Review By Paul Mount, 5 out of 5 It? fair to say that my abiding interest in the science-fiction genre – or the fantasy genre or whatever label imaginative fiction is currently lumbered with ?is based firmly on a bedrock of a handful of classic television series, shows which are as much a part of my childhood and the growing-up process as learning to walk and learning to shave. These shows ?in no particular order and for no real logic ?include DOCTOR WHO (obviously), Gerry Anderson? seminal UFO, Irwin Allen? cheesy LAND OF THE GIANTS (humour me) and the half-remembered ITV children? fantasy TIMESLIP. These shows fired up my imagination like no series before or since (with the exception of a certain vampire slayer of our mutual acquaintance). Let? not forget to add to that list SURVIVORS, Terry (Daleks) Nation? chilling 1970? apocalyptic BBC drama depicting life after a virulent plague has wiped out 99.9% of the world? population. Glory be and praise the Gods of the shiny silver disc because here c omes the first season of this remarkable series on DVD ?and suddenly everything seems to be right with the world again.

It? a premise SF fans are familiar with and one with has always been curiously attractive to us pessimistic Brits. Some of our best writers (and Simon Clark) have loved nothing more than to wipe out society and watch the unfortunate few battle against the odds in a hostile world bereft of all the comforts and conveniences of the modern world. But Terry Nation and, incredibly, the BBC, did it best of all ?at least in the first season. Series opener ?he Fourth Horseman?is one of the most watchable fifty minutes in the history of British television as Nation? subtle, understated script sets the scene and seals the fate for Mankind. The death of the human race happens off-screen and we experience the disaster (later known as the Death) through the eyes of Abby Grant (Seymour), resolutely upper-class wife of a successful London businessman and Jenny Richards (Fleming) a bemused secretary who flees the city when the scale of the disaster becomes obvious. The tension never lets up in this stunning episode and when Abby recovers from her own brush with the killer disease three long, sweaty days have passed and civilisation as we know it has all but stopped. Abby? main concern is to find her son Peter, away at boarding school. But as she sets off to search for him she and the audience begin to realise that the world is now a cold, hostile ?and very silent ?place.

In the remaining twelve episodes of the series we see Abby team up with other luckless survivors. As well as Jenny she meets up with tough guy engineer Greg Preston (McCulloch), weaselly Welshman Tom Price (Talfryn Thomas, a couple of suddenly-orphaned kids named John and Lizzie and eventually with a few other waifs and strays they set up a fledgling community in a big ol?house in the country. But the missing Peter is never far from Abby? thoughts?

The first season of SURVIVORS is one of the most gripping, engrossing television series ever made in the UK. Filmed almost entirely on location (in and around Monmouthshire), the series is never less than entertaining and it? frequently thought-provoking and genuinely terrifying, particularly now with the SARS outbreak still a very recent shared memory. SURVIVORS works so well because it? about people, fully-realised, believable characters with personalities. Over the course of the episode we learn to believe in and care about Abby, Greg and Jenny and the others ?even those who, for the convenience of the plot, aren? around long enough to make a real impact. There are no displays of special effects here, just stories about people coming to terms with the terrible privations circumstance has forced upon them and trying to cope in a world with no law and no rules. Standout episodes beyond the series opener include ?enesis?which introduces Greg, ?omething of Value?where the price of human life appears to be a few gallons of petrol, ?arland? War?where Abby meets up with a disenfranchised land-owner battling to regain control of his country seat and the awesome ?aw and Order?where the group has to deal with difficult moral choices when one of their number is brutally murdered. There won? be a dry eye in the house.

Regular readers of my reviews on scifind may have noticed that I never give 5 out of 5 ratings; I mean, we?e talking perfection here and, the odd episode of BUFFY aside, there? usually something wrong with everything. But SURVIVORS gets tops marks for all sorts of reasons; some are nostalgic ?watching the show reminds me of cosy Wednesday nights watching its original tranmission ?but most are because it genuinely is a wonderful piece of television. Some critics turned their nose up at its class values and others have muttered that the show wasn? dirty enough ?everyone looked too clean and neatly-turned out. I say ?ah?to all those nay-sayers and I encourage those who?e never seen the show to take my word for it and invest in this boxset, which already has pride of place in my DVD collection. Series two became an ersatz EMMERDALE and series three, grimier and more feral, became a bit disjointed but series one is pretty damned faultless. If you?e any interest at all in the history of quality television long before the cancer of reality television and the soap opera explosion, you owe it to yourself to take a look at SURVIVORS. Have I ever let you down in the past?

THE DISCS: DD Video have done an impressive job with this release, compiled with genuine love and attention to detail. The thirteen episodes have been remastered and have scrubbed up well although some scenes, especially darker sequences, tend to look a bit grainy. But SURVIVORS has never looked better. There are decent extras too, including a nice fifty-minute interview feature filmed during a cast reunion in June, lots of photos (some standard BBC stuff and some from Lucy Fleming? private collection), a minute or so of mute footage from the filming of the last episode and a couple of commentaries which are warm and interesting rather than genuinely informative. Best of all is a tasty booklet chronicling the history of the series. Utterly wonderful.

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