Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 2 ("Genesis")

This is the second in a series of blog posts dedicated to the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" television series. Survivors followed a core group of characters who managed to survived a devastating viral outbreak -- one which managed to kill off somewhere between 95-99% of humanity. Society has crumbled and they must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

Our first chapter showed us how society ended. This second episode -- titled "Genesis" -- offers us the start of a new beginning.

At the end of our last episode, Abby Grant created a dazzling funeral pyre for her dead husband within their home. She drove off with a single mission: find her missing son. She awakens one morning from her mobile camp to the sound of a passing helicopter.

The helicopter is piloted by a man named Greg Preston (played by Ian McCulloch). He was in Holland when the plague hit working as an engineer. He flew back to England to check on his wife, Jeannie, and finds her dead within their home. It doesn't look like it was a happy marriage. After a brief period of mourning, he loads up his vehicle and takes off to search for the next chapter in his life.

Greg Preston
We briefly catch up with both Abby and Jenny Richards. Both women are alone and desperately seeking respite from their forced solitude.

Meanwhile, Greg runs across a posh young woman named Anne Tranter (played by Myra Francis). Anne pleads for Greg's assistance. She has set up a base of operations with another man down in an out-of-the-way quarry and he's become seriously injured in a tractor accident.

Anne Tranter
The machine toppled over on Anne's partner and his legs are now crushed. Greg assists her with rescuing the man and getting him into their building. Obviously, there are no medical emergency services in this dark new world. Neither Greg nor Anne have any medical knowledge, but are forced by circumstance to mend his legs as well as possible -- without the benefit of any pain medications.

Elsewhere, Jenny has her second encounter with Tom Price. He's looting clothing and trying to avoid germs. Tom is the only living person that Jenny has seen in a week. She begs him to take her with him, but he drives away without her. She ends up taking shelter in an abandoned clothing shop.

Incidentally, I absolutely love Jenny's fuzzy, purple coat. Every apocalypse needs one.

Back in the quarry, Vic Thatcher (played by Terry Scully) is writing with nothing but whiskey to dull the pain while Greg binds his leg injuries. He passes out shortly after Greg finishes.

Vic Thatcher
Outside, Greg tells Anne that he's done everything that he can for Vic. Without proper attention, Vic is likely to remain crippled for life. A stunned Anne realizes for the first time how serious things have truly begun. "It's going to be like this from now on, isn't it? Accidents! Even little things. A bad cut, burns. Almost anything, they'll be really serious." Greg further dampens the mood by pointing out that things will likely never return to normal.

Later that night, Abby drives up to a manor house. The house is lit up, but goes dark as she approaches. She is confronted in the dark by a gun-wielding man. She tells him that she's lonely and only came there because she'd seen the light. He sizes her up and agrees to let her in for some food and shelter.

Abby quickly learns that the house is completely self-sufficient. It has independent generators and water supplies. They treat her to a delicious supper of roast beef and fresh vegetables. Abby learns that her host is a man named Arthur Wormley (played by George Baker). He's a well-known union leader. He notes that people are already beginning to gather into groups. He believes that somebody will need to unite those groups for the common good. And, since that's one of his strongest skills, he's taken it upon himself to assume that mantle of leadership.

Arthur Wormley
Greg and Anne are eating canned goods back at the quarry HQ. She points out that she and Vic had spent the past few weeks gathering things -- stuff like canned goods, clothing, tools, and books. She believes that money might not have value anything, but that bartering for things will become the new currency. People will eventually work for her and Vic and will earn their keep by receiving items from her stockpile. She wants Greg to stay and assist them with this effort. He's noncommittal.

Back at the Wormley's home, Abby tells him that she plans to find her son and to settle down in a small farm somewhere. She tells him that people will need to relearn all of the old ways. She points out that we will soon run out of tools and furniture. She believes that we will need to relearn how to independently create these goods in order to survive past the current generation. Their survival, she believes, depends on their ability to become self-sufficient.

Abby is initially interested in Wormley's efforts at creating a central hub of information, as well as a basic sense of community and law and order, but has an uneasy feeling. That uneasiness is confirmed when she witnesses a shoot-out between Wormley's men and another group of survivors. She is horrified when Wormley exercises his authority to execute a prisoner. Appalled, Abby flees from Wormley's house.

Back at the quarry, Anne awakens and finds that Greg is leaving. He promises to find Vic some medicine. But this isn't where he wants to settle down. In town, he comes across Jenny. He allows her to travel with him. She is desperately thankful for the company, even if it promises to be temporary.

The two discover Anne on the highway, walking with a single suitcase. She tells them both that Vic had died while Greg was away. Greg and Jenny tell Anne to get into the car and they drive away...

... Leaving behind Vic Thatcher, who is very much alive. Anne abandoned him to his fate. Vic is last seen screaming for help from his isolated quarry HQ.

Greg, Jenny, and Anne eventually settle down within an abandoned barn that night. Jenny noticed a fire in the distance and talks Greg into traveling with her to find its source. Anne refuses to join them, preferring to remain in the barn.

Greg and Jenny eventually discover a church building. It's occupied by Abby Grant. Jenny tells her that they saw the fire. Abby tells them that she'd hoped that somebody would. She also hopes that there will be others.

And that's how our core group of "survivors" initially meets up.

I've often thought about what I would do if most people dropped dead around me. Honestly, I find myself leaning towards Wormley's desire for a central authority. Somebody who can figure out who is left behind and what skills they have -- and possibly assist with making sure that there are people with effective farming and medical skills spread out evenly amidst the survivors. Somebody who can make sure that people like Anne and Vic aren't stockpiling the remaining food while others starve to death.

Of course, Abby makes a great point when she first meets up with Wormley: "God knows, there are few enough of us left." It doesn't make sense to me to begin executing dissenters in a world that just witnessed the collective death of hundreds of millions of people. Wormley's strong-fisted martial law tactics seems horribly wrong in this context. Why not imprison looters initially until things settle a bit and people stop panicking. At least if I was with him, I could make that argument to Wormley. Or at least die trying.

Next week, we will explore Episode #3 ("Gone Away").

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