Survivors is a 38 episode, three-series post-apocalyptic TV drama produced by the BBC between 1975 and 1977. Conceived by Terry Nation (one of the creative talents behind Doctor Who and the originator of the Blake’s 7 sci-fi drama) the series follows the travails and adventures of a group of British survivors who emerge unscathed from a deadly biological epidemic — unleashed by a laboratory accident which wipes out more than 99% of the world’s population — into a desolate and almost empty world.
These isolated survivors flee the ruins of urban industrial civilisation and, searching each other out, begin to establish new rural agricultural settlements. These survivors must establish new ways of living — both self-sufficient and interdependent — which do not rely on modern technology, if they are to secure a future for themselves and their offspring. For some, these new communities must serve as the catalyst, and the foundation stones, for a new social order. Others are more pre-occupied with avoiding starvation, cold and isolation in the here-and-now.
To its enthusiasts, Survivors offers diverse and compelling human drama of the highest quality. Intelligent, thought-provoking and — at its best — brilliantly written and performed, Survivors explores the terrain of its terrible new world through stories which combine high adventure with the exploration of critically important cultural, political and social themes.
Broadcast in a primetime weekday slot on BBC1, Survivors attracted healthy ratings from the outset. The narrative focus of each series, and the ensemble cast which fleshed out its stories, changed considerably across Survivors‘ three year run. The series — which began with the immediate aftermath of the devastating plague — concluded with the re-establishment of a new federation of trading communities across southern England and the switching-on of the first revived hydroelectric power plant in Scotland.
Inexplicably, the BBC has never repeated the series on its terrestrial channels. In the 1980s, fan interest in the show was kept alive in the pages of the genre and sci-fi press, which ran retrospective pieces on the pioneering drama. The release, in 1993, of the first series on VHS video by BBC Worldwide (in a six volume set) reignited popular interest in the programme. Fans of the show, old and new, began to make contact with one another, and over the next few years the first Survivors fanzines and web sites appeared.
In 1993 and 1994 the entire of the series was broadcast on the British satellite-cable channel UK Gold — the first time the programme had been screened since 1977, allowing fans to tape off-air copies of the complete run. The series has since been run a further four times on UK Gold.
In 1998 Sovereign Video leased, from BBC Worldwide, the license for all three series of Survivors, but although the first series was repackaged and re-released by the company between July and September of that year, plans to release the remaining two series went unrealised. The last broadcast run of the show concluded on UK Gold in the spring of 1998. Although both the BBC Worldwide and Sovereign releases of series one have long been deleted, second-hand copies of both regularly appear on internet auction sites.
A revival of the show, which was to have been penned and produced by Survivors star and script-writer Ian McCulloch for BBC Scotland, would have been the catalyst for a huge resurgence of interest in the programme, but in 1994 the project stalled, and plans for a new series, rejoining the story some twenty-five years on, were cancelled.
In October 2003, the first series of Survivors was released on DVD, in a four-disc set packed with ‘special features’ by DD Video. The series was simultaneously re-released on a set of three double-pack VHS PAL videos, also available in a combined six tape set. Following strong sales, DD Video released the second series of Survivors on DVD in October 2004, again complete with a range of ‘special features’. November 2005 saw the long-awaited release of the third series of Survivors on DVD by DD Home Entertainment. For this final release, the ‘special features’ included a new DVD-exclusive documentary on the making of the third series entitled New World Rising, episode commentaries on the episodes Law of the Jungle and Mad Dog, two photo galleries and a hidden ‘Easter Egg’.
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