Looking Back At THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS part 3 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS part 3

Greg Bakun concludes his in-depth look back at the 1981 BBC series The Day of the Triffids.

It’s hard to believe it’s already time to write about the Parts 5 & 6 of this series. It goes by really fast and in the course of 6 episodes a lot of stuff happens. Remember, when we started this series, it was a day after everyone had gone blind. We, as viewers, were introduced to an incredible and mysterious plant life known as the Triffids. We have seen human atrocities that we would have never thought possible and we see how people react in crisis from both sides of the spectrum: kindness and cruelty. Just think, this was all caused by some fantastic meteor……or was it?

Click here to read about Part One & Part Two
Click here to read about Part Three & Part Four

Part Five TX: 08/10/81
As we got to the end of Part Four Bill was back at the University of London looking for Jo and someone else is there roaming the halls. Is it Jo? No, it’s Coker. Remember him? Because of him, Jo and Bill got separated in the first place. Because of Coker, Bill was basically imprisoned as the leader of one of the groups taking care of the blind. Now, Coker sees what everyone had been trying to tell him. It was a noble idea that he wanted to care for all the people who could not see but it was impractical. Not enough sighted people to take care of all the blind people. Plus now, the disease continues to kill off people by the droves. There were no groups left. Coker’s plan failed.

Bill must be one of the most even-tempered and kind people to ever walk the Earth. Face to face with Coker again, Bill does nothing to Coker. This does not seem out of character at all; in fact it seems just right. It is clear to me that Bill is one of those people who doesn’t want to hold a grudge, he wants to move on. He knows if he takes any anger out on Coker is futile. The Earth needs all the people possible to keep things together. After Bill explains to Coker that he plans on finding Jo, the two of them decide to go to Tynsham. That is where Beadley and everyone else had gone. Maybe Jo had gone there too. Upon their arrival, they find that things did not go according to plan. Beadley, Dr. Vorless, and Major Anderson have left Tynsham to Ms. Durrant. Dr. Vorless explained way back in Part Three how the conventional system of husband and wife would not be possible in a new world where the Earth needed to be repopulated. Ms. Durrant and others did not agree with this way of thinking and decided to break off from the group. It was Beadley and the others that decided to move on to somewhere else.

Coker thinks he can convince Ms. Durrant of the shortcomings of this community and rally them to be more realistic of what is happening around them and how to survive more efficiently. Unfortunately, Ms. Durrant does not agree with his views and both Coker and Bill head off to find Jo. Bill is pretty sure that if Jo can, she will be heading towards The Sussex Downs. As they travel, they stop in a village after a blind man waives a white flag as they drive by. He comes out to them but a Triffid is waiting and kills him. Bill kills the Triffid with the Triffid gun. Coker decides that he wants to make another go at Tynsham. He wants to belong in a community. He takes one of the Lorries and heads back.

Driving on his own, Bill ends up nearly hitting a young girl as she runs out into the road. Her name is Susan. Her and Bill travel to The Sussex Downs and eventually find Jo. That seems very lucky to me but I know we need to keep the series moving. Bill decides that everyone on Shirning Farm (where Jo is staying) should join the community at Tynsham so Bill goes back to tell Coker. Unfortunately, when he gets there, he finds that the disease has taken just about everyone there. Dead bodies are scattered all over the place including Ms. Durrant. There is no sign of Coker. It is decided that Bill, Jo, Susan and the rest stay where they are. The last shot of the episode is the outside of the house with the Triffids waiting.

The first four episodes had some Triffid action but they are really in force by this episode. There are some very grim images of Triffid attacks. There is a wonderful shot of Bill and Coker driving under a bridge and the camera pans to a dead body on the bridge with Triffids looking on. A lot happens in the episode and there is a ton of travelling throughout. It starts out in London then moves on to Tynsham, then to The Sussex Downs. Yet, with all the movement, if almost feels to me like a bit of padding even when there is so much happening. I think the good news is that we really get to see the Triffids as they almost start to become the dominant life-form in the UK. Bill still doesn’t believe that the Triffids are capable of actually thinking or being instinctive but he sees for himself first hand. The incident in this episode with the blind man killed by the Triffid at the village. The Triffid had been biding its time, waiting for this man to come out. Bill is becoming more convinced.

Part Six TX: 15/10/81
Part Six starts out with shots of London. It’s London as we know or it, or rather as it was in 1981 but it has been overgrown with greenery. London is completely deserted. Part Six takes place 6 years after the events of Parts 1-5. Life is very different now for everyone. Bill and Jo have been together all this time and have a child of their own. Susan is older and has needed to learn to grow up faster than she should. She is a tremendous help to everyone.

Coker finds them and lands a helicopter on their property. He explains that he is on the Isle of Wight and he is a part of the community there. He wants to bring Bill and everyone to this community and it is especially good for Bill since he would become the Triffid “expert” to learn how to kill these plants off once and for all. They accept and they just need to finish things up where they are and will join Coker soon.

