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Survivors (2008 TV series)

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8.5/10 TV

Original language(s)  English
No. of episodes  12
Genre  Post-Apocalyptic fiction
7.6/10 IMDb

Country of origin  United Kingdom
No. of series  2
Final episode date  23 February 2010
Networks  BBC, BBC One, BBC HD
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Created by  Adrian HodgesTerry Nation (novel)
Starring  Julie GrahamMax BeesleyFreema AgyemanPaterson JosephZoe TapperPhillip RhysRobyn AddisonNikki Amuka-BirdGeraldine SomervilleNicholas GleavesChahak PatelJack RichardsonEmma LowndesSacha Parkinson
Cast  Julie Graham, Max Beesley, Paterson Joseph, Zoe Tapper, Phillip Rhys

Survivors is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC. It depicts the lives of a group of people who survived a virulent unknown strain of influenza which has wiped out most of the human species. According to the producers, the series is not a remake of the 1970s BBC television series Survivors (1975–1977), created by Terry Nation, but rather is loosely based on the novel of the same name that Nation wrote following the first series of the 1970s programme. Two series were produced of the new show: series 1 ran on BBC One and BBC HD in November–December 2008, and series 2 ran in January–February 2010, ending with a cliffhanger. The BBC announced on 13 April 2010 that, due to poor viewing figures and other considerations, Survivors had been cancelled.


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The series premiered in South Africa on BBC Entertainment, in September 2009, in France on DTTV channel NRJ 12 on 12 January 2010, on BBC America in the United States on 13 February 2010, and in Australia on Channel Nine, on 21 March 2010.

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Survivors (2008 TV series) Survivors TV Series 2008 IMDb

Set in the present day, the series focuses on a group of ordinary people who survive the aftermath of a devastating viral pandemic – referred to as "European flu" – which kills most of the world's population by causing Cytokine Storms in the body's immune system. The series sees the characters struggling against terrible dangers in a world with no society, no police, and no law, led by the de facto matriarch of the group, Abby Grant.


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Sue Hogg, an executive producer at the BBC, was inspired to remake Survivors following the recent increase in concerns about future pandemics and diseases such as SARS. It was decided that the show would be a re-imagining of the 1970s material made by BBC Productions rather than an external production company. The BBC pursued the rights for Survivors from Terry Nation's estate so that the series could be revived. The agreement, which was signed in 2007, took months of negotiations. For legal reasons, the new series is billed as being based on Nation's novelisation of material from his episodes of the 1970s series.

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In remaking the series, Adrian Hodges worked to avoid criticisms of the 1970s series, and he felt it was "important that a new version had a cultural and class mix that really represented the country as it is now"; to meet this needs, they created two new characters, Al and Najid. The writers claimed that the new series retained the "spirit" of the 1970s show, but Hodges concentrated on the hope and the humanity in what was said to be an attempt to make it "less depressing" to watch.

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The city scenes in the first series were filmed in Manchester, while city scenes in the second series were filmed in Birmingham.

To help create a world with no people, some scenes were shot very early on a Sunday morning, including a sequence where Al Sadiq drives his car at speed around the city centre. Producer Hugh Warren said this approach reduced the amount of computer-generated imagery required and allowed the budget to be spent on effects such as when the city starts to flood and fires burn. Other locations included a house near Helmshore in Lancashire, which doubled as the survivors' main base, the disused Earth Centre in the village of Denaby Main near Doncaster, and the Jaguar Cars test track in Nuneaton, which stood in for deserted motorways.

The series was shot using 35 mm film. Warren said this was chosen over high-definition cameras due to the low light levels that would be experienced when filming in a world without electricity and during an autumn filming period, and over Super 16 due to high-definition transmission requirements.

The first series received a mixed critical reception, with some reviewers concerned that it is too derivative and predictable, while others were more positive. The producers were happy to have started well, survived the ratings lull in the middle, and ended with an upward curve in the last two weeks. Audience breakdowns indicate that a higher proportion of younger viewers were tuning in to Survivors than many other shows.

