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The Day Of The Triffids (Roadshow)
BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 153 mins . M15+ . PAL

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The time? Tomorrow. A strange phenomenon in the night-sky -- meteorite showers perhaps -- has all the world standing outside watching the celestial fireworks.

Next morning all the observers are blind, their sight destroyed by that free fireworks show. And they are suddenly helpless victims of the terrifying mobile plants, the Triffids, harvested for their special vegetable oil, but now free to move at will, and feed on their erstwhile harvesters.

The Day of the Triffids was one of British science fiction writer John Wyndham's strongest novels, up there alongside The Kraken Awakes and my personal favourite, The Chrysalids.

Film and science-fiction are usually odd bedfellows -- the genre rarely translates to the screen, and is usually dumbed-down to the lowest possible level.

Well, it's good to report that if you haven't seen this BBC dramatisation before, prepare to be astonished by just how all the traditional BBC excellence have been brought to bear on this classic tale.

Although the production dates from 1981, the settings and direction are still totally modern; the tale terrifyingly believable.

This isn't really a tale about flesh-eating mobile plants; it's about a catastrophic breakdown in 'normal' human society and the way different individuals cope. Some of the initial scenes of lawlessness and despair are totally harrowing -- the guarded optimism at the tale's end still seems very real.

John Wyndham would have been hugely pleased by this sober, adult approach to his masterful story. Is there anything to compare it with? I do remember a good dramatisation of 1984 way back in the dim dark years, and of course the pioneering Quatermass and the Pit from the 1950s. But for science-fiction lovers such as myself, the pickings along the years have been pretty thin.

There is also of course the sci-fi genre, which all real science-fiction fans recognise as being something totally different. Doctor Who, entertaining as it is, is definitely sci-fi, not science-fiction. So was Hitchhiker, Red Dwarf and many others. That's not attacking the often very entertaining sci-fi genre. It's just not real science fiction. This is.

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This is a decent-enough fullscreen transfer of a vintage television drama, which means don't expect too much in super-sharp picture quality; it's sound, down-to-earth period television drama presented in probably better quality than you would have seen at the time. Sound is clear. The soundtrack, a Bartokian effort from Christopher Gunning, with lots of piano and percussion, is just sensational - it counterpoints the drama very effectively, and is strong in its own right. It's one of the best original soundtracks I've heard.

I've awarded only one point for Extras as I'm not in a position to judge them. There are no extras on the DVD itself, but there is a 12-page indormation booklet enclosed in the DVD package. This was not included in the review set.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Is this the best television dramatisation yet of a classic science-fiction tale? Could well be...."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DVD 655A
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Denon AVR-2801
    • Speakers:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Centre Speaker:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Surrounds:
          Celestian (50W)
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
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