The Day of the Triffids is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel by the English science fiction author John Wyndham. After most people in the world are blinded by an apparent meteor shower, an aggressive species of plant starts killing people. Although Wyndham had already published other novels using other pen name combinations drawn from his real name, this was the first novel published as "John Wyndham". It established him as an important writer and remains his best-known novel.
The story has been made into the 1962 feature film of the same name, three radio drama series (in 1957, 1968 and 2008), and two TV series (in 1981 and 2009). It was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952, and in 2003 the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
|The Day of the Triffids|
First edition hardback cover
|Genre||Science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||304 (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-7181-0093-X (first edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||Planet Plane|
|Followed by||The Kraken Wakes|
The protagonist is Bill Masen, a biologist who has made his living working with triffids—tall, venomous, carnivorous plants capable of locomotion. Due to his background, Masen suspects they were bioengineered in the U.S.S.R. and accidentally released into the wild. The result is worldwide cultivation of triffids.
The narrative begins with Bill Masen in hospital, his eyes bandaged after having been splashed with triffid poison from a stinger. During his convalescence he is told of an unexpected green meteor shower. The next morning, he learns that the light from the unusual display has rendered any who watched it completely blind (later in the book, Masen speculates that the "meteor shower" may have been orbiting satellite weapons, triggered accidentally). After unbandaging his eyes he finds the hospital in chaos, with staff and patients all unsighted. He wanders through an anarchic London full of blind inhabitants and slowly becomes enamoured of wealthy novelist Josella Playton, who he rescues when he discovers her being forcibly used as a guide by a blind man. Intrigued by a single light on top of Senate House in an otherwise darkened London, Bill and Josella discover a group of sighted survivors led by a man named Beadley, who plans to establish a colony in the countryside. They decide to join the group.
The polygamy implicit in Beadley's scheme appalls some group members, especially the religious Miss Durrant—but before this schism can be dealt with, a man called Wilfred Coker stages a fire at the university and kidnaps a number of sighted individuals, including Bill and Josella. They are each chained to a blind person and assigned to lead a squadron of the blind, collecting food and other supplies, while beset by escaped triffids and rival scavengers.
Soon Masen's followers begin to fall sick and die of an unknown disease. When he wakes one morning to find the survivors have left him, he returns to the University Tower in an attempt to find Josella, but his only lead is an address left behind by Beadley's group. Joined by a repentant Coker, Masen drives to the address, a country estate called Tynsham in Wiltshire. He finds part of the Beadley group, now led by Miss Durrant, who eventually tells him that Beadley went to Beaminster a few days before he arrived. There has been no sign of Josella so far.
Masen and Coker decide to follow Beadley to Dorset. They find various small groups of blind and sighted people along the way, but without finding the slightest trace of Beadley. Eventually they decide to separate, Coker returning to help at Tynsham, while Masen heads for the Sussex Downs after remembering a remark Josella made about friends she had there.
En route, Masen rescues a young sighted girl named Susan, who he finds trapped alone at home, while her young brother lies dead in the garden, killed by a triffid. He buries the boy and takes Susan with him. A few days later, during a night of heavy rain, they see a faint light in the distance. Upon reaching it, they finally discover Josella and her friends.
They attempt to establish a self-sufficient colony in Sussex with some success, but they are constantly under threat from the triffids which mass around the fenced exterior. Several years pass, until one day a representative of Beadley's faction lands a helicopter in their yard and reports that his group has established a colony on the Isle of Wight. Durrant's talk of Beaminster was a deliberate attempt to throw Masen off the scent. Whilst they are reluctant to leave their own settlement, the group decide to see the summer out in Sussex before relocating to the Isle of Wight.
However, their plans are accelerated by the arrival of the militaristic representatives of a new despotic and self-appointed government, who arrive in a heavily-armoured car. Masen recognises the leader as a ruthless young man he encountered on a scavenging expedition in London, who he watched cold-bloodedly execute one of his own party who had fallen ill.
After feigning agreement with the latter's plans, which include taking Susan as hostage while Masen is given a large number of blind people to use on the farm as slave labour, Masen's group throw a party, during which they encourage the visitors to get drunk.
Creeping out of the house whilst the visitors are fast asleep, they disable the armoured car by pouring honey into the fuel tank and drive through the gates, leaving them open for the triffids to pour in.
The novel ends with Masen's group having reached the Isle of Wight, determined to one day destroy the triffids and reclaim their world.
