The Day of the Triffids (BBC 1981). Episode Two

triffids 02

After leaving Dr Soames in an office, Bill tells him that he’ll go and find some help.  Soames knows there’s nothing to be done and he’s right – everyone else in the hospital is blind.  Along the way, Bill meets a patient in one of the wards who asks him to draw the curtains and when he has, the man tells him to stop playing about and draw the curtains.

This is another scene taken directly from the novel, although it might have been a good idea to omit it.  It’s impossible to believe that somebody couldn’t tell the difference between it simply being dark and being blind.  Even in the dark, it’s possible to distinguish shapes and outlines.

Elsewhere, he sees groups of people milling about anxiously and when he returns to the office he finds Dr Soames has jumped to his death.  As Bill ventures out onto the streets he finds no better news, until he spots a girl who can see.  He follows her into a house and meets her father, John (Stephen Yardley).  John and his wife are blind, but their daughter can still see.

John vacillates between believing that the problem is only local and temporary and pondering the implications if the majority of the population are now permanently blind.

Well, everybody will be like us at first. They won’t know what’s happened. They’ll be too frightened to move. Then they’ll get hungry and start looking for food. I mean this town’s nasty at the best of times. In two or three days it won’t just be hooligans, it’ll be people you thought butter wouldn’t melt killing each other for scraps of food.

There’s a great deal of truth in this, as we see pockets of the blind fighting each other for food, whilst one woman sits on the ground with a packet of washing powder in the mistaken belief that it’s edible.  Elsewhere, a group of football supporters are led by a sighted man and they grab a woman.  Their intentions are obvious and although Bill tries to intervene, it’s probable that his attempt was fruitless (we don’t see the conclusion).  As we witness other examples of people in distress, how will Bill decide which ones to help and which ones to leave?

Earlier in the episode, Josella (Emma Relph) was captured by a blind man and forced to be his eyes.  Bill discovers them and frees her.  Together they seek refuge in a pub and when she decides to find her father, Bill asks if he can come with her.  Jo agrees instantly and tells him it’s “not because I’m afraid of getting caught again.  I’ll watch out for that.  It’s just the dreadful sense of loneliness, being cut off from everybody else”.

Jo’s father is dead, killed by a Triffid and Bill and Jo only manage to escape after Bill kills another.  This the first major Triffid attack scene in the story and thanks to some tight framing and intense acting from Duttine it works well.  Whilst they’re not the most mobile of creatures, the occasional glimpse of them (as well as the eerie sound they make) is quite effective.

The episode has already discussed how the vast majority of the population could, because of their blindness, be turned into a mob – and this looks like it’s coming true at the end.  Bill and Jo’s car is surrounded by a group of blind people and whilst none of them are intrinsically evil, their desperation to hold onto any sighted person is somewhat disturbing.


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