“ Tube Talk ”
Q&A: The man behind 'Survivors', 'Primeval'
How did the new version of Survivors come about?
"It was happy timing, really. As you may know I do Primeval - and I'm still very much attached to that - but I wanted to do another show that was broadly in the fantasy genre, for a 9 o'clock audience. Something slightly tougher, more hard-hitting. I was talking to the BBC about [this] and by sheer coincidence they said, 'We have literally just cleared the rights to Survivors. What do you think about that?' It was a brilliant serendipity because it's a show that I remembered extremely well from the '70s. I said 'yes' straight away, the condition being I had to do it my own way. I didn't want to do a recreation of Terry Nation's great work, because what would be the point of that in this day and age?"
Then how do you begin to approach that project? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
"Quite quickly, yeah. You've got the bedrock of a fantastic story. There are many elements, particularly at the beginning of the original Survivors, which are frankly pretty brilliant. Things like Abby Grant (Julie Graham) being a central character, the way the virus hits, the speed and economy of the opening. Anybody in my position would say 'I'll use that' because it remains incredibly powerful, even 35 years down the line. But then what I needed to do was take a good, hard look at the characters and storylines and see which ones I felt I could update in a convincing way, and which ones we had to completely rethink."
You've introduced a new "government conspiracy" storyline too, haven't you?
"That's very much one of the things that I've brought to the table. It has a role to play in the future storytelling of the show and gradually unfolds [over the series]. There's an element of mystery that I thought would be good to bring in."
Why do you think people will tune in? Do we like seeing end-of-the-world storylines?
"It's a tricky one. I think there's a thrill in being safe at home watching these things. It's the same reason we watch horror and slasher movies, I guess. It's the vicarious thrill of seeing somebody else in a dangerous situation. We all wonder if it could it really happen. Especially a virus, which is more credible than an alien invasion. With this I'm also trying to make people think 'yeah, it was pretty bad, but what would I do in that situation?' If it puts people off and they think 'it's a nightmare, I wouldn't want to go there', then I guess I've failed. What I'm really hoping is people will identify with the characters and their struggles, then put themselves in that scenario."
With Primeval, you've spoken in the past about having a solid plan for storylines of future seasons. Is it the same case with this?
"We certainly had an arc on Primeval that we were hoping to acheive, and we have done that, by and large. On Survivors, I certainly have material taking me through to the end of the second series. There are storylines in series one that will definitely be resolved in series two, but there are storylines that definitely won't be resolved in series two but that will go on into the future if we're lucky enough to get more series."
How is filming going on Primeval series three?
"We've finished shooting, and finished post-production on three out of ten episodes. The other seven are in various stages of CGI and post, but they'll all be done in time for January, or whenever it's going to be."
How do you juggle working on both shows?
"With difficulty, at times. I've tried to be completely be on board with Primeval throughout the year, but at times I've been away doing Survivors, so the rest of the team have taken over Primeval and that's absolutely fine. Also I no longer write first drafts on Primeval. I do tend to do polishes of final scripts, but don't write the initial ones, which gives me a bit of breathing space."
But you're still part of the show going forwards?
"Absolutely. Tim [Haines, co-ep] and I are planning for a fourth series, if it is commissioned. We've already begun discussing possible plotlines for series four. It's a pretty good moment for me now, because from now until the end of the year, I have a bit of downtime to start planning both series... if they do get commissioned."
Survivors airs Sunday, November 23 on BBC One.
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