Survivors episode 5 review

Holy salvation wanders into our heroes' camp this week, but it brings chaos...and possibly death.

John the Preacher (Keiren O’Brien) and his followers turn up from out of the trees, returning a wandering Naj, are somewhat grudgingly invited by our merry band to set up camp in their back garden, what with one of them being heavily pregnant, and no hot towels in the woods. However, the Preacher isn’t ‘really’ hearing the voice of God. He’s proper batshit, as the saying goes, and once again, Anya gets grief…

Last Time, the ‘Next Time’ trailer was rather misleading. I expected Bunker Action, and lots of it… but what we get This Time is another largely standalone episode which gives us a bit of the Abby/Greg dialogue I’d hoped for, though over a glass of bubbly rather than in a shoot out somewhere, and barely any Men of Science (other than a short, but major set up for next week’s series finale – I’m calling this confidently, absolutely this time).

This week, the meat of the episode is Anya, opening up – only Price knew she was a doctor before, but the cultist lady’s difficult birth forces her to break down and reveal that to Abby and Co… that, and the fact that she’s a lesbian. Well, she’s not – she’s bisexual, she insists to Price, who’s bitterly disappointed when he realises he’s been barking up the wrong tree even when – especially when – Sarah has been in his bed or dangling from his coattails.

These sort of scenes always require delicacy; get it wrong and you get plasticky cheese slices for script pages, know you haven’t a hope in hell and you can only really send it up. Again, it underlines how risky Survivors really is where it counts – ‘proper’ sci-fi fans may well hate this sort of argument about how you can’t really be expected to be consistent about who you fancy; others may start to feel a bit constrained, that the show isn’t moving fast enough. It doesn’t need saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the lines are just about well enough choreographed to keep it credible and watchable, and the acting works for me, from Tapper and Beesley again.

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A ‘Screwball cultist’ isn’t the most original idea for getting your actual danger and delirious OTT villainy into a drama, and you might wonder if it’s the sort of thing a series with the luxury of a twenty-two episode run per the American model might have been better doing, over something only running for six episodes this year. But ‘end of the world as we know it’ scenarios do promote exactly this kind of conflict. Kudos to the script for keeping balance with a clear explanation for a very earthly psychosis, but some sensitive dialogue that doesn’t rubbish the worthiness of more romantic notions of fate and hope.

They’re a very modern, groovy sort of cultists otherwise, and Al manages to get his end away – you can’t help but feel chuffed for the bloke, until his confusion from the morning tea dropped in by the boyfriend, and resultant indignation at being used as a baby machine.

There’s a suitably dramatic finale with the killer within Tom almost coming out for all to see – but they’re in a church, and mercy is demanded. That’s gotta have consequences.

Perhaps it would have been nice to explore how much more complicated mental illness could have been, and keep John around for a bit longer to develop him. It’s still a largely subtle series, though, so forgivable. It can’t be a coincidence that a major character revealing she’s not of traditional sexuality happens in the same episode as religious fundamentalists – albeit, baby-making ones. But this doesn’t form any kind of clunking moral TM and thank God for that.

We definitely need more of the Gregster, as it’s a fair criticism that he isn’t getting enough to do or say. And perhaps isn’t drawing adoration from the press and audiences at large in the same way lesser shows have done, but the BBC seem pleased with the ratings and it has an audience, including me. It’s not trying to please all of the people all of the time, but there are plenty of reasons to look forward to the finale and at least another six episodes next year.Survivors

Check out our review of episode 4 here.

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Survivors – series 2 commissioned

23 December 2008