The Day of the Triffids (1981 TV series)
|The Day of the Triffids|
|Based on||The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham|
|Written by||Douglas Livingstone|
|Directed by||Ken Hannam|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||26 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||10 September– 15 October 1981|
The Day of the Triffids is a British television series which was first aired by the BBC in 1981. An adaptation by Douglas Livingstone of the 1951 novel by John Wyndham, the six half-hour episodes were produced by David Maloney and directed by Ken Hannam, with original music by Christopher Gunning.
It premiered simultaneously in the UK and in Australia on ABC Television.
The series takes place in late 20th century Britain. A spectacular meteorite shower unexpectedly renders most of humanity blind, leading to the breakdown of society literally overnight. Totally unaware of this, Bill Masen (John Duttine) by chance has retained his sight by virtue of being in hospital with his eyes bandaged.
Bill is a Triffid farmer. The Triffids are mobile carnivorous plants, each armed with a lethal stinger, which had hitherto been cultivated for their oil. Though Bill was wearing protective clothing, some of the poison had still seeped into his eyes. His bandages are due to be removed to see if the medical treatment has been successful. When nobody shows up, he tentatively removes the bandages himself and gradually discovers the catastrophe around him.
He rescues Josella "Jo" Playton (Emma Relph) from her vicious blind captor. She had slept through the meteorite shower. They eventually come across a small band of similarly lucky survivors who have decided to leave London and establish a community elsewhere to begin rebuilding civilization.
They are opposed by Jack Coker (Maurice Colbourne), who can see. He wants them to help the blind, not abandon them. When the others reject his scheme, he and a few sighted helpers capture some of the group, including Bill and Jo. He assigns each to a group of the blind. Bill is handcuffed to two of his charges. Bill and Jo have been separated by this point.
Meanwhile, the Triffids get loose and run amok amongst the helpless blind human population, slaughtering and feeding on them. Between the Triffids and a lethal disease, most of Bill's people eventually die; the rest scatter. Bill starts searching for Jo, and teams up with Jack, who admits his plan did not work as he had hoped.
They drive through the English countryside. Eventually, they encounter part of the group that had left London. The group had split in two after a disagreement over morality: the ones who stayed behind, led by Miss Durrant (Perlita Neilson), refused to accept that polygamy would be necessary to repopulate the world. After more fruitless searching, Jack decides to return to Miss Durrant's community.
Bill finds a young girl, Susan, and takes her along. Finally, he recalls that Jo had spoken of a place belonging to her friends in the Sussex Downs. There he is reunited with her. They erect a protective wall around the farm to keep out the Triffids, and start raising a family.
After six years, Jack shows up in a helicopter. Miss Durrant's group has been wiped out by the Triffids, but the other faction has secured the Isle of Wight and cleansed it of the mobile plants. With the situation deteriorating where they are, Bill, Jo, three blind friends, and the children prepare to join them.
Before they can, however, several uniformed men drive up in an armoured car; they are part of an organisation that is setting up a feudal society, with the sighted as the new aristocracy. In their setup, one sighted person is in charge of ten of the blind. They plan to assign more blind people to Bill and Jo, and take Susan away to learn how to care for others. Bill gets the soldiers drunk and sabotages their armoured car. Then he and the rest of his people drive away, leaving the gates open for the besieging Triffids.
- John Duttine as Bill Masen
- Emma Relph as Josella Payton
- Maurice Colbourne as Jack Coker
- Stephen Yardley as John
- Gary Olsen as Torrence
The Triffid plants
A Triffid was operated by a man crouched inside, cooled by a fan installed in its neck; the 'clackers' were radio controlled. The gnarled bole, based on the ginseng root, was made of latex with a covering of sawdust and string while the neck was fibreglass and continued down to the floor, where it joined with the operator's seat. The plant was surmounted by a flexible rubber head, coated with clear gunge.
After the end of the production one was displayed for a while in the Natural History Museum in London; They were designed by Steve Drewett who worked there. Copies of the props later threw a cocktail party for Angus Deayton during an episode of Alexei Sayle's Stuff.
Some of the locations used in the series, such as the University of London’s Senate House, corresponded to those specified in the book. Many of the locations used during filming can be located by studying the street names and other signs which appear in the show. For example, Jo’s family home appears to be 2 Heath Side, which is adjacent to Hampstead Heath in London NW3. Additionally, Jo and Bill first meet in a stairwell on the Theseus Estate in London N1. Indeed, the couple run along Theseus Walk past the street sign, at the beginning of Episode 3. The street sign for Remington Street can also be seen in the scene in which Jo’s car stops at the beginning of the second episode.
The series was released on DVD in the UK on 4 April 2005 and in Australia on 6 June 2005. A US DVD (through BBC Home Video) was released on 1 October 2007.
The series was repeated on BBC1 (7 March 1984 – 11 April 1984), Satellite channel UK Gold screened the series in 2004 and 2005 and the Sci-Fi channel in 2006. BBC Four have also screened the series in 2006, 2009 and 2014. As of 2014 it is streaming in the US on Hulu.