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

triffids 05

Episode Five concerns itself with Bill’s quest to find Jo, which leads him out of London and into the country.  Coker joins him for the trip.  One of the major plus-points of this episode is Maurice Colbourne, who was always such a watchable actor with a very strong presence.  Although he appeared briefly in a few previous episodes, he’s much more central in this one.  After he and Bill rest in an abandoned pub, it’s Coker who can clearly see the way forward.

We must be part of a community to have any hope for the future at all.  At the moment we’ve got all we need.  Food, supplies, everything.  But the food will go bad, the metal will rust, the petrol to drive the machines will run out.  Before that happens, we have to learn to plough and learn to make ploughs, and learn to smelt the iron to make the ploughshares.  We must learn to make good all that we wear out.  If not …. we say goodbye to civilisation and we slide right back into savagery.

Bill and Coker find the community at Tynsham, but Jo isn’t there.  A number of the survivors have also moved on, due to a serious disagreement.  The remaining survivors at Tynsham are led by Miss Durrant (Perlita Nelson) and they’ve rejected the notion that pro-creation is key to survival – instead they plan to exist by strictly Christian principles and they put their faith in God to save them.

Coker decides to stay with them, as he believes that he can make something of the community, and Bill travels on.  Along the way he effectively adopts an orphaned young girl, Susan (Emily Dean).  It’s interesting to see how this, like so much of The Day of the Triffids, was directly paralleled in Terry Nation’s Survivors.  Essentially Survivors is The Day of the Triffids writ-large, but without any Triffids.

Wyndham gave Susan more of a back-story (about the death of her parents and her fears and feelings) which isn’t used here, that’s a bit of a pity as without it she’s something of an underdeveloped character.

Together they eventually manage to find Jo (along with a few others) and they all decide to return to the community at Tynsham.  But disease has struck – many are dead and the others have left.  Of Coker, there’s no sign.  So they face the prospect of having to establish their own small community, whilst all around the Triffids are looming …..

There’s certainly more Triffid action in this episode.  Bill gets to shoot a few of them – with both a rile and a Triffid gun.  When Coker asks Bill if the Triffids frighten him he says yes, “and they sicken me, too.  And what sickens me the most is that inside this mess they are the only things that are going to fatten and thrive”.

Whilst there weren’t that many Triffids in London, there seems to be more of them in the countryside – whether they’re breeding or whether there were tens of thousands in captivity who’ve escaped is never made clear.  But they seem to be an ever-growing menace (even more so in the final episode).

A word about Christopher Gunning’s score.  It wouldn’t have been a surprise (because of period when this was made) for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to have provided the incidental music, but instead Gunning uses more traditional instruments (instead of the synthesizers favoured by the Radiophonic Workshop).

In episode five’s score, the piano dominates – and as Bill’s search for Jo reaches a happy conclusion, the music reaches an appealing crescendo.  Given how dark the majority of the story is, Gunning’s music helps to provide a sliver of light and hope.

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