First broadcast between June 1968 and July 1968, Giles Cooper’s full-cast radio dramatisation of John Wyndham’s classic post-apocalyptic story ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951) was broadcast over a total of six episodes for BBC Radio 4. In July of 2006, the BBC released the entire radio production on a 3 CD set as part of their ‘Classic Radio Sci-fi’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
Ever since the first triffiids started appearing over the world, Bill Masen has been heavily involved with their farming, and biological research. These tall plants that are believed to have been bioengineered by the Russians for their oil-giving properties have an aggressive nature unseen in any other plant life. Acutely aware of their surroundings, the triffids are capable of moving about by the use of their roots, can communicate with each other, and possess long stinging appendages that deliver a poisonous toxin into their victims, leaving them vulnerable to the carnivorous plants to attack. As such, the farming of these hostile plants has proven to be an increasingly difficult and potentially dangerous activity. A threat that Bill Masen is all too aware of.

Having fallen foul of a triffid attack to his eyes, Masen finds himself in hospital with his damaged eyes bandaged shut whilst he recovers. Whilst Masen is laid up in the care of the hospital, a strange green meteor shower takes place across the world, delivering a spectacular display which is witnessed by the entire world. However, unbeknown to the world’s population, the dazzling lights of the shower have a nasty side-effect for all those that were exposed to the astrological marvel. Within a matter of hours, all those that witnessed the meteor storm (which is in fact most of the world’s population) find that they have gone blind.

After realising that something is quite wrong in the hospital, Masen removes the bandages from his recovering eyes and goes in search of help. After leaving behind the hospital, Masen makes his way through the disturbingly chaotic streets of London, with the entire inhabitants of the city blindingly stumbling around, desperately crying out for assistance.

As Bill makes his way through the scenes of absolute anarchy, he encounters an aggressive blind man being guided by a sighted woman named Josella Playton. As Masen approaches the duo, he realises that Playton is being forced to guide this aggressive man about the city for food, under the threat of violence. After stepping in and rescuing the woman, Masen and Josellla hole-up in a plush London apartment, until they decide that they need to leave the once great city for a safer location. But that night, when they look out over the darkened expanse of the concrete jungle before them, they notice a gleaming light, shining out from a single point not too far away.

On a mission to locate the source of the light, Masen and Playton discover a fellow group of sighted survivors, all holed up in an inner-city university building. Led by a man named Beadley, the group are already beginning to get organised, with plans of setting up a new community outside of the city, already in their final stages of organisation.

But the group have a number of quite drastic views on how to set up a new community. Views that aren’t popular with everyone – Bill Masen included. Nevertheless, Masen and Playton decide to join the group. A decision that will hopefully take them out of the dangerous surroundings of the cramped inner-city and out into the open fields of the rural countryside. But not everyone in the group is in full support of Beadley’s leadership. Wilfred Coker has other ideas, and after taking some incredibly drastic and hostile measures, takes over many of the sighted amongst the group by sudden force.

Meanwhile, left unguarded, the triffids have found a way to break out of their farms, and are now steadily multiplying and spreading out across the landscape. Life is hard enough in a world full of the blind, without the additional threat of roaming hordes of triffids brought into the equation. A threat that many don’t take seriously until it’s upon them and too late...


DLS Review:
Giles Cooper’s audio presentation of Wyndham’s classic post-apocalyptic story is a dramatisation which utilises a full cast along with numerous sound effects and a predominantly dialogue-driven script.  Furthermore, the times when there is a requirement for narration between scenes is relatively minimal – instead relying quite heavily on the characters’ dialogue to detail the events happening.  And this approach certainly works in the audio presentation’s favour.  As such, what the listener is presented with is a story that is seemingly played out before them, rather than an abridged version of the story simply read to them.

The inclusion of sound effects into the production (such as vehicle engines purring away, helicopters whirring overhead, doors closing, thunder booming and of course the sound of the triffids themselves) enhances the overall experience of the dramatisation tenfold.  Indeed, the sound effects, although not overtly relied upon, do form an integral part in the overall storytelling; with the inclusion of various audio effects denoting particular events in the story which will therefore no longer require further narration.  Furthermore, the strange amalgamation of other-worldly noises which create the noise made by the triffids works incredibly well.  In fact, the whole sound effect set-up throughout the entirety of the dramatisation is nothing short of superb.

It has to be said that Gary Watson, who plays the lead role of Bill Mason, sounds uncannily like Ian McCulloch playing the character of Greg Preston in Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic series ‘Survivors’ (1975 – 1977).  The resemblance is so close that it’s hard not to picture McCulloch as Mason, with the end-of-the-world premise and many of the conversations in the latter sections of the audiobook also bearing very close similarities.  However, there’s no denying that Watson’s performance is anything but spot on.  Watson delivers a solid and convincing performance throughout the entire length of the six episodes; adding easily recognisable emotions into his voice; such as with denoting stress, worry, concern, anger and compassion where required.  As such, Mason quickly becomes a character who is incredibly easy to identify with – with these human qualities quickly building sympathetic bridges between the character and the listener.

Along with Greg Watson, the rest of the cast offer up an equally solid performance.  Barbara Shelley portrays the character of Josella Playton perfectly, bringing in a strong female role reflected with an equal strength to the character’s voice and overall presence in the story.

Peter Sallis’ immediately distinctive voice works surprisingly well with his role as the ruthless Jack Coker.  Indeed, once you get over the ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ and ‘Wallace And Gromit’ associations, Coker fits nicely into his character, with his thick Yorkshire twang making Coker instantly recognisable whenever he is back in the triffid madness.

As an overall production, the audio presentation is broken down into handy and well-portioned sections which form the six separate episodes.  However, because of the strict twenty-seven minute time allocation (originally planned for a thirty minute radio slot including a three minute commercial break), a total of twelve minutes had to be stripped out of the entire dramatisation.  This deleted material has been included as ‘Deleted Scene’ extras over the last five tracks of the final disc.  Out of these, one particular scene, starkly portraying the chaos and anarchy that has quickly spread across the streets in the wake of the mass blindness, is a real shame to have seen the chop.  Indeed this scene alone adds a real extra weight to portrayal of the epidemic.  And you can’t help but feel that it’s a missed opportunity that the scenes weren’t reinserted back into the main body of the presentation.

All in all Giles Cooper’s radio dramatisation is nothing short of an absolute triumph.  The bleak mood and oppressive atmosphere of the original novel has been maintained and reproduced in this audio format.  The cast all deliver a strong and engaging performance, without exception.  And the addition of well-executed sound effects simply enhances the whole experience further.

The radio production runs for a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes, split over 72 tracks (with an additional five tracks containing the Deleted Scenes) over 3 CDs.

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