Probably one of the most accurate portrayals of John Wyndham’s book, ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ is this series originally on the screen September-October 1981 and it still holds up well today. This is mostly because when we enter the story, the world has already begun to fall apart. Even as a hospitalised temporarily blinded Bill Masen (actor John Duttine) relates his own history and that of the oil-giving but deadly Triffids, he doesn’t know the world has already stopped. A pretty meteorite shower the night before has robbed the majority of people of their vision.
Looking at this now, I do wonder how the entire world got caught but think the entire shower must have persisted as the world turned but you would have thought that with at least a twelve hour differentiation across the world, notice of blindness would have spread first, even if only be an absence of a news service. However, if the meteorite shower encased the world, then people would be seeing it in daylight as well as night and there was no saving the optic nerves. What made Wyndham’s original novel so potent and why it works in other media, is how quickly the world falls apart when everyone is struck blind at the same time. This is something that we could all see (sic) the consequences of, so it’s no wonder the situation has held up with the passage of time.
Mind you, having the majority blinded was only part of it. If the Triffids didn’t get you, then the infection that spread amongst the humans was worse, finishing off most of the blind left in the cities. Looking at this in retrospect, I do wonder how this infection didn’t get the sighted people and the remaining blind people. After all, they ate and drank the same food, so obviously, that wasn’t the carrier. Bill Masen, later in the series, wonders if the infection was part and parcel of the sight loss and although the meteorite shower was blamed, could easily have been a man-made satellite device out of control. I would hesitate with that, though, because it would take longer than a day for a single device to blanket cover the world.
The story essentially follows Bill Masen and Jo Payton (actress Emma Relph) and living in a post-apocalypse world where people have different options for survival. Keeping Christian values and standard family format is shown not to be effective, principally not because of religion, just that none of them had any experience of survival as Jack Coker (actor Maurice Colbourne) points out to one group who couldn’t even power up the generator in their house. We never do find out what happened to the group which advocated multiple partners to grow a population although the validity of such a regime has actually been used in other SF series since.
This in itself is one of the strengths of ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ in novel or TV series version because as Science Fiction, it can test all the survival options available rather than have one solution at end as so many other post-apocalypse stories have since done. A lesson for all novice and professional SF writers.
Looking constructively after the event, I do think the Triffids would have won the war eventually. The human survivors might be able to keep them at bay but considering the way they spawn, it would be an eternal battle and they are far more likely to consume any crop land and limit food cultivation which would ultimately end mankind, even without them becoming dinner afterwards. Then again, hope is left that Bill Masen might find a way to kill the Triffids off in time. If I was in that situation, I would look at a means to interfere with their pollination or find a possible predator that would attack them and survive their potent sting. The former is a long term project. The latter, might be less so. After all, as we have seen with evolution, there will always be mutants in species that can survive adversity and these will take dominance in such situations and another thing against humans is they take so long to grow up and breed more of themselves compared to many other species. As such, in a couple generations it might be easier to spot these and use them against the Triffids…if they survive that long.
As you can see from this analysis, watching this series again has got me thinking. The deadliness shown in this series is still formidable, some thirty years later. The Triffids truly look menacing and dangerous and you wouldn’t really want to face them or run from them, bearing in mind the distance their sting travelled. All the actors added considerable belief in events and keep out an eye out for a younger W. Morgan Shepherd’ playing Bill Masen’s father in the first episode.
To add to this is a fascinating twelve page booklet written by Andrew Pixley looking at all thing Triffid up to this point. Although it’s only inferred about bringing the book up to date for the series to match the 1980s, the fact that it was repeated again in a new series in 2010 clearly shows that John Wyndham’s story is archetypal and go on forever. In the meantime, don’t watch any colourful meteorite showers. Triffid viewing.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1452. 1 DVD 157 minutes 6 * 28 minute episodes. Price: about £ 4.25 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: John Duttine, Emma Relph and Maurice Colbourne
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