Review THE TRIPODS: Episode 01

Doctor Omega

Staff member

A Village in England: July, 2089 AD

Will meets a strange vagrant that tells him the truth about capping, and a place in The White Mountains for free men. Will and Henry decide to leave their village to find it.



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Doctor Omega

Staff member
I just dug out a load of old handwritten viewing notes from a failed attempt to watch the show (and also Nigel Kneale's KINVIG, funnily enough) from beginning to end from about three years ago. (I only got up to Episode 5 of series one).

Thought I would type them up, then see if I can resume my TRIPOD-WATCH.


The series begins with a caption:

"A village in England.

- July, 2089AD -

The scene is rural.

A horse and cart draw past.

I remember people on DID YOU SEE, moaning about this scene and the lad who played Henry moaning about them in a magazine interview and calling them idiots, because they were confused by the way the public mode of transport in the future was a horse and cart.

They just, clearly, didn't get the series.

This is supposed to be a portrait of a world that has regressed to earlier times, as a consequence of an alien invasion.

We are now inside the house of one of the three principals characters: Will Parker.

I believe the set of this room in question was later re-used in Colin Baker's DOCTOR WHO story, TIMELASH, as the cottage of the Herbert character.

We then see that the whole village is assembling to see some kind of ceremony for a young man named Jack.

Then the Squire turns up.

(A small aside here: A year of so after this was broadcast, I actually got to act on stage at the Lincoln Theatre Royal in a production of FORTY YEARS ON, with Peter Stockbridge, who is playing the Squire. In the play he was the Headmaster and I was the Head Boy. I have a memory of him sat, alone, in the wings of the stage, reading his lines to himself during a break in rehearsal. He was a pleasant man and signed a cast photo that I still have. I would have loved to have asked him about TRIPODS (as it mentioned that he had played the squire in the play's programme, but I was a shy lad at the time and thought it could be embarrasing to sound like a geeky sci-fi fan. But anyway, back to this episode! )

We hear a metallic screech, a bell tolls and everybody looks up.

Suddenly a metallic foot lands in the village pond, as something passes overheard and a bloody great Tripod is stood there.

I just spotted John Scott Martin in the crowd, looking gormless.

The lad, for whom all of this has been arranged, takes his hat off to show he is bald.

Is this a skull cap? Don't think so.

A metallic arm snaked down to grab Jack and lift him up into itself.

And that's when the opening music starts; a still wonderful title sequence, with a theme by Ken Freeman, who also did the CASUALTY opening theme.

Graham Theakston directs this one. Wonder if he will direct any more?

Anyway, back to the village pond.

Everyone seems very happy that Jack has been abducted by the bloody great Tripod thing.

Even John Scott Martin seems to have cheered up a bit.

We cut back to the inside of the house and John Shackley makes his first real appearance, asking why he has to be capped.

His mother reassures him that there is nothing to worry about.

I am not sure if John Shackley as Will is a nautural actor - or just not acting yet. Time will tell.

Will and his cousin, Henry, are then seen walking through the woods, when they bump into a bunch of people, labelled "vagrants".

Henry portrays the vagrants as mad, stupid, ne'er do well murderers, so you just know that they are going to turn out to be the goodies. That's how this sort of thing works, of course.

The lead vagabond quotes a famous poem at them and they both scarper, being strangely frightened of poetry!

This does not bode well for our supposedly heroic duo.

Will and Henry make it back, just in time to see Jack returned to the village.

He has been freshly capped, which means that "they" whoever they are, have stuck a triangular circuit diagram thing onto his shaved head.

It seems that capping is an excuse for a village fete.

The lead vagabond, Ozzythingamajig, is spying on Will and Henry with binoculars, which suggest that he is either a pervert, or has other plans for them, probably involving rebellion. Fairly standard plotting so far.

The next day and the Tripod finally moves off, screeching away and interrupting the maths lesson of John Scott Martin, who - it turns out - is playing a teacher.

My God, he's got dialogue! And all about the harvest festival - and how much better things are under the Tripods, and how awful the world was before they arrived.

But Will is not interested, being too busy staring into space.

"We thank the Tripods!" is a phrase that we are introduced to. Hope we don't hear too much of it, as it could become tedious.

In the documentary on the dvd set, we hear that - while John Shackley was a good actor and Ceri Seel, whom we have yet to meet, did well as the French boy, Beanpole, with a Bristol accent, it was Jim Baker, playing Henry, who showed all the time that he was an improving actor and should have gone on to do well in the business of acting. He turned out, in fact to be a bus driver and kudos to him for being happy and content with his career and so obviously proud of his Tripods legacy, to the point where he campaigned for the second season to be released on dvd.

Will is horrified to see that Jack's capping has made him an expert at wood chopping, so Will runs away - straight into Ozzywhatsit...

This is the moment when we find out that Ozzy is very eloquent for a supposed vagrant and gives the impression of knowing everything about everything - in a kind of Obi Wan Kenobi way to Will's Luke. Only scruffier.

They make their way to a tomb, which will no doubt represent a symbolic rebirth for Will.

Apparently the cap takes away all feelings of wonder, curiosity, aggression and rebellion.

We hear that someone called Anne no longer paints after being capped.

Will has never seen binoculars before.

It turns out that the info-dumping Ozzy knows that - about a hundred years before - the Tripods arrived and conquered and capped the world.

It turns out that Ozzy is wearing a fake cap and is scouring the country, looking for new recruits; who are unafraid to ask questions and that have spirit.

It transpires that the Tripods rule every country in the world, except for a mysterious place called the White Mountains.

Ozzy hints that Will should go there, but he cannot go himself.

Common sense would suggest that this sounds a bit hokey and stupid, but perhaps Will is stupid and gullible. Perhaps Ozzy is mad and goes around sending people on pointless missions halfway around the planet, to somewhere that he knows doesn't exist - and mutters "There goes anohter idiot!" behind their backs as they depart.

We shall see...

Will has never seen a pocket watch before, either. He is turning into Katarina, the Trojan handmaiden from the William Hartnell era, who the producers had to get rid of because she knew nought about nought and boringly needed everything explaining to her, so the producers had to get rid of her.

Will has the night to decide.

He decides to take some jam, some bread - and Henry - with him.

And they set off into the night, watched over by a creepily lit Tripod.

So, what to make of this first episode?

It bodes well - and sets the scene for a promising adventure story.

The principal actors equally show promise, though they both seem a little flat in their performances at this stage.

The production values look good, if modest.

The CULT OF THE TRIPODS documentary pointed out that the production team had to, sometimes, put a few seconds of Tripod action into an episode, in order to justify the title of the show.

I know that this will change for the second season, but it does leave me slightly apprehensive as to how much of the Tripods we shall actually seeing in this, the first season?

Time will tell.

Oh well, onward we go!
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