Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

DOUBLE-TAKE: Survivors (double take pt.2)

In A.Graham, Reviews on March 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Facing the fears of humanity: SURVIVORS reviewed by ALISTAIR GRAHAM

Unlike Carl, I’ve long been a fan of science fiction – though, like others of my ilk, I’ve often thought that, as a genre, it’s a misnomer. Perhaps “speculative fiction” might be a more accurate name?

For a start “science fiction” as a brand name is too sprawling, and often it’s difficult to find any connecting threads that bind the whole concept together. The kind of works that Carl cites could possibly be described as “what if” fiction, examining possibilities in an often scary and definitely uncertain world.

In Survivors the devastating plague that sweeps across the world seems to have some mysterious eastern, possibly Chinese, source. But be that as it may, as law and order and any vestiges of government break down, the problems of personal survival are soon very real for the few thousand people who are left alive. Notions of re-building some semblance of society only emerge slowly out of this chaos.

Gradually the scattered remnants of humanity come together in groups and react to the global catastrophe in different ways. Early scavenging bands are short lived – to be replaced by those who seek survival through self sufficient communal groups – or, more menacing, paramilitary bodies who see the need for discipline, order, and the enforcement of their own notion of a future society.

Is this the way it would be, with the complete breakdown of central government and a much reduced, fragmented population? As a hypothesis I find it credible – and I know which alternative I would seek out.

It’s all told through human stories involving a central core of characters seeking to set up a communal base where they can survive and grow. It’s a shifting, precarious, two steps forward, one step back sort of progress. The problems of starting from scratch are explored, along with the pressures of maintaining group solidarity amongst the surviving flotsam and jetsam of humanity. The question of “leadership” is explored. One character remarks “there will always be leaders and those who are led” (really? why?), even it seems when it comes to collective decision making. In one episode, two rival claimants, Greg and Charles face up to each other like rutting stags, to see who will be the Alpha Male in their re-established community.

But it’s Jimmy Garland, adventurer and one-time Lord of the Manor, who is the archetypal Alpha Male. He carries on a one-man guerilla war against a paramilitary outfit that’s taken over his family estate, until he emerges triumphant to carry on his feudal role, before carrying off Abby Grant on a mission to find her son at the end of Series One.

Garland is an anachronism, a character out of a John Buchan novel. But other leadership roles are solidly middle class, whilst working class types are either subordinate, buffoons or just comic. Which is a pity, as it grates somewhat on what otherwise is a thought-provoking, absorbing idea.

As the story progresses, our gallant band move out from their west country haven, heading north and meeting further challenges on the way (which allows us to experience other communities with varieties of problems and responses). Finally, Greg goes walkabout, leaving Jenny more or less in the lurch.

I found the conclusion not too satisfactory. It was almost as if the decision was made to wrap the whole story-line up as quickly as possible, and bring the series to an end. There is a long drawn out “search for Greg”, before our protagonists finally reach a hydro-electric plant in the highlands of Scotland, manage to restore power through the national grid – and thus usher in a new dawn for humanity.

“Simples” – as they say these days. But with so much left unanswered!


Survivors intro

  1. Alistair, Without being alarmist, we may well be at risk from a virus from the East.

    it’s a virus spread by poverty, corruption and the consequent lack of value for human life, particularly children.

    4 years ago there was an opportunity to describe to the EU how epidemic rates of HIV infections, were at our Eastern European doorstep. The highest rates of infection having been recorded among street children who were vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

    I’ve learned since how ready our government are to brush social issues under the carpet where there’s opportunity for business and it’s been New Labour who’ve stepped forward to advocate for some of Eastern Europe’s most greedy moguls. I refer to Blair, Mandelson and Byers.

    When one considers the HIV rate doubled while at least 240 million dollars of aid have been pumped into resolving it, you begin to see the problem. The Anti-AiDS organisation is run by a woman who purchased the most expensive house in Kensington. The wife of one of the top moguls.

    We’ll perish more slowly than the science fiction version admits and our cause of death won’t be a virus we know how to manage and contain.

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