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

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.