An amazing, sprawling epic, touching on some of the most powerful issues that mankind can ever face ... or ... lots of people standing around talking about crop rotation.
Survivors is the most variable TV show I have ever seen. It is either gripping, or tiresome. Its three seasons seem to have little in common with each other, and the series gradually runs out of steam (ironic, as it ends with the re-invention of the steam engine!).
The first series is the best. Beginning with the shock of The Death, and society falling apart, it moves on to deal with scavenging, trading, disease, and how to cope without electricity or medicine. Some brilliant images of deserted streets. Memorable characters, such as Emma Cohen and Tom Price, will not be bettered as the series moves on. Some stand-out episodes, including the capital punishment story everyone always remembers, make up for some of the more ordinary tales which seem to involve two groups of people waving guns at each other for 45 minutes.
With series two, Abby Grant has moved on, and nearly all the likable characters are killed off in a fire. Now in a new, less tight-knit community, the stories are more varied in quality and some quite unsympathetic.
Mina is very likable, but is thought to be a witch. It's this kind of story that reminds us how easy it is to become primitive all over again. The community gains a doctor, and the London-based two parter breaks the series' mould effectively.
It all falls apart at the end of series two when leader Greg heads off to Norway in a hot air balloon. This is the first nail in the coffin of the series.
Series three is very hard going. Having spent so long building up the new community in series two, this is barely seen and all but forgotten. The doctor is never even mentioned again. Jenny moans a lot about missing either (a) home, (b) kids, or (c) Greg. In some scenes, she moans about all three, becoming an unlikeable whining machine. Charlie rants on about forming communities and rebuilding society to anyone who will listen, almost prompting me to reach for the mute button. Hubert gets drunk and falls over (he occasionally proves himself useful by shooting people).
Charlie, Jenny and Hubert trot from one place to the next, avoiding wild dogs, trying to find Greg. It all seems a bit aimless. There's a brilliant and terrifying episode about rabies, but the third series is mostly very yawn-making. Greg seems to be setting up some kind of military rule towards the end of the series, though Heaven only knows how Norweigian Anna is involved.
The final episodes, aiming to switch on hydro-electric power-stations, makes interesting viewing, if only because they're talking about valves instead of crops, for a change. Moving from one location to the next, occasionally picking up and dropping off new faces, gives the third series far less emotional involvement than that in earlier episodes. It's a real effort to sit through some of it.
At its worst, Survivors bored me and frustrated me as characters behaved illogically and provoked arguments for no reason. At its best, it's shocking, thought-provoking and terrifying. In the first two years, the best far outweighs the worst. Towards the end, I was losing patience and sympathy. Worth a watch for the scale of its ideas if nothing else.