The Day of the Triffids

No, wait! Forget the bloody awful 1962 movie[1]. This is the far superior 1981 BBC adaptation of the John Wyndham novel[2][8]. I remember seeing this when it was first shown, but not since[3], so its release on DVD is definitely a Good Thing.

For those unfamiliar with the story[4], it begins with what is believed to be an unusually impressive meteor shower, which is admired by everyone who can see it. The next morning, Bill Masen (John Duttine), who is in hospital with bandaged eyes, wakes to find the world changed forever. Most of the population has been blinded by the meteors[5]. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the triffids are a major problem. Triffids are large, carnivorous plants with a deadly poisonous sting. Now that would be nasty enough, but these things can uproot themselves and walk. In a series of flashbacks we learn that triffids were bred somewhere in the Soviet Bloc for their oil, which has extremely useful properties. Masen worked on a triffid farm, and it was a triffid sting that was responsible for the damage to his eyes, which saved him from being blinded.

The story follows Masen and other survivors as they try to rebuild their lives and some kind of civilisation, while dealing with dangers from other people and the ever-present and menacing triffids. It’s implied that the triffids have some kind of intelligence…

And just to complete the “we did it to ourselves” theme, it’s suggested that the “meteors” were not a natural phenomenon, but might have been the result of someone’s orbiting weapon system exploding a little higher than it was designed to do. And there was the little matter of the mysterious disease that killed so many people – was that someone’s weapon too?[6]

The story ends on a note of hope. Masen and his friends gather on the Isle of Wight, where they can more easily keep the triffids at bay, and believe that one day they will be able to return to the mainland and sweep away all the triffids and finally rebuild civilisation.

It’s all very nicely done. The triffids look pretty much as described in the book, most of the events occur as depicted in the book, and the acting is of a high standard. The DVD doesn’t have any extra features, but there is a more informative than usual twelve page booklet.

My recommendation: read the book, then watch the DVD.

[2]A classic in the very British style of dystopian SF. If you haven’t read it, do so at your earliest convenience. It’s widely available in a variety of editions.
[3] It may have been shown on UK Gold or some such channel, but I’ve never managed to catch it
[4] And where have you been??
[5] More of which later
[6] Possibly the most annoying thing about the 1962 movie[7] was the omission of this. In the movie, the triffids apparently drifted in from space with the meteors, missing the whole point of the book.
[7] Apart from the time filling sub-plot they made up about a couple on a lighthouse who discover that triffids can be killed with sea water. Woop-de-doo, big deal….
[8] Apart from being updated from the 1950s to the 1980s, it’s close to the book