Included as a bonus feature of the long-delayed (and long, long overdue) compelte series DVD set of the 1980s BBC SF series The Tripods, and also available as a download for those with no interest in the DVDs, the Pool Of Fire Suite is an interesting experiment: original Tripods TV composer Ken Freeman, a master of synthetic textures, composed new music for key story points in the season of the show that was never made. Despite the fact that over 20 years have passed, Freeman makes an effort to make it sound as though this music is coming out of his synth rig circa 1986/87 – with minimal hints of the massive advances that have been made in synthesizers and/or sampling in the intervening two decades.
“A Plan Of Action” immediately sets the tone with an extended, minor-key statement of the Tripods theme, but this time slowed down to a dirge: it’s easy to imagine this music covering the scenes picking up from the second season’s cliffhanger, in which Will and his friends discover that the base from which their resistance movement has been fighting the Earth-dominating Tripods has been laid to waste. As easy as it is to picture these things, Freeman is free to explore the material without the timing constraints of composing to picture.
Freeman delves into a surprisingly bluesy, guitar-centered sound with a percolating ’80s-style synth backing in “A Drink With Ruki”, an a similarly upbeat brass riff lightens things up in “The Pool Of Fire” itself. “Summer Wind” also keeps things light for a portion of the story involving the view from a hot air balloon.
After the triumphant strains of “Freedom”, “The Conference Of Man” brings the Tripods theme back to the fore, this time in a much more confident (and less mournful) interpretation, but there’s still dissonant unease waiting in the wings: without the Tripods to unit humanity in a fight against a common cause, the newly freed human race risks splintering into factions fighting over its own resources. Where this storyline could have gone is anyone’s guess: there were no further books carrying the story forward, and of course there were no further TV adventures. So we’re still treated to an unresolved cliffhanger – albeit a purely musical one.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the original Tripods music, so the very notion that the BBC would commission Ken Freeman to provide music for adventures never filmed is a huge hit with me. The music is sensational – and I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that it’s the BBC’s (and the audience’s) loss that a third season wasn’t made that could have featured music like this.
- A Plan Of Action (3:46)
- The Green Man (6:40)
- A Drink With Ruki (7:32)
- The Pool Of Fire (6:31)
- Summer Wind (4:40)
- Freedom (5:30)
- The Conference Of Man (5:33)
Released by: BBC Video (as part of The Tripods: The Complete Series DVD box set)
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 40:12
Debuting in the 18-month gap between Doctor Who’s 22nd and 23rd seasons, The Tripods was the BBC’s adaptation of John Christopher’s trilogy of children’s novels about a group of young people joining up with rebels in the fight to rid Earth of an alien race which has enslaved humanity. In many ways, The Tripods fared little better than the show it had been intended to replace – it got cancelled after a second season, leaving the show in a permanent major cliffhanger (which itself seems to be something of a BBC science fiction tradition, just ask any Blake’s 7 fan) when the adaptation of the third book was cancelled. Still, both the books and the 25-episode television series left behind a strong cult following. One of the products of that following is this soundtrack collection, consisting of a full-length CD and two CD singles with dance-oriented remixes of the show’s theme and assorted incidental cues.
The main CD itself is a magnificent thing to hear, starting with the incredibly moody theme tune. Foreboding and spooky, the theme from The Tripods still manages to evoke a noble sense of hope, particularly with regard to the version used over the end credits which had more of a stately, march-like rhythm. The first time I ever saw The Tripods, the theme music instantly etched itself into my brain and I have never forgotten it. It’s nice to have it on CD at last, and also in remixed form, about which more in a moment.
The incidental cues that make up the bulk of the full-length CD lean heavily on some stellar synth work from Freeman (who invented his own music synthesizer while in his teens). In a way, this music can sit comfortably alongside the equally memorable analog synth scoring of Doctor Who in the early 80s – stylistically speaking. The music from The Tripods came several years later, and is one of the earliest things anyone ever heard coming out of a Synclavier. Its sweep is majestic and cinematic, and its scary moments are truly terrifying. Freeman managed to coax some disquietingly unearthly sounds out of the Synclavier, especially for the penultimate track, “Embers Of The Freemen” (which also happens to be the cue leading up to the series’ rather unfortunate cliffhanger ending). Early on, there’s some nice acoustic guitar work as well, and the music itself seems to take a journey along with its trio of youthful adventurers, from innocence to a determined but most likely doomed struggle for the freedom of the human race.
The two remix CDs are very short – CD-single short – but they do manage to revisit key moments of the soundtrack in interesting ways. One of the main theme remixes smacks mightily of “Flight Of The Phoenix” and wouldn’t be out of place on the dance floor. I like the remixes, but there’s nothing like that end credit music in its pure, un-messed-with form.
- Main Theme (2:53)
- Ozymandias (0:54)
- The Journey Begins (1:29)
- Paris, 2089 (1:33)
- The Storm (1:43)
- Chateau Ricordeau (2:55)
- Eloise: Queen Of The Tournament (2:13)
- Riding Into The Night (2:42)
- The Reunion (1:35)
- Vichots Vineyard (4:08)
- The Chase (4:40)
- Daniel (4:07)
- Across The Plains (1:19)
- Trapped In The Gulley (2:13)
- Capture (1:30)
- United With The Freemen (3:01)
- The White Mountain Suite (5:50)
- Pierre (3:28)
- Race For The Erlkonig (2:27)
- Commandant Goetz (2:19)
- The City Of Gold (2:41)
- The Power Elite (2:38)
- The Cognosc Departs (2:20)
- Escape From The City (3:38)
- Rescue At The River (3:53)
- Trapped At The Ruined House (1:58)
- Embers Of The Freemen (1:50)
- Closing Theme (2:42)
Tripods: The Remix
- The Tripods Main Theme: Revolution (2:51)
- The Tripods Main Theme: Resolution (6:38)
- Escape From The City: Retribution (3:41)
- Ozymandias: Moonlight (7:46)
Tripods: Limited Edition Remix
- The Tripods Main Theme: Revelation (6:11)
- Eloise: Symphony (4:41)
- Ozymandias: Sunrise (6:33)
Released by: Gerry Forrester
Release date: 1995 (remix CDs released in 1997)
Total running time: 74:47
Remix CD total running time: 20:56
Limited Edition CD total running time: 17:25