Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dear TV land, there's more to John Wyndham than Triffids

It's hard to nail down why, but one of the UK's finest science fiction writers is severely underrepresented on screen. 

According to the world of TV and film, Wyndham was all about killer plants (Day of the Triffids) and spooky children (The Midwich Cuckoos - or Village of the Damned in the US), but there's so much more to his body of work and ideas that it's a mystery as to why Wyndham adaptations are just so thin on the ground. Maybe it's the '50s styling? Or the temptation to hark back to the Triffids? Whatever it is, there a wealth of material literally crying out to be brought to the screen...

The Kraken Wakes
You could argue that much of Wyndham's work is a bit talky and free of action, therefore meaning it's not, in the main, a natural for being converted for the screen. Maybe that's why the writer's work has been more often translated into radio plays.

But step forward The Kraken Wakes (Out of the Deeps in the US) – an action-packed thrill fest of an invasion story. Granted, the invasion takes a while to get cracking (or should that be Kraking) but eventually there's sinking ships, ocean-dwelling crafts that raid towns and villages, international tension, military action and destroyed landmarks (a flooded London, for instance) that would have the likes of Roland Emmerich rubbing his hands together. 

Chocky
But not everyone's got a Hollywood blockbuster budget to spare on a Wyndham adaptation. Fear not, however, for the writer has a host of small scale stories to draw from, not least Chocky. Given the media's obsession with children in danger, represented in TV dramas like Broadchurch and more recently The Guilty, Chocky is a natural fit for modern times. A child's imaginary friend seems to be increasingly real and clever beyond the aptitude of the child in question, worrying the heck out of his parents, who are desperate to keep the secret from others. 

OK, it turns out that ITV had a bash at adapting Chocky for the screen in 1984, but that was ages ago and it's high time there was an update. And (thanks Wikipedia) none other than Steven Spielberg has acquired the film rights. Sadly he's a busy man and I wouldn't expect to see any Chocky-based action on the screen soon. 

The Chrysalids
The Chrysalids is ripe for translation to the screen. This post-apocalyptic tale features a strict fundamentalist society where humans with even small post-nuclear mutations are cruelly thrown out of society to fend for themselves as outcasts. There are thrills, secrets, violence, love, potential for metaphors a-plenty…did we mention mutants…what more could you ask of a show? 

Triffids trouble
Oh OK, the Day of the Triffids is surely John Wyndham's best known work and it's a cracking story. It's been a while since I saw it, but the '50s film was pretty awful and the more recent one-off TV drama was fairly poor too, sadly. However, the '80s BBC TV series was the exception and was bleak and brilliant, complete with its 'waking up in hospital to find the world has gone to hell' that surely inspired the start of The Walking Dead. It's never too early for a remake - it's good enough for Spider-Man and Batman - so why not? Without waving my Union flag too hard, Wyndham is one of our finest imaginative minds and deserves a more fitting tribute on screen than killer plants and badly couiferred children.

No comments:

Post a Comment