The Tripods: (1984) France, September 2089

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AKA Season 1, Episode 9

Many medical professionals go to school for upwards of eight to ten years to hone their craft as a practicing physician. Intricate procedures like doing surgery are skills that one must spend countless hours to perfect in order to keep the patients alive and well. In a post-apocalyptic dystopia nobody is that lucky, and your only bet might be the gangly guy with glasses who seems smarter than everyone else.

When faced with a foreign object embedded into his flesh, Will has to make that very choice – letting Beanpole dig a hunting knife into his side to remove what can only be assumed to be a Tripod tracking device. To really send the gravity of the situation home, one of the last things beanpole says to Will is- “you better find something to bite on.” This is, of course, as he sharpens his knife on the wall of a dirty underpass they are hiding in.

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Once again Will becomes a bit of a liability to the group as he recovers from his amateur surgery. Not since a handful of episodes ago has the team been so vulnerable to an attack with Tripods basically crawling all over them. Beanpole steps up and formulates a plan involving this tracking device, their new horse, and a straw dummy fashioned to look vaguely human. The tracking device is stuck in the dummy, the dummy placed on the horse, and the whole shebang is sent off into the wilderness or as far away from the boys as they can get it.

One of the many things I like about the characterization of Beanpole is that he is a formidable genius, but it’s not too over-the-top. Some shows have guys in these sorts of survivalist situations that rub two pine cones together and produce cold fusion somehow or another. Characters like McGyver come to mind, and even though I loved that show as a kid, his genius was a little far-fetched at times. Beanpole is more realistic in the way that he attacks the trios problems, and whether it be cutting into somebody to retrieve a weapon or creating a dummy to distract the baddies – it’s exactly the sort of stuff one could imagine a sheltered genius doing with very little materials.

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Once this plan is executed, flawlessly I might add, the guys find themselves once again in the company of French citizens with an injured Will needing a place to rest (sound familiar?). This time they are taken in by a group of young girls and their mother and father, a headmistress of sorts and a farmer. Unlike the previous aristocratic family, these guys run a vineyard and live off of the land. They of course get cleaned up, fed, and are expected to work a little bit in exchange for the hospitality.

I noticed that this show has a silly way of making French people suddenly all start speaking English, and it first popped up in the “Chateau arc”. Basically when these girls realize that Will and Henry are not French (Beanpole is) they proclaim that “from here on out, we will all be speaking English”. This is from the perspective of hospitality within the show, but it’s real purpose to to keep the whole thing left un-subtitled for English speaking TV audiences. Let’s face it, if this were to really happen Beanpole would be translating for Will and Henry, and everyone else would be speaking French. Drawing attention to such a problem almost makes it more silly than just having everyone magically speak the same language.

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Basically, this episode and the next episode exist solely to give Henry a romantic fling so that Will isn’t the only “Mac Daddy” of the trio. This entire story-line is absent from the original books, so I’m not too sure if this was added in as a “filler” of sorts or to balance the story out a bit. It becomes fairly clear that this family is keeping the boys around in the hopes that their enormous family of young girls will suddenly all get married and move on. Will is still hurt from what happened  to Eloise just days prior, and wants no part of this. Henry however goes on and starts to fall in love with one of the older daughters.

Will and Henry basically flip sides on their previous views on relationships during this adventure, and come across as huge hypocrites. Henry suddenly has googly eyes whenever he thinks about staying at the house – to the point that he suggests they wait there all winter. Will, on the other hand, suddenly doesn’t trust anyone and wants to leave ASAP.

We don’t see them bicker too long, as their decision is basically made for them later in the episode during a banquet for the oldest daughter. They are all set to meet her fiance, and a young “Blackguard” walks in the door! if you forgot who those guys are, just think of Nazi Gestapo officers working for the Tripods. They also have dumb hats!

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As we roll into episode 10, the boys are on the verge on yet another daring escape, and with Will at less than 100%, that’s not going to be easy at all. Luckily, this story is wrapping up pretty fast and we don’t have 4-5 more episodes of Henry falling in love to deal with, sad that he gets the short end of the stick all the time.

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The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, August 2089

AKA Season 1, episode 8

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“What I can’t have, nobody else shall have!”

 

This is the ONE sentence that sums up this particular story-arc‘s mini-villain pretty well. This was, of course, Duc Du Sarlat‘s answer to Will’s simple question of “why Eloise?” pertaining to the previous episode’s climax. For those not following along at home, this general “D-bag” referred to as The Duc Du Sarlat basically cheated in order to win a prestigious athletics tournament, and was given the chance to name his own “Queen of the Tournament”. He, of course, chose the love interest of his rival, his former fiance until Will showed up. This was purely in spite, and generally because he wasn’t getting his way.

