Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 1 ("The Fourth Horseman")

I announced last week my intention to work on a weekly commemoration of the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" series. Survivors was television series about a group of people who've banded together following a devastating viral outbreak. Society has crumbled and they must relearn the old ways if they have any hope of surviving much longer. It was a great series with loads of potential.

Every apocalypse has its beginning. "The Fourth Horseman" was the title of Episode #1 of Survivors. We first meet Abby Grant (played by Carolyn Seymour), a middle class housewife who lives an affluent life out in the countryside. She has a husband named David (who works out of London), a son named Peter (who happens to be away at boarding school when the sickness begins), and a maid named Mrs. Transon. Abby starts out the episode practicing his tennis skills on their personal court when Peter calls from school. She learns that the school has been quarantined because of the sickness that's been cropping up recently in the news lately. A few of the boys have come down with illness, but they're mostly enjoying the adventure of interrupted classes. Peter assures his mother that he will be fine.

Abby Grant
Meanwhile, Abby is due at the train station to pick up her husband. Mrs. Transon asks for some time away to check on her sister. She had been feeling ill and now she's not answering her phone. Abby tells her to set her mind at ease. They run across Dr. Bronson on the way to the station. He advises Abby that he plans to stop by their home later this evening to administer this new vaccine. It's supposed to help with the disease. It seems that he's treated a couple dozen locals, but he expects that it will blow over soon.

Abby learns that the trains out of London are consistently running late. She listens to the car radio while waiting for her husband. She hears about power outages in New York City and work shortages all throughout England. We viewers notice that she appears feverish. And she's absent-mindedly rubbing some sort spots under her arms. She gradually falls asleep in her car.

We then shift over to London, where we meet Jenny Richards (played by Lucy Fleming). She is caring for her ailing roommate in their shared apartment. The phones aren't working and she has been unsuccessful with her efforts to connect with any doctors. She eventually decides to run over to her GP office to get help.

Jenny Richards
Abby is eventually reunited with her husband David. He frustratingly tells her how it took him 6-7 hours to get home from London. The trains out of London were completely stalled, which forced him to catch a ride with someone else, followed by a bus ride, followed by a secondary train ride. They finally get home, where he tells her that London is pretty much shut down. In fact, he has heard rumors of millions dead in China. The phones aren't working, nor is the radio. While preparing supper, the power goes out. David predicts that things will get sorted out soon enough. Plus, being in the country, they should be better than most.

Back in London, Jenny finds the streets a mess. People are lining up in the hospital waiting for their vaccinations, but she learns from her roommate's boyfriend Andrew (a doctor at a London hospital) that those shots are basically placebo. The hospital is filled beyond capacity by the sick and dying and it will be a while before he can look at Pat. Jenny agrees to help out at the hospital while she waits.

Hours later, they later find Pat's body at their apartment. Andrew reveals to Jenny that they have only managed to save one patient out of hundreds who has contracted this disease. He reveals that it takes about six days for the disease to run its course. He's been observing Jenny and noticed that she has none of the symptoms of this disease. He advises her to get out of London before things get too bad. He says that he's already sick and should die within 2-3 days. He tells her that London will be a cesspool of the dead soon. If she remains in the city, she will be contending with other diseases like cholera and typhoid. He tells her to pack her suitcase and get out of town tonight.

Back in the countryside, David realizes that Abby is sick. He rushes to find Dr. Bronson. He too learns that everyone is sick or dying -- including Dr. Bronson's wife. He grudgingly promises to check on Abby eventually.

Meanwhile, Jenny manages to escape from London. She is attacked by a gang of thugs early on. She manages to get away from them without injury. But it serves as a good warning that she needs to be careful of other people -- especially since the police force is now nonexistent. She spends the next week wandering the countryside and sleeping in abandoned cars.

A feverish Abby Grant tosses and turns in her bed for several days. Her fever eventually breaks after five days. She finds that the house is quiet and the power is still out. Most of the food in their fridge has spoiled. She grabs a quick drink before noticing David's dead body lying on the living room sofa.

She quickly discovers that the village is dead. The houses and the churches are empty or filled with bodies. She appears to be the only one living.

A lonely Jenny Richards eventually runs across a vagabond named Tom Price (played by Talfryn Thomas). Tom tell her to keep her distance. He is staying away from everyone until "the Yanks" fly over from America and save the day with their medicines. He advises her to do the same. He is surviving off canned food and snared rabbits.

Tom Price
Jenny later comes across a man out in the countryside. He has a fire and she is freezing. She discovers that he is very ill. He ends up dying overnight. She checks his bags and finds them loaded with cash. Realizing that money means nothing in this bleak new reality, Jenny dumps the pound notes on the ground and moves on.

Meanwhile, Abby rushes off in her car to check on her son Peter. She discovers a school filled with dead boys and teacher. She does discover one survivor there, a deaf headmaster. He tells her that Peter and several other boys left the school once everyone started dying with plans to hide out within the woods. So there's hope for Peter -- a tiny glint of hope. And, of course, Abby is going to hold onto that hope within every ounce of strength.

The headmaster shows her their ham radios. He tells her that he has been listening to it for days. This horrible illness is everywhere. No place on Earth was safe. He says that humanity's few survivors will need to relearn all of the "old ways." He points out that people can scavenge from shops, but that's only a stop-gap. Eventually, we will need to relearn how to do everything. How to plant and harvest. How to create tools. How to make candles. How to heal from our illnesses and to mend our injuries. "We're of the generation that landed the man on the moon and the best that we can do is talk about making tools out of stone."

He tells Abby that he does not believe that he will make a good survivor. The batteries for his hearing aid will eventually expire. After that, he will be totally deaf.

Abby returns home. She showers and cuts her hair. She then douses her husband with gasoline and burns down her home in a brilliant funeral pyre. She then drives off in the darkness with the goal of finding her missing son.

And that is how "The Fourth Horseman" ends. Most of these survivors will gradually connect with each other, but not right away.

Next week will explore Episode #2 ("Genesis"), which will introduce one new series regular.

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