The Tripods is a television adaptation of John Christopher’s The Tripods series of novels which aired between 1984 and 1985.
It was jointly produced by the BBC in the United Kingdom and the Seven Network in Australia.
Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Masters using their giant Tripods. When humans reach the age of sixteen, they must undergo a process known as capping which places their mind under the control of the conquerors. In 2089, having learned the truth, cousins Will and Henry Parker embark on a journey to the White Mountains in search of a group of free men.
Series one of The Tripods, broadcast in 1984, had 13 half-hour episodes written by Alick Rowe, the author of many radio plays, and covers the first book, The White Mountains; the 12-episode second series (1985) written by Christopher Penfold covers The City of Gold and Lead. Although a television script had been written for the third series, it was cancelled by BBC executives Michael Grade and Jonathan Powell due to the adaptation failing in the ratings.
The series introduced several minor changes from the book, notably the shape of the Masters and Tripods, which have tentacles (although the Tripods do have a mechanical claw-arm that they sometimes use) in the book; the Black Guard was introduced to serve as a tangible human antagonist as overuse of the Tripods themselves would be expensive to film and undermine their dramatic presence; gravity inside the Golden City was increased artificially, which is not mentioned in the TV series; the introduction of “cognoscs”, spiritual life-forms vastly superior to the Masters themselves; and more other main characters, including love interests for both Will and Beanpole. The original texts have few female characters. John Christopher was asked about this for an interview on Wordcandy, replying that at the time of writing the series, it was generally accepted that girls would read books with boy main characters, but not vice versa. He also stated that he felt the addition of an entire family of girls to the TV series was somewhat “over the top”. The series is also notable for featuring non-humanoid aliens, which was uncommon at the time.
Charlotte Long, who played Will’s love interest Eloise, died in a car crash shortly after the start of transmission of the first series. For the second series, the role was briefly recast, with Cindy Shelley appearing as Eloise during a dream sequence.
The following is a list of fictional locations in the show, the series, the episode in which the location appeared, and the actual location (all in the UK except where shown):
- Village of Wherton and mill pond (series 1, episode 1) – Friday Street
- Parker Family mill (series 1, episode 1) – Headley Mill, Hampshire.
- Vagrant Bridge (series 1, episode 1) – Gutte Pond Bridge, Wotton Estate, Wotton, Surrey.
- Tomb location (series 1, episode 1) – Evelyn Mausoleum, Brickyard Lane, Wotton, Surrey.
- Rhymney (series 1, episodes 1,2) – Charlestown Harbour, Charlestown, Cornwall.
- Cave entrance (series 1 episode 3) – Charlestown Harbour, Charlestown, Cornwall.
- Airfield control tower (series 1, episode 4) – Radlett Field, Frogmore.
- Metro station entrance (series 1, episode 4) – Intersection of Cornhill and Threadneedle Street, London.
- The Chateau Ricordeau (series 1, episodes 5-8) – Saltwood Castle, Hythe, Kent.
- Canal “chemin de fer” (series 1, episodes 8) – Section of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, Gloucester.
- Tunnel “exterior shots” (series 1, episodes 9) – Windsor Hill Tunnel, New tunnel, North portal, Downside.
- Tunnel “interior shots” (series 1, episode 9) – Highgate Tunnel, Holmesdale Road, Highgate, London.
- Vichot’s Vineyard (series 1, episodes 9,10) – Wootton Vineyard, North Wotton.
- water fall/creek crossing (series 1, episode 11) – Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed, Gwynedd, Wales.
- Viaduct (series 1, episodes 11,12) – Pensford Viaduct, Pensford.
- French festival location (series 1, episode 11) – Haughmond Abbey ruins, Shropshire.
- French village archway (series 1, episode 11) – Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales.
- French village court house (series 1, episode 11) – Court room scenes were shot inside Town Hall in the Hercules room, Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales.
- Stone quarry building (series 1, episode 12) – floor six mill, Diffwys slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales.
- Stone hut (series 1, episode 12) – Diffwys slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales.
- Black pipeline/interrogation building (series 1, episode 13) – Lake llyn Cowlyd, Trefriw, Wales.
- Alpine chapel (series 2, episodes 1,12) – St-Jean, Switzerland.
- Boxing ring (series 2, episode 1) – Lake Ffynnon Llugwy, Wales.