You may be thinking “I’ve seen this trope a million times before, if she’s got to marry that slime ball, Will should just…” Wait right there…Eloise wasn’t betrothed to Sarlat, no that would be easy, she won a one-way trip to the Tripod home city never to be seen again. This sort of villainy is great, because a lot of genre fiction villains fall into the problem of being “too cool to be bad”and end up being either anti-heroes or reformed villains turned heroes in the end. Unless my assumptions are completely off here, Sarlat is destined for none of that. He seems to be taking a page out the the playbook of other notable fictitious bastards (non-literal) and doing everything in his power to be vile and unlikable.

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Duc Du Sarlat is your classic literary”resenter” villain, he’s that guy that stands behind the hero and feels bad because the hero of the tale is getting good things, and he’s losing a bit of his prestige. In previous blogs, I’ve generally compared him to a Game of Thrones character named Joffrey, but If I mill over the whole thing, he’s more like Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy. Not only is he a colossal jerk, but he’s also pretty pathetic and isn’t even cool enough to be a real villain. If he were to get killed, that would almost be too good for him.

Will gets tired of his new social pressures sans-Eloise and slips out under cover of nightfall during a fancy banquet. This is really no shock since he was planning an escape anyway, but the way he leaves is sort of depressing. While riding a horse around the French countryside, in an inky cover of darkness, he stumbles onto a lurking Tripod and is taken prisoner by it’s huge metallic tendrils.

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The next morning, Will wakes up as if nothing had happened. He wasn’t capped, and it definitely wasn’t a dream, so he is puzzled why he is so lucky. After meeting back up with Henry and Beanpole it all becomes clear – the Tripods have planted a tracking beacon into his skin like a wildlife conservationist would do to a fish. Not only are they following the boys, the tripods seem to be using them to gather Intel on other like-minded people.

One quibble I had with this episode was that more than a few of the exterior scenes were nearly pitch black. I sometimes get privately annoyed when movies and TV shows film “night-time scenes” in broad daylight then lay a cheesy “oh look how dark it is!” filter over the whole thing. It usually looks like the movie is being filmed with sunglasses over the camera. Here we see why they do that, as many scenes during Will’s escape are almost entirely pitch black. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s riding a white horse, I’d think that my TV suddenly stopped working. These scenes do work in that once will almost rides his horse into a Tripod, it’s lights cast an creepy green tinge to everything that gives an other-worldly feel.

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One of the recurring themes of this show is the loss of civilization due to The Tripods, and our heroes coming to terms with a past that is so distant to them that they are completely ignorant to it. We saw a bit of this is a previous episode involving the boys walking through a Parisian shopping mall and nearly getting themselves killed with various weapons like guns and grenades.

This time we see them come face to face with a marauding Tripod trying to corner them in a small shack that the boys are using as a safe house. Henry has a great idea: starting a fire will cause smoke to surround them, and they should be able to escape through said smoke. Next thing you know, the boys have started a huge fire and are chucking all the wood they can find onto it. The camera pans over the back wall to reveal a HUGE stockpile of various petroleum-based fuels such as gasoline and kerosene! This is where they innocently discover an easy way to get a Tripod off their backs – an explosion!

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With that out of the way, this episode is the first that really starts to look into the nature of the Tripods themselves. The boys ponder if it’s a huge creature or if it’s merely a vessel by which something drives around the countryside. It’s still a while before we get the answer, but at least Will and the gang are starting to discover what they can do to defend themselves against this monstrous walkers, even if it takes the might of a while storeroom of gasoline to do the trick.

All in all, this was a solid episode, and a great injection of much needed action piped into the show after the characters were running around a stuffy chateau for the better part of four episodes. Now Will has nothing to distract him from the goal of reaching the White Mountains as fast as they can, and barring more Tripods, nothing can stop them.

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The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, August 2089

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(AKA Season 1, Episode 7)

It’s been a while since I did a write-up for Tripods, hasn’t it? In fact, I feel like it’s been far too long, something I’m fixing right now. My plan for this “Doctor Who drought” that we are about to enter is to try to clear up a few shows I never completely finished up, and Tripods is right at the top!

Before I get into my review of episode seven, I’d like to touch on something that gives me hope for this franchise in modern times. With the success of The Hunger Games and other youth-oriented dystopian films, I’m hoping that film execs will realize the potential they have with this story. Many may not realize it, but Disney has owned the rights for a film adaptation of the series for upwards of a decade and a half, and have been sitting on them. Considering how long it took before we got a second Tron film, I’m not too optimistic in many ways. My hope is that, much like with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games craze will ignite a new slew of movies that are vaguely similar, not copycat films, but in the same vein.

