REVIEW: The Tripods – 2090 AD The White Mountains (1985)

AKA Season 2 Episode 1

That’s right I’m onto season two of The Tripods, a 1980’s BBC Television series based on the classic books by John Christopher! It’s been a while since I did a review for this, but I at least have the excuse (this time) of having read all of the books in between my reviews of this and the final review for season one. As the episode begins we get a somewhat truncated version of the beginning of the second book, The City of Gold and Lead. The boys have joined the Free community in The White Mountains (The Alps) as seen at the very end of season one. They are shown to be training for a chance to potentially enter the Tripod City, awarded during a festival wherein the winners “win” the ability to live there.

It’s a tough situation for everyone involved – Will’s having trouble trying to overcome his somewhat smaller size when it comes to his chosen sport – boxing. Beanpole is torn between his school studies and his sports training and feels that he’s neglecting his education for athletic purposes, a situation that his teacher desperately tries to ensure is not a problem. Henry seems to be the most successful, and a shoe-in for his chosen game.

“In the White Mountains, young people are trained for the annual games where the champions are selected to serve in the city of the Tripods. Will is trained in boxing while Henry’s sport is sprinting and Beanpole’s is long jump. Beanpole is having trouble balancing his studies with his sports training, which causes him to be uncertain about his chances to be selected.”

One thing I immediately noticed was some of the gorgeous location shooting that was used in this episode. When I was younger, I had the opportunity to go on a European tour after I graduated high school, and I immediately recognized the absolutely stunning mountains and some of the landscapes of Switzerland in this episode. By far, my favorite place to have visited was Lucerne, Switzerland, and this made me have a rush of very fond memories. One honestly couldn’t pick a better place to stand in for an Alpine Utopia amongst post-apocalyptic ruins than The Swiss Alps!

The costuming in this episode is pretty awesome considering it actually looks like another culture’s potentially futuristic clothing to a degree. By “futuristic”, I don’t mean a “space age” sort of way, but in a patchwork-made utilitarian style that works for this setting. Looking at this, one could tell this is a new culture that has sprung up using the roots of Germanic heritage as a basis for weird tribalistic stuff. Add a bit of medieval flair, and you get a bit of what we saw in the French Chateau episodes of Season one, just done better.

Prior to this, the show somewhat had a design style that just made everyone appear to be dressed in old ragged-up Edwardian clothing aside from the times where the boys would run into something like a 1980s shopping center. Now, we have colorful capes, weird hats, quilted tunics, and other little accents that make this look pretty amazing. The costume designer is listed as Phoebe De Gaye on IMDB, and she appears to have been a VERY busy woman for nearly 50 years in the business now.

This episode starts a trend that somewhat made me upset at the second book when I read it, and that is the exclusion of Henry from the majority of the story. Keep in mind that I watched season one of the TV series before I had read the books, so I was used to Henry’s closeness with the other two boys and his standing as an equal character alongside Will and Beanpole. In the book, however, Henry is a lot more antagonistic to Will. He does soften up a bit, but you always got the impression that he was somewhat short of being wholly trustworthy, so I would imagine that moving him to the side would have been a lot easier sell than what it is here.

I mentioned before that Henry was easily the most qualified for the athletic tournament of all the boys, but we find out here he will be made to stay behind due to his fighting abilities and status as the sole person on earth in the last 100 years who was able to successfully destroy a Tripod. He has been appointed to help protect the White Mountain Stronghold instead of going out and potentially dying to merely gain access to the Tripod City. It will be interesting to see if he takes the same back seat position in the TV series as I continue to watch Season Two or if this is one of the situations where they need filler and the role gets “beefed up”. Considering there is no Season 3, and as a result no epic return of the character and subsequent heroism that comes with his story arc, his absence will be disappointing if it is kept the same as the book.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched this show, and I greatly enjoyed dipping my toe back into it. Even though I know roughly what is about to happen, I’m sure there will be surprises and differences I can enjoy, so watching this should be good. Truthfully, one of the only reasons I was unable to previously watch this was because I managed to lose my remote for my hacked DVD player at one point, excluding me from any of my Region Two/PAL disks that I had imported in the past. Since then I have found a way to watch this, and will attempt to keep going in a relatively quick manner. So stay tuned for more thoughts and observations on one of the most under-rated TV shows ever made, and something I really wish would get re-made at some point.

To see previous installments click HERE

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