Survivors, Episode One - BBC1
Wow! The BBC had promised us a "re-imagining" of Terry Nation's original story from the 1970s first series of Survivors, and the result was certainly imaginative, and by turns grim, poetic, moving and engaging.
We were introduced to the main characters who included "re-imagined" up to date versions of those in the original story, plus new characters to give a more contemporary feel. The events of the virus period were told very quickly, as in the original - giving the viewer a feeling of the terrible speed at which the illness spreads and brings civilisation crashing to its knees within a couple of weeks.
I thought the performances of Julie Graham as the central character Abby Grant and Philip Rhys as Al Sadiq were particularly good. Max Beesley was on good, menacing form again. The worries about the treatment of the story brought on by awareness of some of the recent lightweight previous projects of some of those involved were quickly dispelled - at least in the first episode we were looking at serious, quality TV.
The horror of Julie Graham's character, waking up after "missing time" in a fever and finding all those around her dead was faithfully depicted from some of the most memorable scenes of the original, whilst the new stories of "Playboy" Al Sadiq and Najid, an 11 year old Muslim Mancunian, were seemlessly sewn into the plot. In the original Tom Price was a wisecracking Welsh homeless man of dubious morality, (played by Talfryn Thomas) in the 2008 version Max Beesley's Tom was a violent prisoner who escapes from his prison full of dead by killing the only other survivor there, a Prison Officer. This adds an extra element of danger and drama to the plot - without totally demonising the Price character (his murder of the prison officer was in response to his plan to lock him up in a food store that would have resulted in Price's almost certain death.) Max Beesley must feel he is getting typecast in plague scenarios - his last major BBC role was in another excellent drama on BBC1 - The Last Enemy - also set in a nightmare future.
The important dialogue that Abby has with the outdoor pursuits worker she meets when searching for her son, (a dialogue that points out the nature of the situation they are in and implies a criticism of the distance most people in advanced economies now have from an understanding of nature or basic practical and technical skills needed to survive without ready long-term sources of oil or electricity, food or tools) was also kept in from Nation's 1970s original and seemed if anything even more relevant today given talk about Peak Oil and the increased dependency of most of us on electrical and electronic gadgetry in our everyday lives. Someone involved in the new series said that in the original there was no dependency on mobile 'phones, cars were much easier to break into and start and fuel was much more easily accessed through siphoning or manual emergency pumps - modern security and pumps would make getting fuel a much more dangerous affair, as demonstrated explosively in the first episode of the new version of Survivors.
Hopefully the series might make some of us think a bit more carefully about our resilience in a potential crisis situation - lack of resilience in the UK being illustrated by the rapid effect of the year 2000 fuel blockades.
New elements in the 2008 Survivors are the inclusion of a junior Government Minister and a scene at the end which adds a novel element in keeping with the paranoia of our times!
I await further episodes with interest.