Survivors – Genesis

genesis by terry nation

Last episode’s title represented Death and I like that the biblical namings have continued with Genesis – the first book in the Bible – offering us a new beginning. Can Terry Nation keep these up? I hope so, even if my own biblical knowledge may become stretched quite quickly.

If The Fourth Horseman was brutal based on the scale of the Sickness’s impact, Genesis brings its horrifying elements to an individual scale.

It feels like we zoom in to this during the opening sequence as we see a helicopter fly across the landscape before coming in to land with Greg disembarking. It’s a cracking opening shot. Greg discovers his wife’s body. I suspect he was expecting it, and we later learn he’s been under no illusions about the extent of the devastation, but he clearly still had hope and had to know.

Like Abby, he leaves his home and drives, with no particular destination in mind. Part of me is screaming at them both: that fuel won’t last forever! Stop wasting it! We’ll later realise that Abby has started to form some sort of plan and is now looking for people. Just anyone. Hence why she approaches the large country house, looking for signs of life.

It’s going to be like this from now on

We start to see what happens when the world simply stops overnight.

The deserted streets, the silence and the random lucky few all make this reminiscent of The Day of the Triffids. The BBC’s television adaption of John Wyndham’s 1951 book wouldn’t come until 1981, although there had been film and radio versions. Food, shelter and avoiding the Triffids are a focus there, but Survivors quickly confronts us with the realisation that a serious accident is now impossible to overcome.

As soon as Anne tells Greg that Vic has been trapped under a tractor I am doubtful that Vic can survive his accident. My First Aid training said that crush injury victims should not be removed if their limb has been trapped for over 15 minutes as it will result in the release of potentially lethal toxins. Leave them, call emergency services. But obviously that’s not an option here. Between Anne trying to move the tractor and then trekking out of that quarry, it seems unlikely that Greg has arrived fast enough.

anne tends to vic while he is trapped beneath a tractor in a quarry

Anne admits she knows nothing about First Aid and even though Vic is unconscious I’m shocked at how she carries his damaged legs. It looks like agony! I’m also surprised that Anne doesn’t immediately realise that the damage will have a permanent impact. Yet in retrospect, it’s evidence of the fact that she has always had other people to do everything for her, and a part of her is still expecting a mythical ‘someone’ to be able to sort this out.

greg looks down at vic in bed

I try not to be too judgemental about Anne at first, but it’s soon hard not to be. Even among RP actors, she sounds very posh. When she describes the Sickness coming, she mentions having to cope alone and that “Daddy had sent the servants away”. There isn’t a ‘because’ in the script, but I hear one. Greg is cautious around Anne. He lets her talk about her plans, referring to the “three” of them, having instantly assumed that Greg will stay with her. It’s interesting that the new feudal system Anne describes was her idea, and Vic simply seems to have been trying to hoard enough supplies to last them a lifetime. It hasn’t occurred to Anne that she should do any proper work because she obviously never has. She’s not just a spoilt rich girl; she also have the arrogance and presumption of someone brought up to believe she’s better than most other people.

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greg and anne stand outside the hut beside boxes of booze

Part of the union

All this is contrasted as we cut to and from Abby’s conversation with the union leader about forming a collective. She repeats the conversation she had at the school last episode, except now it’s her demonstrating how few practical skills modern people possess. She seems really passionate about this now and I suspect her time alone has enabled her to do a lot of thinking. I like that about her.

Arthur Wormley is passionate too – about establishing a new order of government. There is something off about him from the start and I’m unsure why Abby doesn’t twig it. He casually gestures at the dead man in front of the house, remarking about having had “a bit of bother”. How does Abby think the man died? The implication is fairly obvious. But maybe she doesn’t want to believe that the first person she’s spoken to in days is a murderer. She’s still holding on to the order of the society they have lost. Or perhaps she presumes it must have been reasonable self-defence. After all, he seems like such a friendly man and his face is pleasingly familiar.

Even after the body on the lawn, the audience are given red flags and Abby is witness to most of them. Arthur tells her that the house isn’t his – he commandeered it. Was it even empty, I wonder? We’ve only seen three men, but when the large roast is removed from the oven, Arthur tells his man to slice what they need and then give the rest to “the others”. Just how many people have they assembled to defend this fortress? Abby does eventually express her surprise at his comments, saying she wouldn’t have thought they would need any form of organised government for some time.

Arthur helps himself to another drink while abbey sits at the kitchen table

Depicting Arthur, as a former union leader, in this way is really interesting to think about in the context of 1970s’ industrial relations. While he talks about fairness and wanting to ensure everything is distributed equally among people, his actions are those of a power-mad dictator. People will need a leader, he says. They will want one. Arthur has grabbed his power and he’s abusing it. He demands others recognise his legitimacy, yet he refuses to accept the legitimacy of the “so-called colonel” whose execution he orders. Abby calls it murder and she’s accurate. He talks over the colonel, is completely unreasonable and he’s keeping hold by threats and force.

I’m so glad when Abby runs out the door. But Arthur’s arrogant demeanour as he wishes her good luck for her collective, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm, makes me think we haven’t seen the last of him, unfortunately.

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You can’t leave

When Greg leaves Anne, I do believe he is going to come back, regardless of his non-comital answer to Anne – if only due to my expectation for how storytelling works. You can see the cogs whirring as Vic calls for a drink and Anne realises that this could be her life from now on: caring for a virtual stranger who will never be fully independent again.

I believed Anne when she told Greg that Vic was dead. Her expression and her tone sold it. I presumed some time had elapsed and had not expected Vic to be able to survive for long anyway, but I wondered if he had died of his injuries or if Anne had done it. I imagined her smothering the poor man to death. Cruel, but perhaps kinder if she was going to leave anyway.

When we cut back to the living man, painfully dragging himself from the hut, I gasp in horror. The wide shots of the quarry emphasise Vic’s isolation, and we’ve now seen multiple characters travelling for days without any human contact. I want to shudder at the cruelty. He’s going to die. He’s going to die slowly in horrible pain and he’ll know that it’s happening. I’m intrigued to see how this vile, selfish woman is going to fit in to a new world order that will need plenty of cooperation and trust.

Other people

All these characters are a marked contrast to poor Jenny, who is increasingly desperate for human contact. She manages to just miss Abby and once again the Welshman, Tom Price, doesn’t want anything to do with her – he’s still convinced the Americans will sort everything out and in the meantime he’s going to make the most of driving a Rolls Royce around in a new suit. I do enjoy his glee as he steps into the car showroom.

Watching Jenny bed down for the night in the back of the clothes shop is rather sad. She’s also developed a cough, which feels a tad foreboding, yet she appeared to be immune to the Sickness so what could this be?

jenny stares at the recently extinguished and still smouldering fire

I’m relieved when she finally pairs up with Greg. She natters away in the car, saying how she always felt she was an independent person but had found she had missed people and needed them. I highly identified with this as I’d gone through the same realisation during lockdown, and at least I’d had Twitter.

Good luck

By the end we have another new beginning, with most of our once disparate characters having come together. Having mostly seen them alone, it’s hard to judge how well they will all get on. Is Abby a good natural leader? Can Greg communicate better than he has with Anne? Where do Jenny’s skills lie? Will she stand up for herself? Is Anne just doomed? I’m also intrigued to see what they will do when, inevitably, the next Arthur Wormley turns up.

abbey greg and jenny face one another in the churchyard

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