Apocalypto now, redux

Survivalypto

Maybe it’s the low grade fever I’m feeling, but it seems like now would be a great time to rebroadcast my love for the BBC’s Survivors, since every day Mexico City feels more and more like a location shoot for 28 months laterApparently season two begins filming in Birmingham next month, too, which is timely.  For those who missed it in December, season one is set to air on BBC America at some undisclosed point later this year.

So, Survivors is another remake of a post-apocalyptic drama originally hailing from the 1970s.  The trend, I think, prompts some questions: is there something in the current global political climate that has anglophones reshuffling old Cold War apocalypse fantasies?  What about science fiction as a genre makes it so ripe for geopolitical allegory?  Is the new Star trek movie going to be a lionization the Bush family or what?  Is David Simon the only homeboy out there with the chops to tell a political story sans allegory?

My general anglophilia aside, the British series is much more restrained (not to mention more satisfying) than its bombastic American cousin. Whereas Americans tend to disguise our fears as genocidal robots and rocket them off into deep space, Survivors orbits a bit closer to home, suggesting deadly viruses and greedy transnational corporations as more proximate harbingers of the apocalypse.  Although the first season makes explicit reference to a vaguely Abramsian (and hopefully not Prison-breakian) conspiracy responsible for the outbreak of the virus, the science fiction element of the British series (at least in its 2008 incarnation) seems to have been confined to that first episode.  And, as I mentioned, even that particular plot point isn’t so far-fetched.

"Por culpa de este pinche esqüincle!"
"Por culpa de este pinche esqüincle!"

The main appeal of the series for me — and I felt the same way about the first season of Lost — is its escapist fantasy of re-building society ex nihilo.  By way of comparison, there were admittedly some rocky moments for the post-Caprican military dictatorship on BSG, even a failed revolution or two, but never any good faith consideration of, say, a socialist model of rule, or even a proper democracy.  I haven’t seen any of Adrian Hodges’s earlier projects, but I have to assume — especially given the Samantha Willis subplot — that Survivors will lean more toward the dystopia of Lord of the flies than the triumphant militarism of BSG.

– J.C. Freñán

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4 thoughts on “Apocalypto now, redux”

  1. It’d seem that the prospect of total financial meltdown (if that hasn’t already happen) might have something to do with all things apocalypto, but then again, this has been a trend for a while. Jericho, a 2007 show, dealt with cold war fantasies as well, long before the stock market collapse. I’m with you on the appeal of watching the society rebuild from scratch (and that was the main appeal of Jericho). But that’s also why Deadwood, which dealt with similar themes, was a step above the rest; it was about the construction of modern American society, as we know it, and had to reckon with all the dirty, racist, misogynist, greedy (the list goes on) forces that helped build the country. It didn’t need a fantastical pandemic or nuclear fallout to generate questions about the nature of democracy, social relations, etc. But then again, the other side of the apocalypse narrative is the past, and the characters coming to grips with what about society had led to all that destruction.

  2. ‘Deadwood’ is really in another league, though, than allegorical disaster shows on network TV. I guess both Davids have the chops to be political without being allegorical, as such.

    I think what I was trying to get at, most broadly, is that the value of network trash is in the escapism; the more viable the escapism is, the more effective. Ergo, ‘Survivors’ FTW!

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