Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Eddie Izzard and Jason Priestley star in The Day Of The Triffids, on BBC One this Christmas, written by Patrick Harbinson (ER, Law & Order).
This epic, fast-paced, futuristic, two-part drama is a co-production between Power and Canadian producer Prodigy Pictures for BBC One, and is based on John Wyndham's best-selling post-apocalyptic novel, The Day Of The Triffids, published in 1951.
Scientist Bill Masen (DOUGRAY SCOTT), has dedicated his life’s work to the study of the complex plant species called Triffids, Genetically modified, they are mass-produced for their ‘Triffoil’, a vital source of renewable fuel. Bill has noticed an unnerving change in their behavioural patterns. The Triffids are starting to communicate.
Meanwhile, crowds gather across the globe to witness a much-anticipated solar storm. But the spectacle blinds all those who watch it and the world goes into free fall. In London, fear and panic rage as the blind desperately depend for survival on the few remaining sighted.
An even greater nightmare awaits. The Triffids are hungry and moving toward the cities for the most abundant source of their prey - mankind.
Having narrowly escaped blindness, Bill forms an instant attraction with a fellow sighted survivor – the outspoken journalist, Jo Playton (JOELY RICHARDSON). They meet Torrence (EDDIE IZZARD), a flagrantly amoral opportunist, who delights in his new appointment: presiding over the weak and the blind - laying down the foundations for his autocratic government. The Triffid invasion is the perfect crisis for Torrence to work to his own spurious agenda.
Despite his feelings for Jo, Bill knows he must leave London. Their one chance of survival lies in reaching the only man who knows more about the Triffids than he does - his estranged father, Dennis (BRIAN COX). On his perilous mission, Bill breaks free of Torrence and his henchmen, is offered as a sacrifice to the Triffids by the maniacal, messianic community leader Durrant (VANESSA REDGRAVE) and rescues two sisters, Imogen and Susan. These children have lost everything and seek his protection in the final leg of an extraordinary journey.
Jo finally finds her way to Bill and the children but their happy reunion is short lived. The desperate efforts of Bill and Dennis to stop the Triffids’ pollination are interrupted by Torrence and his army who surround their house. Caught in the crossfire between the bullets of Torrence’s subordinates and a fast approaching horde of Triffids, Bill’s hopes of saving his newfound family seem doomed to fail. With insurmountable odds against them - how will they make it out alive?
An introspective scientist, Bill is our thoughtful Triffid expert, more at home with his Triffid research than social interaction. Bill grew up with the Triffids: his parents made the incredible discovery that they could provide oil. But it came at a cost: his mother was killed by a Triffid, leaving Bill all too aware how dangerous the plants really are.
A radio journalist, Jo is a bright, sociable and irreverent woman who escapes the mass blinding because she is reporting on the event from the underground. Terrified by the chaos, Jo clings to Bill after their chance meeting. Jo becomes embroiled in Bill's desperate fight to prevent the plants reproducing, falling in love with him in the process.
A sinister and obsessive man who retains his sight after the solar flare and sees this as an opportunity to step into the power vacuum that has resulted in Downing Street. A stickler for rules and authority, when Bill and Jo are held captive by his new "army", Torrence becomes obsessed with Jo and plans to use her celebrity to draw more people to the cities who can fight for his cause. Determined to rule over the remaining sighted population, and keep the blind away from the centre of London, Torrence cannot foresee the approach of the Triffids towards the capital and soon comes to realise that he will need Bill's help to fight them off once and for all.
A former military man with liberal principles who strongly believes that the remaining sighted in the UK have a duty to support and care for those who have been blinded.
The estranged father of Bill, Dennis is the scientist who discovered the Triffids in Africa and exploited their commercial use. Bill seeks Dennis's help in stopping the plants from overrunning the country.
An Interview With Actor Dougray Scott:
Dougray Scott plays Dr Bill Masen, a brave, troubled scientist who must save the world from the menance of the Triffids. Bill is tested to the limit – and beyond – as the whole of humankind is poised on the brink of destruction.
The drama also concerns Bill's quest for self-discovery; as Bill struggles with the Tirffids, he must also defeat his personal demons. He is gradually reconciled to his father (played by Brian Cox) from whom he was estranged for many years following the premature death of his mother.
For Dougray, one of the leading British actors of his generation, the offer to play Bill proved irresistible.
"The Day of the Triffids is quite simply a classic," says the actor, who has starred in such memorable movies as Enigma, Mission: Impossible II, and Ripley's Game.
"I remember reading the novel when I was young and being absolutely gripped by it. I also recall watching the series as a child and being scared witless by it! It's a gem."
The 44-year-old actor, who like Brian hails from the East Coast of Scotland, outlines the character of Bill.
"For many years, he's been a recluse. He's been defined by the death of his mother and his estrangement from his father. His father went off and did his own thing and left Bill feeling marginalised and frustrated. So Bill's need to understand the Triffids is as much his need to understand himself. He is desperate to find out what happened to him as a child. He wants explanations."
Bill's search to discover more brings him close to his father for the first time in years. Dougray, who has captured a whole new following since playing Ian, Susan's (Teri Hatcher) love interest in the hit American series, Desperate Housewives, explains. "After the death of his mother, Bill was in essence abandoned by his father. He was confused and hurt by that – 'why did you treat me like that?'
"His father says that he did it for Bill's benefit. Through his obsession with the Triffids, his father saw an opportunity to make money and give his son financial security, but unfortunately that drive took over his life. When they meet again, they grow closer through a shared desire to understand how to conquer the Triffids. Their mutual passion could rekindle the bond they should have had in the past. It might be a chance for them to resurrect a father-son relationship."
At the same time, Bill finds himself drawn to Jo (Joely Richardson), another resolute character determined to overcome the Triffids.
"Their relationship blossoms in the face of adversity," muses Dougray.
"Bill is not used to dealing with relationships with people – for most of his life, he's only had relationships with plants. So he finds himself in a strange position with Jo. He has a basic need for a relationship and is ready to explore that, but at the same time he's very tentative about it. It's a love story about two shy individuals trying to reach out and connect in this crazy situation."
Dougray goes on to reflect on the deeper meaning of this enduring classic.
"It's not just about the Triffids," the actor says.
"It's about human resilience. It's about how we respond when we're most severely tested. These characters are thrust into a post-apocalyptic world, and the challenge for them is how they rebuild their lives as they're beset by fear and loneliness."
He concludes: "You could say The Day Of The Triffids is a metaphor for the dire effects of exploiting the planet. If we abuse the Earth, there will always be a price to pay. We have to try to repair the damage and respect the harmony of this planet or the consequences will be catastrophic. We have been warned!"