Skip to main content

When there is no cap in the head, the thought in the head is strange.

The Tripods
Season One
Episode-by-Episode

1.1 - A Village in England: July, 2089 AD

This is a decent, atmospheric opener. There’s a slight The Wicker Man vibe to the blithe “sacrifice” of youth to the Tripods, and in retrospect the Will/Henry dynamic has something of a Frodo/Sam vibe (just a much grumpier, dyspeptic Sam). So too, the classic perilous journey through a treacherous landscape is familiar (to a place “where men are free”). Ozymandias (“I’m king of all this land”) is an explicit nod to all we lose through capping (a creative mind like Shelley’s), and entertainingly performed by Roderick Horn. 


The pieces are all there in the set up; disgruntled teenagers (“Why do I have to be capped?”; it’s so unfair) and the mantra “We thank the Tripods”. Will’s unseen friend paints no more since she’s been capped, but really the disincentive comes from the sight of Jack (Michael Gilmour) being taken aboard the Tripod and coming back with a nice metal triangle on his bald bonce. Jim Baker sets the store for the next 12 episodes by moaning a lot; on one level he’s your classic petulant teenager, on another he could put a bit more welly into it.



1.2 - England: July, 2089 AD

This isn’t bad, but we’re already getting diminishing returns. Lots of running and horses and synths (are the villagers going to strong arm Will and Henry back if they find them; a bit aggressive if so). The Tripods don’t seem to have much in the way of effective surveillance tech on board, as the duo are able to leg it while it’s back is turned. We’re warned again of the perils of the journey (one, maybe two out of every 50 make it; that must be why there’s hardly anyone at the White Mountains in episode 13).


The Tripods still permit alcohol, which is dumb (particularly given the events of the third book). The pub scene, and general threatening nature of the harbour is effective, but you wonder how nasty it would be if this lot weren’t capped (how many of Captain Curtis and his crew are capped is debatable, but since the Tripods can cross the channel spot checks are obviously a danger). There’s a nice atmospheric bit in the pub where Ken Freeman contrasts the typical piano contrasts with sinister synths.



1.3 - The English Channel: July, 2089 AD

The cliffhangers in this series are often mush. The last one saw Will and Henry with a trip to Africa. Oh, the relief when they find it was Captain Curtis’ boat all along. Already, the series seems to be faltering with its options. Arriving in France, Will and Henry are promptly captured (Henry is peeling potatoes to earn a crust, the ever-hungry oaf). “You will be capped tomorrow. A Tripod is here. It is the law.” Except in a few episodes, when the Count begs to differ.


Fortunately, Beanpole makes his entrance. He seems to have devised a remarkably effective ruse for evading capping; he simply pulls a sickie on the designated day, and presto, the event remains ever distant. Evidently an indicator of the guilessness of the capped and their masters? Beanpole is actually called Jean-Paul but, rotten English boys being rotten English boys, they instantly pick on his distinguishing features and mock them. Our heroes. The escape is remarkably easy. A watchable, unremarkable episode, and slow; a sign of things to come.



1.4 - France: July, 2089 AD

The last respite before an inordinate stay at Chateau Ricordeau, the main problem with this episode is that great opportunities are allowed to drain away through perfunctory production values and direction. 


A visit to a decaying Paris, with all the long-lost secrets it holds, promises much, but it devolves into a few projected backdrops and some dodgy extras lobbing rocks (and the lads lobbing hand grenades). Along the way the boys hitch a lift on a handcar, examine a 2CV, and Will spends an awful lot of time looking at their map (good prop acting, or simple desperation?) And then, at the end. Oh dear, the Castle beckons.



1.5 - Chateau Ricordeau, France: July, 2089 AD

Its good to see some proper experienced thespians, and even the relatively youthful Langford sets the three ingénues in their place with some supreme lip snarling and contempt. This isn’t bad, but it’s dull. Wrapped in the etiquette of hospitality, and so very genteel; croquette, drinks by the pool, even a taste for science (the telescope; those caps really aren’t up to much, are they?)


