Retreading the Triffids


My dad was a lifelong fan of SF (always ‘SF’, never ‘Sci Fi’ – that would send him off on one; “sounds like a fucking skin disease!”) in general, and John Wyndham in particular. So when the Beeb broadcast a six part series based on The Day Of The Triffids, Wyndham’s 1951 potboiler about a plague of carnivorous vegetables, he gave me special dispensation to stay up and watch it with him.

I don’t think mum had much say in this. I’m not sure I really had much of a say in it either; I think he just wanted me to be interested in the things he was interested in. (This sort of thing developed over the next few years, as he pursued the hobbies denied him as a boy who grew up too quickly – stamp collecting and model railways – through a rather reluctant proxy, me.)

But staying up late to watch grown ups’ telly, well, that’s a no-brainer. And I ended up shitting myself. Killer plants. The end of civilisation, of ‘safety’. Being alone. Blindness. All these ideas grabbed me back then. They still do. I stuck it out through all the episodes. The dour, unflashy, slightly stilted style of drama from back then still has a power today, even if the odd line seems stodgy, even if characters seem underdeveloped, even if there are plotholes. It’s just plain fucking scary. It was then, and it is today. And it was only halfway through rewatching it today that I made the connection – my dad is now blind. Can the killer vegetables be far behind?

Still, John Duttine (who would score the role of the terrorist leader in Who Dares Wins the year after this) is as excellent as I remember him as Bill Masen, the character we stick with throughout – a slightly anonymous, unremarkable kind of chap. I have to say, I didn’t really remember the female character, Jo Payton, but Emma Relph seems to have nailed her. And the series is good enough for Edgar Wright and Danny Boyle to have ‘borrowed’ the odd scene and visual…

For me? The Day Of The Triffids was my Doctor Who.

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