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The 1984/5 BBC series The Tripods was one of the longest adaptations on British television -- as long as War and Peace (1972/3), and with 120 speaking parts. It was the BBC's most ambitious and controversial venture into "telefantasy", with the verdicts of the critics ranging all the way from a minor masterpiece (the view argued here) to a dreadful folly. It overreached itself and the projected third season was cancelled, but the first two books of John Christopher's celebrated trilogy were completely dramatised, and there's much to value: fine scripting, lavish costume and design, ground-breaking model work and video editing, beautifully composed landscape filming, good acting and painstaking care over details. This Web page is an attempt at television criticism, and I hope it may also have something to say to people curious to know how British television drama was made in the mid-1980s.

DVD RELEASE NEWS (REGION 0)... The very welcome DVD release of the complete series 1 as a double-disc set in March 2001, with an accompanying PAL VHS double video, by Second Sight has unfortunately not been followed by a release of series 2. Sales of series 1 were good, and Second Sight were keen to carry on. The project was so advanced by autumn 2001 that cover art reached online retailers (many of which continue to offer the discs for pre-ordering, but they will never be published). Production notes from this website were adapted as DVD extras, along with some behind the scenes photos. Unfortunately an extension to the movie rights was just then being renegotiated in Hollywood, and for opaque reasons connected with this, the BBC stalled and finally withdrew Second Sight's permission to release series 2. Please don't write to Second Sight to complain; they tried their best.


1. John Christopher's Fiction

John Christopher's life and works / Wells, Wyndham and ruined Earths

Some critical readings (which can't avoid revealing story-lines):
The Tripods trilogy / The prequel / Sources / Geography

2. Post-Apocalypse Television

Science fiction in the BBC of the 1980s / British post-apocalypse television

3. Richard Bates's Production at the BBC

The story of the production:
Pre-production and casting / Design, direction and filming / The Tripods and the Caps / The City and the Masters / Post-production and effects / The ratings and the critics

Scripting and adaptation (which may give away small points of plot):
The White Mountains / The City of Gold and Lead / The Pool of Fire

Episodes and credits, without story-lines:
Series 1 / Series 2 / Cast list and technical credits

Incidental and title music, by Ken Freeman

4. Other Tripods

The Boy Scouts of America comic strip

The ZX Spectrum computer game (No, really)

A film version by Touchstone Pictures?

5. References

Books, laser disc, video tape, CD and DVD releases

Bibliography of written sources and acknowledgements

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