Big Finish’s ‘Survivors’ box set review: Season 5 delivers some genuine shocks

Chronicling humanity’s struggle in the wake of a deadly plague, this fifth season from Big Finish brings the Survivors their greatest threat so far; the return of “the Death”.

Two years on, new lives have begun with people forming small communities and living off the land, as well as trading with others. The resurgent threat of the virus makes forces the world to darken once more, fear and mistrust takes hold again as people are forced take measures to protect both themselves and what they have built.

The story begins with Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) and audio regulars Evelyn Piper (Zoe Tapper) and Molly, now Hannah (Fiona Sheehan) and the fate of the Maythorne community, under the care of former army medic Carol Baker. As the plague returns, the disbelieving group implement quarantine measures to contain it, little knowing that the true threat resides within.

Through the subsequent episodes we follow the impact of the mutated virus, from the Wiccan settlement at Springton, neighbours to Greg and Jenny’s own Whitecross, to the happy, welcoming village of Westenby, who are on the edge of getting a working generator.

As well as following the trail of death, trying to halt the spread of the contagion, the final episode picks up on Abby’s search for her missing son Peter, who she still hopes may have survived the original outbreak. When she and Evelyn to journey Peter’s old school however, they instead uncover the site of a terrible atrocity.

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The writers on this set have all worked on the series before; Andrew Smith bookends the set with ‘The Second Coming’ and ‘Comes the Horsemen’, while Christopher Hatherall writes ‘New Blood’ and Simon Clarke (‘The Night of the Triffids’) provides ‘Angel of Death’.

While the television stars were split across the previous two runs, with Abby taking her off in search of Peter as she did on television (and this set preserves that continuity), some clever scripting brings her within touching distance of Ian McCulloch’s Greg and Lucy Fleming’s Jenny, and allows them all to participate in the same story.

Among a strong guest cast, Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who’s Madame Vastra) shines as the embittered Carol as we follow her desperate descent into deceit and murder, in her own quest for survival, across the four stories. Fellow Silurian Richard Hope also stars as Silas Broome, sometime ally and leader of Shawcross and we were particularly taken by Ekow Quartey’s performance role as Dylan, the joker who becomes a companion to Abby in her desperate quest to stop the spread of the virus.

Once again the bleak drama is backed by immersive sound design, including distressing crowd scenes and a good quantity of horses hooves, and Nicholas Briggs’ discordant score which amps up the tension no end.

Survivors offers a challenging listening experience, and this latest season continues to deliver some genuinely shocking moments, not least at culmination of the first episode. Despite its 70’s setting, it also contains some very pertinent parallels surrounding the movement of refugees, and makes us ask the question of how far we ourselves might go in order to survive.

5star

Released on Monday 21 November 2016 by Big Finish.

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