Wednesday, 30 December 2009


I read the John Wyndham novel some time in my early teens back in the early 60's. I immediately read the rest of his science fiction novels like The Kraken Wakes and The Chrysalids which happen to be my other favourites of his. Triffids was great stuff but what I didn't realise then is that it became a template for the British disaster story of which more later.

Moving on up the 60's, next came the movie version which kept to the basic structure and plot but added a couple stranded on a lighthouse off the coast where they were menaced by a triffid. Now considering that they discovered that triffids could be dissolved by squirting sea water at them, it's a surprise that  a triffid was able to grow on this little bit of rock given that it would constantly be showered with sea spray which should, according to the movie's own logic, have dissolved it instantly. Still it was fun at the time.

Then, in the early 80's came the tv series, six half  hour episodes about which I remember nothing other than that I watched it. Dougray Scott erroneously attributes the sea water discovery to this version when being interviewed about the lastest version in which he stars.

Which was shown in two 90 minutes parts on BBC1 over the last two evenings. I sat down to watch it, half expecting it to be so predictable that I'd go and watch a DVD instead. Well it was predictable but so well done that I stayed the course. The best special effects scenes came early on with the light show which blinded everyone as they were really spectacularly beautiful. The cgi triffids, however, mostly didn't look much better than the one in the 60's movie version except there were lots of them. But it was well made with a good cast and largely effective. One nice touch was Vanessa Redgrave's mad abbess with her back to basics no technology convent/refuge where she kept the triffids at bay by secretly weeding out the weakest by sending them 'to pass on the message' when she was really sending them to the triffids for lunch.

But what this tv version made me realise is that the British disaster scenario is absolutely predictable and always follows the same pattern. 1. The survivors wander around more or less aimlessly before forming small groups. 2. The big cities become increasingly dangerous. 3. Our heroes go to the countryside where they find something resembling a manor house to live in temporary safety. 4. An unscrupulous individual builds a small army (in the current version it was Eddie Izzard who you know is a bastard when he steals all the lifejackets he can find from the other blind plane passengers and locks himself in the loo and inflates them) and acts as the baddie to our heroes. 5. Our heroes escape -death of bad guy is frequent but optional. 6. Our heroes find a haven from which they can begin to rebuild. The end. Repeat in just about every British disaster novel/movie/tv series.

In conclusion, I never want to see a version of The Day of the Triffids ever again.And I'll probably avoid the second series of The Survivors despite quite enjoying the first.

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