A while back, we looked at a tape from the start of Terry Nation’s grim plague drama Survivors. Here’s some episodes from the end of the run.
In Sparks, Jenny and Charles appear to have fallen out. They’re looking for an electronics expert, Alec, but he’s a bit reluctant to be of any help.
For very dubious reasons, they feed him something rather poisonous, intending somehow to let him work through whatever psychological catharsis is keeping him from helping them. And these are our heroes. To be fair, Charles and Jenny are deeply unhappy about the plan – only the one dressed as a monk (Frank?) thinks it’s a good idea.
So he’s a bit surprised when Alec climbs to the top of the church tower, intending to jump off.
However, their strategy does appear to work, and he agrees to join the group, and look for a serviceable hydro-electric power station in Scotland.
The next episode recording starts after the opening, so there’s no titles. But I think this is the next episode, The Enemy. Charles, Jenny, Frank and Alec arrive at a large community around a coal mine. Robert Gillespie plays someone who was a junkie before the plague.
The man in charge (Bryan Pringle) doesn’t like any talk of politics or religion. He seems happy to maintain a sealed community, and unwilling to discuss a wider world, or future rebuilding.
Frank’s pacemaker is running out of battery power, so Charles is worried about taking him further.
The community has a generator, but it’s out of action. Charles asks Jenny if she would ‘chat up’ Alec to get him to take a look at it, all over a quiet game of Bar Billiards.
But she’s still in love with the absent Greg Preston, and worried that the Norwegian Agnes is supplanting her in Greg’s affections.
To make matters worse, Alec is in love with Jenny, and she’s furious with Charles for encouraging him to think that she was interested. Good grief, it really does seem like the only role a woman can have in this environment is as the sexual plaything of a man.
Gillespie is a bit of a born again fanatic, appalled at the idea of restarting all the machinery of the old civilisation. He thinks the new world should start from scratch, and he worries Frank into near catatonia. He’s stolen an important part of the generator, to stop them starting it again.
But when Frank dies of his dicky heart, Gillespie has a change of heart, and they get the generator going. And Charles asks Sam to go with them. But he’s not really changed, and he intends to stop them when they go North.
I’ve missed the start of the next episode as well. Ian McCulloch si back as Greg Preston, recuperating after being attacked. Talking to the two men who have been helping him, he asks where the rest of the settlement is, expecting 43 people, including a doctor. But the two men say they’re the only people there.
Greg doesn’t trust them, finds some burnt bodies nearby, and when he finally finds where the men are hiding the doctor, he discovers the doctor has Smallpox.
Elsewhere, Greg’s friend Agnes is being menaced by a gang of thugs, who have taken over the farmhouse where she’s staying. They work for someone called The Captain.
Greg learns that practically the whole settlement was wiped out by the ‘smallpox’ and he’s caught it himself. He has two weeks to live.
He goes to the farmhouse where Agnes is held prisoner, and tells the Captain’s men that he will work with them. He warns off Agnes in Norwegian, telling her he has Smallpox. Clearly he’s hoping to infect the Captain and his men.
The next episode here is the final episode, Power. Alec and Sam (Robert Gillespie) are in Scotland. Alec thinks he heard a train whistle.
There is a train, and it’s carrying Jenny and Charles. It’s broken down and they find Iain Cuthbertson as Mr McAllister, who agrees to help them, although he’s skeptical about their claim to have established a form of government.
Alec and the devious Sam have reached the hydro-electric station, and are making preparations to try to restart the generator. Sam deliberately leaves a line into a substation on rather than off to sabotage the attempt. Alec handily explains for viewers, “If we’ve missed one line feeding an industrial area that’s still plugged in, all our work’s wasted.”
At McAllister’s grand house, Jenny is able to change out of her dungarees, much to Hubert’s astonishment. “You’re wearing a dress!”
There’s a tension between Charles and McAllister. Charles wasn’t expecting to find anybody left in Scotland, but in fact there’s a very large and thriving population. Laird McAllister asks if they intended to only supply the south with power. Charles says there’s more than enough for everyone, but there’s a tension there.
Alec gives Sam a lecture on the benefits of hydro-electric power. “It’s the only type of electricity we should ever use. It’s there for everyone. Free as Air.”
When they reach the control room, Alec finds that it had been opened earlier, and someone (we learn it was the Laird earlier) has left the lights on.
There’s a lovely tension in the scenes with Alec and Sam, as Alec keeps explaining what they need to do to bring the power station online, and Sam scurries after him, listening and waiting. We’re also waiting to see what, if anything, Sam is going to do. So when Alec asks Sam to find a spanner, this scene is more than a little foreboding.
We finally get to Sam’s turning point, as he talks to Alec about how evil industrialisation is. He thinks that now people have learned to be self sufficient it would be wrong to get the power stations going. “They’ll depend for their lives on something they have no control over. Someone has to be trusted with this switch, and who can you trust?”
It looks like he’s going to stick with persuasion, but Alec is having none of it, so Chekov’s Big Spanner is deployed, and Alec is out cold.
