THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS
Bill Masen -
Jo Payton -
Bill's Dad -
Jack Coker -
Written by -
Directed by -
OTHER DAYS OF THE TRIFFIDS
Day of the Triffids
OTHER POST APOCALYPSE SHOWS
The Last Train
Planet of the Apes
Episode 1 - first transmitted 28th December 2009
Bill Masen has been studying triffids all his life. The huge, carnivorous, aggressive plants are hailed as the saviour of mankind from global warming when it is discovered that they can be harvested for a completely renewable, carbon-free fuel. It is a triffid that killed Bill's mother in Zaire when he was a child and it is another triffid that almost takes his sight, landing him in hospital on the night of the greatest celestial light show ever seen as the world is bathed in solar winds that set the skies to burning all the colours of the rainbow. At the height of the show, however, a vicious solar flare burns out the optic nerves of everyone who was watching, which was pretty much the whole world.
A few survivors struggle to make sense of the aftermath of the catastrophe. Some of the seeing hide behind guns and walls, turning their backs on the millions of helpless. Some, like Major Coker, try to help by teaming one seeing person with one blind one, but his operation is destined to fall into the hands of Torrence, the worst kind of chancer and manipulator. And through it all, Bill Masen warns of the coming of the triffids, freed from their farms and looking for meat whilst trying to keep himself and his new friend Jo alive long enough to get to his father's place where there might be hope of salvation.
The BBC already has a very well remembered version of this John Wyndham story to its credit, so it's hard to see why they felt the need for a new version. Beyond, of course, the new special effects technology that could render a realistic triffid. It is the triffids by which the show will stand or fall and for the majority of this opening episode they are mainly conspicuous by their absence, seen only in snatches, long shots, silhouettes or shadow. Only in the final moments are we given any real chance to look at them properly.
This opening half of the two-parter is more about the human cost of the cataclysm. When all eyes are closed, hell descends as planes fall from the sky, cars crash, buildings burn and people cry out everywhere for help that isn't going to come. This devastation is excellently realised, so much so that the sudden lack of anyone on the streets within 24 hours is marked and makes you wonder where everyone went all of a sudden. They couldn't have all died out that quickly.
The communities that pull through such as the one where the seeing are willing to leave the blind to their fate so that they themselves can survive or Coker's where the seeing become the slaves of the blind, are sharply drawn and all to believable. Eddie Izzard's slimy toad Torrence is a villain that is easy to believe in and he plays it with disturbing relish and ability. He's certainly far more fun than the dour Dougray Scott, far too earnest all the time as the hero Bill Masen or Joely Richardson as Jo, the reporter who is around mainly for Bill to save, but who at least makes a stab at being an independent woman.
Unfortunately, what's missing are the triffids. Considering that the show bears their name, they aren't around much and their threat isn't as pervasive as the show would like to believe. When they do show up and their CGI tendrils go into action, they are pretty impressive attacks that help to make you believe, but htese instances are too few and too far between.Top
Episode 2- first transmitted 29th December 2009
Surviving the trap laid for them by Torrence, Masen and Coker escape to a convent that seems to have been spared the triffid attacks, but when he attempts to leave to go and find his father, Masen discovers why the triffids are happy to leave the inhabitants alone. Jo, still trapped with Torrence learns the truth about him and escapes, also making her way to Bill's father's house. Reunited, along with an unusual couple of girls they find along the way, Masen and Jo learn of his father's plan to deal with the triffids. It might work, but captive triffids and a vengeful Torrence are sure to mess it all up.
After the human-centric first episode, this second part gets down to the real business of triffid wrangling. They are everywhere and there are a number of good sequences when they attack. Although the overall look of the creatures is too bizarre to be really effective (Wyndham's fault, not the adaptation's) the CGI tendrils remain ruthless and impressive as they quest for their victims. The secret behind the convent is shocking, though fairly predictable, and Masen's relationship with his father is far too hackneyed to raise any emotion other than derision. The same could be said of Masen's suddenly remembering the information that they need to escape the final triffid attack at the last moment. In all his life, he never remembered such a traumatic, but vital event? Until now?
Eddie Izzard remains a great fun villain with a marvellous comeuppance, but most of the other characters get short shrift, including Vanessa Redgrave's Mother Superior, in a script that is more about the plot than about the people. It does, at least, have the courage to stick to the only cautiously optimistic ending of the book.
In the end, though, this doesn't really improve greatly on the BBC's previous attempt at the story.Top
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