BBC 100: Sheffield nuclear apocalypse drama Threads named as one of Beeb's greatest moments

Nearly 40 years after being filmed in Sheffield, it continues to haunt the nightmares of a generation of Sheffield schoolchildren who grew up watching it.
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Now Threads, the terrifying apocalyptic drama about a nuclear bomb laying waste to the city, has been named as one of the BBC’s greatest moments from its 100 years of broadcasting. The TV film, which was shot on location around the city and featured residents as extras, has been chosen by a member of the BBC Archive team as one of the best things made by the Beeb over the last century – and from his comments its clear the show left an indelible mark.

“Although this drama could never be called a favourite it remains seared in my memory,” said the archivist, named only as Colin. “Terrifying in its depiction of a nuclear strike on Britain. Watching this the night before school with my dad it was impossible to get to sleep. Still a powerful and upsetting piece of work.”

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Cold War tensions were precipitious when Threads was first aired in 1984, making the hellish scenario all too believable a prospect for viewers back then. While Sheffield’s streetscene and the fashions of the day have changed, the film has certainly stood the test of time, and Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine means its warning about the devastating consequences of nuclear war remains as relevant as ever.

Threads, the 1984 apocalyptic nuclear drama filmed in Sheffield, has been named as one of the BBC's greatest moments as the broadcaster turns 100. Photo: BBCThreads, the 1984 apocalyptic nuclear drama filmed in Sheffield, has been named as one of the BBC's greatest moments as the broadcaster turns 100. Photo: BBC
Threads, the 1984 apocalyptic nuclear drama filmed in Sheffield, has been named as one of the BBC's greatest moments as the broadcaster turns 100. Photo: BBC

Colin’s memories had many other viewers reliving the trauma of watching Threads for the first time. One person wrote: “Watched this in high school in the mid eighties. It frightened me to death. I still won’t watch it now.”

Another commented: “This drama has inspired me to run towards a mushroom cloud, not hide away from it. I'd rather not survive the effects of a nuclear attack.” And a third said: “Threads, The Day After, When The Wind Blows, Z For Zachariah. All of them nightmare fuel if you grew up in the early 80s.”

Threads was written by Barry Hines and directed and produced by Mick Jackson. Shot on a budget of £400,000, it centres on two families as the confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union tips over the brink, wiping out much of Sheffield.