A plague of global proportions. Anarchy in the streets. The collapse of government and the rule of law--perhaps even the end of civilization itself!--followed by the rise of tyranny and vigilantism. There's heavy stuff happening in Survivors
, a British sci-fi drama offered here with all 12 episodes from its first two (and so far only) seasons on five discs. Although it shares a title, original writer (Terry Nation), and several character names with a mid-'70s series, this is apparently not a remake. But the basic idea, detailed in the 90-minute pilot episode, is the same: Present-day Britain has fallen prey to a particularly nasty influenza virus. Within days, it's clear that the disease won't be easily contained; within a couple of weeks, at least 90 percent of the population has died from it, not merely in England but across the planet. As the world as they know it quickly falls apart--no electricity, no communications, no mass transit, no readily available medical care--and those who survived due to immunity start to sort themselves out, the show narrows its focus on one disparate and distinctly multicultural group: Abby (Julie Graham), the de facto leader, who's determined to find the son she's convinced is still alive; Tom (Max Beesley), who was doing time for robbery and murder when the virus struck; Anya (Zoe Tapper), an attractive young doctor; Greg (Peterson Joseph), a would-be loner whose life had already been falling apart; Al (Phillip Rhys), a rich, lazy ne'er do well; and Najid, a devout, 11-year-old Muslim.
The remaining episodes follow this core bunch as they cope with their strange new world--a world in which, as Tom puts it, "we make our own law now." These are people we come to know and, for the most part, care about--especially Abby (one of the very few who contracted and then somehow recovered from the virus) and Tom (whose violent ways make him both an invaluable protector and the object of much mistrust). Other major and minor characters come and go, including various bands of outlaws, thieves, and such, led by religious zealots, power-hungry criminals, greedy entrepreneur types planning to cash in once things return to normal, and so on; there are a few good guys along the way, too. The bigger picture is addressed as well, as a surviving minister (Nikki Amuka-Bird) attempts to put the government back together (using increasingly drastic and outrageous methods) and a sinister band of scientists conduct Mengele-like experiments in their search for a vaccine. It's not all brilliant--some of the hour-long episodes move very slowly (by and large, season 2 is faster paced and more exciting than the first), and there are some mawkish, overly melodramatic scenes. But the central themes (Are people basically good, or evil? How would we cope in a world without civilization?) and characters are enough to make for very compelling viewing. --Sam Graham