Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 22 ("The Chosen")

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

Today's episode featured Charles and Pet as they traveled home from a supply source for Whitecross' salt. They took shelter in a random barn and ended up meeting up with a pair of ragtag travelers named Kim and Nancy. Kim has a serious limp and Nancy is mute. Both of them obviously shell-shocked. It seems that they were living in a town before being chased off. Nancy shut down after her baby got eaten by rats. Now they just wander the countryside scavenging for food and shelter.

Charles and Pet allow the two to stay the night with them. However, both become violently ill during the night. It seems like they contracted some sort of food poisoning. They load the pair into a wagon and go to a nearby settlement for assistance.

They receive a severe greeting -- a rifle and a stern warning that they should move on. Pet offers to barter their salt for access to the community's quarantine center. Unfortunately, we discover that
Kim and Nancy had been eaten grain laced with some sort of poison. Nancy dies on her own. Kim is euthanized by one of the guards.

But Charles and Pet get a warm shower and a meal, so they're content to hang around for a while! In fact, Charles ends up spending time with one of the community's leaders, a sub-commander named Joy Dunn. She tells Charles that they live in some form of kibbutz. There are no individuals families. Instead, they follow a supreme leader named Max Kershaw and practices a strict for a natural selection and eugenics. Additionally, they are against trading with communities such as Whitecross.

It's only because of Charles' salt that they allow him to speak with the community's ruling Council. Against Pet's better judgment, Charles insists on speaking with the community's leadership in order to get them involved with his trade federation.

Max Kershaw & His Ruling Council
He finds a community that is fanatically devoted to Max Kershaw and his belief that they are God's chosen community. The old ways led to slopping breeding, which led to intellectual inferiority. Charles and the people of Whitecross represent the old failed ways. They are the new way.

Charles demands the opportunity to share his views of mutual cooperation, love, and compassion to the rest of the community. They initially agree, but then Dunn convinces Kershaw that Charles cannot be allowed to speak. She tells him that she is among the people more than he is. They are unhappy with the community's strict rules and discipline. Allowing someone like Charles to speak to them will only break apart the community.

Kershaw sneaks into Charles' and Pet's quarters that night and instructs them to sneak out. Dunn later arrives and tells them that they will be executed if they leave. She encourages them to stay and for Charles to shares his views. Charles agrees.

Did I mention that Dunn knows how to play people like a fiddle? The meeting starts out well, but Charles doesn't really know what's he's got himself into.

This was his lead. "I think you're too extreme and also that you're dangerous!" This is when Dunn begins summarizing his beliefs that eugenics and euthanasia is wrong. He doesn't even seem to be aware that he's allowing himself to get drawn into Dunn's rhetorical trap!

After criticizing the essentials of their community after spending one day with them, Charles then has his chief goal (i.e., inter-community collaboration) criticized.

And here is where Charles really messed up in this episode. He entered into dialogue completing criticizing the building blocks of their community. Instead of accepting the reality of their "group family" system of community, he railed against it. He could have spent time focusing on their need for salt and medical care and used that as a tool for inter-community cooperation. Over time, they could have established a relationship of understanding and possibly have influenced them to become less devoted to their group family structure. They could have gradually encouraged the community to become less militant when it came to security and discipline.

But it's all or nothing when it comes to Charles Vaughan!

Because of his approach, he allowed Kershaw to use Charles' act of charity -- bringing the dying Kim and Nancy to the settlement -- against them. He could have introduced a deadly illness to the chosen, after all! Was this part of a plot to disrupt and overthrow the community? How do you defend yourself against such accusations when you are criticizing and trying to overthrow the building blocks of the community?

Fortunately for Charles and Pet, Dunn wasn't after them. She was after Kershaw. She began deftly turning the rhetorical screws against Kershaw. She was able to reveal and prove incidents of corruption and extreme leadership, including accusations that he planned to kill Charles and Pet for simply disagreeing with their policies -- even though this had been suggested by Dunn herself!

She ended up assuming control with the support of their community. Kershaw was discredited. And Charles and Pet were allowed to head back to Whitecross unmolested -- after abandoning their salt!

I actually enjoyed this episode. I always enjoy seeing how the various settlements regroup and govern. But Charles comes off as a bit of a dunce in this episode. His desire to prove himself correct in a debate about political structures really overwhelmed the practical goal of his own community (i.e., trade and defense relations). I understand that "Survivors" the TV show is about fleshing out these debates, but it's hard not to shout at Charles sometimes!

Next week's episode returns us to Whitecross. It's called "Parasites" and it features a familiar face to all of you old school "Doctor Who" fans!

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