This month we take a look at the 1999 ITV post-apocalyptic drama, The Last Train, in which the passengers of a commuter train wake up decades after a meteor has hit the Earth shattering civilisation.
The Last Train was a six-part drama on ITV in 1999 that followed the passengers of a commuter train who wake up to find England a very different place. An accident onboard the train bound for Sheffield results in the passengers being cryogenically frozen and wake they finally wake up it is decades later and England has been left devastated by a meteor strike. On board the train was Government Scientist Harriet who is desperate to reach a location known as “the Ark”, a top secret government project. The other passengers on the train decide to travel with Harriet to “the Ark” but on the way they encounter other survivors of the meteor crash and they realise that life in post-apocalyptic England is harsh and deadly!
The working title for the series was Cruel Earth and the serial aired under this name in Canada and America. Unsurprisingly the series, due to its post apocalyptic nature, was compared to the 1970s series Survivors by Terry Nation. The cult series dealt with a small group of people who survive a flu virus that wipes out most of the population. A highly regarded episode of Survivors revolves around the group returning to London which is over run by wild dogs; The Last Train features the passengers exploring a deserted Sheffield where they encounter wild dogs. However, in the case of Survivors it was a plague that wiped out most of the population not a meteor nor was there a conspiracy theory running through the drama – with The Last Train there was. It was suggested that the Government knew the meteor was heading towards Earth and that “the Ark” was set up for the privilege few to escape the apocalypse.
Interesting, and somewhat ironically, the recent BBC “re-imaging” of Survivors has some similarities to The Last Train in respect of the presence of a conspiracy. In the “re-imaging” a flu virus once again wipes out most of the world’s population but whereas the original series didn’t touch upon how the flu was released or why the remake does. The remake reveals the virus was genetically engineered and when released scientists didn’t try and contain the virus or stop the spread of it. Instead those who knew about it – and how deadly it was – fled to safe locations around the world taking people of importance with them.
The Last Train was written by Michael Graham who would later co-create Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes for BBC One. The two drama’s, both connected to each other, feature a character waking up in an unfamiliar setting – someone out of there time. A concept perhaps reused by Graham from The Last Train was the passengers wake up to find themselves decades out of “their” time. Graham also created the short-lived archaeological drama Bonekickers which also included a conspiracy theory running through it – the sword and the hunt for it not just by the “heroes” of the drama but also a mysterious organisation.
Amongst the cast of the six-part series was Zoe Telford, Nicola Walker, Amita Dhiri, James Hazeldine, Christopher Fulford, Sacha Dhawan and Steve Huison. The series was filmed in around Manchester with some filming taking place in North Wales. Fox bought the American rights for the series intending to remake it. The proposed series was to be renamed The Ark but the remake never progressed beyond the pilot stage and has not been developed since. The Last Train has not been known in America as of 2009 because of the planned Fox remake. The series has been repeated in the UK on the Sci Fi Channel but has yet to be released on DVD.