"The Tripods" (english)

"Les Tripodes (The Tripods) is a 25-episode 30-minute UK/Australian co-production TV series, adapted from the series of novels by John Christopher, and broadcast between September 15, 1984 and November 23, 1985 on BBC and Seven Network.

In France, the series was broadcast from March 13, 1985 in Cabou Cadin on Canal+. Rebroadcast in Croque-vacances on TF1."



"The Tripods, giant three-legged steel machines, invaded Earth around the year 2000, destroying virtually all civilizations. In 2193, the surviving humans, under the authority of the Tripods, returned to a quasi-feudal life, where all technology has disappeared. Nature has reclaimed its rights, erasing all traces of the distant past when humans were the masters of the Earth.

All young people, when they reach the age of 16, are initiated: taken inside a Tripod, a sort of metal pin is grafted onto their skulls, removing a large part of their personality. A kind of debasement that renders them passive. Such is the society imposed by the Tripods: domination in exchange for peace, where men no longer enter into conflict with one another. A false freedom where men are protected, but enslaved.

But some men have managed to escape initiation. Called the untouchables, they live hidden from the Tripods. Encountering one of these untouchables, Will and Henry Parker, two young English first cousins about to be initiated, decide to run away. Among other things, they learn that there is a place in France called the White Mountains, unconquered by the Tripods, a rallying point for free men. A long and dangerous journey begins for the two boys, who are soon joined by a third named Beanpole..."

(Planète Jeunesse)

Like a number of children of the '80s, I discovered The Tripods during its brief French broadcast on TF1's Croque-vacances in 1987. I must actually have seen two or three episodes at the time, no more, but in the decades that followed, I've never forgotten the terrible, immense, definitive effect this series had on my imagination and my way of seeing the world.

The first image of the entire series is this one: a peaceful, motionless village by the water. A setting from good old Europe, a scene from the pre-industrial, idyllic world of yesteryear. And yet there's this date: 2089. An astonishing vision of the future, in the era of Blade Runner. The future here is green, diminishing, sober. Has modernity merely been a parenthesis? Have we rediscovered a sense of simple, slow, small-scale, communal living?

The village seems to be preparing for a celebration, like a wedding. Everyone is dressed to the nines, and contemporary clothes mingle with others that seem to have sprung from two or three centuries ago, or from immemorial folklore; here too, we seem to have stepped out of time, out of history. Everything cohabits and coexists. The official date no longer makes sense. And are we really sure we're in 2089?

Incidental note: the image of the series is marked by that artistic blur, that cottony image typical of the period (and typical of England more particularly, perhaps) that we find, for example, in old Kate Bush clips or in films like Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves. This image quality tells us that we're in a pure dream, a delirium. For the peaceful, simple, eternal society we see before our eyes is nothing but a lie.

A metal monster invites itself to the village fete, taking one of the inhabitants into its entrails and returning him some time later, his forehead marked by an electronic implant. Everyone shakes hands with him, and the party gets under way with some delightful Dx7 folk tunes.

A little later, we understand that the world has undergone a gigantic enterprise of destruction and depopulation, and that the inhabitants of this village are among the few human communities that the invaders have allowed to live.

It took a few decades, a few key events and a lot of reading for me to understand that the world in which the brave English peasants of the year 2089 live is our own.

It's the world of Technique, which dominates and exploits the world, nature and people. It depletes resources as if a hostile species had come to plunder the Earth. It bends bodies and souls to its will.

It reduces everything to a state of quantifiable things, and over the past few decades has been modifying living beings, including humanity, to establish its hold once and for all.

This is the world of Technique – and its masters – which dominate us from their heights (symbolized by that of the robot, in the series) where they make themselves unattainable, invulnerable. Masters who watch over us and know us better than we know ourselves, from their heights.

Everyone knows that old hit, The Safety Dance, which is more or less the only track to have gone down in Men Without Hats' history, and whose clip is just about as cult-like.

We see the band's lead singer strolling through a presumably English countryside, accompanied by a dwarf dressed as a jester, and entering a typically medieval village where a pretty, slightly kooky blonde joins them to incite the entire population to dance in the streets and party. There's a happy dog, mud and puddles, stone houses and a Maypole. Everything exudes blissful primitiveness. The music, performed entirely on synthesizers, gives us hope for a future where technology and tradition are not pitted against each other.

When I was younger, I thought the lyrics of the song "We can dance, we can dance / Everything is out of control" actually meant "We can dance, we can dance / Everything is under control". I interpreted this as an ironic commentary on the inanity of partying in a world of surveillance and sly, ever-increasing limitation of real freedoms. In the end, it turns out to be a silly song that's all about the freedom to dance, in the first degree, but that doesn't matter, because works of art are always larger than the intentions of their creators. And the last microseconds of the clip confirm my intuition, featuring black-and-white archive footage of a bomber, peasants and a ballistic missile. This joyful, primitive world is also the world of the H-bomb, where the most ancestral and civilized human traditions no longer make the slightest sense in the face of the possibility of the total annihilation of our species in less than two hours.

This is what's behind the permanent party organized for the happiness of the little people, and this regressive little world, this Potemkin world: the absolute domination of Technology and the existence of masters who, literally, hover far above the domesticated mass. This is the story told by The Tripods. And it's the story of the real world - our past and our present. One of the hallmarks of totalitarianism is the festivities, the dances, the folkloric outfits that help us forget the violence, dehumanization and spiritual desertification of the world inflicted by technology.

Nazism may have transformed Germany into the setting for a folk festival, but it spoke nothing other than the language of Technique, of the machinization of the world.

The small, degrowing village of the English series is also the world that seems to be taking shape for the rest of the 21st century. Depopulation and happy sobriety under the watchful eye of machines. And above all, their masters. Because behind the apparent blind and cold reign of Technique (the huge robots piloted by the aliens, whose existence we don't even suspect at first), there are other humans in our own world. So alien to the plebs that they can easily be described as extraterrestrials. They're not from here, they're not from anywhere. They are the globalist hyperclass, the Inner Party of 1984, made up of international administrators, big bosses and press magnates.

The Leviathan that, as in The Tripods, will eventually brand us on the forehead like the cattle we are.