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Series / I Shouldn't Be Alive

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I Shouldn't Be Alive is a documentary series produced for Discovery Channel by UK-based production company Darlow Smithson Productions. As the title implies, it features accounts of individuals or groups caught in dangerous scenarios away from civilization in natural environments.

The show was compiled using footage of interviews and dramatic re-enactments of the situation. The main focus of the show was providing an explanation of how the participants survived the ordeal against typical odds and outlining the decisions they made that kept them alive.

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This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: All over the place but this is especially the case with stories that involve children:
    • An example of this is where, when they were lost and after the son broke his leg, the father had to leave the son in a cave, and this was when it was very cold, and with the snow no less.
    • In much that same vein, we have the episode "A Dad's Worst Nightmare", where the father is stranded with his five year old daughter in the Australian Outback.
    • "A Father's Deadly Dilemma" presents the father getting injured and, because he's injured, his daughter has to venture through the wilderness to find help.
  • Alliterative Family: Mary and Michael Couillard, and their children, Mark, Matthew and Marissa in "Ice Cave Survivor."
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • In "Trapped Under the Ice", the father and son duo, after surviving their canoe capsizing in ice water, have to face a forest full of bears, and it's terrifying as it sounds, as they were practically defenseless.
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    • This happens in "Trapped On the Mountain" where the elk hunter gets mauled by a grizzly.
    • "Escape from Bear Mountain" has two friends end up stuck in bear country after a plane crash leaves them horribly injured. As to be expected, they run afoul of several bears during their travels.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: A played with example happens in the episode "Lost in the Rainforest", where the woman (who has depression) suggests to her travelling partner that they slit their wrists so they won't die from the elements.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. The actors playing the survivors in flashbacks are realistically covered in dust, bruised, blistered, scratched up, peeling lips from dehydration and so on. Actual pictures taken of rescued survivors show that this is fairly accurate to real life.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • This happened in "Horror in the Grand Canyon" where the group was rescued but, for one of them (Dave Phillips), rescue came too late.
    • In "Fear in Freefall", only Will survives being stranded off the coast of Costa Rica. The other five don't.
    • Steve, Steven, Travis, Ross, and Joseph all survive, but Roger Stone sacrificed himself to save the other two.
    • Benedict Allen is alive, but he had to Eat the Dog.
    • Sea of Cortez. For everything that Joe and Jose do, Lorenzo dies.
    • Blizzard of Death - despite most of the group surviving, one of the guides and helicopter pilots died.
  • Body Horror: Nearly being eaten alive (whether by crocodiles, sharks, hyenas, or driver ants), extreme sunburn, hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, you name it.
  • Born Lucky / Born Unlucky: Justin in "Crashed in the Rockies" has the best of luck and the worst of luck. He survives a plane crash unscathed, hikes out and manages to get help... and then the rescue helicopter crashes.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Zig-zagged:
    • While it seems pretty foolish that most people do not carry cell phones, some of these stories predate the use of cell phones entirely, or took place in a time in which cell phones did exist, but the remoteness of the area they were in meant they would not get adequate coverage.
    • In one episode, the fact that one person had a satellite phone is what allowed them to get help in the first place.
    • In another, whilst stranded on the Swiss Alps in a storm, a woman has enough signal to text for help on her Nokia but not enough to make any calls and this does end up saving her and her companion's life.
  • Daylight Horror: A lot of the events happen in daytime, especially in "Horror in the Grand Canyon".
  • Determinator: Otherwise known as "the drive to survive." Examples include crawling for seven miles with a broken pelvis and femur in temperatures as low as minus fifteen degrees, scaling a cliff while being unable to walk with a shattered pelvis and hiking for two days down a mountain with a broken ankle.
    • This quote by the narrator from "Climb Out of Hell," involving the man who scaled the cliff with a broken pelvis:
    Narrator: Jordan's four day ordeal would have finished most people. But his stubborn refusal to give up saved his life.
  • Dwindling Party: Most episodes depict some survivors that started off as a group when they got lost and have very few or no remaining members left by the time they are rescued.
  • Eat the Dog: Not that the survivor in "Alone In the Amazon" had a choice.
  • Failed a Spot Check: A lot of the scenarios portrayed in the series result from this.
  • Fight to Survive: The central theme of the series, naturally.
  • Flashback: One episode is told from the POV of someone recalling their time after they were captured by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, while he's waiting to be rescued after having his leg blown off by a landmine.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: As for some of the survivors depicted, starvation, dehydration, infection, etc, tend to do that to you.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Of a sort. In "Date from Hell", Brandon finds John Donavan's body and then goes berserk and starts a fire which helps get them rescued.
