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DVD Review: Survivors – Complete Seasons 1 & 2

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The timing for this release couldn't be more ironic. Just two weeks prior to the US street date for this set, the BBC announced that it wouldn't be renewing Survivors for a third season. After a dozen shows that garnered strong ratings and a healthy underground following, the series itself couldn't survive the corporate axe.

Which makes it a bit odd to be reviewing a complete set for a show without an ending. Well, it does have an ending, just not the conclusive one that modern audiences have come to expect. So if you're new to the series, just know going into things that not all of your questions are going to be answered. Now, with that out of the way, let's check this thing out.

Survivors is an hour-long drama from the BBC, and is another in a long line of post-apocalyptic tales. While that may not be the most original of ideas, in the show's defense it is a remake of the original series from the 1970s, and at that time there were far fewer entries into the genre. In this particular iteration, global calamity comes in the form of a virus, a new strain to which most of humanity falls prey. And it happens quickly. The attack manifests itself within a matter of days, killing off 95 percent of the world's population. There are some who survive, whose genetic makeup is more resistant to the strain; but they are left in a world without population centers, governments, infrastructures for water or power, and with no assurance that there won't be more sickness to come.

The story follows a handful of these survivors who eventually find each other and band together in an attempt to survive the new world. Plot points tend to center around the baggage each character is carrying, and how they play into new circumstances and people that the group encounters. Abby is a mother still holding out hopes that her son – absent at the time of the attack – is alive; Greg is wracked with guilt at how he left his estranged family; Tom is an escaped convict who slowly begins to reform himself; Anya was a doctor, and still feels the call to help others; and Allim is a former playboy not used to thinking about anyone but himself. Add to this the fact that there is a remnant, and clandestine, medical research firm working on a secret cure for the evolving virus, and one of the main survivors might be the genetic key they've been searching for. Their motives seem questionable, at best, but they might be the last remaining hope for humanity.

In a stark contrast to the meager production values of the original series, this modern update is very slick and fast-paced. The short six-episode seasons require the pace to go at bullet speed, and it's easy to get carried along. The downside is that within those episodes, their need to keep the action self-contained results in some very predictable plots. Fortunately, the acting and production are, for the most part, really well done; so it ends up being a little better than most standard action fare, but never seems to quite reach its potential.

Don't get too excited about the possibility of interesting bonus material here. The offerings are kept small and generic. "A New World: The Making of Survivors" (26:33) is an entirely bland making-of feature that focuses on long clips from the first handful of shows, and watching them being filmed and talked about by the actors. Very little insight is really given, and the effect is less than fulfilling. "Survivors FX" (5:47) is a much more interesting, if brief, lesson on special effects. It shows a few scenes that had to be doctored in post-production, and is a nice, quick lesson in digital effects. "Character Profiles" (12:23) bundles three interviews with the actors portraying Abby, Tom, and Greg, giving them the opportunity to detail out the back story and emotional arc of their characters.

And then there's the ending (or lack thereof)… Fortunately, the second season ends on a fair amount of resolution. Not everything is answered – and in fact a couple of new things are started – but there are enough loose ends resolved that it doesn't totally leave you hanging. It's a shame that it was canceled prematurely, because with the second season it felt like the show was hitting a good stride and starting to expand the story's world a bit. With six more episodes they could have brought things to a much more satisfying level of completion. As it stands, though, Survivors is still an enjoyable series, especially within its genre. It's recommended, as long as you can look past some of the obvious shortcomings.

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About David R Perry

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jessica-lada/ Jessica Lada

    I just ordered the dvd set from Amazon–can’t wait to watch it!