Will’s wooing of Eloise, or vice versa, finds the series taking a cloying turn, particularly when he saves her from a certain drowning in a calm pond. “We wish you for a son” announce the Count and Countess (she’s very tactile with Will, but then she ismarried to an old codger), seemingly happy to taken in an English hooligan and his reprobate chums. How dreary.



1.6 - Chateau Ricordeau, France: July, 2089 AD

She’s trapped you better than any Tripod” accuses Henry. And we’re trapped too, stuck at the lazy Chateau while the trio squabble about what to do next. Henry is at his most petulant during a pool party, and really ought to get a good slap. The only alleviation from boredom comes near the end. Will dreams of a Tripod looming over the Chateau grounds and lo, one has arrived come morning. Just when you were giving up on them for good.


Then there’s Eloise revealing her cap. Next episode Will understandably, wonders what difference it makes. I mean, it’s not like she’s a collaborator or anything. She seems perfectly normal, living in a romantic dream in occupied France.



1.7 - Chateau Ricordeau, France: August, 2089 AD

The tournament episode, and a low point in the season’s hardly high-shooting course. By this point, the persistent (virtual) moustache twirling of the Duc de Sarlat is becoming as tiresome as wet Will. 


The former draws blood during a fencing contest and gets a bit brutal in the joust, while Will has an argument with a fat man (Roger Hammond as Count de Saclay). Eloise being chosen as Queen of the Tournament and disappeared into the belly of the great metal beast is effective, but at this point, you’re wondering how on Earth the series staggered made it to Season Two.



1.8 - Chateau Ricordeau, France: August, 2089 AD

This is more like it. We start off at the Chateau, but with his amour gone it’s not long before Will is too. He encounters his recently departed pals remarkably easily (it’s a small country, France). The did-he-or-didn’t he of Will’s encounter with the Tripod is intriguingly maintained until he reveals “the thing” in his side. One wonders if Spielberg checked this episode out before shooting the scene in War of the Worlds where the characters are similarly besieged in a house by a metal machine.


Not wanting to side with the rouge tool, but Henry has a point when accuses Will of dropping them in it. There’s increasing speculation about the ways-and-means of the Tripods (why it’s tracking them, Will speculating that someone is inside it) and the first glimpse of the City of Gold.



1.9 - France: September, 2089 AD

Oh dear. An effectively unsettling beginning, as Beanpole cuts out the tracking device and Henry runs off squeamishly. But then the trio get bogged down once more, this time with a wee Scotty woman, her dim French husband, and their six daughters.


So now we’re treated to the lamest of reversals; Will wants to carry on to the White Mountains while Beanpole and (especially) stroppy block of wood Henry are keen to stay (no wonder, only girls chomping at the bit for boys would go for them).



1.10 - France: September, 2089 AD

More enthralling activities at the vineyard. At least there’s a vaguely philosophical scene in which Madame Vichot muses on why her capping didn’t fully do the business, but there’s also much in the way of tiresome romance and spurned emotions. At least they’re out of there by the end of the episode.



1.11 - France: October, 2089 AD

Its just as well this bunch are so inept or they’d reach the White Mountains in no time. They are unable to pull off a food theft at a harvest festival (fat hungry Henry makes a noise) and escape to the vagrants’ loony woods. It’s an interlude bursting with potential that makes next to nothing of it; the spectre of the Knights who say “Ni” is summoned, only not in a good way.


Worse, when Will and Beanpole trying to act m-m-m-m-mad its quite embarrassing to watch. From there, it’s back into the lion’s den and yet another threat of capping to finish the episode.



1.12 - France: October, 2089 AD

When it comes to missed tricks, it might have been interesting if the dogged pursuit by Vass Anderson’s Black Guard (who has the unflinching demeanour of a less unnerving version of the egg-sucking German in A Fistful of Dynamite) had given way to the reveal that he was only after them because he’s only pretending to be a guard. Christopher Barry, who took over duties on the eighth episode, does a bang up job here, first with their besting their captor and then the encounter with and assault on the Tripod.


Henry suggests the Tripods carry people after “heroically” blowing it up (he probably hoped to discover a sandwich just inside the door), so he’s talking garbage. Excellent cliffhanger for once; a model shot showing five of the metal beasties on the warpath, including a purple number with machine gun emplacements leading the way.