In the United States, Doubleday & Company holds the 1951 copyright. A 1961 condensed version of the book also appeared in Collier's magazine. An unabridged paperback edition was published in the late 1960s, in arrangement with Doubleday, under the Crest Book imprint of Fawcett Publications World Library.
In regard to the triffids' creation, some editions of the novel make brief mention of the theories of the Soviet agronomist and would-be biologist Trofim Lysenko, who eventually was thoroughly debunked. "In the days when information was still exchanged Russia had reported some successes. Later, however, a cleavage of methods and views had caused biology there, under a man called Lysenko, to take a different course" (Chapter 2). Lysenkoism at the time of the novel's creation was still being defended by some prominent international Stalinists.
The book has been praised by other science fiction writers. Karl Edward Wagner cited The Day of the Triffids as one of the 13 best science-fiction horror novels. Arthur C. Clarke called it an "immortal story". Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas praised it, saying "rarely have the details of [the] collapse been treated with such detailed plausibility and human immediacy, and never has the collapse been attributed to such an unusual and terrifying source." Forrest J Ackerman wrote in Astounding Science Fiction that Triffids "is extraordinarily well carried out, with the exception of a somewhat anticlimactic if perhaps inevitable conclusion."
However, another science fiction writer, Brian Aldiss, coined the disparaging phrase "cosy catastrophe" to describe the subgenre of post-war apocalyptic fiction in which society is destroyed save for a handful of survivors, who are able to enjoy a relatively comfortable existence. He singled out The Day of the Triffids as an example, and described Triffids as "totally devoid of ideas". John Clute commented that the book was regularly chosen for school syllabuses as it was "safe". Robert M. Philmus called it derivative of better books by H. G. Wells. Groff Conklin, reviewing the novel's initial book publication, characterised it as "a good run-of-the-mill affair" and "pleasant reading... provided you aren't out hunting science fiction masterpieces."
The short story "How to Make a Triffid" by Kelly Lagor includes discussions of the possible genetic pathways that could be manipulated to engineer the triffids from Wyndham's story.
|Bill Masen||Patrick Barr||Gary Watson||Jamie Glover|
|Josella Playton||Monica Grey||Barbara Shelley||Tracy Ann Oberman|
|Coker||Malcolm Hayes||Peter Sallis||Lee Ingleby|
|Col. Jacques||Arthur Young||Anthony Vicars||Geoffrey Whitehead|
|Michael Beadley||John Sharplin||Michael McClain|
|Ms. Durrant||Molly Lumley||Hilda Krisemon||Richenda Carey|
|Dr. Vorless||Duncan McIntyre||Victor Lucas|
|Susan||Gabrielle Blunt||Jill Carey||Lucy Tricket|
|Denis Brent||Richard Martin||David Brierly|
|Mary Brent||Shelia Manahan||Freda Dowie|
|Joyce Tailor||Margot Macalister||Margaret Robinson|
|Torrence||Trevor Martin||Hayden Jones|
Another writer that I knew very well was John Benyon Harris, better known as John Wyndham, whose 1951 The Day of the Triffids seems an immortal story. It's often being revived in some form or another. John was a very nice guy, but unfortunately suffered from an almost fatal defect for a fiction writer: he had a private income. If he hadn't, I'm sure he'd have written much more.
Carole Ann Lillian Ford (née Higgins; born 16 June 1940 in Ilford, Essex) is a British actress best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, and as Bettina in the 1962 film adaptation of The Day of the Triffids.Cobstone Windmill
Cobstone Mill was built around 1816 and is located on Turville Hill in the civil parish of Ibstone in Buckinghamshire, England, and overlooks the village of Turville. It is sometimes referred to as Turville Windmill. It is a smock mill that replaced the original mill that had stood there since the 16th century. The machinery was previously used in another mill in the village of Lacey Green.
It was a working mill grinding cereal until 1873. Later, squatters living in the mill caused a fire which damaged the centre post. After this time the mill went further into deterioration. It was not until 1967 and the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that the mill was cosmetically restored. The cap was remolded, a new fantail and light wooden sails were added.
The mill and cottage were purchased in 1971 by Hayley Mills and her first husband Roy Boulting, and extensive conversions and remodelling of the interiors were completed as well as interior and exterior restoration and conversion of the mill. The cottage also boasts a swimming pool. The property was sold a few years later and has been in private possession ever since.
