Charley Says: Beware of plays about nuclear war, particularly Threads (1984)


With the threat of nuclear war hanging over everyone’s heads for several decades, it was no surprise that TV would cover its potential horrors in some depth. We’ve already looked at The War Game, which wasn’t just one of the best ever plays about nuclear war, it was also one of TV’s best ever plays.

Up there with The War Game, however, was Threads, a TV movie written by Barry Hines and directed by the marvellous Mick Jackson (Life Story, The Bodyguard). Commissioned by BBC director general Alasdair Milne after he’d watched The War Game, it is a documentary-style account of a nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield in northern England. Harrowing to say the least, it’s a pretty raw account of all the things that would happen both during a nuclear strike and after, right down to genetic mutation, massive depopulation, a return to a medieval-like economy and all fun of a nuclear winter, which it was the first play to ever depict.

And you can watch all of it below. If you like it, buy it on DVD, of course, to reward the lovely people who made it in the first place.

However, when the movie aired overseas, networks realised it might be somewhat stronger than the local audiences were used to. Canada was particularly frightened about its possible effects on audiences, so two TV stations put out these disclaimers before they aired Threads:

So remember children: Don’t just be afraid of nuclear war, be afraid of realistic depictions of nuclear war.