The Day of the Triffids

Starring: Gary Watson and Barbara Shelley
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN 1 846 07151 8
Available 03 July 2006

Bill Masen wakes in his hospital bed, eyes bandaged. Something is wrong, it's unusually quiet and no one has come to his room. When he removes his bandages he finds a world that has changed utterly. Most of the population are completely blind - only those who didn't watch the meteor shower in the the previous night sky can still see. And as law and order break down, a new menace appears - triffids, walking carnivorous plants that can kill a human with their lethal sting. For Bill and the other survivors, it's now a battle to stay alive...

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 between June and July 1968, this radio play version of John Wyndham's classic book has aged like a fine wine. Spread of six 30 minute episodes, The Day of the Triffids tells the story of a triffid expert called, Bill Masen, who is one of the very few people to still be able to see them.

The very species that is preying on mankind is responsible for saving Masen's life - a young triffid stung him which left him in hospital with his head covered in bandages on the night that the meteor shower, that caused world wide blindness to all those who witnessed it, is putting on a spectacular but lethal display across the globe. The first episode builds the back story up well and concludes not long after Masen wakes up in his hospital bed.

The resulting chaos sees various groups rising up from the mess and vying for supremacy - including the seeing (who wish to live away from the blind, because they are a hindrance to their survival) and the blind (who want to imprison the seeing to use them like guide dogs). Masen was originally in the first category of survivors but, after being kidnapped, he is suddenly forced to act as the eyes for a group of blind people.

This radio play is incredibly atmospheric and frighteningly real in places. The panic attacks, as the first victims realise that they are blind, are totally believable, as is the frightening way that law and order breaks down literally overnight. As Masen points out, a new class system is born from the disaster. The rich (or the sighted) and the poor (the blind). In fact the triffids don't really pose that much of a threat, or feature that heavily.

I did have one nit-pick. One of the sighted groups that Masen joins talks about repopulating the planet. Their leader claims that they can accommodate a number of blind women as they will give birth to sighted children, but that they can't afford to have any blind men. Surely the men could also father sighted children (the blindness is only caused because their retinas have been burnt beyond use, and is not a genetic fault). If they want to repopulate the planet quicker surely finding room for a few extra men would be helpful.

As an added bonus there are a number of deleted scenes at the end of disc three and some interesting sleeve notes by Andrew Pixley.

One of the best radio plays I've heard in a long time - even more impressive when you consider it was made in 1968.

Nick Smithson

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