The second season of Survivors was delayed because of the real-life swine flu epidemic in 2009 and thus was broadcast in 2010.

Main cast

  • Julie Graham as Abby Grant. The protagonist and moral compass of the group, she's determined to find her missing son Peter, who she insists throughout the series has survived the pandemic. She strives to maintain peace and welcome new arrivals. She and Peter are found to be the only characters to have survived the virus without a pre-existing immunity, which makes them of paramount importance to a shadowy consortium of companies that released the virus and is seeking a cure.
  • Max Beesley as Tom Price. Tom Price was serving a long prison sentence at Wandsworth prison when the virus struck. He escapes after killing the sole remaining guard and makes his way home, only to discover that his mother had also died during the pandemic. Price's remorselessness and violent streak provide an element of friction within the group, though he is often proven right about the darker side of human nature. Largely through his relationship with Anya, Tom becomes quite loyal to the group. At the close of the second series (and the programme), Tom had secreted himself aboard a consortium aeroplane bound for parts unknown.
  • Paterson Joseph as Greg Preston. Greg first encounters Abby on the motorway. His original wish is to be self-sufficient and alone, but as Abby convinces the other survivors to come together he decides to remain within the group. Greg is shown to be better prepared than most to survive in this post-virus world, having immediately assembled a range of necessities. Before the pandemic kill-off, Greg's wife had left him for a civil servant and had told Greg she was visiting Boston. At that point, she and their two children vanished. Greg later discovered that his wife possibly knew about the virus before the outbreak and might have escaped it.
  • Zoe Tapper as Dr. Anya Raczynski. Anya was a doctor in a busy city hospital when the virus struck and watched hundreds of patients die of the virus, including her friend and lover Patricia Kelly, and Patricia's flatmate Jenny Walsh. After treating a badly wounded Tom on the road, she joins the group. She privately discloses that, in the face of the pandemic, her faith in practicing medicine was deeply shaken, and she had initially sought to kill herself. Only later does she regain her confidence to successfully deliver a breech birth infant.
  • Phillip Rhys as Al Sadiq. The son of an immensely wealthy man, Al lived a life of leisure before the pandemic and has had difficulty adapting to a life without modern conveniences. He finds Najid alone in the city and soon develops a paternal relationship with the boy. He had a close relationship with Sarah and grows despondent when she dies from a mutated strain of the virus near the end of the second series. He volunteers for the experimental vaccine and survives.
  • Chahak Patel as Najid Hanif. Najid is an 11-year-old Muslim boy. He awakens in a mosque to find the entire congregation, including his parents, dead. He meets Al, and the pair joins the group. He had relatives in Blackburn but doesn't know if they survived the pandemic. Shown to be a friendly, considerate child, Najid is adopted into the group with the most ease and forms especially close bonds with Abby and Al.
  • Robyn Addison as Sarah Boyer. Before the virus, Sarah was an opportunist, manipulating men into supporting her. She joined the group after meeting Greg and eventually began a relationship with Al. After stumbling upon an elderly couple with a new strain of the virus she was quarantined, but was infected and died.
  • Supporting cast

    While some characters were emphasised in the BBC promotional material, such as Freema Agyeman, most only appeared in the first episode as perishing during the viral pandemic.

