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Case Number 18884: Small Claims Court

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Survivors: The Complete Original Series

BBC Video // 1975 // 1879 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 11th, 2010

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All Rise...

When the super flu hits, Judge Brett Cullum hopes to be far away from the United Kingdom.

The Charge

I'm a survivor (what),
I'm not gonna give up (what),
I'm not gon' stop (what),
I'm gonna work harder (what),
I'm a survivor (what),
I'm gonna make it (what),
I will survive (what),
Keep on survivin' (what),

—Destiny's Child, "Survivor"

The Case

In 1975 the BBC decided they would produce a science fiction serial drama that asked the hard questions about what the end of the world would look like. Could people survive if society was decimated by a super flu that destroyed 95% of mankind? What if you had no resources any more, and had to make it on your own with only the shell of society left? Terry Nation was the writer, the man who had created the Daleks for Doctor Who. It was destined to be a cult hit, sort of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lost of its day.

In a review for the 2008 Survivors: The Complete Seasons One And Two remake of this series Judge Mac McEntire wondered about the series and its relationship to Stephen King's The Stand. The two stories seem very similar, considering it's a "super flu" that wipes out most of the world's population. Surprisingly though, it may be King who ripped off his idea from this show. Survivors began its run in 1975 and wrapped production in 1978 just as the iconic Stephen King novel hit the shelves. But is it any wonder great science fiction would often feature similar themes such as illness almost wiping out mankind?

Season One dealt with the the immediate aftermath of the destructive flu, and benefitted from having creator Terry Nations onboard as a writer throughout. It also had the strongest cast featuring Carolyn Seymour as Abby Grant. Both Nations and Seymour left after the first year, and so the show morphed a bit as it dealt more with commune life and how to produce things like methane gas. The third year had the survivors on the move, and trying to restore things like electricity. Really the first year is the one to delve into wholeheartedly, and the other two years serve as nice codas to the brilliant conception and execution of that initial run.

We get all thirty-eight episodes spread out over six discs, and five of them are double sided flippers. Transfers are as good as can be expected for a show from 1975 through 1978 shot on video in full frame. It looks like an old soap opera or Dark Shadows with a flat, washed-out nostalgic picture that will take your technology back over three decades. Accompanying this retro visual is a monaural soundtrack which stays true to the original broadcast format.

As an extra we get the BBC Documentary called "The Cult of Survivors" which serves to give the show context, and features cast and crew interviews nearly thirty years later. It's a great special featuring the leads from the first year, the director of the series, and other key players that talk about the production from a firsthand viewpoint. This feature is tucked onto disc four side B rather than on the final disc. Also included are photo galleries which are scattered throughout the set, and consist of publicity pictures from the network.

Survivors was very popular when it ran, chronicling a mysterious pandemic that wipes out most of the world. It was a dark time in Britain's economy, so naturally viewers in 1975 lapped it up. It asked the singular question most great science fiction works ponder, "What does it mean to be human?" It explored what happens when society is stripped of all basic necessities such as power, food, and legal order. Funny that in our current days of bird and swine flu the ideas that seemed so scary in 1975 hold just as much power as ever.

The Verdict

Not guilty of calming anybody about what the end of the world will look like.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: BBC Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 1879 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Foreign
• Science Fiction
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Documentary
• Photo Galleries


• IMDb

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