The mill has been used as a film location in other films and TV programmes including:
Goodnight Mister Tom
The New Avengers, "House of Cards" episode.
Midsomer Murders, various episodes.
Bride and Prejudice
Went the Day Well?
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Little Britain, Daffyd Thomas outdoor scenes.
Dead of Night
Jonathan Creek, "The Grinning Man" episode.
The Day of the Triffids, an adaptation for television made in 2009.David Maloney
David John Lee Maloney (14 December 1933 – 18 July 2006) was a British television director and producer best known for his work on science-fiction series for the BBC.He was born in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, was educated at King Edward VI Five Ways and served in the Royal Air Force before becoming an actor in repertory theatre. He joined the BBC as a television production assistant and trained to be a director at the corporation. Maloney first worked on Doctor Who as a production assistant on the 1965 serial The Rescue. He directed 8 Doctor Who serials between 1968 and 1977. He also worked as a producer on Blake's 7 (1978–80), overseeing the first three seasons of the BBC science-fiction series, and directed 3 episodes himself.
Later, he produced the BBC's adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1981), from the John Wyndham novel, and the last series of When the Boat Comes In (1981). In addition, Maloney directed several episodes of Juliet Bravo and Strike It Rich!
Subsequent to his work in television drama, Maloney moved to factual programme-making and travelled the world making various documentaries for the ITV contractor Central. Towards the end of his life, Maloney himself appeared on-screen in a number of TV and DVD documentaries about his work on Doctor Who. He also provided DVD commentaries for three of the serials he directed, The Mind Robber, Genesis of the Daleks and The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
David Maloney died on 18 July 2006 at the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead, at the age of 72. He is survived by his children, Paul, Matthew and Sophia; his wife Edwina (née King) predeceased him.Dougray Scott
Stephen Dougray Scott (, born 26 November 1965) is a Scottish actor.Edmund Pegge
Edmund Pegge is an Australian actor, who has worked in both Australia and the United Kingdom.
His television credits include: Division 4, Matlock Police, Moonbase 3, Doctor Who (in the serial The Invisible Enemy), Secret Army, Return of the Saint, Codename Icarus, Bird of Prey, Tenko, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, The Day of the Triffids, One by One, The Winds of War, Anzacs, Howards' Way, Doctors, Rosemary & Thyme and Home Sweet Home. Pegge appears in the first two volumes of The Phoenix Files audio dramas as Robert Montag.John Benfield
John Benfield (born 1951 in London) is a British actor, who has appeared in 75 TV episodes or films starting in 1981 with small parts in BBC drama adaptations such as The Winter's Tale and The Day of the Triffids. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, Lilian. He has one son. Freddie.John Duttine
John Arthur Duttine (born 15 March 1949) is an English actor noted for his roles on stage, films and television. He is well known for his role as Sgt George Miller in Heartbeat and also the TV series The Day of the Triffids.John Wyndham
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (; 10 July 1903 – 11 March 1969) was an English science fiction writer best known for his works written using the pen name John Wyndham, although he also used other combinations of his names, such as John Beynon and Lucas Parkes. Some of his works were set in post-apocalyptic landscapes. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), the latter filmed twice as Village of the Damned.Jonathan Newth
Jonathan Newth (born 6 March 1939 in Devon) is a British actor, best known for his performances in television.
Credits include: Emergency Ward 10, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Ace of Wands, The Troubleshooters, Z-Cars, Callan, Van der Valk, The Brothers, Softly, Softly, Poldark, Doctor Who ("Underworld"), Notorious Woman, Secret Army (Barsacq), The Professionals, The Nightmare Man, The Day of the Triffids, Tenko (Colonel Clifford Jefferson), Triangle, Angels, Juliet Bravo, After Henry, Boon, Bugs, The Bill, Agatha Christie's Poirot (Dumb Witness), Peak Practice, Heartbeat and The Spire (Play at Sailsbury Cathedral).Keith Alexander (actor)
Keith Alexander (fl. 1966) is a British actor.
Alexander's television credits include Softly, Softly (1966), The New Avengers (1976), Minder (1979) and The Day of the Triffids (1981). On the big screen, he has had roles in Submarine X-1 (1968), Superman (1978), Hanover Street (1979) and All About a Prima Ballerina (1980).
