The Last Train (TV series)

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The Last Train
The Last Train - intro card.jpg
The superimposed title for The Last Train at the start of episode 2
Format science fiction drama
Created by Matthew Graham
Directed by Stuart Orme
Alex Pillai
Starring Nicola Walker
Christopher Fulford
Steve Huison
Treva Etienne
Amita Dhiri
James Hazeldine
Janet Dale
Zoe Telford
Sacha Dhawan
Dinita Gohil
Ralph Brown
Caroline Carver
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 6
Production
Running time approx. 50 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV
Original run 7 April 1999 – 6 May 1999

The Last Train (Cruel Earth in Canada and America) is a British six-part post-apocalyptic television drama serial first broadcast on the ITV network in 1999. It has since been repeated on ITV2 in 1999/2001 and on numerous occasions on the UK Sci-Fi Channel. The serial was written by Matthew Graham and produced for ITV by Granada Television.

In the United States, the Fox Network purchased the rights to produce a new version of the series soon after its original UK transmission. Retitled The Ark, the idea did not progress beyond the pilot stage.[citation needed]

As of May 2013, the series has not been released on DVD or any other format, and has never aired in the US.

Plot synopsis[edit]

A random group of individuals on a train to Sheffield are cryogenically frozen when a canister of gas is released in their carriage. They unfreeze to find the world in ruins. Decades have passed, and they are some of the few humans to have survived an apocalyptic meteor strike, and are alone in the British countryside. It is revealed that one of the group, Harriet Ambrose (Nicola Walker) knew of the incoming meteor strike and had been on her way to a top-secret government project known as "Ark".

Harriet wishes to track down the Ark team to find her boyfriend Jonathan Geddes (Ralph Brown). The rest of the group agree to join her, since it seems like their best chance to find other survivors. On the way they must deal with the dangers of the post-apocalyptic world, such as feral dog packs and tribes of seemingly hostile humans.

Cast and crew[edit]

Main characters[edit]

Actor/Actress Character
Nicola Walker Harriet Ambrose, Responsible for the accidental freezing of the railway carriage. She emerges as one of the 'leaders' of the group, due to her apparent knowledge of the disaster and position as scientist at Ark. It is later established that she has no official clearance at Ark, and is simply the girlfriend of the chief scientist, Johnathan Geddes.
Christopher Fulford Ian Hart, a policeman who boarded the train in a rush to join his wife who was in labour, a wife and child he has lost in the strike, he has strong feelings for Jandra.
Steve Huison Colin Wallace, a businessman whose sanity soon begins to slip. He has feelings for Roe and subsequently tries to rape her. He deliberately locks Mick outside of Ark.
Treva Etienne Mick Sizer (Michael Smith), a thief and smooth-talker who becomes the unofficial leader of the group. He feels something for Roe, but is crucified by Hild's people.
Amita Dhiri Jandra Nixon, mother of Leo and Anita, she is escaping an abusive husband, and seeks solace with Ian. She succumbs to her injuries from falling into the refinery.
James Hazeldine Austin Danforth, a plumber (and possibly ex-electrician) who sees his wife die soon before the strike. He becomes a father-figure to much of the group, but is crucified along with Mick when Hild's people are locked out of Ark.
Janet Dale Jean Wilson, a practitioner of medicine in her spare time. She delivers the news of Jandra's death.
Zoe Telford Roe Germaine, a pregnant girl around twenty years old on the way to get an abortion. She sleeps with Mick, and ultimately saves him in the end.
Sacha Dhawan Leo Nixon, son of Jandra, a teenager with misguided anger issues. He is responsible for Jandra's death, but also rescues the group from the refinery.
Dinita Gohil Anita Nixon, daughter of Jandra, a young girl of whom the group is quite protective. She befriends Hild. Many episodes begin or end with her diary-entry narration, a trend continued by Leo in episode five.
Caroline Carver Hild, one of the other survivors, a pregnant teenager who befriends Anita and seems to care about the group. She is running from her people.

Supporting cast[edit]

Ordered alphabetically

  • Guard (Roger Bingham) - Episode 1
  • Johnathan Geddes (Ralph Brown), the man whom Harriet is seeking at Ark. They had a romantic relationship, the only time we see him is in a video recording up until the last episode - episodes 2 and 6
  • Karen (Joy Carradice) - Episode 6
  • Mark (Kenneth Colley), father of Gillian and founder of Mareby, he wants the group to stay with him and sabotages the van - Episode 5
  • Darren (Chris Cook)
  • Archie (Robert Dunn) - Episode 1
  • Danny (Justin Ellery) - Episode 1
  • Gillian (Deborah Findlay), daughter of Mark, she's had several still-born babies - Episode 5
  • Sam (John Flitcroft) - Episode 1
  • Becky (Abigail Hayes) - Episode 1
  • Teenager (Chris Hoyle) - Episode 1
  • Miss. Eversleigh (Mary Jones)
  • Coats (Josh Moran) - Episode 1
  • Behemoth (David Nicholls) - Episode 6 (not credited in episode 5)
  • Hornrim (Phil Smeeton) - Episode 6 (not credited in episode 5)
  • Midwife (Flo Wilson) - Episode 4

Episodes[edit]

