Survivors – tape 1696

More from Terry Nations’s post-apocalyptic remake of The Good Life, these episodes follow on quite closely from the ones we saw a couple of days ago. It’s the start of the third and final season, and Manhunt. It starts off with some frankly upsetting scenes of dogs fighting each other. Jack (Gordon Salkilld) seems to be running from them. He’s injured, strapping himself to trees to sleep in safety. He’s found by a passing man.

He knows Jack. “Met him up at Whitecross with Charlie, before they moved down to Challoner, before Charlie put the phone in. He went off in that balloon with Greg and that Norwegian girl. Been six months since. What’s he doing this way? Charlie never said.”

So there’s some missing backstory for us. The balloon was in the last episode of Season 2, which I haven’t come across yet.

June Brown (Eastenders’ Dot) is looking after Jack.

June Brown

Jack’s carrying letters for Charles and Jenny. There’s been a telephone set up between communities so they can get word to Charles.

Telephone Call

Charles and Jenny ride out to fetch Jack and the letters. Jenny gets all mopey. “I need him.” Jack talks about Greg having a broken arm.

So they decide to ride on to try to meet Greg. But when they’ve left, Jack wakes up and starts talking about them being killed ‘by Meadle’.

On the way there, they hear a man screaming, staked to the ground.

Bound Man

They free him and he runs off. Charles thinks he’s a junkie. Then they’re met by an army looking man with a gun and taken to some other army guys. Rule number 1 in post apocalyptic situations – the army are always the bad guys.

The head army guy, Clifford, tells them Greg left a week ago. Without a broken arm. He tells them they make drugs there. And introduces them to their scientist, Dr Meadel. I wonder if the placement of the big poster of a gun is deliberate in this scene.

Dr Meadle

He has the smell of a Dr Strangelove about him. I love Charles’ default position of suspicion. Well warranted here after all he’s seen so far.

But Dr Meadel and the Clifford don’t agree about methods.

Charles thinks Greg is still on the site. He looks around, then when he’s stopped by a guard, he tries to fight, but is overcome. Clifford tries to explain to Charles why they are mistrusted – the drugs Meadel is producing take large quantities of raw materials and produce comparatively small results.

He explains about the kid they found staked out. It’s a tactic to keep outsiders afraid of them so they son’t attack them. The kid was being watched (hence why the soldier was there as soon as Charles released him). It was intended that he would have freed himself, gone back to his own community, and told them how they treat bandits. He’s sounding more and more reasonable, this Clifford chap.

But Jenny has run away, and finds Hubert (suffering from toothache) who has come to find them. She still assumes Clifford and his men are evil and dangerous. So when one of Clifford’s men approaches, unarmed, she shoots him. This isn’t going to end well.

There’s a very poorly directed shot, when Jenny comes riding into the community, shotgun in hand, and, as far as I can make out, throws the gun to Charles, which hits him on the head. But it’s so weirdly shot as to be ridiculous.

I think I must have misinterpreted Jenny shooting the soldier, though. The episode ends with smiles all round, and Charles, Jenny and Hubert leaving (Dr Miedel having extracted Hubert’s bad tooth). So I’m assuming Jenny must have missed the soldier. Either that or they’re going to be very angry soon.

The next episode is A Little Learning, written by Greg himself, Ian McCulloch.

And Greg is in this one, one of the few episodes to feature him. He and his Norwegian friend Agnes arrive in a village, to be met by a wonderful turn from Sylvia Coleridge as an old woman who was expecting someone else. She’d been attacked – by Red Indians, she says, from somewhere called Marbury.

Sylvia Coleridge

Marbury’s a school, whose surviving child population is run by young Eagle, a great performance from young Joseph McKenna.

Eagle

They’ve been working with a couple of traders (one of them is Space 1999’s Prentis Hancock).

Prentis Hancock and Sean Caffrey

Greg visits the school, and pretty soon the kids are going full Lord of the Flies, taking his shoes and setting him running in the woods with them in pursuit. But it ends when he finds one of the boys having a seizure.

Lots of the children are suffering from the same disease. Seizures, itching, some have gone deaf, and their extremities turning black.

