The Day of the Triffids

(United Kingdom | BBC | 1981 / 2009)

Series Background

The Day of the Triffids is one of the most famous science fiction stories of all time, although to people who are only familiar with the 1963 movie version starring Howard Keel, the plot may not be entirely as you remember it.

In brief, Bill Masen, a worker on a triffid farm, is temporarily blinded when he is stung by a triffid, and finds himself in hospital with his eyes bandaged up. The night before the bandages are due to be removed, a spectacular "meteorite" shower is observed, and by the morning the majority of the Earth's population is now blind. Unsurprisingly, Bill is now one of the few sighted people left, and with the inevitable death of the blind, the fight for the survival of humanity begins, with one of the major dangers being the carnivorous triffids who have by now broken free from the farms and which are capable of killing with a single poisonous blow.

Note the absense of lighthouses and seawater, which were introduced into the movie for the conclusion...

To date there have been two television adaptations of the book, both produced by the BBC. The first, in 1981, was a faithful six-part adaptation in which the fight for survival after the meteorite shower was the primary story, with the triffids themselves, as in the book, merely being an annoying sideshow which only cause the survivors more trouble. The second version, broadcast in December 2009, was a full-on "re-imagining" of the story, with the fight against the triffids being the centrepiece of the drama, deviating considerably from Wyndham's original book. Purists with a taste for slighty old-fashioned, but still compelling, videotaped drama should probably seek out the 1981 version. Anyone with an open mind should also give the 2009 version a fair chance.

An authorised sequel to John Wyndham's original novel was published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK in 2001. Written by Simon Clark, The Night of the Triffids picked up the story some twenty-five years on from the original book, with the main character being David Masen, the son of Bill and Jo.

Other UK television dramas which deal with various "end of civilisation as we know it" scenarios include:

  • Survivors
    Terry Nation's 1970s series in which the world falls prey to a deadly flu-like virus from the far east — recently revisited in the 2008 re-make.
  • The Last Train
    ITV's 1999 series saw an asteroid wiping out much of the world's population and a group of survivors, who have been frozen in a railway tunnel for fifty years, trying to reach a secret location where they believe they will find more survivors.
  • The War Game / Threads
    Both BBC dramas involved a nuclear holocaust in the UK — the former being banned from television for twenty years by horrified TV execs at the BBC, and the latter scaring a generation witless as Sheffield was wiped off the map.
  • End Day
    A one-off production for BBC Three in 2005 which looked at five possible ways in which death and destruction could be inflicted on the human race, all centred around a single character (Dr Howell) who would experience all of the disasters in the course of the programme. The final apocalypse would be one of Howell's own making, as he took part in the switching on of a new particle accelerator which created a black hole and destroyed the entire world.
  • Offerings from The United States include the 1994 TV mini-series based on Stephen King's The Stand (another outbreak of super-flu), the nuclear war drama By Dawn's Early Light, and Jericho, the first episode of which saw twenty-three major US cities destroyed in simultaneous nuclear attacks by terrorists unknown.
Blu-ray and DVD Releases

The 1981 production of The Day of the Triffids has been released on DVD in both the UK and the United States. The UK release contains a booklet on the making of the serial. Both releases are subtitled.

The 2009 production of The Day of the Triffids has been released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK. Subtitles.
 
The Day of the Triffids

by
John Wyndham
Cover image: The Day of the Triffids, Penguin Books (1981)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication Date 1981
Original Price 1.25
ISBN 0140009930

An edition of The Day of the Triffids released to tie in with the 1981 BBC1 television adaptation.

Back Cover Blurb
Fantastic, frightening, but entirely plausible, John Wyndham's famous story of a world dominated by monstrous, stinging plants catches the imagination like the best of H.G. Wells.

'One of Great Britain's most serious and literate pioneers of intelligent science fiction... Wyndham always wrote well and imaginatively' — Financial Times
Television Serial
The Day of the Triffids
6 × 30 Minutes | BBC1 | Colour

10/09/81 Part One Douglas Livingstone
17/09/81 Part Two Douglas Livingstone
24/09/81 Part Three Douglas Livingstone
01/10/81 Part Four Douglas Livingstone
08/10/81 Part Five Douglas Livingstone
15/10/81 Part Six Douglas Livingstone
Notes
  • The front cover shows Josella and Bill, as played by Emma Relph and John Duttine. A similar image from the same photographic session was used on the cover of the Radio Times (5 — 11 September 1981) to publicise the start of the television adaptation.
The Day of the Triffids

by
John Wyndham
Cover image: The Day of the Triffids, Penguin Books (2009)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication Date December 2009
Original Price 8.99
ISBN 978-0141043555

Edition of The Day of the Triffids released to tie in with the 2009 BBC television adaptation.

Television Serial
The Day of the Triffids
2 × 90 Minutes | BBC One | Colour

28/12/09 (UNTITLED) Patrick Harbinson
29/12/09 (UNTITLED) Patrick Harbinson
Notes
  • The front cover shows Josella and Bill, as played by Joely Richardson and Dougray Scott.