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The Tripods (TV series)

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The Tripods
The Tripods Titles
GenreScience fiction
Based onThe Tripods
by John Christopher
Written by
Directed by
  • John Shackley
  • Ceri Seel
  • Jim Baker
ComposerKen Freeman
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
Original languagesEnglish, French, Italian, German
No. of series2
No. of episodes25
ProducerRichard Bates
Running time25–30 minutes per episode
Original release
Release15 September 1984 (1984-09-15) –
23 November 1985 (1985-11-23)

The Tripods is a television adaptation of John Christopher's The Tripods series of novels. It was jointly produced by the BBC in the United Kingdom and the Seven Network in Australia.[1] The music soundtrack was written by Ken Freeman.

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.[2]

The first series was released on both VHS and DVD. The BBC released Tripods — The Complete Series 1 & 2 on DVD in March 2009.[3]


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[clarification needed] 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,[4] 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".[4] 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 models of the Tripods used throughout the two series were built by Martin Bower from designs by Steve Drewett.[5][6]

Filming locations[edit]

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):

Fictional location Series Episode Actual location
Village of Wherton and mill pond 1 1 Friday Street
Parker Family mill 1 1 Friday Street
Village of Wherton and mill pond 1 1 Headley Mill, Hampshire
Vagrant Bridge 1 1 Gutte Pond Bridge, Wotton Estate, Wotton, Surrey
Tomb 1 1 Evelyn Mausoleum, Brickyard Lane, Wotton, Surrey [7]
Rhymney 1 1-2 Charlestown Harbour, Charlestown, Cornwall[8]
cave entrance 1 3 Charlestown Harbour, Charlestown, Cornwall
Airfield control tower 1 4 Radlett Field, Frogmore[9]
Metro station entrance 1 4 Intersection of Cornhill and Threadneedle Street, London [10]
The Chateau Ricordeau 1 5-8 Saltwood Castle, Hythe, Kent [8]
Canal "chemin de fer" 1 8 Section of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, Gloucester [8]
Tunnel (exterior shots) 1 9 Windsor Hill Tunnel, New tunnel, North portal, Downside
Tunnel (interior shots) 1 9 Highgate Tunnel, Holmesdale Road, Highgate, London
Vichot's Vineyard 1 9-10 Wootton Vineyard, North Wotton [8]
Waterfall/creek crossing 1 11 Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed, Gwynedd, Wales[8]
Viaduct 1 11-12 Pensford Viaduct, Pensford[11]
French festival location 1 11 Haughmond Abbey ruins, Shropshire[8]
French village archway 1 11 Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales[8]
French village court house 1 11-12 Court room scenes were shot inside Town Hall in the Hercules room, Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales [8]
Stone quarry building 1 12 floor six mill, Diffwys slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales
Stone hut 1 12 Diffwys slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales
Black pipeline/interrogation building 1 13 Lake llyn Cowlyd, Trefriw, Wales
Alpine chapel 2 1, 12 St-Jean, Switzerland[8]
Boxing ring 2 1 Lake Ffynnon Llugwy, Wales
Freemen camp 2 1, 12 Lake Ffynnon Llugwy, Wales
Swiss capping site 2 1 Rue du Village, Grimentz, Switzerland[8]
Ship graveyard 2 2 Purton Ship Graveyard, Purton, Berkeley[12]
Basel docks (where the boys find the barge Erlkoenig) 2 2 Victoria Basin of Gloucester Docks, Gloucester[8]
Württemberg docks (where the barge Erlkonig is moored) 2 2 Lydney docks and harbour, Lydney
The Pit 2 2 Town Hall Square, Unterseen, Switzerland
Bachara docks (Will and Beanpole meet Zerlina and Papagena) 2 3 Lake Thun Next to Oberhofen Castle, Oberhofen, Switzerland
Church clock tower 2 3 St Mauricius Church, Thun, Switzerland
Will and Beanpole are chased into alley by Black Guards after Will escapes from the pit 2 3 Alley off of Spielmatte Strasse, Unterseen, Switzerland
Will and Beanpole are chased by black guards after Will escapes from the pit 2 3 Oberhofen Castle, Oberhofen, Switzerland
Will and Beanpole miss the barge to the games 2 3 Lydney docks and Harbor on the River Severn, Lydney
Derelict house where girls scare boys 2 4, 11 Gwylfa Hiraethog, (former hunting lodge), Wales
Games stadium 2 4 Former site of White City Stadium at Trafford, Manchester [8]
Gardens in City of Gold 2 6, 7 The Barbican conservatory, Barbican Centre, London
City of Gold interior shots 2 7-10 Dinorwig power station, Wales
Beanpole rescues Will from river 2 11 River Wye. The house is known as "The Gatehouse" and was formerly "the Boatman's Rest", Hole-in-the-Wall.[8]
Market where Beanpole tries to sell chess pieces 2 11 City Hall Plaza, Thun, Switzerland


