Monday, November 24, 2008
I wasn't sure that I wanted to watch Survivors on BBC last night. I was riveted to the original 1975 series - or two series, I recall, which ran till 1977 - and had recently had the joy of revisiting it on DVD. To be sure, the characters in the original now seem amazingly posh, with the occasional roughneck showing up as socially unequal, perhaps possessed of some helpful attribute but never to become a member of the inner circle, and the leading female, Abby Grant (Caroline Seymour) had the kind of cut glass accent rarely heard these days outside the Queen's Christmas broadcast, but there was a terrifying bleakness about the comfortably rural isolation of her home as she began to realise the extent of the plague sweeping the country. And I remember clearly wondering how she had the hot water in which she showered after her recovery - but at the same time I approved of the gesture which led her to cut off her long hair and appear ready for action; the resulting crop was far too elegant to be the result of an amateur hacking with scissors but the symbolism was potent.
But I did watch last night's first episode of the remake, and I enjoyed it, though it didn't really feel like the same show. The frenzied activity of the outbreak of "flu" contrasted with the distancing of much of the original, maybe in a true reflection of our interconnectedness these days (no-one Twittering about it, though - that would've been something), and the ethnic mix of the survivors so far is an obvious nod to our multi-racial present. And it wasn't long before all modern communications were wiped out anyway - taking us back to the premises of the original series. I'll be interested to see if a vicar makes himself known to all by turning round his collar as happened the first time - maybe a step too irrelevant these days?
Dramatisations apart, I was aware this time round of how much more likely the scenario felt. In the 70s, we'd just come through the 3-day week and the telly going off air at 10pm, so we were used to the idea that candles really were a poor substitute and that Things Could Go Wrong, but now, what with bird flu and such nasties, we seem to be more aware of the potential for an unknown virus to arrive at Heathrow, and this lends an edge to the drama. I found the final broadcast by the Home Secretary as the epidemic took hold strangely moving, pointing up the inability of government to do anything at all. And the news that flu jabs were merely given to stop panic rang horribly true.
I'm looking forward to the next episode (must check when it is) and then I'm going back to the DVDs. And then I'm going to indulge in some serious hypochondria ... have I got swollen glands?