Telly Checked*: The Day of the Triffids

Posted on December 30, 2009 by

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...And the mid-to-late afternoon of the Triffids.

Based on the post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel, written in 1951 by English author John Wyndham, and the first of his novels to be published in the authors own name, The Day of the Triffids told the story of an earth where Giant carnivorous- and possibly sentient- plants called Triffids have been tamed and put to use as a fuel source, thanks to the highly potent vegetable oil they produce. They are kept in farms by the thousands, kept safely under control and prevented from breeding.

Then a strange meteor shower, watched by nearly the entire world, renders all who saw it blind. With nearly everyone now unable to see, the Triffids escape their farms and start having a good old nibble on all the stumbling blind people wandering around helplessly. The book follows Triffid expert Bill mason, who was attacked by a Triffid and sent to hospital for an eye operation, which causes him to miss the meteor shower and keep his sight.

The BBC adaption follows the plot of the book more or less dead on, save for changing a few aspects, presumably for the sake of modernisation. Josella (Joely Richardson) is now a radio presenter called Jo, and the character of Torrence (Played ably by Eddie Izzard) is given a larger role as the antagonist, and the meteor shower is changed to what is fast becoming the modern day weirdness magnet, solar flares.

Bill Mason (Dougray Scott) spends most of DotT searching for his father Dennis (Brian Cox, who seems to be on a two-for-one deal after his appearance as ‘Ood Elder’ In Doctor Who, but more on that later) who he believes may hold the secret to defeating the Triffids. Jo Gets swept up in the wake of his gruff scottish charisma, as well as fending off the advances of the Sociopath Torrence.

Mason is the typical action-scientist that we’re seeing more and more of in modern media, as geek chic becomes ever more popular, and heroes need to be less muscular men in loin-clothes and more cerebral and creative. As I often find is the case, the villain, Torrence is the most interesting character. All the other characters have some semblance of back-story, but we never even find out Torrence’s real name. The first thing we see him do is survive a plane crash by bundling up life jackets from the other (now blind) passengers (He had a sleeping mask on when the solar flares blinded everyone) and inflating them all in one of the small toilets around himself. After staggering out, he decides he needs new threads, and promptly breaks in Savile Row. From then on, he lies, manipulates and cheats his way to the top of the pile, constantly acting as a magnificent bastard and general thorn in the side of the heroes. If proof were needed that Izzard is capable of more than being funny, this is it.

The Day of the Triffids is a definite case of license payers money extremely well-spent. The effects are consistently excellent, and they pull off the difficult task of ensuring that the Triffids don’t look diabolically awful. The score is solid, and the Triffids make a wonderfully creepy sound as they shuffle along. If I have any complaint, it is that Brain Cox, a notable hollywood actor and star of the screen gets all of half an hours screentime throughout the entirety of the three hours that Triffids lasts for. While it doesn’t have the tacky charm of the 1981 version made by the Beeb, it is a very well acted, scripted and produced serial, and well worth viewing. We also recommend the upcoming Wallander and Survivors on BBC One, and the second and final part of David Tennant’s last Doctor Who adventure, The End of Time.

Oh, and if you’re a masochist, there’s a new series of Celebrity Big Brother starting sunday.

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Posted in: TV