- Freemen camp (series 2, episodes 1,12) – Lake Ffynnon Llugwy, Wales.
- Swiss capping site (series 2, episode 1) – Rue du Village, Grimentz, Switzerland.
- Ship graveyard (series 2, episode 2) – Purton Ship Graveyard, Purton, Berkeley.
- [Basel docks] where the boys find the barge Erlkoenig (series 2, episode 2) – Victoria Basin of the Gloucester Docks, Gloucester.
- [Württemberg docks] where the barge Erlkonig is moored (series 2, episode 2) – Lydney docks and harbour, Lydney.
- The Pit (series 2, episode 2) – Town Hall Square, Unterseen, Switzerland.
- [Bachara docks] Will and Beanpole meet Zerlina and Papagena (series 2, episode 3) – Lake Thun Next to Oberhofen Castle, Oberhofen, Switzerland.
- Church clock tower (series 2, episode 3) – St Mauricius Church, Thun, Switzerland.
- Will and Beanpole are chased into alley by Black Guards after Will escapes from the pit (series 2, episode 3) – Alley off of Spielmatte Strasse, Unterseen, Switzerland.
- Will and Beanpole are chased by black guards after Will escapes from the pit (series 2, episode 3) – Oberhofen Castle, Oberhofen, Switzerland.
- Will and Beanpole miss the barge to the games (series 2, episode 3) – Lydney docks and Harbor on the River Severn, Lydney.
- Derelict house where girls scare boys (series 2, episodes 4,11) – Gwylfa Hiraethog, (former hunting lodge), Wales.
- Games stadium (series 2, episode 4) – Former site of White City Stadium at Trafford, Manchester.
- Gardens in City of Gold (series 2, episodes 6,7) – The Barbican conservatory, Barbican Centre, London.
- City of Gold interior shots (series 2, episodes 7-10) – Dinorwig power station, Wales.
- Beanpole rescues Will from river (series 2, episode 11) – River Wye. The house is known as “The Gatehouse” and was formerly “the Boatman’s Rest”, Hole-in-the-Wall.
- Market where Beanpole tries to sell chess pieces (series 2, episode 11) – City Hall Plaza, Thun, Switzerland.
A DVD release of the complete series 1 & 2 was released on 23 March 2009 (Region 2). A new soundtrack album, The Tripods: Pool of Fire Suite by original composer Ken Freeman inspired by the unmade third series of Tripods was released at the same time.
BBC Enterprises licensed a video game adaptation of the TV series in 1985. It was designed by Watermill Productions and published by Red Shift.
Disney has owned the film rights to The Tripods since 1997. It was reported in 2005 that a cinematic version was in pre-production with Australian-born director Gregor Jordan signed on to rewrite and direct for Walt Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label.
The film version was expected to be released in 2012, although as of 2019 the project is still listed as being in development, and no announcements about the cast or filming dates have been made.
- The first series was released on both VHS and DVD. The BBC released Tripods – The Complete Series 1 & 2 on DVD in March 2009.
The Tripods Series
Production & Filming Details
- Christopher Barry … (9 episodes, 1984-1985).
- Graham Theakston … (8 episodes, 1984).
- Bob Blagden … (6 episodes, 1985).
- Richard Bates … producer (18 episodes, 1984-1985).
- John Christopher … (18 episodes, 1984-1985).
- Christopher Penfold … (5 episodes, 1985).
- Alick Rowe … (13 episodes, 1984).
- Ken Freeman … (25 episodes, 1984-1985).
- Alan Dixon … (9 episodes, 1984-1985).
- Mike Taylor … (8 episodes, 1984).
- Angela Beveridge … (unknown episodes).
- Susan Brincat … (unknown episodes).
- John Paroussi … (unknown episodes).
- Jim Stephens … (unknown episodes).
- Sue Thorne … (unknown episodes).
- Production: 7 Network, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and Fremantle International Inc.
- Image Entertainment (USA) (all media) (laserdisc).
- Koch Media (2009) (Germany) (DVD).
- Sony Video (USA) (VHS).
- The Fremantle Corporation (all media).
- Umbrella Entertainment (2011) (Australia) (DVD).
- Umbrella Entertainment (2011) (Australia) (video) (VOD).
- Release Date: 15 September 1984 to 23 November 1985.
- Running Time: 25-30 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: U and PG (episode dependent).
- Country: US.
- Language: English.