Abby’s quest for her son continues to be fruitless and the latest lead is possibly the cruelest blow yet. Abby, Greg and Jenny travel to an isolated farmhouse because they’ve heard that a boy lives there. When she’s told that his name is Peter, Abby’s hopes are instantly raised. She rushes out to meet him but the expression on her face makes it quite clear that he’s not her son.
Since Abby is quite a humourless, driven character, it’s sometimes a challenge for Carolyn Seymour to give her any light and shade. Garland’s War is a good script for Seymour since it gives her more to play with (and she works well opposite Richard Heffer).
Terry Nation returns to scripting duties for the first time since episode three and this episode bears all the hallmarks of a typical Nation story. It’s a direct, action-based yarn which features strongly written characters who are placed in direct opposition to each other.
Next, Abby travels to a country house called Waterhouse as she’s heard that several boys are living there. She sneaks out in the middle of the night, much to Greg’s annoyance, but he decides that it’s too late to follow her and so they’ll wait for her return. This means that McCulloch and Fleming only appear at the beginning and the end (it’s very much Seymour’s episode).
On the way to Waterhouse, Abby runs into a hunted man. They manage to escape and he introduces himself as Jimmy Garland (Richard Heffer). He’s also the Earl of Waterhouse, and he tells Abby that he’s been dispossessed of his ancestral seat by Knox (Peter Jeffrey) and his followers.
Garland is something of a cliched boys-own character, but Heffer is able to give him some depth. Unlike most of the people we’ve met so far, Garland is happy to be alive in this harsh, post-apocalyptic world. He was a solider and an adventurer and he’s quite candid in telling Abby that he was made for this time. Waging a one-man guerrilla war against Knox and his followers is therefore all in a days work for him.
There’s a definite attraction between Abby and Garland, although she is slightly shocked by his callous attitudes. When she asks him if he doesn’t feel anything for the millions of people who died, he says no – how can anybody processes the pain of such a catastrophe?
Although slightly underused until the last fifteen minutes or so, Peter Jeffrey is his usual immaculate self as Knox. Since the script was written in such a way to present Garland as the clear hero and Knox as the clear villain, it comes as a surprise when Abby meets Knox face to face and finds him to be an apparently reasonable man.
He’s able to sow several seeds of doubt in her mind as he paints Garland as someone who wants to assume his place as the lord of the manor, with everybody else effectively working as his serfs. Of course, it’s all a ruse to gain Abby’s confidence and Garland does turn out to be the man we think he is. He’s able, with the help of Greg, to extract himself from Knox’s clutches, but although Garland has lost this battle, he’s still fighting the war. This gives the story an open-ended feeling as we leave him to carry on his struggle to retain his home.
An interesting thing about the first series of Survivors is that people pop up from time to time – they might appear in one episode, not feature for a while and then re-appear. This gives the programme a different feel from many series, which are more episodically self-contained. For example, the likes of Tom Price, Vic Thatcher and Anne Tranter will all return shortly (and Jimmy Garland will be back in the series finale). This fluidity certainly works to the series’ benefit.
We’re now moving into the phase of the programme where they have a settled base of operations. For the remainder of series one it’s the Manor and in series two they join Charles’ community. This gives the show a different feel, not least because from the next episode Survivors changes to an all-VT series (there’s no filming until the second series two-parter Lights of London).
It’s a pity in a way, because we lose the glossy filmic shooting from episodes like this one (the night-time hunt for Garland through the woods, for example). But on the other hand, had Garland’s War been an all-VT production then some of the studio shots that were meant to be outside might have been a tad more convincing.
The next few episodes will see an influx of new (and not so new) characters who will swell the regular cast. Some make it into the second series, whilst others aren’t so lucky …..