  • Nikki Amuka-Bird as The Rt Hon Samantha Willis MP. One of the main antagonists of the first series, Samantha – formerly the Junior Minister responsible for the government's media response to the virus – is the sole governmental official remaining. She moves into a small ecopolis, and seeks to establish a provisional government and restore order. Abby notes that Samantha's methods are harsh and, ultimately, corrupt. This is signified, for example, by Samantha's killing a woman found guilty of invading the ecopolis to steal food as well as by her overruling a jury's finding of innocence and giving the prisoner over to slave labour. She eventually forms a doomed alliance with Dexter, a violent gang leader who had been threatening her community.
  • Anthony Flanagan as Dexter. A vicious thug whom the group initially encounters while foraging for supplies. He claims grocery stores and later warehouses as part of his turf. Later he joins with Samantha's provisional government, seeking to eventually assume leadership of it. Cold and ruthless, he is killed by Tom, to whom Samantha has promised an opportunity to "escape", in return for his eliminating Dexter, who was a threat to her power.
  • Nicholas Gleaves as Dr. James Whitaker. Whitaker served as the main antagonist of the second series. He is a biochemist leading the research into a cure for the virus from the safety of a biologically secure research & development facility. As the research begins to require increasingly unethical practices, he lies and rationalises in the struggle to maintain the loyalty of his colleagues. Unbeknownst to the other workers (all of whom had lost loved ones in the pandemic), he had secreted his wife (portrayed by Alisa Arnah) and young son within the facility, violating protocol. His true motives are suspect, as he answers to someone called Mr. Landry, with whom he communicates over a satellite video link. Until his death he was using stolen anti-virus produced from Abby's blood for himself, keeping it from the others, who died when the virus got into the lab after Abby infected his wife. At the end of the second series, he is accidentally shot and killed by a sniper in Landry's employ.
  • Christopher Fulford as Henry Smithson. A former Oxford professor of Classical History, he has found a new career in managing forced slave labour at an old coal mine near the country manor where he has taken up residence. He was last seen begging for mercy while being beaten to death by the workers released by escaped slave Tom.
  • Roger Lloyd-Pack as Billy Stringer. An artic driver who kidnaps people he "befriends" along the road to work as slaves in Smithson's coal mine, in exchange for food and lorry fuel. Tied up and left in the woods by Tom, he is subsequently freed by Peter Grant, one of the children he had been transporting in the back of the truck. Pack is the only actor who appeared in the 2008 version who also appeared in the 1970s series; he played Wally in the Series 2 episode of the 1970s programme, titled "Lights of London" (1976).
  • Patrick Malahide as Mr. Landry. Part of a company which specialises in pharmaceutical research, which Whitaker was also once a part of; the pair would meet occasionally over a satellite video link to discuss further advancements. The group, following the details on a mysterious postcard, finds Landry, who admits that the virus is a genetically-engineered attempt to discover a universal cure for all known forms of influenza; it failed and escaped into the populace, creating the pandemic. Landry plans to take Peter Grant to a place where civilisation had been established months before, but is offered the newly created vaccine as an alternative. At the end of Series Two, he is heading back to this place via aeroplane.
  • Jack Richardson as Peter Grant. Abby's young son. Unseen during the first series, he is unknowingly set free from Billy and a group of children his age. Billy finds him again and takes him to Dr. Whitaker, who uses him to find a cure for the virus (he inherited his mother's ability to fight off the infection). He is reunited with his mother at the cliffhanger ending at the close of the second series.
  • Freema Agyeman as Jenny Walsh. A young primary school teacher who lived with Patricia and was good friends with Anya before the virus, who dies shortly after discovering the true power of the disease. She appears in the first episode of Series One.
  • Shaun Dingwall as David Grant. Abby's husband and Peter's father. When Abby contracts the virus and collapses, David cares for her until he believes that she has succumbed to the virus. When she awakens three days later, she discovers that David died from the same flu that almost claimed her life.
  • Sacha Parkinson as Kate. Greg and Tom see a helicopter flying over and they also encounter an uninfected family who have been isolated since the onset of the virus but when the family's daughter (Kate) reaches out to them, she risks infecting them. She appears in the third episode of Series One.
  • Series 2 (2010)

    A second series of six episodes was commissioned and began airing in January 2010. Adrian Hodges returned to oversee the project, and Julie Graham, Paterson Joseph, Zoe Tapper, Philip Rhys, Robyn Addison, Chahak Patel, and Max Beesley returned to their roles for the next series.