Before he can do any more damage, he’s spotted by a local, and soon after, Charles, Jenny and the Laird arrive. Sam leaves, intending to sabotage more substations along the line. Charles and the Laird are arguing about whose power it really is. Alec gets disenchanted, thinking perhaps that Sam might have had a point.
After some to and fro, they get the station to the point where it’s about to start working. Sam opens a safety valve somewhere, hoping again to scupper it, and he’s found, and in the scuffle falls into the water outlet, presumably drowning in the water as it leaves the dam.
The story (and indeed the entire series) ends on a typically ambiguous note, as Charles and Jenny return to England to discuss arrangements for access to the electricity, and Alec stays, insisting that because he’s the only person who can run the power station, he’ll be the one who decides how it’s used.
And the final shot sees the Laird and his housekeeper sitting down for dinner in his spacious dining room. The electric lights are working, but they turn them off and eat in candlelight.
The programme’s use of music is very interesting. There’s absolutely no incidental music within the programme, until it comes to the end, then the theme music starts playing, quietly at first, over whatever the last scene is, slowly building to a crescendo when the principal theme kicks in and the credits start. It’s a remarkably simple thing, but can be enormously effective, and the theme itself, by Anthony Isaacs, is one of those that we probably all remember, but somehow doesn’t seem to make it into many people’s lists of great TV theme tunes, I’d argue that it definitely belongs there. The opening titles, too, which so simply but clearly explain the premise of the show. In the show itself we are never told the source of the plague, but the titles tell that story perfectly, so there’s never any need to spend an episode (or two) on the virus outbreak itself.
My recollection of watching the show at the time is that it starts well, drags a lot in the middle, then ends well. These episodes (along with the missing episode Long Live The King which I looked at a while ago) are excellent. My only gripe is the rather regressive attitudes to women and their roles at some points. Jenny in particular was often treated simply as a prize for the men. Never in a violent or threatening way, but definitely in the sense that that wass her only worth as part of the community. I’d love to say things were different in the 70s. I don’t think I can, though.
After this, over to BBC2 for an episode of The Net, the BBC’s frankly inferior attempt to do a Micro Live for the internet age.
In this episode, Rajan Datar talks viruses.
Here’s Richard Ford, editor of Virus Bulletin, describing the new virus. “It’s called either Pathogen or Smeg, depending on which naming convention you want to follow.” A shame to see the good name of Red Dwarf besmirched by these evil hackers.
On Monday evening, it will attempt to wipe part of your hard disk, “displaying a message, I think from Red Dwarf.”
The hacker certainly sounds like a nice chap.
Alan Solomon – yes, the actual Dr Solomon – is interviewed, although why they chose to light/shoot/post-process it to look like this I don’t know.
The makers were clearly struggling with ways to visualise viruses – here they’ve simply stuck a thermometer into a floppy disc slot.
Email communication with Mark Ludwig, a virus writer, shows he has some rather radical ideas. “The closed-mindedness of the anti-virus lobby is the real menace to society.”
He also thinks that study of viruses could have scientific benefits. “what we could learn from [computer] viruses makes it possible to make a real science out of evolution, and get rid of the philosophy.” I think there’s probably a few evolutionary biologists who would take issue with the idea that evolution isn’t a real science.
Here’s a couple of pages from his email as displayed on screen.
They’re at it again with the dumb visualisation.
Next there’s a game review of Rise of the Robots. It’s a review by ‘Jules’ but for reasons I don’t understand, she spends the review running around a farmyard acting manic, so the review is read out by the (I guess) director of the segment.
This whole segment just reeks of the TV style of the 90s.
Next, a report about the preservation of older computer systems – proof that retro computing has been a thing since forever.
Here’s Stephen Walters of the Classic Computer Club, in his bedroom/computer room/world headquarters.
Doron Swade of the Science Museum talks about the problems of maintaining working hardware, and the efforts to build emulation of older systems.
Finally, a look at a project in Kington, in Herefordshire, where a consortium including the DTI, BT and Apple, supplied a lot of computing equipment and communications, to see how a small community could use the latest technology if they had access to them.
The local farmer had some maps on a Newton.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 1st June 1994 – 20:00
After this, there’s a trailer for a programme about Europe, proving that we appear to be living in some kind of reflection of the 90s.
There’s a trailer for Safe with a very young looking Aidan Gillen.
Then, there’s the start of an episode of Tracks featuring some stereotypical early 90s graphics.
The recording stops near the start of this show.
- 100% Reggae
- Uncle Ben’s
- Janet Frazer
- Daz Auto
- Milky Bar
- Daily Mirror
- British Meat
- Lion Bar
- Soft & Gentle
- Johnson’s Baby Lotion
- Uncle Ben’s
- Tetley bitter
- Mini babybel
- Daily Mirror
- Pepcid AC
- Peugeot 306
- Finish – Helen Lederer
- Mr Muscle
- Talking Pages
- Guinness Draught Bitter
- Rookie of the Year in cinemas
- Name This Famous Person
- Vaseline Intensive Care
- Lion Bar
- Color Magic
- trail: Blake’s 7
- trail: All Creatures Great and Small