Things change very quickly. Susan needed to light a fire to alert Bill and Jo to get back to the house once Coker arrived. The problem is that a military group that has “control” over the area saw the smoke from this fire and make their way to the property too. It is led by a man named Torrence. Torrence explains to them that they will need to take on more blind people and create basically a work camp. Susan will be moved to another sector where she will also take on another work camp. Luckily for everyone, both Bill and Jo are extremely smart. They do not bat an eye to any of this. They accept Torrence’s new decree and they happily offer Torrence and his men a chance to have dinner and stay the night so they can all celebrate the new arrangement and friendship. Bill wants nothing to do with this new way of life and creates a plan for everyone to escape this military group. Right away, Bill has a plan which is to get the soldiers very drunk, sabotage the military vehicles and get out. They do this successfully and leave the military to the onslaught of the Triffids. Now, do Bill and everyone else make it to the Isle of Wight? It is not seen on screen but I like to think they do.

Now, without Paul’s wonderful Triffid site, I would never have known about one interesting fact. This is probably made very obvious in the book but do you remember back in Part Four when this mad man guns down Alf and other blind people who were in the care of Bill? That was Torrence. Nothing is made of it in the TV adaptation with the exception that the person who was cast to play this murderer and Torrence is the same person. It is a wonderful underlying moment and it made me love this program all the more for it. It isn’t shoved in your face and if you aren’t careful, like me, you could miss it altogether. Also, throughout this entire story, we are led to believe that this meteor caused everyone to be blind. Bill had a different idea. As he puts it, we don’t know all the satellites that rotate around the planet. What if one of them was a weapon of mass-destruction? What if it was accidentally or purposefully set off and its purpose was to blind everyone? This could also explain the disease that came out of nowhere that has ravaged the population almost immediately after everyone went blind. That could be part of the same weapon or a different one. There is a really good chance that this was a man-made catastrophe. It seems believable to me which makes the story more terrifying. Who knows what horrible abominations created by someone else is waiting to be unleashed on us!

The Day of the Triffids is nice because it doesn’t have a lot of actors that I have seen before. It doesn’t mean they are not famous, I just haven’t seen anything with them before. Bill is played by John Duttine who has been in a number of programs such as Jesus of Nazareth, People Like Us, Wuthering Heights and Doc Martin among so much more. He plays Bill as a level-headed smart person who is able to take all the changes around him in stride. If he loses his temper it is for a good reason otherwise he is very intelligent. Especially when it comes to Triffids which is very important now.

Emma Relph plays Jo. She is someone else I am not too familiar with and looking at her entry in IMDB it looks like she hadn’t acted (at least on TV) since 1990. Jo was someone else who was able to adapt. It probably helped that she found a smart partner in Bill. When we first meet her, she is attacked by a blind man and is forced to do his will. To be fair, she had no idea the entire population turned blind. She learned from the mistake and became a very strong person. There were some actors I was very familiar with in this series. At the top of the list was Maurice Colbourne who played Coker. He played him as someone who used treachery to actually help the blind. Once he and Bill partnered with each other, Coker becomes a very trusted ally and friend. Of course Colbourne played Lytton in Doctor Who on two separate occasions but also played Tom Howard in Howard’s Way. Sadly, Maurice Colbourne was taken away from us too soon as he died in 1989 at the age of 49. Other people that I recognize are Morris Barry, Pat Gorman and John Hollis who plays the very sympathetic character of Alf.

This is a great presentation of this series. It is the normal mix of videotape interiors and film exteriors. I don’t know if any of the film inserts exist for this story but they appear on this DVD very strong. They looked like a good transfer which I am assuming is original to the episode. I didn’t notice any tape drop-out on the episodes themselves. Everything looked as good as can be expected for the time period these episodes were made.

This was released during a period when the BBC were releasing other vintage series of the same or similar genre such as The Invisible Man, The Nightmare Man, Adam Adamant Lives! and The Quatermass Trilogy. All of these, with the exception of Adam Adamant Lives!, were released in 2005 and all of these releases included DVD viewing notes written by noted TV historian Andrew Pixley. The only thing that I dislike about this release is the cover. It looks like some cheap made for TV movie or something and it is obviously anything but that. It’s kind of hard to see that big orange thing on the cover is a Triffid. It’s one gripe from an otherwise excellent DVD release and a very worthwhile classic BBC series.

Some information used in this article comes from Paul Thompson who is a massive fan of all things Triffid and his website can be found at: http://triffids.wuthering-heights.co.uk/index.htm Other information came from the DVD Viewing Notes booklet written by Andrew Pixley from 2005.

Greg Bakun is a seasoned connoisseur and reviewer of British television. You can read more of his articles and reviews on his site From the Archive: A British Television Blog or listen to him drink wine on the Doctor Who podcast The Others. Oh, you can follow him on Twitter too.

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