Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Day of the Triffids (2009)

Go To

The Day of the Triffids is a 2009 science fiction miniseries produced by The BBC and based on the eponymous 1951 novel by John Wyndham. It is the second television adaptation by the BBC, following a 1981 miniseries.

Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) is a British researcher of Triffids, a type of plant life which is ambulatory, carnivorous and intelligent, and being harnessed by humanity for a rare type of oil that has stopped global warming by replacing fossil fuels. When Bill is attacked by one of the Triffids at a containment site after an activist breaks in, he is partially blinded and sent for surgery. At the same time, a massive solar eruption takes place, blinding everyone who looks at it.

When Bill awakes from surgery, he discovers that his sight has been restored but human civilisation is descending into anarchy. On a commuter airliner, the only passenger not affected by the solar flare (Eddie Izzard) survives its crashing and adopts the name "Torrence" for himself, while Radio Britain deejay Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) also misses the flare and finds Bill, and they travel together to seek help. At the same time, the Triffids break free from their containment gardens and start ravaging the population.

Bill and Jo, along with fellow sighted survivor Coker (Jason Priestly) begin looking for a way to combat the Triffid outbreak, while Torrence begins to amass power for his own evil means and the Triffids start moving closer to London...

The series was broadcast over two nights, and changed several elements of the films to fit in with modern issues (including the fight against global warming).