    The cliffhanger is quickly resolved, while the story of the lab plays through series two, allowing more about the backstory of the virus and the lab's direct connection with that. The production team's intention was to spend more time exploring the nitty-gritty of survival in the post-virus world and how the various characters coped.

    Filming took place in various locations around Birmingham including Baskerville House (exterior) and the former ITV Central studios (interior) standing in for a fictional hospital.

    Series 1 DVD extras and Easter egg

  • Making of featurette
  • Character profiles
  • Effects reel
  • Easter egg
  • On disc one the easter egg can be revealed by going to the main menu, highlighting episode selection then when the grey corpuscle appears press up and the corpuscle selects. This reveals around nine to ten minutes of behind the scenes footage.


    To tie in with the broadcast of the series Terry Nation's 1976 novelisation was released as a new edition by Orion Books. The 2008 series is credited as being based on this novel.

    A web site was launched to tie in with the series, entitled "Survivors Interactive", which included interviews with actors, clips from the programme and original character pieces-to-camera. The interactive component was based on visitors selecting characters from the show and then answering either/or dilemma-based questions, which are then profiled by what type of survivor they would make as they travel through the post-plague environment.

    The first series was released by 2 Entertain Video on DVD on 26 January 2009, and includes special features such as an Easter Egg, A New World – The Making of Survivors documentary, character profiles and a Survivors Special Effects featurette.

    In 2013, when the show was added to the Netflix platform, it was the highest watched program and consequently, Netflix were in contact with the BBC for discussions on continuing the program. Nothing since has been heard of this rumour.

    Classic TV Press published the book Worlds Apart: an unofficial and unauthorised guide to the BBC's remake of Survivors (March 2010), written by Rich Cross, shortly after transmission of the second series completes. The book incorporates: in depth synopses and reviews for all the episodes from Series 1 and 2; insights into the making of the series; examination of the similarities and differences between the new series and the 1970s series; a photographic guide to filming locations; and exclusive production shots.

    Differences from the source material

    In the credits, the re-imagined series is said to be based on the 1976 novel by Terry Nation; however, there are a number of differences between the series and its source material. In the novel, Jenny Richards survives, whereas her counterpart in the 2008 series, Jenny Collins, does not; this means that Greg Preston and Jenny cannot have a child as the years unfold. Abby Grant still falls in love with Jimmy Garland; however in the book, he eventually dies from septicaemia.

    There is a Tom Price in the 1970s novelisation and series. However, in the novelisation, he was a Welsh tramp who witnessed the climactic accidental killing of Abby Grant by her son, Peter. In the television series, he was an escaped convict who joined Abby's community.

    The television characters Anya Raczynski, Najid Hanif, and Al Sadiq have no direct counterparts in the book. Samantha Willis does not appear in the book, either, but her television characterisation incorporates and parallels some of the personality and leadership ambitions of the book character Arthur Wormley, a "ruthless former trade union leader," who establishes a paramilitary organisation called the National Unity Force which is responsible for Abby's community's eventual decision to leave Britain for the Mediterranean in the latter chapters of the novelisation.

    At the end of the book, Peter Grant, who has joined a nomadic gang of feral adolescents, accidentally shoots and kills Abby, whom he has not seen for the last four years. However, at the end of the current incarnation of Survivors series 2, Peter shoots but doesn't kill Tom, and Abby is finally reunited with Peter, without her accidental death.

    The television portrayal of Sarah Boyer is probably the closest character to her portrayal in the novelisation. In the book, her companion was named Vic, not Bob, and in the 1970s series, she was named Anne Tranter. Vic's fate is not revealed in the novelization, but it can be inferred that he starved to death. In the 2008 television series, Bob survives his initial abandonment. In the 1970s series, Anne (Sarah in the 2008 version) leaves during Episode 11; in the 2008 version, she dies from a mutated version of the virus.


    Survivors (2008 TV series) Wikipedia