Kangaroo Court TV

updated 04/01/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

The perfect Survivor site, says executive producer Mark Burnett, "needs water and majestic terrain. It needs to have no predators and needs to be able to be secured." Burnett found all that in a 48,000-acre private cattle ranch called Goshen Station in northern Queensland, Australia. There, on a bluff overlooking the Herbert River, Los Angeles-based production designer Kelly Van Patter, working with 21 of the show's 230-person crew, built the Stonehenge-inspired amphitheater where contestants meet their fate. An elevator was erected to haul construction materials down from a plateau above. (Several of Van Patter's team went directly from the latest Star Wars shoot to Survivor II.) Compared with the first edition, says Burnett, "production values are greater." Burnett even had a helium-filled balloon float overhead, beaming a bluish faux lunar light on the Tribal Council.

With its unspoiled and uninhabited terrain, Goshen Station, the vast cattle ranch where Survivor II was taped, is a kind of Eden—except the serpents don't proffer apples. Watch your step. At least five of the world's deadliest snakes dwell in the region. "They are the No. 1 danger the survivors face," says Adrian Cohen, 40, the show's on-location emergency doctor. Of course, the crocodiles, poisonous spiders and leeches may get you first. "The leeches feel your body heat and drop down on top of you from trees," says Australian survivalist author Les Hiddins. "When you're ready to go to bed at night, you find you've got a leech embedded in your skin." Not to worry, says Hiddins: "You just put a cigarette lighter on them, and they'll drop right off." If you had the foresight to bring a cigarette lighter.

Copper put Mount Garnet on the map in 1896, and tin kept it there. But since the mine closed in the mid-'80s, tourism has barely sustained the tiny (pop. 400) town. Survivor didn't help. Though it is just an hour from the Survivor location, the crew drove their trucks right through on their four-hour supply runs to the nearest big city, coastal Cairns. "They would run past the bar to use the toilet and that was it," says Return Creek Hotel assistant manager Odette Petersen, 34. "When the army comes to town, they always get the local bakery to provide bread, often 400 or 500 loaves. But the Survivor people never gave them the chance. I live just down from the dump," Petersen adds, "and the amount of garbage they left was amazing. We're the ones who pay for that dump. They really took advantage of the situation."

In 1988, Charlie Parsons, a successful British TV producer, had an idea. "I was thinking there has to be something beyond the traditional game show," he says. "I liked the idea of putting people on a desert island, and we took it from there." Survive, as Parsons, now 42, called it, was turned down in Britain. "We tested it in the California desert," Parsons says. "We came up with the Tribal Council, immunity games. We even created a fictitious cast." ABC passed, but after a Swedish version became a hit, Mark Burnett bit. The rest is game show history.

Ancient Voices," Survivor's theme music, has a new twist this season courtesy of the ; didgeridoo (pronounced didgeree-doo), a wind instrument that dates back tens of thousands of years in Aboriginal culture. Its distinct humming sound "resonates very low, down in your soul," says "Ancient Voices" composer Russ Landau, 46, who recorded didge phenom Hudson (left) in the nearby Undara lava caves. After abandoning plans to write a theme for each character, Landau and series cocomposer David Vanacore, 38, took their cues from the cast's conversations, Vanacore says. Two subjects that came up often: "Hardship and hunger."

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