There was a script floating around, said to be helmed by Alex Proyas (Crow, Dark City, and I, Robot), that made huge changes to the plot, such as changing genders and creating love triangles between characters that has seemed to died off thankfully. I mean, take this nugget from a Digital Spy interview in 2009:

“Well, we’ve erm, I’m giving you all my secrets, but we’ve actually changed Beanpole to a girl. That was a pretty significant change, because I really just didn’t get the notion that there’d be these three boys traveling around the countryside and they just really wanted to have a girl in the mix.”

…..Yeesh!

Now for the review!

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We’re getting closer to the end of what I like to call “The Chateau Arc” for the most part here, and while I’ve enjoyed it immensely, I’ll be glad for the story to move along a bit. There is only so much wandering around an old castle drinking wine, and being aristocratic I can handle! When we last left “Will and the gang” a plea had been made to Will’s love interest, Eloise, for her to come along with him on his planned escape. When she refused, he was in utter shock and soon realized the worst – she was already capped with the Tripods mind control device, a fate worse than death itself for Will. With only days remaining until a sporting tournament on the grounds of the Chateau, and a wedding looming, Will has some tough decisions coming up.

Beanpole and Henry have left already, and are worried about the implications of their split party. Henry is worried that Will’s capping will mean the Tripods will not only know of their plan, the network by which they have been traveling, and where they are going, but that could intercept them. Thankfully, despite his little whiny displays last episode, Henry is not only thinking about himself. He is worried about Will and wishes him happiness, but feels like he has abandoned him in some way. Will is about to watch a series of games that vaguely resemble the type of competitions one might witness at a “Renaissance faire”. The winner of these games is our old buddy Duc du Sarlat, the eternal “Joffrey” of this universe. Not only did he cheat to win, but “The Duke” basically goes around wounding everyone he comes across, all in the name of sportsmanship.

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Throughout the last few episodes It’s been left fairly vague as to what winning this competition actually means in the grand scheme of things, and Will only finds out at the end of the tournament. In order to “get back” at Will and ruin his future with Eloise, Sarlat names Eloise as his “Queen of the Tournament”, an honor that means Eloise is to be taken away from the Chateau and hauled off to the Tripod “City of Gold”. All of the girls in the village run out and lead her to an awaiting Tripod, and it’s all over. Will never has to make the tough decision because his fiance is ripped from his side, and is presumed to never be seen again.

One sad note about this episode is that the girl who portrayed Eloise, Charlotte Long, died shortly after filming the first series of the show. This episode is essentially the last to feature Eloise, minus a dream sequence in series two, but it’s sad to think that she died so young. According to IMDB” She died three days after sustaining injuries in an accident on the M4 motorway, when a truck crashed into her parked car after it had broken down. Her passenger survived with only minor injuries. The resulting inquest heard that the truck driver had sneezed, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and violently rear-end her car while it was parked on the side of the road.”

There really isn’t anything new to be said about this episode, as all of the “Chateau arc” episodes really go together. It can be said that this episode has picked up in tension and drama, something that lacked in the last few “comfortable” episodes. I’m excited to see what Will does now that there is no reason to stay in France, and whether he tries to get even with Sarlat. So here’s to episode eight, where Will goes on the run once again.

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The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, July 2089

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Will and Eloise – destined for marriage?

(AKA Season 1, Episode 6)

We pretty much established how much of a jerk a new character referred to as “Duc De Sarlat” was in the last review, and that only gets worse here. In the previous episode, Will ended up rescuing Eloise from certain death while they took a romantic boat ride in a nearby pond. We previously learned that Eloise was betrothed to the aforementioned Duke, despite the fact that he was not getting on well with her parents. At the end of the last episode, Eloise’s father basically offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to Will, something that can’t make are old buddy from Sarlat very happy. With a fine greeting of “I should have left you in the woods” directed at Will, this assumption proves to be very true.

Aside from the occasional run-in with ridiculous man-babies, Will is acclimating to life in the chateau. He is studying French, watching fencing tournaments, and learning of the arts. Not a day goes by where he isn’t sinking deeper and deeper into the life of a nobleman, something that concerns his friends greatly. Beanpole and Henry plan to leave the chateau as quickly as they can, and feel that Will is now anchored down and unable to leave with them. Will assumes that Eloise will possibly leave with them if he can only persuade her enough. This mindset enrages Henry, who not only appears to be a bit jealous, but concerned for their mission and Will’s well-being as a whole.

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The Duc De Sarlat in all his annoying glory.