  • Happily Married: Tom and Lynda Bosworth who break down in the desert and newlyweds Brandon and Brandy Wiley who survive a plane crash in the jungle.
    • A heartwarming postscript to "First Date Nightmare." Also in "Hell in the Desert."
  • Heroic Dog: Danelle Ballengee's dog, Taz, who leads rescuers to her while she is unable to move.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Roger Stone in Ocean Disaster. Two of the people are stuck in the capsized boat, and Roger pushes them out. He was never seen or heard from again.
    • Mike unknowingly did this when he helped slow Jim Davidson down during the fall.
    • Arguably, Lorenzo.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • When lost and gone days without food, several of the survivors will have contemplated cannibalism but neither are willing to go through with it.
    • One pair of survivors contemplated eating their ill friend who succumbed to her wounds and died in her sleep, but refused due to the possibility that her whole body and flesh are full of the bacterial infection that killed her and instead decide to give her a proper burial.
  • Irony: In "Crushed by Quad Bike", it's noted that Ken packed plenty of survival gear in the event of an emergency, but said survival gear only ends up weighing him down and preventing him from escaping after he ends up trapped under his own quad bike.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: In "Till Death Do Us Part" Lynda Bosworth has to convince her husband to go on without her, reasoning that he can travel much faster without her. Tom eventually concedes but it clearly causes him distress.
  • Land Down Under: Given its notoriously unforgiving climate, Australia is unsurprisingly the setting for quite a few of the incidents portrayed in the series.
  • The Load: Much more tragic examples.
    • A rare justified example - many times, people are The Load not because of laziness, but because of injuries. If they exert themselves too much, they will actually hurt themselves more, and sometimes this actually happens. Multiple people have been forced to leave behind survivors in order to find help.
    • Lorenzo in "Death in the sea of Cortez" is obese - but he clearly was trying hard. Unfortunately, he suffered two sprained ankles, and because of this, his two friends jerry-rigged a raft so they could move him around easier. He doesn't make it.
    • Matthew McGough in "A Dad's Worst Nightmare" states several times during his interview that he would have been less afraid if his five-year-old daughter Shannon hadn't been there with him. Seeing her suffer and worrying about how she would cope on her own if something happened to him caused him much more emotional and mental stress than if he had been on his own.
    • Lynda Bosworth convinces her husband to leave her behind in "Till Death Do Us Part," since he is capable of moving much faster than she can keep up with and can get help to them faster alone.
    • Similarly, Roger Sargeant in "Hell in the Desert" decides to strike out on his own for help, leaving his girlfriend behind with her two daughters because they're quickly running out of water and he knows he can make quicker time on his own.
    Narrator: Leaving is hard but they're miles from civilisation and he fears the kids won't be able to keep going.
  • No Antagonist: The stories are gripping survival stories, with no antagonist beyond "Nature".
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • "Perfect Storm" presents this with Arden. We and the survivors don't find out what happened to him, so he's missing and assumed dead.
    • This is usually the situation from the perspective of the survivor's family and friends, especially if they didn't inform anyone of where they were going. While the missing person or persons are trying to find their way back to civilisation, their parents/children/spouses have no idea where they are or what's happened to them.
  • Once per Episode: Every episode makes a point to specifically mention how one of the survivors' organs are "shutting down" as a result of their injuries.
  • Pet the Dog: "Terror on the Zambezi." After being attacked by a hippo, having his arm mauled by a crocodile and at threat from lions and hyenas drawn to the blood from his injury, a cape buffalo comes across Alistair Gellatly in the bush in the middle of the night. Alistair is rightly afraid it might attack him, as cape buffaloes are quite dangerous animals, but instead it just lies down beside him for the night.
  • Snow Means Death: A few episodes. For example, in "Frozen at 20,000 Feet", "Blizzard of Death", "Avalanche of Terror", "Snowmobile Nightmare" has the snow presenting obvious issues with not only their survival but their rescue as well.
  • Stay on the Path: Quite a few episodes.
    • This is how the episode "Horror In the Grand Canyon" happens. The group takes an off-trail route and get lost.
    • This also occurs with "Date From Hell", where the couple go off the trail, even though there's a waterfall nearby.
    • "A Dad's Worse Nightmare" has the father with his daughter go off the trail to go fishing.
  • Tears of Joy: Many people's reactions on being found and rescue is to burst into tears with relief and joy.
  • Turn of the Millennium: A good portion of the stories take place around this timeframe, while some also take place in The '90s and there are a few that take place in The '80s or even The '70s. (Notable in that this is Steven Callahan)
  • Unreliable Narrator: Due to the fact that a few people had Gone Mad From The Isolation temporarily, it's hard to believe how much could be true and how much is them describing their madness. Especially on Cozumel island.


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