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Tripods, The

Heavy metal fatigueAS DEREK Griffiths sang in LOOK AND READ’s The Boy From Space, “space goes on… forever.” And so did this epic UK/US/Australian co-production. In a regressed medieval futurescape of 2089, docile yokels are under the control of Wellesian Tripods – three-legged towering robots who implant mind-supressing chips under the scalp via a long, tendrill-y thing (“capping”). Inevitably, a rag-tag band of dissenters break free to find out what was going on, eventually coming face-to-face with one-eyed, three-legged fleshy “Masters”, who could be disappointingly easily done in with a punch in the eye. Video effects were good for the time, including smart enough matte paintings of a destroyed Paris, and the Tripods themselves, although it was often pointed out that the only direction a three-legged thing could move in would be around in a constant circle. Where it all went wrong was with the plots: tedious, incomprehensible if you tuned in mid-series, short on humour and long on dreadful moralising: not what you want on a Saturday night. As a result it got cancelled two thirds of the way through the planned three-series run. Oops. Chief derring-doers were cousins Will (JOHN SHACKLEY) and Henry Parker (JIM BAKER). Stereotyped French oik Beanpole (CERI SEEL) joined them on their quest to reach the White Mountains of Switerzerland where, ahem, the Free Men lived. Henry got replaced in series two by Fritz (ROBIN HAYTER) for no apparent reason.



  1. Trevor Johnson

    October 29, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Docile yokels! Like it.This brings back memories of Saturday teatimes, jumpers for goalposts etc. Yes, it did go on a bit. I used to have a fantasy that we’d be driving through the countryside and would one day pass one of the filming locations. Incredibly we never did. Nice website.

  2. Matty

    June 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Also worth mentioning is the fact that the title music (and titles themselves) were terrific. Unfortunately the show itself, despite the fact that the SFX still look quite good, is let down not only by the problems mentioned in the article but by the rubbish acting from much of the cast.

  3. Richardpd

    October 30, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    I heard a lot of the younger actors didn’t have much experience of performing on TV. Sadly the actress playing Eloise died in an accident between series.

    For some reason the storylines were extended from the books rather than compressed as normally happens with adaptions.

    There was the inevitable looks behind the scenes look by Blue Peter with Peter Duncan wearing Will’s costume & the Tripods city model on display in the studio.

    Supposedly the 3rd series was sacrificed to bring Doctor Who back.

    There have been one or two ides to either do another TV adaption or a film trilogy.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      October 31, 2020 at 8:29 am

      Yes, sadly Charlotte Long died in a car accident shortly after filming her scenes (at Saltwood Castle, home of famed diarist / Conservative MP Alan Clark, who mentions watching her filming her scenes in his diary, and then lamenting her death). John Christopher is a pretty good sci-fi writer – I think as good as John Wyndham – can recommend A Wrinkle in the Skin and obv. The Death of Grass. I don’t remember as a child being worried about the acting in this, but I was always confused about what exactly was going on, which wasn’t helped by the abrupt, unresolved ending.

  4. Richardpd

    October 31, 2020 at 11:48 am

    One clever idea was the humans being denied technology and everything started to revert to a pre-industrial almost medieval society.

    Also the masters as a seemingly benevolent dictatorship still struggling to understand why the humans were occasionally rebelling was another interesting aspect.

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