A chilling and intense 115-minute documentary-style drama that harrowingly depicted the unimaginably grim events of the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Britain.
Based on a novel by Barry Hines and concentrating on a single city (Sheffield in South Yorkshire) the production presented the grim story of the nuclear strike from a trio of viewpoints – two ordinary Sheffield families, the Becketts and the Kemps, and that of the city’s peacetime Chief Executive and harried wartime controller, Clive Sutton.
Ruth Beckett (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy Kemp (Reece Dinsdale) live in Sheffield and are busy preparing for their upcoming marriage. Then Russia invades Iran, hoping to bring the country under its influence, and tension increases throughout the West, and particularly at the local RAF base.
Blissfully unconcerned with world events, Ruth and Jimmy carry on with their wedding preparations. Then two Russian nuclear missiles hit Sheffield, turning the landscape into a radioactive desert.
As the story unfolded, it backtracked to trace the events of the four weeks that led up to the devastating nuclear exchange, as the East and West power blocs became drawn into war due to a crisis of control in the Middle East.
In disturbingly, but never sensationally, graphic detail, it depicted the nightmarishly plausible inferno of suffering and chaos inflicted on the city and its population, before taking the scenario through the first post-holocaust decade as the ‘threads’ of civilisation slowly unravelled before the audience’s eyes.
Writer Barry Hines and producer/director Mick Jackson employed masses of detailed scientific studies to chillingly telling effect to ensure that the production emerged as factual and starkly realistic as possible, in contrast to the high profile gloss of the similarly themed, American TV movie The Day After.
The city of Sheffield and its citizens also rose to the occasion by providing the production with more than 1000 volunteers to be ‘victims’.
There’s no US-style happy ending, either – just a blood-drenched teenage miscarriage on a cold, nuclear winter hillside.
Extremely depressing, but essential viewing in the mid-80s. Perhaps because it was so horrifying, few people watched the sequel, On The Eighth Day.
Chief Supt. Hirst