Review by Ian McArdell
‘Crusade’ is the latest Big Finish audiobook set in the world of Terry Nation’s Survivors – a
1970s post-pandemic tale of those who lived after a virus dubbed “the Death” wiped out
much of the world’s population. Slotting into the latter part of the show’s first series, the
story is coloured by events from one of its most traumatic episodes.
In ‘Law and Order’, the community living at The Grange tried and executed a man with
learning difficulties that they genuinely believed had murdered one of their number (although it later transpired that he was innocent). With those events weighing heavily on group leaders Greg and Abby, who know the truth, ‘Crusade’ finds them welcoming new members who bring their own beliefs with them.
The story begins innocently enough with one of the children of The Grange; climbing a tree,
John falls and breaks his arm. With no medical expertise among them, the survivors are at a
loss until, as luck would have it, a double-decker bus brings a former surgeon named Lionel to their door. He is able to set the break and, in gratitude, Abby agrees for him and his fellow travellers to stay.
However, Lionel is a member of a community of religious men and their leader, a self-styled
preacher called Nathan, has some very idiosyncratic ideas about morality and religion. As the men of his sect begin to integrate into life at The Grange, simple questions about what the children are being taught soon reveal sexist, reactionary and downright fundamentalist ideas.
It’s not long before Abby, Greg, Jenny and the others find themselves caught in a power
struggle for the very soul of their adopted home.
Writer Doris V Sutherland’s story slowly ups the ante in this power struggle, as our heroes
initially make compromises and try to accommodate the insidious Nathan and his followers.
It also asks some interesting questions about faith and what might have happened to both
organised religion and religious people the post-virus world. Did the catholic church survive? What happened to all the various denominations of Christianity? What about the other religions? It would be easy to present all those who have faith as deluded or dangerous in a story like this. However, we meet a diverse set of believers who survive together but make individual choices when it comes to the crunch.
At one point in the story, Abby also considers the fates of all those in positions of responsibility within society. What happened to people who were used to being deferred to
and respected due to their status or birth right. Indeed, The Grange’s own Arthur is a person
who came to them, secretary and all, but has relaxed into membership of the community.
I particularly enjoyed the story’s focus on The Grange itself, with most of the action taking
place in and around it. While the principal trio of Abby, Greg and Jenny all have plenty to do,
that focus allows us to spend time with all the secondary characters in residence – the children John and Lizzie, Paul, Vic, Arthur, Charmian, Emma, Laura and her baby. The newcomers of Nathan’s sect are an interesting bunch too and I felt like I got to know them well as the story progressed.
Of course, this being Survivors, the story progresses into conflict before its conclusion. Men of seemingly simple faith are tipped into full-on murderous extremism in just a few simple steps. That’s all handled in a compelling manner with a tense game of cat and mouse
throughout the house.
On narration duties once again, Carolyn Seymour – Abby Grant in the show – does an
excellent job of making all the characters distinct; making not just the many and varied
residents of The Grange come alive, but the numerous newcomers too.
‘Crusade’ is another excellent, thought-provoking addition to the Survivors range and well worth enjoying across its almost six-hour runtime.
Survivors: Crusade is available on download from Big Finish.
Audio Review: Survivors – Ghosts and Demons
Audio Review: Carolyn Seymour in Conversation
Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!
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