Whither Wyndham?

We need to warn pipple.

Triffds of a different era

Delivered in a montone normally associated with a bored nine-year-old forced to play the shepherd in the school nativity play when he’d rather be blowing shit up on his PS3. Not the reaction you’d expect to the sight of giant, man-eating plants wandering up the M25. But that’s how it rolls in a new adaption of John Wyndham‘s classic The Day of the Triffids, the BBC’s big new sci-fi extravaganza for the festive period. The dull, Scottish brogue of Dougray Scott, and acting that it almost as unforgiveably bad from Joely Richardson, are, amazingly, not the lowlight of the two-parter. The plodding script, the leads’ habit of explaining exactly what you’ve just seen happen, the hapless portentousness (the main villain glaring at statues of Churchill before wandering into Downing Street) the spectacular plane crash in central London (more to the point, Eddie Izzard‘s remarkable survival of the above, just the kind of scientifcally imporbably cobblers you feel Wyndham would’ve striven to avoid). It truly is a dreadful, wasted opportunity.

the second episode was markedly better – it wouldn’t’ve taken much, but the presence of Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox helped. Not that the plotting improved, nor the acting. First, Izzard forgets what side of the Atlantic he’s on, and produces the kind of accent last seen in Emmerdale Farm circa 1993 – the ‘I’ve been British up until now, but since the plot seems to have been borrowed unacknowledged from a 1950s B-movie, I’d better go a bit mid-Atlantic’. Then, aid arrives care of a remote African tribe (with remarkable good English skills, all things considered), who reveal that the answer comes in mis-applied makeup. being more roots and culture (pun unintended, but entirely unavoidable) they realise that some misapplied Goth-style eyeliner can save us all, and we all live happily ever after.

Frankly the whole thing veers so far from Wyndham’s archetypal cosy catastrophe – a portrayal of global meltdown through the eyes of someone like you – that the viewer wonders what the point is. The writers clearly felt that the script was in need of references to contemporary concerns, corporate greed climate change etc… so why not write your own rather than trying to shoehorn in minor plot elements that really don’t work? Or look elsehwere for your source material.

I’ve recently finished reading a marvelous book, taking in some of the themes and sci-fi elements of Triffids but with a streak of environmental awareness running through it, references to melting polar ice caps, climate change and global warming. It’s a chilling adventure which is desperately in need of a TV adapation and would’ve made a great Christmas special for the BBC. And the real twist in the tale is that this book was written in 1953, just two years after Triffids. Its title?