SURVIVORS - THE COMPLETE SECOND SERIES
Region 2 Edition
Reviewed by Mike Hadfield
Eric Hills, Pennant Roberts, Terence Williams
Ian McCulloch, Denis Lill, Lucy Fleming, Celia Gregory
“You must accept that survival of the fittest is the priority”
The second series of Survivors picks up a year after the global
catastrophe that has wiped out 99.9% of the world’s population. It
concentrates on a small group struggling to adapt to a dramatically
changed world following the plague. The central characters of Greg (Ian
McCulloch), Jenny (Lucy Fleming), Ruth (Celia Gregory) and Pet (Lorna
Lewis) reprise their roles from the first series. Carolyn Seymour is sadly
missing as the strong and decisive Abbey. However, a new set of
relationships is forged with the re-introduction of Denis Lill’s character
of Charles from the first series episode Corn Dolly.
Series two, which originally aired in 1976, contains some of the very best episodes. From the firm fan
favourite Lights of London (the only two-part story in the whole
series) to A Friend in Need, the series delivers superbly written
and acted drama. In fact, the thirteen episodes of the second series show
a great deal of variation in style and content. Reformed murderers,
snipers, superstition, class systems, trust, new beginnings and renewed
hope all feature in this diverse set of episodes. The writers really
should be commended for giving us plenty of things to think about – after
all, this is a series founded in reality. Much of what is shown could
really happen. You just need to take a look at today’s world climate to
see how the events and issues raised in this series are as relevant today
as they were back in the seventies.
The creator of Survivors (Terry Nation) had no involvement with
series two. This left producer Terence Dudley free to take the series in a
new direction. A fire at the Grange resulted in several cast members being
written out and a new community needing to be created. This new direction
was instrumental in giving the series a whole new lease of life. The first
series had its moments but was starting to get caught up in too much
running around with guns. Dudley and Jack Ronder decided to tone this down
and create a much more dramatic and hard-hitting series. While it’s true
that most of the series is rather bleak and sombre, as a viewer you can’t
help being drawn into the world of the characters being depicted. The test
of any series is how many episodes you can watch in one sitting. I have to
admit that when I started watching these discs I just did not want to
stop…. This is probably why I am now a gibbering wreck, having gone
through all the emotional ups and down of the characters.
Series two also managed to attract a large number of guest stars including
Patrick Troughton, David Troughton, Phillip Madoc, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Nadim
Sawalha, Wendy Williams and Kevin McNally. You can also spot a very young
looking David Neilson (now better known as Roy Cropper in Coronation
This is apocalyptic drama and storytelling at its very best. I doubt that
ITV’s recent attempt at something similar (The Last Train) will be
as fondly remembered in twenty-five year’s time!
Video has pulled out all the stops and given us a first-class presentation
of these episodes. They look absolutely stunning. Colours are rich and
stable with little grain evident. The MPEG encoding is also top-notch. The
average bit-rate is 4.68Mb/s.
The set consists
of three discs containing four episodes each and a fourth disc containing
the last episode and the extras. Presenting the episodes alone on discs
allows them to be presented at the best possible quality. All the discs
are dual-layered. The extras are encoded at an average bit-rate of
5.35Mb/s. Any picture defects visible (and there are not many) are down to
the age of the materials. The packaging states that the episodes have been
digitally re-mastered. This has probably been just a basic DVNR cleanup
which goes to shows how good the original archive copies the BBC hold are.
They make UK Gold’s screenings look like worn-out old VHS tapes!
Audio is clear and distinct. Presented in Dolby Digital mono 2.0 at a
bit-rate of 192Kbps the encoding is easily able to handle the range and
sonic style of the 70’s TV mix. Dialogue is nicely reproduced with no hiss
to spoil your enjoyment.
The bonus material is
all on the final disc. DD Video has given us a nice set of extras.
Interviews with Denis
Lill, Lorna Lewis, Heather Wright and director Pennant Roberts.
All these are talking head-style interviews and are quite well put
together, though the lighting is a little too moody for my liking!. The
participants clearly show that they have fond memories of the series. It’s
good to see companies producing some retrospective interview material for
releases – something which the Americans should take note (recent releases
like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century contain no extras at
For some inexplicable reason, the second episode of Lights of London
is reproduced on the fourth disc, but with an audio commentary
soundtrack. Denis Lill and Pennant Roberts take part in this commentary
which gives some great insights into the making of the episode and series
in general. Highly recommended listening for any fan of the show.
Lucy Fleming’s private collection of photos and the BBC’s publicity images
round off the extras package. While some of these are very nice to see, I
suspect they are a one-time viewing item only.
The best extra of the set is not even on the discs! A forty-four-page
booklet is included that is worth its (considerable) weight in gold! Well
written and researched by Andy Priestner, it covers the background to the
making of this second series and tells us what happened behind the scenes
before, during and after production. Each episode is also given its own
page with broadcast details, synopsis and fascinating trivia snippets.
Rounding off the booklet are sections on Where Are They Now?,
Studio Reports and full cast lists that are a nice touch. The booklet
is full colour with some great pictures illustrating behind-the-scenes
DD Video has produced booklets like this for all their releases (Survivors,
Secret Army, their Hammer movies, Fall of Eagles etc). These
booklets demonstrate their commitment to releasing a quality product that
is sure to please fans.
You may have got the impression that I am very happy and impressed with
this release. Well, let me just make it clear – I REALLY AM!
DD Video continues
to present complete series of the best in British telefantasy and drama in
the best way possible. This is a superbly presented set of episodes with
some truly fascinating and relevant extras. The icing on this very lovely
cake is the excellent booklet. Despite the odd placement of the commentary
(I suspect this may have been an authoring error quick-fix) they have
still managed to produce a great set. There are not many companies at the
moment that take this amount of care over its products. Yes, DD Video
releases are a little higher priced than most, but believe me, it’s worth
it. As the saying goes, “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. I
expect DD Video may have this as their company mission statement! Long may