BBC Threads Special Edition Remastered DVD Review

By Will Barber Taylor

One of the Most Influential Films about Nuclear War Ever Made. The 2-disc Special Edition of the BAFTA-winning BBC Drama that Shocked the Nation. Written by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson.

The closest you will ever want to come to nuclear war. Written by Barry Hines (Kes) and directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard).

The threads that hold together civilisation crumble in this intense and iconic docu-drama about a nuclear attack on a British city during the 1980s. First broadcast on BBC Two in 1984, Threads is still as ever relevant and shocking today.

Winner of four BAFTAs including ‘Best Single Drama’, the story follows an ordinary Sheffield community as their lives are transformed following a nuclear attack. It follows the townsfolk as they struggle to survive a nuclear winter, and the years that follow.

Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale) are happily planning their wedding and the rest of their lives together in Sheffield. Tensions are rising between Western powers and Russia, as the couple carry on with their wedding plans, blissfully ignorant of world events.

But with no warning Russia unleash two nuclear warheads over Sheffield, destroying the city and turning it in to a radioactive wasteland. The few survivors are reduced to living in animalistic, medieval conditions, scavenging for survival as they combat the starvation, disease, mental trauma and complete degeneration of human nature that nuclear winter brings.

Originally broadcast at the height of the nuclear paranoia of the 1980s, it sent shock waves throughout the country, and arguably influenced the global political discourse on nuclear war. This was the first film to depict a nuclear winter and the long-term social and political consequences.

Threads is one of the most fascinating and disturbing programmes the BBC has ever produced. Set and produced during the middle of the Cold War, Threads reflects a fear present then as it is now – the fear of nuclear Armageddon. Threads does not do this with the bombast that many recent attempts to tackle the subject have, by having the nuclear bombs go off at the beginning. Instead, Threads spends a good deal of its run time devoted to the inhabitants of Sheffield, particularly prospective husband and wife Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale) and Ruth (Karen Meagher). The build up to their marriage and the birth of their child is artfully mirrored in the rising escalation that leads to the outbreak of nuclear war and the destruction of their home town. The irony of the impending birth of new life coupled with the end of all life is ingrained in the story from the very beginning when, parked on moor land overlooking Sheffield, Jimmy retorts to Ruth’s comment of how lovely the countryside is, that “everything is so dead” – an affirmation which will only become devastatingly true later on. The theme of life and death is central to Threads and one which it is not shy about hammering home – it presents no happy ending to the horror that we see, merely a warning that this should never happen.

The performances are all excellent, particularly Reece Dinsdale as Jimmy. Dinsdale brings real heart to his portrayal of the everyman and he is truly believable as a man struggiling to provided for his girlfriend and future child whilst facing the threat of annihilation. Jimmy’s life following the apocalypse and his struggle to survive is heart breaking and the pain Dinsdale exhibits demonstrates his versatility and ability as an actor.

The restoration of the drama is beautiful, and praise must be given to the restoration team, who have made sure that Threads has never looked better. The crisp and clear look of the images we see only help remind us of the horror that is in front of us. Never has the destruction of the world looked so clear and so terrifying. This DVD release it truly the definitive copy of Threads and will stand as the copy to own of the drama.

The DVD extras are good, particularly the half an hour doc, Stephen Thrower on Threads. Thrower gives us a great insight into the BBC at the time and the process behind the creation of Threads, its promotion and how it has been viewed since both by the BBC and audiences at large. The other documentary features Shooting the Apocalypse, Auditioning For the Apocalypse and Destruction Designer are all excellent as well and are definitely worth watching though it is a shame some of them are relatively short as it would have been nice to had more in-depth conversations with those involved in the creation of the drama.

Threads is a genre and era defining work and one that stands the test of time as a realistic, horrifying and thought-provoking piece of media which has to be seen to truly understand its full power. Threads reminds us of the fragility of our world, of the preciousness of life, how we all exist in a world that is interconnected, that we are linked together somehow or another. It is a depressing warning of what could happen if we ever forget about how fragile our world is and use the most devastating weapons ever conceived on it. It is a warning that we must all hear and never, ever forget.

With thanks to Simply Media. Threads will be released on the 9th of April – you can purchase it here.

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