The Tripods – music by Ken Freeman

The TripodsDebuting 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.

4 out of 4The 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.

Order this CD

  1. Main Theme (2:53)
  2. Ozymandias (0:54)
  3. The Journey Begins (1:29)
  4. Paris, 2089 (1:33)
  5. The Storm (1:43)
  6. Chateau Ricordeau (2:55)
  7. Eloise: Queen Of The Tournament (2:13)
  8. Riding Into The Night (2:42)
  9. The Reunion (1:35)
  10. Vichots Vineyard (4:08)
  11. The Chase (4:40)
  12. Daniel (4:07)
  13. Across The Plains (1:19)
  14. Trapped In The Gulley (2:13)
  15. Capture (1:30)
  16. United With The Freemen (3:01)
  17. The White Mountain Suite (5:50)
  18. Pierre (3:28)
  19. Race For The Erlkonig (2:27)
  20. Commandant Goetz (2:19)
  21. The City Of Gold (2:41)
  22. The Power Elite (2:38)
  23. The Cognosc Departs (2:20)
  24. Escape From The City (3:38)
  25. Rescue At The River (3:53)
  26. Trapped At The Ruined House (1:58)
  27. The TripodsEmbers Of The Freemen (1:50)
  28. Closing Theme (2:42)
    Tripods: The Remix

  1. The Tripods Main Theme: Revolution (2:51)
  2. The Tripods Main Theme: Resolution (6:38)
  3. Escape From The City: Retribution (3:41)
  4. Ozymandias: Moonlight (7:46)
    The TripodsTripods: Limited Edition Remix

  1. The Tripods Main Theme: Revelation (6:11)
  2. Eloise: Symphony (4:41)
  3. 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