1 9 9 9 (UK)
6 x 50 minute episodes
The Last Train debuted on ITV in April 1999 and was promoted at the time by Granada as one of the most expensive drama productions they had ever made.
The series begins with a group of ordinary people going about their everyday business, with them all eventually finding themselves on a train travelling from London St Pancras to Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
As the train is passing through a tunnel, a giant asteroid strikes the Earth. The actual collision is in Africa, but the shockwaves and tremors almost instantly devastate the rest of the world.
Fortunately for some of the commuters on the train, a Ministry of Defence scientist named Harriet Ambrose (Nicola Walker) is travelling on the train. Harriet is aware of the imminent asteroid strike and is carrying with her a canister of a freezing agent that is ruptured when the asteroid hits.
The passengers in her immediate vicinity all enter a state of cryogenic hibernation, which protects some of them during the long sleep that they subsequently endure.
Emerging from the railway tunnel the lucky (or unlucky) few who have survived the long sleep find themselves in a very different world. As they emerge from the dark they see a previously busy main railway line overgrown with huge exotic plants that are not native to Britain.
They have clearly been ‘away’ for many years (52, in fact).
Characters in the group include Mick Sizer (Treva Etienne), a criminal who was being pursued by another of the few survivors, Detective Ian Hart (Christopher Fulford); feisty and aggressive expectant mother Roe Germaine (Zoe Telford); businessman Colin Wallis (Steve Huison) who wears a suit and carries a briefcase at all times; widower Austin Danforth (James Hazeldine); nurse practitioner Jean Wilson (Janet Dale); Jandra Nixon (Amita Dhiri) who was escaping from an abusive husband with her teenage son, Leo (Sacha Dhawan) and young daughter Anita (Dinita Gohil). Anita’s diary entries provide part of the narrative.
The group find Sheffield completely deserted. The buildings are ruined shells, everyone is long dead (crumbling skeletons are strewn all over the streets) and packs of feral dogs scavenge in the shattered city. Not knowing what to do, the group take their lead from Harriet, who – after some initial reluctance – tells them of the potential sanctuary of a huge secret government bunker in Scotland called “Ark”.
Harriet is anxious to locate her colleague (and lover), Jonathan Geddes (Ralph Brown) – Ark’s chief scientist – who she believes can help and she persuades the others to help her get there.
During their journey to Scotland, they encounter a pregnant and seemingly feral teenage girl called Hild (Caroline Carver) and face a number of hazards – including a fall in an underground refinery that claims the life of Jandra – before happening across the walled village of Mareby, occupied by the zealous Mark (Kenneth Colley) and his daughter Gillian (Deborah Findlay).
Mark is determined that his new friends will stay and plies them with alcohol (a rare treat) – and sets fire to their van. The group discovers that the sealed village church is a shrine to babies created by Mark and he is determined that the pregnant Hild should stay and have her baby in the village.
Along the way, the group have been followed by some armed hunters from Hild’s tribe who now snatch Hild and Anita.
Eventually reaching Ark, the group manage to gain access – apart from Mick and Austin who are caught by the hunters and nailed to crosses (though they are rescued by Roe).
Once inside, Harriet discovers that the people in suspended animation at Ark defrosted themselves 40 years earlier, in 2008. An elderly Jonathan Geddes is still there and Harriet bows to his final wish and smothers him with a pillow.
Ultimately, the group of survivors and the hunters – who are revealed to be the children of the people who left Ark in 2008 – gather together as Hild gives birth to her daughter which is celebrated as a new beginning.
The scenes of the survivors emerging from the railway tunnel were filmed at the East Lancashire Steam Railway in Bury, while other filming locations were in Derbyshire, Gwynned and at the disused Mayfield train station in Manchester.