In the book The Classic British Telefantasy Guide, Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping wrote "The Tripods could have been one of the most impressive of all BBC Telefantasy productions but sadly, due to a mixture of lacklustre scripts, the inexperience of several of the young cast, some cheap special effects and a plodding snail's pace, it fell flat on its face. On a brighter note, the performances of John Shackley, Roderick Horn, John Woodvine and Pamela Salem were, at least, watchable."[13]

Video game[edit]

BBC Enterprises licensed a video game adaptation of the TV series in 1985. It was designed by Watermill Productions for the ZX Spectrum and published by Red Shift.[14]

Film adaptation[edit]

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.[15] In 2009, Alex Proyas was hired to direct a feature film adaptation of The Tripods and Stuart Hazeldine would write the screenplay starting with "The White Mountain" without Murphy & Touchstone.[16][17]

DVD & soundtrack[edit]

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.

The Tripods: Pool of Fire Suite
1."A Plan of Action"3:46
2."The Green Man"6:40
3."A Drink With Ruki"7:32
4."The Pool of Fire"6:31
5."Summers of Winds"4:40
7."The Conference of Man"5:33
Total length:40:12


  1. ^ McGown, Alistair. "Tripods (1984-85)". BFI Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  2. ^ Josie Santomauro, ed. (2011). Autism All-Stars: How We Use Our Autism and Asperger Traits to Shine in Life. Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd. p. 190. ISBN 978-1843101888.
  3. ^ "Tripods — The Complete Series 1 & 2 DVD". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  4. ^ a b Wordcandy review of The White Mountains
  5. ^ "The Tripods (1984) - Original Tripod filming miniature". The Prop Gallery. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  6. ^ "Tripods". Martin Bower's Model World. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Evelyn Mausoleum". mmtrust.org.uk. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m ""The Tripods" in the making (ii)". Gnelson.demon.co.uk. 10 September 1983. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Handley Page: Radlett airfield". Controltowers.co.uk. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  10. ^ "The Tripods [Season 1 - 10/06/84#4]". Nickcooper.org.uk. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Pensford Viaduct". forgottenrelics.co.uk. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Friends of Purton". friendsofpurton.org.uk. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  13. ^ Paul Cornell; Martin Day; Keith Topping (2015). The Classic British Telefantasy Guide. Orion. ISBN 9780575133525. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  14. ^ The Tripods at SpectrumComputing.co.uk
  15. ^ Dunkley, Cathy (4 January 2005). "Jordan to control 'Tripods Trilogy'". Variety. RBI. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  16. ^ Tenney, Brandon (29 January 2009). "Alex Proyas Moving Forward with Dracula Year Zero and The Tripods". FirstShowing.net. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  17. ^ Reynolds, Simon (9 October 2009). "Stuart Hazeldine gives 'Tripods' update". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 March 2024.

External links[edit]