Before TWD There Was The Colony

**This is not Colony, the new sci fi show on USA starring TWD alum Sarah Wayne Callies. **

In 2009, just about a year before AMC took a chance on a little zombie survival drama called The Walking Dead the Discovery Channel brought out a reality TV show that was way ahead of its time and that should really get a reboot. The Colony was a survival based reality show that took a selected bunch of ordinary people with a range of skills and set them in a contained post-apocalyptic setting for 10 weeks. They would have only the supplies that they could find or forage, and they would have to pull together and use all their individual skills to find food, water, and safety for those ten weeks.

The show only ran for 2 seasons, and just as it was ending The Walking Dead was starting. Now is the perfect time for the Discovery Channel to bring this show back.

Season 1

When the show started it was set in a scenario where the world had just experienced an unspecified global disaster. Society had broken down and the group of survivors came together to try and survive together.

In order to make the survivors disoriented and off balance, the way that they would be in an actual disaster, the group was kept up for 30 hours with no food and only a little water previous to the start of filming. Together they were given the chance to forage in an “abandoned” department store for 15 minutes before they left to find shelter in the filming area. They had to haul in over 200 pounds of foraged materials on their own, making their own carts and conveyances to make the hauling easier. They found shelter in an old abandoned factory and machine shop and started to set up their supplies and divide duties.

Season 1 was filmed in Los Angeles. Included in the first season survivor group were:

  • A doctor
  • A biologist
  • A contractor
  • A self defense instructor
  • Several engineers
  • A nurse

Each person in the group had skills that they could contribute ranging from professional skills like medical care or building experience to hobby skills like growing plants for food or installing solar panels.

As a group they had to take inventory of what they had, figure out what skills everyone had to contribute, and figure out how to get the essentials they needed like water and battery power. They also had to figure out some sort of security and defense, as groups of other ‘survivors’ continually tried to raid their shelter and steal their supplies.

The Goal

After a bit they received a radio transmission on an old foraged radio that told them there was a larger group of survivors who had food and medical care about 60 miles away. Their main goal as a group was to create a vehicle from scavenged parts that would be able to carry them and their supplies 60 miles away to reach the larger camp.

The Reality

Seeing people band together to survive in a show like TWD means seeing people who represent the type of survivor that we all want to be. We all want to be Rick Grimes, who steps up to lead and is selfless and skilled. But that’s not really the way that most people are, and as food becomes short and the survivors experience illness, lack of water, lack of sleep, hard manual labor, and the constant threats from other survivors the group in the warehouse break down. They fight amongst themselves, some people give up and are lazy, others are frayed by the tension and lash out.

The Projects

Throughout the course of the show the survivors try to make various things that they will need to survive including:

  • A water filtration system
  • Beds that will keep them from sleeping among rats and other vermin
  • Secure gates for their shelter
  • A vehicle capable of getting all of them and supplies to the shelter 60 miles away
  • A cooktop so that they can cook food that they forage or hunt
  • A shower and other plumbing essentials for cleanliness
  • Power supply in the form of rechargeable solar batteries

Throughout the show experts in security, psychology, and medicine are shown footage of the survivors and give their opinions about how the survivors are adapting to their new reality.

Season 2

In the second and final season of the show the scenario was that the group of people were the survivors of a global pandemic, so making sure that everyone was not infected and stayed healthy was even more important during the second season.

Just like the survivors in Season 1 the group of colonists in Season 2 were disoriented and thrown off balance by flying in a helicopter to a medical facility in a part of Louisiana that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They were kept in quarantine with little food and water for 72 hours.

Once cleared they set up a survival camp in the abandoned medical camp. They had limited medical supplies and tents that they used for isolation tents and quarantine, where anyone who tried to join the group or anyone who developed symptoms of the illness were put. The extreme heat and humidity of Louisiana was another hardship that the colonists had to figure out how to deal with since there was no air conditioning or fans to moderate the temperature.

In Season 2 the colonists entered the group in stages, a few at a time. This created additional pressure for the colonists who came in first because as new people came in they had to be quarantined and the existing colonists had to learn how to trust them and let them into the group. In Season 2 the colonists included:

  • A model
  • A carpenter
  • An auto mechanic
  • A contractor
  • A professor
  • An artist
  • A logging expert
  • A Body Language instructor

The Challenges

In addition to the same kind of challenges that the cast of Season 1 faced like hygiene, clean water, and finding enough food the group in Season 2 also had to face a lot more serious medical problems without any of them having a medical background. Their supplies were limited to whatever medical supplies had been left behind when the camp was abandoned before the colonists arrived.

The survivors also face a lot more physical and security challenges than the previous group. In Season 1 there were groups of other survivors that the colonists interacted with and had to fend off to keep their camp safe. But the stakes were higher in Season 2. The other survivors, who were really actors, were allowed to be a lot more physical with the colonists than they were in Season 1. In Season 1 they were not allowed to touch the colonists or hurt them in any way. In Season 2 they were allowed to touch the colonists and although they were not allowed to seriously hurt them they were allowed to menace them and make the colonists think that they were in real danger. One of colonists was even kidnapped by the outside survivors while foraging for supplies. There were some pretty intense standoffs between the colonists and outside groups throughout Season 2.

Security was the biggest challenge that colonists faced in both seasons. While they were incredibly resourceful when it came to figuring out how to make, find and forage the supplies they would need to survive they were weak when it came to security. In both seasons the colonists routinely had their supplies stolen, shelters broken into, and their creations destroyed.

The Controversy

A third season of the show was planned, but there was a lot of controversy related to the show that made the network shelve the third season indefinitely. Some of the colonists who participated developed PTSD and other injuries from the show and required extensive treatment to overcome the lasting effects of this survival challenge. There was also a problem during the process of casting for Season 3, when one of the applicants died during the pre-casting testing.

A Comeback?

Given the enormous popularity of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead as well as the massive increase in the number of people who have started preparing for a global disaster and would love the chance to test their skills I think it’s the perfect time for this show to come back. What do you say Discovery Channel? Or maybe another network could do it? I think we need this show back in our lives. In the meantime you can watch the first two seasons here.