This weekend we finally got around to clearing the decks, settling down on the couch and watching the latest BBC adaptation of The Day Of The Triffids.
I’d been looking forward to it since it aired, not because of anything to do with the cast or production, just because I’ve read the book a squillion times.
I can’t remember the first time I sat down and opened the book. I can’t even remember if it was the first of John Wyndham’s works I’d read, but I do know that I have read and loved and reread The Day Of The Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) and Chocky (1968).
John Wyndham was a legend. One of the founding fathers of post-war British SciFi, he was such a magnificent influence on my early life that my reading flowed, quite naturally, from Wyndham to Edmund Cooper and his epoch-defining works: Transit (1964), Five To Twelve (1968), Who Needs Men (1972), The Cloud Walker (1973) and The Tenth Planet (1973).
These men, these talented writers brought SciFi home to Britain from the transatlantic-flavoured worlds created by foreigners such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A Heinlein.
Wyndham and Cooper wrote with skill, they defined situations that had relevance to a British readership and they did it with panache and style and total – near clinical – craftsmanship.
Oh I was so looking forward to the BBC’s adaptation of The Day Of The Triffids.
The key elements of Wyndham’s work are clearly defined in the BBC’s production.
But gone is the brevity, absent are the clinical touches and the deft incisiveness is.. nowhere to be seen.
The BBC have given us an over-written, over-produced mess of a project that is to televisual craftsmanship what the chariot race in Ben Hur is to considerate motoring.
I have to admit, in all fairness, that the characterisations worked; the casting was almost completely comfortable and some of the performances bordered on – given the shortcomings of the project – heroic.
But the script the actors were given to work with can only be described as…
- Pathetic, and
There were so many examples of awfulness that one’s already suspended sense of belief had to be suspended a second and even a third time whilst still being suspended the first time.
I could list the shortcomings of The Day Of The Triffids, but what would be the point?
No, really, what would be the point?
If a production as awful to endure experience as The Day Of The Triffids can slip through what passes for ‘quality control’ at the BBC, listing out the many flat points in the show would have what benefit?
The crushingly relentless mediocrity that the BBC almost rammed down the throats of the viewer in this production just about stifled the life out of us.
In this house we jokingly called it ‘a futuristic sitcom’, but the truth is the writing seemed to have been contributed by a collective of 14 year-olds and the production was delivered by a Star Wars fanboy.
The Day Of The Triffids: a truly awful experience.
John Wyndham, RIP.