The Tripods Season 1 Episodes 5 -7

Episode 5:  This week we’re in a region of France where the people speak like that bloke from Allo Allo. Anyone would think they weren’t French at all! Anyway, this family they like Will, perhaps mistaking him to be Paul McCartney so he gets to sleep in a grand bedroom while Beanpole and Henry slum it with the estate workers. Beanpole, being also French, metaphorically shrugs and takes it in his stride but Henry has a very grumpy time muttering under his breath as if the actor realises how many more weeks of this there is to go through. Somehow I know exactly how he feels about this.

"Where's Ringo?"

The Count seems to be beyond the law of the Tripods (who incidentally we don’t see at all this week) telling the police instead about the law of the chateau which he’s probably made up but which the officers, again being French, accept in a `c’est la vie` fashion. Thus the tone of the episode is very laid back and summery as a budding romance between Will and the Count’s daughter Eloise blossoms inciting the wrath (well, the slight sneer) of her intended the Duke de Sarlat. When Will rescues Eloise from drowning, even though it’s largely his fault she falls in the water, the Count promptly invites him to stay and marry her. Will looks shocked, possibly wondering how he’s going to manage to sing `Hey Jude` at the wedding. Graham Theakston brings a hazy summer vibe to proceedings but the overall impression is that while this chateau would indeed be a lovely place to visit, it is a little early in the series for such a laidback episode.

Next week: Cheese rolling, “It’s a sort of chemin de brie” says Beanpole.

Episode 6: I now realise that Beanpole’s approach to the story is about right. It’s a wonderfully French shrug mixing resignation with a determination to make the best of it. He knows what’s going on does Beanpole explaining to Henry (whose IQ seems to fall each week) that Will and Eloise are in love. “It’s a sort of chemin d’affair” he nearly says. “Don’t be silly” retorts Henry who is now behaving as if he is six. This episode is on the whole tedious viewing.  We remain in the chateau with the tournament still on the horizon. There’s a frisson of excitement when a Tripod turns up and bellows, but this seems to be more of a yawn because it does nothing else. Presumably the inhabitants have left it parked while they sample the wine.

After six weeks, the acting is getting worse if anything though it’s a race to the bottom between that and the dialogue. There’s a scene where Eloise’s spurned fiancée Sarlat threatens Will that personifies the issues the series has. The acting is uncommitted, the script is dull and even the story- for which of course none of the production team can be blamed- is meandering and unconvincing.  At the end Will is shocked to discover Eloise is capped. Has he never noticed before? The camera man then makes a run for it. 

Episode 7: Huzzah, the tournament has finally arrived and in contrast to the Victorian look of the series, has a medieval feel to it. Events include knocking objects of the top of a wooden pole, archery in which the arrow seems to set off a musical sting when hitting its target and fencing while tied to a post. At least the assembled throng have plenty of wine to pass the time which is more than we have. Some jousting raises the stakes a little but there’s only ever mild peril - when someone’s face is cut there is a gasp from the crowd. Director Graham Theakston does create an impressive scene with a large number of extras and a big setting. You can’t deny they spent money on this series, it’s just a pity the same focus was not accorded the dialogue which remains perfunctory and expositional. Also during lengthy scenes under the canvas party tent, you wonder why French characters are talking in English amongst themselves.

You have to feel some sympathy for Will who’s to be married to Eloise one minute only for her to be selected as the Queen of the Tournament by sneering Sarlat meaning she is taken away- forever- by the watching Tripod. You’d think someone might have warned Will this was coming though the viewer will have spotted it. The ending is therefore strong with swelling synths as we get Eloise’s view of her being raised above the watching spectators happy with her fate as Will watches tearfully below. It’s the first truly dramatic moment the series has managed since we arrived at the Chateau. Now hopefully Will can join his colleagues walking across Europe. It should only take them another 1,346 episodes to reach the White Mountains.

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