I have been a huge fan of Survivors. Not having seen the original TV series (until recently) but having seen the first series of the remake, I bought the first series and have been gripped ever since. I thought the previous series was the best yet and so there was a lot of expectations on my part hoping that this fourth series would match if not exceed the standard set by the previous series. First thing of note is that there is no Abby Grant which I was worried because I felt that Abby had become integral to the story. This series was centred around Theo played by Ramon Tikaram and the Belief Foundation.
But like the previous series, the opening story almost takes itself out of the ongoing story arc. The Old Ways written by Ken Bentley does what Cabin Fever did and it tells the story of when the Death started but from the perspective of the government. It’s all designed to introduce the character of Evelyn Piper (played by Zoe Tapper). The reaction from the internet seems to be that it was a bit of a disappointment but I think the opposite. By doing a flashback story it means that we are taken out of the current story arc and it also means we get to hear Terry Molloy again who appeared in the first two episodes of series one. It’s interesting to see how the crisis was being dealt with from the side of the people who were in a position to deal with it and shows how they were just as powerless as the likes of Greg or Abby. I thought that this was another strong story from Ken Bentley
Louise Jameson’s previous writing for the Survivors range was a very harrowing and mesmerising piece of drama with the series two episode Mother’s Courage. Here she writes For the Good of the Cause which whilst doesn’t have the same harrowing factor in it does have a lot going for it. The story has moved along some time from the events of Leaving and here Greg and Jenny visit the Belief Foundation. One of the things that makes the episode work (and the series) is the introduction of Ramon Tikaram who doesn’t make the character of Theo as predictable or easy to read as characters like Vinnie have been. Theo has a sort of passive aggressive vibe to the way that he talks to people. He does the suggesting things but making it feel like the person he was talking to was the one who came up with the idea. I thought that Jameson’s script is a god opening story and it leads well into Christopher Hatherall’s first story for Big Finish with Collision and this is the story where things start to take a darker turn. At this point I was worried that things were started to be a bit stagnemtn because there was no clear threat in the series and it didn’t seem like things were going anywhere but then I got to the final story
The final story of the series is Forgive and Forget (written by Matt Fitton) and is my favourite of the series because it seems to wrap up a lot of loose ends that have been around since series one. Such things as the fact that Jackie killed her kids in the first series is finally acknowledged and the fallout was rather light because it was more about what Jackie would think the reaction of those close to her would be when they found out and it was as expected. However the episode belonged to Fiona Sheehan who plays Molly or Hannah as its revealed. In this episode she goes into what happened to her before she was found in Series two and the terrible experiences she had and that one of the people who treated her horribly was in the Belief Foundation and instead of perhaps taking the easy approach and seeing the guy killed she decided it was better for him to have to live with what he had done.
I’ve gone until now to talk about Greg and Jenny. Having recently watched the original series on DVD, I have grown to understand the audio relationship between Greg and Jenny and found it to be a lot more important to the story than I had given it credit for. Both Ian McCulloch and Lucy Fleming do a good job of holding the fort while Carolyn Seymour isn’t in the series and Greg really stands up to Theo in his usual way and I quite liked that. I thought that Ramon Tikaram was really good in the series because there was that confusion of what we should make of him whilst knowing there was something about him. I also think that Louise Jameson deserves credit as Jackie because I always liked the character and thought that Jameson bought a nice vulnerability to it that is completely different to Leela. Fiona Sheehan really steps out of the shadow of the others as Molly/Hannah and in my mind becomes an integral part of the regular cast.
I think that it was always going to be difficult to match the previous series and overall it doesn’t. I think that the previous series was from start to finish so dramatic and I was totally immersed in the story that the fact this story seems to move at a more leisurely pace is something that means that it doesn’t quite have the impact the other series have had. That said I don’t think that this series is poor by any stretch of the imagination and I think that then its reviewed on its own merits there are plenty of things to like about it. The performances were all really good and the opening and closing stories.
The fourth series has a lot going for it and with the plot strands tied up it means that there is potential for the story to go off in a new direction. With the recent announcement that there is going to be a sixth and seventh series to follow the fifth that is coming later in 2016, it shows that a) Big Finish are confident enough in the range to plan so far ahead and b) that there are plans for the range. Roll on series 5.