The Wednesday Play: Z for Zachariah (1984)

Z for Zachariah

Apocalyptic tales were all the rage in the 80s, thanks to the ever-present fear of nuclear war. 1984, with its obvious connections to Orwell, spawned more than its fair share of these terror tales on TV alone. Most famous was Barry Hines/Mick James’s ‘documentary’ Threads about a nuclear war and its effects on Sheffield, but the BBC’s Play for Today slot also featured an adaptation of the novel Z For Zachariah.

Radio Times coverOriginally set in the mid-West but relocated to Wales for the play – drama budgets being what they were back then – Z for Zachariah sees a young woman, Ann Burden (Pippa Hinchley), survive a nuclear war by virtue of living in a small valley with a self-contained weather system. At first believing she’s the only survivor, her lonely existence is eventually ended when a scientist, John Loomis (Anthony Andrews), arrives. The rest of the play details the changing, deteriorating relationship between the two (no, no spoilers).

As you might imagine, it’s not a cheery affair and with only a TV drama budget to work on and with its relocation from the US, it’s not entirely convincing. But as was common with many of the tales of misery from the 80s, it’s powerful stuff. Unfortunately, it’s not available on DVD, but you can watch it below on YouTube, you lucky people. Enjoy!

  • I watched this back in the early 90s as part of a school reading of Z for Zachariah. I remember it being quite traumatic for our young minds. It was very good though.

    I read a rumour somewhere that Z is in development for a Hollywood version. Presumably to ride the apocalyptic zeitgeist.

  • We also read this at school as part of our nuclear awareness month. We also read Brother in the Land and� watched Threads and The War Game. I didn't sleep for a month!�

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