It’s a puzzle worthy of House MD. Greg surmises it’s the bread they’ve been eating, made with poorly stored Rye, infected with a fungus. They got the Rye from the two traders, so Greg grabs the traders. Then learns the kids have gone up to an old civil defence facility, one that’s surrounded by mines. He arrives there to the sound of explosions.

Mine Victims

But they were prone as the mines were set off, and they’re OK. The two traders agree to work for the kids for a time, as penance for selling them the infected rye. Then they discover an elephant wandering close by. Eagle tells them they souldn’t capture it to work for them, as it’s been locked in a zoo all its life. Turns out he’s a pretty good leader.

Elephant

In the distance, Greg spots someone on a horse. He thinks he recognises the rider – it’s Jenny, looking for Greg – but she’s too far away to hail. Ships in the night.

The next episode is Law of the Jungle. Charles finds Jenny fleeing from a pack of dogs.

Meeting up with Hubert and Agnes, Greg has gone on ahead, so they head for a farm they know, but find it derelict. Then two men in the forest with crossbows find them, and take them to their settlement.

They’re led by a man called Brod, who sounds like a bit of a tyrant. and he’s played by the magnificent Brian Blessed. I never trust a man wearing cap sleeved tunics.

Brian Blessed as Brod

The football scarf is a nice touch.

He wants the newcomers to work for him. And of course, the work he’s expecting Jenny to perform is of a sexual nature.

Charles and Jenny try to persuade the rest of Brod’s people to leave him, but they’re too cowed. Charles can’t countenance killing Brod, as he’s an idealist. But Hubert, being trained to hunt, is more pragmatic, and shoots Brod in the back with a crossbow, letting the rest of the community leave to return to their farm.

The final episode here is Mad Dog. Charles is riding alone when a pack of dogs sets upon him. He shoots, but is thrown from the horse, and is attacked by the dogs until they are driven off by an old man with an automatic rifle. He’s Richard Fenton (Morris Perry) and warns Charles that some dogs have developed rabies, rather scaring him.

Morris Perry

This series has made quite a feature of dog packs. I think they clearly invested in a lot of dogs, and wanted to use them as much as possible.

Some of the scenes between Charles and Fenton are shot in what looks like real snow. I wonder if they had problems matching the weather, or maybe it’s actually fake.

Let it Snow

Fenton is not an idealist like Charles, and rather scoffs at his grand plans for mankind’s survival. But he’s met Greg, so he’s useful, as they head towards where Greg was heading.

But halfway there, in Fenton’s ‘halfway house’ he develops a fever – he’s contracted rabies.

Charles finds two men further on, and asks for their help, but when they return, Fenton has started lurching about and frothing at the mouth. They run down to the river, because rabies patients have hydrophobia, and they also try to ward him off by chucking tins of water at him. I’m wondering if this programme’s representation of rabies might be closer to vampirism.

They kill Fenton, but then they suspect Charles has also been infected, and decide they have to kill him too, so he escapes (taking some shotgun pellets to the arm in the process). From these scenes it’s clear the earlier snow was real.

Real Snow

Having abandoned his horse to decoy the pursuers, Charles needs another form of transport, which he steals from a man in a village.

Charles on a Bike

Taking shelter in a farm building, he wakes to find he’s got a visitor – a little boy who looks like he’s got more than a touch of zombie about him.

Little Boy

Cue more running around the countryside. He finds Fenton’s house, and finds the notebook he was looking for, with clues to Greg’s whereabouts, but the anti-rabies posse are still after him. A kindly farmer’s wife finds him, advises him that it’s extremely unlikely he actually has rabies, and lends him a horse, but the posse are right on his tail, and once again he falls off his horse, but still manages to hide from them.

Then, out of nowhere, he finds the Hogwarts Express.

The Hogwarts Express

It’s an actual, working steam loco. Hitching a ride in the back, he finally finds somewhere they aren’t trying to kill him, and gets more news about Greg.

They even let him blow the train whistle.

After the last episode, recording continues with a sight that you don’t see on TV any more – Dave Lee Travis introducing Top of the Pops.

DLT

Recording stops during the Bay City Rollers.

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One comment

  1. Ian McCulloch went on to run a boy’s school after he finished acting, of course, so maybe his episode there indicates where his future interests were.

    Is DLT doing a Nazi salute?

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