wormley’s minions, the hanging body of a looter with a sign around his neck. Against the warning of Greg, Abby and Jenny decide to take supplies anyway. And Wormley’s followers appear with guns in hand… Abby confronts the shotgun wielding men: “We have as much right to these things as you have!” Of course, they justified their own violent actions as righteous—“it’s a matter of conserving […] We’re representatives of the emergency administration […]. Somebody’s got to take control.”
As the three are forced to unload the goods from their car, Jenny and Abby takes the initiative and seize the shotguns from the goons. They escape with their supplies leaving Wormley’s crew raging in their key-less vehicle.
Back at the church they encounter Tom eating their supplies. He proclaims his willingness to join their community. And, tells Abby that he’s seen a kid which could be her son…. When they go off searching for him they find his corpse—but it’s not Richard. Heading back to the church they discover Wormley’s team has taken it over. One of Wormley’s sympathetic followers manages to warn them in time. Supplies destroyed, car disabled, and nascent dreams dashed, Abby promises to continue her search for her son.
In “Gone Away” three distinct ideologies of survival emerge. 1) The scavenger Tom is a situational chameleon, shifting his tune whenever he needs to, focused entirely on himself. When he sees power (Wormley’s minions) or is put in a compromising position (sleeping in Abbey’s church) he attempts to conform in order to preserve himself. He does not look to the future. He looks to satisfy his immediate needs. 2) Wormley and his followers latch onto the past—the last gasp declaration of martial law before the disaster destroyed the last shreds of centralized government–in order to justify their claim to authority. Wormley uses this rhetoric to distinguish himself and his violent form of “justice” from the actions of other similar armed gangs. 3) Abbey, Greg, and Jenny form a third category: despite struggling with their immediate traumas and desires (Abbey wants to find her son, Jenny wants company), they imagine a better future, a future built on voluntary community rather than force.
The first two ideologies are based on consuming and doling out the supplies that remain. The third suggests that a new society will have to relearn the basics in order to thrive past the point where pre-disaster technology and supplies disappear. If a central authority emerges, it will be an organic process where smaller communities choose to join together.
The conversations of Abbey and Jenny about purpose and leadership were the highlights of the episode. Survivors passes the Bechdel test with ease. Greg, at least at this point in the show, sees Abby as the leader the group needs.
I have some pet peeves. 1) Farm animals are running around! Catch them before they die! I’d become the rabbit/chicken man. Supply people with eggs, meat, fertilizer, and skin. haha. 2). Imagine infuriating the local armed loser brigade. Would you light a fire that night? Would you refuse to leave someone on watch? A lot of the survival choices leave me scratching my head.
That said, I look forward to episode 4.
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21 thoughts on “SF TV Episode Reviews: Survivors (1975-1977): Season 1, Ep. 3, “Gone Away””
Well said indeed! On to “The Corn Dolly”.
What did you think of Grant in this episode? Why he refused to help Jenny and Abby the quickly get the stuff from the store was infuriating. But at least he eventually sprung into action! After Abby and Jenny had taken the initiative….
I’m still warming to him.
I watched this episode last night. You keep calling Greg Grant. You might want to correct that. Grant is Abby’s last name. Actually, I thought Greg was being savvy. Why get into trouble at that store when there are plenty of other places to scavenge. Abby was being idealistic in a time that requires being practical. By the way, I don’t believe Jenny could have taken the gun like that. And once Greg had the gun he used it more realistically. However, they probably should have killed those three guys. That’s how more realistically violent shows would have done it. But on the other hand, Wormley’s idea of conserving resources and sharing them among all the groups is a more ethical idea. Of course, Wormley is an egotistical guy out for power, but keeping people from hoarding dwindling resources is practical.
Fixed — I wrote and published the post late at night, hah! I wish I had an editor.
Those are valid points. I obviously do not know where the show is going as I haven’t seen it before. But yes, Greg seems like a savvy individual. And I hope that he stays with the group.
