Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 4 ("Corn Dolly")

This is the fourth 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 now those who remain must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

Our last episode ended with our core group of "survivors" (Abby Grant, Jenny Richards, and Greg Preston) getting chased from their first settlement by a team of armed "government" thugs. This episode -- titled "Corn Dolly" -- starts with them driving to Abby's burnt out home in hopes of finding her long-missing son Peter. They end up running out of petrol along the way and find themselves tramping into a nearby village for a refill. The petrol tank in Gilton is broken so Abby goes below to figure out a way of extracting what's left. It's there that she finds notice of a new settlement: "Help -- Advice -- Information --> Settlement at Maredell. Keep to 'B' Roads. Avoid Towns and Houses. Boil Water." Our group begins debating whether or not to check out Maredell while Greg uses his engineering know-how to create a portable petrol syphon.


Skipping elsewhere geographically, we meet up with the pair who are putting up the notices: Charles Vaughan (played by Denis Lill) and Loraine. They are scouting the area, searching for survivors, and creating an inventory of what's left. They run into a 12-year-old boy named Mick, who has been on his own since the Sickness killed off everyone. Mick agrees to come with them to the settlement.

Charles Vaughan
As things turn out, our two groups run across each other. They learn that Charles was an architect before the Sickness. He and his family had run a small farm in Maredell. They had raised their own hens and pigs. They had made their own bread, made their own wine, and had bottled their own fruit. His settlement now had twelve people, including four children. They had expanded to a neighboring farm and planned to become as self-sufficient as possible. He figured that he could maintain up to 30 people on his settlement. After that, they would assist additional members with creating their own settlements.

This settlement seems exactly like what Abby, Jenny, and Greg were hoping to create on their own. They agree to come to Charles' farm and see how things are working out.


It turns out that things aren't turning out so well. They return to find one member of Charles' group still standing -- a woman named Isla. It seems that they went fishing nearby and caught some catfish. Something was wrong with the fish and now everyone was deathly ill. The only reason why Isla wasn't sick is because she doesn't like fish.


Take note of Tessa, the woman in bed next to Abby. Outside of the Chinese scientist who appears at the beginning of each episode, she is the only non-Caucasian person who appears in this series -- at least in Season One. Sadly, Tessa dies shortly after this scene. In fact, Charles has determined that there is no way for them to save those who hadn't yet died from the tainted fish. So he talks Abby into helping him administer heavy doses of Morphine into them in order to hasten their deaths as painlessly as possible.


Meanwhile, Jenny, Greg, Mick, and Isla spend some time together harvesting corn for flour. It's there that the first seeds of romance are revealed between Greg and Jenny:


The group later settles down for supper and song that night. Sadly, the last of Charles' fish-eating friends passes away during the night, under the watchful eye of Nurse Jenny.


Charles pulls Abby aside and asks her to return once she returns to her home to check on Peter. She's still indecisive. He then pulls out the long-term survival plea -- which falls fairly flat as far as Abby is concerned. He wants her to have his baby:


Abby had already told Jenny earlier in this episode that those who had survived would have to begin having babies in order to make up for the generation of babies who had just died off. I am fairly confident that Abby would have returned to Charles' settlement after returning to her home. I am fairly confident that she probably would have begun "repopulating" soon enough -- with or without Charles. But he came on too fast, too strong. And instantly pushed Abby away permanently.

Loraine witnessed this whole exchange and made a point of telling Abby that she was carrying Charles' baby already. Abby reveals that poor Tessa had also been carrying Charles' baby. Then we learn that Isla is also pregnant. And we learn later that another of the dead women was also pregnant with his unborn baby. Charles was very serious about sowing his oats!


The next morning, Jenny reveals that she plans to leave with Abby. And, of course, Greg plans to leave with Abby because Jenny plans to leave with Abby. Charles begs Jenny to stay behind and, calling upon the symbolism of the Corn Dolly, a local fertility object. He asks her to get pregnant as soon as possible. She could even choose to breed with Greg instead of him, if she wants. He's pretty generous that way.


Once again, too much, too quickly. The episode ends with our group of survivors driving off towards their next adventure.

Earlier in this episode, Charles shared his belief that roughly 10,000 people are still living in the British Isles. Assuming that his estimates are correct, that means that the Sickness killed much more that 1-5% of humanity. But that's assuming that Charles' estimate was correct. I do not remember exactly where I received the higher percentage number. It might have been from the 2008 "Survivors" series. But assuming that 1% of humanity survived, that would have left the British Isles with closer to 558,900 survivors.

Then again, our characters spent so much time traveling the countryside without ever seeing anyone else. Maybe Charles' estimates were much closer to the truth!


Next week, we will look at Episode #5 ("Gone To The Angels").

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