The bunker has seen Abby’s ‘I survived!’ video and are after her. The black helicopter is circling – and it’s nothing to do with Samantha Willis (she’s as confused as anyone else by it). Willis turns up at the house – allied with Dexter – offering an olive branch and potential powershare to Abby, in an evil dictator kind of way. Tensions in the gang cause Naj to take off to London, where he finds a modern day Fagin, who lets his band of kids have a go on Wii Sports if they scavenge to his liking, but woe betide the sickly who are likely to disappear…
And so, Survivors reaches the conclusion of its first season, and with another block of episodes to come in the bag, the series can be bold and delivers a much faster, grittier, surprising (in some respects) cliffhanging conclusion than expected. This comes at a cost; I’ve found the direction and performances generally sound across the previous episodes, but there was a tangible dip in quality at times, with many scenes feeling like they could perhaps have done with another take here or there, or another edit just to give it the polish much of the rest of the series had. It’s director Jamie Payne’s only contribution, one of four directors across the six episodes, although nothing stands out as particularly poor in the previous work I’ve seen. The guest casting isn’t quite up to scratch either – more children, passable but not really as good as before. The consistent use of children in the series takes on an increasingly creepy vibe, but it still doesn’t make it a series suitable for children.
Back to the city, a festering wasteland of looters and disease. As a result of Naj’s strangely out-of-character desertion, we return to that putrid and chilling funereal atmosphere that hit so hard in the first episode, but was largely avoided later on (to much criticism from some quarters). Towers on fire, cold and empty.
We also get to see Tom Price get nasty with Sarah, and resolving unfinished business in killing Gavin, the tell-tale lackey of Willis. And running about with a shotgun in the climax with slimy old Dexter – now in an unlikely alliance with Samatha Willis. The series has received a lot of criticism for lack of armaments amongst the team, and conspicuous lack of militaristic defence tactics in defending their base, with many thinking Greg and Tom between them should have made arranging an arsenal of weaponary their first priority. I’d defend this – a drama like Survivors is still much more likely to come out of America than Britain, and so conventions are expected, but bar the dark underbelly of inner-city Sarf London perhaps, and a few farmers and eccentrics, we don’t have that kind of fetishistic gun culture. Most homes don’t have Uzis and twelve bore shotguns; the laws are very different. Greg and Abby, and perhaps the others to lesser degrees, are not territorial or dictatorial, nor necessarily paranoid. By using guns sparingly, it has kept a seed of human generosity in the heroes – albeit low-key – that is more than welcome. Even if it will be their dramatic undoing.
With the ‘Paterson Joseph for Doctor Who’ rumour mill at fever pitch at the time, the cliffhanger of Greg’s shooting – is it fatal, is it just a flesh wound? – was exciting beyond the realms of the show. But they can’t kill off Greg! He’s a really interesting character and they’ve not done enough with him yet! Oh, but they might, because he’ll probably need to be free for Doctor Who, like Freema and Shaun Dingwall before him! Less than a couple of weeks later, we know that Doctor Eleven is Matt Smith, and Greg’s fate remains just as much in the air. I hope he survives…
Reaction has been mixed amongst the internet community – isn’t it always? – but a lot of the people from, um, real life that I know (non-genre fans, many of them) have enjoyed it, including those that remember the old series. The BBC seem happy with the ratings, although they’ve not been stellar.
Overall, I’ve liked this series. I’ve liked the characters, and felt the stories hung together pretty well mostly; and I’ve enjoyed the unshowy modesty of it. Some of the cast were new to me (if not to TV generally) so it’s been a great pleasure to ‘meet’ Matt Beesley and Zoe Tapper, and I’ll be checking out their other work – the latter lady has to be the only redeeming feature in Demons! I’ve got the novelisation (with the new cover) to read through in the interim, the boxed set for this series is on pre-order and I’ll be hunting for a bargain boxed set of the original series. I’m sold, and I’m a fan.
Check out our reviews of all the season’s episodes:
8 January 2009