Sunday, 23 November 2008

Any survivors?

This evening I sat up with Isla and we watched the first episopde of Survivors, the remake of the sevinties drama by Terry Nation. This drama tells the story of a group of people who survive a rapid and near universal plague that wipes out most of the world's population.

This episode predictably focussed on the arival of the plague and the death of most of the UK population. It began with some fairly obvious links to a genuinely possible flu pandemic which had clearly been picked up from the various documents that have been produced about this. Fairly soon society was in collapse and the end 
was in sight. The lights went off and when the sun rose again there was no-one left.

It's interesting to see this apocalyptic vision resurface after 30 years. Last time there were a whole stream of "empty earth" scenarios inspired by nuclear war or scientific disaster. Even then there was a sense that mother earth might kick back against human foolishness and kill us off before we cause too much

During the past decade or so we have had alien invasions (fear of the stranger) and tecno-thrillers (fear of our own ignorance) but very few genuine "empty earth" stories. The clossest thing to them have been zombie stories in which most of the population are reduced to mindless consumers who will do anything to satisfy their own urges...

Perhaps now that the consumerist society is teatering on the brink of collapse it may be time to revisit the "empty earth" scenario again. What is the purpose of human beings? What holds society together? Why do we need each other? What are we if we are not consumers - or on the run from agressive consumption?

These are genuinely interesting questions to ask - but where will Survivors go with them? The first episode was appropriately meladramatic with lots of death and loss. Otherwise it was, unfortunatley, a bit dull - and killing of Martha Jones after the first twenty minutes will have disapointed a few fans. Perhaps the most interesting moment was the final thrity seconds when, in true Lost style, we were given a brief hint that all may not be quite as straightforward as it first appears with the introduction of the mysterious lab... Will this be any good? Who knows - but I suspect it won't be the last "empty earth" that the media visits over the next few years...

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