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The Day of the Triffids - (BBC) Review

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN ALL-star cast – Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Eddie Izzard, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave – certainly adds a touch of class to Patrick Harbinson’s updated version of John Wyndham’s 1951 sci-fi classic, the apocalyptic The Day of the Triffids, which aired on BBC 1 in the immediate post-Christmas period.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Harbinson’s Triffids have replaced fossil fuels as a source of oil, thereby freeing the world from the scourge of global warming.

However, Triffids are carnivorous plants with a deadly sting and the ability not only to communicate but also to uproot and pursue prey – which means stringent supervision and strict security are of paramount importance on Triffid farms worldwide.

But the unthinkable happens. A solar storm leaves the majority of the world’s population blind, the Triffids unsupervised. As their hunt for food begins, only one man, Triffid expert Bill Mason (Scott), can save the world. Or can he?

As Mason, Scott is perfect. Not only is he blessed with rugged good looks, he can also act. Thus his character displays all the characteristics – determination, intelligence, level-headedness and compassion – that inspire confidence. Who then, could blame media celebrity Jo Playton (Richardson) from trusting him with her life or indeed, for falling in love with him?

Richardson’s performance is, in fact, inspired. Not only does her Jo avoid the pitfalls of contemporary heroines – namely being too feisty for her own good – she also brings vulnerability and good old-fashioned common sense to the role, both of which make her character extremely likeable.

Which is more than can be said about Izzard’s Torrence… but all credit to Izzard for that. As the villain of the piece, he’s superb – suitably nasty and just a little bit creepy, particularly in regards to his intentions towards Jo.

However, I wasn’t totally convinced by his miraculous escape from the scattered debris of the crashed plane although, of course, it left him ripe for a much worse and thoroughly deserved fate.

As for the Triffids, I first became acquainted with them at school, when my perception of them was fostered by a comparatively innocuous looking creature on the cover of my Penguin paperback – a far cry from the ominous looking brutes that marched inexorably across my television screen.

And here it’s top marks to the BBC’s special effects department for resisting the temptation to be over zealous with their creation but, instead, getting it just right.

The Day of the Triffids is not only fast paced, it also delivers thrills and spills aplenty. Certain scenes, however, are unsuitable for younger viewers. But did it really end?

I’d say no because the Triffids were still very much in control – at least in mainland Britain. So, next time you go down to the woods, you’d better beware…

NB: A DVD of The Day of the Triffids is available to buy from February 1, 2010.