With the sixth four-disc boxset of Survivors stories, Big Finish has moved the timeline for the range into the same frame as the early part of the third TV series. This hasn’t stopped them finding stories for all three central characters – Abby Grant (Caroline Seymour), Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) and Jenny (Lucy Fleming). Along with several characters of their own devising, this set is more stripped back than earlier sets, and takes time to tell good individual stories with no worries about overarching plots. It’s a welcome change of tempo and gives the writers some freedoms to express the post-apocalyptic world from several angles.
First is Beating the Bounds, Ian Potter’s first story for the range, in which Abby comes across an isolated community in her search for her son Peter. Ian draws together an intriguing and believable set of people for whom the worst thing is contact with the outside world. Of course, Abby is a believer in collaboration (and if there is any motif to this set, it’s the need to work together) and inadvertently puts herself at odds with the leaders of the community. Ian avoids some obvious twists and turns, making this a reflection on the plague, an observation of humanity and a stark reminder of how hard survival can be.
Actor Christopher Hatherall wrote the second story, The Trapping Pit, and this time it’s Jenny and Doctor Ruth Anderson (now played by Helen Goldwyn). It’s a claustrophobic struggle with brother and sister Craig (George Watkins) and Spike (Hannah Genesius) both of whom are outstanding in role. The story is almost entirely set in one location, and is a good exploration of compassion and fear. Evelyn Piper (Zoë Tapper) is also on hand to assist.
Regula Simon Clark wrote the third story, Revenge of Heaven, and we learn some of what Greg did after he took his balloon to Norway. Not explored in the TV, Greg the engineer has helped the Norwegians as they rebuild a basic society, but his planned return home is interrupted by Katherine Tanner (Julie Graham) and the chance to change the future by rescuing a Russian scientist (Tracey Wiles). It’s action packed, yet plausible with a set of well-crafted characters in a believable (and cold!) landscape.
Andrew Smith ends the set with Lockup, and the setting is Peacetown, a community built inside a prison. Here she finds a surprise, a man she first met years ago, just after the plague. A man called Greg Preston!
Andrew deserves congratulation for bringing Abby and Greg together (Abby left the TV show after series 1) and for creating yet another believable community of survivors, this time it’s a study between wanting the stability of a community yet turning a blind eye to an increasing tendency towards violence under a dictatorship. Andrew mixes brutality with moments of real hope in a story that never flags as Abby undermines the status quo in her unyielding quest for justice.
Ken Bentley directed the set was directed with his usual ear for good story telling, and Nick Briggs tackled the music while Benji Clifford did the sound design. Like most Big Finish releases, this set deserves being played on decent speakers / headphones.