He has also featured in some of the productions of Gerry Anderson. In addition to voicing the character of John Tracy in the 1968 film Thunderbird 6 (also serving as the film's narrator), Alexander voiced Sam Loover and numerous supporting characters in the television series Joe 90 (1968–69). His other Anderson appearances are in the 1969 film Doppelgänger, and as the SHADO HQ radio operator in the television series UFO (1970, as Lt. Keith Ford) and The Secret Service (1969).Nick Copus
Nicholas Copus (born 4 September 1966 in Hendon, London, England) is a British cinematographer, director, producer, and writer of film and television. As a director his credits include EastEnders, Holby City, Painkiller Jane, The Dresden Files, The 4400, Nikita, Alphas and The Day of the Triffids. As a producer and writer he worked on the series I Shouldn't Be Alive and If..., directing for those series as well.Plan for Chaos
Plan for Chaos is a science fiction novel by John Wyndham first published in 2009. Wyndham was working on it about the same time as The Day of the Triffids, but it was rejected by publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and never published in his lifetime. Wyndham himself abandoned it, telling Frederik Pohl in 1951: "I've messed about with the thing so much that I've lost all perspective".
It was eventually re-discovered after the John Wyndham Archive was acquired by the University of Liverpool in the UK and was published on the fortieth anniversary of the author's death, under the planned US title Plan for Chaos; the planned UK title had been Fury of Creation.Stephen Yardley
Stephen Yardley (born 24 March 1942) is an English actor, known for his work on British television between 1965 and 2004.
Best known for his role as Ken Masters in the British TV drama Howards' Way (1985–90), Yardley most recently appeared in the British TV comedy Hex (2004).
In the mid-1960s, Yardley was a permanent member of the company at Dundee Repertory Theatre. He also made early appearances on TV in the 1960s, in series like Danger Man, and had an extended run during 1967–68 in Z-Cars, but his best known work was in the 1970s and '80s. These included performances as semi-reformed cat burglar William "Spider" Scott in The XYY Man (1976–77), Max Brocard in Secret Army (1978) and Police Inspector Cadogan in Virtual Murder (1992). He has twice had roles in Doctor Who - Sevrin in Genesis of the Daleks (1975) and Arak in Vengeance on Varos (1985) - and also took a part in the science fiction series Blake's 7 (1981) and the BBC TV adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1981). Later he appeared as Vince Farmer in five's soap opera, Family Affairs (1999–2003).The Day of the Triffids (1981 TV series)
The Day of the Triffids is a British television series which was first aired by the BBC in 1981. An adaptation by Douglas Livingstone of the 1951 novel by John Wyndham, the six half-hour episodes were produced by David Maloney and directed by Ken Hannam, with original music by Christopher Gunning.It premiered simultaneously in the UK and in Australia on ABC Television.The Day of the Triffids (disambiguation)
The Day of the Triffids is a novel by John Wyndham.
The title may also refer to:
The Day of the Triffids (film), the 1962 film version
The Day of the Triffids (1981 TV series), the 1981 television version
The Day of the Triffids (2009 TV series), the 2009 television version
The Day of the Triffids (radio drama), a number of radio versionsThe Day of the Triffids (film)
The Day of the Triffids is a 1962 British science fiction film in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor, produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan, and directed by Steve Sekely. It stars Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey, and is based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The film was released in the U.K. by the Rank Organisation and in the U.S. by Allied Artists.The Day of the Triffids (miniseries)
The Day of the Triffids is a BBC miniseries adaptation of John Wyndham's novel of the same title. The novel had previously been adapted in 1962 as a theatrical film and by the BBC in a 1981 series.The Night of the Triffids
The Night of the Triffids is a science fiction novel by British writer Simon Clark, published in 2001. It is a sequel to John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. Clark has been commended for his success at mimicking Wyndham's style, but most reviewers have not rated his creation as highly as the original 1951 work. Clark's book is written in the first person and narrated by David Masen, the son of Wyndham's protagonist.Triffid
The triffid is a fictitious tall, mobile, prolific and highly venomous plant species, the titular antagonist in John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids and Simon Clark's 2001 sequel The Night of the Triffids. Triffids were also featured in the 1957 BBC radio dramatization of Wyndham's book, a considerably altered 1962 film adaptation, a more faithful 1981 television serial produced by the BBC, and in a 2009 two-part TV series also produced by the BBC.
Since 1951, when The Day of the Triffids was first published, the word "triffid" has become a popular British English colloquial term for large, overgrown or menacing-looking plants.