I’m only recalling this episode from memory, but I was surprised how different the British apocalypse was from American stories. They are much less likely to kill one another. American shows about the after the collapse, generally have people shooting first, and not even asking questions afterward.
I definitely think this fits the cosy catastrophe mold. The second episode had some shooting first and asking questions later (Wormley and his gang and the “lawbreaker”). It also depends on which British stories. Mick Farren’s novel The Texts of Festival feels like a proto-Mad Max.
And, I would suggest, that one of the more famous of the UK post-apocalyptic fictions is definitely in the “immediately we will toss out all morality” line of thinking… Christopher’s overrated The Death of Grass. https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2019/12/31/short-book-reviews-harry-harrisons-captive-universe-1969-john-christophers-the-death-of-grass-1956-nancy-kress-an-alien-light-1987-and-joe-haldemans-mindbridge-197/
I read the novel and watched the film recently, and I would have to agree.
Rereading my comment I see I should have said disagree. I liked The Death of Grass.
I’m not sure I agree about Death of Grass being overrated – in the sense, the book is no masterpiece (I prefer the film, for all its faults), but it might be hard to realise from outside just how deeply ingrained into the post-WW2 British mentality the idea that there was a ‘them’ who would sort things out and not allow everything to actually collapse was/is. I think it’s speaking to a specific mentality, and might translate poorly to other places where the faith in order is already much less solid?
Hello Richard, thanks for visiting!
If you look at my short review of Death of Grass you’ll see that I struggled with why I dislike it. I’m not sure I can articulate a clear reason. I find the argument that the government will disintegrate and not sort things out compelling (i.e. Survivors). I found the novel more a condemnation of the average man — prone to immediately fall into an us vs. them mentality without a second of reflection. I am fan of Christopher’s other post-apocalyptic works. For example, the more surreal A Wrinkle in the Skin (1965) (review) and more deliberately satirical The Long Winter (1962) (review).
As both the others are superior and hardly read or known, I designate Death of Grass overrated — despite its context.
Thanks for having me! Okay, I see what you mean. It’s not my favourite of his books either (my favourite is Empty World, which I haven’t read for years) and it’s pretty unnuanced, but I do wonder if its refusal to show any of the characters as innately morally upstanding wasn’t in a way a reaction to the country’s self-image: a sense that under the obedience and politeness there was something violent waiting for its moment.
The reason I skipped over acquiring Empty World (1977) was its YA designation. Is it that much different from his other post-apocalyptic catastrophe novels in content?
Hah, to tell you that I’d have to quickly read it again, for the first time in a long time.
Well, is that a bad thing? hah. If you do, let me know.
I’m sorry not to have commented on these posts yet, as I’m a big fan of Survivors season 1 (and I quite like 2 and 3, but they’re not as good).
It is a bit cosy in places, but it does have its share of brutalities too. I thought it a good mix.
I wrote up Death of Grass at mine. It’s not great. It’s also almost funny the way the lead warns constantly how people will degenerate into savagery and then basically takes preemptive strikes on that thin justification. I don’t think it was intentional but for me he was what he warned against. Without people like the “hero” it would probably all have been a lot cosier.
For some reason I missed your comment! Apologies! It’s great to hear from you after so long.
Feel free to link your review.
Richard’s points on Death and the time it was written are pretty good. It may simply be that it’s dated.
After I read Death of Grass I stumbled upon “Lot” by Ward Moore. It’s a chilling short story about getting out of L.A. on the first day of an apocalypse. And it has an almost as good sequel, “Lot’s Daughter.”
I’ve heard good things about Moore’s “Lot”. I read (or listened in audiobook form) to Moore’s Greener Than You Think (1947) and didn’t care for it and never got around to writing a review. That said, I am more intrigued by his 50s works (40s SF doesn’t often sit well with my anyway).
Moore’s style changed drastically between Greener Than You Think which was a farce/satire, and “Lot.” “Lot” is cold and realistic, a “Cold Equations” kind of story that captures how people felt back then regarding survival. It’s much like the beginning of The Death of Grass..