1.13 - The White Mountains: November, 2089 AD

The Tripod action is dispensed with early on, which is a shame as it’s particularly well staged; all glowing green lights in the darkness and laser bolts.  The events that follow can’t compare but they keep their dramatic end up, with the trio apparently apprehended by black guards and interrogated. Peter Halliday makes a memorable inquisitor and there’s a welcome return for Ozymandias. 


The Tripods are revealed to be especially cunning, with the capability of sending those unknowingly conditioned to join the free men. Which begs the question, if the Tripods can both infiltrate and lift knowledge from those they capture, how the free men have survived so long (they aren’t exactly a hard-bitten resistance movement).


The final scenes are less surefooted, with the reveal that all (youthful types) will be coached in sports so as to inveigle themselves into the City by winning the annual games; why not train them in combat too, just to be safe? And of course, all 20 of these callow youths stand up to be counted at the end; a little brainwashed fervour goes a long way. The vibe is heavily fromage-soaked, while the model Death Star/City of Gold, as mentioned elsewhere, looks like it was rustled up with some cereal packets and double-sided stick tape (there’s even a thoughtful scale model of a Tripod to complete the effect).





Comments

  1. WOW what the write up. If not already a member you should wonder over and join the League of Freemen, the official BBC Tripods fan club.

    https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/theleagueoffreemen/info

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

What I have tried to show you is the inevitability of history. What must be, must be.

The Avengers 2.24: A Sense of History
Another gem, A Sense of History features one of the series’ very best villains in Patrick Mower’s belligerent, sneering student Duboys. Steed and Mrs Peel arrive at St Bode’s College investigating murder most cloistered, and the author of a politically sensitive theoretical document, in Martin Woodhouse’s final, and best, teleplay for the show (other notables include Mr. Teddy Bear and The Wringer).

Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

Dark Star (1974)
(SPOILERS) Is Dark Star more a John Carpenter film or more a Dan O’Bannon one? Until the mid ‘80s it might have seemed atypical of either of them, since they had both subsequently eschewed comedy in favour of horror (or thriller). And then they made Big Trouble in Little China and Return of the Living Dead respectively, and you’d have been none-the-wiser again. I think it’s probably fair to suggest it was a more personal film to O’Bannon, who took its commercial failure harder, and Carpenter certainly didn’t relish the tension their creative collaboration brought (“a duel of control” as he put it), as he elected not to work with his co-writer/ actor/ editor/ production designer/ special effects supervisor again. Which is a shame, as, while no one is ever going to label Dark Star a masterpiece, their meeting of minds resulted in one of the decade’s most enduring cult classics, and for all that they may have dismissed it/ seen only its negatives since, one of the best mo…

Ruination to all men!

The Avengers 24: How to Succeed…. At Murder
On the one hand, this episode has a distinctly reactionary whiff about it, pricking the bubble of the feminist movement, with Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. On the other, it has Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. How to Succeed… At Murder (a title play on How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, perhaps) is often very funny, even if you’re more than a little aware of the “wacky” formula that has been steadily honed over the course of the fourth season.

This here's a bottomless pit, baby. Two-and-a-half miles straight down.

The Abyss (1989)
(SPOILERS) By the time The Abyss was released in late summer ’89, I was a card carrying James Cameron fanboy (not a term was in such common use then, thankfully). Such devotion would only truly fade once True Lies revealed the stark, unadulterated truth of his filmmaking foibles. Consequently, I was an ardent Abyss apologist, railing at suggestions of its flaws. I loved the action, found the love story affecting, and admired the general conceit. So, when the Special Edition arrived in 1993, with its Day the Earth Stood Still-invoking global tsunami reinserted, I was more than happy to embrace it as a now-fully-revealed masterpiece.

I still see the Special Edition as significantly better than the release version (whatever quality concerns swore Cameron off the effects initially, CGI had advanced sufficiently by that point;certainly, the only underwhelming aspect is the surfaced alien craft, which was deemed suitable for the theatrical release), both dramatically and them…

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …