Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland, adapted by Dan Rebellato

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BBC Radio 3, 5 March 2008

Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma, adapted by Dan Rebellato and directed by Polly Thomas (BBC3), reached a similar conclusion. Coupland is best known for his books on GenX-ers; the group of people who found little to be happy about in the contemporary world. Rather than trying to improve it (as their parents might have done three decades earlier), they dropped out. Matters changed, however, when the central character Karen (Rayisa Kondracki) falls into a coma in 1979 as a result of an accident. After eighteen years, she finally wakes up in 1997; and immediately becomes a media celebrity. The GenX-ers become hot properties. Karen predicts the end of the world; no one believes her, and on 1st November Armageddon happens. However the five main characters survive, and come to know something about their past. Eventually Karen tells them that the whole Armageddon episode should be treated as a fantasy; she has to die, and the five main characters will travel back in time to the pre-Armageddon era. The end of the world will not happen.


Like “A Withered Apple,” Girlfriend in a Coma reminds us that no one can escape the past, nor change the future. Karen wakes up after nineteen years, but does so as a way of pointing the way forward for her friends. She opens their eyes to the possibilities in the future, while informing them not to forget the lessons of the past. She makes a Christ-like sacrifice so that the rest of humanity can try to become more socially responsible. Coupland offers a message to all GenX-ers; it is no use just dropping out, but one should seek to change the world. The spirit of the 60s has returned.


Thomas’s production made ingenious use of the microphone – especially the technique of overlapping voices – to suggest the interplay of time. It made for a stimulating adaptation.