First Survivors, Now Triffids

Killer Plants on the Loose

John Wyndham’s classic book, Day of the Triffids, is about to be remade into a new BBC two parter. Written in 1951, the book starts with an unexplained phenomena blinding most of the world’s population. This would be bad enough except the world is heavy dependent on the Triffids. 6′ Tall, walking plants with deadly stings, that provide important bio-fuels. With everyone blind, the triffids break free, making a bad situation much, much worse.

As with all post-apocalypse stories, in The Day of the Triffids, the real enemy is not the obvious one. Most of the danger comes from fellow survivors rather than the plants themselves. Again, as with similar disaster stories, the novel reflects the concerns of the time. Mankind was sent blind by everyone watching an amazing meteor storm. Was it a natural occurrence or an attack by the Soviets? The book never answers the question but cold war political worries and the concept of attacks from space where in people’s minds only 6 years after V2 rockets had been falling on London. It was also only a few years after DNA was discovered and scientists were beginning to speculate about how plants and animals can be modified and used as resources. Science getting out of control and humanity being out-evolved were reoccurring themes in Wyndham’s work.

The BBC clearly like the Day of the Triffids. It has been adapted for radio at least 5 times in the last 50 years. In 1981 they made a six part TV series version. I saw the first episode and fell in love with it. It is probably one of the reasons I’m so much a fan of post-apocalypse RPGs. The series was repeated recently and it has dated badly but from memory it was a faithful adaptation. Unlike the appalling 60s’ film version that should be avoided like the plague.

The new adaptation of Day of the Triffids will be a two parter, due for release in 2009. It is interesting that post- apocalypse films, TV and books are making a comeback. Traditionally they have always flourished in times economic and political uncertainty. Strangely, they tend to shy away from the most obvious threats, Nuclear War in the 80s, climate change in the 00s, and focus on monsters or zombies or natural disasters. Maybe it is because the real threats are a little too close to home. Or possibly being chased by a killer plant makes better TV than the sea level rising 6m over the next fifty years.