As an adaptation of the original novel, many of the tropes on that page still apply. This miniseries also provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: This version of Bill Masen has many underlying issues, including the death of his mother at an early age to a Triffid, his hatred towards his father, and the death of his co-worker and associate Lucy at the beginning of the series on top of it.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Compared to the mousy Emma Relph in the 1981 miniseries, Joely Richardson is a marked step up, and the series has several moments that emphasize her beauty.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The remake has many alternate scenes and explanations for various events, including the man who would eventually become Torrence being on a plane that crashes into London, a greater explanation for why Triffids were bred in the first place (to harness their oils to combat global warming) and a subplot involving Masen's family, which eventually provides the means to escape the farmhouse in the finale.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The compressed timeline and the promotion of Torrence to chief villain leave a bit of an error on Coker's story. The original storyline contrasted the actions of Coker trying help those affected and those of the Beadley Group who wanted to make a fresh start away from London. However in this version Torrence and Coker either completely remove or disrupt the Beadley group (Its never made clear). Coker manages to get away from Torrence and sets up an effective base for survivors on the Isle of Wight. Which he can't have done because the Beadley Group is not there to help. The original book/series took place over the space of years. In this version, he somehow manages to do it in weeks.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Bill Mason uses one in the warehouse scene.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: During the climax at the estate, Masen and Troy thwart Torrence and his men by sabotaging the electric fence, thus allowing the Triffids to overtake the barricade and kill the guards while they escape in the confusion.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The dangerous male Triffids (who can release spores, vastly increasing triffid numbers) are released by a plants' rights activist.
  • Apocalypse How: Masen explains that there are thousands of Triffid gardens all over the world, and it assumed that no help will be coming from the United States or any other country. At the end of the film, the only location known to be Triffid-free is the Isle of Wight, which Masen, Jo, Imogen, Susan and Troy sail to after the farmhouse is overrun.
  • Badass Adorable: Susan and Imogen — two cute little girls in Cool Shades, helmet and red beret, packing automatic weapons.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Masen, Jo, Imogen, Susan and Troy all manage to escape London and sail to Coker's settlement on the Triffid-free Isle of Wight, but as far as they know, the rest of the world is overrun and there's no foreign help coming.
  • Black Cloak: The triffids draw on the creepiness of this trope by having purple cowl-like hoods which they unfurl cobra-like before striking.
  • The Caligula: Torrence, after he takes over London.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Bill does this to his father in an argument over his father's lack of his concern for Bill following his mother's death.
    Dennis: I understand you're angry-
    Bill: Angry?! I was a wee boy, my mum had just died and my dad, he barely seemed to notice me!
  • The Charmer: Torrence is a pretty charismatic leader, though not quite the ladies' man he fancies himself to be.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mask Bill dreams about/sees in his flashbacks later saves the group when they're besieged at his father's house. Bill uses the mask and a torn-off Triffid appendage to put plant poison in his and everyone else's eyes, which makes them immune to the Triffid attacks and causes them to be ignored by the plants while they escape.
  • Chess Motifs: Chess pieces on a map of London show the expansion of Torrence's empire.
  • Child Soldier: Masen eventually finds a pair of girls, Imogen and Susan, hiding out in their parent's house, armed with guns. Bill brings them along to his father's house, and Imogen is later seen using pots for target practice.
  • Combat Tentacles: The Triffids blind and immobilize people with their roots before dragging them away to be eaten, although sometimes they don't even bother before attempting to grab them.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Triffoil conceals knowledge of how dangerous the Triffids are.
  • Covered in Gunge: The bodies of those killed are covered in Triffid venom.
  • Dead Star Walking:
    • Ewen Bremner (Walter Strange) shows up for two scenes at the beginning of the first part, just long enough to break the containment lockdown on the Triffid gardens, and is only seen afterwards when Masen finds his corpse in the aftermath of the Triffid breakout.
    • Brian Cox (Dennis Masen) appears for a handful of scenes to give more background on the Triffids and reconcile with his son, then dies 20 minutes later when the specimen he was working on reacts to a recording and fatally attacks him.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original novel and the 1981 adaptation, Torrence was a member of a ruling government that was seeking to forcibly conscript Bill and Jo to help them restore order. Here, Torrence is the human antagonist leading a group of villainous survivors, and gets much more screentime (and a Karmic Death) as a result.
  • Defiant to the End:
    • Observed by Bill about his research assistant Lucy when he finds her body, killed by Triffids.
      Bill: She fought them. She was blind, but she fought them.
    • Torrence continues fighting the Triffids even as they overwhelm him, at least until their venom takes its toll.
  • Driven to Suicide: Bill and Jo witness a blinded violinist play a final piece on his instrument before walking to his apartment balcony and leaping to his death.
  • *Drool* Hello: After Torrence launches his takeover bid, Mason and Coker are taken out to the woods to be fed to triffids. An armed mook is ordering them out of the back of the truck when triffid venom drops on his shoulder, then a triffid yanks him screaming into the air.