# Title Director UK Airdate
01 "Episode One" Stuart Orme April 7, 1999 (1999-04-07)
On a train heading for Sheffield only Harriet Ambrose knows what is about to happen; an impending collision by an asteroid. A canister of cryogenic material is dislodged from her rucksack and spills its contents into the carriage, causing all the passengers to be cryogenically frozen. Revived some time later, the passengers emerge from the tunnel in which their train had crashed, and begin to explore a very different world. Their new environment begins to show its true nature; three of the group are lost to feral dogs, and acid rain forces the other survivors to take shelter. The last shot of this episode - only seen by the viewing audience - is that of a gravestone dated March 2012, our first sign that the survivors have been frozen for longer than their current estimate of 'weeks' – at least 13 years longer.
02 "Episode Two" Stuart Orme April 8, 1999 (1999-04-08)
The group heads into the city to find a government bunker where Harriet hopes to find Jonathan and essential supplies, but all the supplies are gone, as is Jonathan, who has left behind a cryptic message for Harriet divulging the location of Ark. Roe, realising the futility of their bid for survival, attempts to abort her unborn child in the church rather than have it brought into such a harsh world, but is startled by the appearance of Hild, who disappears before she can speak to her. Several of the passengers see a young pregnant survivor, as well as a less peaceful male. Also, unbalanced businessman Colin finds another grave, dated 2013, and informs the group that maybe their freezing wasn't a matter of weeks.
03 "Episode Three" Alex Pillai April 15, 1999 (1999-04-15)
The group heads north seeking the mysterious Ark, but is side-tracked when they see what they believe to be a signal from other survivors but, alas, it leads only to a long-abandoned farmhouse. Finding a fresh water supply, the group wish to stay, but it is sabotaged by Harriet, thus forcing them to move on. The van crashes while chasing a wild boar and then several of the men follow the boar's squeals into an old refinery. Meanwhile, the pregnant survivor from the end of the previous episode makes contact, speaking almost exclusively in sign language to Anita, and identifies herself as Hild. A panther attacks the men during the boar hunt, but it is ultimately defeated. Whilst feasting on their first meal in the harsh new world, Jandra and Iain share an intimate moment witnessed by her son. In a misguided display of rage, a shocked Leo watches distraught as his mum falls into darkness.
04 "Episode Four" Alex Pillai April 22, 1999 (1999-04-22)
Jandra is in a critical condition after falling from the refinery, and the group (minus Leo) is forced to take cover by her side when the acid rain begins again. We discover that Hild is able to speak perfect English, and feigns choking in order to persuade a still deeply upset Leo to rescue the others, and succeed in freeing the van. The journey is again upset by the greatly swollen River Tees, although Hild shows them a deserted holiday camp where they find a boat, guarded by three strangers. The group is fired upon, and Harriet is forced to kill a man, and they successfully commandeer the boat. Upon arrival back at the van, they discover Jandra has died, but their mourning is interrupted by the arrival of more men on horseback, who open fire. The group is forced to flee, although no-one further is injured thanks to the actions of Hild (whom the survivors seem reluctant to fire upon), who now joins the group on their quest to find Ark.
05 "Episode Five" Alex Pillai April 29, 1999 (1999-04-29)
The survivors, still fleeing from the armed horsemen, cross the boundaries marked by plague warnings to take refuge in a seemingly deserted, though well-maintained, village. However, they soon discover the village is inhabited by two peaceful survivors: a man and his daughter, who have survived the apocalypse by hiding down a mine shaft, and who set a definitive date for the series - it is now 2050 A.D. Harriet convinces them that her group is from the south and has survived by staying underground, and whilst everyone celebrates with the alcohol and amenities offered by the local pub, she and Hild uncover the true nature of the villagers, as she is knocked unconscious and the van burnt. Meanwhile, Mick and a pregnant Roe make love, observed by Colin, who later becomes disillusioned and attempts to rape her. The group discover the burning van just as the gunmen on horseback return, held at bay by Mick and Colin until everyone is safely in the church. Once everyone has retreated inside, it is discovered to be a shrine to babies, as everyone in the village was left sterile 16 years after the strike. The riders demand the return of Hild, who leaves willingly, but Anita runs out also, and is taken by the riders. Leo continues his sister's diary as the group leaves the village, on foot now, with the dual purpose of finding Ark, and reuniting with Anita.
06 "Episode Six" Stuart Orme May 5, 1999 (1999-05-05)
Some time has passed since episode five. The group finally arrives at the fabled Ark only to find it empty, and with Hild's people in close pursuit. Whilst searching for the entrance to Ark, Austin is captured, and a jealous Colin seals the door, leaving Mick trapped outside. The other survivors, claiming they need medical supplies for the delivery of Hild's baby (she is now having contractions), crucify Mick and Austin as the group watches horrified. Roe suspects Colin of being responsible for Mick's capture, and threatens to kill him. Meanwhile Harriet sets off alone to finally reunite with Jonathan, although the man she meets is not the same one she left behind. A distraught Roe hurries to Mick's rescue, spared by Anita's cries of "Don't shoot, she's got a baby!", and the survivors justify their harsh justice. Ian comforts Harriet over Jonathan's death at her own hands. Finally the missing Ark survivors are revealed to be the ancestors of Hild's own people, and all the survivors come together as Hild gives birth to a healthy baby girl.

Production[edit]

The series' working title was Cruel Earth, under which it aired in Canada. The railway station shown in the programme that is said to be Sheffield railway station is in fact the derelict Manchester Mayfield railway station in Manchester.

The camp featured in episode 4 is an old Pontin's holiday camp in Prestatyn, North Wales (Tower Beach Holiday Camp), while the village "Mareby" in episode 5 is Wardle, a small village in Greater Manchester near to Littleborough and Rochdale.[citation needed]

The Ark featured in episode 6 was Thorpe Marsh Power Station, located 5 miles north east of Doncaster and was undergoing demolition at the time.

The series was written by Matthew Graham, who went on to co-create and write Life on Mars, its spin-off Ashes to Ashes, and the short-lived Bonekickers. He also wrote the episode Fear Her for the 2006 series of Doctor Who, as well as two episodes of Hustle.

External links[edit]