REVIEW: The Tripods November 2089 – The White Mountains (1984)

AKA Season 1 Episode 13

It has been an absolutely egregious amount of time since I last did a review for the 1980s television series Tripods. Going back and doing a little bit of research shows that I claimed on some random day in 2015 that I would “finish out season one in seven days”. I made this proclamation only to vanish, like some kind of deadbeat Dad, and I was never heard from again on the topic. Seeing that it is nearly seven years later, I do believe that I missed the mark slightly! One thing I plan to do this winter is to go back and try to finish up some stuff that I abandoned in 2016 due to personal problems such. Stay tuned for other weird resurrections of old content!

“Will, Henry and Beanpole find themselves under a midnight assault by the Tripods, but survive by staying hidden. In the morning they are captured by Black Guards, who interrogate them but eventually reveal themselves to actually be the free men they had been seeking. They take the boys to their hideout, where the leader of the free men, Julius, reveals plans to send free people to infiltrate the City of Gold.”

So here we are, the final episode of the very first season of the BBC series Tripods. When we last left the boys, they had escaped capture only to come face to face with certain doom at the long metallic tendrils of a fearsome tripod. Somehow or another, they were able to pull off the unthinkable and actually destroy one of them using a grenade found earlier in the series. This has clearly put the tripods on high alert and the boys are horrified to find waves of Blackguards, the Tripod human control soldiers, patrolling the rocky mountains that they are traveling in. With the fabled White Mountains within eyeshot, it seems that months of hardship may be all for nothing when the worst possible thing happens.

Captured and thrown in a damp jail cell by multiple Blackguards spells certain doom for the boys’ mission of escaping to The White Mountains. Placed under rigorous watch, deprived of personal items (Like Beanpole’s glasses), and interrogated like criminals, the boys are at wits end but somehow have the strength to endure the ordeal without cracking. Finally, the ruse ends and the so called blackguards reveal themselves to be undercover Freemen. With the promise of safety and the possibility of being trained to help with an act of vengeance on the very Tripods that have ruined the earth, the boys set out on the next leg of their journey – the invasion of the tripod base itself.

I cannot speak enough about the small things that make this show really stand out against other contemporary television programs of the time. Doctor Who, for instance, was made for a much smaller budget during the same time and looks far worse than any episode of tripods generally speaking. The cinematography, miniature work, music, and set location filming all come together to produce what is quite possibly one of my favorite 1980s BBC television productions.

Yes, some of the puppet and miniature effects are slightly dated in 2021, but they never come across as hokey or cheesy like some other shows do. Nothing in this episode regarding special effects stands out greatly above previous episodes, but we do see the use of some sort of underground tunnels as the freeman base which was pretty cool. With the citizens of earth basically living in a feudal medieval lifestyle, seeing that juxtaposed with modern items like electric lights is pretty interesting. We have had little glimpses of this in the past when the boys would come across the ruins of the previous civilization, but here in the freemen base everything is in working order giving the entire place a sort of magical property that the boys cannot fathom.

there are some genuine moments of great acting in this episode. As the boys are being interrogated, we see Will snap and drop all of the pretense of being an innocent boy simply traveling to the mountains to see them. He tears into the black guards, accusing them of being traitors and going after the tripods themselves for being unjust conquerors. You can see pure anger flowing through him, as he finally stands up for his friends accepting the death that he is surely destined for after such an outburst. Likely not an execution, mind you, but perhaps a sad existence of being permanently deranged by the tripods wicked experiments.

Considering it has been a while since I’ve watched this, I recall always liking the music in this because of its heavy lean towards being synthesizer based music, not too dissimilar to Doctor Who, and likely composed by the same radiophonics people. In this episode, we get a little bit of a diversion from that with some blatantly 1980s funk music. This music was not bad but is one of the few things that actually dates this show quite a bit. Luckily, no other weird anachronistic things have happened aside from the episode where the boys find in abandoned mall and put on clothes that are very obviously stuck in the time of the filming of the show.

The show somewhat hit a false climax in the previous episode, so in comparison this episode could possibly seem slower then what one would expect for a season finale. That honestly could be my indoctrination into modern TV tropes wherein the season finale is always a huge knock down drag out brawl of some nature or showcase of pent up drama released all at once. The interrogation scene was very intense which complemented the end of the show where the boys finally joined The Freeman, Hatching a plan to infiltrate the Tripod city. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens in the next season, knowing perfectly well that that is all of the show that the BBC made. For those unaware, The Tripods suffered a premature death to budget cuts by a man that basically did not want any science fiction television on BBC in any way whatsoever. Luckily I have the books to fall back on which I plan to also review on here shortly.

I won’t make any grand declaration on when the next review will be but I can definitely assure you that it will not be seven years from now. that is, assuming that some crazy mutated version of COVID doesn’t go around and cause a post-apocalyptic scenario that this show has prepared me for. Perhaps I should be watching 28 Days Later instead!

To see previous installments click HERE

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