1 9 8 4 – 1 9 8 5 (UK)
25 x 30 minute episodes
Debuting in September 1984, this Saturday tea-time sci-fi from BBC1 was adapted from novels by John Christopher, including The White Mountains and The City of Gold and Lead.
The year is 2089 AD and the human race has been conquered by an alien species known as the ‘Masters’, who have dominated the Earth for around 100 years.
The Masters (from the planet Trion) use huge metallic Tripods – quite clearly borrowed from HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds – to watch over the humans who survived the initial slaughter.
The technological advances of the human race were destroyed so mankind would not be a threat, leaving a pastoral medieval society.
The remaining Earthlings are implanted with mind control devices called “caps” when they reach the age of 16, to curb their spirit and free will.
A capping ceremony is held when a human child comes of age – the child is hoisted into one of the Tripods and returns with a metal plate on top of their newly shaven head – and yet another puny Earthling falls under the powers of the Tripods.
Enter our hero, teenager Will Parker (John Shackley). A vagrant by the name of Ozymandias fills Will’s head full of notions of a place where human beings are free to roam and live as they please.
Will decides to run away to join the Free Men in this far away promised land (Switzerland) to escape capping, and his cousin Henry Parker (Jim Baker) decides to tag along for a laugh.
What follows are their adventures – joined by their French companion, Beanpole (Ceri Seel) – while travelling to the White Mountains without getting caught by their giant three-legged laser-firing masters, or the alien-controlled human secret police force – in their PVC shorts (ahem!).
The series was partly intended as a replacement for Doctor Who – it took over the show’s old Saturday afternoon timeslot and format but replaced Doctor Who’s tight budget and outlandishly actor-ish style with a lavish production style and a cast of sexy young unknowns.
Poor ratings and reviews caused the £1 million show to be ignominiously cancelled in mid-run. Unfortunate, since – a handful of duff season one scripts notwithstanding – it was a commendable series with above-average acting and SFX.
TRIVIA – The model of the City of the Masters was the biggest model ever built by the BBC. It took up the entire floor of Elstree Studios (over 1,000 square feet). Bits of it were propped up against a wall in Visual Effects for years. It was made out of lots of bits and pieces, including a large amount of shiny wrapping paper.
Beanpole (Jean Paul)