Survivors – Spoil of War


Spoil of War adds another four characters to the growing community at the Grange.  At times it does feel like new people are just being added into the mix for the sake of it but some initially unpromising arrivals, such as Arthur, do later turn out to be useful people.

First to arrive is Paul Pitman (Chris Tranchell).  He’s previously lived in a commune and is an expert on self-sufficiency.  He can’t resist telling Greg that he’s doing everything wrong (which obviously doesn’t endear him to Greg, who resents his interference).  Paul is self-aware enough to realise this.  “I know what you’re all thinking. Who’s this long-haired git, coming here, telling us what to do. What does he know about it?”

But it doesn’t alter the fact that he talks a lot of sense, especially about how they need to rotate their crops.  It’s clear that the others, although they’ve started with a great deal of enthusiasm, lack specific knowledge and Paul will be (if they can persuade him to stay) a valuable asset.

At first, it doesn’t seem that the next arrivals, Arthur Russell (Michael Gover) and Chairmian Wentworth (Eileen Helsby), have a great deal to offer.  Neither seem cut out to be survivors – Arthur was a businessman and appears to lack even the most basic of practical skills, whilst Chairmian was his secretary before the death and is content to still tend to his every need.

Whilst Chairmian would remain undeveloped (she would be one of the surplus characters to perish in the fire at the start of series two) Arthur would over time transform into a wise and resourceful man who would remain until late in the second series.

The fourth new recruit is by far the most unlikely.  Greg’s been working on a tractor with little success and this reminds him of the tractor at the quarry, where he met Vic and Anne. In addition to the tractor, the pair had gathered a substantial amount of supplies. He sends Tom and Barney to find out if the supplies are still there – but when they don’t return, Greg and Paul venture out to find out what’s happened to them. When they arrive they’re pinned down by what seems to be several gunmen.

In turns out that Vic’s still alive and has rigged up a number of guns to defend himself.  Initially suspicious, Vic eventually believes Greg when he tells him that he thought he was dead.  Due to his useless legs he’s been unable to leave the portakabin in the quarry, but the plentiful food supplies have kept him alive.  He’s reluctant to leave since he still believes that Anne will return and he wants to extract his revenge on the woman who abandoned him.  Greg is eventually able to persuade him (and you do get the feeling that Anne, like so many other characters, will be irresistibly drawn towards the Grange anyway) so this swells the community even more.

Returning to discover Vic’s fate, who we haven’t seen since episode two, is another sign that Survivors has a strong serial element – which is something that rewards regular viewers.  Also, Chris Tranchell as Paul is a strong addition to the series and it’s a pity that his unhappiness with the scripts ensured that he left early in series two.

As with the next story, this was written by Clive Exton (under the pseudonym M.K. Jeeves).  The use of a pseudonym indicates that Exton was unhappy with the way his work reached the screen, but there’s nothing obvious to indicate why.  Spoil of War is another solid character-led episode that may not be too significant in itself, but does lay the ground for events later on.

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