Check Out Mars Week on BBC Radio 4

PrintE-mail Written by Rich Cross

A new audio adaptation of HG Wells’ alien invasion classic The War of the Worlds is one of the highlights of a week of themed programmes on the place of the ‘red planet’ in the popular imagination which begins on BBC Radio 4 on March 3rd. 

A mixture of factual programmes and dramas will explore how the ‘idea’ of Mars has fascinated writers, filmmakers and futurologists throughout the modern era. “As well as science documentaries and features, there are a number of shows looking at our relationship with Mars in science fiction and fantasy,” the BBC explained to STARBURST.

Blake Ritson (Da Vinci’s Demons), Samuel James (Birds of a Feather) and John Dougall (Dracula, BBC Radio) star in the two-part realisation of The War of The Worlds (March 4th and 11th). “This dramatisation reflects Well’s depiction of late-Victorian suburban life and culture... and the common fear which had emerged in the years approaching the turn of the century - that the apocalypse would come on the last day of 1899.”

The real-world geography of Wells’ Martian nightmare is explored in Following the Martian Invasion (March 6th-10th). Science writer Francis Spufford is joined by Mars specialist Oliver Morton and geographer Maria Lane to trace out the locations of Wells’ story across modern-day London. In the three-part We Are the Martians (March 7th-9th), academics and authors debate how fictional representations of Mars have evolved over time as technology and society itself has changed.

“We’ll be recording a programme about aliens on film in front of an audience at the Science Museum, with the Film Show’s Francine Stock and science presenter Adam Rutherford,” the BBC confirmed. Cells and Celluloid: Aliens on Film will discuss how ideas about what Martians might look like and how they might behave towards us have shifted over time, from the silent 1924 Russian epic Aelita: Queen of Mars, through the black comedy of Tim Burton’s 1996 Mars Attacks! to the grim heroism of Ridley Scott’s 2015 The Martian. The intention to explore how “science fiction and science fact intersect and diverge” in suggesting what Mars represents.

A new Mars animation, produced by Aardman studios and narrated by Star Trek’s William Shatner, will be published on the BBC Radio 4 website during the week. Documentaries Hunting the Martians (March 6th) and Moving to the Red Planet (March 7th) examine the continuing fascination with the search for ‘life on Mars’ and with the possibility of humanity reaching out to colonise what is, in astronomical terms, a ‘near neighbour’ 

With Mars still so enigmatic an ‘idea’, a ‘celestial body’ yet to be properly explored, it’s inevitable that speculation about the place involves a blend of the known and the imagined. BBC Radio 4’s Mars Week, promises a series of return trips to the ‘red planet’ designed to enthral fans of both science fiction and of science fact.

BBC Radio 4’s Mars Week takes place March 4th-11th, 2017.

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