I was excited to see that the BBC would be showing a new adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the the Triffids over the holidays. I own DVDs of both the cinema and previous TV versions, as well as the classic Village of the Damned (based on the The Midwich Cuckoos). Wyndham’s books made a deep impression on me as a boy and he seems to have enjoyed a return to popularity in recent years.
The new drama was something of a disappointment, but at least they didn’t stray too far away from the book (the storyline was linked to global warming and the triffids no longer had anything to do with the Russians). Using modern technology, the triffids themselves were much more convincing (once you accepted the premise of carnivorous, walking plants, that is!). They did look too much like hoodies, though. Because I wanted very much to like it, I have to give the BBC “A” for effort, while acknowledging that their drama standards have plummeted since the 80s.
I like the 1981 version of the book, though many people don’t. It was perhaps a little too earnest, but as someone who grew up in the 50s and 60s I can relate to the tone of it very well.
The Cranford Christmas Special was delightful, if not of the same quality as the series. It was little more than a soap, but a soap elevated to a higher level by the production values and the talented actors involved. What a cast!
I was interested to see what the BBC would do with The Turn of the Screw, based on the Henry James´ novella. it was only this year that I saw the 1961 movie version, The Innocents, for the first time. The movie is outstanding but the new TV version seemed somewhat muddled. I suspect the creators were in two minds as to whether to go for a straightforward ghost story or a psychological drama, and ended up falling between two stools.
I found the much-publicized animation The Gruffalo quite disappointing. The story was very simple and I found the the “adventure” tame. I wasn’t expecting – or hoping for – Disney or Pixar, but last year’s Wallace and Gromit was much more to my taste.
I found the last episodes of David Tennant as Doctor Who heavy going. Tennant has been a refreshing Doctor, but I suspect the creative team may be taking themselves a little too seriously. Did I imagine the Hamlet subtext? (Tennant was widely acclaimed for his performance in the play this year) Either way, they tried to cram too much into the final episode and I could have done without the sentimental visits to the other main characters who have been involved with the most recent incarnation of the Doctor. One John Simm is usually one too many for me, never mind six billion, while the marvelous Timothy Dalton (whom I loved as James Bond) was given far too little to do.
All in all, a mixed bag and not a lot to get excited about this year. Luckily, I was able to fall back on old John Peel Christmas radio shows (and even Morecambe and Wise with Glenda Jackson, a real treat!). I also enjoyed Aled Jones’ visit to the Holy Land with carols sung on location there.
I was left with a great desire to revisit Wyndham’s novels this year, which cannot be a bad thing.