TV Series Review: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

The Day of the Triffids is a lengthy two-part show adapted from the John Wyndham’s novel of the same title. It’s not the first adaption of novel as it had previously been adapted in 1962 as a film and by the BBC as mini-series in 1981.

I have an early recollection of seeing the 1981 mini-series but all that sticks in the mind is that it was pretty boring. This 2009 re-adaption is no better even with its glossy, CGI-covered sheen.

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The show opens with a flashback of an event in the late 1970’s showing a woman being killed by a Triffid in a jungle somewhere. She is the mother of Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) who in 2009 is a Triffid expert and explains in voice-over style how we (humanity) put a stop to global warming by using Triffids as a new fuel source.

A Triffid is a large carnivorous plant that has a high intelligence and is extremely dangerous. They are kept in warehouses all over the world but as expected many protests the treatment of the plants.

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Considering how valuable and dangerous Triffids are it’s hilarious how easily an activist (Ewen Bremner) breaks into the London warehouse. He’s in without a fuss and while he doesn’t cause any major problems, Bill is injured by a young Triffid. Taken to hospital, it’s 50/50 if he will retain his sight. He has to have his eyes bandaged, thus missing out on an upcoming solar eruption.

Turns out that his injury was a blessing in disguise as the light from the solar eruption ends up blinding 95% of the population. Bill wakes, staggers out of his hospital room to see chaos. Everyone around him is blind and desperate for help.

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Elsewhere a man named Torrence (Eddie Izzard) miraculously survives a plane crash and seems to relish in the world’s new-found blindness. While Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) emerges from a London Underground station to discover chaos running rampant on the streets of London. When a crowd realise she is able to see they mob her but thankfully Bill finds her and saves her.

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Jo wants to find out what has happened but Bill’s concern is the Triffids. If power has gone out at the facilities, the Triffids will be free. Along the way they run into more sighted survivors and are forced to take care of some of the blind. Every warning that Bill tries to make about the Triffids is dismissed as not an immediate problem.

Unfortunately, Bill’s worries prove to be correct as the Triffids escape and start spreading across the land.

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The Day of the Triffids is about 3 hours long and you’re going to feel every minute of that. Regardless of the title, the Triffids often spend a lot of the time absent from the story. Instead so much focus is given to Dougray Scott’s Bill and his mission to stop the killer plants from spreading. That wouldn’t be such a problem if he was an interesting character but he’s very bland. Like unflavoured pasta, you’ll eat it if there is nothing else but all the while you’ll be think about something tastier.

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That something better comes in the form of Eddie Izzard’s Torrence. The most layered, fun and interesting character of the series. We know next to nothing about who he was but the way in which he takes advantage of the disaster is scary. He’s a villain, that much is clear early on. However, there is also an understated need by him to be wanted. With his jealousy of the heroic Bill just making him nastier. It’s hard to say it’s worth watching this show just for him but if you’re going too, he lights up the screen.

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Boring. It’s so boring and every plot development shown has effectively been done a thousand times before in other shows and movies. What it should have had going for it are the Triffids but this show does a terrible job of making them seem like threats. The problem lies in just how ineffective they are until humans start scuffling and fighting around them. It seems as though keeping your distance is pretty much going to keep you safe. The show will tell you that this is not true yet it fails to show you that for 3 hours. In fact, the only time they ever seem like a proper threat is during the finale and even then, they had to be practically on top of the humans.

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It did no harm to update the show seeing as how old the last one was and visually this is a step up. It’s shiny, glossy and clean with some decent CGI and well-done effects. Its flaws are with its story, its boring dialogue and uninteresting main character. If it was half the time it probably would be far more watchable but it is 3 long hours.

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  • Carl Fisher

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The Day of the Triffids - 2009
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