  • Dull Surprise: Dougray Scott as the hero was a particular offender, delivering lines like "we have to warn everybody" with all the urgency of someone reminding their wife to pick up milk on the way home.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Torrence realises the airliner is going to crash, while everyone else panics he calmly grabs every lifevest he can find – including taking one from a child – to cushion himself from the impact.
  • Evil Brit: Averted, due to it being set in Britain. But also kind of toyed with, given that the main human antagonist is Eddie Izzard.
  • Eye Scream: The Triffids use their stingers to attack their victims' eyes first, blinding and rendering them helpless as the plants move in for the kill.
  • False Reassurance: Torrence convinces Jo to continue sending radio broadcasts imploring everyone (sighted or not) to head to London, not knowing that Torrence is looking to steal their supplies and give the Triffids an even greater food supply.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Thanks to the distinctive trousers on his Saville Row suit, the audience instantly knows who's back the moment Torrence's feet stride into view in the final act.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Torrence, who goes from a random passenger on a crashing plane to the leader of an upstart government that is looking to forcibly conscript others and take control of London.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Bill invokes this to his father, considering the rampaging triffids to be nature's payback against mankind.
    Bill Masen: Mother Nature's finally taking her revenge and reclaiming the planet.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The triffids are stated to be genetically-engineered to have more oil but this made them more aggressive. Kind of ruins the "nature will find a way" aesop when the apocalypse was because of genetic engineering.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Implied, as Masen and Jo start kissing passionately when they're alone at his father's house.
  • Glorious Leader: Subverted; Torrence sees himself in this light, often admiring statues or paintings of Winston Churchill, but he's just a sociopath with delusions of grandeur.
  • Green Aesop: Exploited killer plants eat humans and Take Over the World - it's begging for it.
  • Gun Accessories: The torches attached to the weapons wielded by Torrence's mooks are fully justified — for those who still have their sight, being able to see an enemy that doesn't use sight is one of the few advantages they have.
  • Hate Sink: The token human bad guy Torrence is clearly intended as this. The Triffids are scary man-eating plants, but are unlikely to attract the audience's hatred. Throughout the entire crisis, Torrence keeps showing himself as a Dirty Coward, power-hungry, deceitful, and egomaniacal, to the point where he's possibly a bigger threat to the heroes' survival than the actual monsters.
  • Heel–Face Turn: One of Torrence's men, Troy, eventually becomes a double agent and starts helping Bill and Jo after the latter escapes from London. He's also the only member of Torrence's army that survives the Triffids sieging the estate.
  • Hope Spot: Dennis Masen develops a Triffid which will produce sterile spores... and then the specimen is accidentally killed when it attacks Dennis and his son tries to free him.
  • Human Sacrifice: How the group led by the nun keeps the Triffids at bay. They tie up their old and infirm for the Triffids to eat and in return Triffids have learnt to keep their distance from the buildings.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Durrant tells Bill and Coker that she unrepentantly sacrifices the old and weak blinded individuals to the Triffids to keep the church and the rest of the young sighted/blinded residents safe.
  • Improvised Weapon: When Masen runs to save Jo from a Triffid trying to drag her towards it in the warehouse in Part 1, he grabs a lighter and aerosol can to create a makeshift flamethrower and drive it off.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Imogen and Susan are put in danger several times and are always saved, while the young boys and girls seen with their blinded parents are almost never directly shown in harm's way, although there are many deaths (young and old) inferred from the Triffid's siege on London and the plane crash.
  • Jerkass: A member of Coker's team is not above leaving injured civilians to be killed by the Triffids while he escapes, and thinks more of himself than anyone else, which eventually leads to his Karmic Death later on.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Masen finds Walter Strange's half-consumed corpse, a short while after the latter broke the lockdown seal and opened the Triffid gardens.
    • Torrence's lieutenant is killed by Triffids after he attempts to leave Bill and Coker stranded in the forest while he drives away in a truck.
    • Torrence himself is also killed by Triffids after attempting to shoot Bill when he has the unconscious Susan in his arms.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Torrence's first scene where he's awake involves him realizing that everyone on the plane is blind and it's about to crash. He goes about stealing everyone's lifejackets so he can cushion himself from the impact with them.
    • After Jo broadcasts a message warning people about Torrence's reign before escaping, Torrence empties his pistol into the man operating the radio station.
  • Large Ham: Eddie Izzard plays Torrence with evil relish.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Walter Strange (a plant-rights activist) releases the Triffids from their farms, then is the first to get eaten by them.
  • A Light in the Distance: After most of the world goes blind, the protagonist sees a blinking signal light one night, so marks its position on the window. The next day he goes to the building indicated by the mark and finds a small group of other sighted survivors.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: We never discover Torrence's real name — he took it from Torrence Lane, where the airliner he was in crashed.
  • Little Stowaway: Susan tags along on Bill's mission to find a male Triffid specimen.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: When Torrence takes over Major Coker's organization, he has The Dragon take Mason and Coker out to the woods to be fed to the triffids, then tells Jo they've been killed by a triffid attack.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Torrence. Subverted, in that he always slightly overdoes his lies, and Jo and Bill can see right through him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Torrence gets this after Troy turns on him and doesn't enable the electric fence, which causes the Triffids to break through and start massacring his few remaining soldiers.
