Monday, April 18, 2011

Survivors - ''The Fourth Horseman''

Spoiler Level: Medium 

Survivors is Terry Nation's other claim to fame, after the Daleks and Blake's 7.  I watched the first two or three episodes back around 1994, and while I enjoyed it, it creeped my wife out too much so I never got back to it. Now that my friend Rich and I are all caught up on the DCU OVAs, I'm giving it another go.

The story, in case you're not familiar with the series, is one of our common societal fears:  that a superflu gets loose and starts wiping everyone out.  What makes Survivors stand out from other stories I've seen of this nature (such as Jeremiah or The Stand) is that it takes the entire first episode for this to happen.  We start out with life going just fine for everyone.  Oh sure, there's news of a flu epidemic, but it's mostly in other places and there's very little news of anyone actually dying of it.  But as more and more people come down with it and call out from work, things begin to start running poorly; the trains are all off schedule, the telephone lines stop working, and then areas begin to lose electricity when the power plants don't have enough people showing up to work to run them properly.

And that's another interesting aspect of this show; it's firmly set in what was then the present, ie the 70s. So when hospitals are told by the government not to release the actual numbers of how many people have started dying from it, they can actually keep it contained.  There's no internet, no cell phones, no Twitter, no way for an intern to post "over 200 dead today" and have the world know.  And with the disease traveling as quickly as it does -- about six days-- by the time people do realize what's going on, there aren't enough of them left to cause riots.  (It also makes me curious how this aspect was handled in the remake, but I won't be seeing that version for at least another 38 weeks!)

Another element that this show has over others like it is that it really drives home dependent we've become on our mechanical-based manufacturing society.  As one of the survivors points out, the resources that are left will only last for up to a generation, maybe less; once they're all gone, then who knows how to make more of even simple things, like a candle or a hammer?

So that's a big part of why I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this series; this looks to be the most realistic post-societal survival story ever.

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