Threads: In the aftermath
Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I had the good fortune (I think) to watch again the British TV docudrama Threads
the other day, a show I hadn't seen for 25 years. The program uses the conventions of family drama to describe what might happen if a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the former's incursion into Iran leads to an all-out nuclear war and the dropping of a huge nuclear bomb on Sheffield in the north of England. Threads
not only dramatizes the lead up to the fatal decisions, and then traumas that occur to the various families depicted, but it shows the supposed actions that local government are meant to take in the event of a nuclear war, and then speculates how society might cope for thirteen years following.
As you might expect, the outcome is unrelievedly grim. Not only does the nuclear bomb vaporize millions of people, but the fallout poisons many more, and then disease and famine decimate even more, as a nuclear winter blocks out the sun causing food not to grow and an icy cold to descend on the land. Britain's population shrinks from four to eleven million, a number not seen since medieval times, and society breaks down completely, leaving people to scavenge and live off the land. Even the language is shattered, as all schooling comes to an end, and those children that survive beyond their early years become feral and predatory as they try to eke out a living.
I remember being stunned by Threads
when it first came out. It felt terrifyingly real and all-too-plausible, right down to the politicians' delusional posturing and pathetic attempts to provide citizens with information and protection in the run-up and immediate aftermath—and the terrible decisions that must be made amid the rubble and ruins. Some of the show is inevitably dated after 25 years, but all the examples of how human societies break down when the fundamentals of civilization are destroyed seem very true to me. I would like to believe that we have learned from the horrors of mutually assured destruction to step back from the brink; but simply substituting the words "global pandemic" or "climate change" for "nuclear war" shows that we really haven't come that far. I highly recommend taking a look at Threads
: but, beware, you need a strong stomach.