  • Ominous Fog: The Triffids are often preceded by fog in forested areas, which conceals their approach.
  • Only in It for the Money: Bill's father Dennis invokes this, stating that unlike Bill's mother, who was genuinely interested in the Triffids, his interest only went so far as the economic benefits of exploiting the plants.
    Dennis Masen: Your mother, she was the genuine article, a scientist in it purely for the research. Me, well I was always a bit more financially minded.
  • Parental Substitute: Imogen and Susan adopt Bill and Jo as their foster parents.
  • Product Placement: The BBC radio tower itself is promoted to great effect, as it is used by Jo to broadcast several radio messages to the populace of London and the surrounding countryside.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jo tells Torrence that without the Triffids he's nothing. He yells at her to shut her face and threatens to shoot her.
  • The Remnant: Beadley's band of sighted government officials seeks to retreat and restore society.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Bill and Jo finally kiss after they reunite at his father's house in Shirning.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Torrence steals a Saville Row suit and wears it from then on.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several shots are almost identical to iconic scenes from 28 Days Later — which itself, while not an official adaptation of tDofT, openly reused several plot-points.
    • Torrence in the airliner crash is probably a reference to a similar crash in the 1962 movie (though no-one survived that one). Likewise, Susan's Sterling submachine gun is a modern version of the Sten gun wielded by Janette Scott in the movie's publicity material.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Mason is asleep in the hospital when the disaster strikes, and awakens to find the world he knew dramatically changed.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The flash of light that blinds most of mankind also causes a loss of TV signal, and TV technicians watch with rising alarm as all the screens go full of static.
  • The Sociopath: Torrence — superficially charming while showing Lack of Empathy and delusions of grandeur, his facade quickly disappears once things start to go badly.
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: Bill's father fills this role, experimenting on the Triffids, trying to make a new strain of the species which will launch sterile spores, and end their infestation.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A man is shown playing the violin while panicked policemen who've lost their sight fire blindly at civilians and fellow officers. After he's finished playing, the man calmly walks to the balcony and throws himself off.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Amusingly inverted — Jo and Bill are doing a Dance of Romance after being apart for so long; the music they are dancing to contains the lines: "Mother Nature and me are the best of friends."
  • Too Dumb to Live
    • The entire plot is motivated by the actions of Walter Strange, an activist who breaks into the Triffid garden where Bill works. He doesn't even know that you need to wear eyewear to protect yourself from being blinded, and immediately opens up their garden after the power fails in the facility, being the first person killed by the Triffids for his trouble.
    • The survivors who follow Torrence decide to stay in London. Because an entire city filled with rotting corpses isn't going to cause a lot of outbreak of disease? Or you know, attract a horde of Triffids who eat the dead?!
    • Mason's father plays a recording of a wild Triffid in a room connected to his captured Triffid's cage. It reacts badly.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The convent is protecting itself by sending out expendable members of the community to be eaten by Triffids, thereby keeping them docile.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: After Torrence launches his takeover bid, Mason and Coker are taken out to the woods to be fed to triffids. An armed mook is ordering them out of the back of the truck when triffid venom drops on his shoulder, then a triffid yanks him screaming into the air.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Torrence loses it after Jo wises up and sabotages the broadcasts so that survivors will stay away from the city, leading to the Triffids stepping up their attacks and slowly overtaking the barricades. When Troy goes to alert him to his army's status, Torrence is sitting in a room looking out in near-catatonic shock.
  • Villainous Rescue: Torrence's final attempt to kill Masen is unbelievably thwarted by the Triffids themselves, who snag his arm and prevent him from firing at the former twice before killing and consuming him.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: It's revealed in the climax that Triffids ignore anyone that has Triffid venom in their eyes, for some reason. One even sidles up to Masen and strokes his face with its stinger before backing off.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • When Bill is walking out of the hospital, he meets the doctor who operated on him (who tells him some information on what's happening) and promises to bring help. The doctor (and the other patients) aren't seen again.
    • Durrant (the abbess at the church) abandons Bill, Coker and the other residents, claiming that her departure will cause society to collapse. She isn't seen again, and her fate is left unknown.
    • The group of sighted government officials aren't heard from again after Coker and his team kidnap Bill and Jo.
    • Neither is it mentioned what happened to the blinded woman with the broken ankle who Coker rescued at the warehouse when he, Masen and Jo escaped, especially considering she was probably still in London when it fell.
  • While Rome Burns: A man is shown playing the violin while panicked policemen who've lost their sight fire blindly at civilians and fellow officers. After he's finished playing, the man calmly walks to the balcony and throws himself off.