 It is at this point that things start to unravel in a big way. Will suffers veiled death threats from Sarlat, accusations and distrust from his own friends, and the appearance of Tripods in and around the festival grounds. The only real reason that the crew was hanging around after Will got better is a tournament that The Chateau is hosting, but they had no idea Tripods would be there. Henry and Beanpole decide that all of the bad things are not worth it and leave early with a few maps Will has copied for them. Left alone and depressed he finally confides in Eloise and tells her the real truth as to why the boys were traveling, and where they plan on going. She seems very concerned, almost mortified by what she hears from Will. This is the very first time we see her without her trademarked head-wrap and Will notices something is wrong. Eloise has a shiny metal triangle under her hairline – she is already capped.

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Will and Co. Living The good life at the Chateau

Another strong episode of this “Chateau arc” leaves the viewer feeling really bad for Will. As the credits roll, one can see that Will has hit rock-bottom. He gambled the mission at hand on the love of a girl he just met, and realizes that he must leave her as well. Henry comes across childish and bitter,in this episode, a fact that is only offset by the very level-headed Beanpole – always there to cool things down. While I liked this episode, it will be good to see the end of this arc, as the show could really lose momentum if they stick around much longer. Seeing the lone sentinel-like Tripod at the festival grounds reassures us that this is in fact a science fiction show and not a period romance drama. So here’s to the festival, and to Will hopefully finding a way out of this mess – next time on Tripods.

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Eloise is already Capped!

The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, July 2089

(A.K.A. Season 1 episode 5)

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The last scene of the fourth episode of The Tripods seemed to spell out certain doom for our rag-tag group of wandering runaways. Will was seriously injured in a run-in with Parisian vagrants, and was having trouble staying conscious. The boys narrowly escaped the situation, only to find themselves being surrounded by men on horseback while Will lay motionless in the mud. Considering all the trouble with The Blackguards (The Human Tripod enforcers) I immediately assumed that they had been tracked down and were in some serious trouble. This was of course a typical cliffhanger ending for this show, and things turned out better than expected.

Speaking of the cliffhangers, I mentioned that they were great in a previous review, but didn’t really elaborate why. Many shows do these sorts of endings, and it seems like BBC science fiction especially loved this trope. What really sets these apart, is that the characters are almost always in some sort of horrendous peril at the end of any given episode. Since my wife and I have been “marathoning” these episodes, it’s really hard for us to stop watching as we want to know what happens next.

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So anyway, Will wakes up with his wounds cleaned up and dressed in a comfortable bed. A French girl named Eloise explains that her family discovered the trio whilst hunting for wild boar on their land. Eloise’s family is definitely one of great wealth considering the size and grandeur of Chateau Ricordeau, the clothing worn by everyone, and the fact that they have servants. Will is initially horrified that he possibly blurted out their intentions on finding The White Mountains, or that they are wanted fugitives from a Blackguard prison. Thankfully this did not happen, and the French aristocrats all assume they are simply travelers. Beanpole points out that these are not “ordinary people” as they did not turn them in, in fact they seem to see value in young people having a sense of adventure, odd for ‘capped” citizens.

While the Duke and Duchess of the Chateau seem pretty decent in many ways, we are introduced to a real “winner” of a character named Duc De Sarlat. Much in the same way that King Joffrey is the most hated character in Game of Thrones, Duc De Sarlat is immediately a total A-hole. Robin Langford does a great job of portraying a character that seems not only pretentious, conniving, and backstabbing all at the same time, just by standing there making a sour face. He just has one of those faces, like he would be the guy at a party that likes to one-up everyone else, or drive a fake Ferrari covered in Axe body Spray. When told that everyone shall be speaking English to make the buys feel at home, D-bag De Sarlat basically throws a fit and makes himself look like some kind of man-baby. When he is put in his place, he acts even more ridiculously and tries to turn them in to the local authorities, and thus reveals that they are all uncapped. Truly a great minor antagonist, I wouldn’t say he’s truly a main villain, but pretty close.

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The first real tension between the boys starts to spring up in this episode. It’s almost immediately evident that Will has fallen in love with Eloise, and has diverted his attention from the task at hand. Henry and Beanpole want to leave as soon as they can, but Will is reluctant. The Chateau is his chance of not only living the life of an aristocrat, but falling in love. He obviously has not thought out his plans, because staying here would result in his “capping” and Eloise has been betrothed to Duc De Sarlat.

Episode five isn’t the most action-packed of the episodes we’ve seen so far. In fact, it nearly lacks any shimmer of science fiction, and as such resembles a period drama. While it does lack in excitement, this episode does a solid job of moving the characters along. Will has always been an impulsive character; thinking with his heart rather than his brain. This episode really showcases this fact, and I loved the tension that ensued from his actions. And with the Duke and Duchess basically giving him the right to marry Eloise in return for a kind deed (saving her life), things are only going to get worse.

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Obligatory purchase links:

The Tripods: Series 1 & 2 [Regions 2 & 4]

The White Mountains

The City of Gold and Lead

The Pool of Fire

When the Tripods Came

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