“Most of the world’s population has been wiped out by a virus. Civilization, as we know it, has come to an end. For the few survivors, every day is a fight for life. But sinister forces threaten their future.”
Right from the opening credits, you can see that a lot has changed since 1975 and the original series. I’m guessing that my watching them back to back allows for even more dramatic notice of the changes. Everything is cleaner here. The production values are light-years away from what they were. Even the disc menus reflect the higher-tech edge of the 21st century production values. The credits claim that this series is not really based on the original show, but more on Terry Nation’s novel. I never read the novel, but it appears there is some truth to that statement. The episode titles no longer have individual titles. They are merely listed as Episode One, Two… and so on. Once you begin to watch the show, you will find that you recognize many of the characters by name and, at times, circumstance, but these are not the same people at all. More on that later.
While the first series quickly got by the virus outbreak, this series lingers a bit longer on the social breakdown as it is happening. We get a look, for the first time, inside the British government and see how they are attempting to deal with the pandemic. In the original there are hints that many of the survivors had gotten sick; they just didn’t die of the disease. You get that impression when “Were you sick?” is a common question asked as you meet strangers. Here only Abby actually comes down with the disease and survives. It becomes an important plot point and makes her very valuable to anyone trying to find a vaccine for the quickly mutating virus. In the original only 1 in 5,000 survive. There are far more survivors in this version. In this show about 10% of the population survives. Going from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 10 means there are still a lot more people alive this time. That also means there are more organized survival elements as well. There is a remnant of the official government and a sealed lab studying the virus.
The new series was inspired more by the overreaction to the latest runs of Swine Flu and the near panic even that threat caused. The episode run went down from 12 episodes a year to 6. The show only lasted 2 years, so we end up with 12 episodes in this 5-disc complete series release.
Again, this show starts out with the spread of the virus and introduces us to our new core of characters. Some of the names are familiar. Abby Grant (Graham) is still the quasi-leader and is still looking for her son Peter. She is the closest in character to her 1975 counterpart. Greg Preston (Joseph) is now no longer an engineer. He really wants to be on his own, but gets caught up in the lives of the group. He was married, but his wife had disappeared with his children before the plague. There is evidence that she knew it was coming and tried to save Greg. The last character to return is the most changed. Tom Price (Beesley) is no longer the ruffian dirty old criminal. Now he has escaped from prison and is a cold calculated killer. He’s attractive to women and likes the ladies. He’s able to charm them quite effectively, while the old Tom Price was instantly repugnant to women and men alike. This core group also consists of Anya (Tapper), a young doctor who was the lesbian lover of Jenny, the only character to survive from beginning to end of the original show, who dies in the plague here. Tom’s trying to get her into bed, and there is an on-and-off relationship between them. Naj (Patel) is a young Indian boy, and Al (Rhys) bonds with the boy and becomes his friend and parent figure. Sarah (Addison) plays the usually “for herself” girl in the group. Her story parallels one from the original show when she leaves her “partner” for dead at a warehouse full of stuff.
This show has some regular bad guys. Dexter (Flanagan) is a local warlord who takes over whatever supply depots he can find. Samantha Willis (Amuka-Bird) was once the Health Minister and is the only known survivor of the official government. She attempts to put together a community and rules it with an iron fist. She will eventually team up with Dexter and become a serious problem for the survivors.
It appears that the episodes mostly follow the group’s interactions with Samantha Willis and her government. There are some episodes that look a little like things that occurred in the original series. The group encounters a coal mining operation that uses slave labor. Before too long the group ends up having to rescue two of their own. It’s a common theme in this series. There appears to be a new rescue each week. It all boils down to which member gets taken. The show also intends to incorporate a large mythology like American success stories of recent years. You know the kind: Lost, Fringe, and even the old X-Files shows. It doesn’t really fit the theme. I would have liked to have seen more of the survival elements. These guys have it a lot better than the original crew had it. They live in comfort quite a bit with plenty to eat and drink. There aren’t so many dead rabbits hanging around the kitchens. They sleep in bedrooms with fresh linen and comforters. It’s a slicker show with wonderful production values with a solid cast. Still, it doesn’t have some of the sprit the original had.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The series was shot on 35mm and the value does show through. On many discs there are only 2 episodes and never more than 3. That means you get a solid bit rate and no serious compression problems. The picture is clean and very sharp. Colors are quite natural, and the prints are in pristine condition.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is actually quite dynamic for a television series. Mostly it’s very much a dialog piece, and it is all serviced very finely indeed.
A New World – The Making Of Survivors: (26:34) Cast and crew mostly offer up a lot of philosophical talk about the concept. There are some character profile bits along with some behind the scenes footage. There’s no real mention of the original show at all.
Character Profiles: (12:24) There are three: Abby, Tom, and Greg. The actors and crew members talk give us the lowdown on each character.
Survivors F/X: (5:48) The digital animators give us a tour of the equipment and show us a couple of f/x shots. The big one, of course, is a gas station explosion in the pilot.
One of the most important differences has to do with society itself. In 2010 the lifestyle of someone from 1975 already looks primitive even when they had all of their facilities up and running. Today we would be giving up far more than a person from 1975 would have to sacrifice. They didn’t have personal computers, cell phones, video games, the internet, GPS, and Blu-ray high definition television. The leap from cozy world to nothing is a lot farther than it was 35 years ago. If they were addicted to the luxuries of their life, we’re full-on junkies to technology today. That difference more than anything else is evident from the first frame of the new series. “Welcome to the new world.“