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September 02, 2003

Thunder Child

The Flea's childhood nightmares have been revived thanks to Mike Campbell's Tripods post. I had no idea there was a television series.

In the first series, we slowly learn about what's happened to the Earth. It's July 2089 and the Tripods have been in control for about a hundred years. No one knows what they are or where they came from. They control most of the human population by 'capping' them ~ inserting a mind control device under the skin of the scalp which pacifies people and they cause no trouble for the ruling Tripods. Capping can't happen though until the human has matured, so it tends to take place when people turn 16 or so.

It makes my skin crawl to even think about these things. This visceral reaction is connected to another set of alien tripods as featured in the musical version of H.G. Well's War of the Worlds. My Dad is a physicist and it was his teachings and influence which introduced me to the majesty of 2001, the life-long obsession that is Star Wars and the mind-bending horror of Martian war-machines defeating a British fighting ship.

Scattered out along the bay,
and I thought I heard her calling,
As the steamer pulled away,
The invaders must have seen them,
As across the coast they filed,
Standin' firm between them,
There lay Thunder Child!

Thunder Child defeats three Martian war-machines buying precious time for a refugee steamship to make way for France. Even so, I cannot quite get my head around the idea of Thunder Child losing to the Martians. It is a powerful story of the order of the world being turned upside-down and the beginning of an epic struggle to salvage something of civilization and liberty. I was young enough when I heard the record that I was capable of taking the story, and its underlying moral message, seriously. I asked my father if we would be ready for the Martians if they were to invade given the up-to-date weaponry of the 1970s. He assured me we could use atomic weapons to destroy any Martian invasian fleet. I have been solidly pro-nuke since that day. It is also possible I was a little too psychologically prepared for the black-out.

No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th Century that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space.

And then... More alien tripod goodness featured in my ongoing Batman/Superman investigations. ***Dave reviewed some Justice League DVDs awhile back and I finally got to watch the first in the series yesterday.

And then... I have been doing some poking around to find out what class of ship the Martians were taking on. It turns out the Thunder Child was a torpedo ram. HMS Polyphemus was the only torpedo ram to enter service with the British navy making Thunder Child one of Wells' less successful predictions.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at September 2, 2003 10:16 AM

Comments

Flea, Just fyi, I believe "The Tripods" filled in the regular Doctor Who Saturday tea time slot in 84 and 85, between Doctor seasons, I imagine.

They make it to the City of Gold in the second season, which I do hope will be made available on dvd one day.

Posted by: Mike Campbell at September 2, 2003 01:32 PM

I am trying to limit my DVD purchases to "core" titles which express something of mythological importance or which would save me on rentals in the medium run. I picked up Logan's Run and Excalibur, for example. Tripods stuff definitely qualifies. When I make my fortune in archaeology I plan to purchase the entire Doctor Who ouevre on DVD to view at my London residence...

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at September 3, 2003 11:20 AM

I do recall the Tripods series which, despite its limited (Who-class) fx budget, was much in keeping with the original, truly spooky trilogy (which I rebought as an adult, but have not reread for a while. Hmmmm.)

Obviously your dad never saw the George Pal War of the Worlds flick, in which the US military (using a flying wing!) discovers that even nukes are no match for Martian war machine technology. (If you've never seen it, run, don't walk, to Amazon. It's a classic.)

And, yes, the JL ep did borrow the concept, didn't it. Fun.

Posted by: *** Dave at September 3, 2003 12:22 PM

Heard this reasonable suggestion several times; but I guess Jeff Wayne chaged it a bit with "rushing swiftly through the waters, cannons lazing as she came", and certainly the illustration to this in the 1978 album is nothing like Polyphemus- I must re-read Wells.

Posted by: Mike West at April 17, 2004 08:55 AM

i am writing a short story based 10-20 years after the events of war of the worlds, called "The second wave" to write this i am having to think about what the martians would to if they attempted to capture earth a second time, its my belief that they would land the cylinders as far into the countryside as possible (because as you know from the last chapter that if the martians tried to land again they could be hit with artillery before coming out of theyre cylinders.) they would then spend about a week cordinating themselves for an attack, oh and about the dying from bacteria its my assumption that they would wear special suits and bring filters to keep the bacteria out. but the battle field would be fairly even, we would know they were coming, and this time we would also have the warmachines, as well as flying machines and maybe even armored suits developed from the martian technology. we would also know that they seek out fire so traps could be easily laid with artillery. also do you think that if we had a technological level of the 1970's that they still wouldnt be 100-200 years ahead of us? by then they may have devices to sheild them from an atomic blast?

Posted by: Zvezda at September 2, 2004 03:00 PM